James Gray - Concise Bible Commentary
Now it came to pass in the days when the judges ruled, that there was a famine in the land. And a certain man of Bethlehemjudah went to sojourn in the country of Moab, he, and his wife, and his two sons.Ruth 1:1-2:23
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This beautiful story is an event occurring during the Judges (Ruth 1:1), but separated from the former to give prominence to the genealogical record with which it concludes (Ruth 4:18-22), showing Ruth an ancestress of David and hence of Jesus Christ.
The story is so simply told that it needs only the briefest comments. Elimelech and his family are called “Ephrathites of Bethlehem-judah” (1:2) for the reason that Ephrath was originally the name of Bethlehem (Genesis 35:19; Genesis 48:7; Micah 5:2), and also because there was a Bethlehem in Zebulun as well as Judah (Joshua 19:15).
The marrying of Moabite women by the sons of Elimelech was contrary to the Mosaic law (Deuteronomy 7:3; Deuteronomy 23:3), but such disobedience was common in those times, as we have seen.
Why Naomi should not have encouraged her daughters-in-law to return with her (Ruth 1:8) is explained by the thought that they would fare better in material things in their own land and among their own people. Her piety was not of the depth to make her feel that the spiritual benefits of Israel would offset these advantages.
The utterances of Naomi in Ruth 1:11-13 are explained by the ancient custom (Genesis 38:11), sanctioned by the law of Moses (Deuteronomy 25:5), requiring a younger son to marry the widow of a deceased brother.
Naomi seems not to have been a cheerful person (Ruth 1:13; Ruth 1:20-21), but were we in her circumstances perhaps we would not have felt differently. And then she may have had reason to believe her affliction a divine chastisement upon her household.
Ruth 2:1-17Rth 2:2 reminds us of Leviticus 19:9-10 and Deuteronomy 24:19-21, giving the right to the poor and to strangers to glean after the reapers; but we are not to suppose that Ruth purposely selected the field of Boaz, or that she had knowledge at this time of her relationship to him.
Reaping was done by women (Ruth 2:8), but the gathering and threshing was the work of men. How beautifully the character of Boaz shows in these verses! His greeting to the reapers, his interest in his relatives, his attention and generosity toward them, and his confidence in Jehovah. What poetry of faith in the expression, “The Lord God of Israel, under whose wings thou are come to trust!” (Ruth 2:12.)
Ruth 2:18-23Naomi recognizes the relationship of Boaz, and the phrase, “one of our next kinsmen,” might be rendered, “one of them that hath the right to redeem for us” (Leviticus 25:25). This “right to redeem” carried with it the duty to protect them, to purchase their tribal lands, and in this case to marry Ruth and maintain the family name. Naomi’s advice to Ruth, therefore, can readily be understood and appreciated (Ruth 2:22).
1. During what period did the history of Boaz and Ruth occur?
2. What gives special prominence to the Book of Ruth?
3. What was the original name of Bethlehem, and how many towns of that name were in Israel?
4. What law was violated by the sons of Elimelech?
5. What was involved in the kinsman’s right of redemption?