Matthew Poole's 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 CHAPTER 1
A famine in Canaan. Elimelech removes to Moab; with Naomi his wife, and his two sons, who marry Orpah and Ruth there; and die, Rth 1:1-5. Naomi returns to Judah; her daughters-in-law accompany her on her way, Rth 1:6-13. Orpah returns home to her people and gods; Ruth remains, being converted, Rth 1:14-18. They come to Beth-lehem, Rth 1:19-22.
In the days when the judges ruled; which is noted as the cause of the following famine, because in much of that time they were guilty of great defection from God. But under which of the judges this happened, Scripture being silent, it seems presumptuous to determine; nor is it necessary to know. What is said about this matter from the genealogy, mentioned Rth 1:18, &c., it will be most proper to consider it there.
In the land, or, in that land, to wit, of Canaan.
The country of Moab; a fruitful land beyond Jordan, eastward.
And the name of the man was Elimelech, and the name of his wife Naomi, and the name of his two sons Mahlon and Chilion, Ephrathites of Bethlehemjudah. And they came into the country of Moab, and continued there.Ephrathites; so called, because this Beth-lehem is otherwise called Ephrath or Ephratah, Genesis 35:19 Micah 5:2; either from Caleb’s wife of that name, 1 Chronicles 2:19 4:4, or from the fertility of the soil about it; which title may therefore be used here, to show the greatness of the famine, which affected even fertile parts.
Of Bethlehem-Judah: See Poole "Judges 17:7".
Continued there, to wit, during the famine.
And Elimelech Naomi's husband died; and she was left, and her two sons.No text from Poole on this verse.
And they took them wives of the women of Moab; the name of the one was Orpah, and the name of the other Ruth: and they dwelled there about ten years.Of the women of Moab; either these were proselytes when they married them, which may well be doubted, from Ruth 1:15, or they sinned in marrying them, as appears from Deu 7:3 23:3 Ezra 9:1,2 Ne 13:23, and therefore were punished with short life and want of issue, Ruth 1:5,19,21.
About ten years; as long as the famine lasted.
And Mahlon and Chilion died also both of them; and the woman was left of her two sons and her husband.No text from Poole on this verse.
Then she arose with her daughters in law, that she might return from the country of Moab: for she had heard in the country of Moab how that the LORD had visited his people in giving them bread.i.e. Food; so she staid no longer than necessity forced her.
Wherefore she went forth out of the place where she was, and her two daughters in law with her; and they went on the way to return unto the land of Judah.No text from Poole on this verse.
And Naomi said unto her two daughters in law, Go, return each to her mother's house: the LORD deal kindly with you, as ye have dealt with the dead, and with me.Each to her mother’s house; not that they wanted fathers, Ruth 2:11, but because daughters used to converse more frequently with their mothers, and to be most endeared to them, and to dwell in the same apartments with them, which then were distinct from those parts of the house where the men dwelt.
With the dead; with my sons, your husbands, whilst they lived.
The LORD grant you that ye may find rest, each of you in the house of her husband. Then she kissed them; and they lifted up their voice, and wept.Rest, i.e. a quiet and happy life, free from those cares, vexations, encumbrances, and troubles which widows are in a special manner exposed unto.
She kissed them, as the manner there was when friends parted.
And they said unto her, Surely we will return with thee unto thy people.No text from Poole on this verse.
And Naomi said, Turn again, my daughters: why will ye go with me? are there yet any more sons in my womb, that they may be your husbands?According to the ancient custom, Ge 38, and the express law of God, Deu 25:5, which doubtless she had acquainted them with before, among other branches of the Jewish religion, wherein she did instruct them.
Turn again, my daughters, go your way; for I am too old to have an husband. If I should say, I have hope, if I should have an husband also to night, and should also bear sons;Go your way.
Quest. Why doth she dissuade them from this journey, and not rather persuade them to go with her, and to embrace the Jewish religion?
Answ. 1. Possibly she thought such dissuasion might be the best way to persuade them, as it oft happens; especially in that sex.
2. She would not have them rashly and inconsiderately to embrace the Jewish religion, in hopes of some advantage from it, which she justly thought they would be disappointed of; and withal, exposed to many straits and troubles, and on that occasion revolt from the true religion, which would be far worse than never to have embraced it. And therefore she doth justly, and wisely, and piously in representing to them the truth of the business, and the outward inconveniences which would accompany the change of their place and religion; as also our blessed Lord Christ did, Matthew 8:20.
Would ye tarry for them till they were grown? would ye stay for them from having husbands? nay, my daughters; for it grieveth me much for your sakes that the hand of the LORD is gone out against me.Would ye stay for them from having husbands? it is unreasonable for me to expect it, or for you to perform it.
For your sakes; that you are left without the comfort of husbands or children; that I must part with such dear and affectionate daughters; and that my circumstances are such that I cannot invite nor encourage you to go along with me. For her condition was so mean at this time, that Ruth, when she came to her mother’s city, was forced to glean for a living, Ruth 2:2.
And they lifted up their voice, and wept again: and Orpah kissed her mother in law; but Ruth clave unto her.Orpah kissed her mother-in-law, i.e. departed from with a kiss, as the manner was, Genesis 31:28 1 Kings 19:20.
And she said, Behold, thy sister in law is gone back unto her people, and unto her gods: return thou after thy sister in law.Unto her people, and unto her gods; which she saith, partly, to try Ruth’s sincerity and constancy; partly, that by upbraiding Orpah with her idolatry she might consequently turn her from it; and partly, that she might intimate to her, that if she went with her, she must embrace the true God and religion.
And Ruth said, Intreat me not to leave thee, or to return from following after thee: for whither thou goest, I will go; and where thou lodgest, I will lodge: thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God:I renounce those idols which my sister hath returned to, and I wilt worship no other God but thine, who is indeed the only true God.
Where thou diest, will I die, and there will I be buried: the LORD do so to me, and more also, if ought but death part thee and me.No text from Poole on this verse.
When she saw that she was stedfastly minded to go with her, then she left speaking unto her.No text from Poole on this verse.
So they two went until they came to Bethlehem. And it came to pass, when they were come to Bethlehem, that all the city was moved about them, and they said, Is this Naomi?Is this she that formerly lived in so much plenty and honour? Oh how marvellously is her condition changed, that she is returned in this forlorn and desolate condition!
And she said unto them, Call me not Naomi, call me Mara: for the Almighty hath dealt very bitterly with me.Naomi signifies pleasant or cheerful, or amiable.
Mara signifies bitter or sorrowful.
I went out full, and the LORD hath brought me home again empty: why then call ye me Naomi, seeing the LORD hath testified against me, and the Almighty hath afflicted me?Full; with my husband and sons, and a plentiful estate for our support.
Hath testified against me, i.e. hath borne witness, as it were, in judgment, and given sentence against me, and declared my sin by my punishment.
So Naomi returned, and Ruth the Moabitess, her daughter in law, with her, which returned out of the country of Moab: and they came to Bethlehem in the beginning of barley harvest.Ver. 22. No text from Poole on this verse.