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.
Verse 1. - Now it came to pass. Or, more literally, "And it came to pass." The "And" is somewhat remarkable, standing at the commencement of the Book. But as it is also found at the commencement of Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Joshua, Judges, 1 and 2 Samuel, 1 and 2 Kings, 2 Chronicles, Ezekiel, Esther, and Ezra, its use, though inartistic, must be amenable to some literary law. The Books specified, even including Ezekiel, are historical They are parcels of history, each narrating events that had their genesis in more or less significant antecedent occurrences. This historical genesis, so very different from an "absolute commencement" of things, is indicated, though probably in unreflective spontaneity, by the copulative "And." In the days when the judges ruled. Or, more literally, "when the judges judged." In primitive times there was no function that was more important for society than that of judiciously settling disputes between man and man. Every such settlement, besides conferring a benefit on society, and in particular on the individuals at variance, would increase the moral influence and social elevation of the judge. By and by his moral and social superiority would, in favorable circumstances, grow into authority, specifically judicial on the one hand, and generically political, or semi-political, on the other. When military prowess and skill in strategy were added, a ruler, champion, or leader would be the result. Many such leaders rose up among the Hebrews ere yet society was compactly organized. They were vanously endowed; but most of them were only very partially equipped for the judicious administration of the affairs of the commonwealth. All, however, were called judges; and the discharge of their high duties was denominated judging, even when it was entirely inconspicuous as regards judicial ability or judicious determinations. The Hebrew word for judge is שֹׁפֵט shofet; and it is an interesting evidence of the very close kinship of Hebrew and Phoenician, that in Carthage the chief magistrate, as we learn from Livy and other Roman writers, was called sufes (originally, as we see from the inflection, sufet). That there was a famine. An admirable though free rendering. In the original the structure of the whole statement is exceedingly primitive and "agglutinative" - And (it) was in the days of the judging of the judges, and (there) was a famine. In the land. Namely, of Israel. The non-specification of the particular country referred to is evidence that the writer was living in it, as one at home. Josephus says that it was under the judgeship of Eli, the high priest, that the famine spoken of occurred ('Antiquities,' 5:9, 1). But here the historian speaks "without book," and without any particular plausibility. Several expositors, such as Bishop Patrick, have antedated, by a very long way, the calculation of Josephus They would assign the famine to the period when the Midianites and Amalekites came up, "as grasshoppers for multitude, to destroy the land," so that Israel was greatly impoverished (see Judges 6.). But it is in vain to multiply guesses. The date of the famine is not given, and it is futile to make inquisition for it. And a certain man. The interpolation of the individualizing word "certain" is quite uncalled for, and now quite archaic. The simplicity of the original is sufficient, "And a man. Of Bethlehem-judah. Or, as it might be still more literally represented, "of Bethlehem, Judah." Them is no such single name as Bethlehem-judah. There is only the apposition, for discrimination's sake, of one geographical name to another, just as we may say, in English, Boston, Lincolnshire, or Alexandria, Dumbartonshire. The localization of the main name is thus effectually indicated. There is another Alexandria in Egypt; there is another Boston in the United States of America; and there was in Palestine another Bethlehem, namely, in the canton of Zebulun (see Joshua 19:15). Bethlehem, Judah, lies about six miles to the south of Jerusalem. "Its appearance," says Dr. Porter, "is striking. It is situated on a narrow ridge, which projects eastward from the central mountain range, and breaks down in abrupt terraced slopes to deep valleys on the north, east, and south. The terraces, admirably kept, and covered with rows of olives, intermixed with the fig and the vine, sweep in graceful curves round the ridge, regular as stairs" ('Syria and Palestine,' D. 199). The valleys below are exceptionally fertile, and have been so from time immemorial. Hence indeed the name Beth-lehem, or Bread-house. Its modern name is Beit-lahm, or Flesh-house. Went to sojourn in the land of Moab. We have no word in English that exactly, corresponds to the verb גּוּר rendered sojourn. The cognate noun is uniformly translated, in King James's version, stranger, and means foreigner. The verb means to dwell as a foreigner, but its root-idea is yet undetermined. The Latin peregrinari admirably corresponds. The man of Bethlehem, Judah, went forth from his own country to "peregrinate" (Greek, παροικῆσαι) "in the land of Moab;" literally, "in the fields of Moab," that is, "in the pastoral parts of the territory of Moab." It was not a very great way off, this land of his "peregrination." Its blue mountains, rising up luridly beyond the silver thread of the Jordan and the gleaming expanse of the Dead Sea, are distinctly visible from the Mount of Olives and the heights about Bethlehem. He, and his wife, and his two sons. The resumptive he is employed for the purpose of linking on to him, in his "peregrination, the other members of the little household. He emigrated "along with his wife and two sons." He had fought hard to keep the wolf of hunger from his door, but was like to be beaten. One after another the props of his hope that better days would soon dawn had been swept from under him, and he saw no alternative but to leave for a season the land of his fathers.
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.
Verse 2. - And the name of the man was Elimelech. That is, "God is King," not, as the older critics were accustomed to interpret it, "My God is King." The intermediate i is not the possessive pronoun, but the vowel of union. The name would be originally significant of strong religious Sentiments, perhaps mingled with strong political principles. The imposition of it on a son would be something like a manifesto of the father's creed. And the name of his wife Naomi. Or rather "No-o-mi." The precise import of the word is not absolutely ascertained; but it is probable that it is somewhat abbreviated in its terraination, and means "God is sweet," or, very literally, "Jab is sweetness." It had been originally imposed as a name by some grateful and happy mother, who, by gracious providences, or by other gracious revelations, had been led to think that "sweet are the ways, sweet are the dealings, and sweet is the character of God." The word does not mean beautiful, as some suppose; nor gracious, as others suppose; nor my delight, as others still suppose. It was not intended to describe the character of the person who was to bear the name. It was intended to signalize, in the spirit of a manifesto, a much-prized feature in the Divine character - that feature, namely, that is displayed when "he deals sweetly with men." Gesenius is doubtless right when he makes sweetness the fundamental idea of the whole group of affiliated words (see his 'Thesaurus,' in voc.). The cognate Hebrew adjective is rendered sweet in 2 Samuel 23:1 and Proverbs 23:8 (comp. Proverbs 16:24 and the margin of 2 Samuel 1:23). In the light of this interpretation, and of it alone, can the full significance of what Naomi said on her return to Bethlehem be apprehended: "Call me not Naomi, call me Mara: for the Almighty hath dealt very bitterly with me" (ver. 20). And the name of his two sons. In our idiom we should say, "and the names of his two sons." The two sons, however, were for the moment regarded as a unity among the other units of the household. Mahlon, or rather "Machlon," and Chillon. We need not dip deeply into the etymological import of these names, or attach to them, as applied to Elimelech's children, any peculiar significance. The names, unlike those of the parents, are devoid of theological tinge, and, in these modern times at all events, their import is liable to endless debate. One would at the first blush of consideration suppose that the one meant sickliness, and the other consumptiveness, or consumption - rather uninteresting and melancholy ideas. But they are peculiarly confounding when we consider that the individuals, so named in our story, had apparently inherited a delicate constitution, which developed in both of them into premature sickliness and decay. The names have the aspect of being prophetic. And yet, even though we should assume that Elimelech, in virtue of some element of bodily delicacy, was afflicted with feelings of morbid despondency, it is hard to come to the conclusion that he would deliberately stereotype his most hypochondriacal anticipations in the names of his children. The probability is, that the names, as names, would originally have some other import, Dr. Cassel supposes that they meant, respectively, joy and ornament; but he trusts to impossible etymologies. Raabe, taking his cue from Sanskrit roots, interprets the one thus "He who brings gifts with him;" and the other thus - "He who conceals his wife in his house." Warner, taking his cue from Chaldea cognates, interprets the former of the two names as meaning ready to forgive, and the latter as holding forth the idea of hopeful. All of them unlikely derivations. And yet something quite distinct from the ideas of sickliness and consumption, but lying so far on parallel lines of thought, may be conceived. The primary import of מָחַל, the root of Machlon, is apparently to be tender. Thence the word came by one line of thought to mean to be physically tender, that is, to be sick; and by another that runs out in Chaldea it came to mean to be morally teenier, to be mild or forgiving. Machlon may mean mildness or tender-heartedness. Again, the primary idea of כָּלָה, the root of Chillon, is to complete. But, besides the completion that is realized in consuming, consumption, or ending, there is moral completeness, the completeness or finish that is realized in perfection (see Psalm 119:96: "I have seen an end of all perfection"). This idea of beautiful completeness, or perfection, is more likely to be the meaning of the name than the idea of consumptiveness, or consumption. Ephrathitas of Bethlehem Judah. It is not simply the two sons who are so designated. It is the whole group. They were Ephrathites, that is, Bethlehemites, for the old name of Bethlehem was Ephrath, or Ephratha. As, however, the word Ephrathite also meant Ephraimite (see Judges 12:5; 1 Samuel 1:1; and 1 Kings 11:26), it gave precision to the designation, although at the expense of a little redundancy, to say "Ephrathites of Bethlehem Judah." And they came into the country of Moab. The Hebrew emigrants reached the fields or pastoral terrgtory of Moab. And continued there. The phrase in the original is of primitive simplicity - "and were there." It has been asked by theological critics whether Elimelech was justifiable in removing to an "idolatrous country" to avoid the inconveniences of a famine in the land of his nativity. It is enough to say in reply that there is no hint in the text itself that the step taken was blamable or blamed. "No man ought," says Lawson, "to be condemned, whether dead or alive, without proofs of guilt; and no certain proofs of guilt appear in the present case." "The beam of Elimelech's judgment," says Dr. Thomas Fuller, "is justly weighed down to go from Bethlehem, Judah, into the land of Moab."
And Elimelech Naomi's husband died; and she was left, and her two sons.
Verses 3-5. - "In these words," says Fuller, "we have two marriages ushered and followed by funerals." Verse 3. - And Elimelech Naomi's husband died. Apparently soon after the settlement of the family. No details, however, are given, as, on the one hand, no blame is attached to the conduct of Elimelech, and as, on the other, the line of biographical interest runs in another direction. And she was left, and her two sons. Not only was the mother her husband's relict; they were all left behind. He had gone somewhither in advance, and they "remained." So the word is frequently rendered.
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.
Verse 4. - And they took to themselves wives of the women of Moab. It was their own act. Josephus, reproducing the narrative from memory, represents the event as occurring in the father's lifetime, and as brought about by his arrangement. He says of Elimelech, "Coming into the territory of Moab, he sojourns there, and, things pros-paring according to his mind, he gives in marriage to his sons (ἄγεται τοῖς υἱοῖς) Moabitish wives." Theological critics have here again raised the question, Was it sinful in these emigrant Hebrews to take in marriage daughters of the land? The Chaldee Targumist did not hesitate in his decision. He begins his paraphrase of the verse, thus - "And they transgressed the edict of the word of the Lord, and took to themselves alien wives of the daughters of Mesh." Dr. Thomas Fuller represents Naomi as passionately remonstrating with her sons. He says of himself, "My mouth denieth to be the orator of an unjust action." "Nothing can be brought," he adds, "for the defense of these matches. Something may be said for the excuse of them, but that fetched not from piety, but from policy." It is note worthy, however, that in the text itself, and throughout the entire Book, there is nothing of the nature of condemnation, not the least hint of blame. There was a law, indeed, which laid an interdict upon marriages with Canaanites (see Deuteronomy 7:3). But these Canaanites occupied a peculiar relation to the Hebrews. They were within the line of that Canaan which had become the land of Israel. Israelites and Canaanites were thus living within the same borders as rival claimants of the same territory. It was no wonder that the Canaanites' claim was not to be recognized by the Hebrews. The Moabites, however, living within the lines or "coasts" of their own distinct territory, stood in quite a different relation. And while, for purity's sake, great restrictions were to be laid upon all overtures for naturalization (Deuteronomy 23:3-6), yet the law could never he intended to apply to the families of Hebrews who were settlers in Moab, or to Moabitish females living in their own land, and rather awarding than seeking the prerogatives' of natives. The name of the one was Orpah, and the name of the other Ruth. No doubt native Moabitish names. Much ingenuity has been expended on that of the more interesting person. Some have unwarrantably assumed that Ruth is a contraction of the Hebrew word רְעוּת meaning a female companion or friend. Still more unwarrantable, though more captivating to the aesthetic imagination, is the signification which is given to the word by Weruer and Eadie, namely, beauty. It is founded on an impossible derivation from the Hebrew רָאָה. Still more aesthetically captivating is the conjecture of Cassel, that the name is the ancient Semitic form of the Indo-European word rodon or rose. "At all events," says he, "the thought of Ruth as the Rose of Moab is in itself too attractive not to be proposed as a conjecture." It is certainly, most attractive and most admirable as a jeu d'esprit, but too imaginative to be vindicated on grounds of comparative philology. And they dwelt there. Or, "settled themselves there; literally, "sat them." We still call a gentleman's mansion his seat. About ten years, which, however, are treated by the writer as a mere blank in his story. He hastens on.
And Mahlon and Chilion died also both of them; and the woman was left of her two sons and her husband.
Verse 5. - And, to make a long story short, Machlon and Chillon died also both of them. "Like green apples," says Fuller, "cudgelled off the tree." But why "cudgelled?" There is no evidence in the text of Divine displeasure, and the Christian expositor, when going beyond the text in quest of principles, should not forget the tower of Siloam, and the victims of Pilate s bloodthirstiness (see Luke 13:1-5). And the woman was left of her two children and of her husband. That is, "of her two children as well as of her husband." She became as it were their relict too. She remained behind after they had gone on before. If all sentiment were to be taken out of the expression, it might then be simply said, in very commonplace prose, she survived them. Poor woman! "Of the two sexes," says Fuller, "the woman is the weaker; of women, old women are most feeble; of old women, widows most woeful; of widows, those that are poor, their plight most pitiful; of poor widows, those who want children, their case most doleful; of widows that want children, those that once had them, and after lost them, their estate most desolate; of widows that have had children, those that are strangers in a foreign country, their condition most comfortless. Yet all these met together in Naomi, as in the center of sorrow, to make the measure of her misery pressed down, shaken together, running over. I conclude, therefore, many men have had affliction - none like Job; many women have had tribulation - none like Naomi."
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.
Verse 6. - Then - the conjunction in Hebrew is the common generic copulative and - she arose. She had been sitting, as it were, where her husband had settled, and she now rose up to depart (see ver. 4). She, and her daughters-in, law. The word for "her daughters-in-law -" כַּלּתֶיהָ - is literally "her brides," that is, the brides of her sons. That she might return - an admirable rendering into English idiom. The phrase in the original is simply "and she returned," that is, "and she began to 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. Or, more literally, "for she heard in the country of Moab that Jehovah" - or, rather, "Yahveh," or, as Epiphanius gives it, Ἰαβέ - "had visited his people to give them bread." There is no warrant, however, and no need, to add, with the Chaldee Targumist, that the news was conveyed by the mouth of an angel. And the representation is not that Yahveh, in giving, bread to his people, had thereby visited them; it is that he hid visited them" to give them bread. The word פָקַד, rendered visited, is quite peculiar, with no analogue in English, German, Greek, or Latin. Yahveh had directed his attention to his people, and had, so to speak, made inquisition into their state, and had hence taken steps to give them bread (see Exodus 3:16; Exodus 4:31). They had already got it, or, as the Septuagint translates, they had got loaves (ἀρτοῦς). The Vulgate translates it meats (eseas). It is assumed in the tidings that the seasons and their products, and all beneficent influences in nature, belong to Yahveh. It is likewise assumed that the Hebrews were his people, albeit not in such a sense as to secure for them more "bread" and "milk and honey" than other peoples enjoyed. Their chief prerogatives were spiritual and moral. They were his Messianic people. That is the key to unlock the secret of the whole Old Testament Scriptures.
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.
Verse 7. - And so she went forth out of the place where she was. There is no attempt on the part of the writer to localize the spot. And her two daughters-in-law with her. They had kept, it seems, on terms of affectionate sympathy with their mother-in-law. The jealousies that so often disturb the peace of households had no place within the bounds of Naomi's jurisdiction. The home of which she was the matronly center had been kept in its own beautiful orbit by the law of mutual respect, deference, affection, and esteem - the law that insures happiness to both the loving and the loved. "If there were more Naomis," says Lawson, "there might be more Orpahs and Ruths." And they went on the way to return to the land of Judah. Having left her Moabitish abode, and got into the frequented track which led in the direction of her native land, she journeyed onward for a stage or two, accompanied by her daughters-in-law. Such is the picture. It must be subsumed in it that her daughters-in-law had made up their minds to go with her to the land of her nativity. The subject had been often talked over and discussed. Naomi would from time to time start objections to their kind intention. They, on their part, would try to remove her difficulties, and would insist on accompanying her. So the three widows journeyed onward together, walking. Adversity had pressed hard on their attenuated resources, and they would not be encumbered with burdensome baggage.
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.
Verse 8. - And Naomi said to her two daughters-in-law, Go, return each to her mother's house. She reverted, with deeper earnestness, to their theme, of discussion. She acknowledged that most kindly had they acted toward her. Her heart was filled with gratitude. It was likewise agitated with grief at the prospect of bidding them a final farewell, Nevertheless, she felt that it would be unreasonable and unkind to invite them to be, to any further degree, sharers of her adversity. Hence, thanking them for their loving convoy, she would remind them that every step further on would only increase the length of their return-journey; and she said, Go, return each to her mother's home. There, in the females' apartment, and in the bosom of their mothers, they would surely find a welcome and a refuge. She judges of their mothers by herself, and she refers rather to them than to their fathers, partly, perhaps, because she bears in mind her own motherhood, but principally, no doubt, because, in those Oriental countries, it lay very particularly within the province of mothers to make arrangements in reference to their daughters. May Yahveh deal kindly with you, as ye have dealt with the deceased, and with me. It is beautiful gratitude, and at the same time a touching monument to the faithfulness and gentleness that had characterized and adorned the young widows. Her simple Hebrew theology, moreover, comes finely out. She assumes that her own Yahveh reigned in Moab as in Judah, and that all blessing descended from him. There is a little peculiarity in the Hebrew pronouns in this clause. They are masculine instead of feminine. The influence of the stronger sex overrides grammatically, for the moment, the influence of the weaker.
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.
Verse 9. - May Yahveh grant to you that ye may find rest, each in the house of her husband. Naomi again, when the current of her tenderest feelings was running full and strong, lifts up her longing heart toward her own Yahveh. He was the God not of the Hebrews only, but of the Gentiles likewise, and rifled and overruled in Moab. The prayer is, in its form, full of syntactical peculiarity: "May Yahveh give to you," and, as the result of his giving, "may you find rest, each [in] the house of her husband." The expression, "the house of her husband," is used locatively. It is an answer to the suppressed question, "Where are they to find rest?" And hence, in our English idiom, we must insert the preposition, "in the house of her husband." As to the substance of the prayer, it has, as truly as the grammatical syntax, its own tinge of Orientalism. Young females in Moab had but little scope for a life of usefulness and happiness, unless shielded round and round within the home of a pure and devoted husband. Naomi was well aware of this, and hence, in her motherly solicitude for her virtuous daughters-in-law, she gave them to understand that it would be the opposite of a grief to her if they should seek, in the one way open to them in that comparatively undeveloped state of society, to brighten the homes of the lonely. In such homes, it circumstances were propitious, they would find deliverance from unrest and anxiety. They would find rest. It would be a position in which they could abide, and in which their tenderest feelings and most honorable desires would find satisfaction and repose. The peculiar force of the Hebrew מְנוּחָה is finely displayed by the texture of the associated expressions in Isaiah 32:17, 18: "And the work of righteousness shall be peace; and the effect of righteousness quietness and assurance forever; and my people shall dwell in a peaceable habitation, and in sure dwellings, and in quiet resting-places" (מְנוּחֹת). And she kissed them, locking them lingeringly and lovingly in a farewell embrace. "Kissed them." The preposition to, according to the customary Hebrew idiom, stands before the pronoun. In kissing, Naomi imparted herself passionately to her beloved daughters-in-law, and clung to them. There would be full-hearted reciprocation, and each to each would cling "in their embracement, as they grew together" (Shakespeare, Henry VIII.). And they lifted up their voice and wept. The idea is not that all three wept aloud. The pronoun "they" refers to the daughters-in-law, as is evident both from the preceding and from the succeeding context. The fine idiomatic version of the Vulgate brings out successfully and unambiguously the true state of the case - quae elevata voce flere coeperunt. The lifting, up of the voice in weeping must be thought of according to the measure of Oriental, as distinguished from Occidental, custom. In the East there is less self-restraint in this matter than in the West.
And they said unto her, Surely we will return with thee unto thy people.
Verse 10. - And they said unto her, Surely we will return with thee unto thy people. So King James's version. The expression in the original is broken at the commencement: "And they said to her, For with thee we shall return to thy people." It is as if they had said, "Do not insist on our return to our mothers' homes, for with thee we shall return to thy people." Note the expression, "we shall return, instead of "we shall go with thee in thy return to thy people." For the moment they identify themselves with their mother-in-law, as if they had come with her from Judah.
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?
Verse 11. - And Naomi said, Turn back, my daughters. To what purpose should you go with me? Have I yet sons in my womb, that might be husbands to you? According to the old Levirate law - a survival of rude and barbarous times - Orpah and Ruth, having had husbands who died without issue, would have been entitled to claim marriage with their husbands' brothers, if such surviving brothers there had been (see Deuteronomy 25:5-9; Matthew 22:24-28). And if the surviving brothers were too young to be married, the widows, if they chose, might wait on till they reached maturity (see Genesis 38.). It is in the light of these customs that we are to read Naomi's remonstrance's. The phraseology in the second interrogation is very primitive, and primitively ' agglutinative.' "Are there yet to be sons in my womb, and they shall be to you for husbands?" (see on ver. 1).
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;
Verse 12. - Turn back, my daughters, go; for I am too old to have a husband. But even if I could say, I have hope; yea, even if I had a husband this very night; yea, even if I had already given birth to sons; (ver. 13) would ye therefore wait till they grew up? would ye therefore shut yourselves up so as not to have husbands? nay, my daughters; for my lot is exceedingly bitter, more than even yours, for the hand of Yahveh has gone out against me. Most pathetic pleading, and not easily reproduced on lines of literal rendering. "Go, for I am too old to have a husband." A euphemistic rendering; but the original is euphemistic too, though under another phraseological phase. "But even if I could say, I have hope." The poverty of the Hebrew verb, in respect of provision to express "moods, ' is conspicuous: "that," i.e. "suppose that I said, I have hope." Mark the climactic representation. Firstly, Naomi makes, for argument's sake, the supposition that she might yet have sons; then, secondly, she carries her supposition much higher, namely, that she might that very night have a husband; and then, thirdly, she carries the supposition a great deal higher still, namely, that even already her sons were brought forth: "Would you therefore wait?" Note the therefore. Ibn Ezra, the Septuagint, the Vulgate, and King James's version assume that לָהֵן means for them. The feminine pronoun, however, as applied to Naomi's sons, is, on that supposition, all but inexplicable. It is much better to assume, with the majority of modern critics, that it is equivalent to לָכֵן, whether we call it a Chaldaism or not. Certainly it was current in Chaldee (see Daniel 2:6, 9). But it may have floated in circles of Semitic society that were never included within Chaldaea proper. Indeed, there were no precise limits bounding off the Chaldee language from the kindred dialects, just as there are no such limits in English or in German, or in any member of a linguistic group. Idioms often overlap. In the two interrogative clauses, "Would ye for that purpose wait till they grew up. Would ye for that purpose seclude, yourselves, so as not to have husbands? there is a parallelism; only, in the second clause, the representation rises. "For my lot is exceedingly bitter, more than even yours;" literally, "for it is bitter to me exceedingly, beyond you." The verb is used impersonally. Naomi means that her case was even more lamentable than theirs, so that she could not encourage them to hang their dependence on her help, or to hope for a retrieval of their circumstances in becoming partakers of her fortunes. The translation of King James's version, "for your sakes," though decidedly supported by the Septuagint, is unnatural. Pagnin and Drusius both give the correct rendering, "more than you." So do Michaelis and Wright, But Bertheau and Gesenius agree with King James s version. The Syriac Peshito, strange to say, gives both translations, "I feel very bitterly for you, and to me it is more bitter than to you."
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.
And they lifted up their voice, and wept again: and Orpah kissed her mother in law; but Ruth clave unto her.
Verse 14. - And they, the daughters-in-law, lifted up their voice in unison and unity, as if instead of two voices there had been but one. Hence the propriety of the singular number, as in ver. 9. And wept again. The "again" doubles back on the statement in ver. 9. With uplifted voice, in shrill Oriental wail, and amid streams of tears, they bemoaned their hapless lot. Then, after the paroxysm of grief had somewhat spent itself, Orpah yielded to her mother-in-law's dissuasives, and at length imprinted on her, reluctantly and passionately, a farewell kiss. Then, not waiting to ascertain the ultimate decision of Ruth, or rather, perhaps, having now a fixed presentiment what it would be, she moved regretfully and tearfully away. She was afraid, perhaps, that if she, as well as Ruth, should insist on accompanying her mother-in-law, the two might be unreasonably burdensome to the aged widow. Perhaps, too, she was not without fear that her own burden in a foreign land, amid strangers, might be too heavy to be borne. There is not, however, the slightest need for supposing that she was, in any respect, deficient in attachment to her mother-in-law. But, it is added, Ruth clave to her mother-in-law, all reasonings, remonstrances, dissuasives on Naomi's part notwithstanding. Ruth would not be parted from her. "Clave." It is the same word that is used in the primitive law of marriage. "Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave to his wife, and they shall be one flesh" (Genesis 2:24). It occurs again in Psalm 63:8: "My soul followeth hard after thee; and in Psalm 119:31: "I have stuck to thy testimonies." Joshua said, "Cleave unto the Lord thy God" (Joshua 23:8); and many have had sweet, while others have had bitter, experience of the truth that "there is a friend that sticketh closer than a brother" (Proverbs 18:24).
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.
Verse 15. - And she said, Behold, thy sister-in-law is gone back to her people, and to her gods: return thou after thy sister-in-law. The expression that stands in King James's version thus, "and to her gods," is rendered by Dr. Cassel "and to her God." The same interpretation, it is noteworthy, is given in the Targum of Jonathan, who renders the expression, "and to her Fear" (וּלְוַת דְּחַלְרָּהּ). Such a translation assumes that the Moabites were not only theists, but monotheists. And yet in the mythology, or primitive theology, of Moab, we read both of Baal-Peor and of Chemosh. As to the former, see Numbers 25:8, 5; Deuteronomy 4:3; Psalm 106:28; Hosea 9:10. As to the latter, see Judges 11:24; 1 Kings 11:7, 33; Jeremiah 48:7, 13. In Numbers, moreover, 21:29, and in Jeremiah 48:46, the Moabites are called the people of Chemosh, and frequently is their national god called Chemosh in the inscription of King Mesha on the Moabitish Stone, so recently discovered and deciphered. It is supposed, not without reason, that the two names belonged to one deity, Chemosh being the old native name. Nevertheless, the translation "to her god" is an interpretation, not a literal rendering, and, on the other hand, the translation "to her gods" would, on the hypothesis of the monotheism of the Moabites, be unidiomatic. The original expression, "to her Elohim," does not tell anything, and was not intended by Naomi to tell anything, or to hint anything, of a numerical character concerning the object or objects of the Moabitish worship. It was an expression equally appropriate whether there was, or was not, a plurality of objects worshipped. It might be liberally rendered, and to her own forms of religious worship. The word elohim was a survival of ancient polytheistic theology and worship, when a plurality of powers were held in awe. "For," says Fuller, "the heathen, supposing that the whole world, with all the creatures therein, was too great a diocese to be daily visited by one and the same deity, they therefore assigned sundry gods to several creatures." The time arrived, however, when the great idea flashed into the Hebrew mind, The Powers are One and hence the plural noun, with its subtended conception of unity, became construed with verbs and adjectives in the singular number. It was so construed when applied to the one living God; but it readily retained its original applicability to a plurality of deifies, and hence, in such a passage as the one before us, where there is neither adjective nor verb to indicate the number, the word is quite incapable of exact rendering into English. Orpah had returned to her people and her Elohim. Return thou after thy sister-in-law. Are we then to suppose that Naomi desired Ruth to return to her Moabitish faith? Is it with a slight degree of criticism that she referred to Orpah's palinode? Would she desire that Ruth should, in this matter, follow in her sister-in-law's wake? We touch on tender topics. Not unlikely she had all along suspected or seen that Orpah would not have insuperable religious scruples. And not unlikely, too, she would herself be free from narrow religious bigotry, at least to the extent of dimly admitting that the true worship of the heart could reach the true God, even when offensive names, and forms, and symbolisms were present in the outer courts of the creed. Nevertheless, when she said to Ruth, "Return thou after thy sister-in-law," she no doubt was rather putting her daughter-in-law to a final test, and leading her to thorough self-sifting, than encouraging her to go back to her ancestral forms of worship. "God," says Fuller, "wrestled with Jacob with desire to be conquered; so Naomi no doubt opposed Ruth, hoping and wishing that she herself might be foiled."
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:
Verse 16. - And Ruth said, Insist not on me forsaking thee: for whither thou goest, I will go. Ruth's mind was made up. Her heart would not be wrenched away from her mother-in-law. The length of the journey, its dangers, and the inevitable fatigue accompanying it, moved not, by so much as a jot, her resolution. Had not her mother-in-law the same distance to travel, the same fatigue to endure, the same perils to encounter? Might not the aged traveler, moreover, derive some assistance and cheer from the company of a young, ready-handed, and willing-hearted companion? She was resolved. Nothing on earth would separate them. Wheresoever thou lodgest, I will lodge. A better version than Luther's, "Where thou stayest, I will stay" (wo du bleibest, da bleibe ich auch). The reference is not to the ultimate destination, but to the nightly halts, לוּן is the verb employed; and it is rendered "to tarry all night" in Genesis 24:54; Genesis 28:11; Genesis 31:54; Judges 19:6, etc. It is the Latin pernoetare and the German ubernachten, the former being the rendering of the Vulgate, and the latter the translation in the Berlenburger Bibel. Thy people (is) my people, and thy God my God. There being no verb in the original, it is well to supply the simplest copula. Ruth claims, as it were, Naomi's people and Naomi's God as her own already.
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.
Verse 17. - Where thou diest, will I die, and there will I be buried. She wished to be naturalized for life in Naomi's fatherland. Nor did she wish her remains to be conveyed back for burial to the land of her nativity. So may Yahveh do to me, and still more, but death only shall part me and thee. She appeals to the God of the Israelites, the one universal God. She puts herself on oath, and invokes his severest penal displeasure if she should suffer anything less uncontrollable than death to part her from her mother-in-law. "So may Yahveh do to me." It was thus that the Hebrews made their most awful appeals to Yahveh. They signified their willingness to suffer some dire calamity if they should either do the evil deed repudiated or fail to do the good deed promised. So stands in misty indefiniteness; not, as Fuller supposes, by way of "leaving it to the discretion of God Almighty to choose that arrow out of his quiver which he shall think it most fit to shoot," but as a kind of euphemism, or cloudy veil, two-thirds concealing, and one-third revealing, whatever horrid infliction could by dramatic sign be represented or hinted. And still more - a thoroughly Semitic idiom, and so may he add (to do) There was first of all a full imprecation, and then an additional 'bittock,' to lend intensity to the asseveration. "But death only shall sever between me and thee!" Ruth's language is broken. Two formulas of imprecation are flung together. One, if complete, would have been to this effect: "So may Yahveh do to me, and so may he add to do, if (אִם) aught but death sever between me and thee!" The other, if complete, would have run thus: "I swear by Yahveh 'that' (כִּי) death, death only, shall part thee and me. In the original the word death has the article, death emphatically. It is as if she had said death, the great divider. The full idea is in substance death alone. This divider alone, says Ruth, "shall sever between me and thee;" literally, "between me and between thee," a Hebrew idiom, repeating for emphasis' sake the two-sided relationship, but taking the repetition in reverse order, between me (and thee) and between thee (and me).
When she saw that she was stedfastly minded to go with her, then she left speaking unto her.
Verse 18. - And she perceived. In our idiom we should have introduced the proper name, "And Naomi perceived." That she was determined to go with her. She saw that Ruth was fixed in her resolution. And she left off speaking to her. She "gave in." Ruth, as Fuller has it, was "a fixed star."
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?
Verse 19. - And they two went - they trudged along, the two of them - until they came to Bethlehem. In the expression "the two of them" the masculine pronoun (הֶם for הֶן) occurs, as in verses 8 and 9. It mirrors in language the actual facts of relationship in life. The masculine is some- times assumptively representative of both itself and the feminine. And sometimes, even apart from the representative element, it is the overlapping and overbearing gender. And it came to pass, as they entered Bethlehem, that the whole city got into commotion concerning them, and they said, Is this Naomi? Naomi, though greatly altered in appearance, besides being travel-worn and weary, was recognized. But who was that pensive and beautiful companion by her side? Where was Elimelech? Where was Machne and Chillon? Why are they not with ir mother? Such would be some of the questions started, and keenly talked about and discussed. Then on both the wayfarers the finger-marks of poverty, involuntary signals of distress, would be unconcealable. Interest, sympathy, gossip would be alive throughout the little town, especially among the female portion of the population, and loud would be their exclamations of surprise. The verb they said is feminine in Hebrew, וַתּלֺאמַרְנָה a nicety which cannot be reproduced in English without obtruding too prominently the sex referred to, as m Michaelis's version - "and all the women said." So the Vulgate. The verb which we have rendered got into commotion is found in 1 Samuel 4:5 - "the earth rail again;" and in 1 Kings 1:45 - "the city rang again."
And she said unto them, Call me not Naomi, call me Mara: for the Almighty hath dealt very bitterly with me.
Verse 20. - And she said to them, Call me not Naomi, call me Mara: for the Almighty hath dealt very bitterly with me. Salutations were respectfully addressed to her as she walked along in quest of some humble abode. And when thus spoken to by the sympathetic townspeople, she was called, of course, by her old sweet name. But as it fell in its own rich music on her ears, its original import flashed vividly upon her mind. Her heart "filled" at the contrast which her circumstances represented, and she said, "Address me not as Naomi, call not to me (לֵי) Naomi: address me as Mara," - that is, bitter, - "for the Almighty has caused bitterness to me exceedingly" (see on ver. 2). The Almighty, or שַׁדַּי, an ancient polytheistic name that had at length - like ךליהִים and אֲדֹנָי ? been reclaimed in all its fullness for the one living and true God. It had become a thorough proper name, and hence it is used without the article. In the Septuagint it is sometimes rendered, as here, ὁ ἱκανός, the Sufficient; in Job, where it frequently occurs, ὁ παντοκράτωρ, the Omnipotent. But it is one of those peculiar nouns that never can be fully reproduced in any Aryan language, Naomi's theology as indicated in the expression, "the Almighty hath caused bitterness to me exceedingly," need not be to its minutest jot endorsed. God was not the only agent with whom she had had to do. Much of the bitterness of her lot may have been attributable to her husband or to herself, and perhaps to forefathers and foremothers. It is not fair to ascribe all the embittering element of things to God. Much rather might the sweetness, which had so often relieved the bitterness, be traced to the band of him who is "the Lord God, merciful and gracious, abundant in goodness."
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?
Verse 21. - I went forth full, and Yahveh has caused me to return in emptiness. Why should you call me Naomi, and Yahveh has testified against me, and the Almighty has brought evil upon me? She went forth "full," with husband and sons, not to speak of goods. She was under the necessity of returning in emptiness, or with empty hands. The Hebrew word רֵיקָם does not exactly mean empty, as it is rendered in the Septuagint, the Vulgate, and King James's version. It is not an adjective, but an adverb, emptily. This lamentable change of circumstances she attributed to the action of Yahveh. He had, she believed, been testifying against her by means of the trials through which she had passed. She was right in a certain conditional acceptation of her language; but only on condition of that condition. And, let us condition her declarations as we may, she was probably in danger of making the same mistake concerning herself and her trials which was made by Job's comforters in reference to the calamities by which he was overwhelmed. In so far as penal evil is concerned, it may be traced directly or circuitously to the will and government of God. "Shall there be evil - that is, penal evil - in a city, and the Lord hath not done it?" (Amos 3:6). But there are many sufferings that are not penal. The evil that is penal is only one segment of physical evil; and then there is besides, metaphysical evil, or the evil that consists in the inevitable imperfection of finite being. It is noteworthy that the participle of the Hiphilic verb הֵרַע employed by Naomi is always translated in King James s version evil doer, or wicked doer, or evil, or wicked, Naomi, in using such a term, and applying it to Yahveh, was walking on a theological precipice, where it is not needful that we should accompany her. Instead of the literal expression, 'and Yahveh, we may, with our English wealth of conjunctions freely say, 'when Yahveh. There is a charm in the original simplicity. There is likewise a charm in the more complex structure of the free translation.
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.
Verse 22. - So Naomi returned. The narrator pauses to recapitulate his narrative of the return, and hence the recapitulatory so is, in English, very much to be preferred to the merely additive and of the original. And Ruth the Moabitess, her daughter-in-law, with her, who returned out of the land of Moab. The cumulative and apparently redundant expression, "who returned out of the land of Moab," is remarkable, at once for its simplicity and for its inexactitude. Ruth, strictly speaking, had not returned, but she took part in' Naomi's return. And they arrived in Bethlehem at the commencement of barley-harvest. Barley ripened before wheat, and began to be reaped sometimes as early as March, but generally in April, or Abib. By the time that the barley-harvest was finished the wheat crop would be ready for the sickle.