who took Moabite women as their wives, one named Orpah and the other named Ruth. And after they had lived in Moab about ten years,
The notes of time found in this narrative are meager. It is not easy to decide to what the "ten years "here mentioned refer. After the death of Elimelech, the two sons were spared to be the occupation and the solace of the widow's life. Naomi saw them grow up to manhood. Then the young men "took them wives of the women of Moab."
I. MARRIAGE IS LAWFUL BETWEEN PERSONS OF DIFFERENT NATIONS. There was nothing in the law of Moses to prevent these young men from acting as they did, although the children of Israel were not allowed to intermarry with the Canaanites. Later in Jewish history Nehemiah interpreted the law as forbidding marriage with the children of Moab, But he seems to have acted with unjust severity. These Moabitish women were virtuous, kind, devoted; conformed to the religion of their husbands, and one of them found a solid satisfaction in the worship of Jehovah. The conduct of the young men seems to have been natural and blameless.
II. MARRIAGE SHOULD ONLY BE-ENTERED UPON AFTER SERIOUS AND PRAYERFUL DELIBERATION, AND WITH A CONVICTION OF ITS ACCEPTABLENESS TO GOD. Sensible and Christian people should discountenance the practice of treating marriage with levity. Consideration should be given to time, to circumstances, and, above all, to character. Confidence and esteem must be, with affection, the basis of wedded happiness; and these cannot exist in their completeness where there is dissimilarity of conviction and aim - where one party is living to the world, and the other would live unto the Lord. Error here involves misery, and perhaps disaster and ruin. Lessons: -
1. Let elders inculcate just views of the marriage relationship upon the young.
2. Let the young avoid committing themselves to a contract of marriage until a fair experience of life has been acquired.
3. Let Christians marry "only in the Lord." - T.
They took them wives of the women of Moab.
The sin of these young men in marrying strange women is not expressly denounced as a sin in the story, although it is denounced in the Targum, which commences verse 4 thus: "They transgressed the commandment of the Lord, and took foreign wives from among the daughters of Moab." But no one can read the Old Testament without feeling that they sinned against the law, for to the Hebrews marriage was a religious covenant; and St. Paul does but utter an admitted and familiar truth when he asks, "What fellowship has light with darkness, or Belial with God?" The reason of the law is given in the passage just cited from Deuteronomy — "they will turn away thy children from Me, and they will serve false gods." The daughters of Moab were specially obnoxious to the faithful Israelites. They appear to have been among the most fascinating, and the most wanton and profligate, women of antiquity. Their gods — Chemosh, Moloch, Baal-peor — were incarnations of lust and cruelty. They demanded human sacrifices. Children were cast into their burning arms. In their ritual sensuality was accounted piety. True, Mahlon and Chilion were exceptionally fortunate in their wives. They were not turned to the service of false gods, though there was grave reason to fear that they might be; but, on the other hand, neither did they turn their wives to the service of the only true God. It was not till after her husband's death that Ruth learned to take shelter under the wings of the Lord God of Israel (Ruth 2:12
); and Orpah, as we are expressly told (Ruth 1:15
), "went back to her people and her gods."()
It is wonderful how soon and how easily one gets used to a change of circumstances when the change itself is brought about gradually. The country of Moab, into which Elimelech and his family had journeyed, had of course its own language, its own fashions, and its own religion too, and these were as dissimilar as possible from those of the country which they had just now left. Yet the new-comers were in no serious sense shocked by what they saw and heard — had they so been they would have retraced their steps without delay; but each day brought its own novelty, and they managed to accustom themselves to the new things of to-day before it became necessary to face those of the morrow. Looking calmly at our fashion of living and way of acting now, some of us are compelled to admit how much we have changed in recent years; we never guessed that the alteration was so great or so complete; we never meant to have come so far. Worst of all, we never thought we should have felt the change so little. We remember well the qualms of conscience by which we were troubled when first we commenced to wander: we recollect now how the protests of our heart became fainter and fainter day by day until they ceased to be anything more than a hardly audible whisper. We went to sojourn in the country of Moab: we came into the country of Moab, and continued there. To begin with, our intentions were purely selfish, as selfish as were those of Lot when he elected to pitch his tent toward Sodom. We were going to get what we could out of Moab; they who lived there had something that we coveted, and we determined to make them share it with us. And, moreover, we had no serious intention of giving Moab anything in return. It is, indeed, just possible that at one time we may have possessed the Quixotic idea of remodelling life in Moab to suit our own ideas, but if so we soon abandoned the idea; for on the one hand we found that Moab was not willing to be remodelled — indeed, when we faintly suggested something of the kind, they said to us, as Sodom had said to Lot, and with not a little point, "Stand back; this one came in to sojourn, and he will needs be a judge"; and on the other hand, our own opinions were neither sufficiently clear in our own minds nor dear to our own hearts to enable us to graft them upon others. We were somewhat surprised, it may be, and a little pained, at the way in which our new neighbours received our well-meant attempts, in the early days of our life in Moab, to bring before them the advantages of a life of obedience and surrender to God. "If Bethlehem was such a charming place, and the life there so delightful, why did you exchange it for our country?" they not unnaturally inquired; "if Bethlehem did not satisfy you, how can you suppose that it will satisfy us?" Nor may we forget that in leaving the land of promise the wanderer never intends to be absent for other than a short period. If, on parting from our true home, any one had suggested that we should have been found in Moab to-day, we should have denied the imputation with indignation. Yet here we are still; and here in His great mercy the Good Shepherd has found us, and hence He desires to carry us home again — to our home and His. So they came into the country of Moab, and appear to have been received there with courtesy and hospitality. The world is always glad when those who have been making a somewhat definite profession of devotion to God show signs of a desire to relax the strictness of their behaviour; it is always willing to meet such persons more than half-way, and to do its best to enable them to quiet the still struggling conscience with as little delay as possible. If the world would only persecute us when it finds us on its own ground, there would be some hope that our stay in Moab would prove short indeed. Not that the world is any more prompted by unselfishness in its reception of us than were we ourselves in our journey to Moab; our new friends rejoice that, by our change of front, another protest against their way of life has died a natural death, and they are only too glad to be present and assist at its obsequies; they are, moreover, clear-sighted enough to see without being told that our surrender is a tacit victory for the world and indifferentism, and pro tanto
a defeat for the gospel and a discredit to the life of faith in Christ.
And thus the world moves on — deaths and marriages, marriages and deaths. The household which to-day mourns as though all joy had taken flight for ever to-morrow resounds with the laughter of many voices at a newborn happiness. The faces all tear-stained yesterday are bright with smiles to-day. The bell which slowly tolled the funeral knell an hour ago now rings out the joyous wedding chime. So it must be, so it ought to be. Probably life would lose half its beauty but for this alternation of shadow and sunshine; at least, this we know, that human hearts need both the darkness and the light, or they will not grow to that perfection of truth and purity which God has designed they shall attain. Elimelech died, the sons married. It is a simple statement, yet a whole world of change is involved in it for that small household.
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