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Ruth: Chapter 1

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1In the days when the judges ruled, there was a famine in the land, and a certain man of Bethlehem in Judah went to live in the country of Moab, he and his wife and two sons. 2The name of the man was Elimelech and the name of his wife Naomi, and the names of his two sons were Mahlon and Chilion; they were Ephrathites from Bethlehem in Judah. They went into the country of Moab and remained there. 3But Elimelech, the husband of Naomi, died, and she was left with her two sons. 4These took Moabite wives; the name of the one was Orpah and the name of the other Ruth. When they had lived there about ten years, 5both Mahlon and Chilion also died, so that the woman was left without her two sons and her husband.

6Then she started to return with her daughters-in-law from the country of Moab, for she had heard in the country of Moab that the LORD had considered his people and given them food. 7So she set out from the place where she had been living, she and her two daughters-in-law, and they went on their way to go back to the land of Judah. 8But Naomi said to her two daughters-in-law, “Go back each of you to your mother's house. May the LORD deal kindly with you, as you have dealt with the dead and with me. 9The LORD grant that you may find security, each of you in the house of your husband.” Then she kissed them, and they wept aloud. 10They said to her, “No, we will return with you to your people.” 11But Naomi said, “Turn back, my daughters, why will you go with me? Do I still have sons in my womb that they may become your husbands? 12Turn back, my daughters, go your way, for I am too old to have a husband. Even if I thought there was hope for me, even if I should have a husband tonight and bear sons, 13would you then wait until they were grown? Would you then refrain from marrying? No, my daughters, it has been far more bitter for me than for you, because the hand of the LORD has turned against me.” 14Then they wept aloud again. Orpah kissed her mother-in-law, but Ruth clung to her.

15So she said, “See, your sister-in-law has gone back to her people and to her gods; return after your sister-in-law.” 16But Ruth said,

“Do not press me to leave you or to turn back from following you! Where you go, I will go; Where you lodge, I will lodge; your people shall be my people, and your God my God. 17Where you die, I will die— there will I be buried. May the LORD do thus and so to me, and more as well, if even death parts me from you!”

18When Naomi saw that she was determined to go with her, she said no more to her.

19So the two of them went on until they came to Bethlehem. When they came to Bethlehem, the whole town was stirred because of them; and the women said, “Is this Naomi?” 20She said to them,

“Call me no longer Naomi, a That is Pleasant call me Mara, b That is Bitter for the Almighty c Traditional rendering of Heb Shaddai has dealt bitterly with me. 21I went away full, but the LORD has brought me back empty; why call me Naomi when the LORD has dealt harshly with a Or has testified against me, and the Almighty b Traditional rendering of Heb Shaddai has brought calamity upon me?”

22So Naomi returned together with Ruth the Moabite, her daughter-in-law, who came back with her from the country of Moab. They came to Bethlehem at the beginning of the barley harvest.

Notes:

a That is Pleasant

b That is Bitter

c Traditional rendering of Heb Shaddai

a Or has testified against

b Traditional rendering of Heb Shaddai

Text Commentary view alone

1.1–5 :

Famine and death.

1 :

When the judges ruled sets the story of Ruth before the rise of kingship, when charismatic leaders led Israel against its foes. The book of Judges portrays this period as one of instability, when faithfulness to God led to success, but idolatry * led to failure (see Judg 3.10 ). When, ironically, * Bethlehem (literally “house of bread”) becomes a place of famine, a man, his wife, and his two sons move to Moab, a suspect place in biblical tradition (Gen 19.37; Deut 23.3 ).

2 :

Elimelech: “My god is king.” The rhyming names Mahlon and Chilion mean “weakness” and “consumption.” Ephrathites: Elsewhere, Ephratha is linked with Bethlehem (Mic 5.2; 1 Sam 17.12 ) and may refer to the large clan * in which Bethlehem was located.

3 :

In a sudden reversal, Naomi takes center stage. Elimelech (now called Naomi's husband) dies and, after ten years, so do Mahlon and Chilion, leaving Naomi without her husband and her two sons.

1.6–22 :

Two return to Bethlehem. Naomi decides to return to Bethlehem (reversing Elimelech's decision to go to Moab). Her impassioned speech assumes that if she cannot offer Orpah and Ruth husbands then they have no future with her.

8–14 :

Told to return to the house of their mothers (“house of the father” is more common), Orpah obeys Naomi, but Ruth clings to her (in Gen 1.24 , this verb describes marital union).

16–17 :

Ruth's beautiful poem of loyalty states her willingness to exchange her gods, family, and land in order to be with Naomi. May the LORD do thus and so is a typical oath formula.

19–22 :

Naomi's silence, her insistence on being called Mara (“bitter”) upon her entry into Bethlehem, and her reference to returning empty indicate that Naomi is not initially comforted by the presence of her Moabite daughter-in-law.

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