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. There was a famine in the land — This makes it probable that the things here recorded came to pass in the days of Gideon, for that is the only time when we read of a famine in the days of the judges; namely, when the Midianites, Amalekites, &c., came and destroyed the increase of the earth, and left no sustenance for Israel, nor for their cattle, Jdg 6:3-4.
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.Ruth 1:2. Ephrathites of Beth-lehem-judah — Bethlehem was otherwise called Ephratha. Naomi signifies my amiable or pleasant one; Mahlon and Chilion signify sickness and consumption. Probably they were sickly children, and not likely to be long-lived. Such are the products of our pleasant things, weak and infirm, fading and dying. They came into the country of Moab, and continued there — Settled their habitation in that country, which it would not have been lawful for them to have done, unless it had been in a time of great public calamity, or great private necessity, as Maimonides observes.
And Elimelech Naomi's husband died; and she was left, and her two sons.
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.Ruth 1:4. They took them wives of the daughters of Moab — Either these women were proselytes when they married them, which what is afterward recorded of Ruth (Ruth 1:16) renders very probable, or they sinned in marrying them, and therefore might be punished with short lives and want of issue. The Chaldee paraphrast declares for the latter opinion. “Their days were cut short,” says he, “because they married strange women.”
And Mahlon and Chilion died also both of them; and the woman was left of her two sons and her husband.Ruth 1:5-6. The woman was left of her two sons and her husband — Loss of children and widowhood are both come upon her. By whom shall she be comforted? It is God alone who is able to comfort those who are thus cast down. The Lord had visited his people in giving them bread — That is, food: so she stayed no longer than necessity forced her.
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.
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.
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.Ruth 1:8. Return each to her mother’s house — She desires them to accompany her no farther, but to go back to their own home. And it seems it was usual in Moab, as well as in Israel, for widows to dwell with their parents. But she says, mother’s, rather than father’s house, because daughters used to converse more frequently with their mothers, and to dwell in the same apartments with them, which then were distinct from those parts of the house where the men dwelt. The dead — With my sons, your husbands, while 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.Ruth 1:9-11. That ye may find rest, &c. — That ye may be happily settled in houses of your own, with good husbands. That they may be your husbands — According to the ancient custom, (Genesis 38:8,) and the express law of God, (Deuteronomy 25:4,) which doubtless she had acquainted them with before, among other branches of the Jewish religion.
And they said unto her, Surely we will return with thee unto thy people.
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?
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;
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.Ruth 1:13. It grieveth me — That you are left without the comfort of husbands or children; that I must part with such affectionate daughters; and that my circumstances are such that I cannot invite 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. It is with me that God has a controversy. This language becomes us when we are under affliction; though many others share in the trouble, yet we are to hear the voice of the rod, as if it spake only to us. But did not she wish to bring them to the worship of the God of Israel? Undoubtedly she did. But she would have them first consider upon what terms, lest, having set their hand to the plough, they should look back.
And they lifted up their voice, and wept again: and Orpah kissed her mother in law; but Ruth clave unto her.Ruth 1:14. Kissed — Departed from her with a kiss. Bade her farewell for ever. She loved Naomi; but she did not love her so well as to quit her country for her sake. Thus many have a value for Christ, and yet come short of salvation by him, because they cannot find in their hearts to forsake other things for him. They love him, and yet leave him, because they do not love him enough, but love other things better.
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.Ruth 1:15. Is gone back to her people and to her gods — By this it appears, if Orpah had been a proselyte to the Jewish religion, she afterward apostatized. Those that forsake the communion of saints will certainly break off their communion with God. Return thou after thy sister-in-law — This she said to try Ruth’s sincerity and constancy, and in order that she might intimate to her that if she went with her she must be firm in her attachment to the true 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:Ruth 1:16-17. Entreat me not to leave thee — For all thy entreaties cannot shake that resolution which thy instructions, formerly given, have wrought in me. Whither thou goest, I will go — Though to a country I never saw, which I have been taught to despise, and far distant from my own country. Where thou lodgest, I will lodge — Though it be in a cottage; nay, though it be no better a lodging than Jacob had when he put the stones for his pillow. Thy people shall be my people — For, judging from what I have seen in thee, I conclude they must be a wise and understanding people, and I shall think myself happy if I may be reckoned one of them, may be associated with them, and conformed to them. And thy God shall be my God — Farewell to Chemosh and all the gods of Moab, which are vanities and lies. I will adore the God of Israel, the only living and true God; will trust in him alone, will love and serve him alone, and in every thing be commanded and ruled by him. Where thou diest will I die — In the same place, in token of my dying in the same spirit. Let me die the death of the righteous Naomi, and let my last end be like hers! And there will I be buried — Not desiring to have so much as my dead body carried back to the country of Moab, in token of any remaining regard for it. But I will be buried in the same grave with thee, and my bones shall lie by thine, that, as we have joined souls, our dust may be mingled, and we may rise together, and remain together for ever. Happy Naomi, though deprived of her husband and her sons, that has such a daughter-in-law to comfort her in her widowhood and amidst her bereavements! And happy Ruth, who has profited so much by the instructions of her mother-in-law, and who has so fully imbibed the genuine principles and spirit of the true religion! Surely she was a glorious instance of the grace of God inclining the soul to a resolute choice of the good part. The Lord do so to me, and more also — An ancient form this of imprecation, by which Ruth confirms, with a solemn oath, her resolution to adhere to Naomi till death. She knew that death would part them for a time, but was resolved that nothing else should; not any kindness from her own family and people, nor any hope of preferment among them; nor any unkindness from Israel, nor the fear of poverty and disgrace among them. No; I will never leave thee.
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.
When she saw that she was stedfastly minded to go with her, then she left speaking unto her.Ruth 1:18. That she was steadfastly minded to go with her, &c. — Was not this the very thing that Naomi aimed at in all she said, namely, to bring Ruth to be of this steadfast mind? Then she left off speaking — Having gained her point. For she could desire no further confirmation of it than that solemn protestation which Ruth had just now made. See the power of resolution, how it puts temptation to silence! Those that are but half resolved, and go on in the ways of religion without a steadfast mind, stand like a door ajar, which invites a thief. But resolution shuts and bolts the door, and then the devil flees from us.
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?Ruth 1:19-21. Is this Naomi? — Is this she that formerly lived in so much plenty and honour? How marvellously is her condition changed! Call me not Naomi — Which signifies pleasant, and cheerful. Call me Mara — Which signifies bitter, or sorrowful. I went out full — With my husband and sons, and a plentiful estate for our support. Testified — That is, hath borne witness, as it were, in judgment, and given sentence against me. Thus she acknowledges that the affliction came from God, and that God was contending with and correcting her; and she is willing to accommodate herself to the afflictive and bitter dispensation; and as a token thereof to have her name changed from Naomi to Mara. “It well becomes us,” says Henry, “to have our hearts humbled under humbling providences. When our condition is brought down, our spirits should be brought down with it. And then our troubles are sanctified to us, when we thus comport with them: for it is not an affliction in itself, but an affliction rightly borne, that doth us good.”
And she said unto them, Call me not Naomi, call me Mara: for the Almighty hath dealt very bitterly with me.
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?
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.