Gaebelein's Annotated Bible
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.Analysis and Annotations
CHAPTER 1 The Story of Naomi: Orpah and Ruth
1. Naomi and her sorrows (Ruth 1:1-5)
2. The return (Ruth 1:6-13)
3. Orpah turning back, Ruth cleaving (Ruth 1:14-18)
4. Naomi and Ruth in Bethlehem (Ruth 1:19-22)
The story begins with a famine. Elimelech, “my God is king,” and Naomi, “pleasant,” leave Bethlehem, “the house of bread,” to go to the land of Moab, the heathen country. The story ends in Bethlehem with a marriage. Naomi far from the land, in unbelief and bitterness, bereft of Elimelech, her two sons also dead, Mahlon, which means “sick,” and Chilion “pining,” pictures Israel’s condition, away from the land, no longer married unto Jehovah, but forsaken. Like Naomi, Israel has had trouble upon trouble and sorrow upon sorrow. There is no hope for Naomi amidst the Gentiles in Moab, as there is no hope for Israel among the nations. Hearing that Jehovah had visited His people with bread, she arose that she might return from Moab. Then Orpah said farewell to remain in Moab, while Ruth, the Moabitess, clave unto Naomi. She had faith and the beautiful words she addressed to Naomi were the expression of that faith. Not alone did the poor Moabitish woman say “thy people shall be my people,” but also “thy God my God.” It was grace which had drawn her. She thus clung closely to Naomi, became one with her in all her misery, yet with a faith, a confidence in Naomi’s God, which Naomi did not possess. When Israel sets her face homeward once more, there will be in the midst of the unbelieving nation a remnant, searching for the promised blessing, longing for God, a remnant* which ultimately will come in touch with the mighty Kinsman-Redeemer and inherit through Him the promised blessings.
* Of this remnant called through the grace of God, after the true Church has left this earthly scene, the prophetic Word has much to say. Read: Isaiah 6:13; Isaiah 10:21-22; Isaiah 11:11; Micah 4:7; Zephaniah 2:7; Ezek. 9; Romans 11:5 and many other passages. In the Psalms we read the future prayers of this remnant, the sorrows and sufferings they will have and the glorious deliverance when the King comes.
This remnant is represented in Ruth, cleaving to Naomi. But the objection may be raised that Ruth was a Gentile. How can she represent the remnant of Israel? Israel through her unbelief has become practically the same which the Gentiles are. They are “Lo-Ammi,” not my people (Hosea 1:9). The grace which called and saved Gentiles will call and draw them. Therefore this remnant is called “according to the election of grace” (Romans 11:5-6).
Naomi is back in Bethlehem, empty and with a bitter spirit. She calls herself “Mara” which means bitter. This pictures Israel’s return in unbelief. And it was at the time of the barley harvest. The harvest, as our Lord tells us, is the end of the age. When that end comes, after the true church has been gathered home, Israel, like Naomi, with a believing, trusting remnant cleaving to her, represented in Ruth, will return.