Ruth 1:15
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.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(15) Naomi, now armed with a fresh argument, urges Ruth to follow her sister-in-law’s example.

Her gods.—Naomi doubtless views the Moabite idols as realities, whose power is, however, confined to the land of Moab. She is not sufficiently enlightened in her religion to see in the Lord more than the God of Israel.

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.

1:15-18 See Ruth's resolution, and her good affection to Naomi. Orpah was loth to part from her; yet she did not love her well enough to leave Moab for her sake. Thus, many have a value and affection for Christ, yet come short of salvation by him, because they will not forsake other things for him. They love him, yet leave him, because they do not love him enough, but love other things better. Ruth is an example of the grace of God, inclining the soul to choose the better part. Naomi could desire no more than the solemn declaration Ruth made. See the power of resolution; it silences temptation. Those that go in religious ways without a stedfast mind, stand like a door half open, which invites a thief; but resolution shuts and bolts the door, resists the devil and forces him to flee.The kiss at parting as well as at meeting is the customary friendly and respectful salutation in the East. The difference between mere kindness of manner and self-sacrificing love is most vividly depicted in the words and conduct of the two women. Ruth's determination is stedfast to cast in her lot with the people of the Lord (compare the marginal references and Matthew 15:22-28). 13. the hand of the Lord is gone out against me—that is, I am not only not in a condition to provide you with other husbands, but so reduced in circumstances that I cannot think of your being subjected to privations with me. The arguments of Naomi prevailed with Orpah, who returned to her people and her gods. But Ruth clave unto her; and even in the pages of Sterne, that great master of pathos, there is nothing which so calls forth the sensibilities of the reader as the simple effusion he has borrowed from Scripture—of Ruth to her mother-in-law [Chalmers]. Unto her people, and unto her gods; which she saith, partly, to try Ruth’s sincerity and constancy; partly, that by upbraiding Orpah with her idolatry she might consequently turn her from it; and partly, that she might intimate to her, that if she went with her, she must embrace the true God and religion.

And she said,.... That is, Naomi to Ruth, after Orpah was gone:

behold, thy sister in law is gone back unto her people, and unto her gods; meaning Orpah, who was the wife of her husband's brother, as the word used signifies; she was not only on the road turning back to her own country and people, but to the gods thereof, Baalpeor or Priapus, and Chemosh, Numbers 21:29 from whence Aben Ezra concludes, that she had been a proselyte to the true religion, and had renounced the gods of her nation, and retained the same profession while her husband lived, and unto this time, and now apostatized, since she is said to go back to her gods; and in this he is followed by some Christian interpreters (g), and not without reason:

return thou after thy sister in law: this she said, not that in good earnest she desired her to return, at least to her former religion, only relates, though not as approving of, the conduct of her sister, rather as upbraiding it; but to try her sincerity and steadfastness, when such an instance and example was before her.

(g) Clericus & Rambachius.

And she said, Behold, thy sister in law is gone back unto her people, and unto her gods: {g} return thou after thy sister in law.

(g) No persuasion can convince them to turn back from God, if he has chosen them to be his.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
15. unto her people, and unto her god] i.e. Chemosh, the god of the Moabites, Numbers 21:29, 1 Kings 11:33. The ancient belief here receives its simplest expression: each land and people had its own Deity inseparably connected with it; outside lay the territory of another god. The Israelites, at any rate the popular religion in Israel, did not deny the divinity of the gods of the neighbouring lands, though for themselves Jehovah was the only God; cf. Jdg 11:24, 1 Samuel 26:19. So when Orpah goes back to Moab she goes back to her native god; similarly, when Ruth determines to make her home in Judah, she declares her intention of adopting the religion of her new country, Ruth 1:16. See Ruth 1:8 n.

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." Ruth 1:15To the repeated entreaty of Naomi that she would follow her sister-in-law and return to her people and her God, Ruth replied: "Entreat me not to leave thee, and to return away behind thee: for whither thou goest, I will go; and where thou stayest, I will stay; thy people is my people, and thy God my God! where thou diest, I will die, and there will I be buried. Jehovah do so to me, and more also (lit. and so may He add to do)! Death alone shall divide between me and thee." The words יסיף ... יעשׂה י כּה are a frequently recurring formula in connection with an oath (cf. 1 Samuel 3:17; 1 Samuel 14:44; 1 Samuel 20:13, etc.), by which the person searing called down upon himself a severe punishment in case he should not keep his word or carry out his resolution. The following כּי is not a particle used in swearing instead of אם in the sense of "if," equivalent to "surely not," as in 1 Samuel 20:12, in the oath which precedes the formula, but answer to ὅτι in the sense of quod introducing the declaration, as in Genesis 22:16; 1 Samuel 20:13; 1 Kings 2:23; 2 Kings 3:14, etc., signifying, I swear that death, and nothing else than death, shall separate us. Naomi was certainly serious in her intentions, and sincere in the advice which she gave to Ruth, and did not speak in this way merely to try her and put the state of her heart to the proof, "that it might be made manifest whether she would adhere stedfastly to the God of Israel and to herself, despising temporal things and the hope of temporal possessions' (Seb. Schmidt). She had simply the earthly prosperity of her daughter-in-law in her mind, as she herself had been shaken in her faith in the wonderful ways and gracious guidance of the faithful covenant God by the bitter experience of her own life.

(Note: "She thought of earthly things alone; and as at that time the Jews almost universally were growing lax in the worship of God, so she, having spent ten years among the Moabites, though it of little consequence whether they adhered to the religion of their fathers, to which they had been accustomed from their infancy or went over to the Jewish religion." - Carpzov.)

With Ruth, however, it was evidently not merely strong affection and attachment by which she felt herself so drawn to her mother-in-law that she wished to live and die with her, but a leaning of her heart towards the God of Israel and His laws, of which she herself was probably not yet fully conscious, but which she had acquired so strongly in her conjugal relation and her intercourse with her Israelitish connections, that it was her earnest wish never to be separated from this people and its God (cf. Ruth 2:11).

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