Ruth 1:4
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.
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(4) They took them wives.—This seems to have been after the father’s death. The fault of settling on a heathen soil begun by the father is carried on by the sons in marrying heathen women, for such we cannot doubt they must have been in the first instance. The Targum (or ancient Chaldee paraphrase) says: “They transgressed against the decree of the Word of the Lord, and took to themselves strange wives.” This act was to incur a further risk of being involved in idolatry, as King Solomon found.

Ruth.—This name will mean either “comeliness” or “companion.” according to the spelling of which we suppose the present name to be a contraction. The Syriac spelling supports the latter view. Ruth was the wife of Mahlon (Ruth 4:10), apparently the elder sou. The Targum calls Ruth the daughter of Eglon, king of Moab, obviously from the wish to exalt the dignity of Ruth.

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.”

1:1-5 Elimelech's care to provide for his family, was not to be blamed; but his removal into the country of Moab could not be justified. And the removal ended in the wasting of his family. It is folly to think of escaping that cross, which, being laid in our way, we ought to take up. Changing our place seldom is mending it. Those who bring young people into bad acquaintance, and take them out of the way of public ordinances, thought they may think them well-principled, and armed against temptation, know not what will be the end. It does not appear that the women the sons of Elimelech married, were proselyted to the Jewish religion. Earthly trials or enjoyments are of short continuance. Death continually removes those of every age and situation, and mars all our outward comforts: we cannot too strongly prefer those advantages which shall last for ever.Marriages of Israelites with women of Ammon or Moab are nowhere in the Law expressly forbidden, as were marriages with the women of Canaan Deuteronomy 7:1-3. In the days of Nehemiah the special law Deuteronomy 23:3-6 was interpreted as forbidding them, and as excluding the children of such marriages from the congregation of Israel Nehemiah 13:1-3. Probably the marriages of Mahlon and Chilion would be justified by necessity, living as they were in a foreign land. Ruth was the wife of the older brother, Mahlon Ruth 4:10. 2. Elimelech—signifies "My God is king."

Naomi—"fair or pleasant"; and their two sons, Mahlon and Chilion, are supposed to be the same as Joash and Saraph (1Ch 4:22).

Ephrathites—The ancient name of Beth-lehem was Ephrath (Ge 35:19; 48:7), which was continued after the occupation of the land by the Hebrews, even down to the time of the prophet Micah (Mic 5:2).

Beth-lehem-judah—so called to distinguish it from a town of the same name in Zebulun. The family, compelled to emigrate to Moab through pressure of a famine, settled for several years in that country. After the death of their father, the two sons married Moabite women. This was a violation of the Mosaic law (De 7:3; 23:3; Ezr 9:2; Ne 13:23); and Jewish writers say that the early deaths of both the young men were divine judgments inflicted on them for those unlawful connections.

Of the women of Moab; either these were proselytes when they married them, which may well be doubted, from Ruth 1:15, or they sinned in marrying them, as appears from Deu 7:3 23:3 Ezra 9:1,2 Ne 13:23, and therefore were punished with short life and want of issue, Ruth 1:5,19,21.

About ten years; as long as the famine lasted.

And they took them wives of the women of Moab,.... Not before they were proselyted to the Jewish religion, as Aben Ezra thinks, and which seems plainly to be the case of Ruth; at least she was so afterwards, if not before; and also of Orpah, as the same writer concludes from Ruth 1:15 though others are of a different opinion, and some excuse their marriage, and others condemn it as unlawful, among whom is the Targumist, who paraphrases the words,"and they transgressed the decree of the Word of the Lord, and took to them strange wives of the daughters of Moab;''however it was so permitted by the Lord, and ordered in Providence, that from one of them the Messiah might spring:

and the name of the one was Orpah; she was married to Chilion; and Alshech gathers from hence that the youngest was married first before his brother:

and the name of the other Ruth the Targum adds,"the daughter of Eglon, king of Moab;''and that she was his daughter, or the daughter of his son, is a notion commonly received with the Jews (y) though without any just foundation; she was married to Mahlon, Ruth 4:10, one Philo (z) asserts these two women to be own sisters, for what reason does not appear; and a Jewish writer (a) says they were both daughters of Eglon, king of Moab: and they dwelt there about ten years; that is, Mahlon and Chilion, who married these women; which is to be reckoned either from the time they came into the land, or from the time of their marriage; the latter seems to be the case from the connection of the words.

(y) T. Bab. Nazir, fol. 23. 2. Sotah, fol. 47. 1. Sanhedrin, fol. 105. 2. Horayot, fol. 10. 2. Zohar in Deut. fol. 109. 2.((z) Apud Drusium in loc. (a) Shalshalet Hakabala, fol. 8. 1.

And they took them wives of the {c} women of Moab; the name of the one was Orpah, and the name of the other Ruth: and they dwelled there about ten years.

(c) By this wonderful providence of God Ruth became one of God's household, of whom Christ came.

4. took them wives] The idiom is a late one, 2 Chronicles 11:21, Ezra 9:2; Ezra 9:12, Nehemiah 13:25 etc.; see Introd. p. xv. It is uncertain whether the names of the two wives have any bearing upon the parts which they play in the story. The Midrash Rabbah on this Book explains that Orpah was so called ‘because she turned her neck (‘oreph) on her mother in law’; possibly the name may=‘obstinacy’ (cf. stiffnecked, Exodus 32:9 etc.). Equally doubtful is the significance of Ruth; if the name is shortened from re‘uth, as it is written in Syriac, it will be the fem. of Re’u (Genesis 11:18 ff.), and may mean ‘friendship.’ We cannot, therefore, feel sure that the writer invented the names; he may have derived them from tradition.

Verse 4. - And they took to themselves wives of the women of Moab. It was their own act. Josephus, reproducing the narrative from memory, represents the event as occurring in the father's lifetime, and as brought about by his arrangement. He says of Elimelech, "Coming into the territory of Moab, he sojourns there, and, things pros-paring according to his mind, he gives in marriage to his sons (ἄγεται τοῖς υἱοῖς) Moabitish wives." Theological critics have here again raised the question, Was it sinful in these emigrant Hebrews to take in marriage daughters of the land? The Chaldee Targumist did not hesitate in his decision. He begins his paraphrase of the verse, thus - "And they transgressed the edict of the word of the Lord, and took to themselves alien wives of the daughters of Mesh." Dr. Thomas Fuller represents Naomi as passionately remonstrating with her sons. He says of himself, "My mouth denieth to be the orator of an unjust action." "Nothing can be brought," he adds, "for the defense of these matches. Something may be said for the excuse of them, but that fetched not from piety, but from policy." It is note worthy, however, that in the text itself, and throughout the entire Book, there is nothing of the nature of condemnation, not the least hint of blame. There was a law, indeed, which laid an interdict upon marriages with Canaanites (see Deuteronomy 7:3). But these Canaanites occupied a peculiar relation to the Hebrews. They were within the line of that Canaan which had become the land of Israel. Israelites and Canaanites were thus living within the same borders as rival claimants of the same territory. It was no wonder that the Canaanites' claim was not to be recognized by the Hebrews. The Moabites, however, living within the lines or "coasts" of their own distinct territory, stood in quite a different relation. And while, for purity's sake, great restrictions were to be laid upon all overtures for naturalization (Deuteronomy 23:3-6), yet the law could never he intended to apply to the families of Hebrews who were settlers in Moab, or to Moabitish females living in their own land, and rather awarding than seeking the prerogatives' of natives. The name of the one was Orpah, and the name of the other Ruth. No doubt native Moabitish names. Much ingenuity has been expended on that of the more interesting person. Some have unwarrantably assumed that Ruth is a contraction of the Hebrew word רְעוּת meaning a female companion or friend. Still more unwarrantable, though more captivating to the aesthetic imagination, is the signification which is given to the word by Weruer and Eadie, namely, beauty. It is founded on an impossible derivation from the Hebrew רָאָה. Still more aesthetically captivating is the conjecture of Cassel, that the name is the ancient Semitic form of the Indo-European word rodon or rose. "At all events," says he, "the thought of Ruth as the Rose of Moab is in itself too attractive not to be proposed as a conjecture." It is certainly, most attractive and most admirable as a jeu d'esprit, but too imaginative to be vindicated on grounds of comparative philology. And they dwelt there. Or, "settled themselves there; literally, "sat them." We still call a gentleman's mansion his seat. About ten years, which, however, are treated by the writer as a mere blank in his story. He hastens on. Ruth 1:4אפרתים, the plural of אפרתי, an adjective formation, not from אפרים, as in Judges 12:5, but from אפרת (Genesis 48:7) or אפרתה (Ruth 4:11; Genesis 35:19), the old name for Bethlehem, Ephrathite, i.e., sprung from Bethlehem, as in 1 Samuel 17:12. The names - Elimelech, i.e., to whom God is King; Naomi (נעמי, a contraction of נעמית, lxx Νοομμείν, Vulg. Nomi), i.e., the gracious; Machlon, i.e., the weakly; and Chilion, pining - are genuine Hebrew names; whereas the names of the Moabitish women, Orpah and Ruth, who were married to Elimelech's sons, cannot be satisfactorily explained from the Hebrew, as the meaning given to Orpah, "turning the back," is very arbitrary, and the derivation of Ruth from רעוּת, a friend, is quite uncertain. According to Ruth 4:10, Ruth was the wife of the elder son Mahlon. Marriage with daughters of the Moabites was not forbidden in the law, like marriages with Canaanitish women (Deuteronomy 7:3); it was only the reception of Moabites into the congregation of the Lord that was forbidden (Deuteronomy 23:4).
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