We find in this book excellent examples of faith, piety, patience, humility, industry, and loving-kindness, in the common events of life. Also we see the special care which God's providence take of our smallest concerns, encouraging us to full trust therein. We may view this book as a beautiful, because natural representation of human life; as a curious detail of important facts; and as a part of the plan of redemption.
Elimelech and his sons die in the land of Moab. (1-5) Naomi returns home. (6-14) Orpah stays behind, but Ruth goes with Naomi. (15-18) They come to Bethlehem. (19-22)
Verses 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.
Verses 6-14 Naomi began to think of returning, after the death of her two sons. When death comes into a family, it ought to reform what is amiss there. Earth is made bitter to us, that heaven may be made dear. Naomi seems to have been a person of faith and piety. She dismissed her daughters-in-law with prayer. It is very proper for friends, when they part, to part with them thus part in love. Did Naomi do well, to discourage her daughters from going with her, when she might save them from the idolatry of Moab, and bring them to the faith and worship of the God of Israel? Naomi, no doubt, desired to do that; but if they went with her, she would not have them to go upon her account. Those that take upon them a profession of religion only to oblige their friends, or for the sake of company, will be converts of small value. If they did come with her, she would have them make it their deliberate choice, and sit down first and count the cost, as it concerns those to do who make a profession of religion. And more desire "rest in the house of a husband," or some wordly settlement or earthly satisfaction, than the rest to which Christ invites our souls; therefore when tried they will depart from Christ, though perhaps with some sorrow.
Verses 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.
Verses 19-22 Naomi and Ruth came to Bethlehem. Afflictions will make great and surprising changes in a little time. May God, by his grace, fit us for all such changes, especially the great change!, Naomi signifies "pleasant," or "amiable;" Mara, "bitter," or "bitterness." She was now a woman of a sorrowful spirit. She had come home empty, poor, a widow and childless. But there is a fulness for believers of which they never can be emptied; a good part which shall not be taken from those who have it. The cup of affliction is a "bitter" cup, but she owns that the affliction came from God. It well becomes us to have our hearts humbled under humbling providences. It is not affliction itself, but affliction rightly borne, that does us good.
Ruth 1:1-5 . ELIMELECH, DRIVEN BY FAMINE INTO MOAB, DIES THERE.
1. in the days when the judges ruled--The beautiful and interesting story which this book relates belongs to the early times of the judges. The precise date cannot be ascertained.
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 ( 1 Chronicles 4:22 ).
Ephrathites--The ancient name of Beth-lehem was Ephrath ( Genesis 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 ( Micah 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 ( Deuteronomy 7:3 , 23:3 , Ezra 9:2 , Nehemiah 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.
Ruth 1:6-18 . NAOMI RETURNING HOME, RUTH ACCOMPANIES HER.
6, 7. Then she arose with her daughters-in-law, that she might return from the country of Moab--The aged widow, longing to enjoy the privileges of Israel, resolved to return to her native land as soon as she was assured that the famine had ceased, and made the necessary arrangements with her daughters-in-law.
8. Naomi said unto her two daughters-in-law, Go, return each to her mother's house--In Eastern countries women occupy apartments separate from those of men, and daughters are most frequently in those of their mother.
the Lord deal kindly with you, as ye have dealt with the dead--that is, with my sons, your husbands, while they lived.
9. The Lord grant you that ye may find rest--enjoy a life of tranquillity, undisturbed by the cares, incumbrances, and vexatious troubles to which a state of widowhood is peculiarly exposed.
Then she kissed them--the Oriental manner when friends are parting.
11. are there yet any more sons in my womb, that they may be your husbands?--This alludes to the ancient custom ( Genesis 38:26 ) afterwards expressly sanctioned by the law of Moses ( Deuteronomy 25:5 ), which required a younger son to marry the widow of his deceased brother.
12, 13. Turn again, my daughters, go your way--That Naomi should dissuade her daughters-in-law so strongly from accompanying her to the land of Israel may appear strange. But it was the wisest and most prudent course for her to adopt: first, because they might be influenced by hopes which could not be realized; second, because they might be led, under temporary excitement, to take a step they might afterwards regret; and, third, because the sincerity and strength of their conversion to the true religion, which she had taught them, would be thoroughly tested.
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].
Ruth 1:19-22 . THEY COME TO BETH-LEHEM.
19-22. all the city was moved about them--The present condition of Naomi, a forlorn and desolate widow, presented so painful a contrast to the flourishing state of prosperity and domestic bliss in which she had been at her departure.
22. in the beginning of barley harvest--corresponding to the end of our March.