Ruth 1 - Outline of Ruth (MENU page)
The short book of Ruth is a rich story of human love.
It is also a marvelous illustration of the grace and love of God. But it is more than an illustration. For the events recorded here are interwoven with the birth of a Son, who would come because ''God so loved the world''.
1:1 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 Bethlehem-judah went to sojourn in the country of Moab,
he, and his wife, and his two sons.
1:2 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 Bethlehem-judah.
And they came into the country of Moab, and continued there.
1:3 And Elimelech Naomi's husband died; and she was left, and her two sons.
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.
1:5 And Mahlon and Chilion died also both of them;
and the woman was left of her two sons and her husband.
The Setting-
In the days of the judges- The book of Judges, which immediately precedes Ruth,
records a dark time in Israel's history. Following the death of Moses and Joshua, the nation lacked consistent godly leadership. They disregarded God's command to rid the land of idol worshippers and their false gods (eg., Deu 7:16; 12:2,3; 20:17,18). Over and over again, God's people turned away from Him and became enmeshed in the ungodly practices of their neighbors.
- - Periodically, individual leaders (the 'judges') arose to rally the nation against their enemies, and to draw them back toward serving the Lord. But many of these leaders were also spiritually weak and given to foolishness (eg., Samson who, because of his lustful living, lost his wisdom, strength, sight and eventually his life. His folly is summed up in the tragic words: ''...he knew not that the Lord was departed from him.'' Judg 16:20).
- - The time of the judges is summarized in the last verse of that book (Judg 21:25).
  • ''Ruth is a story of light on a black background. It is a picture of love and salvation contrasted against sin and selfishness.'' [JVMcGee]
  • The book of Ruth also bridges the gap between ''no king in Israel'' (when theocracy failed, under the judges, because Israel would not submit to the direct rule of God) and the establishment of the Davidic kingdom in 1Samuel. (Ruth would become David's great-grandmother.)
there was a famine in the land- cp. Deu 28:15,23,24,38
Famine was an indication of God's judgment upon Israel for their sin.
a man of Bethlehem-judah {lit., 'the house of bread and praise'}- departed into Moab.
The land of Moab was not a good place to escape from God's judgment, or to raise a family.
The Moabites were distant relatives of Israel, being descendants of Abraham's nephew, Lot, through incest (Gen 19:30-38). The moral corruption which marked their roots became characteristic of this nation. During Israel's journey from Egypt to the Promised Land, the Moabites had opposed their progress, first with cursing by a false prophet, and then with seducings by their women. The Moabites worshipped a false god, named Chemosh, with child sacrifices. God had pronounced judgment upon them. Num 21:29; Deu 23:3,4.
- - In effect, this was a 'prodigal family' that left the Father's house, for a pig pen in a far country (cp. Luk 15:11-16). Not believing that God could keep them in the 'house of bread and praise', they turned to feed themselves at a 'slop bucket' (cp. Psa 108:9).
The family members-
Elimelech- HB= 'my God is king'. His name is a wonderful statement of faith.
But he did not live up to it. He did not act like God was his king.
Naomi- HB= 'pleasant', 'cheerful'
their two sons: Mahlon {HB= 'sick'} and Chilion {HB= 'pining' (ie., weakly) } -
Their names suggest poor health, which probably was a result of disobedience.
cp. Ex 15:26; Deu 7:12-15; Deu 28:15,21,22
Ephrathites- ie., residents of Ephratah (the name means 'fruitful'), a region of the promised land
in which Bethlehem was located (cp. Gen 35:16,19). Under Joshua's leadership, the land was divided between the tribes, and this region was included in the portion of the tribe of Judah. 'Bethlehem in the region of Ephrath' was thus distinguished from another Bethlehem in the northern part of Israel which pertained to Zebulun.
They were from the town where Jesus would be born (Micah 5:2; Mat 2:3-6).
-[they] went to sojourn (v.1)- ie., intending to stay only until the famine ended.
-they continued there (v.2)- ie., they extended their stay and settled in.
-they dwelled there ten years (v.4)- ie., they made Moab their home.
But living out of fellowship with God, they walked into trouble--
  1. Elimelech died. cp. 1Joh 5:16
  2. Mahlon & Chilion married women of Moab- in defiance of God's Word. cp. Deu 7:3,4
    Orpah {means ''deer'' or ''fawn''}- Perhaps she was athletic, or particularly graceful.
    - - Like a deer, and like her external beauty, Orpah herself would prove to be fleeting.
    Ruth {means ''friendship''}- Her beauty (of a more enduring type) was in her personality.
    We might wonder why these attractive young women were drawn to such weak men.
  3. Mahlon & Chilion die.- cp. Deu 7:6-10
    Naomi finds herself a widow, with no family, in a strange land.
1:6 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.
{re: 'visited', cp. Ex 3:16; 4:31}
1:7 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.
1:8 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.
1:9 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.
1:10 And they said unto her, Surely we will return with thee unto thy people.
1:11 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?
1:12 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;
1:13 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.
Naomi 'arose... that she might return...'- Her action...
  • illustrates repentance- She turned from the course previously set by decisions made in unbelief, she forsook the ties that would hinder her new course (ie., her home of more than a decade and the graves of her family), and she turned back to the land of God's Promise.
  • demonstrates faith- ''She had heard that the LORD had visited His people...''
  • reveals her longing for 'the Father's house'. cp. Psa 73:25-28
    A prodigal son, will eventually return to the Father's house (cp. Luk 15:17,18).
    Likewise, by nature, a prodigal pig returns to his father's house (2Pet 2:22). [JVMcGee]
    Perhaps Naomi would have returned earlier, but her sons had no desire for the 'house of bread and praise'. She now sets her sights on ''the land of Judah''.
Naomi spelled out the situation to her daughters-in-law, as they started the journey together-
They would pay a high cost if they followed her.
  • If they would remain in their own land -
    -they would be at home and welcomed. v.8
    -they would have a hope of remarrying. v.9
  • But in the land of Israel -
    -they would be outcasts. (Deu 23:3)
    -they would have little prospect of remarriage. Yes, Israel's Law provided for the care of a widow through marriage to the deceased husband's brother (Deu 25:5,6). But Naomi had no further sons to give them. Who else would be willing to take a Moabite to wife?
1:14 And they lifted up their voice, and wept again:
and Orpah kissed her mother in law; but Ruth clave unto her.
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.
Both widows shed real tears. Both knew real sorrow.
But they wept for different reasons, and to different effects.
  • Orpah turned back ''unto her people, and unto her gods''. v.15
    - - She had been willing to be identified with the Lord and His people, as long as she did not need to go far from the things she loved. But she was not willing to part with them.
    Her sorrowing was not evidence of the repentance that leads to salvation (2Cor 7:10). True 'repentance' is a 'change of mind'. It is recognizing that I am not going God's way, turning around, and forsaking my way for His way.
    - - She had said ''I will go with you'' (v.9,10), implying: 'I will turn my back on my idols, my ungodly friends, my ungodly ways.' She had even shed tears over it. But she was being polite, to honor her mother-in-law. Her heart was not in it. Her tears provided a false sense of release from guilt. But then she turned back to what she had not forsaken, and to where she felt at home.
  • Ruth's tears were at the prospect of turning back.
    She had been drawn to the Lord and His way, through the testimony of Naomi.
    She could not bear the thought of turning back to her old gods and ways.
    Earlier, we marveled at what these women might have seen in two sickly Jewish men...
    They had seen a glimpse of the God of Israel in this family. Even in their waywardness, something of His beauty rested upon them and set them apart from their godless neighbors.
    These women are an OT illustration of Heb 6:4-6.
    - - Orpah 'tasted' of the things of God, but decided that she felt better on her traditional fare. Ruth 'ate' of the Bread of Life.
    - - Orpah departed, and walked off the pages of scripture into eternal oblivion.
    Ruth determined to follow the Lord, for time and eternity. Her name is recorded in the first chapter of the NT (as well as in the Book of Life). Ruth is included in the lineage of Jesus Christ (Mat 1:1,5).
1:16 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:
1:17 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.
This beautiful expression of love's commitment is often used at weddings.
Ruth was declaring her love for the God of Israel.
  1. where you go, I will go; where you lodge, I will lodge-
    Ruth identified herself with Naomi.
    She expected & accepted her lot of poverty and widowhood.
    The believer also identifies with One who has no place in this world (Mat 8:20),
    only desiring to be with Him where He is (Joh 14:1-3; 2Cor 5:8).
  2. your people shall be my people-
    Whoever would belong to the LORD, must also be identified with His people (1Joh 4:20,21; 5:1), and be separated from former friendships (1Pet 4:3,4)
  3. thy God [shall be] my God- cp. 1The 1:9,10
  4. where you die, I will die-
    Ruth was burning her bridges behind her.
    She had no desire to return to Moab. cp. Heb 11:13-16
  5. there will I be buried- (cp. Gen 47:29-31; 49:29-33; 50:24,25)
    Why did the patriarchs of Israel request burial in the Promised Land?
    Because they believed that the Lord would keep His promises. They expected that when the Messiah would establish His Kingdom in that Land, they would be raised up to enjoy it.
    By faith, Ruth shared the Hope of Israel.
  6. the Lord do so to me and more, if {anything} but death parts us-
    Her closing line casts her declaration of commitment in the form of an oath. cp. 1Sam 3:17
    She saw no option but to cast her lot with the people of Israel and their God. cp. Joh 6:67-69
    cp. Luk 14:26,27,33 (Orpah did not pass this test.)
1:18 When she saw that she was stedfastly minded {ie., was determined} to go with her,
then she left
{ie., ceased} speaking unto her.
1:19 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?
1:20 And she said unto them, Call me not Naomi
{'cheerful'}, call me Mara {'bitter'}:
for the Almighty hath dealt very bitterly with me.
1:21 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?
1:22 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.
the beginning of barley harvest- ie., in the spring of the year, at about the time of Passover.
''The Almighty {HB= Shaddai} hath dealt very bitterly with me...''-
  • Actually, her sorrows had resulted from her disobedience and wandering from Him.
    Though she did not realize it, the Lord had been dealing with her in His tender-mercies.
    Now, He was calling her back to Himself, and preparing a great blessing. (cp. Luk 15:19-24)
  • 'El Shaddai' is the God who is 'all-sufficient', and who 'makes fruitful'. cp. Gen 17:1,2
    Often, He must take His own through the bitter experience of pruning, in order that we might know His fulness. cp. Joh 15:1,2
I went out full and the Lord hath brought me home again empty...-
This is always the experience of the believer who is out of fellowship with the Lord.
Since our life is hid in Him, we have nothing if we remove ourselves from Him. cp. Eph 1:3; Col 3:3
Naomi's return is also a picture of Israel in the latter days.-
As ''an exile from Canaan, a widow, impoverished, and having no heir, she returns to the Land of Promise'' in company with the believing Gentile. While the Gentile rejoiced in Israel's God, the Israelite reflected on His supposed bitterness toward her. Soon, they will both realize God's blessing through their 'kinsman-redeemer' from Bethlehem. [in quotes from GWms]

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