Bible Commentaries
Ruth 1

Everett's Study Notes on the Holy ScripturesEverett's Study Notes

Verses 1-5

Predestined for Redemption: Divine Judgment (Elimelech Leaves Israel) Ruth 1:1-5 establishes the opening setting of the book of Ruth, picking up the theme of the book of Judges, which emphasizes the moral decline of Israel as a theocracy. The famine in the book of Ruth is the result of divine judgment upon a backslidden Israel, while its people struggle to find their redemption from their oppressors and from famine and pestilence and disease. Divine judgment was predestined as part of God’s plan for redeeming His people Israel when they fell away from Him.

Elimelech struggles to obtain rest and redemption by departing from the country of Israel and moving his family to the neighbouring country of Moab, which is ruled by heathen gods. Unfortunately, this decision did not deliver Elimelech and his family from their struggles and from divine judgment; for he and his sons died in Moab, leaving his wife Naomi and his two daughter-in-laws destitute and alone to seek out their redemption and rest.

Ruth 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 Bethlehemjudah went to sojourn in the country of Moab, he, and his wife, and his two sons.

Ruth 1:1 “Now it came to pass” - Comments - A number of books in the Old Testament begins with the common Hebrew idiom “and it came to pass” ( וַיְהִי ), made from the conjunction ( ו ) “and” and the imperfect verb ( הָיָה ) “to be.” Douglas Stuart identifies the books that commence with this Hebrew construction as Joshua, Judges, 1 Samuel, Ruth, Esther, Jonah, and Lamentations ( LXX). [12] This phrase is used at least three hundred eighty eight (388) times in the Old Testament to begin narrative stories, and to move the plot from one scene to another within the narrative material. Although some of the books listed above are a part of a collection of narratives that follow a chronological order, Stuart believes this opening phrase is intended to begin a new book.

[12] Douglas Stuart, Hosea-Jonah, in Word Biblical Commentary: 58 Volumes on CD-Rom, vol. 31, eds. Bruce M. Metzger, David A. Hubbard and Glenn W. Barker (Dallas: Word Inc., 2002), in Libronix Digital Library System, v. 2.1c [CD-ROM] (Bellingham, WA: Libronix Corp., 2000-2004), “Introduction: Form/Structure/Setting.”

Ruth 1:1 “in the days when the judges ruled” Comments - The period in which the judges ruled Israel prior to the kingdom would be the period from the death of Joshua to the time of King Saul (1350 B.C. to 1100 B.C.)

Ruth 1:1 “And a certain man of Bethlehemjudah went to sojourn in the country of Moab, he, and his wife, and his two sons” - Comments - The narrative plot of Ruth immediately introduces irony by telling us how Elimelech forsook the Promised Land and dwelt among the sinners in his quest for prosperity and sustenance. This poor decision would not bring blessings, but rather curses, as he and his two sons would die in this foreign land.

Ruth 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 Bethlehemjudah. And they came into the country of Moab, and continued there.

Ruth 1:2 Word Study on “Elimelech” PTW says the name Elimelech means, “My God is King.”

Ruth 1:2 Word Study on “Naomi” Gesenius says the name “Naomi” (H5281) means, “my pleasantness.” Strong says it means, “pleasant.” PTW says it means, “pleasantness, my joy.”

Ruth 1:2 Word Study on “Mahlon” Gesenius and Strong say the name “Mahlon” (H4248) means, “sick.” PTW says it means, “mild, sickly.”

Ruth 1:2 Word Study on “Chilion” - Gesenius says the name Chilion (H3630) means, “wasting away.” PTW says it means, “pining.” God was judging the children of Israel because of their sins. Therefore, they were weak, sick and dying. We can refer to God’s chastisement upon His church, where He also brings believers into weakness, sickness and even premature death (1 Corinthians 11:30).

1 Corinthians 11:30, “For this cause many are weak and sickly among you, and many sleep.”

Ruth 1:2 “Ephrathites of Bethlehemjudah” Comments - The city of Ephrath was in Bethlehem of Judah (Genesis 35:19, 1 Samuel 1:1, 1 Kings 11:26).

Genesis 35:19, “And Rachel died, and was buried in the way to Ephrath, which is Bethlehem .”

1 Samuel 1:1, “Now there was a certain man of Ramathaimzophim, of mount Ephraim, and his name was Elkanah, the son of Jeroham, the son of Elihu, the son of Tohu, the son of Zuph, an Ephrathite :”

1 Kings 11:26, “And Jeroboam the son of Nebat, an Ephrathite of Zereda, Solomon's servant, whose mother's name was Zeruah, a widow woman, even he lifted up his hand against the king.”

Ruth 1:2 “And they came into the country of Moab, and continued there” Comments - It was not God’s desires for this family to leave Israel, their inheritance, and live in a foreign land.

Ruth 1:3 And Elimelech Naomi's husband died; and she was left, and her two sons.

Ruth 1:3 Comments - It can be very stressful for a man to move into a new nation or city and try to make a living. Often, the man works low-paying labour jobs that take a heavy toll on a person’s health. Elimelech’s early death was probably the result of the stress of living and working in a foreign land. It was a land of idolatry and corruption, so that his efforts to provide for his family were difficult

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.

Ruth 1:4 Word Study on “Orpah” Gesenius says the name “Orphah” (H6204) means, “Mane, forelock” or “back.” PTW says it means, “fawn, youthful freshness.”

Orpah turned back in Ruth 1:15.

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.”

Ruth 1:4 Word Study on “Ruth” Gesenius says the names “Ruth” (H7327) is a contraction of ( רְאוּת ) and means, “appearance, beauty,” or it comes from ( רְעוּת ) (H7468) and means, “friend.” Strong says it means, “friend.” PTW says it means, “friendship, companion.”

Ruth 1:4 Comments - The act of an Israelite marrying outside the nation of Israel was strictly against the Mosaic Law (Deuteronomy 7:3; Deuteronomy 23:3, 1 Kings 11:1-2).

Deuteronomy 7:3, “Neither shalt thou make marriages with them; thy daughter thou shalt not give unto his son, nor his daughter shalt thou take unto thy son.”

Deuteronomy 23:3, “An Ammonite or Moabite shall not enter into the congregation of the LORD; even to their tenth generation shall they not enter into the congregation of the LORD for ever:”

1 Kings 11:1-2, “But king Solomon loved many strange women, together with the daughter of Pharaoh, women of the Moabites, Ammonites, Edomites, Zidonians, and Hittites; Of the nations concerning which the LORD said unto the children of Israel, Ye shall not go in to them, neither shall they come in unto you: for surely they will turn away your heart after their gods: Solomon clave unto these in love.”

Ruth 1:5 And Mahlon and Chilion died also both of them; and the woman was left of her two sons and her husband.

Verses 6-19

Predestined to Choose: God’s Calling (Ruth Chooses to Follow Naomi) Ruth 1:6-19 a records the story of Naomi’s decision to return to the land of Israel, and of Ruth’s touching decision to forsake her family and follow Naomi. This sacrificial decision by Ruth will serve as the basis for her obtaining much favour with the Jewish people. The aspect of choosing between good and evil as a part of God’s calling is expounded in Proverbs 1-9. Because of Ruth’s choice, Boaz will soon impart God’s favour and blessings into her life by saying, “It hath fully been shewed me, all that thou hast done unto thy mother in law since the death of thine husband: and how thou hast left thy father and thy mother, and the land of thy nativity, and art come unto a people which thou knewest not heretofore. The LORD recompense thy work, and a full reward be given thee of the LORD God of Israel, under whose wings thou art come to trust.” (Ruth 2:11-12) It is this favour that predestines Ruth to find rest by becoming the wife of Boaz.

God has predestined His people to obtain rest and redemption. Naomi’s and Ruth’s decision to return to Israel was their demonstration of faith in the Lord, as they placed themselves into the hands of the Lord’s divine providence and provision. With the loss of her husband and sons, all possibilities of Naomi’s and Ruth’s redemption were lost. Their destitution led them to give up on their own ability and strength and to seek redemption and rest in the God of Israel. God magnifies His way for us by reducing our hope in other options. Naomi had no option left but to place her hope in the Lord as the One who alone could provide redemption, as He had done in the past for her people Israel. Her return the Israel was an act of love and devotion to the God of Israel, since she believed her redemption could not take place outside the nation of Israel. Ruth followed in the steps of her mother-in-law’s faith. In Bethlehem she will discover that God’s plan of redemption for her is found in her near kinsman named Boaz.

Predestined to Choose: God’s Calling (Naomi Mentors Ruth) The book of Ruth provides us one of the greatest examples of a mentor-student relationship in Scriptures. Naomi took Ruth and guided her into the fullness of God’s plan for her life.

Ruth 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.

Ruth 1:6 “for she had heard in the country of Moab how that the LORD had visited his people in giving them bread” - Comments - Note that the name “Bethlehem” in Ruth 1:1 means “house of bread.”

Ruth 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;

Ruth 1:12 “Turn again” - Comments - Elijah also told Elisha not to follow him (2 Kings 2:2).

2 Kings 2:2, “And Elijah said unto Elisha, Tarry here, I pray thee; for the LORD hath sent me to Bethel. And Elisha said unto him, As the LORD liveth, and as thy soul liveth, I will not leave thee. So they went down to Bethel.”

Ruth 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:

Ruth 1:16 Comments - Ruth was seeking God, but Orpah was not (Ruth 1:15).

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.”

Ruth 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.

Ruth 1:16-17 Comments Ruth Chooses to Follow the God of Israel - Ruth clung to Naomi and her God in Ruth 1:16-17. Why? Throughout the years of their relationship, Ruth saw something in Naomi that was pure and gentle. Ruth felt a genuine love in her heart for her daughter-in-law. She saw how Naomi was free from the religious rituals and from the fears that kept her people, the Moabites, in bondage. Ruth never saw a divine intervention from the gods of the Moabites, but she personally witnessed the way God touched the life of Naomi in times of need as the Lord sustained this widow and her two daughter-in-laws after the loss of her husband and sons. Ruth began to learn that the God of Israel was a living God who loves and touches His people. Ruth must have sat at Naomi’s feet and heard the stories of how God had delivered the children of Israel in times of need, even when they did not deserve it.

Illustration - My mother was strongly influenced by her mother-in-law in a similar way. As a Baptist, my mother saw something in the life of my Assembly of God grandmother, a holiness and faith for miracles that was not present in her own life. And this caused my mother to long for a closer relationship with the living Saviour Jesus Christ. It set my mother on a course in her life of seeking to know God the way her mother-in-law knew Him. And this was what Ruth meant when she told Naomi, “Whither you go, I will go; and where you lodge, I will lodge; your people will be my people and your God my God.”

Ruth 1:18 When she saw that she was stedfastly minded to go with her, then she left speaking unto her.

Ruth 1:19 a So they two went until they came to Bethlehem.

Verses 19-22

Predestined for Rest: God’s Justification (Naomi and Ruth Find Favour) Ruth 1:19 b to Ruth 2:23 records the story of Naomi and Ruth’s return to Bethlehem, where they found favour in God’s eyes, and in the sight of Boaz. The reason Ruth found favour in the eyes of her redeemer, Boaz, is because she chose to forsake her people of an idolatrous culture and cling to Naomi and her faith in the God of Israel.

The setting moves from the land of Moab to the land of Israel, to the city of Bethlehem, the city from which Israel’s redemption will be born, both in their king David, the son of Jesse, and ultimately in the birth of the King of Kings the Lord Jesus Christ.

Ruth 1:19 bAnd it came to pass, when they were come to Bethlehem, that all the city was moved about them, and they said, Is this Naomi?

Ruth 1:19 b Comments - Ruth 1:19 b begins a new section to the book of Ruth, as the scene moves the reader from Moab to Bethlehem. This location to divide the book of Ruth into sections was chosen because it begin with the common Hebrew idiom “and it came to pass” ( וַיְהִי ), made from the conjunction ( ו ) “and” and the imperfect verb ( הָיָה ) “to be.”

Ruth 1:20 And she said unto them, Call me not Naomi, call me Mara: for the Almighty hath dealt very bitterly with me.

Ruth 1:20 Word Study on “Mara” PTW says the word means, “bitter.”

Ruth 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.

Ruth 1:22 Comments - God uses this season of barley harvest to divinely orchestrate Ruth’s union with her redeemer, Boaz. In the midst of Ruth’s labours in gathering the barley harvest, she finds her redeemer.

Ruth 2:1 And Naomi had a kinsman of her husband's, a mighty man of wealth, of the family of Elimelech; and his name was Boaz.

Ruth 2:1 Word Study on “Boaz” Gesenius says the name “Boaz” ( בֹּעַז ) (H1162) means, “fleetness.” PTW says it means, “fleetness, strength.” His name means, “swiftness.” Boaz was related to Naomi thru her late husband, Elimelech, which made him a kinsman.

Ruth 2:1 Comments - Jesus has redeemed us, being our near kinsman.

Ruth 2:2 And Ruth the Moabitess said unto Naomi, Let me now go to the field, and glean ears of corn after him in whose sight I shall find grace. And she said unto her, Go, my daughter.

Ruth 2:2 “Let me now go to the field, and glean ears of corn” Comments - The Mosaic Law allowed the poor to glean behind the reapers of the fields in Israel (Leviticus 19:9-10; Leviticus 23:22, Deuteronomy 24:19).

Leviticus 19:9-10, “And when ye reap the harvest of your land, thou shalt not wholly reap the corners of thy field, neither shalt thou gather the gleanings of thy harvest. And thou shalt not glean thy vineyard, neither shalt thou gather every grape of thy vineyard; thou shalt leave them for the poor and stranger : I am the LORD your God.”

Leviticus 23:22, “And when ye reap the harvest of your land, thou shalt not make clean riddance of the corners of thy field when thou reapest, neither shalt thou gather any gleaning of thy harvest: thou shalt leave them unto the poor, and to the stranger: I am the LORD your God.”

Deuteronomy 24:19, “When thou cuttest down thine harvest in thy field, and hast forgot a sheaf in the field, thou shalt not go again to fetch it: it shall be for the stranger, for the fatherless, and for the widow: that the LORD thy God may bless thee in all the work of thine hands.”

Ruth 2:2 “after him in whose sight I shall find grace” Comments - Because of her kinship with this wealthy family from Bethlehem, Ruth believed such family ties would naturally give opportunities for favour and assistance in comparison to working the fields of those unrelated to her.

Ruth 2:2 Comments - Ruth’s statement in Ruth 2:2 reflects her dependence upon divine providence. Her faith in the God of Israel will continually be reveals throughout this book by similar statements.

Bibliographical Information
Everett, Gary H. "Commentary on Ruth 1". Everett's Study Notes on the Holy Scriptures. 2013.