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Elimelech, being driven by famine into Moab, dies there; Naomi, his wife, returning to her own country, is accompanied by Ruth, her daughter-in-law.
Before Christ 1376.
Ruth 1:1. It came to pass—when the judges ruled— Though these words point out the general epocha of this event, yet they leave us at a loss to determine under what particular judge it happened. Bishop Usher places it in the 2686th year of the world, one hundred and thirty-three years after the conquest of Canaan. See his Chronolog. Sac. p. 1 Chronicles 12:0 and Judges 6:3-4.
Ruth 1:2. The name of the man was Elimelech— That is, God is my king. According to the Jews, he was a man of great wealth and dignity: his wife's name was Naomi; 1:e. amiable, agreeable; see Ruth 1:20. If we are to believe the Jews, she was the daughter of Salmon, and niece of Nahshon prince of the tribe of Judah.
Ruth 1:4. They took them wives of the women of Moab— We must necessarily conclude from this, that these women had become proselytes to the Jewish religion; for otherwise it was not lawful for Jews to have married them. The case is plain with respect to Ruth (see Ruth 1:16.); and it appears to me, that Orpah not only left her mother and returned to her own country, but also apostatised from the religion that she had embraced to the idol worship of Moab. See Rth 1:15 and also Prideaux's Connection, vol. 2:
Note; Worldly comforts and crosses are nearer than we suspect; while we are rejoicing in the settlement of our children, the pleasing prospect vanishes in an instant, and death lays all our hopes in the grave.
Ruth 1:11. Are there yet any more sons in my womb, &c.— Naomi refers in these words to that very ancient custom, which seems to have existed from the beginning of the world, of the brother marrying the widow of his brother when the latter has died without children. See Genesis 38:0 and Deuteronomy 25:5. There is great beauty and pathos in this natural and unadorned relation of the parting of Naomi and her daughters.
Ruth 1:14. And Orpah kissed her mother-in-law— Houbigant reads here after the LXX, and returned to her people.
Ruth 1:15. Thy sister-in-law is gone back unto her people, and unto her gods— It is not by any means a just consequence from hence, that Orpah had never been proselyted to the Jewish religion. The contrary is a much more natural deduction; for if she had not once left them, she could not have returned to them. Ruth continued steadfast to the faith that she had embraced; Orpah returned back to Moab and to Chemosh. They who consider the friendless and forlorn state of Naomi, will not wonder much at her solicitude that her daughters should remain in their own country, and amidst their friends; where, doubtless, they might have continued to profess the true religion had they been inclined to do so. That state of Naomi, however, adds great lustre to the piety and filial affection of Ruth.
REFLECTIONS.—Naomi, having heard that plenty was again restored to Israel,
1. Resolves to return to her own country. Moab was now a land of sorrow to her; every object around her renewed the bitter remembrance of her losses, and no comforter was near, who, with discourse of holy resignation to Israel's God, could alleviate her griefs. Note; (1.) They, who are compelled for a time to dwell among those who are strangers to God, ought to embrace the first moment of liberty to return to God's people and ordinances. (2.) Change of place is often a useful assistant in calming the griefs which are exasperated by the sight of objects that remind us of those who are taken from us. (3.) When God afflicts, it is good to examine whether something in us has not brought his rod upon us. (4.) It is even a mercy to have this land of our sojourning embittered to us, that we may be more weaned from earth, and have our conversation in heaven.
2. Her daughters accompany her to the borders of Moab; and there Naomi with tender affection intends to dismiss them, praying God to give them a comfortable settlement, each in the house of her husband; and acknowledging, to their great commendation, the affection that they had shewn to the living and the dead, as good wives and dutiful daughters. They kiss, embrace, then burst into a flood of tears, the involuntary effusion of tenderness, which cannot bear the heart-breaking separation from those we love. Note; (1.) When friends part in prayer, they may comfortably hope, either in time or eternity, to meet in praise. (2.) They, who conscientiously fulfil their relative duties in life, will have the comfort of it in a parting hour. (3.) Though the parting of tender and affectionate friends is painful, it is a kind of pleasing pain, of which we wish not to be insensible.
3. Unable to support the thought of parting, they both resolve to accompany her; but Naomi, fearful lest they should afterwards repent the hasty resolution, and perhaps to try whether they had any desire after the worship of the God of Israel as their motive, seeks to dissuade, and advises them to weigh the matter well before they determined. They could hope for nothing with her. God's afflicting hand was upon her, her circumstances distressed, and no provision for them in Beth-lehem, which grieved her more for their sakes than her own. Such a remonstrance produced a fresh torrent of tears. Orpah, though affectionately attached to Naomi, discouraged now by the difficulties, kisses her, and returns. Ruth, more determined, refuses to go back, and resolves to cleave to her. Note; (1.) Hasty resolutions are easily broken. (2.) Tender hearts can better bear want themselves, than see those whom they love exposed to it. (3.) They who would follow Christ ought first to count the cost. (4.) Many say, I will go with thee, who, on the first difficulties, turn back, and walk no more with Jesus. (5.) The difficulties of the way will bind the faithful soul closer to the Saviour.
4. To make the last essay of Ruth's determined purpose, Naomi again urges her to return, and pleads her sister's example, who was returned to her people and her gods. But Ruth was fixed, and her choice unalterable. She begs her mother to desist from dissuading her. "Though the place be distant, and the country unknown, I will go with thee; if thy lodging be a cottage, I seek no better covering; thy people shall be my people, in their manners, customs, and religion; and thy God, my God, renouncing every abomination of Moab, and owning Israel's God alone: Never will I quit thee; on the same spot our dying eyes shall close, and in the same grave our kindred dust shall mingle, and make the clods of the valley sweeter by the union." Such is her purpose; and, to prevent farther entreaty, she binds her soul by a solemn vow, never but by death to part from her. Note; (1.) Nothing will be able to separate the faithful heart from Jesus; no, not death itself. (2.) They are truly our enemies who seek to turn us back from God and godliness. (3.) When we give up our hearts to God, and choose our portion among God's poor people, then in life or death we shall surrender ourselves up to be disposed of by him as shall please him, content in every station, and welcoming every cross.
5. Naomi, satisfied now, attempts no more to dissuade her: happy, no doubt, to hear her daughter's pious choice; and glad, amidst every distress, to bring her to the worship of Israel's God, and to the communion of his people.
Ruth 1:21. The Lord hath testified against me— The former part of the verse expresses what Naomi means by the Lord's testifying against her: she went out full; happy in a husband and two sons; but returned deprived of all, a lonely widow, worn with care, with poverty and age. See ch. Ruth 2:2-3. Several of the versions render this, the Lord hath humbled me.
Ruth 1:22. They came to Beth-lehem in the beginning of barley-harvest— The Chaldee paraphrast thus explains these words: "They came to Bethlehem at the beginning of the passover, on the day that the children of Israel began to mow the sheaf which was to be waved, which was of barley." See Leviticus 23:10-11.
REFLECTIONS.—On now they travelled, and sweetly, no doubt, beguiled the tedious way in such discourse as might confirm Ruth's holy purpose, and comfort them together, in hope of God's blessing upon them. On their arrival at Beth-lehem notice is taken,
1. Of the reception they met with. Collecting together on the rumour of her return, the women, who remembered her former beauty and affluence, and now beheld her wrinkles and poverty, some perhaps in pity, some in scorn and upbraiding, and some in surprise, said, Is this Naomi? Note; (1.) Age and wrinkles make strange alterations in the fairest face. It is a silly thing to be vain of what is so fading. (2.) They who have any feelings of humanity, and much more those who have the bowels of Christ, will seek compassionately to alleviate the sorrows of the miserable. (3.) They, who have carried themselves most humbly in prosperity, will be most regarded in adversity.
2. Her name reminded her of her former condition; she wishes, therefore, for one more befitting her circumstances: Call me Mara, bitterness. She went out full of earthly comforts, with husband and children; but now returns a childless widow: yet, not murmuring at the afflictive providence, she sees and acknowledges God's hand, receives the correction, and submits to his will, as holy, just, and good. Note; (1.) It is a blessed sign of a soul devoted to God, when, in humbling providences, the spirit is brought down to the condition. (2.) Though, under affliction, God permits us to complain, he forbids us to murmur. (3.) When God afflicts us, it is not only no more than we deserve, but he knows it is what we need; and therefore whom he loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth.
3. The harvest was just begun, Providence so ordering it for the sake of the events which were to follow. Note; The most minute circumstances of our lives are directed by an over-ruling wisdom.
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Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on Ruth 1". Coke's Commentary on the Holy Bible. https://studylight.org/
the Third Week after Epiphany