Ruth was written during the time of the book of Judges
Tradition has it that Samuel wrote the book. Nonetheless it was a man of God, with the Holy Spirit. It is part of the “Writings” [the Law the Prophets and the Writings Luke 24:44]. Provides a connection from the judges of Israel to the kings of Israel
Sometimes we focus too much on the great and mighty people of the Bible, but in the story of Ruth we see greatness in everyday average life – like yours and mine. The fact that God is working with us and more specifically in us is nothing short of a miracle and to the degree that we are being used for a greater purpose we do not fully know.
This is not a “thou shalt” book, but nonetheless it is a book of the Bible and because of that we need to ask ourselves what we can “glean” from it. It is penned under inspiration from God. So, what were the points that he was trying to make, what was the message, lessons and insights that he was trying to get across?
That is what we will begin discussing today as well as how it fits in with this upcoming festival of Pentecost.
Ruth is one of the five scrolls read during specific festivals during the year. As we see, the book refers to the harvest several times, explicitly the first harvest that culminates with the Feast of Firstfruits also called Feast of Harvest or Feast of Weeks.
Ruth, a Moabitess and a gentile, was given the opportunity to become a part of the nation of Israel as a foreshadow to all peoples everywhere being given the opportunity, to the Jew first, to become a part of spiritual Israel.
Boaz is a type of Christ, marries Ruth, who represents the gentile aspect of the Church.
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 Bethlehem, Judah, went to dwell in the country of Moab, he and his wife and his two sons.
Doesn’t seem like the smart thing to do. To go to a foreign land with foreign gods, Leave Israel, the Promised Land. Could have been at time when Israel was not on the track and so it was for a just cause as God had outlined in the blessings and cursings chapters?
We can suppose many reasons for them leaving, but at the heart of the matter I believe it is primarily the fact that God is intimately involved in the affairs of His people.
Ruth 1:2 The name of the man was Elimelech, the name of his wife was Naomi, and the names of his two sons were Mahlon and Chilion—Ephrathites of Bethlehem, Judah. And they went to the country of Moab and remained there.
Interesting that God calls things, places and people what they are for a reason.
Elimelech = “God Is My King”
Naomi = “My Delight” or “Pleasant,” agreeable amiable
Mahlon = “Sickly”
Chilion “Pining,” “Failing” or “Wasting Away”
Perhaps they took on these names later like Naomi wanted in :20 because of the famine. Seems like the names were appropriate as we see in a few verses (:5)
It is also interesting to note that Christ was prophesied to come out of the same place and of course He did
Micah 5:2 “But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, Though you are little among the thousands of Judah, Yet out of you shall come forth to Me The One to be Ruler in Israel, Whose goings forth are from of old, From everlasting.”
Ruth 1:3 Then Elimelech, Naomi’s husband, died; and she was left, and her two sons.
Ruth 1:4 Now they took wives of the women of Moab: the name of the one was Orpah, and the name of the other Ruth. And they dwelt there about ten years.
Ruth 1:5 Then both Mahlon and Chilion also died; so the woman survived her two sons and her husband.
She out-lived both of her sons which typically does not happen. The other fact to note is that neither of them had produced any children. Elimelech and Naomi’s line ostensibly was to end there.
Now Naomi was pretty much in one of the worst predicaments to be in in the those times
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 that the LORD had visited His people by giving them bread.
Theme of “return” for the rest of the chapter
Ezekiel 14:6 “Therefore say to the house of Israel, ‘Thus says the Lord GOD: “Repent, turn away from your idols, and turn your faces away from all your abominations.
Ezekiel 18:30 “Therefore I will judge you, O house of Israel, every one according to his ways,” says the Lord GOD. “Repent, and turn from all your transgressions, so that iniquity will not be your ruin.
What we see here is Naomi representing the Israelites/Jews REturning to the congregation of Israel or the people of God and Ruth representing the Gentiles turning to God. Both acts of repentance, not going in the wrong direction of carnality, but rather doing an 180 degree turn and moving towards God.
Repentance, of course being an integral part of the plan of God and precedes the receiving the holy spirit which the day of Pentecost represents.
So continue to notice this theme as we go through the rest of the chapter
Ruth 1:7 Therefore she went out from the place where she was, and her two daughters-in-law with her; and they went on the way to return to the land of Judah.
Ruth 1:8 And Naomi said to her two daughters-in-law, “Go, return each to her mother’s house. The LORD deal kindly with you, as you have dealt with the dead and with me.
They had a good relationship, but in Naomi’s mind she felt that they should go back to their people, their ways, and even their gods. Why did she feel that way about them. In her mind
For Naomi being too old
Naomi not being married
They would have to support her because of no husband
Not providing another son for them to marry
It would be tough for them as a foreigner / gentile
No doubt poor and struggling
Who would want to marry a gentile
History bears this out / Jews looked down their noses at them
Pharisees / even Peter treated them with disdain
We can also reason that Naomi didn’t feel that either had accepted her God
Why else would she send them away? I don’t think any of us would do that if we were in the same position
This is one of the main reasons for this book, the acceptance of the gentiles into the plan of God. And God resoundly makes this point at the very end.
Ruth 1:9 The LORD grant that you may find rest, each in the house of her husband.” So she kissed them, and they lifted up their voices and wept.
Ruth and Orpah seemingly had a very close relationship with Naomi (which means pleasant and agreeable) which is really a testimony to all three and the love that they had for one another.
Ruth 1:10 And they said to her, “Surely we will return with you to your people.”
Perhaps out of responsibility and love Orpah says it to Naomi as well, but as we will see she did not have the conviction or belief that she needed to repent / return to the House of Israel
Ruth 1:11 But Naomi said, “Turn back, my daughters; why will you go with me? Are there still sons in my womb, that they may be your husbands?
Proverbs 26:11 As a dog returns to his own vomit, So a fool repeats his folly.
We can turn in the wrong direction in much the same way that Elimelech did and even Orpah will do in a few verses.
Ruth 1:12 Turn back, my daughters, go—for I am too old to have a husband. If I should say I have hope, if I should have a husband tonight and should also bear sons,
Ruth 1:13 would you wait for them till they were grown? Would you restrain yourselves from having husbands? No, my daughters; for it grieves me very much for your sakes that the hand of the LORD has gone out against me!”
Naomi is referring to the law in:
Now read this closely because this comes into play again later in the book of Ruth
Deuteronomy 25:5 “If brothers dwell together, and one of them dies and has no son, the widow of the dead man shall not be married to a stranger outside the family; her husband’s brother shall go in to her, take her as his wife, and perform the duty of a husband’s brother to her.
Deuteronomy 25:6 And it shall be that the firstborn son which she bears will succeed to the name of his dead brother, that his name may not be blotted out of Israel.
Deuteronomy 25:7 But if the man does not want to take his brother’s wife, then let his brother’s wife go up to the gate to the elders, and say, ‘My husband’s brother refuses to raise up a name to his brother in Israel; he will not perform the duty of my husband’s brother.’
Deuteronomy 25:8 Then the elders of his city shall call him and speak to him. But if he stands firm and says, ‘I do not want to take her,’
Deuteronomy 25:9 then his brother’s wife shall come to him in the presence of the elders, remove his sandal from his foot, spit in his face, and answer and say, ‘So shall it be done to the man who will not build up his brother’s house.’
Deuteronomy 25:10 And his name shall be called in Israel, ‘The house of him who had his sandal removed.’
So Naomi says to them IF I could find a man to marry me in my old age and IF I was able to conceive a child would you / could you wait that long just so my lineage could continue?
Naomi then reconciles to herself that God is reckoning these things against her for a reason.
Ruth 1:14 Then they lifted up their voices and wept again; and Orpah kissed her mother-in-law, but Ruth clung to her.
Ruth begins to differentiate herself and shows herself to be a true friend to Naomi which according to some of the bible dictionaries and commentaries means friend and companion.
John 15:13 Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends.
John 15:14 You are My friends if you do whatever I command you.
John 15:15 No longer do I call you servants, for a servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I heard from My Father I have made known to you.
Ruth 1:15 And she said, “Look, your sister-in-law has gone back to her people and to her gods; return after your sister-in-law.”
The verbiage here indicates that there was the way of life that they had left behind, probably by virtue of the fact that she was fortunate enough to have married an Israelite. Because of that she began to worship the true God and keep His ways.
But “As a dog returns to his own vomit, So a fool repeats his folly.” Proverbs 26:11
She went back to her old ways
Orpah is the feminine form of the word we find in several places in the OT, let’s look at just two of them:
Exodus 23:27 “I will send My fear before you, I will cause confusion among all the people to whom you come, and will make all your enemies turn their backs to you.
This is exactly what Orpah ended up doing
Notice the complementary connotation, one that goes hand-in-hand with it:
Exodus 32:8 They have turned aside quickly out of the way which I commanded them. They have made themselves a molded calf, and worshiped it and sacrificed to it, and said, ‘This is your god, O Israel, that brought you out of the land of Egypt!’ ”
Exodus 32:9 And the LORD said to Moses, “I have seen this people, and indeed it is a stiff-necked people!
Not only are gentiles capable of it but the Israelites as well.
Naomi says “return after your sister-in-law” which tests Ruth and I think further shows how difficult Naomi believes it will be for Ruth.
Ruth 1:16 But Ruth said: “Entreat me not to leave you, Or to turn back from following after you; For wherever you go, I will go; And wherever you lodge, I will lodge; Your people shall be my people, And your God, my God.
Ruth is now kind of saying “enough already” she is saying as some other translations and commentaries have it:
“Do not “be against me” do not meet me with objections, or be in my way, or an hindrance to me, in going along with thee; do not be against it, for to be against that was to be against her inclination, desires, and resolutions, and against her interest”
If you have to sleep in a field, I will too, is her attitude
Your people, their ways, their custom,s their laws, their religion will be mine too
Ruth now makes a commitment not only to Naomi, BUT to God specifically. And we see her intentions are to leave the idolatrous gods of her former life and leave her world behind (Moab), forsake friends and family; face the possibilities of no husband, being a foreigner in a foreign land and live a life destitute of the comforts of the time.
She was willing to continue heading in the direction that presumably she had been living with her now deceased Israelite husband.
Ruth 1:17 Where you die, I will die, And there will I be buried. The LORD do so to me, and more also, If anything but death parts you and me.”
I am sure that after 10 years of living with Naomi and her sons that Ruth knew about the law of God and the people of Israel and even had a more intimate knowledge of the Israelites than just the reputation and their renown because of all the events that had transpired in the lead up to this point.
I might throw in at this point: Tradition has it that the codification of the law, the 10 commandements at Mt Sinai happened at Pentecost which makes sense.
Ruth 1:18 When she saw that she was determined to go with her, she stopped speaking to her.
It was a way of life that Ruth wanted to be a part of. When Naomi realized this, she stopped dogmatically trying to urge her to remain there. Perhaps she was wiping her hands of the responsibility that she felt she had and now it was on Ruth’s shoulders.
Ruth 1:19 Now the two of them went until they came to Bethlehem. And it happened, when they had come to Bethlehem, that all the city was excited because of them; and the women said, “Is this Naomi?”
It doesn’t seem like Naomi had camels or donkeys, or servants or much substance to show for her time there.
A long trek for an elderly person
from the land of Moab – across the Jordan River – wilderness near the Dead Sea
retracing the wrong steps they had previously taken to get there
They said “Is this Naomi?” is this the pleasant one? She answered:
Ruth 1:20 But she said to them, “Do not call me Naomi; call me Mara, for the Almighty has dealt very bitterly with me.
Name change we were alluding to before.
Exodus 15:23 Now when they came to Marah, they could not drink the waters of Marah, for they were bitter. Therefore the name of it was called Marah.
Exodus 15:24 And the people complained against Moses, saying, “What shall we drink?”
What good was the water to them?
Naomi had left with a husband and two sons and now she was returning with just a foreign daughter in law and all the problems that could possibly be in front of her.
What she could not see:
The problem with going the wrong direction in the first place
God working in their lives (if you know the story)
Ruth 1:21 I went out full, and the LORD has brought me home again empty. Why do you call me Naomi, since the LORD has testified against me, and the Almighty has afflicted me?”
Went out full…they had goods, did they have the wrong attitude?
Wanted to keep those possessions more than live where they were supposed to
Didn’t want to share with those in need?
It was all stripped away
And notice her attitude – it was wrong and in danger of setting root in bitterness
She didn’t see the “why” of it
Ruth 1:22 So Naomi returned, and Ruth the Moabitess her daughter-in-law with her, who returned from the country of Moab. Now they came to Bethlehem at the beginning of barley harvest.
2 Timothy 2:25 in humility correcting those who are in opposition, if God perhaps will grant them repentance, so that they may know the truth, (Acts 5:31; 11:18)
But why did God afflict her and turn her back to Israel…[Next time in part 2]