Exposition of Ruth 1:6-14

Posted by on Jan 10, 2014 in The Book of Ruth

Exposition of Ruth 1:6-14

Ruth1 300x168 Exposition of Ruth 1:6 14 In this post, we will work our way through Ruth 1:6-14. We will be utilizing the Complete Jewish Bible translation.

Ruth 1:6-14:

6 So she prepared to return with her daughters-in-law from the plain of Mo’av; for in the plain of Mo’av she had heard how Adonai had paid attention to his people by giving them food.
7 She left the place where she was with her two daughters-in-law and took the road leading back to Y’hudah.
8 Na‘omi said to her two daughters-in-law, “Each of you, go back to your mother’s house. May Adonai show grace to you, as you did to those who died and to me.
9 May Adonai grant you security in the home of a new husband.” Then she kissed them, but they began weeping aloud.
10 They said to her, “No; we want to return with you to your people.”
11 Na‘omi said, “Go back, my daughters. Why do you want to go with me? Do I still have sons in my womb who could become your husbands?
12 Go back, my daughters; go your way; for I’m too old to have a husband. Even if I were to say, ‘I still have hope’; even if I had a husband tonight and bore sons;
13 would you wait for them until they grew up? Would you refuse to marry, just for them? No, my daughters. On your behalf I feel very bitter that the hand of Adonai has gone out against me.”
14 Again they wept aloud. Then ‘Orpah kissed her mother-in-law good-bye. But Rut stuck with her.

Commentary:

6 So she prepared to return with her daughters-in-law from the plain of Mo’av; for in the plain of Mo’av she had heard how Adonai had paid attention to his people by giving them food.

The previous passage we engaged left the reader at a proverbial cliffhanger with Na’omi and her two daughters-in-law, ‘Orpah and Ruth, on the brink of starvation and disaster. Ruth 1:6 presents a massive shift, one that provides an element of hope with a large amount of God’s divine grace mixed in for good measure. While verse 6 seems to be a simple statement for the reader focused on noting that the famine had perhaps passed in Beit-lechem, closer inspection reveals there is quite a bit of information to be had in this passage that both sets the stage for future events and continues to demonstrate the theme of this book, specifically the aspect of divine grace extended by God to Na’omi and Ruth.

Old Testament scholar Daniel Block aptly notes some important points to consider in this passage, most notably in the notation of the provision of food by God:

“First, it was a gift from God that in the midst of her grief and pain Naomi was able to hear good news. Second, Naomi heard Yahweh had intervened on behalf of his people. The critical word in this clause is paqad, which bears a wide range of meanings. It occurs most often in military contexts, where it means “to assemble, count, and muster” men for battle. But it is also common in theological contexts, with God as the subject. In such cases it means generally “to attend to, to visit”, but this visitation may be either favorable or unfavorable. In negative contexts (usually expressed by paqad ‘al) it denotes “to intervene against”, that is, “to punish”, though always in keeping with the covenant stipulations. In positive contexts (expressed by paqad ‘et, as in our text), the word means “to intervene on behalf of, to come to the aid of.” The latter is certainly the case here. Third, the object of the divine favor is identified as ‘ammo, “his people”, the nation of Israel. The term expresses the normal covenant relationship between deity and his people. The return of the rains was a signal that God had not forgotten or rejected them. Fourth, Yahweh had given his people bread. The read of Hebrew will recognize the play on the name Bethlehem. The “house of bread” is being restocked.”[1]

So we have in this passage the reality that God had not forgotten his people and had once again provided them with their daily bread in keeping with His covenant promises. Given the cycle of rebellion and turning back to God that is found throughout the period of the Judges, it is likely the period noted in this passage is a time when the people returned to God, possibly finding deliverance from oppression or the lifting of the famine. Either approach was divinely provided, something this passage clearly notes.

7 She left the place where she was with her two daughters-in-law and took the road leading back to Y’hudah.
8 Na‘omi said to her two daughters-in-law, “Each of you, go back to your mother’s house. May Adonai show grace to you, as you did to those who died and to me.

We now find Na’omi leaving the plain of Mo’av where she had been living, departing that place with ‘Orpah and Ruth, journeying back to Beit-lechem on the road that leads back to Y’hudah (Judah). Furthermore, the text notes Na’omi urging her two daughters-in-law to return to their homeland, expressing the desire for the grace of God to be extended to them in the same manner as they extended grace to her by staying with her following the death of her husband and their husbands.

An interesting element of these two verses is found in the use of the Hebrew word hesed, a word most scholars note is very difficult to accurately translate fully into English. In this particular context, it can be averred that hesed “encompasses deeds of mercy performed by a more powerful party for the benefit of the weaker one.”[2] One must not forget that ‘Orpah and Ruth could have left Na’omi after their husbands died, given their young age and the potential to be re-married. At this juncture in the story, Na’omi believes that both ‘Orpah and Ruth would have a far better future and potential for success if they returned to their homeland.

9 May Adonai grant you security in the home of a new husband.” Then she kissed them, but they began weeping aloud.

This verse again has some very interesting elements to it once the ANE elements of what being married meant for a woman in that culture and point in history. Huey saliently notes the word rest or security, the Hebrew word mĕnuwchah, refers to the security in the ancient Near Eastern culture that marriage gave a woman, not to freedom from work. Na’omi expressed her blessing on ‘Orpah and Ruth that Adonai would grant them the security and rest found in the covenant of marriage, an umbrella of protection they had sorely been lacking since the death of their husbands. This statement once again reflects on the idea of God’s hesed, this time grace extended towards two foreign women.

Following this declaration, Na’omi kissed her daughters-in-law in the expectation they would be parting ways, however, both ‘Orpah and Ruth began to weep.

10 They said to her, “No; we want to return with you to your people.”

In response to Na’omi’s desire for them to return to their homeland, a place of familiarity where they would likely find rest through marriage, both ‘Orpah and Ruth express at least their unwillingness to part ways with Na’omi. Maybe they felt within them the desire to place even a tiny bit of faith in this Adonai to whom Na’omi kept referring.

11 Na‘omi said, “Go back, my daughters. Why do you want to go with me? Do I still have sons in my womb who could become your husbands?
12 Go back, my daughters; go your way; for I’m too old to have a husband. Even if I were to say, ‘I still have hope’; even if I had a husband tonight and bore sons;
13 would you wait for them until they grew up? Would you refuse to marry, just for them? No, my daughters. On your behalf I feel very bitter that the hand of Adonai has gone out against me.”

In this pericope, we find Na’omi trying to talk a bit of sense to ‘Orpah and Ruth. She begins by noting her own inability to produce children due to her age and a lack of a husband. Verhoef comments “Naomi based her persistent urging of Orpah and Ruth to return on the fact of her own advanced age. According to tradition (Gen. 38), or as stipulated in the law (Deut. 25:5-10; cf. Mt. 22:23-28), a levirate marriage was no longer possible (1:11-13).”[3] Na’omi continues her strong recommendation for them to return by noting what seems to be a rather obvious question, referring once again to her lack of ability to produce children. She asks them a somewhat rhetorical question, that of even if Na’omi could bear children by some miracle, would ‘Orpah and Ruth be willing to wait around until those children were reared to a sufficient enough age to wed? Even if that were possible, ‘Orpah and Ruth would themselves be too old to marry any offspring of Na’omi.

In conclusion, Na’omi expresses her belief that God’s hand is against her in regards to progeny. Huey aptly comments in regards to this belief, “the true bitterness of Naomi’s lot was that she believed the Lord was punishing her. Underlying the Book of Ruth and the theology of the entire OT is the belief that nothing happens by chance. God is sovereign and does whatever he desires. Naomi offered no explanation as to why she thought God was her enemy. Perhaps, like Job, she could not really understand the calamities that had struck her.”[4]

The reader of this passage, at least one familiar with the overall message and events of Ruth, will understand that God is setting the stage for a kinsman-redeemer to emerge, one that would provide the means for a Moabite woman to wed a man of Judah, a marriage that itself would set the stage for King David and the coming of the Messiah. What appeared at the time to Na’omi to be God’s hand against her was in actuality God’s sovereignty once again playing out in the grand flow of history.

14 Again they wept aloud. Then ‘Orpah kissed her mother-in-law good-bye. But Rut stuck with her.

Following Na’omi’s recommendation for them to return home, all three wept aloud. At first, it appears the speech by Na’omi had no impact as the weeping gives the impression that ‘Orpah and Ruth both still desired to stay with Na’omi rather than returning to their homeland. Instead what takes place is ‘Orpah kissing Na’omi goodbye with Ruth standing firm in her commitment to stick it out with her mother-in-law. There is no further mention of ‘Orpah in the Book of Ruth so the reader is left to wonder if Na’omi’s blessings of God’s favor upon her to find rest and security through marriage came to fruition. We perhaps will never know as the author begins to shift the focus of the story to Na’omi and Ruth and their return to Beit-lechem.

Some may feel compelled to cast shame on ‘Orpah for not having faith in God or the desire to stay with Na’omi. This is something the author does not do at all in the story, in fact, ‘Orpah is not demeaned by the author for choosing to return home. Block suggests ‘Orpah “is not presented as a negative example of unbelief; the narrator interprets her role in the narrative as a foil for Ruth. Her actions also highlight the incredible fortitude and faith of this other Moabite, qualities that will become even more evident in the final interchange.”[5]

One final note on this passage should be noted, specifically in relation to the interaction between ‘Orpah and Na’omi. As previously noted, the text states ‘Orpah kissed her mother-in-law and then exists the scene and the overall story. What is of interest is the kiss extended by ‘Orpah to Na’omi. OT scholar Edward Campbell comments that in verse 1:9, “the order is kissing and lamenting; here it is reversed (chiasm). The effect is to bracket artistically the episode of persuasion. Notice also that the kiss in 1:14 goes from Orpah to Naomi, while in 1:9 it was Naomi who kissed the young woman. This is just the signal needed to say that the relationship between Orpah and Naomi is here terminated; we need no further words…to make clear that her Orpah takes her leave. A one-way kiss of farewell is usual in stories of the conclusion of intimate relationships.”[6]

Conclusion:

Ruth 1:6-14 provides the reader with a transition in the story. Na’omi has learned that God’s hand of blessing has returned to His people, providing in her a desire to return to her homeland. Recognizing the difficulty that would arise should ‘Orpah and Ruth accompany her back to Beit-lechem, she strongly recommends they return to their homeland, noting her own inability to produce sons for them to marry and the reality their chances would fare much better should they return to their homes to find rest and security in marriage. As with the previous segment of this first chapter of Ruth, the author leaves the reader with a bit of a cliffhanger as we wonder what ‘Orpah and Ruth will decide. Will they remain true to their initial statement of staying with Na’omi with that mustard seed of faith in the God Na’omi referred to sprouting in their hearts, or will they return home to Mo’av.

In our next segment, we will look at Ruth 1:15-22 to see what takes place as Ruth begins to take center stage..

References

[1] Daniel Block, The New American Commentary: Judges-Ruth (Nashville: B&H Publishing Group, 1999), 631.
[2] F. B. Huey, Jr. “Commentary on Ruth” in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Vol.3: Deuteronomy through 1&2 Samuel. Edited by Frank Gaebelein. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 521.
[3] P. A Verhoef. “Commentary on Ruth” in The Biblical Expositor Commentary, Vol.I: Genesis to Esther. Edited by Carl F. H. Henry. Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 265.
[4] Huey, 522.
[5] Block, 638.
[6] Edward Campbell, Jr. Anchor Bible Commentary: Ruth (New York: Doubleday, 1975), 72.

 Exposition of Ruth 1:6 14

Michael lives in Belleville, IL, a suburb of St. Louis, MO with his wife Erica, adopted daughter Alissa, two cats Molly and Sweetie Pie and horse Beckham. After spending eight years in the United States Navy as a Yeoman, he has been employed for the past ten years by the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA) where he oversees advanced educational programs. Michael holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Religion (Biblical Studies) from Liberty University and is currently closing in on completing a Master of Arts in Religion (Biblical Studies) from Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary. He is an avid reader and blogger operating the website Christian Apologetics and Intelligence Ministry (http://intelmin.org) which provides both original content and relevant posts and articles from around the web.

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