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Bible Commentaries
Ruth 1

Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New TestamentsSutcliffe's Commentary

Verses 1-22

Ruth 1:1 . When the judges ruled, about a hundred years before the birth of David. Famines were mostly occasioned by want of rain.

Ruth 1:2 . Ephrathites; not Ephraimites, but of Ephrath, the old name of Bethlehem: Ruth 4:11. Genesis 35:19. The name of Elimelech’s wife was Naomi, beautiful.

Ruth 1:20 . The Almighty. שׁדי Shaddai, the Almighty; the self-sufficient being can repair all my calamities.

Ruth 1:22 . The barley harvest. See on Deuteronomy 11:14.


Famine is terrific when it assails a voluptuous and a guilty people. Hunger and despair are marked on the countenance; and all who can are ready to fly from a land doomed to desolation. Of those who survived the visitation, no one had greater calamities than Elimelech. He had mortgaged his land before he left home; he died among the heathen, leaving a widow and two sons estranged from the house and altar of God, and destitute of worldly good. Now, it would seem, they ought to have returned, and made the Lord their portion and hope. But alas, for Naomi; the sons, having no father to direct their conduct, married with the daughters of Moab; and by that act, the hope of returning to Bethlehem was cut off. Deuteronomy 23:3-6. How often do youth sacrifice their hope in the covenant of God for the pleasures of the age. The fruits corresponded with the sin; the fruits were ignorance, poverty, misery, barrenness and death: for where has God promised to bless marriages out of his counsel, and contrary to his word?

These were hard strokes of providence; and fresh tears flowed from the eyes of Naomi. But her piety was refined in the furnace; her faith, shook for a moment, when she thought the Lord had dealt bitterly with her, brightened as providence darkened. She had nothing now left but God, an alsufficient portion; and her confidence encreased in his mercy the more she felt the strokes of his justice. She therefore resolved to return, and to spend the evening of life in his house, and die in his favour. Piety so engaging, confidence so superior to the hardest strokes of adversity, could not be unproductive of good. They had already made a secret impression on the heart of RUTH. This daughter of Moab, more worthy than her country, had attested the conflicts of Naomi’s soul. She had seen her frequent tears; and heard the wrestlings of her wounded mind in prayer to God. Yes, in Naomi’s conflicts and troubles she had frequently glanced on the face of heaven-born piety, and the image was indelibly imprinted on her heart. She was secretly wounded with celestial love; the daughter sighed to be as the mother. Oh yes; and to acquire a confidence, a peace like Naomi’s, she would gladly sacrifice country, kindred, and life itself. Her soul, abhorring the hopes of Moab, swelled with all that vastness of desire after Israel’s God, which language cannot decypher. Oh, if she might worship at the altar of JEHOVAH, and learn that law which had done such great things for her mother, she would gladly endure hunger and hardships to support herself and Naomi, whose soul clave to God and his people. The mother, unacquainted with this work of grace on Ruth’s mind, took her journey towards Bethlehem, which was now, as its name imports, the house of bread. She was accompanied with both her daughters, who do not appear to have been encumbered with a quantity of raiment. Arriving at a suitable distance from home, the mother embraced and blessed her daughters, bidding them return, and wishing them rest in the house of their fathers; for this good woman candidly assured them that there was no hope of husbands in Israel. The tears largely flowed as she spake, and she prayed the Lord to requite them for the kindness they had showed to the dead. Orpah embraced her mother, and returned; but Ruth, as though she had seen in spirit the glory of future years, clave to Naomi; and the more as she was entreated to return.

Her piety we see was pure and disinterested. She had no earthly expectations, and accounted the Lord’s favour her alsufficient reward. In this view she is a fine model to all who enter on a religious course of life. Purity of motive gives the soul confidence towards God, and sheds a lustre on the christian name.

Ruth, for the love of God and of his people, sacrificed her country, her gods, and her relatives. Let us learn from her example to make every sacrifice for God and a good conscience, which our situation may impose, or religion require. Whatever earthly comforts may stand in competition with holiness, and with the enjoyment of those religious aids essential to salvation, he alone is wise who takes the ground of heaven. We are not only to renounce idols, to forego pleasures, and withdraw from parties among whom we cannot serve God; but to glory in a loyalty to our heavenly Father, which accounts the dearest sacrifice as dross, in comparison of the excellent knowledge of Christ Jesus.

She bound herself in fidelity to Naomi, God and his people being included, with an oath. A young person may proceed with caution at first; he may be wary in his steps, and cautious in his belief; but when once his duty clearly opens, let him declare for heaven with a high voice. And as God has sworn by his life to man, so let man sware to him, that the oath of the covenant may be between them. Jeremiah 34:18. Thus Israel sware to the Lord in Sinai; and so all our sacraments are so many oaths of fidelity to the God and Captain of our salvation.

This little history is also very encouraging to afflicted families, who may have borne the indignation of the Lord, because of their imprudence or their sins. Naomi, once more surrounded by a crowd of friends in Bethlehem, wept and said, the Lord hath dealt bitterly with me. I went out full, and came back empty. Ah, no, woman; heaven still accounts thee worthy of thy name. Thou hast brought far more treasure back in a daughter than thy family has expended, and from this day thou shalt lift up thy head with joy. In one way or other the Lord will bless every family which calls upon him in the day of trouble.

Bibliographical Information
Sutcliffe, Joseph. "Commentary on Ruth 1". Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New Testaments. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/jsc/ruth-1.html. 1835.
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