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Bible Commentaries

Arthur Peake's Commentary on the Bible
Ruth 1

 

 


Verses 1-22

Ruth 1:1-22. Ruth and Naomi.—Bethlehem ceased for a time to be what its name signified—a house of bread. Under stress of famine Elimelech, with his wife Naomi, left his Judæan home, and went to sojourn in the land of Moab, where he died. His two sons married women of Moab, Orpah and Ruth, but died childless, so that Naomi and her daughters-in-law were left together in lonely widowhood.

Ruth 1:1. Seen from the uplands of Judea, the mountains of Moab are like an immense wall rising beyond the mysterious gulf of the Dead Sea.

Ruth 1:2. Elimelech, meaning "my God is king," is an ancient Palestinian name, which occurs in the Amarna tablets. Naomi means "my sweet one," a mother's fond name for her child. Ephrath was a district round about Bethlehem (cf. Genesis 35:19*, 1 Samuel 17:12).

Ruth 1:4. The derivation of Orpah and Ruth is uncertain, but the latter appears to mean "the friend" or "companion."

Ruth 1:6. Yahweh sometimes visited His people in grace (e.g. Exodus 4:31, 1 Samuel 2:21), and sometimes in displeasure (Jeremiah 6:15; Jeremiah 49:8).

Ruth 1:7. Strictly speaking, only one of the three women could be said to "return" to the land of Judah.

Ruth 1:8. The writer belonged to a time when Yahweh's power was known to extend far beyond the limits of Canaan. Jephthah spoke of Chemosh as the god of Moab (Judges 11:24), but Naomi knows better, and prays that Yahweh may be kind to her daughters-in law in the land of Moab.

Ruth 1:11-13. It was the custom in Israel that a childless widow became the wife of her brother-in-law, and his first son by her was counted the heir of the deceased husband, whose name was thus preserved (p. 109, Deuteronomy 25:5-10*). But Naomi has no more sons. She knows the Levirate law (p. 109), but, alas, with the best will in the world she can do nothing for her daughters-in-law. It grieves her sore, not for her own sake, but for the sake of the girls whom her sons had wedded, that Yahweh's hand (not, as we say, "things") has gone against her.

Ruth 1:15-17. But though she can give her daughters no levirs (brothers-in-law), one of them has found her heart's treasure in Naomi herself, and the passionate words in which she expresses the determination to remain with her in life and in death are unsurpassably beautiful. Yahweh had already become Ruth's God, and her words are prompted not only by a tender human affection, but by a deep religious feeling.

Ruth 1:19. When the women came to Bethlehem, "the city was moved," as any quiet eastern town still is upon the arrival of strangers.

Ruth 1:20. Naomi sadly asks her old neighbours to change her name from Naomi to Mara—from "sweet" to "bitter." It is remarkable that she uses nearly the same words as Job (Job 27:2), giving God the same antique name of Shaddai (the Almighty). And was there not in her heart, as in Job's, a sense of the mystery of pain, a pathetic protest (in her case unspoken) against the old doctrine that suffering is always deserved? It would be difficult for any doctor of the old school to say why Yahweh had dealt very bitterly with, testified against, afflicted Naomi.

Ruth 1:22. The beginning of barley harvest was in the month of April.

 


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Bibliography Information
Peake, Arthur. "Commentary on Ruth 1:4". "Arthur Peake's Commentary on the Bible ". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/pfc/ruth-1.html. 1919.

Lectionary Calendar
Tuesday, December 1st, 2020
the First Week of Advent
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