Women in the Bible

Naomi and Ruth

I. Author: The Book of Ruth does not specifically name its author. The tradition is that the Book of Ruth was written by the Prophet Samuel.


II. Date of Writing: The exact date the Book of Ruth was written is uncertain. However, the prevalent view is a date between 1011 and 931 B.C.


III. Purpose of Writing: The Book of Ruth was written to the Israelites. It teaches that genuine love at times may require uncompromising sacrifice. Regardless of our lot in life, we can live according to the precepts of God. Genuine love and kindness will be rewarded. God abundantly blesses those who seek to live obedient lives. Obedient living does not allow for “accidents” in God’s plan. God extends mercy to the merciful.


IV. Key Verses: Ruth 1:16, “But Ruth replied, ‘Don’t urge me to leave you or to turn back from you. Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God.’


A. Ruth 3:9, “ ‘Who are you?’ he asked. ‘I am your servant Ruth,’ she said. ‘Spread the corner of your garment over me, since you are a kinsmanredeemer.’


B. Ruth 4:17, “The women living there said, ‘Naomi has a son.’ And they named him Obed. He was the father of Jesse, the father of David.


V. Brief Summary: The setting for the Book of Ruth begins in the heathen country of Moab, a region northeast of the Dead Sea, but then moves to Bethlehem. This true account takes place during the dismal days of failure and rebellion of the Israelites, called the period of the Judges. A famine forces Elimelech and his wife, Naomi, from their Israelite home to the country of Moab. Elimelech dies and Naomi is left with her 2 sons, who soon marry 2 Moabite girls, Orpah and Ruth. Later both of the sons die, and Naomi is left alone with Orpah and Ruth in a strange land. Orpah returns to her parents, but Ruth determines to stay with Naomi as they journey to Bethlehem. This story of love and devotion tells of Ruth's eventual marriage to a wealthy man named Boaz, by whom she bears a son, Obed, who becomes the grandfather of David and the ancestor of Jesus. Obedience brings Ruth into the privileged lineage of Christ.


VI. Foreshadowings: A major theme of the Book of Ruth is that of the kinsmanredeemer. Boaz, a relative of Naomi on her husband’s side, acted upon his duty as outlined in the Mosaic Law to redeem an impoverished relative from his or her circumstances (Lev. 25:47-49). This scenario is repeated by Christ, who redeems us, the spiritually impoverished, from the slavery of sin. Our heavenly Father sent His own Son to the cross so that we might become children of God and brothers and sisters of Christ. By being our Redeemer, He makes us His kinsmen.


VII. Practical Application: The sovereignty of our great God is clearly seen in the story of Ruth. He guided her every step of the way to become His child and fulfill His plan for her to become an ancestor of Jesus Christ (Matthew 1:5). In the same way, we have assurance that God has a plan for each of us. Just as Naomi and Ruth trusted Him to provide for them, so should we.


A. We see in Ruth an example of the virtuous woman of Proverbs 31. In addition to being devoted to her family (Ruth 1:15-18; Proverbs 31:10-12) and faithfully dependent upon God (Ruth 2:12; Proverbs 31:30), we see in Ruth a woman of godly speech. Her words are loving, kind and respectful, both to Naomi and to Boaz. The virtuous woman of Proverbs 31 “opens her mouth with wisdom, and on her tongue is the law of kindness” (v. 26). We could search far and wide to find a woman today as worthy of being our role model as Ruth.


VIII. FURTHER COMMENTS:


A. “Back in the days when the judges were judging, at a time when there was a famine in the land, a certain man from Beit-Lechem went to live in the territory of Mo’av — he, his wife and his two sons. 2 The man’s name was Elimelekh, his wife’s name was Na‘omi, and his two sons were namedMachlon and Kilyon; they were Efratim from Beit-Lechem in Y’hudah. They arrived in the plain of Mo’av and settled there. 3 Elimelekh, Na‘omi’s husband, died; and she was left, she and her two sons. 4 They took wives for themselves from the women of Mo’av; the name of the one was ‘Orpah; and the name of the other was Rut. They lived there for about ten years. 5 Then Machlon and Kilyon died, both of them; and the woman was left with neither her two sons nor her husband. 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 YHVH had paid attention to his people by giving them food.


1. We learn a great deal of the setting of the story of Ruth from these few
verses.


a) NAMES and their meaning:


(1) Bethlehem – House of Bread
(2) Elimelekh – My God is King
(3) Naomi – My Lovely, Pleasant One
(4) Machlon – To be weak, sick
(5) Kilyon – To be frail
(6) Orpah – Back of the Neck
(7) Ruth – Friend or Companion
(8) Boaz - In him is strength


b) It takes place during the time of the Judges – “The period of the Judges extends from the death of Joshua to the establishment of the monarchy. How long a time elapsed between these limits is a matter of wide difference of opinion. The chronological data in the Book of Judges, i.e. omitting Eli and Samuel, make a total of 410 years.”


c) There were a total of 13 judges during this period of Israel’s history.

d) Elimelekh (My God is King) was a prominent individual in the city of Bethlehem and his decision to leave due to the famine left many in dire straits because they could not leave. Certainly there is no record that he was told by God to leave. And, he fled to a pagan nation, Moab, the area of Esau from the area of Judah where God was worshipped.


e) Tragedy soon followed with his death and the death of his two married sons. This resulted in three widows being left to the wiles of an evil society where they would have been without protection or someone to supply their needs. The time span for all of this is about 10 years.


f) V. 5 – Although the sons were adults and married, after their deaths, Naomi refers to them as her “children or babies.”


g) V. 6 we have a sentiment which is reminiscent of the time when Israel was slave to Egypt, that YHVH heard of their plight and answered them with the coming of Moses. Here we read in similar fashion, “… YHVH had shown concern for his people …” being those back in Judah and so the famine had come to an end. Naomi decides that it is time to return to her people and her city even though the circumstance which had transpired since leaving had left here destitute. She was returning to the land of “abundant crops.”


B. “7 She left the place where she was with her two daughters-in-law and took the road leading back to Y’hudah.


Na‘omi said to her two daughters-in-law, “Each of you, go back to your mother’s house. May YHVH show grace to you, as you did to those who died and to me. May YHVH grant you security in the home of a new husband.” Then she kissed them, but they began weeping aloud. They said to her, “No; we want to return with you to your people.” 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? 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; 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 YHVH has gone out against me.” Again they wept aloud. Then Orpah kissed her mother-in-law good-bye. But Ruth stuck with her. She said, “Look, your sister-in-law has gone back to her people and to her god; go back, after your sister-in-law.” But Ruth said,


Don’t press me to leave you
and stop following you;
for wherever you go, I will go;
and wherever you stay, I will stay.
Your people will be my people
and your God will be my God.

17 Where you die, I will die;
and there I will be buried.
May YHVH bring terrible curses on me,
and worse ones as well,
if anything but death
separates you and me
.”


Ruth 1:18When Na‘omi saw that she was determined to go with her, she said no more to her.”


1. THE DRAMA OF PARTING:


a) V. 7-10 – As they commenced their journey back to the land of Judah, the women, no doubt would have been discussing what the future would hold for each of them. Normally, under Israelite law, there was the law under which a widow would count on a brother - in-law to take her under his household and raise up children for his deceased brother’s name. This was practiced to provide continuity for the family and the retention of the land within the family name.


b) But as the miles increased, the thought of such an impossibility must have weighed heavily on Naomi and she instructed her daughters in law in gentle, compassionate terms:

(1) You should return to your mother’s home, implying that there was no possibility of another son to carry on for the dead husbands;


(2) She prayed a most heartfelt sincere prayer:


(a) “May YHVH show you the same kind of devotion that you have shown to you late husbands and to me; May YHVH enable you to find security, rest, comfort, stability in the house of a new husband..


i) Devotion - here the word in Hebrew comes from the word chesed - which is often translated as covenant faithfulness, loyalty, faithfulness when referring to YHVH. Here it has that meaning which is augmented by enduring commitment between two individuals such that one is able to provide assistance to another who is not able to return the favor.


(3) This brought the tears to all their eyes as they kissed and made the decision to go on together and not return to their maternal homes. They would stay with Naomi and accompany her back to Bethlehem. We will return with you to your people. A hint of what was yet to come.


c) V. 11 – 15 – When Naomi sees that her instruction has been ignored, she tries another tack of explanation.


(1) The women fully understood what we call Levirate marriage in which when a husband dies without children, his brother takes the widow as a wife and has children with her in order that the brother’s name is not blotted out through lack of progeny.


(2) Naomi explains that even if the widows come back to live with her, there is no possibility of this even happening – she has no husband by which to have more sons and even if she did, the widows would not want to wait until they were old enough to marry.


(3) Naomi exposes her heart when she comments, “No, my daughters!” There is no logical way this is a path to take. Then she further tells us the wounded heart and spirit within her, “On your behalf I feel very bitter that the hand of YHVH has gone out against me.”


(4) Naomi’s discussion resonates with Orpah kisses Naomi goodbye and leaves the story.


(5) In contrast, Ruth clings to Naomi and decides to place her future with Naomi and the people of God (Israel) regardless of the outcome. Naomi makes one last attempt to convince Ruth to return as Orpah had done but to no effect.


(6) Her speech which follows is memorable and recognized outside the faith!


d) “ “Don’t press me to leave you and stop following you;
                for wherever you go, I will go;
                and wherever you stay, I will stay.
     Your people will be my people
                and your God will be my God.
     Where you die, I will die;
                and there I will be buried.
     May YHVH bring terrible curses on me, and worse ones as well,
                if anything but death separates you and me.


Ruth 1:18When Na‘omi saw that she was determined to go with her, she
said no more to her.
” ”


(1) “This moving plea is among the best–known lines of the book. It expresses Ruth’s devotion and loyalty to Naomi. … Thus . . . do to me: Ruth’s oath underscores the seriousness of her declaration. It has been interpreted to mean “only death will part us” or “not even death will part us.”


C. “19 So the two of them went on until they came to Bethlehem. And when they came to Bethlehem, the whole town was stirred because of them. And the women said, “Is this Naomi?” She said to them, “Do not call me Naomi; call me Mara, for the Almighty has dealt very bitterly with me. I went away full, and YHVH has brought me back empty. Why call me Naomi, when YHVH has testified against me and the Almighty has brought calamity upon me?”

D. Ruth 1:22So Naomi returned, and Ruth the Moabite her daughter-in law with her, who returned from the country of Moab. And they came to Bethlehem at the beginning of barley harvest.”


1. The return to Bethlehem gives us an insight into the family which left. When we read that the whole town was stirred, it speaks of being well known, prominent in the community and so begs the question of why such influential people left the remained of the town without their presence and perhaps charity and jobs.


2. It has been some years since Naomi and family left but still she is remembered. It is Naomi who asks that they refer to her as Mara instead of Naomi - bitter - reminding us of the bitter waters experienced by the children of Israel three days after passing through the Red Sea! She refers to God as Almighty – Shaddai, a divine epithet, perhaps used here as an archaism; in Job, where it is frequent (5:17ff.), it is translated “the Almighty.”


3. We see that the experience in Moab has left Naomi a bitter woman - death of husband, sons and the loss of a daughter-in-law have all taken their toll. She feels abandoned by YHVH and the circumstances seem to have drowned her at this time. Perhaps you have experienced times like this in life when things grow dark and the future seems very uncertain. What have you learned from life’s experiences to help someone who is experiencing the feelings of Naomi?


4. The chapter and passage of study end with a cryptic note that this happened at the time of the barley harvest. The beginning of the barley harvest is associated in Lev. 23:10 with the Passover festival, in the spring. Later in the book of Ruth there is another harvest mentioned giving us the timeline of the story within the context of YHVH’s Festivals/Feast – Passover, Pentecost, Tabernacles. The barley harvest takes place around the time of Passover so it is this time of year that they returned to Bethlehem.

Compilation and comments © by Dr. David G. Sloss, PhD 2018

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