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To Moab and Back (3)

Ruth 1:6-18

Victor M. Eskew


III.     DECISIONS (Ruth 1:6-18)


A.   To Return to Judah (Ruth 1:6-7)


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 how that the Lord had visited his people in giving them bread.  Wherefore she went forth out of the place where she was, and her two daugh-ters in law with her; and they went on their way to return into the land of Judah.


1.     Naomi’s resolve (Ruth 1:6a)


Then she arose with her daughters in law, that she might return from the country of Moab…


a.    Naomi made the difficult decision to travel the 70 miles back to Judah.

b.    “So Naomi’s heart has remained in Judah, and she has not allowed herself to forget her God” (Motyer, 40).

c.    Without a man’s presence and being ten years older, the journey would be much more difficult.

d.    NOTE:  The word “return” is the key word in this portion of the chapter.

1)     Return is used 6 times (Ruth 1:6, 7, 8, 10, 15, 16).

2)    Returned is used 2 times (Ruth 1:22).

2.    Naomi’s reason (Ruth 1:6b)


…for she had heard in the country of Moab how that the Lord had visited his people in giving them bread.


a.    News traveled in the ancient world.

1)     “It was passed along by messengers, travelers, and caravan traders” (Stewart, 29).  See Gen. 37:25

2)    The news that Naomi had received was good news (Prov. 25:25).


As cold waters to a thirsty soul, so is good news from a far country.


b.    The word “Lord” is “Yahweh.”  “…the God who is the actively existing one, the God who comes to meet his people in need…” (Motyer, 40).

c.    The Lord had “visited” His people in giving them bread.

1)     “The report Naomi had received is not expressed in terms such as ‘the weather has broken,’ or ‘there has been an upturn in the economy,’ or ‘the threat of invasion has gone’.  All of these could have been part of the chain of causes in the recovery of Bethlehem from the famine.  But no, the report comes to Naomi in terms of the Lord’s action.  Here is a central theme in the Bible:  all of life is traced directly to the hand of God.  To concentrate primarily on second causes may encourage us to seek to be manipulators of the system.  It is concentration on the Great Cause which teaches us to live by faith” (Motyer, 40-41).

2)    God can visit His people in two ways:

a)    Judgment (Exo. 32:34; Lev. 18:25)

b)    Blessing (Gen. 21:1; Exo. 3:16; 4:31; I Sam. 2:21)

3)     The blessing God gave to Judah was “bread.”

a)    The “house of bread” had been empty.  Now, its abundance had been restored by God.

b)    In this assistance, we see the definition of the word “visit.”

-       Inspect for a need

-       Fulfilling the need

3.     Naomi’s retreat (Ruth 1:7)


Wherefore she went forth out of the place where she was, and her two daughters in law with her; and they went on the way to return unto the land of Judah.


a.    Naomi “went forth.”  She “has decided to make forward movement toward her future rather than waiting for it to come to her…She has decided to step out in faith” (Peipman, 64).

b.    She went forth “out of the place where she was.”  “Naomi was moving away from a physical location; she was also moving spiritually.  Not only was she going home, to Bethlehem, she was moving back to living in the presence of the living God and trusting Him as perhaps she never had before” (Peipman, 64).

c.    Her two daughters in law were with her.

1)     Did they intend to go all the way with her?  It appears that their loyalty and devotion were completely with Naomi.

2)    Yet, their home was Moab.  It was their only reality.


B.   To remain with Naomi (Ruth 1:8-18)

1.     Naomi’s release (Ruth 1:8-9)


And Naomi said unto her two daughters in law, Go, return each to her mother’s house:  the Lord deal kindly with you, as ye have dealt with the dead, and with me.  The Lord grant you that ye may find rest, each of you in the house of her husband.  Then she kissed them, and they lifted up their voice, and wept.


a.    The instructions (Ruth 1:8a)


And Naomi said unto her daughters in law, Go, return each to her mother’s house…


1)     “Conversations between women recorded in the Bible are rare…The book of Ruth provides us with a glimpse of feminine concerns in the ancient world (Stewart, 30).

2)    Naomi may have thought of the difficulties these women would face in returning with her.

a)    A strange country

b)    How would these Moabite women be treated by the Israelites?

c)    Separation from loved ones and friends

d)    Not finding a husband

e)    Poverty

3)     She urges them to return to their “mother’s house.”

a)    There they would find acceptance, peace, security, and prosperity.

b)    Why did Naomi say “mother’s house” instead of “father’s house.”

-       She may have spoken from a woman’s perspective of leaving a mother in law and returning to a mother.

-       She sent them to the ones from whom they would find the most comfort.

-       It could be that mothers were responsible for planning weddings (SoS 3:4, 11; 8:2).

-       She may be referring to women living in separate quarters in a poly-gamous society (gen. 24:28, 67).

b.    The intercession (Ruth 1:8b-9a)


…The Lord deal kindly with you, as ye have dealt with the dead, and with me.  The Lord grant you that ye may find rest, each of you in the house of her husband.


1)     The Lord deal kindly with you

a)    Kindly

-       One’s loving kindness toward another person that responds to genuine human need and goes the extra mile.

-       “The New Testament counterpart to this word is agape, describing the self-giving love of God for his people, and the love he delights they should show in return” (Motyer, 44).

b)    By sending them away, Naomi knew she would no longer be able to see them and assist them.  The Lord, however, could.  “She is looking at the life and future set before Ruth and Orpah.  From the depths of her heart, is the strong and everlasting desire that God will watch over them and tenderly care for them.  She is placing them in His hands and prays that throughout their lives He will in all situations show kindness to them as only He can” (Peipman, 72).

2)    They had shown kindness to the dead and to Naomi.

a)    This was not just a positive attitude toward them.

b)    It means that they worked, and created, and built a loving relation-ship with her sons and with Naomi.

c.    The infelicity (Ruth 1:9b)


The she kissed them, and they lifted up their voice, and wept.


1)     The young ladies were in shock at Naomi’s words.  She is saying:  “Good-bye.”  Thus, they weep.

2)    It appears that their choice is between motherhood or staying with Naomi.  Thus, they weep.

3)     They (plural) lifted up their voice (singular).

a)    We see them in harmony of spirit and soul.

b)    Together as one they lifted up their voice.

2.    The daughters–in-law’s refusal (Ruth 1:10)


And they said unto her, Surely we will return with thee unto thy people.


a.    NOTE:  They say:  “…we will return with thee unto thy people.”

1)     The girls understood that they were entering into a foreign country to them.

2)    This could have been one of Naomi’s biggest concerns.

b.    Ancient custom:

1)     According to ancient custom, a childless widow was bound by the marriage vows she had taken and was still considered part of her husband’s family after his death (Gen. 38:6-30).

2)    It was the duty of the dead man’s brother to marry his widow and produce an heir for him (Deut. 25:5-6).

3.     Naomi’s response (Ruth 1:11-13)


And Naomi said, Turn again, my daughters:  why will ye go with me?  Are there yet any more sons in my womb, that they may be your husbands?  Turn again, my daughters, to your way; for I am too old to have a husband.  If I should say, I have hope, if I should have an husband also tonight, and should also bear sons; would ye tarry for them till they were grown?  Would ye stay for them from having husands?  Nay, my daughters; for it grieveth me much for your sakes that the hand of the Lord is gone out against me.


a.    Absence of sons (Ruth 1:11)


And Naomi said, Turn again, my daughters:  why will ye go with me?  Are there yet any man sons in my womb, that they may be your husbands?


1)     This is the first time that Naomi calls Orpah and Ruth her “daughters” in the text.

a)    This expresses her love for them.

b)    She is also now speaking to them as a “mother” would in their best interest.

2)    “Naomi’s reasoning may well have had in mind the practice of levirate marriage…When a man died without a male child, his brother was en-couraged to act as ‘levir’:  that is, to take the widow, in order to raise up a child for the dead man” (Motyer, 46).

3)     “The levirate custom was practiced by many cultures in the ancient world, although details varied from place to place.  It existed in Canaan prior to the formation of Israel as a nation (Gen. 38:6-30) and was later incorporated in the Law (Deut. 25:5-10; see Matt. 22:23-33; Mark 12:18-27; Luke 20:27-38).  No doubt a similar custom existed in Moab with which Orpah and Ruth were very familiar and readily accepted” (Stewart, 35).

b.    Age is beyond marriageability (Ruth 1:12a)


Turn again, my daughters, to your way, for I am too old to have a husband…


1)     Since Naomi is a widow who could not bear children, few men in the ancient world would want to marry her.

2)    “In the New Testament, there is a similar distinction between widows over sixty who pledge to remain single and younger widows who are urged to remarry and bear children (I Tim. 5:9, 14).


Let not a widow be taken into the number under three score years old, having been the wife of one man…I will therefore that the younger women marry, bear children, guide the house, give none occasion to the adversary to speak reproachfully.


3)     Without a husband, it would be impossible for Naomi to bear children.  Her having twins was the only way she could think for Orpah and Ruth to have husbands if they stayed with her.

c.    Anticipation of marriage? (Ruth 1:12b-13a)


…If I should say, I have hope, if I should have an husband also tonight, and should also bear sons; would ye tarry for them till they were grown?  Would ye stay for them from having husbands?  Nay, my daughters…


1)     “Hope” is defined as having a husband and bearing sons.

2)    “By using the word ‘tonight’ Naomi envisions consummating a marriage that very evening….Perhaps Naomi imagines herself conceiving on her wedding night, and delivering twins at the end of her gestational period” (Stewart, 36).

3)     It would take 20 years for the boys to grow up.  Orpah and Ruth would be 20 years older than they were now.  Would they really be willing to wait this long for a husband?  Would they turn down all other possible husband to wait for her sons?

4)    Naomi’s response to her own questions is:  “Nay, my daughters.”

a)    Naomi knows she has absolutely nothing to offer her daughters-in-law.

b)    “The author is intending to paint a picture of hopelessness and despair:  Naomi is stressing the complete impossibility of providing Orpah and Ruth with fathers for their children” (Motyer, 46).

d.    Affliction for her daughters in law (Ruth 1:13b)


…for it grieveth me much for your sakes that the hand of the Lord is against me.


1)     Naomi is in distress because of the impact her calamities have had on these two women.

2)    Up to this point, Naomi has suffered many tragedies, but there has been no assignment as to the cause.  Whether right or wrong, Naomi clearly views her misfortune as an action from God:  “…the hand of the Lord is against me.”

a)    “The hand of the Lord” is an anthropomorphism, a figure of speech in which human characteristics are assigned to God.

b)    Some feel that Naomi had sinned in some way and that God was punishing her.

-       She should have advised her husband not to have moved to Moab.

-       Once her husband died, she should have immediately moved back to Bethlehem instead of being so comfortable in Moab.

-       She should have opposed the marriages of her two sons because they were marrying women of Moab.

c)    It may have just been the mindset of the Jewish people.  They accepted that both good and evil come from the hand of God upon His children (See Job 2:10).


But he said unto her, Thou speakest as one of the foolish women speaketh.  What?  Shall we receive good at the hand of God, and shall we not receive evil?  In all this did not Job sin with his lips.


4.    The daughters-in-laws’ reaction (Ruth 1:14-17)

a.    Orpah’s departure (Ruth 1:14a)


And they lifted up their voice and wept again:  and Orpah kissed her mother in law…


1)     Orpah is convinced of her need to return to her mother’s house.

2)    She reciprocated her mother-in-law’s kiss (Ruth 1:9).

3)     Most likely Naomi and Ruth never saw Orpah again.

4)    The tears that Orpah shed were tears of departure and finality.

b.    Ruth’s determination (Ruth 1:14b-17).

1)     Ruth’s attachment (Ruth 1:14b)


…but Ruth cleaved to her.


a)    “This verb is the word of committed faithful ‘cleaving’ in a deep personal relationship – such as is used of the man for his wife in the Garden.  It is also used of the committed faithfulness God desires of his covenant people in response to his initiative of saving grace” (Motyer, 49, see Gen. 2:24, Deut. 10:20).

b)    This is the first time in the text that Orpah and Ruth are distinguished by their actions. 

c)    “Perhaps Ruth’s name, which may mean ‘friendship’ or ‘companion,’ come to light at this point in the narrative as she demonstrates her family commitment by supporting Naomi in her old age” (Stewart, 39).

d)    Hamlin:  “Orpah left Naomi for the security of a family and home in Moab.  On the other hand, Ruth gave up that security to share in Naomi’s plight…” (as quoted by Stewart, 40).

2)    Naomi’s admonition (Ruth 1:15)


And she said, Behold, thy sister in law is gone back unto her people, and unto her gods:  return thou after thy sister in law.


a)    The example of Orpah

-       Perhaps they could see Orpah still as she was fading in the distance.


-       Orpah has done the most sensible thing.

-       Naomi encourages her to follow in her footsteps.  Remember, this is the first time they part ways in their actions.

b)    The enticement of family

-       Orpah was returning to “her people.”  Ruth could to this also.

-       “The strength of family ties and the familiarity of one’s native people are strong incentives for returning home” (Stewart, 41).

c)    The enchantment of Moab’s gods

-       Naomi was not expressing approval of the worship of false gods.  She was merely stating a fact.

-       After leaving Naomi, the girls would “receive little encouragement to worship the LORD and would resume the practices of her native people” (Stewart, 41).

-       This could have also been a test.

+          The only God worshiped in Israel was Jehovah.

+          “The question is now a spiritual one.  Will she serve the God of Israel or will she serve the gods of Moab?” (Peipman, 99).

+          Naomi’s words are similar to those of Joshua when he addressed the nation of Israel (Josh. 24:14-15).


Now therefore fear the Lord, and serve him in sincerity and in truth:  and put away the gods which your fathers served on the other side of the flood, and in Egypt; and serve ye the Lord.  And if it seem evil unto you to serve the Lord, choose you this day, whom ye will serve; whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the flood, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land ye dwell:  but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.


d)    The exhortation to return

-       This is a direct command from Naomi.  Naomi is using all of her authority.

-       “Will Ruth finally capitulate and return to Moab?... Will the book of Ruth end here or is there significantly more to the story?” (Peipman, 100).

3)     Ruth’s affirmation (Ruth 1:16-17)


And Ruth said, Entreat me not to leave thee, or to return from following after thee:  for whither thou goest, I will go; and where thou lodgest I will lodge:  thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God.  Where thou diest I will die, and there will I be buried:  the Lord do so to me, and more also, if aught but death part thee and me.


a)    This is the first time that we actually hear Ruth speak in the book. 

b)    What matters MOST to Ruth is not her home, a husband, children, or the Moabite gods.  What matters MOST to Ruth is her relation-ship with Naomi.

c)     “Ruth’s message is clear – she has no intention of abandoning her mother-in-law” (Stewart, 420).

d)    This is an example synonymous parallelism. 


e)    There are three components of this statement:

-       The don’ts

-       The desires

-       The destiny

f)    The don’ts

-       Entreat me not to leave thee

-       Nor to return from following after thee (NOTE:  Ruth here acknowledges that Naomi is leading).

g)    The desires

-       Whither thou goest, I will go

+          Wherever Naomi travels, Ruth will be with her.

+          Traveling was very dangerous for women in that time (Judges 19:1-30)

-       Where thou lodgest I will lodge

+          Ruth will make her home with Naomi.  She will live at the same address with her.

+          They will share the intimacy of family.

+          The type of lodging did not matter to Ruth.  She would live in a tent, a cave, a cabin, a dirt house, or a mansion.

-       Thy people shall be my people. 

+          This was a play upon Naomi’s words in Ruth 1:15

+          Ruth was willing to take upon her the culture of the Israel-ite nation.

            <          She would leave security.

            <          She would change habits, customs, language, food,


            <          There was no guarantee of acceptance in the land.

-       Thy God my God.  She was willing to adopt and practice the religion of Naomi.  (NOTE:  This was not a blind following.  It was a conscious decision on Ruth’s part).

-       Where thou diest I will die

+          Ruth’s commitment will last beyond the death of Naomi.

+          Upon the death of Naomi, what would there be left for Ruth in Israel.  At this time, nothing.

-       There will I be buried

+          After death, their mortal remains will continue together (See Gen 23:19-20; 25:9-10; 49:29-32; 50:12-13).

+          It was not uncommon for someone to want to be taken back to their homeland to be buried (Ex., Joseph, Gen. 47:29-30; 49:29-32; 50:12-13, 24-26, Exo. 13:19; Josh. 24:30).

h)    The destiny

-       Ruth calls upon God to punish her if she does not fulfill her vow.

-       The vow included her death, but she also said:  “…and more also.”  Beyond the grave, there was only eternity to consider.  God could punish her there also.




5.    Naomi’s resignation (Ruth 1:18)


When she saw that she was steadfastly minded to go with her, then she left speaking unto her.


a.    Naomi’s realization:  “When she saw…”

1)     The words “steadfastly minded” means determined.  They include the ideas of strength and courage.

2)    “Naomi was no doubt impressed by Ruth’s bold determination and saw that any further discussion about returning to Moab was futile” (Stewart, 47).

3)     “Hers was not a decision made in the logical recesses of the mind:  her decision originated in her heart.  Its direction could not be moved or swayed by any mind of change to suit the whims of the situation and varying circumstances” (Peipman, 109).

b.    Naomi’s refrain:  “…she left speaking unto her.”

1)     She did not completely quit talking to Ruth for the rest of the journey.

2)    She merely stopped trying to encourage her to return to Moab.