Summary: Naomi a widow and childless, and grieving the death of her husband and two sons, she now gives thought to return to her homeland.
Studies in the Book of Ruth
“It Never Too Late To Go Home.”
“Have you ever experienced disappointment with God? It happens when you do what you think the Lord wants, but then things don’t turn out the way you expect. God doesn’t come through – like when you stick your neck out and do the ethical thing at work, but instead of getting praise, you get fired. Naomi experienced disappointment with God. She lost her husband, her two sons, her wealth, her position and her looks…. As a result… she gave up on God’s goodness, but did not give up on God. She became an embittered believer who interpreted God in the ‘worst case’ scenario whenever possible…. At this point…she interpreted God’s love by her circumstance rather than interpret the circumstances by God’s love.” [W. Gary Philips. Holman Old Testament Commentary. “Judges, Ruth.” (Nashville: Holman Reference, 2004) p.307]
As we discovered last time the story of Ruth is set “during the time of judges” (Ruth 1:1). There is famine in the land of Judah. To escape the effects of the famine a family of four leaves Bethlehem to dwell in country of Moab. Some believe that the move indicated a lack of faith in God.
Moab, was located due East of the Dead Sea. It’s people where descendants of Lot –through his incestuous relationship with his eldest daughter( Gen 19:36-37) Sometimes they were the friends of Israel but often they were regarded as enemies of Israel – (Judge 3:12-30, 1Samuel 22:3-4) The family was made up of Elimelech the father, Naomi the mother and their two sons: Mahlon and Chilion (Ruth 1:2).
Death strikes this family three times. First, Elimelech dies – (Ruth 1:3) leaving Naomi a widow with two sons in a foreign land. His two sons then marry women of Moab – Ruth and Orpah (Ruth 1:4). They live in Moab about ten years and then the two sons die – (Ruth 1:5). Leaving Naomi a widow and childless. Grieving the death of her husband and two sons, Naomi gives thought to return to her homeland.
First, Naomi’s Decision. (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 that the LORD had visited His people by giving them bread. 7 There-fore she went out from the place where she was, and her two daughters-in-law with her; and they went on the way to return to the land of Judah.”
Naomi makes the decision that with the death of her husband and her two sons there is nothing to keep her in the land of Moab, so she decides to return to her home in the land of Judah. The jour-ney begins with both daughter-in-laws accom-panying her. But is the choice that Naomi makes to return to Bethlehem the right choice for them as well? This sure is a dilemma that Naomi struggled with!
So what should these women do? Should they stay or should they go? They are returning to Naomi’s home not theirs. They would be as much a stranger in Judea as Naomi was in Moab.
Naomi receives word that the famine has ended in Judah and she decides to make the jour-ney home. This would not have been an easy journey some 50-60 miles on foot climbing appro-ximately 2000 ft. in elevation. Added to difficulty would be the danger of a woman traveling alone or with two other women.
At first, both daughters-in-law desire to go with Naomi. Their willingness to return with her to her people speaks highly of their love for Naomi and sense of duty as daughters-in-law.
Second, Naomi’s Deterrence. (1:8-10)
“And Naomi said to her two daughters-in-law, “Go, return each to her mother’s house. The LORD deal kindly with you, as you have dealt with the dead and with the. 9 The LORD grant that you may find rest, each in the house of her husband.” So she kissed them, and they lifted up their voices and wept. 10 And they said to her, “Surely we will return with you to your people.”
At some point in the journey Naomi encour-ages Orpah and Ruth to return to their mothers' house. In fact the phrase “go, return” or “go back” (v. 8) translates two imperatives in the Hebrew (go and return), Naomi commands them to return to their mother’s home. Naomi prays that God will treat them kindly, because of their kind-ness to her and that they will find rest in the homes of future husbands. In so doing she was releasing her daughter’s-in-laws from any further respon-sibility for her. Prompting sorrowful displays of great affection.
Just a little about a word that occurs here in verse eight it is translated “kindness” and is the Hebrew word ????? chesed in the Hebrew Bible and is a word that is difficult to translate into English, because it really has no precise equivalent in our language. English versions usually try to represent it with such words as "loving-kindness," when employed to describe God and "kindness," when used of man. The word occurs three times in the book of Ruth; at the beginning (1:8), in the middle (2:20) and at the end (3:10). In our text it is the kindness of Ruth and Orpah to Naomi. Ruth lived a life of kindness even when she probably did not feel like it. Her husband died, she was poor, and moved to a foreign land (Judea). But she chose to be kind, despite her circumstances. Even before Boaz met her, he knew who she was because people had been talking about her kindness (2::11-12).