Summary: The vow of Ruth seals the promise, binding her forever not only with Naomi, but also with the LORD.


Ruth 1:1-18

Ruth 1:1. “The days when the judges judged” was an age of anarchy (Judges 21:25). Cycles of godlessness were followed by trouble and invasion, the raising of ‘saviours’ and restoration - only for the people of the LORD to fall back again into unfaithfulness. It was not a good time.

Yet it was in such a time that the Bible narrative draws our attention to the plight of one family within one clan in one tribe of the children of Israel. Perhaps as a result of some invasion, Bethlehem - ‘the house of bread’ - is uncharacteristically afflicted with famine. The little family seek refuge in an enemy nation - much as their descendants would one day also sojourn in the most unlikely of places (Matthew 2:13-15).

Ruth 1:2; Ruth 1:4. The name of Elimelech means ‘my God is king’ - reminding us that we are dealing with a godly, covenant family here. Naomi means ‘pleasant’ - a name which the good lady sought to repudiate later in this chapter, in a moment of darkness, despondency, and despair (Ruth 1:20). The name of Ruth means ‘friend’ - it is good to have a friend, and to be a friend in a time of trouble.

Ruth 1:3; Ruth 1:5; Ruth 1:8. Having fled their homeland for fear of death, the family is next afflicted with multiple deaths abroad. First Elimelech dies, then ten years later his two sons - who by now are married. There appears to be an all-round loss of fathers and husbands: Naomi later tells the young women to return each to her mother’s house.

Ruth 1:6-7. Naomi heard that the LORD had visited His people in giving them bread. This is a reversal which sets in motion a chain of redemptive events which thread their way not only through the book of Ruth, but throughout the Old Testament and into the New. It approaches its culmination in the words of a priestly relative of the family many centuries later (Luke 1:68-69).

Ruth 1:8-9. Naomi thanks her two daughters-in-law for their kindness to the dead and to her. The word is suggestive of the covenant loving-kindness of the LORD. She prays that each may find her place of rest and security.

Ruth 1:10-14. At first both of the young women were determined to remain with Naomi, but she warned them of the potential loss of inheritance. The return was fraught with uncertainty for Naomi, and she seemed to blame God. Yet even in the midst of her grief and perplexity she was showing consideration for the two younger women.

Ruth 1:13. Perhaps Naomi could have justifiably said with Jacob, ‘All this is against me’ (Genesis 42:36). She is extremely offended that the LORD has treated her so unkindly. She had gone out with a husband and children, but was returning as a widow bereft of her children.

Ruth 1:9; Ruth 1:14-15. These exchanges call forth tears of grief and uncertainty.

Orpah goes back, and her husband’s inheritance in Bethlehem reverts to Naomi (Ruth 4:9).

Ruth “cleaves” to Naomi (same word as Genesis 2:24).

Ruth 1:16-18. Ruth’s words of determined loyalty, faithfulness, and loving commitment are a pattern of devotion. Ruth’s vow seals the promise, binding her forever not only with Naomi, but also with the LORD. Naomi has no answer to such an overflow of affection.

The language of Ruth’s dedication is echoed in Jesus' words to Mary outside the empty tomb: "I am ascending to My Father and your Father, and to My God and your God" (John 20:17). We are privileged to call His Father “Our Father” - so let us pray…

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