In the days when the judges ruled, there was a famine in the land, and a certain man of Bethlehem in Judah went to live in the country of Moab, he and his wife and two sons. The name of the man was Elimelech and the name of his wife Naomi, and the names of his two sons were Mahlon and Chilion; they were Ephrathites from Bethlehem in Judah. They went into the country of Moab and remained there. But Elimelech, the husband of Naomi, died and she was left with her two sons. These took Moabite wives; the name of the one was Orpah and the name of the other Ruth. When they had lived there about ten years, both Mahlon and Chilion also died, so that the woman was left without her two sons and her husband. Then she started to return with her daughters-in-law from the country of Moab, for she had heard in the country of Moab that the Lord had considered his people and given them food. So she set out from the place where she had been living, she and her two daughters-in-law, and they went on their way to go back to the land of Judah. But Naomi said to her two daughters-in-law, “Go back each of you to your mother’s house. May the Lord deal kindly with you, as you have dealt with the dead and with me. The Lord grant that you may find security, each of you in the house of your husband.” Then she kissed them, and they wept aloud. They said to her, “No, we will return with you to your people.” But Naomi said, “Turn back, my daughters, why will you go with me? Do I still have sons in my womb that they may become your husbands? Turn back, my daughters, go your way, for I am to old to have a husband. Even if I thought there was hope for me, even if I should have a husband tonight and bear sons, would you then wait until they were grown? Would you then refrain from marrying? No, my daughters, it has been far more bitter for me than for you, because the hand of the Lord has turned against me.” Then they wept aloud again. Orpah kissed her mother-in-law, but Ruth clung to her. So she said, “See, your sister-in-law has gone back to her people and to her gods; return after your sister-in-law.” But Ruth said, “Do not press me to leave you or to turn back from following you! Where you go, I will go; where you lodge, I will lodge; your people shall be my people, and your God my God. Where you die, I will die–there will I be buried. May the Lord do thus and so to me, and more as well, if even death parts me from you!” When Naomi saw that she was determined to go with her, she said no more to her.
Summary – This lengthy passage is well-known. A Hebrew man Elimelech (“My God is King”) leaves the land of his king to live in Moab, due to a famine. There, his two sons Mahlon (“Sick”) and Chilion (“Wasting Away”) marry Moabite women Ruth (“Female Companion”) and Orpah (“Stubborn-ness”). Elimelech, Mahlon, and Chilion die, leaving three widowed women. Elimelech’s family is from Bethlehem (“House of Bread”), and his widow Naomi (“My Delight”) hears that there is now “bread” (food) in Judah; that the famine is over, so determines to return, leaving her daughters-in-law behind. Despite her reasoning that there are no more “sons in her womb” to be husbands for her widowed daughters-in-law, Ruth promises to follow her wherever she would go. Orpah, on the other hand, stays behind in Moab.
Insight – In the book of Job, we learned about God’s faithfulness to His servant Job, and Job’s faithfulness to the Lord, despite the many trials the Lord allowed Job to experience. We saw that God had a bigger plan the whole time! Now, we start with the book of Ruth, and we find that Naomi was bitter towards God and thought He had turned against her. She lost her husband and her two sons! In her sadness, however, her daughter-in-law Ruth pledges to go with her wherever she goes, live where she lives, and worship her God. God in His mercy provided a “companion” for Naomi who was experiencing trouble, and as we will see in the rest of the book of Ruth, He provides so much more. In all of these stories, we should remember that no matter what we are going through, God has a purpose, and we can trust Him with it.
Child Catechism – Who controls everything, including the difficult things? My all-powerful God.
Discussion – What does Ruth mean when, at the end of her pledge to Naomi, she says, “May the Lord do thus and so to me, and more as well, if even death parts me from you!”? How would death NOT part her from her mother-in-law? What, then, is her inherent vow? (Hint: her declaration here is related to the preceding phrase, “and your God, my God.”)
Prayer – Father, we thank you that though we may have sorrows throughout this life, we may expect your faithfulness and your blessings to us when we need them most and in ways we don’t always expect. By your grace, may we be a faithful people, pursuing your glory in all things. In Christs’ name, Amen.