Ruth is my hero. She is strong and determined – nothing slows her down!
- Ruth’s Determination (1:6–18)
With nothing to keep her in Moab, Naomi prepared to return to Bethlehem. News had reached her that Yahweh had visited (pāqaḏ, niv’s“come to the aid of”) Judah. This is covenant language, often used to denote divine activity that may be positive or negative depending on the circumstances when God arrives. “When God visits, everything depends on the state of affairs He finds” (Cundall and Morris, 252).
Having lost every source of security and comfort, Naomi was returning to a life of loneliness and despair. As much as she must have longed to take her daughters-in-law with her, she realized the sacrifice involved. Marriage was the only career available for a woman in the ancient Near East and the only source of stability and security. Moabite women living in Judah would have few suitors. But if they remained in Moab, their chances for a new life were much better. For this reason, Naomi took it upon herself to remove her last source of comfort—her daughters-in-law (vv. 8-9).
At their refusal to say good-bye (v. 10), Naomi countered with the impracticality, even impossibility, of their experiencing a life of joy and security with her. Her reference is to the OT practice of levirate marriage, whereby the brother of a deceased (and childless) man marries the widow in order to raise up an heir for the deceased (Dt 25:5-6). But since in this case there were no more brothers, nor prospects for more, Naomi insisted that the two young women seek marriage in their homeland (vv. 11-13).
The author of this book expresses his theology through the speeches of his characters. Naomi’s “The Lord’s hand has gone out against me!” (v. 13) reflects the main theological motif of the book; viz., with Yahweh, there is no such thing as happenstance.
There is nothing in the text that leads us to condemn Orpah for obeying her mother-in-law. Instead, v. 14 contrasts her with Ruth to heighten the surpassing love and commitment of Ruth. One simply chose “to become a wife again, the other to remain a daughter” (Cassel, 19). Ruth’s expression of devotion (vv. 16-17) has become classic. Her decision to be buried in Naomi’s homeland reflects a commitment of life itself. Even in death, Ruth will never abandon Naomi.
Source: Biblegateway: Asbury Bible Commentary
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