Now it came to pass in the days when the judges ruled, that there was a famine in the land. And a certain man of Bethlehemjudah went to sojourn in the country of Moab, he, and his wife, and his two sons.
Heb. judged. a famine.
And the name of the man was Elimelech, and the name of his wife Naomi, and the name of his two sons Mahlon and Chilion, Ephrathites of Bethlehemjudah. And they came into the country of Moab, and continued there.
The Rabbins say, that Elimelech was the son of Salmon, who married Rahab; and that Naomi was his niece.
It is imagined, and not without probability, that Mahlon and Chilion are the same with Joash and Saraph, mentioned in 1 Ch 4:22.
And Elimelech Naomi's husband died; and she was left, and her two sons.
and she was
And they took them wives of the women of Moab; the name of the one was Orpah, and the name of the other Ruth: and they dwelled there about ten years.
The Targum says, "they transgressed the decree of the word of the Lord, and took to them strange women."
And Mahlon and Chilion died also both of them; and the woman was left of her two sons and her husband.
A. M. 2696. B.C. 1308. An. Ex. Is. 183. Mahlon
The Targum adds, "And because they transgressed the decree of the word of the Lord, and joined affinity with strange people, therefore their days were cut off."
and the woman
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 daughters in law with her; and they went on the way to return unto the land of Judah.
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.
And they said unto her, Surely we will return with thee unto thy people.
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?
This alludes to the custom that when a married brother died, without leaving posterity, his brother should take his widow; and the children of such marriages were accounted those of the deceased brother. This address of Naomi to her daughter-in-law is exceedingly tender, persuasive, and affecting.
Turn again, my daughters, go your way; for I am too old to have an husband. If I should say, I have hope, if I should have an husband also to night, and should also bear sons;
I should have
or, I were with.
Would ye tarry for them till they were grown? would ye stay for them from having husbands? nay, my daughters; for it grieveth me much for your sakes that the hand of the LORD is gone out against me.
Heb. hope. it grieveth me much. Heb. I have much bitterness. the hand.
And they lifted up their voice, and wept again: and Orpah kissed her mother in law; but Ruth clave unto her.
The LXX. add, [kai epestrepsen eis ton laon autes] "and returned to her own people." The Vulgate, Syriac, and Arabic are to the same purpose. It seems a very natural addition, and agrees with the assertion in the next verse; and is accordingly adopted by Houbigant as a part of the text.
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.
They were probably both idolaters at this time. That they were proselytes is an unfounded conjecture; and the conversion of Ruth now only commenced.
And Ruth said, Intreat 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:
A more perfect surrender of friendly feelings to a friend was never made. This was a most extraordinary and disinterested attachment.
Intreat me not
or, Be not against me. to leave.
Where thou diest, will I die, and there will I be buried: the LORD do so to me, and more also, if ought but death part thee and me.
When she saw that she was stedfastly minded to go with her, then she left speaking unto her.
was stedfastly minded
Heb. strengthened herself.
So they two went until they came to Bethlehem. And it came to pass, when they were come to Bethlehem, that all the city was moved about them, and they said, Is this Naomi?
all the city
From this it would appear that Naomi was not only well known, but also highly respected at Beth-lehem: a proof that Elimelech was of high consideration at that place.
And she said unto them, Call me not Naomi, call me Mara: for the Almighty hath dealt very bitterly with me.
that is, Pleasant. Mara. that is, Bitter. the Almighty.
I went out full, and the LORD hath brought me home again empty: why then call ye me Naomi, seeing the LORD hath testified against me, and the Almighty hath afflicted me?
So Naomi returned, and Ruth the Moabitess, her daughter in law, with her, which returned out of the country of Moab: and they came to Bethlehem in the beginning of barley harvest.
in the beginning
At the beginning of Spring; for the barley harvest began immediately after the passover, and that festival was held on the 15th of Nisan, corresponding nearly with our March.