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Ruth 1:1

Context
A Family Tragedy: Famine and Death

1:1 During the time of the judges 1  there was a famine in the land of Judah. 2  So a man from Bethlehem 3  in Judah went to live as a resident foreigner 4  in the region of Moab, along with his wife and two sons. 5 

Ruth 1:19

Context
1:19 So the two of them 6  journeyed together until they arrived in Bethlehem. 7 

Naomi and Ruth Arrive in Bethlehem

When they entered 8  Bethlehem, 9  the whole village was excited about their arrival. 10  The women of the village said, 11  “Can this be Naomi?” 12 

1 tn Heb “in the days of the judging of the judges.” The LXX simply reads “when the judges judged,” and Syriac has “in the days of the judges.” Cf. NASB “in the days when the judges governed (ruled NRSV).”

sn Many interpreters, reading this statement in the light of the Book of Judges which describes a morally corrupt period, assume that the narrator is painting a dark backdrop against which Ruth’s exemplary character and actions will shine even more brightly. However, others read this statement in the light of the book’s concluding epilogue which traces the full significance of the story to the time of David, the chosen king of Judah (4:18-22).

2 tn Heb “in the land.” The phrase “of Judah” is supplied in the translation to clarify the referent.

3 sn The name Bethlehem (בֵּית לֶחֶם, bet lekhem) is from “house, place” (בֵּית) and “bread, food” (לֶחֶם), so the name literally means “House of Bread” or “Place of Food.” Perhaps there is irony here: One would not expect a severe famine in such a location. This would not necessarily indicate that Bethlehem was under divine discipline, but merely that the famine was very severe, explaining the reason for the family’s departure.

map For location see Map5 B1; Map7 E2; Map8 E2; Map10 B4.

4 tn Or “to live temporarily.” The verb גּוּר (gur, “sojourn”) may refer to (1) temporary dwelling in a location (Deut 18:6; Judg 17:7) or (2) permanent dwelling in a location (Judg 5:17; Ps 33:8). When used of a foreign land, it can refer to (1) temporary dwelling as a visiting foreigner (Gen 12:10; 20:1; 21:34; 2 Kgs 8:1-2; Jer 44:14) or (2) permanent dwelling as a resident foreigner (Gen 47:4; Exod 6:4; Num 15:14; Deut 26:5; 2 Sam 4:3; Jer 49:18,33; 50:40; Ezek 47:22-23). Although Naomi eventually returned to Judah, there is some ambiguity whether or not Elimelech intended the move to make them permanent resident foreigners. Cf. NASB “to sojourn” and NIV “to live for a while,” both of which imply the move was temporary, while “to live” (NCV, NRSV, NLT) is more neutral about the permanence of the relocation.

sn Some interpreters view Elimelech’s departure from Judah to sojourn in Moab as lack of faith in the covenant God of Israel to provide for his family’s needs in the land of promise; therefore his death is consequently viewed as divine judgment. Others note that God never prohibited his people from seeking food in a foreign land during times of famine but actually sent his people to a foreign land during a famine in Canaan on at least one occasion as an act of deliverance (Gen 37-50). In this case, Elimelech’s sojourn to Moab was an understandable act by a man concerned for the survival of his family, perhaps even under divine approval, so their death in Moab was simply a tragedy, a bad thing that happened to a godly person.

5 tn Heb “he and his wife and his two sons.” The LXX omits “two.”

6 tn The suffix “them” appears to be masculine, but it is probably an archaic dual form (E. F. Campbell, Ruth [AB], 65; F. W. Bush, Ruth, Esther [WBC], 75-76).

7 map For location see Map5 B1; Map7 E2; Map8 E2; Map10 B4.

8 tn The temporal indicator וַיְהִי (vayÿhi, “and it was”) here introduces a new scene.

9 map For location see Map5 B1; Map7 E2; Map8 E2; Map10 B4.

10 tn Heb “because of them” (so NASB, NIV, NRSV); CEV “excited to see them.”

11 tn Heb “they said,” but the verb form is third person feminine plural, indicating that the women of the village are the subject.

12 tn Heb “Is this Naomi?” (so KJV, NASB, NRSV). The question here expresses surprise and delight because of the way Naomi reacts to it (F. W. Bush, Ruth, Esther [WBC], 92).



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