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Ruth 1:15-22

Context
1:15 So Naomi 1  said, “Look, your sister-in-law is returning to her people and to her god. 2  Follow your sister-in-law back home!” 1:16 But Ruth replied,

“Stop urging me to abandon you! 3 

For wherever you go, I will go.

Wherever you live, I will live.

Your people will become my people,

and your God will become my God.

1:17 Wherever you die, I will die – and there I will be buried.

May the Lord punish me severely if I do not keep my promise! 4 

Only death will be able to separate me from you!” 5 

1:18 When Naomi 6  realized that Ruth 7  was determined to go with her, she stopped trying to dissuade her. 8  1:19 So the two of them 9  journeyed together until they arrived in Bethlehem. 10 

Naomi and Ruth Arrive in Bethlehem

When they entered 11  Bethlehem, 12  the whole village was excited about their arrival. 13  The women of the village said, 14  “Can this be Naomi?” 15  1:20 But she replied 16  to them, 17  “Don’t call me ‘Naomi’! 18  Call me ‘Mara’ 19  because the Sovereign One 20  has treated me very harshly. 21  1:21 I left here full, 22  but the Lord has caused me to return empty-handed. 23  Why do you call me ‘Naomi,’ seeing that 24  the Lord has opposed me, 25  and the Sovereign One 26  has caused me to suffer?” 27  1:22 So Naomi returned, accompanied by her Moabite daughter-in-law Ruth, who came back with her from the region of Moab. 28  (Now they 29  arrived in Bethlehem at the beginning of the barley harvest.) 30 

1 tn Heb “she”; the referent (Naomi) has been specified in the translation for clarity.

2 tn Or “gods” (so KJV, NASB, NIV, NRSV, CEV, NLT), if the plural form is taken as a numerical plural. However, it is likely that Naomi, speaking from Orpah’s Moabite perspective, uses the plural of majesty of the Moabite god Chemosh. For examples of the plural of majesty being used of a pagan god, see BDB 43 s.v. אֱלֹהִים 1.d. Note especially 1 Kgs 11:33, where the plural form is used of Chemosh.

3 tn Heb “do not urge me to abandon you to turn back from after you.” Most English versions, following the lead of the KJV, use “leave” here. The use of עזב (“abandon”) reflects Ruth’s perspective. To return to Moab would be to abandon Naomi and to leave her even more vulnerable than she already is.

4 tn Heb “Thus may the Lord do to me and thus may he add…” The construction וְכֹה יֹסִיףכֹּה יַעֲשֶׂה (koh yaaseh...vÿkhoh yosif, “May he do thus…and may he do even more so…!”) is an oath formula of self-imprecation (e.g., 1 Sam 3:17; 14:44; 20:13; 25:22; 2 Sam 3:9,35; 19:14; 1 Kgs 2:23; 2 Kgs 6:31). In this formula the exact curse is understood but not expressed (GKC 472 §149.d; BDB 462 s.v. כֹּה 1.b). In ancient Near Eastern imprecations, when the curse was so extreme, it was not uttered because it was unspeakably awful: “In the twelve uses of this formula, the calamity which the speaker invokes is never named, since OT culture (in keeping with the rest of the ancient Near East) accorded such power to the spoken word” (F. W. Bush, Ruth, Esther [WBC], 82). Ruth here pronounces a curse upon herself, elevating the preceding promise to a formal, unconditional level. If she is not faithful to her promise, she agrees to become an object of divine judgment. As in other occurrences of this oath/curse formula, the specific punishment is not mentioned. As Bush explains, the particle כִּי (ki) here is probably asseverative (“indeed, certainly”) and the statement that follows expresses what underscores the seriousness of her promise by invoking divine judgment, as it were, if she does otherwise. Of course, the Lord would not have been obligated to judge her if she had abandoned Naomi – this is simply an ancient idiomatic way of expressing her commitment to her promise.

5 tn Heb “certainly death will separate me and you.” Ruth’s vow has been interpreted two ways: (1) Not even death will separate her from Naomi – because they will be buried next to one another (e.g., NRSV, NCV; see E. F. Campbell, Ruth [AB], 74-75). However, for the statement to mean, “Not even death will separate me and you,” it would probably need to be introduced by אִם (’im, “if”) or negated by לֹא (lo’, “not”; see F. W. Bush, Ruth, Esther [WBC], 83). (2) Nothing except death will separate her from Naomi (e.g., KJV, ASV, RSV, NASB, NIV, TEV, NJPS, REB, NLT, GW; see Bush, 83). The particle כִּי introduces the content of the vow, which – if violated – would bring about the curse uttered in the preceding oath (BDB 472 s.v. כִּי 1.c; e.g., Gen 42:16; Num 14:22; 1 Sam 20:3; 26:16; 29:6; 2 Sam 3:35; 1 Kgs 2:23; Isa 49:18). Some suggest that כּי is functioning as an asseverative (“indeed, certainly”) to express what the speaker is determined will happen (Bush, 83; see 1 Sam 14:44; 2 Sam 3:9; 1 Kgs 2:23; 19:2). Here כִּי probably functions in a conditional sense: “if” or “if…except, unless” (BDB 473 s.v. כִּי2.b). So her vow may essentially mean “if anything except death should separate me from you!” The most likely view is (2): Ruth is swearing that death alone will separate her from Naomi.

sn Ruth’s devotion to Naomi is especially apparent here. Instead of receiving a sure blessing and going home (see v. 8), Ruth instead takes on a serious responsibility and subjects herself to potential divine punishment. Death, a power beyond Ruth’s control, will separate the two women, but until that time Ruth will stay by Naomi’s side and she will even be buried in the same place as Naomi.

6 tn Heb “she”; the referent (Naomi) has been specified in the translation for clarity.

7 tn Heb “she”; the referent (Ruth) has been specified in the translation for clarity.

8 tn Heb “she ceased speaking to her.” This does not imply that Naomi was completely silent toward Ruth. It simply means that Naomi stopped trying to convince her to go back to Moab (see F. W. Bush, Ruth, Esther [WBC], 84-85).

9 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).

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

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

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

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

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

15 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).

16 tn Heb “said.” For stylistic reasons the present translation employs “replied” here.

17 tn The third person feminine plural form of the pronominal suffix indicates the women of the village (see v. 19) are the addressees.

18 sn The name Naomi means “pleasant.”

19 sn The name Mara means “bitter.”

20 tn Heb “Shaddai”; traditionally “the Almighty.” The etymology and meaning of this divine name is uncertain. It may be derived from: (1) שָׁדַד (shadad, “to be strong”), cognate to Arabic sdd, meaning “The Strong One” or “Almighty”; (2) שָׁדָה (shadah, “mountain”), cognate to Akkadian shadu, meaning “The Mountain Dweller” or “God of the Mountains”; (3) שָׁדַד (shadad, “to devastate”) and שַׁד (shad, “destroyer”), Akkadian Shedum, meaning “The Destroyer” or “The Malevolent One”; or (4) שֶׁ (she, “who”) plus דִּי (diy, “sufficient”), meaning “The One Who is Sufficient” or “All-Sufficient One” (HALOT 1420-22 s.v. שַׁדַּי, שַׁדָּי). In terms of use, Shaddai (or El Shaddai) is presented as the sovereign king/judge of the world who grants life/blesses and kills/judges. In Genesis he blesses the patriarchs with fertility and promises numerous descendants. Outside Genesis he blesses/protects and also takes away life/happiness. In light of Naomi’s emphasis on God’s sovereign, malevolent deprivation of her family, one can understand her use of this name for God. For discussion of this divine name, see T. N. D. Mettinger, In Search of God, 69-72.

21 tn Or “caused me to be very bitter”; NAB “has made it very bitter for me.”

22 sn I left here full. That is, with a husband and two sons.

23 tn Heb “but empty the Lord has brought me back.” The disjunctive clause structure (vav + adverb + verb + subject) highlights the contrast between her former condition and present situation. Cf. TEV “has brought me back without a thing.”

sn Empty-handed. This statement is highly ironic, for ever-loyal Ruth stands by her side even as she speaks these words. These words reflect Naomi’s perspective, not the narrator’s, for Ruth will eventually prove to be the one who reverses Naomi’s plight and “fills” her “emptiness.” Naomi’s perspective will prove to be inaccurate and the women will later correct Naomi’s faulty view of Ruth’s value (see 4:15).

24 tn The disjunctive clause structure (vav [ו] + subject + verb) here introduces either an attendant circumstance (“when the Lord has opposed me”) or an explanation (“seeing that the Lord has opposed me”).

25 tc The LXX reads “humbled me” here, apparently understanding the verb as a Piel (עָנָה, ’anah) from a homonymic root meaning “afflict.” However, עָנָה (“afflict”) never introduces its object with בְּ (bet); when the preposition בְּ is used with this verb, it is always adverbial (“in, with, through”). To defend the LXX reading one would have to eliminate the preposition.

tn Heb “has testified against me” (KJV, ASV both similar); NAB “has pronounced against me.” The idiom עָנַה בִי (’anah viy, “testify against”) is well attested elsewhere in legal settings (see BDB 773 s.v. עָנָה Qal.3.a; HALOT 852 s.v. I ענה qal.2). Naomi uses a legal metaphor and depicts the Lord as testifying against her in court.

26 sn The divine name translated Sovereign One is שַׁדַּי (shadday, “Shaddai”). See further the note on this term in Ruth 1:20.

27 tn Or “brought disaster upon me”; NIV “brought misfortune (calamity NRSV) upon me”; NLT “has sent such tragedy.”

28 tn Heb “and Naomi returned, and Ruth the Moabitess, her daughter-in-law, with her, the one who returned from the region of Moab.”

sn This summarizing statement provides closure to the first part of the story. By highlighting Ruth’s willingness to return with Naomi, it also contrasts sharply with Naomi’s remark about being empty-handed.

29 tn The pronoun appears to be third person masculine plural in form, but it is probably an archaic third person dual form (see F. W. Bush, Ruth, Esther [WBC], 94).

30 tn This statement, introduced with a disjunctive structure (vav [ו] + subject + verb) provides closure for the previous scene, while at the same time making a transition to the next scene, which takes place in the barley field. The reference to the harvest also reminds the reader that God has been merciful to his people by replacing the famine with fertility. In the flow of the narrative the question is now, “Will he do the same for Naomi and Ruth?”

sn The barley harvest began in late March. See O. Borowski, Agriculture in Iron Age Israel, 91.



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