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Ruth 1:4

Context
1:4 So her sons 1  married 2  Moabite women. (One was named Orpah and the other Ruth.) 3  And they continued to live there about ten years.

Ruth 1:16-17

Context
1:16 But Ruth replied,

“Stop urging me to abandon you! 4 

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! 5 

Only death will be able to separate me from you!” 6 

Ruth 1:22

Context
1:22 So Naomi returned, accompanied by her Moabite daughter-in-law Ruth, who came back with her from the region of Moab. 7  (Now they 8  arrived in Bethlehem at the beginning of the barley harvest.) 9 

1 tn Heb “they.” The verb is 3rd person masculine plural referring to Naomi’s sons, as the translation indicates.

2 tn Heb “and they lifted up for themselves Moabite wives.” When used with the noun “wife,” the verb נָשָׂא (nasa’, “to lift up, carry, take”) forms the idiom “to take a wife,” that is, to marry (BDB 673 s.v. Qal.3.d; 2 Chr 11:21; 13:21; 24:3; Ezra 9:2,12; 10:44; Neh 13:25).

3 tn Heb “the name of the one [was] Orpah and the name of the second [was] Ruth.”

sn The name Orpah (עָרְפָּה, ’orpah) is from the noun עֹרֶף (’oref, “back of the neck”) and the related verb (“to turn one’s back”). The name Ruth (רוּת, rut) is from the noun רְעוּת (rÿut, “friendship”), derived from the root רֵעַ (rea’, “friend, companion”). Ironically, Orpah will eventually turn her back on Naomi, while Ruth will display extraordinary friendship as her life-long companion (see 1:14). Since they seem to mirror the most definitive action of these women, perhaps they designate character types (as is the case with the name Mara in 1:21 and Peloni Almoni in 4:2) rather than their original birth names.

4 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.

5 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.

6 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.

7 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.

8 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).

9 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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