1:14 Again they wept loudly. 1 Then Orpah kissed her mother-in-law goodbye, 2 but Ruth 3 clung tightly to her. 4 1:15 So Naomi 5 said, “Look, your sister-in-law is returning to her people and to her god. 6 Follow your sister-in-law back home!” 1:16 But Ruth replied,
“Stop urging me to abandon you! 7
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! 8
Only death will be able to separate me from you!” 9
2 tc The LXX adds, “and she returned to her people” (cf. TEV “and went back home”). Translating the Greek of the LXX back to Hebrew would read a consonantal text of ותשׁב אל־עמה. Most dismiss this as a clarifying addition added under the influence of v. 15, but this alternative reading should not be rejected too quickly. It is possible that a scribe’s eye jumped from the initial vav on ותשׁב (“and she returned”) to the initial vav on the final clause (וְרוּת [vÿrut], “and Ruth”), inadvertently leaving out the intervening words, “and she returned to her people.” Or a scribe’s eye could have jumped from the final he on לַחֲמוֹתָהּ (lakhamotah, “to her mother-in-law”) to the final he on עַמָּהּ (’ammah, “her people”), leaving out the intervening words, “and she returned to her people.”
3 tn The clause is disjunctive. The word order is conjunction + subject + verb, highlighting the contrast between the actions of Orpah and Ruth.
sn Orpah is a literary foil for Ruth. Orpah is a commendable and devoted person (see v. 8); after all she is willing to follow Naomi back to Judah. However, when Naomi bombards her with good reasons why she should return, she relents. But Ruth is special. Despite Naomi’s bitter tirade, she insists on staying. Orpah is a good person, but Ruth is beyond good – she possesses an extra measure of devotion and sacrificial love that is uncommon.
4 sn Clung tightly. The expression suggests strong commitment (see R. L. Hubbard, Jr., Ruth [NICOT], 115).
5 tn Heb “she”; the referent (Naomi) has been specified in the translation for clarity.
6 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.
7 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.
8 tn Heb “Thus may the
9 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.