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Ruth 1:11-13

Context

1:11 But Naomi replied, “Go back home, my daughters! There is no reason for you to return to Judah with me! 1  I am no longer capable of giving birth to sons who might become your husbands! 2  1:12 Go back home, my daughters! For I am too old to get married again. 3  Even if I thought that there was hope that I could get married tonight and conceive sons, 4  1:13 surely you would not want to wait until they were old enough to marry! 5  Surely you would not remain unmarried all that time! 6  No, 7  my daughters, you must not return with me. 8  For my intense suffering 9  is too much for you to bear. 10  For the Lord is afflicting me!” 11 

1 tn Heb “Why would you want to come with me?” Naomi’s rhetorical question expects a negative answer. The phrase “to Judah” is added in the translation for clarification.

2 tn Heb “Do I still have sons in my inner parts that they might become your husbands?” Again Naomi’s rhetorical question expects a negative answer.

3 sn Too old to get married again. Naomi may be exaggerating for the sake of emphasis. Her point is clear, though: It is too late to roll back the clock.

4 tn Verse 12b contains the protasis (“if” clause) of a conditional sentence, which is completed by the rhetorical questions in v. 13. For a detailed syntactical analysis, see F. W. Bush, Ruth, Esther (WBC), 78-79.

5 tn Heb “For them would you wait until they were grown?” Some understand הֲלָהֵן (halahen) as an interrogative he (ה) with an Aramaic particle meaning “therefore” (see GKC 301 §103.b.2 [n. 4]; cf. ASV, NASB), while others understand the form to consist of an interrogative he, the preposition ל (lamed, “for”), and an apparent third person feminine plural pronominal suffix (CEV, NLT “for them”). The feminine suffix is problematic, for its antecedent is the hypothetical “sons” mentioned at the end of v. 12. For this reason some emend the form to הלתם (“for them,” a third person masculine plural suffix). R. L. Hubbard raises the possibility that the nunated suffix is an archaic Moabite masculine dual form (Ruth [NICOT], 111, n. 31). In any case, Naomi’s rhetorical question expects a negative answer.

6 tn Heb “For them would you hold yourselves back so as not to be for a man?” Again Naomi’s rhetorical question expects a negative answer. The verb עָגַן (’agan, “hold back”; cf. KJV, ASV “stay”; NRSV “refrain”) occurs only here in the OT. For discussion of its etymology and meaning, see HALOT 785-86 s.v. עגן, and F. W. Bush, Ruth, Esther (WBC), 79-80.

7 tn The negative is used here in an elliptical manner for emphasis (see HALOT 48 s.v. I אַל; GKC 479-80 §152.g).

8 tn Heb “No, my daughters.” Naomi is not answering the rhetorical questions she has just asked. In light of the explanatory clause that follows, it seems more likely that she is urging them to give up the idea of returning with her. In other words, the words “no, my daughters” complement the earlier exhortation to “go back.” To clarify this, the words “you must not return with me” are added in the translation.

9 tn Heb “bitterness to me.” The term מָרַר (marar) can refer to emotional bitterness: “to feel bitter” (1 Sam 30:6; 2 Kgs 4:27; Lam 1:4) or a grievous situation: “to be in bitter circumstances” (Jer 4:18) (BDB 600 s.v.; HALOT 638 s.v. I מרר). So the expression מַר־לִי (mar-li) can refer to emotional bitterness (KJV, NKJV, ASV, RSV, NASB, NIV, NJPS, CEV, NLT) or a grievous situation (cf. NRSV, NAB, NCV, CEV margin). Although Naomi and her daughters-in-law had reason for emotional grief, the issue at hand was Naomi’s lamentable situation, which she did not want them to experience: being a poor widow in a foreign land.

10 tn Heb “for there is bitterness to me exceedingly from you.” The clause כִּי־מַר־לִי מְאֹד מִכֶּם (ki-mar-li meod mikkem) is notoriously difficult to interpret. It has been taken in three different ways: (1) “For I am very bitter for me because of you,” that is, because of your widowed condition (cf. KJV, NKJV, ASV, RSV, NJB, REB, JB, TEV). This does not fit well, however, with the following statement (“for the LORD has attacked me”) nor with the preceding statement (“You must not return with me”). (2) “For I am far more bitter than for you” (cf. NASB, NIV, NJPS, NEB, CEV, NLT). This does not provide an adequate basis, however, for the preceding statement (“You must not return with me”). (3) “For my bitterness is too much for you [to bear]” (cf. NAB, NRSV, NCV, CEV margin). This is preferable because it fits well with both the preceding and following statements. These three options reflect the three ways the preposition מן may be taken here: (1) causal: “because of, on account of” (BDB 580 s.v. מִן 2.f; HALOT 598 s.v. מִן 6), not that Orpah and Ruth were the cause of her calamity, but that Naomi was grieved because they had become widows; (2) comparative: “more [bitter] than you” (BDB 581 s.v. 6.a; HALOT 598 s.v. 5b), meaning that Naomi’s situation was more grievous than theirs – while they could remarry, her prospects were much more bleak; and (3) elative, describing a situation that is too much for a person to bear: “too [bitter] for you” (BDB 581 s.v. 6.d; HALOT 598 s.v. 5a; IBHS 267 §14.4f; e.g., Gen 4:13; Exod 18:18; Deut 17:8; 1 Kgs 19:17), meaning that Naomi’s plight was too bitter for her daughters-in-law to share. While all three options are viable, the meaning adopted must fit two criteria: (1) The meaning of this clause (1:13b) must provide the grounds for Naomi’s emphatic rejection of the young women’s refusal to separate themselves from her (1:13a); and (2) it must fit the following clause: “for the hand of the LORD has gone out against me” (1:13c). The first and second options do not provide adequate reasons for sending her daughters-in-law back home, nor do they fit her lament that the LORD had attached her (not them); however, the third option (elative sense) fits both criteria. Naomi did not want her daughters-in-law to share her sad situation, that is, to be poor, childless widows in a foreign land with no prospect for marriage. If they accompanied her back to Judah, they would be in the same kind of situation in which she found herself in Moab. If they were to find the “rest” (security of home and husband) she wished for them, it would be in Moab, not in Judah. The Lord had already deprived her of husband and sons. She could do nothing for them in this regard because she had no more sons to give them as husbands, and she was past the age of child-bearing to raise up new husbands for them in the future – as if they could wait that long anyway (1:13a). For a discussion of these three options and defense of the approach adopted here, see F. W. Bush, Ruth, Esther (WBC), 80-81.

11 tn Heb “for the hand of the Lord has gone out against me” (KJV, ASV, NASB, NIV all similar). The expression suggests opposition and hostility, perhaps picturing the Lord as the Divine Warrior who is bringing calamity upon Naomi. See R. L. Hubbard, Jr., Ruth (NICOT), 113.



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