Ruth 1 Bible Commentary

John Wesley’s Explanatory Notes

(Read all of Ruth 1)

Verse 1

[1] Now it came to pass in the days when the judges ruled, that there was a famine in the land. And a certain man of Bethlehemjudah went to sojourn in the country of Moab, he, and his wife, and his two sons.

In the land — Of Canaan. It must be early: for Boaz was born of Rahab. So Christ descended from two Gentile mothers.

Verse 2

[2] And the name of the man was Elimelech, and the name of his wife Naomi, and the name of his two sons Mahlon and Chilion, Ephrathites of Bethlehemjudah. And they came into the country of Moab, and continued there.

Ephrathites — Bethlehem was otherwise called Ephratha. Naomi signifies my amiable or pleasant one: Mahlon and Chilon signify sickness and consumption. Probably they were sickly children, and not likely to be long-lived. Such are the products of our pleasant things, weak and infirm, fading and dying.

Verse 4

[4] And they took them wives of the women of Moab; the name of the one was Orpah, and the name of the other Ruth: and they dwelled there about ten years.

Took wives — Either these were Proselytes when they married them, or they sinned in marrying them, and therefore were punished with short life, and want of issue.

Verse 5

[5] And Mahlon and Chilion died also both of them; and the woman was left of her two sons and her husband.

Was left of her two sons, and her husband — Loss of children and widowhood are both come upon her. By whom shall she be comforted? It is God alone that is able to comfort those who are thus cast down.

Verse 6

[6] Then she arose with her daughters in law, that she might return from the country of Moab: for she had heard in the country of Moab how that the LORD had visited his people in giving them bread.

Bread — That is, food; so she staid no longer there than necessity forced her.

Verse 8

[8] And Naomi said unto her two daughters in law, Go, return each to her mother's house: the LORD deal kindly with you, as ye have dealt with the dead, and with me.

Mother's house — Because daughters used to converse more frequently with their mothers, and to dwell in the same apartments with them, which then were distinct from those parts of the house where the men dwelt.

The dead — With my sons, your husbands, while they lived.

Verse 11

[11] And Naomi said, Turn again, my daughters: why will ye go with me? are there yet any more sons in my womb, that they may be your husbands?

Your husbands — According to the ancient custom, Genesis 38:8, and the express law of God, Deuteronomy 25:5, which doubtless she had acquainted them with before, among other branches of the Jewish religion.

Verse 13

[13] Would ye tarry for them till they were grown? would ye stay for them from having husbands? nay, my daughters; for it grieveth me much for your sakes that the hand of the LORD is gone out against me.

It grieveth me — That you are left without the comfort of husbands or children; that I must part with such affectionate daughters; and that my circumstances are such, that I cannot invite you to go alone with me. For her condition was so mean at this time, that Ruth, when she came to her mother's city, was forced to glean for a living. It is with me, that God has a controversy. This language becomes us, when we are under affliction; tho' many others share in the trouble, yet we are to hear the voice of the rod, as if it spake only to us. But did not she wish to bring them to the worship of the God of Israel? Undoubtedly she did. But she would have them first consider upon what terms, lest having set their hand to the plow, they should look back.

Verse 14

[14] And they lifted up their voice, and wept again: and Orpah kissed her mother in law; but Ruth clave unto her.

Kissed — Departed from her with a kiss. Bade her farewell for ever. She loved Naomi, but she did not love her so well, as to quit her country for her sake. Thus many have a value for Christ, and yet come short of salvation by him, because they cannot find in their hearts, to forsake other things for him. They love him, and yet leave him, because they do not love him enough, but love other things better.

Verse 15

[15] And she said, Behold, thy sister in law is gone back unto her people, and unto her gods: return thou after thy sister in law.

To her gods — Those that forsake the communion of saints, will certainly break off their communion with God. This she saith, to try Ruth's sincerity and constancy, and that she might intimate to her, that if she went with her, she must embrace the true religion.

Verse 17

[17] Where thou diest, will I die, and there will I be buried: the LORD do so to me, and more also, if ought but death part thee and me.

There will I be buried — Not desiring to have so much as her dead body carried back into the land of Moab: but Naomi and she having joined souls, she desires they may mingle dust, in hopes of rising together, and remaining together for ever.

Verse 18

[18] When she saw that she was stedfastly minded to go with her, then she left speaking unto her.

Left speaking unto her — See the power of resolution! Those who are half-resolved, are like a door a-jar, which invites a thief. But resolution shuts and bolts he door, and then the devil flees from us.

Verse 19

[19] So they two went until they came to Bethlehem. And it came to pass, when they were come to Bethlehem, that all the city was moved about them, and they said, Is this Naomi?

Is this — Is this she that formerly lived in so much plenty and honour? How marvelously is her condition changed?

Verse 20

[20] And she said unto them, Call me not Naomi, call me Mara: for the Almighty hath dealt very bitterly with me.

Naomi — Which signifies pleasant, and chearful.

Mara — Which signifies bitter or sorrowful.

Verse 21

[21] I went out full, and the LORD hath brought me home again empty: why then call ye me Naomi, seeing the LORD hath testified against me, and the Almighty hath afflicted me?

Full — With my husband and sons, and a plentiful estate for our support.

Testified — That is, hath borne witness, as it were, in judgment, and given sentence against me.