OceanSide church of Christ

 Previous Return to The Book of Ruth Next 



To Moab and Back (4)

Ruth 1:19-22

Victor M. Eskew




A.   The Arrival (Ruth 1:19a)


So they two went until they came to Bethlehem…


1.     The journey

a.    The journey would have taken at least four or five days.

b.    “They had to traverse difficult terrain, descending 4,500 feet from the mountains of Moab to the Jordan Valley and then ascending 3,750 feet through the hills of Judah” (Stewart, 48).

c.    They two went – “From this point on, we no longer have Naomi as solely responsible for the decision to return.  Neither do we have Ruth going with Naomi merely as a result of Naomi’s decision to return to Bethlehem.  We have two independent women, having made their own independent choice with their own free will” (Peipman, 112).

d.    Bethlehem

1)     This was Naomi’s past home (See Ruth 1:21), and was Ruth’s future home.

2)    “In this short period of time, Naomi and Ruth swapped places.  Naomi had been a stranger in the foreign land of Moab, but now Ruth is an alien in the land of Israel” (Stewart, 48).

3)     A new era was about to start in the lives of both Naomi and Ruth.

4)    Lesson:  No one’s life goes backward or is restored.  Naomi could not walk back into her past even though she walked back into the place of her past.


B.   The Attitude (Ruth 1:19b)


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?


1.     The author repeats that they arrived in Bethlehem in order to emphasize their arrival.

2.    Naomi’s appearance disrupted the routines of the day.  Her coming back to Bethlehem caused a great commotion in the city.

a.    All the city was moved

1)     “Was moved” means was “excited, confounded, perplexed, stirred, disturbed.”

2)    The Hebrew word is “hum,” and this is what was created in Bethlehem, a hum or a buzz.

a)    The earth resounded (I Sam. 4:5)

b)    In an uproar (I Kings 1:45)

3)     Neilson remarks that the sight of Naomi and Ruth “sets tongues wagging among the women of Bethlehem” (as quoted by Stewart, 49).

3.     Is this Naomi?

a.    The question was filled with joy, surprise, and disbelief.

b.    They recognized her, but she had changed.

1)     Went out full – came back empty

2)    Left with three men – returned with one woman of Moab

3)     Departed in her prime – time and circumstances had aged her

4)    She left the land of God – did she still have faith in God?

c.    We need to remember what Naomi means.  It is defined as “pleasant” or “sweet.”


C.   The Affliction (Ruth 1:20-21)


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


1.     There are many poetic devices used in these two verses.

a.    The words “Almighty” and “Lord” alternate in an ABBA pattern.

b.    Repetition:  “call me Naomi”

c.    Contrasts between Naomi and Mara, full and empty

d.    Synonyms for the affliction that Naomi had received from God.

2.    When Naomi heard her name, probably spoken many times by many people, upon her return, she was reminded of the name’s meaning, “pleasant” or “sweet.”

a.    The terms were no longer appropriate.

b.    Her sweetness had been turned into bitterness.

c.    She requests to be called “Mara” which means “bitterness.”

1)     Antithetic parallelism:  Naomi versus Mara

2)    Synonymous parallelism:  Mara versus very bitterly

3.     Four times she acknowledges the Lord’s hand in her affliction.

a.    The Almighty has dealt very bitterly with me

b.    The Lord hath brought me home again empty

c.    The Lord hath testified against me

d.    The Almighty hath afflicted me

4.    Three points:

a.    The afflictions

1)     Dealt very bitterly with me

a)    The words “very bitterly” involve vehemence, irritability and grief, along with bitterness

b)    See Job 27:2


…and the Almighty, who hath vexed my spirit.


2)    Brought me home again empty

a)    Naomi had left a land that was empty of food while she was full.  She returned to a land that was full, but she was empty.

b)    She is speaking of her family.  She left with a husband and two sons.  Now she is empty, having no family (See Gen. 32:10).

c)    It seems that she does not realize the treasure she has in Ruth (See Ruth 4:15).


…for thy daughter in law, which loveth thee, which is better to thee than seven sons, hath born him.


3)     Testified against me

a)    She puts God in an adversarial role against her.

b)    “This language brings to mind a prosecution leveling charges against a defendant in court” (Stewart, 53).

4)    Has afflicted me

a)    Definition:  to hurt, do injury, to bring evil upon

b)    It can also mean “to break in pieces.”

b.    The Almighty

1)     The Hebrew word is “shadday” or “Shaddai.”

2)    It comes from a word meaning “mountain.”

3)     J.A. Motyer:  “The God who is at his best when man was at his worst” (as quoted by Motyer, 52).

c.    The Analysis

1)     The words that Naomi uses seem very strong to us.  She makes accusa-tions against God.  Those of us who are Christians would never make such statements against God.

2)    There are several explanations that could be set forth.

a)    The inspired writers often record the words of a Biblical character without commenting on the correctness of its theological content.

b)    Naomi was free to make such charges, but she was “not allowed to curse God, charge Him with sin, or reject the reality of the situation” (Stewart, 51).

c)    The Jews viewed God somewhat differently than we do today.  They saw him as the “Almighty God.”  He was in control of all things.  Thus, they acknowledge that the things that happened to them came from the hand of God.  She was not seeking to be disrespectful of God at all.

-       She had not rejected God, even though she was afflicted.

-       She had just returned to the “house of God,” Bethlehem.

-       In her acknowledgement of God, she calls him shadday, the Almighty Sovereign.

-       She would continue to acknowledge God, especially in the good things that would ultimately come.


D.   The Agriculture (Ruth 1:22)


So Naomi returned, and Ruth the Moabitess, her daughter in law, with her, which returned out of the country of Moab, and they came to Bethlehem in the beginning of the barley harvest.


1.     This verse serves as both a summary of the events of chapter one and an introduction to the events of chapter two.

2.    Both Naomi and Ruth are mentioned as having come to Bethlehem.  LESSON:  Every departure always has a coming.

3.     Ruth has two distinguishing marks of identification.

a.    She is a Moabitess, which emphasizes that she is a stranger, a foreigner, in the land (Ruth 1:4, 22, 2:2, 6, 21; 4:5, 10).

b.    She is Naomi’s daughter-in-law.

4.    They return at the beginning of the barley harvest.

a.    It was the spring of the year.

1)     This is a time of hope.

2)    It is the time of life.

b.    This was the time of the third feast of the Jews.

1)     It was called the feast of weeks.

2)    Leviticus 23:9-11


And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying, Speak unto the children of Israel, and say unto them, When ye come into the land which I give unto you, and shall reap the harvest thereof, then ye shall bring a sheaf of the firstfruits of your harvest unto the priest:  and he shall wave the sheaf before the Lord, to be accepted for you:  on the morrow after the Sabbath the priest shall wave it.


c.    This time of the year provides these widows with the promise of sustenance.

1)     This anticipates Ruth’s gleaning in the harvest fields.

2)    “Wilson and Stek outline the 8-step process by which grain was harvested in ancient Israel” (Stewart, 57-58).

a)    Cutting – the ripened standing grain was cut with hand sickles, usually by men.

b)    Binding – the grain was bound into sheaves, usually by women.

c)    Gleaning – the grain left behind was collected by the poor.

d)    Transporting – the sheaves of grain were taken to the threshing floor, often by donkey or a cart.

e)    Threshing – the grain was loosened from the straw, either by cattle, threshing sledges, or threshing wheels.

f)    Winnowing – the grain was tossed into the air with winnowing forks so the straw would be blown away by the wind.

g)    Sifting – the grain was sifted in a sieve to remove any residual matter.

h)    Bagging- the grain was bagged for transportation and storage.