The Book of Ruth Chapter1: Naomi, Ruth, and Orpah in Moab

Nov 9th, 2009 | By | Category: Ruth, Verse by Verse --Studies led by Br. Frank Shallieu (Click on Book name)

The Book of Ruth Chapter1: Naomi, Ruth, and Orpah in Moab


Ruth 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 Bethlehem-judah went to sojourn in the country of Moab, he, and his wife, and his two sons.

Ruth 1:2 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 Bethlehem-judah. And they came into the country of Moab, and continued there.

Ruth 1:3 And Elimelech Naomi’s husband died; and she was left, and her two sons.

Ruth 1:4 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.

Ruth 1:5 And Mahlon and Chilion died also both of them; and the woman was left of her two sons and her husband.

Because of a famine, Elimelech left Israel with his wife and two sons and went to Moab. Under the Mosaic Law, the Israelites were to stay separate from other people, so this move was a violation. During the ten-year sojourn in Moab, Naomi lost her husband and her two sons.

We will subsequently see that Ruth left Moab, the land of her nativity, to accompany Naomi back to Israel. Her leaving reminds us of the call of Abraham to leave Ur of the Chaldees and go to the Promised Land. Abraham’s call is likened to the Christian’s being called out of the world to journey to the heavenly Promised Land. Here Ruth, a woman, left her homeland.

Psalm 45:10,11 reads: “Hearken, O daughter, and consider, and incline thine ear; forget also thine own people, and thy father’s house; So shall the king greatly desire thy beauty: for he is thy Lord; and worship thou him.” Notice, “forget … thine own people, and thy father’s house.” The call to Abraham was to forsake his kindred and go to a foreign land. He went out in faith and obeyed God.

The Jacob picture is slightly related. Jacob was called a “Syrian” because of a kinsman relationship (Deut. 26:5). In contrast, Abraham and Shem were Hebrews. Joseph, too, went to a foreign land, and a famine later occurred. As prime minister of Egypt, Joseph pictured Jesus, and Pharaoh was a type of God.

Rebekah is another picture. When asked to leave her house, she did so willingly. Again there was a kinsman relationship. She followed Eliezer (representing the Holy Spirit) back to Isaac (a type of Jesus) to marry him. And Ruth eventually married Boaz, who pictures Jesus. Whether for an individual back there or for the Christian in the Gospel Age, to leave one’s surroundings in a quest for truth and a search for God is a test of faith that entails sacrifice.

What is the significance of the name Bethlehem-judah? Bethlehem, meaning “house of bread,” was a place where priests lived. Jesus was born in Bethlehem, and he is “the Lion of the tribe of Judah” (Rev. 5:5).

The name Elimelech means “God is King.” His wife’s name, Naomi, signifies “pleasantness,” “pleasant one.” Mahlon and Chilion were their two sons. Mahlon means “sickly,” “one having an infirmity,” and the thought of Chilion is “pining” or “wasting.” Both of the sons’ names suggest a process of illness, a sickly condition. In antitype they represent the Jewish people, the ten-tribe and the two-tribe kingdoms, who rejected Jesus. Jesus said, “Behold, your house is left unto you desolate” (Matt. 23:38).

Before the two sons died, they married two Moabite women, Ruth and Orpah. Ruth, whose name means “beauty,” is a representation of the Little Flock, specifically Gentile Christians.

Orpah, signifying “youthful freshness,” “fawn,” or “neck,” represents the Great Company.

The consecrated are all wheat, either mature or immature depending on the individual. Orpah pictures the immature wheat, the little sister of the Song of Solomon who has no breasts and hence, spiritually speaking, is not sufficiently developed under the influence of the Old and New Testaments (Song 8:8). Newcomers are nurtured by the Word of God, being breast-fed, as it were, on “the sincere milk of the word” (1 Pet. 2:2). Orpah was “youthful” in this sense, and Lot, also a type of the Great Company, was younger than Abraham, his uncle.

Of course in the Book of Ruth, the chief character is Ruth, but Naomi is almost on the same level, for both had very noble characters. The example of Naomi caused Ruth to love her dearly. Naomi, Ruth, and Orpah were all widows.

Ruth 1:6 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.

When Naomi heard that the famine in Israel was over, she decided to return to her homeland.

Ruth 1:7 Wherefore she went forth out of the place where she was, and her two daughters-in-law with her; and they went on the way to return unto the land of Judah.

Both Orpah and Ruth started on the journey back to Israel with Naomi.

Ruth 1:8 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.

Ruth 1:9 The LORD grant you that ye may find rest, each of you in the house of her husband. Then she kissed them; and they lifted up their voice, and wept.

Ruth 1:10 And they said unto her, Surely we will return with thee unto thy people.

Ruth 1:11 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?

Ruth 1:12 Turn again, my daughters, go your way; for I am too old to have an husband. If I should say, I have hope, if I should have an husband also tonight, and should also bear sons;

Ruth 1:13 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.

Ruth 1:14 And they lifted up their voice, and wept again: and Orpah kissed her mother-in-law; but Ruth clave unto her.

Naomi tried to use reason and consideration to get Orpah and Ruth to stay in Moab. She said she was too old to have more sons, and even if she married and bore sons, they would have to grow up. Since women could not support themselves in those days, they were dependent on sympathetic and concerned family members.

Ruth’s cleaving to Naomi is very moving. Orpah returned to her homeland, but Ruth’s love for Naomi and Naomi’s God kept her steadfast in her purpose.

We are reminded of Lot, who accompanied Abraham. When Abraham and Lot are considered together, they represent the Little Flock and the Great Company, respectively. When they parted at Abraham’s suggestion because their flocks were too numerous to share the same land, Abraham let Lot choose land first. Lot’s choice, which was the Sodom and Gomorrah area prior to its destruction, was fertile and pleasing to the eye; that is, it was the best temporally.

The principle expressed in the New Testament is that the love of money is the root of much evil; money makes it hard to be a more-than-overcomer. As Jesus said, “How hardly shall they that have riches enter into the kingdom of God!” (Mark 10:23).

Ruth 1:15 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.

Ruth 1:16 And Ruth said, Entreat me not to leave thee, or to return from following after thee: for whither thou goest, I will go; and where thou lodgest, I will lodge: thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God:

Naomi’s urging Ruth to go back to her people and her gods, as Orpah had done, would seem to be bad advice on the surface, but it brought out Ruth’s unwavering determination to accompany Naomi. In this context, “gods” is lowercase. The Hebrew words El, Eloah, and Elohim are three different perspectives of God’s office.

The Moabites were descendants of Moab. Moab and Ammon were the two sons born to Lot’s daughters through their father. Thus there was a relationship with Abraham but not in the direct line. The promise to bless all the families of the earth was to Abraham and his seed. God called Abraham out of Ur, whereas Ruth left Moab of her own volition. The Christian call blends both thoughts. First, God calls the individual, but the individual must respond wholeheartedly in order to benefit from that call.

Ruth and Orpah were both good, but Ruth did the cleaving. Her reaction shows the type of character God is looking for. He wants the Christian to love Him supremely. Reverential fear is proper but not terror.

Comment: Ruth’s response was similar to Rebekah’s (Gen. 24:58).

Reply: Running through the accounts of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob (to some extent), and Joseph are similar threads of what God wants in His people. With Rebekah there was NO DELAY—a response that took faith.

Comment: It was not even Isaac but Eliezer, Abraham’s servant, who went to get Rebekah.

Reply: The way Rebekah was found is interesting. While sitting by a well, Eliezer offered up an unusual prayer, asking that the bride for Isaac would come to that very well and give water to him and all his camels VOLUNTARILY. And what did Rebekah do? She ran to water the camels, and camels drink an amazing amount of water.

Comment: Even after the prayer was answered, Eliezer wondered if Rebekah was the one. We, too, are sometimes slow to recognize the answer to a prayer.

Ruth 1:17 Where thou diest, will I die, and there will I be buried: the LORD do so to me, and more also, if aught but death part thee and me.

Comment: Ruth not only wanted to go with Naomi but made a lifetime commitment: “Where thou diest, will I die, and there will I be buried.” Her words remind us of the Christian commitment to be faithful unto death (Rev. 2:10).

Reply: Yes, the Christian makes a lifetime contract. Once the hand is put to the plow, one cannot look back as Lot’s wife did (Luke 9:62; Gen. 19:26). It is dangerous for a Christian to go back to the world, for very few are revived.

Naomi reminds us of Sarah and the Sarah Covenant. The Apostle Paul showed that Sarah is “the mother of us all” (Gal. 4:26). Thus a woman can picture a covenant.

Comment: Naomi was a marvelous example of a faithful individual. Her prayer life, kindness, activity, etc., made an indelible impression on Ruth.

Ruth 1:18 When she saw that she was stedfastly minded to go with her, then she left speaking unto her.

Here is another indication that Ruth represents the Little Flock. She was “stedfastly minded” to go with Naomi. The Lord loves a steadfastness of purpose in His people. Even in regard to the Adversary, we are told, “Resist the devil [steadfastly], and he will flee from you” (James 4:7).

Ruth 1:19 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?

Ruth 1:20 And she said unto them, Call me not Naomi, call me Mara: for the Almighty hath dealt very bitterly with me.

Ruth 1:21 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?

Naomi thought her husband and sons had died because she had displeased God. She interpreted the providence as unfavorable, but it was not unfavorable in the final analysis. The providence was a test of faith, and faith prompts obedience. Faith must be exercised in works— but under the gospel of faith.

Naomi was no longer a young woman upon her return to Bethlehem, so the outlook seemed gloomy to her. We are reminded of Sarah, who did not have any children until she was in her nineties. Hagar, who pictures the Law Covenant, brought forth a seed (Ishmael) before the spiritual seed of promise (Isaac).

Later we will see that Naomi likened the child born to Ruth and Boaz as her own, and so did the townspeople. The situation and birth of Obed were recognized as unusual and as being of God. Boaz was well liked too. The genealogical sequence, which was part of Messiah’s lineage, was Salmon, Boaz, Obed, Jesse, and David (Matt. 1:5,6). Boaz was of the lineage of Rahab, who may have been Jewish, for there is a hint to that effect in the account. At any rate, she was formerly a harlot. Both she and Mary Magdalene reformed after coming to the Lord.

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 barley harvest.

The determination of Naomi and Ruth to go to the Promised Land while still in Moab represents the beginning of the Gospel Age. (Similarly, Abraham, while still in Ur, decided to go to Israel.) Naomi and Ruth arrived at the beginning of the barley harvest, which is the end of the Gospel Age.

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