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Thee, my flesh longeth for Thee, in a dry and thirsty land where no water is: to see thy power and thy glory so as I have seen Thee in the sanctuary *." But, as to her daughters-in-law, Moab was their country, and they had their own friends and kindred there. And though to herself they might be affectionately attached, as she was to them, yet they might not have "counted the cost" of following her: and if it was nothing beyond personal regard which inclined them to share her fortunes, what she could do for them, she knew, could not compensate for the difficulties and distresses which they would probably be obliged to undergo. "Go," then, she says, "return each to her mother's house: the Lord deal kindly with you, as ye have dealt with the dead, and with me." They would not, however, quit her yet; but "we will return with thee to thy people," they said both of them, and probably they both meant so at the instant. But a little further view of the perils and disadvantages wrought a change in one of them. Naomi still
persisted in reminding them of her own destitute condition: And "it grieveth me much," she concludes, "for your sakes that the hand of the Lord is gone out against me." And they lifted up their voice," the history proceeds, " and wept again." And then comes the text: "Orpah kissed her mother-in-law," parted with her affectionately, and with regret, and not without a struggle, yet parted with her; but "Ruth clave unto her" she knew what she was to leave behind her; but she had decided, and renounced it all. Such was the difference, when it had come to the point, between two persons whose outward professions and demeanour had hitherto been so much alike.
What follows will explain more fully the principles upon which they severally acted; and in the end we shall see how they were severally rewarded.
Orpah having taken her leave, "Behold," said Naomi to Ruth," thy sister-in-law is gone back unto
4 Ps. lxiii. 1, 2.
5 Ruth i. 8. 14,
her people, and unto her gods." She had taken a few steps towards the land of Judah; there was something which drew her towards it, and a dear good friend to be relinquished if she did not proceed. But Moab had her heart, and the idols of Moab were her gods. She could not serve two masters; and now it had become manifest which was her lord indeed. "Return thou," says Naomi to Ruth, upon this; "return thou after thy sister-in-law:" if she too, as possibly enough might be the case, was likely, upon further experience, to repent of her enterprise, and her affections were about to recur to what she was now forsaking, it would be best to go back at once. But Ruth also had chosen her part, and the struggle, whatever it might have been, was over with her: she had forgotten "her own people and her father's house” for a better treasure which she saw before her. "Intreat me not," therefore, she replied, "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: 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." Now this language will not suffer us to doubt that it was Ruth's tender and devoted love for Naomi which wrought upon her in the first place; and that every hope she had of comfort and happiness, when she should come into the land of Judah, was mixed up with the assurance that she and Naomi should there live together, to bear one another's burdens, and share one another's enjoyments, as they had been wont. But this was not the whole: it appears that she had not only compared Naomi herself with her own Moabitish relatives, and had come to love her best; but Naomi had brought her religion with her from her native country, had adorned it in Moab by her pious conversation, and had taught it to her daughters-in-law, and Ruth, at least, had not received the
6 Ruth i. 15-17.
grace of God in vain; she had compared also the faith of Judah with the idolatry of Moab, and she was willing to go where she might be taught the good way more perfectly, and have still better advantage for acquainting herself with the Lord. This is clearly expressed in her own words: "Thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God." Neither surely was her resolution any the worse, because personal regard for Naomi may have predisposed her to listen to that pious friend's instructions. Naomi was now satisfied respecting Ruth's sincerity; she saw that she was stedfastly minded to go with her, and so she left speaking to her, in a way of dissuasion, and they two went on till they came to Bethlehem.
The event is related in the three chapters which follow. As to Orpah, indeed, no more is said of her. Things took their natural course, it is to be presumed; she had her recompense perhaps in this world, in the prosperity and security of her mother's house, to which she returned. She got, it may be, what she looked for, in going back to her people and her gods; but man is like to vanity, his days are a shadow which passeth away"." "And the gods that have not made the heavens and the earth, even they," says the prophet," shall perish from the earth, and from under these heavens 8." But, as to Ruth, her friendship with Naomi was a religious friendship; it was the one faith which they had in common which knit their hearts together, and gave them so peculiar an interest in each other, and would not let them separate; and then that came to pass in the case of Ruth which Moses promised in God's name to Hobab, saying, when he invited him to accompany Israel," It shall be, if thou go with us, that what goodness the Lord shall do unto us, the same will we do unto thee "."
Both of the parties we are speaking of had, indeed, a trial to pass through after their arrival in the land of Judah; so forlorn and destitute did their condition
7 Ps. cxliv. 4.
8 Jer. x. 11.
9 Numb. x. 32.
seem to be, that all the city was moved, and they said, "Is this Naomi?" whilst the poor widow herself made answer, "Call me not Naomi," that is, pleasant; "call me Mara," which signifies, bitter: "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?" But "whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth 2;" and, "Blessed," says the Apostle, "is the man that endureth temptation: for when he is tried he shall receive the crown of life, which the Lord hath promised to them that love Him "." Naomi, perhaps, had showed some distrust of God, when she and Elimelech left Judah to dwell in Moab, even though they were driven out by famine; if so, she had eaten of the fruit of her own way, and had learned a lesson from the divine rebuke. But, cast down as she was, and deeply as she felt her afflictions, it does not appear that she was unwilling to submit herself, or that her heart fretted against the Lord. And, as for Ruth, she uttered no complaints, but set herself at once honestly to earn her bread. Having first consulted her mother-in-law, and received her sanction, it being the time of harvest, she went out to glean ears of corn where she might.
And now it quickly appeared how wise a thing they both had done by casting themselves upon God. Her hap was (that is, though she knew not whither she went, God so ordered it) that she should light upon a part of the field belonging to Boaz, who was, it appears, of the kindred of her own father-in-law, Elimelech. He was a man of wealth; and from the manner of his address to his labourers, and their reply, as well as from his subsequent behaviour, we may collect that he was habitually a pious and godly perHe inquired, and was informed who she was, and how she had conducted herself; and he immediately
'Ruth i. 21.
2 Heb. xii. 6.
3 James i. 12.
conceived in his mind that respect for her, and interest in her welfare, which might have been looked for under the circumstances, from one of such a character as his. He charged his reapers to take care of her and treat her kindly; and his words to herself make it clear that he well understood and duly estimated the principle upon which she had acted in quitting Moab: "It hath been fully showed me," he says, "all that thou hast done unto thy mother-in-law since the death of thine husband; and how thou hast left thy father and thy mother, and the land of thy nativity, and art come unto a people which thou knewest not heretofore. The Lord recompense thy work, and a full reward be given thee of the Lord God of Israel, under whose wings thou art come to trust"."
In order to understand the remainder of the history, we must both bear in mind the simplicity of ancient manners, and also recollect the particular laws and institutions under which all these parties lived. The time, however, will not permit me to enter very fully into explanation of the particulars; but let what follows in brief suffice. When Elimelech, Naomi's husband and Ruth's father-in-law, left Judah for the land of Moab, he appears to have sold his estate, and it was now, I suppose, in possession of the purchaser. The Israelites, however, could not by the law of Moses sell absolutely the portions which God had given them; they could only alienate them till the year of jubilee; and if, by poverty, they were constrained to this, they or their next of kin might, nevertheless, have the land back again at any time by repayment of an equitable proportion of the purchase-money. This Naomi of course well knew; and she was aware, besides, of that other law, which required a man to marry his brother's widow when he died childless, and which seems, by custom at least, to have extended to the other near relations. This law, as Naomi supposed, gave Ruth a legal claim upon Boaz, for she did not
Ruth ii. 11, 12.