2008-06-29 - Ruth: Faith and Commitment
Installment 12 ~ Chapter 1, Part 7
Verses 14-18: As Orpah walks away, Ruth clings to her mother-in-law. Naomi does seem to recognize what is at stake, for she not only notes that Orpah is returning to her people and to her gods. Naomi encourages Ruth once more to follow Orpah and return to Moab.
But Ruth refuses to leave. She wants to go with Naomi. She is willing to give up everything, even her future as a wife and mother, to be with Naomi. But there is something else involved here: Ruth's strong faith. Her commitment is to stay with Naomi until death separates them. She is committed first to Naomi and her people, and then to God. This may simply be a way of expressing her inability to separate the God of Israel from the Israelites themselves. Ruth is going to Judah, to join herself with Naomi's God. Somewhere along the line, she had moved away from the gods of her land and had come to a faith in the one true God. How could she return to Moab now, knowing the truth and the one true God?
And so Ruth gives an oath to demonstrate the sincerity of her commitment. She calls God's judgment down on herself, if anything causes her to leave Naomi other than death.
"She swore a solemn curse on herself if she did not keep her promise ("May the LORD deal with me" [v.17], a formula found here and in eleven passages in Samuel and Kings, e.g., 1 Sam 3:17; 14:44; 1 Kings 2:23; 2 Kings 6:31; lit., "Thus may the LORD do to me and thus may he add"). Ruth invoked the covenant name of God for the first and only time in this self-imprecation. Her commitment of no separation even by death probably refers to the Israelite custom of burying members of the same family in a family tomb." 1
Tradition states that Naomi is giving the women the opportunity to convert. This is why she encourages them to return home on three occasions. Orpah fails, and Ruth succeeds. There is absolutely nothing in the text that supports this position. Remember, when we let tradition becomes our basis for understanding Scripture, we are in danger of going well beyond God's intent for His word.
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