Ruth 2:18-22: Naomi's Sorrowful Return

Verse 18:[1] (Acts 21:14) When she saw that she was stedfastly minded (Heb. strengthened herself[2]) to go with her, then she left speaking unto her.



[That with a resolute mind, etc., כִּֽי־מִתְאַמֶּ֥צֶת הִ֖יא[3]] That she was hardened (Vatablus), boldly followed (Junius and Tremellius), had firmly planted herself before her (Tigurinus, similarly Munster), had steeled herself (Drusius).


[She was unwilling to oppose] Hebrew: she ceased to speak to her[4] (Pagnine, Drusius). Not simply to speak, but to speak in the way that she had hitherto spoken, namely, concerning returning (Drusius). She was silent to say that she should return (Syriac, similarly the Arabic); she ceased from speaking to her to protest (Tigurinus); she ceased thus to speak, etc. (Junius and Tremellius). In the Hebrew there is no ellipsis; but in the very phrase there is a synecdoche of genus, which sort is in Genesis 31:24, Take heed to thyself, that thou speak not to Jacob either good or bad (Piscator).


Verse 19:[5] So they two went until they came to Bethlehem. And it came to pass, when they were come to Beth-lehem, that (Matt. 21:10) all the city was moved about them, and they said, (see Is. 23:7; Lam. 2:15) Is this Naomi?



[The report spread, וַתֵּהֹ֤ם כָּל־הָעִיר֙ עֲלֵיהֶ֔ן] And the whole city was troubled (was joyful [Syriac, Arabic]) over them (Montanus, Pagnine, Septuagint), made a noise over them (Piscator). It began to make a commotion because of them, that is, to be agitated with a certain din (Vatablus). The whole city, that is, all the citizens (Drusius): the women, for the following, they said, is feminine[6] (Piscator, Vatablus).


[Is this that Naomi?] Hebrew: Is this Naomi?[7] They do not so much ask as express their amazement (Drusius). They were saying this, either, with joy and congratulations; or, with amazement and contempt, because she had been reduced to poverty (Menochius).


Is this Naomi?: Is this she that formerly lived in so much plenty and honour? Oh how marvellously is her condition changed, that she is returned in this forlorn and desolate condition!


Verse 20:[8] And she said unto them, Call me not Naomi (that is, pleasant[9]), call me Mara (that is, bitter[10]): for the Almighty hath dealt very bitterly with me.


[Call me not Naomi (that is, beautiful)] I prefer, pleasant, agreeable (Drusius, Malvenda, Vatablus); sweet, charming (Vatablus). That aligns better with the contrary, מָרָא/Mara, and is much more suited to the sense than beautiful (Drusius).


[Mara (that is, amaram/bitter) (thus Drusius, Piscator)] Sad, shuddered at, sick of soul: a Metaphor (Drusius). Transferred from one sense to the other, so that it might signify one shuddering (Junius).


Naomi signifies pleasant or cheerful, or amiable. Mara signifies bitter or sorrowful.


Verse 21:[11] I went out full, (Job 1:21) 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?


[I went out full] Having a husband and sons (Drusius, Piscator, Bonfrerius), and an abundance of property (Bonfrerius): full of riches and sons (Drusius).


Full; with my husband and sons, and a plentiful estate for our support.


[And void, etc. (thus the Arabic, Munster, Pagnine, Tigurinus, Junius and Tremellius, Montanus)] Or, empty (Septuagint, Jonathan). Others, emptily (Syriac, Piscator, Drusius). רֵיקָם[12] is taken adverbially, like חִנָּם, freely, for nought.[13] For what things are thus terminated among the Hebrews have the nature of adverbs. If she had said empty, it would have been רֵקָה/RECA,[14] the masculine of which is רֵק/Rec; whence רֵקִים/RECIM, men empty and vain[15] (Drusius).


[Whom the Lord hath humbled, עָ֣נָה בִ֔י] He cast me down (Tigurinus); He humbled me (Septuagint, Syriac, Arabic, Munster); He afflicted me (Pagnine). Formerly I was supposing that it was to be translated in this way; now I see two hindrances: 1. the sort of construction, בִי, in me;[16] 2. that it is עָנָה/ana, to answer, not עִנָּה/inna, to afflict (Drusius). Others thus: He has testified (or answered [Piscator]) to, or against, me (Montanus, Junius and Tremellius, English, Dutch). It is a Synecdoche of genus. For a judicial testimony is understood. And so at the same time it is a metaphor taken from opposing parties or lawyers, who demand punishment for someone; as it is evident from a comparison with Deuteronomy 19:16, If a witness rise…to testify against him, etc., where in the Hebrew the expression is completely the same, לַעֲנ֥וֹת בּ֖וֹ (Piscator). Since the Lord, contrariwise, by His works has testified against me, that I am not pleasant (Malvenda). The pious matron very piously acknowledges God as the author of all her emptiness, and so, as it was fitting, she bears all things evenly, patiently, and cheerfully (Tirinus). It is some mitigation of grief in adverse circumstances, to believe that nothing is by chance, but that all ills are from God (Drusius). She here confesses that punishment was inflicted upon her by the Lord for the sin of her leaving the land of Israel (Lyra out of the Hebrews).


Hath testified against me, that is, hath borne witness, as it were, in judgment, and given sentence against me, and declared my sin by my punishment.



Verse 22:[17] 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 Beth-lehem (Ex. 9:31, 32; Ruth 2:23; 2 Sam. 21:9) in the beginning of barley harvest.


[When the barley was first being reaped] That is, at Passover (Lapide, Bonfrerius). In the beginning of messis hordeaceæ, barley harvest (Junius and Tremellius). Perhaps more correctly, messis hordeariæ, barley harvest. Hebrew: the harvest of barley ears;[18] which plural is found in Virgil’s Eclogues 5 (Piscator). This harvest is before the wheat harvest. It was beginning on the second day of Unleavened Bread, that is, on the sixteenth of Nisan:[19] but it was lasting for forty-nine days (Drusius).

[1] Hebrew: וַתֵּ֕רֶא כִּֽי־מִתְאַמֶּ֥צֶת הִ֖יא לָלֶ֣כֶת אִתָּ֑הּ וַתֶּחְדַּ֖ל לְדַבֵּ֥ר אֵלֶֽיהָ׃


[2] Hebrew: מִתְאַמֶּצֶת.


[3] אָמֵץ signifies to be strong. The Hithpael conjugation frequently conveys a reflexive sense.


[4] Hebrew: וַתֶּחְדַּ֖ל לְדַבֵּ֥ר אֵלֶֽיהָ׃.


[5] Hebrew: וַתֵּלַ֣כְנָה שְׁתֵּיהֶ֔ם עַד־בֹּאָ֖נָה בֵּ֣ית לָ֑חֶם וַיְהִ֗י כְּבֹאָ֙נָה֙ בֵּ֣ית לֶ֔חֶם וַתֵּהֹ֤ם כָּל־הָעִיר֙ עֲלֵיהֶ֔ן וַתֹּאמַ֖רְנָה הֲזֹ֥את נָעֳמִֽי׃


[6] 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 (וַתֹּאמַרְנָה), Is this Naomi?”


[7] Hebrew: הֲזֹ֥את נָעֳמִֽי׃.


[8] Hebrew: וַתֹּ֣אמֶר אֲלֵיהֶ֔ן אַל־תִּקְרֶ֥אנָה לִ֖י נָעֳמִ֑י קְרֶ֤אןָ לִי֙ מָרָ֔א כִּי־הֵמַ֥ר שַׁדַּ֛י לִ֖י מְאֹֽד׃


[9] Hebrew: נָעֳמִי, from נֹעַם/pleasantness.


[10] Hebrew: מָרָא, from מָרַר, to be bitter.


[11] Hebrew: אֲנִי֙ מְלֵאָ֣ה הָלַ֔כְתִּי וְרֵיקָ֖ם הֱשִׁיבַ֣נִי יְהוָ֑ה לָ֣מָּה תִקְרֶ֤אנָה לִי֙ נָעֳמִ֔י וַֽיהוָה֙ עָ֣נָה בִ֔י וְשַׁדַּ֖י הֵ֥רַֽע לִֽי׃


[12] רִיק signifies emptiness.


[13] חֵן signifies grace.


[14] A feminine adjective, modifying I.


[15] See, for example, Judges 9:4: “And they gave him threescore and ten pieces of silver out of the house of Baal-berith, wherewith Abimelech hired vain and light persons (אֲנָשִׁ֤ים רֵיקִים֙ וּפֹ֣חֲזִ֔ים), which followed him.”


[16] עָנָה, constructed with the ב, signifies to testify in the case of.


[17] Hebrew: וַתָּ֣שָׁב נָעֳמִ֗י וְר֙וּת הַמּוֹאֲבִיָּ֤ה כַלָּתָהּ֙ עִמָּ֔הּ הַשָּׁ֖בָה מִשְּׂדֵ֣י מוֹאָ֑ב וְהֵ֗מָּה בָּ֚אוּ בֵּ֣ית לֶ֔חֶם בִּתְחִלַּ֖ת קְצִ֥יר שְׂעֹרִֽים׃


[18] Hebrew: קְצִ֥יר שְׂעֹרִֽים׃.


[19] In the Spring.

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Dr. Steven Dilday holds a BA in Religion and Philosophy from Campbell University, a Master of Arts in Religion from Westminster Theological Seminary (Philadelphia), and both a Master of Divinity and a  Ph.D. in Puritan History and Literature from Whitefield Theological Seminary.  He is also the translator of Matthew Poole's Synopsis of Biblical Interpreters and Bernardinus De Moor’s Didactico-Elenctic Theology.

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