Ruth 1:15
(15) Naomi, now armed with a fresh argument, urges Ruth to follow her sister-in-law's example.

Her gods.--Naomi doubtless views the Moabite idols as realities, whose power is, however, confined to the land of Moab. She is not sufficiently enlightened in her religion to see in the Lord more than the God of Israel.

Verse 15. - And she said, Behold, thy sister-in-law is gone back to her people, and to her gods: return thou after thy sister-in-law. The expression that stands in King James's version thus, "and to her gods," is rendered by Dr. Cassel "and to her God." The same interpretation, it is noteworthy, is given in the Targum of Jonathan, who renders the expression, "and to her Fear" (וּלְוַת דְּחַלְרָּהּ). Such a translation assumes that the Moabites were not only theists, but monotheists. And yet in the mythology, or primitive theology, of Moab, we read both of Baal-Peor and of Chemosh. As to the former, see Numbers 25:8, 5; Deuteronomy 4:3; Psalm 106:28; Hosea 9:10. As to the latter, see Judges 11:24; 1 Kings 11:7, 33; Jeremiah 48:7, 13. In Numbers, moreover, 21:29, and in Jeremiah 48:46, the Moabites are called the people of Chemosh, and frequently is their national god called Chemosh in the inscription of King Mesha on the Moabitish Stone, so recently discovered and deciphered. It is supposed, not without reason, that the two names belonged to one deity, Chemosh being the old native name. Nevertheless, the translation "to her god" is an interpretation, not a literal rendering, and, on the other hand, the translation "to her gods" would, on the hypothesis of the monotheism of the Moabites, be unidiomatic. The original expression, "to her Elohim," does not tell anything, and was not intended by Naomi to tell anything, or to hint anything, of a numerical character concerning the object or objects of the Moabitish worship. It was an expression equally appropriate whether there was, or was not, a plurality of objects worshipped. It might be liberally rendered, and to her own forms of religious worship. The word elohim was a survival of ancient polytheistic theology and worship, when a plurality of powers were held in awe. "For," says Fuller, "the heathen, supposing that the whole world, with all the creatures therein, was too great a diocese to be daily visited by one and the same deity, they therefore assigned sundry gods to several creatures." The time arrived, however, when the great idea flashed into the Hebrew mind, The Powers are One and hence the plural noun, with its subtended conception of unity, became construed with verbs and adjectives in the singular number. It was so construed when applied to the one living God; but it readily retained its original applicability to a plurality of deifies, and hence, in such a passage as the one before us, where there is neither adjective nor verb to indicate the number, the word is quite incapable of exact rendering into English. Orpah had returned to her people and her Elohim. Return thou after thy sister-in-law. Are we then to suppose that Naomi desired Ruth to return to her Moabitish faith? Is it with a slight degree of criticism that she referred to Orpah's palinode? Would she desire that Ruth should, in this matter, follow in her sister-in-law's wake? We touch on tender topics. Not unlikely she had all along suspected or seen that Orpah would not have insuperable religious scruples. And not unlikely, too, she would herself be free from narrow religious bigotry, at least to the extent of dimly admitting that the true worship of the heart could reach the true God, even when offensive names, and forms, and symbolisms were present in the outer courts of the creed. Nevertheless, when she said to Ruth, "Return thou after thy sister-in-law," she no doubt was rather putting her daughter-in-law to a final test, and leading her to thorough self-sifting, than encouraging her to go back to her ancestral forms of worship. "God," says Fuller, "wrestled with Jacob with desire to be conquered; so Naomi no doubt opposed Ruth, hoping and wishing that she herself might be foiled."

1:15-18 See Ruth's resolution, and her good affection to Naomi. Orpah was loth to part from her; yet she did not love her well enough to leave Moab for her sake. Thus, many have a value and affection for Christ, yet come short of salvation by him, because they will not forsake other things for him. They love him, yet leave him, because they do not love him enough, but love other things better. Ruth is an example of the grace of God, inclining the soul to choose the better part. Naomi could desire no more than the solemn declaration Ruth made. See the power of resolution; it silences temptation. Those that go in religious ways without a stedfast mind, stand like a door half open, which invites a thief; but resolution shuts and bolts the door, resists the devil and forces him to flee.And she said,.... That is, Naomi to Ruth, after Orpah was gone:

behold, thy sister in law is gone back unto her people, and unto her gods; meaning Orpah, who was the wife of her husband's brother, as the word used signifies; she was not only on the road turning back to her own country and people, but to the gods thereof, Baalpeor or Priapus, and Chemosh, Numbers 21:29 from whence Aben Ezra concludes, that she had been a proselyte to the true religion, and had renounced the gods of her nation, and retained the same profession while her husband lived, and unto this time, and now apostatized, since she is said to go back to her gods; and in this he is followed by some Christian interpreters (g), and not without reason:

return thou after thy sister in law: this she said, not that in good earnest she desired her to return, at least to her former religion, only relates, though not as approving of, the conduct of her sister, rather as upbraiding it; but to try her sincerity and steadfastness, when such an instance and example was before her.

(g) Clericus & Rambachius.

Ruth 1:14
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