“But Ruth replied, “Don’t urge me to leave you or to turn back from you. Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God.”
Explanation and Commentary of Ruth 1:16
Ruth, the great grandmother of King David, was not born a Jew but married into a Jewish family. Her mother-in-law was Naomi. Their family left Israel for a time because of a severe famine, and Naomi’s husband and two sons died, leaving three widows: Naomi, Ruth, and another daughter-in-law, Orpah.
For Naomi, to be left a childless widow was a great tragedy. When Naomi saw her desolation, she urged the women to return to the homes of their fathers in hopes that they may marry again. After a tearful goodbye, Orpah departed. But Ruth refused to leave her mother-in-law alone.
The story ends happily when the famine ends, and they return to Israel. Ruth finds favor with a good man named Boaz who is a “kinsman-redeemer.” This meant that he was one of a very few family members who the law would allow to take on the family and possess the ancestral lands. Boaz marries Ruth and takes on the care of Naomi. This passage is such a statement of loyalty that it has been traditionally used as a wedding vow, though originally it was what Ruth said to Naomi.
Breaking Down the Key Parts of Ruth 1:16
#1 “But Ruth replied, ‘Don’t urge me to leave you or to turn back from you.”
Naomi had practically issued a command for Ruth to leave her. This is a true example of the love of God. Naomi selflessly sought to send Ruth away for her own good, even though Naomi would then be truly alone and helpless. She wanted the best for Ruth. Ruth loved Naomi just as selflessly when she refused to go. She saw that her new God, the God of the Jews, had put her in this family, and she was determined to be loyal to it and to him.
#2 “Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay.”
Ruth told Naomi that Naomi was her home. The place was irrelevant. God had put them together, and no one would break them asunder. This is part of what makes this an appropriate wedding vow. What goes for these two widows goes doubly for a man and woman who God has joined into one flesh.
#3 “Your people will be my people…”
Any friend of yours is a friend of mine. This is again a true statement of loyalty. It speaks to a kind of bond that is special. Again, one can’t help but think of the marriage vow. Who doesn’t take on a new family when they join flesh with another? This kind of loyalty is hard to grasp in our culture, where people are traded in constantly, and few ever put down roots anymore.
#4 “…and your God my God.”
Here is the underpinning of the previous statements of love and loyalty. Ruth was not born a Jew, but she adopted Naomi’s God as her own. It was a calling from God that prevented Ruth from abandoning Naomi in her destitution. It was God whom they put their trust in, and it was God who provided a redeemer back in Israel. Our love for God should underpin all of our actions, and our faith in God’s Redeemer, Jesus Christ, should be the source of our great hope and acts of devotion.
Expert Overview of Ruth
Biblical Translations of Ruth 1:16
But Ruth replied, “Don’t urge me to leave you or to turn back from you. Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God.”
But Ruth replied, “Don’t ask me to leave you and turn back. Wherever you go, I will go; wherever you live, I will live. Your people will be my people, and your God will be my God.”
But Ruth said, “Do not urge me to leave you or to return from following you. For where you go I will go, and where you lodge I will lodge. Your people shall be my people, and your God my God.”
And Ruth said, “Intreat 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.”
“Entreat me not to leave you, Or to turn back from following after you; For wherever you go, I will go; And wherever you lodge, I will lodge; Your people shall be my people, And your God, my God.”
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