Bible Study October 22 for Worship November 4Posted: October 18, 2012
Bible Study October 22 for Worship November 4
Ruth 1:1 In the days when the judges ruled there was a famine in the land, and a certain man of Bethlehem in Judah went to sojourn in the country of Moab, he and his wife and his two sons.
2 The name of the man was Elimelech and the name of his wife Naomi, and the names of his two sons were Mahlon and Chilion; they were Ephrathites from Bethlehem in Judah. They went into the country of Moab and remained there.
3 But Elimelech, the husband of Naomi, died, and she was left with her two sons.
4 These took Moabite wives; the name of the one was Orpah and the name of the other Ruth. They lived there about ten years;
5 and both Mahlon and Chilion died, so that the woman was bereft of her two sons and her husband.
6 Then she started with her daughters-in-law to return from the country of Moab, for she had heard in the country of Moab that the LORD had visited his people and given them food.
7 So she set out from the place where she was, with her two daughters-in-law, and they went on the way to return to the land of Judah.
8 But Naomi said to her two daughters-in-law, “Go, return each of you to her mother’s house. May the LORD deal kindly with you, as you have dealt with the dead and with me.
9 The LORD grant that you may find a home, each of you in the house of her husband!” Then she kissed them, and they lifted up their voices and wept.
10 And they said to her, “No, we will return with you to your people.”
11 But Naomi said, “Turn back, my daughters, why will you go with me? Have I yet sons in my womb that they may become your husbands?
12 Turn back, my daughters, go your way, for I am too old to have a husband. If I should say I have hope, even if I should have a husband this night and should bear sons,
13 would you therefore wait till they were grown? Would you therefore refrain from marrying? No, my daughters, for it is exceedingly bitter to me for your sake that the hand of the LORD has gone forth against me.”
14 Then they lifted up their voices and wept again; and Orpah kissed her mother-in-law, but Ruth clung to her.
15 And she said, “See, your sister-in-law has gone back to her people and to her gods; return after your sister-in-law.”
16 But Ruth said, “Entreat me not 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;
17 where you die I will die, and there will I be buried. May the LORD do so to me and more also if even death parts me from you.”
18 And when Naomi saw that she was determined to go with her, she said no more.
According to some commentators the Story of Ruth is very old. In its present form it may not have been written down until post-exilic times, probably about the time the Priest Ezra was insisting that the men of Israel should divorce their foreign wives in order to preserve racial and spiritual purity. Ruth the Moabite woman, the Great Grandmother of the Great King David provided an excellent counter to Ezra’s inhuman treatment of these foreign women. The story is also about economic refugees and illegal immigration. A prolonged drought had driven Elimelech, his wife Naomi and their two sons Mahlon and Chilion (the names of the two boys were not auspicious, Mahlon meaning “sickness,” and Chilion “weakling”) to leave their native Bethlehem and go to the country of Moab as economic refugees. We should not that their status in Moab would have been similar to illegal aliens coming into the United States trying to make a living.
While the family was in Moab, the two boys married Moabite girls, Orpah and Ruth. The text does not tell us who was married to whom. Elimelech died leaving Ruth a widow and then Mahlon and Chilion died leaving Orpah and Ruth widows. With no male protection and no share in the land, Naomi concludes she must go back to Bethlehem and hope some family will take her in and perhaps lay some claim to Elimelech’s land. She encourages Orpah and Ruth to go back to their families for that is their best prospect of avoiding starvation, and perhaps they can remarry. Under Hebrew law if one brother died without children the other brother inherited the wife. Since both sons were dead, if Ruth had another son, he would have been obligated to care for both widows, but as Naomi points out, she is past the age of child bearing, and even if she wasn’t Orpah and Ruth would not be able to wait for another son to grow up to take care of them.
Naomi must have been a pretty good mother-in-law, because both Orpah and Ruth refuse to leave her. Finally Orpah turns and goes back to her family, but Ruth steadfastly clings to Naomi. This extreme loyalty may have been the result of compassion, and perhaps the bod of shared grief. Ruth seals her pledge to stay with Naomi with her famous oath:
16 But Ruth said, “Entreat me not 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; 17 where you die I will die, and there will I be buried. May the LORD do so to me and more also if even death parts me from you.”
This was a powerful oath. In this promise Ruth bound herself through Naomi to a land, a people and a God she had never seen. There seemed to be little hope for Ruth in this promise. The people of Bethlehem might refuse to receive Naomi, and even if they accepted Naomi back there was no guarantee they would accept Ruth the foreigner. And what prospects did they have? Naomi was certainly past her prime. Ruth was an alien in a strange land. Both women might be treated as little more than slaves.
So this passage is about grief, faith and moving on. Grief can forge powerful bonds. Grief can be transformative. Grief can midwife faith. As we will see next week, Naomi and Ruth embark upon risky business that through faith results in restoration and new life. Most importantly though Naomi was angry and bitter at her fate, she did not remain stuck. She picked up and moved on. That was a tribute to her faith.
On remembrance Sunday we remember the faithfulness and loyalty of Ruth. She was not deterred by her grief but instead remained true to Naomi even though there appeared to be little hope for her in her choice. As we grieve for our loved ones we remember Ruth’s famous words to Naomi: “where you die I will die, and there will I be buried.” Love is faithful and true.
LET’S ASK SOME QUESTIONS OF THE TEXT
1. At what point in Israelite history was the story of Ruth caste?
2. Where was the home of Elimelech’s family?
3. Why was Elimelech and his family in Moab?
4. How long were Elimelech and his family in Moab?
5. At what point did Mahlon and Chilion marry Orpah and Ruth?
6. How long were Mahlon and Chilion married before they died?
7. How many children did they father?
8. Why did Naomi decide to return to her homeland?
9. Upon deciding to return to her homeland, what did Naomi encourage her daughter-in-laws to do?
10. Who wanted to go with Naomi?
11. What oath did Ruth swear?
LET’S ALLOW THE TEXT TO ASK QUESTIONS OF US
1. Why do you think most immigrants come to America?
2. Do you know why your ancestors came to this country?
3. What do you think are the complications that can arise from marrying outside of your economic, ethnic or racial group?
4. Have you ever experienced a bond that was formed or became more powerful because of grief?
5. What has been your greatest spiritual challenge in coping with grief?
6. Have you ever found yourself feeling stuck after a loss?
7. What has been your experience with in-laws?
8. Do you think men or women tend to have closer relationships?
9. Have you ever sworn and oath?
10. What is the most power promise you have ever made?
11. What would you do if you had more faith?
Week of October 29 – November 4: Remembrance Sunday – Ruth 1:1-18 and Deuteronomy 6:1-9 – Wherever You Go – Psalm 146, Psalm 119:1-8, Hebrews 9:11-14, Mark 12:38-44.