Ruth: The Woman Who Would Not Turn Back
The book of Ruth opens during the period of the Judges when apostasy, decadence, violence, anarchy and warfare were the norm. Famine strikes Bethlehem which means a house of bread. In this time of need, Elimelech which means my God is King, seems to depart from the plan and desires of God. He takes Naomi which means pleasantness and favor, away from the land of promise and the covenant people of God into the land of Israel's enemies, Moab. With them go their two sons Mahlon which means joy or song, and Chilion which means ornament or perfection. These men seem to have stepped out of the revealed will of God in His Word, by marrying pagan, gentile women of God's enemies.
Away from the land of promise in Moab [descendants of Lot who worshiped Chemosh a god of human sacrifice by burning], Elimelech [my God is King] dies and so does Hahlon [joyful song] and Chilion [ornament of perfection]. After ten years of hardship Naomi [pleasant sweetness] becomes Mara [bitterness]. With all those she ever loved buried beneath the sod of Moab [her husband and two sons]. She finally looks back at the land of promise because food is available in Bethlehem. As she sets off to return home she asks her daughter-in-laws to go back to their families and find a new life. In one of the most touching moments of the Scriptures, Ruth [satisfied, fullness] clings to Naomi and the God of Israel. Orpah [stiff necked, double minded] departs for her people in Moab.
The two main sources of extra biblical history on this period are the widely respected references Encyclopaedia Judaica and the Jewish Encyclopedia both record the historical note that Orpah and Ruth were descendants of Eglon King of Moab. When Orpah left Naomi she forsook the God of Israel, embraced the gods of Moab, married and bore a child and from her descendents came Harafu the mother of the four Philistine giants, one who was named Goliath. It is fascinating to think that David, Ruth's grandson met and destroyed Goliath, Orpah's grandson. The result of a simple turn in the path of life. What a great difference small decisions make.
Listen to what a pastor wrote a century ago: "Now if this is not a striking type-picture of Israel we are much deceived. Israel as originally constituted in Canaan was a Theocracy. God was Israel's King. Israel was Elimelech -- and could say "My God is my King." Israel was married, as it were to Naomi -- pleasantness, favour, and blessing; and Israel's offspring were Mahlon and Chilion -- song and perfectness. But, under testing, Israel compromised and went astray, leaving the early allegiance to Jehovah. Elimelech died. No longer could Israel say with a perfect heart before the Lord -- "My God is my King." Mahlon and Chilion passed away too -- the "song" of praise and the "ornament" of devout godliness died off; while eventually Naomi, the once "favoured" and "pleasant" returns, a sorry remnant, "empty" and "bitter," as in the days when the remnant returned, under Ezra and Nehemiah.
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