The book of Ruth is one of the most beloved books in the Old Testament. The themes contained in Ruth include, but are not limited to the following: (1) the lineage of David is traced back to Boaz and Ruth (Ruth 4:17), (2) the tender love story between Ruth and Boaz, and (3) the faithfulness of Ruth towards Naomi (Ruth 1:13-18). As endearing as these themes and other might be, the primary theme in the book of Ruth is expressed in the Hebrew concept חֶסֶד (hesed). The חֶסֶד (hesed) of God expresses itself especially in the restoration of Naomi (לְמֵשִׁ֣יב נֶ֔פֶשׁ a restorer of life) through the union between Ruth and Boaz.
The need for restoration can be seen when Ruth and Naomi return to Bethlehem. Upon the return to Bethlehem, the women asked “Is this Naomi?” (הֲזֹ֥את נָעֳמִֽי) Ruth 1:19. The response of Naomi expresses the nature of the problem (Ruth 1:20-21): (1) “for the Almighty has brought bitterness in reference to me” (כִּי־הֵמַ֥ר שַׁדַּ֛י לִ֖י מְאֹֽד) , (2) “and the LORD has testified against me” (וַֽיהוָה֙ עָ֣נָה בִ֔י) , and (3) “and the Almighty has brought hurt to me” (וְשַׁדַּ֖י הֵ֥רַֽע לִֽי). It is not just Naomi who felt that God had brought judgment upon the house of Elimelech.
Earlier in the chapter (Ruth 1:16-7) Ruth gave her great statement of support for Naomi and trust in the God of Israel. In the midst of the declaration Ruth showed that she was convinced that God had judged the house of Elimelech. Ruth made two statements in verse 17: (1) “may the LORD do so to me” (כֹּה֩ יַעֲשֶׂ֨ה יְהוָ֥ה לִי), and (2) “and more also” (וְכֹ֣ה יֹסִ֔יף). These statements by Ruth are in reference to yet another earlier statement by Naomi.
In the midst of the appeal to Ruth and Orpah, Naomi made the heartfelt expression of her pain and her understanding of the current state of her relationship with God. Naomi also made two statements in verse 13: (1) “because it is exceedingly bitter for me on account of you” (כִּֽי־מַר־לִ֤י מְאֹד֙ מִכֶּ֔ם), and (2) “because the hand of the LORD went out against me” (כִּֽי־יָצְאָ֥ה בִ֖י יַד־יְהוָֽה). Bush declared that these passages were used by the author “to depict the desolation, despair, and emptiness of Naomi’s life.” So one is left to determine the important question, what circumstance in the life of Naomi prompted her to declare that the hand of the LORD had gone out against her?
There is little choice but to look earlier in the book of Ruth to find any actions that could have been deemed sufficient to bring about the judgment of God. It is therefore the goal of this paper to examine the statements of the narrator in the opening verses of the book of Ruth (1:1-5). It is the thesis of this paper that the opening verses of this passage contain an element of causation. It is this causation that gives the expositor a great deal of insight into how to develop an exposition of Ruth 1:1-5. To accomplish the goal of this paper, this passage will be examined both using a...