Studying Ruth 1:9 in Hebrew and English

Ruth 1:9 (Hebrew Bible)  יִתֵּ֤ן יְהוָה֙ לָכֶ֔ם וּמְצֶ֣אןָ מְנוּחָ֔ה אִשָּׁ֖ה בֵּ֣ית אִישָׁ֑הּ וַתִּשַּׁ֣ק לָהֶ֔ן וַתִּשֶּׂ֥אנָה קוֹלָ֖ן וַתִּבְכֶּֽינָה׃

Ruth 1:9 (NASB)  May the Lord grant that you may find rest, each in the house of her husband.” Then she kissed them, and they lifted up their voices and wept.

Introduction: How Hebrew and English expresses strong emotions

The Book of Ruth takes us through the whole range of emotions: from the depths of grief to the heights of joy. Here in Ruth 1:9, we have the scene where Naomi’s daughter-in-laws are looking at the prospect of parting ways. The potential parting is not due to disagreement, but rather circumstances which they feel they cannot control.

The book of Ruth slowly but surely urges us to adopted the assumption that outcomes are not controlled by human beings – but by God. In the English text above, we find three verbs and their attendant subjects and direct objects occur in tandem. The Hebrew verbal system can often include subjects and direct objects attached to the verbal roots in what are called “sufformatives” and “pronominal suffixes”. If the reader will take notice of the Hebrew text, the three verbs are colored red to correspond to the “red-colored” words in the English. Prefixed to the front of each Hebrew verb is the letter “waw”. As Hebrew grammar goes, whenever we see “waw” prefixed to the verbs as they are here in Ruth 1:9, we call such constructions “waw consecutives”. In plain and simple English, the verbs are recording “consecutive actions”, one after the other, as in a narrative. We can imagine the scene quite clearly as entailing the emotional Middle-Eastern expression of kissing each other on the cheek, followed by a dramatic raising of the voice and mournful weeping. This chain of verbs indicates the voices of the women crying out in sorrow and the strength of their crying. This is a wailing. Naomi and Orpah and Ruth are doing a Middle-Eastern form of lament, which includes outward displays of intense grief.

Life practical application

Perhaps the reader today is in a stage of life where tears have been your constant companion. Undoubtedly, strong emotions indicate that not everything is what it should be. With that said, we ought not to ignore such intense times. Like in the story of Ruth, times of grief and joy, sorrow and rejoicing can be used by God to reach the end of ourselves and cry out to Him. We can read the Book of Ruth and find God “just-around the corner”. Whenever we read Ruth from the standpoint of the main-characters, it seemed as if all was lost. Faith, thankfully, does not operate only on the visible realities around us. As Christians, we are arged to “walk-by-faith” and “not-by-sight” (2 Corinthians 5:7). Such an attitude is not based on false knowledge, but true knowledge of God and His ways. Though we may not be able to discern His face, nor makes sense of what He is doing – nonetheless God’s hand guides the Christian in the darkest of times.

May you and I today be honest with God. Expressing ourselves in any relationship includes intensity. Our God is not an abstract idea, but the most-supreme, Personal, all-encompassing reality that, in the Person of His Son, came to be a man for the sake of experiencing genuine human emotion – among other daily realities. Lets look to Jesus today – who anchors our faith – and our emotions.




About pastormahlon

By the grace of God I was converted to saving faith in Jesus Christ at the age of 10 and called into the Gospel ministry by age 17. Through the Lord's grace I completed a Bachelors in Bible at Lancaster Bible College in 1996 and have been married to my beautiful wife since that same year. We have been blessed with four children, ranging from 7-18 years of age. In 2002 the Lord enabled me to complete a Master of Arts in Christian Thought at Biblical Theological Seminary, Hatfield PA. For nearly 25 years I have been preaching and teaching God's Word and have been studying the original languages since 1994. In 2016 God called my family and me to move to begin a pastorate at a wonderful Southern Baptist Congregation here in Northern New York.
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3 Responses to Studying Ruth 1:9 in Hebrew and English

  1. Charles says:

    This is not a paragogic nun, but the 3fp pronoun, “their voice.”

  2. pastormahlon says:

    Dear Charles: Thank you for pointing out my error. I have rewritten the post and omitted the material on the “paragogic nun”. Thanks for taking the time to read and I hope you will return! – blessings, Mahlon Smith

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