When we think the worst – Studying Ruth 1:10-13 in Hebrew and English

Ruth 1:10-13 (NASB) And they said to her, “No, but we will surely return with you to your people.” 11 But Naomi said, “Return, my daughters. Why should you go with me? Have I yet sons in my womb, that they may be your husbands? 12 Return, my daughters! Go, for I am too old to have a husband. If I said I have hope, if I should even have a husband tonight and also bear sons, 13 would you therefore wait until they were grown? Would you therefore refrain from marrying? No, my daughters; for it is harder for me than for you, for the hand of the Lord has gone forth against me.”

Ruth 1:10-13 (Hebrew) תֹּאמַ֖רְנָה־לָּ֑הּ כִּי־אִתָּ֥ךְ נָשׁ֖וּב לְעַמֵּֽךְ׃

11 וַתֹּ֤אמֶר נָעֳמִי֙ שֹׁ֣בְנָה בְנֹתַ֔י לָ֥מָּה תֵלַ֖כְנָה עִמִּ֑י הַֽעֽוֹד־לִ֤י בָנִים֙ בְּֽמֵעַ֔י וְהָי֥וּ לָכֶ֖ם לַאֲנָשִֽׁים׃

12 שֹׁ֤בְנָה בְנֹתַי֙ לֵ֔כְןָ כִּ֥י זָקַ֖נְתִּי מִהְי֣וֹת לְאִ֑ישׁ כִּ֤י אָמַ֙רְתִּי֙ יֶשׁ־לִ֣י תִקְוָ֔ה גַּ֣ם הָיִ֤יתִי הַלַּ֙יְלָה֙ לְאִ֔ישׁ וְגַ֖ם יָלַ֥דְתִּי בָנִֽים׃

13 הֲלָהֵ֣ן׀ תְּשַׂבֵּ֗רְנָה עַ֚ד אֲשֶׁ֣ר יִגְדָּ֔לוּ הֲלָהֵן֙ תֵּֽעָגֵ֔נָה לְבִלְתִּ֖י הֱי֣וֹת לְאִ֑ישׁ אַ֣ל בְּנֹתַ֗י כִּֽי־מַר־לִ֤י מְאֹד֙ מִכֶּ֔ם כִּֽי־יָצְאָ֥ה בִ֖י יַד־יְהוָֽה׃

Introduction:

In today’s post we see Naomi urging her two daughter-in-laws to return back to their native land of Moab. Their husbands had died. Naomi’s husband Elimelech had also died. Hope’s flame is extinguished in the first nine verses of Ruth – at least from a ground-level human perspective. Ruth is a remarkable book in that we can read it from both the ground-level and Divine-level point of views. Although Ruth 1:1-13 is bereft of hope from a ground-level view-point; nonetheless, keeping in mind the much larger God’-eye point of view (which becomes more prominent in later chapters) helps keep details in perspective. For Naomi, there was nothing she could offer Ruth and Orphah with respect to a future, a name and an inheritance.

Considering details in the Hebrew and English text that aids us in seeing the growing emotional tension

We can clearly see how much love the two Moabite women had for Noami by the way they refused to heed her suggestion for them to part ways. The English text of the NASB has in italicized print their negative response: “no“. Oftentimes, English translations will include words in italicized print that make for smooth English that are not found in the original language. We don’t find the negative particle “no” or “not” in the Hebrew text of Ruth 1:10. In the Hebrew text, the two women’s response to Naomi is more forthright. Quite literally Ruth and Orpah say: “we will return with you!” It’s as if Ruth and Orpah find Naomi’s request to be so unacceptable that they plainly say they will return with her, no questions asked!

We then skip down to Ruth 1:13. Naomi closes out her mournful speech to her daughters-in-law with these words that we find in the NASB: “….for the hand of the Lord has gone forth against me.” The Hebrew text features a use of the preposition normally translated “in” which, when given a personal ending (which in this case is the first-person ending translated “me”) makes it idiomatically render as “against me”. Naomi’s economy of words in the Hebrew text equals out to just five words in all. Her terseness tells us how angry and frustrated she was in this conversation. She’s mad at her situation.  In short, Naomi thought and assumed the worst. 

Closing thoughts and applications

I am sure that readers have had those moments in life where circumstances seem to indicate that God’s hand was against them. I’ve had those moments myself. Only when we recognize how often we truly assume the worst do we truly connect with how Naomi is feeling. It’s as if we are looking at the back of an old clock and see the gear-works criss-crossing this-way and that-way. From our ground-level point of view, nothing makes sense. We of course are limited in our perspective due to our own smallness. For the Christian, the vantage point of living derives not from what is seen, but rather unseen realities (2 Corinthians 5:7). We can look at Naomi’s situation from the grander context of the whole Book of Ruth and see that God had her right where He wanted her, Ruth and Orpah. As will unfold in later chapters of Ruth, God’s hand was not against Naomi.  Instead, the Lord was guiding her. If we think back quickly to the old clock analogy, what looks chaotic on the back is actually part of God’s grander plan (Ephesians 1:11). When we flip the clock over to its face, we find the clock keeping perfect time. The hands and movements are all going in the same direction. May you and I consider such thoughts the next time we think the worst. 

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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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