Ruth 1:14-18 “And they lifted up their voices and wept again; and Orpah kissed her mother-in-law, but Ruth clung to her.
15 Then she said, “Behold, your sister-in-law has gone back to her people and her gods; return after your sister-in-law.” 16 But Ruth said, “Do not urge me to leave you or turn back 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 I will be buried. Thus may the Lord do to me, and worse, if anything but death parts you and me.”
This particular text has personal meeting to me due to the fact it was used in our wedding some 20 years ago. Undoubtedly the context of Ruth 1:14-18 is referring to a confession of faith. When my wife and I got married, we aimed to build our marriage on our individual and common faith commitment to the Lord Jesus Christ. Today’s post features the dramatic confession of faith by Ruth the Moabitess.
The first chapter of Ruth has been building up to this scene. What choice would Ruth make once her mother-in-law Noami pressed both she and Orpah to go back to their native land? As can be seen in the above rendering of Ruth 1:14-16 from the NASB, Ruth and Orpah both hesitate, with Ruth clinging to Naomi. Orpah eventually leaves, but Ruth remains – determined not to leave Naomi.
Ruth 1:16 gives us the dramatic confession and resolve of Ruth, again rendered from the NASB: “But Ruth said, “Do not urge me to leave you or turn back 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.” The underlying Hebrew text of this verse is quite dramatic. I will place the corresponding Hebrew verbs and nouns in red to match with the words highlighted in red in the NASB text: וַתֹּ֤אמֶר רוּת֙ אַל־תִּפְגְּעִי־בִ֔י לְעָזְבֵ֖ךְ לָשׁ֣וּב מֵאַחֲרָ֑יִךְ כִּ֠י אֶל־אֲשֶׁ֨ר תֵּלְכִ֜י אֵלֵ֗ךְ וּבַאֲשֶׁ֤ר תָּלִ֙ינִי֙ אָלִ֔ין עַמֵּ֣ךְ עַמִּ֔י וֵאלֹהַ֖יִךְ אֱלֹהָֽי׃
1. The first phrase
Note the little diamond above the second word, translated “I will go”. This little diamond symbol (the rebia) was used by Jews to signify an important word in the text. Clearly the beginning of Ruth’s confession is the reason for pointing out such significance.
2. Then notice the second and third phrases:
These are two verbs with the same verbal root. Throughout Ruth’s dramatic speech, we find her using verbs of the same root. We can see this same pattern in the third highlighted phrase: תָּלִ֙ינִי֙ אָלִ֔ין (you lodge, I will lodge).
The second verbs in both phrases are in the first person singular imperfect, indicating Ruth’s utter resolve to go wherever her mother-in-law goes and to lodge wherever she lodges.
3. Now notice the final highlighted sentences
עַמֵּ֣ךְ עַמִּ֔י וֵאלֹהַ֖יִךְ אֱלֹהָֽי
Ruth is literally saying here in these two final sentences: “your people, my people; you God, my God”. In English we supply the predicate “to be” (or in these cases: “are”) to smooth out the translation. The first and second words in each clause are equated, meaning that in Ruth’s confession, she is applying to herself Naomi’s nationality and faith. In other words, Ruth’s confession is now her own identification.
This dramatic confession of Ruth represents one of the key commitments of faith in the Hebrew Bible. In the New Testament we find amply places that urge people to make their own commitments of faith or “confession” in Jesus Christ (see for example Romans 10:9). Such confessions connect the outward behavior with the inward condition of the heart. Ruth’s confession was powerful due to her forsaking all she knew and was in favor of knowing Yahweh and being included in His covenant people. Jesus taught in passages such as Luke 9:23-24 that if anyone were to follow Him, they needed to deny themselves, take up their cross daily and follow Him. Confessing one’s faith in Jesus and following Him always costs. Though it may cost all to follow Him, the dividends for following the Lord pay far more than can ever be imagined.