Study Guide

The Book of Ruth Loyalty

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[Naomi] kissed [Ruth and Orpah], and they wept aloud. They said to her, "No, we will return with you to your people." (NRSV 1:9-10)

[Naomi] kissed [Ruth and Orpah]; and they lifted up their voice, and wept. And they said unto her, Surely we will return with thee unto thy people. (KJV 1:9-10)

Naomi clearly loves her daughters-in-law, but she just can't bring herself to take the women with her to Bethlehem. Lucky for her, both Ruth and Orpah are prepared to stick by her side… for a while at least. Here Naomi's setting her daughters-in-law up for a great loyalty showdown. Of course, we know who'll win.

Orpah kissed her mother-in-law, but Ruth clung to her. So she said, "See, your sister-in-law has gone back to her people and to her gods; return after your sister-in-law." (NRSV 1:14-15)

Orpah kissed her mother in law; but Ruth clave unto her. And she said, Behold, thy sister in law is gone back unto her people, and unto her gods: return thou after thy sister in law. (KJV 1:14-15)

The story sets up the two sisters-in-law as foils. Though both initially want to follow Naomi, Orpah finally gives in and heads back home with a Fredo kiss. In reality, neither woman had any obligation to follow her mother-in-law. Ruth does it out of pure love and loyalty and, well, clinginess.

Ruth said, "Do not press me to leave you or to turn back from following you! Where you go, I will go; Where you lodge, I will lodge; your people shall be my people, and your God my God. Where you die, I will die—there will I be buried. May the Lord do thus and so to me, and more as well, if even death parts me from you!" When Naomi saw that she was determined to go with her, she said no more to her. (NRSV 1:16-18)

Ruth said, Intreat me not to leave thee, or to return from following after thee: for whither thou goest, I will go; and where thou lodgest, I will lodge: thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God: Where thou diest, will I die, and there will I be buried: the Lord do so to me, and more also, if ought but death part thee and me. When she saw that she was stedfastly minded to go with her, then she left speaking unto her. (KJV 1:16-18)

This is probably the most popular quote from the whole book. Ruth's words to Naomi are more than a pledge of loyalty—they're pure poetry. Maybe that's why this verse is pretty popular at weddings (just ignore the fact that it's two in-laws talking to each other and you're good).

"[Ruth] came, and she has been on her feet from early this morning until now, without resting even for a moment." […] She gleaned in the field until evening. Then she beat out what she had gleaned, and it was about an ephah of barley. (NRSV 2:7, 17)

[Ruth] said, I pray you, let me glean and gather after the reapers among the sheaves: so she came, and hath continued even from the morning until now[…] So she gleaned in the field until even, and beat out that she had gleaned: and it was about an ephah of barley. (KJV 2:7, 17)

This is how devoted Ruth is to supporting Naomi. She is out in the barley fields glean all day long. From morning 'til night. That's loyalty in action, ladies and gentleman, and it takes a sturdy lady like Ruth to pull it off.

Boaz answered her, "All that you have done for your mother-in-law since the death of your husband has been fully told me, and how you left your father and mother and your native land and came to a people that you did not know before. May the Lord reward you for your deeds, and may you have a full reward from the Lord, the God of Israel, under whose wings you have come for refuge!" (NRSV 2:11-12)

Boaz answered and said unto her, It hath fully been shewed me, all that thou hast done unto thy mother in law since the death of thine husband: and how thou hast left thy father and thy mother, and the land of thy nativity, and art come unto a people which thou knewest not heretofore. The Lord recompense thy work, and a full reward be given thee of the Lord God of Israel, under whose wings thou art come to trust. (KJV 2:11-12)

Ruth's faithfulness adds to her charms for Boaz. Sure, Ruth might have caught his eye with her pretty face, but after he finds out what a kind heart she has, he's all in.

[Ruth] went down to the threshing floor and did just as her mother-in-law had instructed her. (NRSV 3:6)

[Ruth] went down unto the floor, and did according to all that her mother in law bade her. (KJV 3:6)

Again with the devotion. Naomi has hatched a pretty crazy plan. She's asked Ruth to risk her reputation and good-standing just to speed things along with Boaz. But, Ruth doesn't give it a second thought. She agrees to go along with the whole scheme right away out of sheer loyalty to Naomi. As for loyalty to herself and her reputation, well, she's willing to toss that out the window for the time being.

[Boaz] said, "May you be blessed by the Lord, my daughter; this last instance of your loyalty is better than the first; you have not gone after young men, whether poor or rich. And now, my daughter, do not be afraid, I will do for you all that you ask, for all the assembly of my people know that you are a worthy woman. (NRSV 3:10-11)

[Boaz] said, Blessed be thou of the Lord, my daughter: for thou hast shewed more kindness in the latter end than at the beginning, inasmuch as thou followedst not young men, whether poor or rich. And now, my daughter, fear not; I will do to thee all that thou requirest: for all the city of my people doth know that thou art a virtuous woman. (KJV 3:10-11)

Ruth cannot go wrong in Boaz's eyes. Here, he praises her for seeking out a relative to marry. She could have had any guy in town (young guys, in fact), but she choses him. Sure, he's rich and important and an all-around nice guy, but she could have done better. Or at least, better looking.

"But now, though it is true that I am a near kinsman, there is another kinsman more closely related than I. Remain this night, and in the morning, if he will act as next-of-kin for you, good; let him do it. If he is not willing to act as next-of-kin for you, then, as the Lord lives, I will act as next-of-kin for you." (NRSV 3:12-13)

Now it is true that I am thy near kinsman: howbeit there is a kinsman nearer than I. Tarry this night, and it shall be in the morning, that if he will perform unto thee the part of a kinsman, well; let him do the kinsman's part: but if he will not do the part of a kinsman to thee, then will I do the part of a kinsman to thee, as the Lord liveth. (KJV 3:12-13)

Now that's loyalty to your family. Boaz obviously wants to walk Ruth down the aisle, but he knows that another man has a better claim on her. He volunteers to go tell this guy all about it. Geez, Boaz. You could have kept this secret to yourself.

[Naomi] replied, "Wait, my daughter, until you learn how the matter turns out, for the man will not rest, but will settle the matter today." (NRSV 3:18)

Said [Naomi], Sit still, my daughter, until thou know how the matter will fall: for the man will not be in rest, until he have finished the thing this day. (KJV 3:18)

Naomi is sufficiently impressed by her future son-in-law. She knows he'll settle this whole mess first thing. How does she know? She's got faith in her (new) family.

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