Study Guide

The Book of Ruth Sadness

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Elimelech, the husband of Naomi, died, and she was left with her two sons[…] When they had lived there about ten years, both Mahlon and Chilion also died, so that the woman was left without her two sons and her husband. (NRSV 1:3-5)

Elimelech Naomi's husband died; and she was left, and her two sons[…] They dwelled there about ten years. And Mahlon and Chilion died also both of them; and the woman was left of her two sons and her husband. (KJV 1:3-5)

Major bummer. This story starts out on a sad note and doesn't stop. Of course, we happy-ending experts know that if you start with a death, you've gotta end with a wedding. Isn't that just how stories work?

[Naomi] kissed [Ruth and Orpah], and they wept aloud. (NRSV 1:9)

[Naomi] kissed [Ruth and Orpah]; and they lifted up their voice, and wept. (KJV 1:9)

Naomi has lost her sons and now she's trying to ditch her daughter-in-law. Everyone is majorly depressed by this, including Shmoop. But don't worry—Ruth will save the day in just a moment, and give us all a reason to believe in love and loyalty again.

Naomi said, "Turn back, my daughters, why will you go with me? Do I still have sons in my womb that they may become your husbands? Turn back, my daughters, go your way, for I am too old to have a husband. Even if I thought there was hope for me, even if I should have a husband tonight and bear sons, would you then wait until they were grown? Would you then refrain from marrying? No, my daughters, it has been far more bitter for me than for you, because the hand of the Lord has turned against me." Then they wept aloud again. (NRSV 1:11-14)

Naomi said, Turn again, my daughters: why will ye go with me? are there yet any more sons in my womb, that they may be your husbands? Turn again, my daughters, go your way; for I am too old to have an husband. If I should say, I have hope, if I should have an husband also to night, and should also bear sons; Would ye tarry for them till they were grown? would ye stay for them from having husbands? nay, my daughters; for it grieveth me much for your sakes that the hand of the Lord is gone out against me. And they lifted up their voice, and wept again. (KJV 1:11-14)

Okay, things are really not getting any better. Naomi is laying it on thick here to get Ruth and Naomi to leave her, but her situation is pretty depressing. She's down in the dumps and isn't afraid to say it. Which makes us wonder: is she playing up the pity party a bit here? Maybe she knows Ruth's a sucker for sorrow, and she's using some reverse psychology to guilt her into coming with her. We do know, after all, that she's quite the schemer.

She said to them, "Call me no longer Naomi, call me Mara, for the Almighty has dealt bitterly with me. I went away full, but the Lord has brought me back empty; why call me Naomi when the Lord has dealt harshly with me, and the Almighty has brought calamity upon me?" (NRSV 1:20-21)

She said unto them, Call me not Naomi, call me Mara: for the Almighty hath dealt very bitterly with me. I went out full and the Lord hath brought me home again empty: why then call ye me Naomi, seeing the Lord hath testified against me, and the Almighty hath afflicted me? (KJV 1:20-21)

Whoa, bitter much? Naomi has even changed her name to reflect her new super sad status. Of course, everyone in town seems to ignore her request, but still, this lady's a huge downer. She even goes so far to say that God is the cause of her troubles. Well, she may have a point there, but it's probably one that's best left unsaid.

Ruth the Moabite said to Naomi, "Let me go to the field and glean among the ears of grain, behind someone in whose sight I may find favor." She said to her, "Go, my daughter." (NRSV 2:2)

Ruth the Moabitess said unto Naomi, Let me now go to the field, and glean ears of corn after him in whose sight I shall find grace. And she said unto her, Go, my daughter. (KJV 2:2)

For her part, Ruth refuses to be as bummed as Naomi is. She's looking ahead for what they can do to survive. Meanwhile, Naomi's sadness seems to envelop her. She can only manage a weak "Go ahead," when Ruth shares her plan to glean.

[Ruth's] mother-in-law said to her, "Where did you glean today? And where have you worked? Blessed be the man who took notice of you." (NRSV 2:19)

[Ruth's] mother in law said unto her, Where hast thou gleaned to day? and where wroughtest thou? blessed be he that did take knowledge of thee. (KJV 2:19)

A ray of sunshine in this otherwise sad story? Naomi's mood is starting to perk up a bit as their fortunes are turning around. And it's all thanks to Ruth—our new favorite perker-upper.

Naomi said to her daughter-in-law, "Blessed be he by the Lord, whose kindness has not forsaken the living or the dead!" Naomi also said to her, "The man is a relative of ours, one of our nearest kin." (NRSV 2:20)

Naomi said unto her daughter in law, Blessed be he of the Lord, who hath not left off his kindness to the living and to the dead. And Naomi said unto her, The man is near of kin unto us, one of our next kinsmen. (KJV 2:20)

A huge, blinding ray of sunshine. Before, God had turned against Naomi and now he's sending some blessings her way. It's about time, Naomi is probably grumbling.

The women said to Naomi, "Blessed be the Lord, who has not left you this day without next-of-kin; and may his name be renowned in Israel! He shall be to you a restorer of life and a nourisher of your old age; for your daughter-in-law who loves you, who is more to you than seven sons, has borne him." (NRSV 4:14-15)

The women said unto Naomi, Blessed be the Lord, which hath not left thee this day without a kinsman, that his name may be famous in Israel. And he shall be unto thee a restorer of thy life, and a nourisher of thine old age: for thy daughter in law, which loveth thee, which is better to thee than seven sons, hath born him. (KJV 4:14-15)

Happiness has returned to Bethlehem. Naomi came to town in a terrible state and now she has everything she could ever wish for—a male relative (score) and an super devoted daughter-in-law (double score). Three cheers for Ruth and her major matchmaking skills.

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