The significance and beauty of the brief narrative cannot be highly enough estimated, whether regard be had to the thought which fills it, the historical value which marks it, or the pure and charming form in which it is set forth. It will be necessary rightly to seize its fundamental idea, in order to treat to advantage the other historical questions which present themselves with reference to the time of its composition and place in the canon of the Old Covenant.
An ancient Israelitish family of Bethlehem fell into misery. They had left their native country in a time of distress, in order to save themselves from participating in it. But in the stranger’s land, in Moab, a harder fate alights upon them. Death carries off father and sons: the mother remains behind, childless and widowed. True, she has daughters-in-law; but these are without offspring, and – Moabitesses, aliens, not without fault chosen to be wives of her sons. Naomi’s situation is as bad as it can be. In Moab she cannot remain; sorrowfully she returns to Bethlehem. Her house is desolated; upon herself rests the hand of God. But in the midst of despair, a consolation arises for her. Ruth, her Moabitish daughter-in-law, remains with her, – no dissuasion of her mother-in-law restrains her. She gives up everything, native land and paternal home, yea, even the hope of better fortunes, continues faithful to her love for Naomi, and goes with her to her God and her people, – but in tears, poverty and bereavement.