Ruth 1:16 ‘Thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God.’
Ruth 1:16 ‘Thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God.’
We find the name of Ruth the Moabitess repeated thirteen times in the Word of God; twelve times in the Older Testament, and just once in the Newer Testament. There are surely many notable items to be gleaned from that which surrounds the inclusion of this woman of Moab into the Holy Scriptures. The notability actually begins with her name being found only once in the New Testament. Though it be only once, it is particularly noteworthy because that ‘only once’ just happens to be in the very beginning of our New Testament, and with the lineage of Jesus Christ that Matthew has supplied. In the triad of fourteen generations provided by our tax collector disciple, Matthew, there is a very interesting feature. In the third triad, from Jechoniah to Joseph, there is among all the ‘begettings’ the name of only one of the mothers involved; namely, that of Mary, of whom was born Jesus, who is called Christ. Each of the fathers are named, yet Mary is the only mother named. In the second triad of generations, that from David to Josiah, once again there is only one mother spoken of and she is only spoken of as ‘her that had been the wife of Uriah.’ So that we have mothers referred to only in the second and the third triads of the generations of Jesus Christ. Yet in the very first triad of generations, beginning with Abraham and extending to David, there are contained no less than three names of the mothers included in the genealogy. And it is very remarkable as just who these three ancestors of Christ are; namely, Tamar, Rahab, and Ruth.
Even Sarah, the ‘miracle mother’ of Isaac is unmentioned, as well as the mother of Jacob, the biblically renowned Rachel, whose name has been left out. Less remarkable, it must be admitted, is the omission of Leah, the mother of Judah. Judah was her fourth son by Jacob, of whose birth we are told in Genesis 29:35.
She conceived again, and bare a son; and she said, this time will I praise Jehovah: therefore she called his name Judah; and she left off bearing.
No mention at all of the mothers of Isaac, Jacob, or Judah. Isn’t that quite surprising? Perhaps even more surprising when it is considered alongside those mothers that are named; again, Tamar, Rahab, and Ruth. It is fair to inquire; what else do these ladies have in common, if anything?
What they have in common is that they are, each of them, ‘outsiders’ as far as Israel is concerned. Judah had ‘turned in to a certain Adullamite, whose name was Hirah.’—Genesis 38:1. Judah had a friend of the Canaanites that he visited. From that point, he saw a daughter of a certain Canaanite by the name of Shua, whom he decided to marry. He had three sons by her and, sometime later, procured a wife for his eldest, Er, by the name of Tamar. Since Judah had been living among these folk long enough for his oldest son to be of age to marry, it is most likely that Tamar was also a Canaanite. Delitzsch refers to her as “undoubtedly a heathen.” He is probably correct; Luther held the same view. So the first-named ‘mother in Israel’ was likely a heathen. So early in the life of the people of Jehovah, it is disclosed—albeit veiled—that the promise to Abraham included the Gentiles. Next, in Matthew’s line, is Rahab of Jericho. She is not only an outsider; she is not only a heathen; she is a harlot, yet this was to be the mother of Boaz; predestined to be the great-grandfather of David the king. David’s great-great-grandmother, Rahab, is spoken of very highly by James in his epistle; still referred to as ‘Rahab the harlot.’ Isn’t that amazing? The next surprise, in Matthew’s genealogy of Christ, is not actually named but spoken of as ‘her that had been the wife of Uriah.’ There is no doubt; this speaks of Bath-sheba. Now to these three mothers named in the genealogy of Christ is added an adulteress. While the Word speaks not the names of Sarah, Rebekah, or Rachel, yet it veritably placards the names of Tamar, Rahab, and Ruth. And Ruth was a Moabitess. We see Tamar came in to the covenant people of God by way of Judah; Rahab was brought in, actually, by her faith [Hebrews 11; James 2], Ruth, most conspicuously, chose the people of God. Each history offers a picture of the gospel being extended to Gentiles. We have grounds to believe that Rahab and Ruth were each proselytes to the faith in the true God; Tamar remains an enigma. What may be said of this mother is that she had a much better grasp of right and wrong than her father-in-law did.
The most beautiful picture in this ‘gallery’ is, without any doubt, that of Ruth the Moabitess. We have no back-story other than her connection to Moab. The first instance of her name only advises us of her being wife of either Mahlon or Chilion; we do not even learn which of Elimelech’s sons was the husband of Ruth until we arrive at verse 4:10; and that out of the mouth of Boaz. But the marvelous and best part of the story is that of Ruth’s decision and determination to cling unto her mother-in-law, Naomi. And not only just to Naomi, but to the people and the God of Naomi. It is true that Orpah, Chilion’s widow, spoke along with Ruth at the first, saying ‘Nay, but we will return with thee to thy people.’ But it was Ruth, after all, that persisted in some of the most poignant words recorded in any narrative:
And Ruth said, entreat me not to leave thee, and 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: Jehovah do so to me, and more also, if aught but death part thee and me.—Ruth 1:16-17.
Is not this precisely what the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ calls His people to do? Are we not called to choose us this day whom we will serve? Have we not been called upon to leave all and follow Him? Ruth and Orpah surely had still some family among the Moabites. Yet was Ruth willing to leave them for Naomi, for Israel, for Jehovah [take note of her oath; Jehovah do so to me, and more also]. We can easily imagine Orpah being very sincere, perhaps as sincere as Ruth, and yet upon considering her family ties; perhaps even considering their gods, she decides to return. Praise God for the grace that kept many of us from returning from Him.
David Farmer, elder
Fellowship Bible Church
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