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Ruth 1:11

ESV But Naomi said, “Turn back, my daughters; why will you go with me? Have I yet sons in my womb that they may become your husbands?
NIV But Naomi said, 'Return home, my daughters. Why would you come with me? Am I going to have any more sons, who could become your husbands?
NASB But Naomi said, 'Return, my daughters. Why should you go with me? Do I still have sons in my womb, that they may be your husbands?
CSB But Naomi replied, "Return home, my daughters. Why do you want to go with me? Am I able to have any more sons who could become your husbands?
NLT But Naomi replied, 'Why should you go on with me? Can I still give birth to other sons who could grow up to be your husbands?
KJV And 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?

What does Ruth 1:11 mean?

Naomi is heartbroken. Her husband and sons have died. Now she feels convicted to send away her two loving daughters-in-law. They are from Moab. Naomi is headed home to Bethlehem in Israel. There is little left for Naomi in Israel, but even less for Orpah and Ruth. Naomi understands that the only chance the women have for rest—from hunger, danger, loneliness, and destitution—is for them to remarry. Because of the sordid history of Moabite women and Israelite men (Numbers 25:1–9), their best chance is to return to their families and find Moabite husbands.

Orpah and Ruth refuse. They love Naomi and want to stay with her. She fights them with logic. The only way, she thinks, they can have rest but stay in Naomi's life is if Naomi has more sons for them to marry. Sadly, Naomi has passed the age of childbearing. In that era, the likelihood that anyone would want to marry a woman too old for childbearing is very slim. If Orpah and Ruth stay with Naomi, they will not have rest; if they remarry, they will not be family.

Naomi is not thinking of a Levirate marriage, here (Deuteronomy 25:5–6). A Levirate marriage occurs when a man marries but dies before having an heir. The man's brother is to marry the widow and give her a son who will inherit the first man's property and position in the clan. Naomi's husband, Elimelech, has property in Bethlehem, but it's evident he has no brother—and since Naomi is no longer fertile, she wouldn't marry, anyway. The only recorded time in Israel that a man's property went to female heirs was with the daughters of Zelophehad who were allowed to keep the inheritance if they married within their tribe (Numbers 27:1–11). In that instance, however, Moses did say that if ever a man died without sons, then the inheritance should go to his daughters (Numbers 27:9), and he made contingencies for a man who died without children (Numbers 27:10–11). But Orpah and Ruth are not Elimelech's daughters. The best Naomi can hope for is to find a kinsman of Elimelech who will buy his land so she can have money to live on.

The situation is tragic, no matter what happens. Families separated by marrying into different regions had no reason to expect they'd ever meet again. Orpah eventually leaves, but Ruth stays (Ruth 1:14). Levirate marriages pre-date the Mosaic law (Genesis 38), and Ruth may have already known of them. When Naomi points out Elimelech's kinsman, and notes that if Ruth married him, he would take diligent care of her, Ruth challenges him to a Levirate marriage, as well. Fortunately, that man is Boaz, and he is more than willing (Ruth 3:11–13).
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