Ruth 1:19 Parallel Verses [⇓ See commentary ⇓]

Ruth 1:19, NIV: So the two women went on until they came to Bethlehem. When they arrived in Bethlehem, the whole town was stirred because of them, and the women exclaimed, 'Can this be Naomi?'

Ruth 1:19, ESV: So the two of them went on until they came to Bethlehem. And when they came to Bethlehem, the whole town was stirred because of them. And the women said, “Is this Naomi?”

Ruth 1:19, KJV: So they two went until they came to Bethlehem. And it came to pass, when they were come to Bethlehem, that all the city was moved about them, and they said, Is this Naomi?

Ruth 1:19, NASB: So they both went on until they came to Bethlehem. And when they had come to Bethlehem, all the city was stirred because of them, and the women said, 'Is this Naomi?'

Ruth 1:19, NLT: So the two of them continued on their journey. When they came to Bethlehem, the entire town was excited by their arrival. 'Is it really Naomi?' the women asked.

Ruth 1:19, CSB: The two of them traveled until they came to Bethlehem. When they entered Bethlehem, the whole town was excited about their arrival and the local women exclaimed, "Can this be Naomi? "

What does Ruth 1:19 mean? [⇑ See verse text ⇑]

Naomi and Ruth have finally arrived in Bethlehem. It has been ten years since Naomi lived here, and longer than that since she has seen the fields filled with barley, ready to harvest (Ruth 1:1–5). Ruth has likely never seen Bethlehem. Undoubtedly, she has heard about it since she was married to Naomi's son. She is a Moabitess and, despite her vulnerable position as a young, unmarried, pagan foreigner, her first and only order of business is to take care of Naomi.

Naomi likely doesn't know what to expect when she arrives. At this point in life, her hope is as dead as her husband and sons. The town—especially the women—are excited over her return. Their wondering question probably reflects the change in Naomi since they saw her last. The women ask if this is really the same person. They are more than likely happy to see her but would have made note of her desperate situation.

Assuming the local people are joyful, Naomi can't return their sentiment. She abandons her name, which means "pleasant," and insists the women call her Mara, which means "bitter." In her mind, this is a better description, since she feels God has deliberately dealt her a series of tragedies (Ruth 1:13, 20).

Despite the fields filled with barley (Ruth 1:22)—proof that God has removed His judgment of famine and blessed His people again—Naomi has no hope. The loss of husband and sons would weigh on any woman to a depth which loving friends would not be able to reach. But Naomi has even more reasons to mourn: she lives in an ancient patriarchal society. Her late husband owns a field that she's not equipped to own, let alone manage. Her options are to beg, to scavenge enough from the fields to prevent starvation, to become a servant, or to become a prostitute. That she's beyond childbearing age suggest the last three options would be especially difficult.

In addition, with the deaths of her sons, she has seen the end of her husband's family line. His land will have to go to a relative. She left this region as the wife of a landowner, having given him two heirs. She returns destitute and dishonored.