What does Ruth 1:12 mean?
ESV: Turn back, my daughters; go your way, for I am too old to have a husband. If I should say I have hope, even if I should have a husband this night and should bear sons,
NIV: Return home, my daughters; I am too old to have another husband. Even if I thought there was still hope for me—even if I had a husband tonight and then gave birth to sons—
NASB: Return, my daughters! Go, for I am too old to have a husband. If I said I have hope, if I were even to have a husband tonight and also give birth to sons,
CSB: Return home, my daughters. Go on, for I am too old to have another husband. Even if I thought there was still hope for me to have a husband tonight and to bear sons,
NLT: No, my daughters, return to your parents’ homes, for I am too old to marry again. And even if it were possible, and I were to get married tonight and bear sons, then what?
KJV: Turn again, my daughters, go your way; for I am too old to have a husband. If I should say, I have hope, if I should have a husband also tonight, and should also bear sons;
NKJV: Turn back, my daughters, go—for I am too old to have a husband. If I should say I have hope, if I should have a husband tonight and should also bear sons,
Verse Commentary:
This continues Naomi's heartbreaking logic. She has been living in Moab for ten years and is now headed back to Bethlehem (Ruth 1:1–5). Her daughters-in-law have decided to come with her, but it seems the closer she gets to home, the more she realizes that's a bad idea (Ruth 1:6–11).

She loves her daughters-in-law and does not regret that her sons' wives are Moabitesses. But there is no reason to expect a future for them if they stay with her. She will return to Bethlehem, where she is at least a native Israelite. They are from the nation of Moab (Numbers 22:1—25:9; 31:16) and would be much more likely to survive if they return to their parents who can arrange new marriages for them. That is their only reasonable chance to find rest from poverty, hunger, and hardship: the only life which Naomi can offer.

Naomi has already pointed out that she is too old to bear more sons for them to marry. In fact, she is too old to remarry to even try to have sons! Her reasoning uses a technique called a "reduction to absurdity:" taking an assumption to its conclusion and showing how ridiculous it would be. Even if she could have sons, the younger women would need to stay with her until those sons were grown enough to marry (Ruth 1:13). Would they? The expected response is, "Of course not!" Orpah and Ruth need husbands now, while they are young enough to start their own families.

In Naomi's thinking, there is no way the women can find rest and stay together. She expects to be miserable either way; she would rather not Orpah and Ruth be miserable on her account.
Verse Context:
Ruth 1:6–14 records Naomi receiving good news: the famine in Bethlehem is over. She and her family fled to Moab ten years prior. Now, her husband and sons are gone, but she has two loving daughters-in-law. At first, they accompany her. Yet Naomi becomes convinced their arrangement cannot work. Orpah and Ruth can live with her in poverty, or they can find rest in a new family. After a persuasive argument, Orpah tearfully agrees to leave, but Ruth stays. Naomi is bitter now, but Ruth will prove to be everything the mourning widow needs.
Chapter Summary:
Ruth 1 depicts how a person can feel "starved" for things other than food. Elimelech and his wife, Naomi, flee a famine in Bethlehem and settle in Moab where there is plenty of food and their sons find devoted wives. Within ten years, however, Naomi's husband and sons are dead. When she hears Judah has food again, she prepares to return as an old, bitter widow. One daughter-in-law, Ruth, insists on accompanying her. On the surface, a young Moabite widow in Israel would be the last person who could help, but God honors Ruth's lovingkindness and eventually uses her to restore Naomi's hope and future.
Chapter Context:
Ruth chapter 1 introduces the tumultuous life of a Jewish woman in the era of the judges (Judges 2:16–19). The Israelites have entered the Promised Land but have only half-heartedly pursued God's command to drive out the depraved Canaanites. Too often, they rejected God for foreign idols. God responds with war and famine. In the face of one such famine in Judah, Elimelech and Naomi take their two sons and flee to Moab. After ten years, when the famine is lifted, Naomi returns to Bethlehem with all that is left of her family: one daughter-in-law. They encounter Boaz, whose character is explained more in chapter 2.
Book Summary:
Though set in a time of violence and tragedy, the book of Ruth tells one of Scripture’s most uplifting stories. Naomi, an Israelite, leaves her home during a famine. While away, in Moab, her husband and sons die. Naomi convinces one of her Moabite daughters-in-law to leave her and seek a new life. The other, Ruth, refuses, declaring her love and loyalty to Naomi. When the pair return to Israel, they encounter Boaz. This man is both kind and moral; his treatment of Ruth secures Naomi’s future and becomes part of king David’s ancestry.
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