What does Ruth 1:16 mean?
ESV: But Ruth said, "Do not urge me to leave you or to return from following you. For where you go I will go, and where you lodge I will lodge. Your people shall be my people, and your God my God.
NIV: But Ruth replied, "Don’t urge me to leave you or to turn back from you. Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God.
NASB: But Ruth said, 'Do not plead with me to leave you or to turn back from following you; for where you go, I will go, and where you sleep, I will sleep. Your people shall be my people, and your God, my God.
CSB: But Ruth replied: Don’t plead with me to abandon you or to return and not follow you. For wherever you go, I will go, and wherever you live, I will live; your people will be my people, and your God will be my God.
NLT: But Ruth replied, 'Don’t ask me to leave you and turn back. Wherever you go, I will go; wherever you live, I will live. Your people will be my people, and your God will be my God.
KJV: And Ruth said, Entreat me not to leave thee, or 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:
NKJV: But Ruth said: “Entreat me not to leave you, Or to turn back from following after you; For wherever you go, I will go; And wherever you lodge, I will lodge; Your people shall be my people, And your God, my God.
Verse Commentary:
God allowed the Israelites to be enslaved in Egypt for four hundred years in part to grow their culture and population, at some distance from a culture steeped in foreign gods, intending to solidify them as a unique nation. He gave them the Mosaic law to teach them how to stay away from foreign gods. Israel was to be an example to pagan nations of what the one true God expects of His followers (Leviticus 26). He did this because He had promised Abraham he would be the father of many nations and the nations would be blessed through him (Genesis 12:1–3; 17:4; 22:18).

Abraham did not father the nation of Moab. Moab was one of two sons conceived by a drunken Lot—Abraham's nephew—and Lot's two daughters (Genesis 19:30–38). While God had promised that those who blessed Abraham would be blessed (Genesis 12:3), Moab wanted to bring cursing on Israel (Numbers 22--24). When getting a prophet to curse the Israelites proved unsuccessful, Moab took another route: inviting Israel into sin so they would bring cursing on themselves. When the Israelites traveled up the eastern side of the Dead Sea, the Moabite king sent women to seduce the Israelite men and introduce them to their own god, Chemosh (Numbers 25:1–5). This temptation worked so well that King Josiah was still taking down Chemosh altars seven hundred years later (2 Kings 23:13).

Why, then, would a Moabite woman whose Israelite husband had died insist on leaving home to follow her mother-in-law back to Israel (Ruth 1:1–15)? They have no man to protect them, provide for them, or hold their land. Their choices to earn a living are begging, servitude, and prostitution. Despite all this, Ruth will not leave Naomi.

Plenty of non-Jews have praised Israel's God, including the Queen of Sheba (1 Kings 10:9), Nebuchadnezzar (Daniel 3:28–29), and Darius (Daniel 6:25–27). Only a handful are recorded as having chosen to abandon their gods and convert to Yahweh-worship: Rahab (Joshua 2:11), Naaman (2 Kings 5:15–19), and Ruth.

Naomi is bitter. She believes God has hunted her down and taken her husband and sons (Ruth 1:13). She feels God has abandoned her (Ruth 1: 21). And yet after living with Naomi's family, Ruth is satisfied with Yahweh, the God of Israel. She will not return to her parents and seek a Moabite husband. She will follow Naomi to Bethlehem. Naomi's husband sold their land; Ruth will lodge on the streets if that's where Naomi is. She will reject her own people and claim the Israelites, no matter how hostile or dangerous they may be toward her. And she will worship Yahweh as her God.

In that culture, many believed that a person spent the afterlife with those who shared their tomb. So, even if Naomi dies in Israel, Ruth will stay and be buried in the same grave. To make her decision official, she uses the ancient words of oath: "May the LORD do so to me and more also" if she does not fulfill this vow (Ruth 1:17).

God is true enough to use a bitter woman (Ruth 1:20) from a spiritually adulterous people (Judges 2:16–19) to call the heart of a pagan woman whose people He has cursed (Deuteronomy 23:3–6).
Verse Context:
Ruth 1:15–18 records Ruth's vow to Naomi. Naomi had insisted Ruth return to her parents and start a new family. Ruth explains that Naomi is her family. No matter where Naomi lives or dies, or who she worships, Ruth will be with her. Naomi is suffering under the belief that God intentionally singled her out for tragedy (Ruth 1:13). She doesn't quite realize that God can show up in the heart of a Moabite widow.
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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