What does Ruth 1:19 mean?
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?"
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?"
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?'
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?"
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.
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?
NKJV: Now the two of them went until they came to Bethlehem. And it happened, when they had come to Bethlehem, that all the city was excited because of them; and the women said, “ Is this Naomi?”
Verse Commentary:
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 sold his family land when they fled to Moab. 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 is owned by another and will not go to Elimelech's heir. She left this region as the wife of a landowner, having given him two heirs. She returns destitute and dishonored.
Verse Context:
Ruth 1:19–22 describes Naomi's return to Bethlehem. Ten years prior, she fled with an empty stomach, but also with a husband and sons who filled her hands with blessings. Now, Bethlehem can again fill her stomach, but her family has died. In her bitterness, she seems to forget the faithful, loving Moabite daughter-in-law who has followed her and vows to stay at her side. She will learn soon enough how God will use Ruth to restore her hope and her future.
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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