What does Ruth 1:6 mean?
ESV: Then she arose with her daughters-in-law to return from the country of Moab, for she had heard in the fields of Moab that the Lord had visited his people and given them food.
NIV: When Naomi heard in Moab that the Lord had come to the aid of his people by providing food for them, she and her daughters-in-law prepared to return home from there.
NASB: Then she arose with her daughters-in-law to return from the land of Moab, because she had heard in the land of Moab that the Lord had visited His people by giving them food.
CSB: She and her daughters-in-law set out to return from the territory of Moab, because she had heard in Moab that the Lord had paid attention to his people’s need by providing them food.
NLT: Then Naomi heard in Moab that the Lord had blessed his people in Judah by giving them good crops again. So Naomi and her daughters-in-law got ready to leave Moab to return to her homeland.
KJV: Then she arose with her daughters-in-law, that she might return from the country of Moab: for she had heard in the country of Moab how that the Lord had visited his people in giving them bread.
NKJV: Then she arose with her daughters-in-law that she might return from the country of Moab, for she had heard in the country of Moab that the Lord had visited His people by giving them bread.
Verse Commentary:
Naomi has spent ten years trying to survive. First, she fled with her husband and two sons to Moab when their home region of Bethlehem was struck with famine. When her husband died, she tried to keep the family line going by finding wives for her sons. Now, her sons have died without children, and Naomi's scrambling again (Ruth 1:1–5). In that culture and era, widowed, childless women were especially vulnerable; they were effectively without any means of support.

Fortunately, while working the fields of Moab, she hears that the famine in Israel is over. She can go home. It will be humiliating to return to her hometown only to ask for charity, but the despair and bitterness she feels with the loss of her family is even worse.

It's natural that, at first, her daughters-in-law would be expected to go with her. It seems that it isn't until they've begun the journey that Naomi has second thoughts. The implications of returning to Israel are different for the younger women than they are for her. It will be hard enough for an older Israelite widow to return to Israel. Two young Moabite widows will be vulnerable to much more than starvation.

"Return" marks one end of an inclusio with Ruth 1:22. An "inclusio" is a repeated word or phrase identifying the beginning and end of a related section of text. In fact, the word "return" is used eight times between this verse and the end of the chapter. As Ruth 1:6 is the summary introduction of Naomi's return to Bethlehem, Ruth 1:22 is the summary epilogue.

In the book of Ruth, the characters often call on God to bless another (Ruth 1:9; 2:4, 12, 20; 3:10) or accuse God of bringing them hardships (Ruth 1:20), but the narrator rarely mentions Him. Here is one of the few times God is described as working directly in the story. The other is 4:13: "…and the LORD gave her conception, and she bore a son." God giving the Israelites food led to God giving Ruth a son which led to God giving Israel a king which led to God giving the world a Savior (Matthew 1:5–16).

"Visited" is from the Hebrew word pāqaḏ'. It means "to stop, see, and do something about." The word is also used to describe God's concern over Israelite slavery (Exodus 4:31). The basis of God's visitation to Bethlehem is the fulfillment of His covenant with Moses. He had promised that if Israel disobeyed, He would send famine (Leviticus 26:18–20). Apparently, the Israelites repented of their sins, and God is blessing them again (Leviticus 26:40–42).
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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