Ruth 1:16 Commentary


Irving Jensen's Survey of Bible (see his summary of Ruth online - page 392)
See Swindoll's summary chart of Ruth See Ruth Devotionals



Ruth 1 Ruth 2 Ruth 3 Ruth 4
Ruth's Choice Ruth's Service Ruth's Claim Ruth's Marriage
Naomi and Ruth
Mutual Grief
Ruth and Naomi and Boaz
Mutual Pursuit
Boaz and Ruth
Mutual Love
Ruth's Decision:
Return with Naomi
Ruth's Devotion:
Provide for Naomi
Ruth's Request:
Redemption by Boaz
Ruth's Reward:
Relative of Messiah
and Naomi
and Boaz
Death of
Naomi's Family
Ruth Cares
for Naomi
Boaz Cares
for Ruth
God Blesses
with New Birth
Grief Loneliness Companionship Rejoicing
of Moab
of Bethlehem
Threshing floor
of Bethlehem
Little town
of Bethlehem
Time Lapsed:
About 30 Years
See Timeline
Ru 1:1 Now it came about in the days when the judges governed
Jdg 21:25+ In those days there was no king in Israel; everyone did what was right in his own eyes.

Ruth 1:16 But Ruth said, "Do not urge me to leave you or turn back 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. (NASB: Lockman)

BBE: But Ruth said, Give up requesting me to go away from you, or to go back without you: for where you go I will go; and where you take your rest I will take my rest; your people will be my people, and your God my God.

GWT: But Ruth answered, "Don't force me to leave you. Don't make me turn back from following you. Wherever you go, I will go, and wherever you stay, I will stay. Your people will be my people, and your God will be my God. (GWT)

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:

NLT: But Ruth replied, "Don't ask me to leave you and turn back. I will go wherever you go and live wherever you live. Your people will be my people, and your God will be my God. (NLT - Tyndale House)

Young's Literal: And Ruth saith, 'Urge me not to leave thee -- to turn back from after thee; for whither thou goest I go, and where thou lodgest I lodge; thy people is my people, and thy God my God.

Septuagint (LXX): eipen (3SAAI) de Routh me apantesai (2SAMM) emoi tou katalipein (AAN) se e apostrepsai opisthen sou hoti su opou ean poreuthes poreusomai kai ou ean aulisthes aulisthesomai o laos sou laos mou kai o theos sou theos mou

English of Septuagint: And Ruth said, Intreat me not to leave thee, or to return from following thee; for whithersoever thou goest, I will go, and wheresoever thou lodgest, I will lodge; thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God


  • 2Ki 2:2, 3, 4, 5, 6; Lk 24:28;29 Acts 21:13


Play Ruth's song as you contemplate profundity of Ruth's pronouncement

But Ruth said "Do not urge me to leave ('azabyou or to turn back (shub/shuv) from following you -  "Do not ask me to abandon or forsake you!" (NAB) "Stop urging me to abandon you and to leave you!" (NET) "Do not urge me to desert you by turning away from you" (Berkley) "Do not press me to leave you and to stop going with you" (NJB) "Don't force me to leave you. Don't make me turn back from following you" (GWT).

But Ruth - A dramatic contrast marking a change in direction of her life from godless, hopeless, pagan Gentile to one grafted into Israel and eventually in the lineage of the Messiah. Whenever you observe a "but" (or other words associated with contrast, such as yet, nevertheless, on the other hand, etc) pause and ask what is the author contrasting? (See more discussion of contrasts) There are over 4000 uses of this little conjunction "but" in the Bible and all of them are important. Howard Hendricks adds that…

contrasts are always important in Scripture. They indicate a change of direction… What does the word but force me to do? To go back to the preceding context… The flip side of comparison is contrast—things that are unlike. We could say that in Bible study, as in love, opposites attract. At least, they attract the eye of the observant reader. There are several ways the biblical writers signify contrast. The word but is a clue that a change of direction is coming. (Living by the Book. Chicago: Moody Press)

Vance Havner quipped that "a good woman is the best thing on earth. Women were last at the cross and first at the open tomb. The church owes a debt to her faithful women which she can never estimate, to say nothing of the debt we owe in our homes to godly wives and mothers.

Jim Elliot said "He is no fool who gives up what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose." A perfect description of Ruth the Moabitess!

Leave (forsake) (05800)('azab) basically means to depart from something -- to leave, to forsake (48x), to leave (26x; "left" 22x), to loose, to depart, to abandon. Things that can left behind or forsaken include persons (Ge 44:22; Nu 10:30; Ru 1:16; 2Ki4:30), people who should left behind (Ge 2:24); places (2Ki 8:6; Jer 18:14; 25:38) and objects (Ge 39:12,13; 50:8; Ex 9:21). The Lxx translates azab in this verse with kataleipo which literally means to leave behind or leave remaining (of a person or place - Mt 4:13, 16:4, 21:17, He 11:27). Kataleipo is often used to indicate abandoning a heritage, giving up riches, and leaving one's native land, exactly what Ruth did (of course she had no riches to give up)!

Examples of
OT Conversions

Individuals who were converted from an idolatrous Gentile background include such major figures as

  • Abram (Genesis 12:1-20),
  • Naaman the leper (2Ki 5:9-19),
  • Rahab (Jos 2:1-17, See especially Scarlet Thread in Jos 2:18-24), Ruth (Ru 1:16-18), and the sailors on board the ship from Joppa to Tarshish (Jonah 1:16).

Examples of national or corporate conversion include Judah in the time of

  • Asa (2Chr 14:2-4; 15:12-15)
  • Nineveh (Jonah 3:1-10).

by Fanny Crosby

Entreat me not to leave thee,
My heart goes with thee now;
Why turn my footsteps homeward?
No friend so dear as thou!
Thy heart has borne my sorrow,
And I have wept for thine;
And now how can I leave thee?
Oh, let thy lot be mine.

Entreat me not to leave thee,
Entreat me not to leave thee,
Or to return from following after thee;
For where thou goest I will go,
And where thou lodgest I will lodge;
Thy people shall be my people,
And thy God my God,
Thy people shall be my people,
And thy God my God.

I’ll follow where thou leadest;
My love will cling to thee;
And where thy head is pillowed,
My nightly rest shall be;
Thy birthplace and thy kindred
I’ll cherish like my own;
Thy God shall be my refuge,
I’ll worship at His throne.


Where death’s cold hand shall find thee,
There let my eyelids close,
And, in the grave beside thee,
This mortal frame repose:
Oh, do not now entreat me;
No friend so dear as thou;
My heart would break in anguish
If I should leave thee now.


Some have questioned whether Ruth was a believer or non-believer. For example Daniel Block writes "Although some would interpret Ruth’s declaration as a sign of conversion, it is better viewed as an affirmation of a transfer of membership from the people of Moab to Israel and of allegiance from Chemosh to Yahweh. How much she knew about the implications of claiming Yahweh as one’s God we do not know. She had indeed been observing Naomi for more than a decade, but from what we have seen of her in this chapter she hardly qualified to be a missionary of orthodox Yahwistic faith and theology. But this is a start, a noble beginning." (New American Commentary)

I think the weight of Scriptural evidence would weigh strongly against Block's interpretation that this is just a "noble beginning" as he phrases it. Let's look at the evidence that Ruth's famous declaration was more than just words, but reflective of a genuine change of heart.

(1) Ruth radically turned from the Moabite gods to the one true God. - This is a clear picture of repentance and is paralleled in the NT by Paul's description of another group of Gentiles who formed the church at Thessalonica. Paul writes "For they themselves report about us what kind of a reception we had with you (Gentile believers at Thessalonica), and how you turned to God from idols to serve a living and true God, and to wait for His Son from heaven, whom He raised from the dead, that is Jesus, who delivers us from the wrath to come. (1Th 1:9-10) Indeed for Ruth to turn to God from idols certainly took faith for the pagan gods is all she had previously known. Hebrews 11:1 describes Ruth's faith for "faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen." Ruth had never seen Bethlehem. She had only know polytheism. But drawn by Naomi's witness, Ruth by faith, not sight turned to Naomi's God, Jehovah.

John MacArthur agrees writing that Ruth's testimony evidenced her "conversion from worshiping Chemosh to Jehovah of Israel (cf. 1Th 1:9, 10)." (MacArthur Study Bible)

KJV Bible Commentary - thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God. Thereby, Ruth clearly proclaimed her desire to become a follower of the Lord and of the people of Israel.

(2) Ruth served the true and living God by serving her mother-in-law and it is recognized by Boaz - "And Boaz answered and said to her, “All that you have done for your mother-in-law after the death of your husband has been fully reported to me, and how you left your father and your mother and the land of your birth, and came to a people that you did not previously know. May the LORD reward your work, and your wages be full from the LORD, the God of Israel, under whose wings you have come to seek refuge.” (Ru 2:11-12) Taking refuge is a picture in the OT of one in essence running to God in belief. Ps 2:12 for promises "How blessed are all who take refuge in Him!" David links salvation and taking refuge declaring "My God, my rock, in whom I take refuge; My shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold and my refuge; My savior, Thou dost save me from violence." (2Sa 22:3) Again David declares in Ps 17:7 - "Wondrously show Thy lovingkindness, O Savior of those who take refuge at Thy right hand From those who rise up against them." And in Ps 37:40 we read "And the LORD helps them, and delivers them; He delivers them from the wicked, and saves them, Because they take refuge in Him." Why does He save them? Obviously because they take refuge in Him. And in the midst of a chapter describing God's wrath the prophet Nahum writes that "The LORD is good, a stronghold in the day of trouble, and He knows (experientially, intimately - Lxx = ginosko in the present tense) those who take refuge in Him." (Nahum 1:7) The point is that taking refuge in Jehovah (as Boaz says Ruth has done) is a reflection of one's faith in Jehovah (otherwise why take refuge in Him!).

In his book a Sweet and Bitter Providence John Piper writes "Ruth is an "unclean" pagan Moabitess. But she is drawn into faith and into the lineage of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. Her marriage is an interracial marriage. There are lessons here that we need as much as ever today."

(3) Ruth appeals not to Chemosh but to Jehovah, and invokes His covenant Name. - "Thus may Jehovah do to me and worse if anything but death parts you and men." This is a familiar oath formula (1Sa 3:17; 25:22; 2Sa 3:9;35 19:13; 1Ki 2:23; 19:2; 20:10; 2Ki 6:31). The speaker calls for a terrible fate to befall someone if the oath is not fulfilled. Ruth therefore pronounces a curse upon herself, elevating the preceding promise to a formal, unconditional level. If she is not faithful to her promise, she agrees to become an object of divine judgment. (Acts 20:24) Ruth is a good Old Testament illustration of total surrender similar to that seen with the Apostle Paul who said "I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish in order that I may gain Christ." (Php 3:7; 3:8) From this section we learn that the people of God are spiritually defined, for physically Ruth is a daughter of Moab, an "unnatural branch" (Ro 11:20, 21, Ro 11:22, 23, 24) and yet becomes an heir of the righteousness which is according to faith. (He 11:7, cp Gal 3:7, 29, Ro 4:11, Ro 8:17)

Hubbard agrees commenting that "Significantly, though the oath formula normally has Elohim, Ruth invoked the personal, covenantal name Yahweh—the only time in the book in which she does so. Since one appeals to one’s own deity to enforce an oath, she clearly implies that Yahweh, not Chemosh, is now her God, the guardian of her future. Hence, while the OT has no fully developed idea of conversion, Ru 1:16–17 suggest a commitment tantamount to such a change. As a result, one expects the story subsequently to reveal some reward from Yahweh for this remarkable devotion… Ruth’s leap of faith even outdid Abraham’s. (Ed: And he was accounted as righteous - Ge 15:6) She acted with no promise in hand, with no divine blessing pronounced, without spouse, possessions, or supporting retinue. She gave up marriage to a man to devote herself to an old woman—and in a world dominated by men at that! Thematically, this allusion to Abraham sets this story in continuity with that one. Thus, a sense of similar destiny hangs over Ruth’s story. The audience wonders, May some larger plan emerge from it, too?” (See context in The Book of Ruth - NICOT or borrow The Book of Ruth).

And so clearly the weight of evidence strongly supports that Ruth was a genuine believer and had experienced a true conversion. And of course she is in the lineage of the Messiah (Mt 1:5) and I am unaware of any of the names in the line of Messiah who are not believers (please write me if you find Scriptural evidence against this presumption).

Robert Hubbard (in addition to his note above) says that "Ruth's renunciation foreshadows Jesus' teaching: to be his disciple requires one to renounce all family ties for the sake of the kingdom of God (Matt. 8:21; 10:37; 19:29). (See context in The Book of Ruth - NICOT or borrow The Book of Ruth)

Warren Wiersbe has this note on the testimony of Ruth (Ruth 1:15–18). - Naomi was trying to cover up; Orpah had given up, but Ruth was prepared to stand up! She refused to listen to her mother-in-law’s pleas or follow her sister-in-law’s bad example. Why? Because she had come to trust in the God of Israel (Ruth 2:12). She had experienced trials and disappointments, but instead of blaming God, she had trusted Him and was not ashamed to confess her faith. In spite of the bad example of her disobedient in-laws Ruth had come to know the true and living God; and she wanted to be with His people and dwell in His land. (See context in The Bible Exposition Commentary or borrow Be Committed)

Trible rightly says “There is no more radical decision in all the memories of Israel.”

Don Fortner - She was converted by God’s grace. We understand that. “Salvation is of the Lord!” It is God’s work alone! Yet, our God condescends to use human instruments to accomplish his work. And the instrument God used to save Ruth was Naomi. (The Resolute Consecration Of True Faith)

Matthew Henry - "Thy God shall be my God, and farewell to all the gods of Moab, which are vanity and a lie. I will adore the God of Israel, the only living and true God, trust in him alone, serve him, and in every thing be ruled by him;" this is to take the Lord for our God.

New Bible Commentary - From this point on Naomi's people would be her people, though Ruth had no certainty that she would find acceptance. Most significant of all Ruth declared Naomi's God to be her God. Her resolve was total, extending even to death, and confirmed on oath in the name of her new-found Lord. Ruth's declaration forms the climax of this chapter. The author no doubt hoped that readers would follow her example.

Thomas Constable - Ruth now confessed her commitment to Yahweh, Israel, and Naomi, a commitment based on her faith in Yahweh. These verses are a key to the book because they give the reason God blessed Ruth as He did.

Jamieson - Ruth's memorable statement indicates that she embraced the God of Israel. And for this, she has her place in the Davidic-messianic line. Faith in God, not race or ethnicity, makes one acceptable to God (Heb. 11:6). The book of Ruth, in a Hebrew context, teaches the same lesson as Acts 10:34, 35: "In every nation he that feareth him … is acceptable with him" and Galatians 3:28: "There is neither Jew nor Greek." (Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown)

Woodrow Kroll - She had to choose to worship the idol Chemosh, which involved the sacrifice of children, or to put her trust in the living God, who gives life instead of taking it. She chose Jehovah. These were important choices, and she made them with a determination that changed her life. Like Ruth, we are all born outside of God's family. But God graciously gives us the opportunity to make choices that can give us eternal life. Instead of continuing in Satan's kingdom of darkness, you can choose to change your allegiance to the kingdom of His beloved Son (Col. 1:13). You can choose to continue in the deeds of darkness or walk in the light (Eph. 5:7-10). You can choose to search for fulfillment in the world or place your trust in Jesus, who has promised to meet your every need (Phil. 4:19). Like Ruth's, these are crucial decisions and, when made with determination, can change your life. What decisions have you made? Choose rightly. Choose life. Choose Jesus Christ as your Savior. This is the most important decision of your life. You always choose best when you choose God. (See Ruth Devotionals)

Henry Morris - Naomi was such a faithful witness and godly mother-in-law that both Moabite daughters-in-law, Orpah and Ruth, loved her dearly even after their husbands were dead. However, when Orpah had to choose, she returned to her pagan nature-gods (centered in Chemosh, "the subduer"). Ruth, evidenced true conversion to the God of creation, not only by taking God as her own Savior but by going with the people of God and entering the family of God's people. (The Defender's Study Bible)

Wycliffe Bible Commentary - Whither thou goest, I will go. This section of Ruth is esteemed one of the most touching passages of literature. Ruth renounced all that she could be expected to hold dear in Moab and voluntarily chose to go to Judah and there begin an entirely new life with her mother-in-law. This choice had religious as well as cultural overtones, as we see from the words—thy God [shall be] my God. In Moab Ruth would have been expected to worship Chemosh (Num 21:29). In going to Judah, however, she would worship the God of Israel. It was a testimony both to her deceased husband and to her mother-in-law that Ruth was willing to entrust herself to the God whom they worshiped. (See context in The Wycliffe Bible Commentary or borrow Wycliffe Bible Commentary - Ruth)

NLT Study Bible - Ruth swore an oath in the name of the Lord to seal her firm commitment to Israel's God (cp. Ru 2:11-12) and to Naomi. (See NLT Study Bible)

NIV Study Bible (note on Ru 1:17) - May the Lord deal with me, be it ever so severely. See note on 1Sa 3:17. Ruth, a non-Israelite, swears her commitment to Naomi in the name of Israel's God, thus acknowledging Him as her God (see Ru 1:16).

James Smith - Ruth could not bear the thought of returning to the heathen environment in which she had grown up. If she had not fully repudiated the gods of Moab before, Ruth does so at this point. She would hear no more of Naomi's urging to return to Moab. On the contrary, Ruth committed herself for better or worse to Naomi, Naomi's people, and Naomi's God. She did not even desire to return to her native Moab for burial. Nothing but death would separate her from Naomi. This commitment she sealed by a self-malediction or curse in which she used the name of Yahweh: "Thus may Yahweh do to me, and worse, if anything but death parts you and me." The use of Yahweh's name exclusively in this oath again suggests a complete conversion on Ruth's part (1:16-17). (The Old Testament Survey Series – The Books of History)

Iain M Duguid - Each of these statements ratchets up the level of her commitment a notch higher. Ruth was not merely relocating her home to go somewhere geographically less pleasant, as if someone were willing to move from sunny Southern California to the unbearable heat of Death Valley. That would be noble self-sacrifice; this is far more. She is committing her life to Naomi, body and soul, for better or for worse, for richer or for poorer, in sickness and in health. In so doing, she is also committing her life to Naomi's God, whom she calls as a witness by his personal name, the Lord. She is even willing to die and be buried in Naomi's land—the land of Naomi's God, not the gods of the Moabites. Given the intimate connection between land and deity in the ancient Near East, and the importance of proper burial for a restful afterlife, this was the ultimate commitment in the ancient world. She further binds herself to do this with an oath of self-imprecation. If she reneges on her promise, she invites the Lord—Naomi's God—to stretch out his hand to strike her down. Here is an astonishing act of surrender and self-sacrifice. Ruth was laying down her entire life to serve Naomi. (Reformed Expository Commentary)

Preacher's Outline and Sermon Bible - Ruth demonstrated a deep, undying sense of devotion. She loved Naomi and clung to her (Ru 1:15). In contrast to Orpah, she did not give up, but bluntly rejected Naomi's pleas for her to return to Moab. But Naomi continued to insist that Ruth return to her people and her gods, just as Orpah had done (Ru 1:15). However, Ruth refused to listen to her mother-in-law. Forcefully, Ruth insisted that Naomi back off, stop urging her to leave and turn back. And then Ruth made her memorable declaration—a stunning, profound commitment (Ru 1:16-17). Was Ruth actually converted at this point, or was she converted earlier in Moab due to the belief of Naomi and her family? Or was she to be converted later, after arriving in the promised land? Scripture does not specifically say, but she had come to trust in the Lord and to take "refuge under His wings" by the time she met Boaz (Ru 2:12). Whatever the case, the startling and total commitment now declared by Ruth is a clear picture of conversion. (The Preacher's Outline & Sermon Bible: Judges & Ruth)

Gordon Keddie - Ruth, however, was no longer committed to 'her people and her gods' and, in one of the most beautiful confessions of living faith ever made, she declared her resolve to go with Naomi back to Bethlehem. There is such ardour and earnestness about [Ruth's words]', said Alfred Edersheim, 'as to lift them far above the sphere of mere natural affection or sense of duty. They intimate the deliberate choice of a heart which belongs in the first place to Jehovah, the God of Israel, and which has learned to count all things but loss for the excellency of this knowledge.' The beauty of her words is unsurpassed in the rendering of the Authorized Version of 1611: 'And Ruth said, Intreat 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: where thou diest, will I die, and there will I be buried: the Lord do so to me, and more also, if ought but death part thee and me' (Ru 1:16,17.) With this the matter was settled. The stranger from Moab was now openly and irrevocably committed to the Lord and to his people. She who was not a Jew outwardly, after the flesh, had become, by grace through faith, a Jew inwardly and had cast her lot with God's people (cf. Romans 2:28,29). (Even in Darkness - Welwyn Commentary Series  Judges and Ruth simply explained)

Leon Morris adds that Ruth's "decision has religious implications of which she is not unaware. Naomi’s God will be her God. This does not mean that she has no religious principles or that she rates friendship above faith. In the very next verse she invokes Yahweh, which indicates that already she has come to trust in Him (cf. Ro 2:12). Her trust may not have been well informed, but it was real. Simeon remarks, ‘Her views of religion might not be clear: but it is evident that a principle of vital godliness was rooted in her heart, and powerfully operative in her life. In fact, she acted in perfect conformity with that injunction that was afterwards given by our Lord, “Whosoever he be of you that forsaketh not all that he hath, he cannot be my disciple”.’ (Borrow Judges & Ruth: Tyndale Old Testament Commentary)

Samuel Ridout - Ruth, on the other hand, represents that remnant of the nation, which will hold fast to the promises of God, in a dim and cloudy way at first, without claiming aught as a right, but distinctly in faith laying hold upon God. This is seen in her answer to Naomi. It is not mere nature, but faith in the living God that speaks in her reply: “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: where thou diest, will I die, and there will I be buried; the Lord do so to me, and more also, if aught but death part me and thee.” This was in answer to Naomi’s desire, that she should return to her people and her gods. It was thus real faith which made use of the covenant name Jehovah, which expressed itself in Ruth’s reply—a faith which had stood the test of having no attraction for nature offered to it. (Gleanings from the Book of Ruth)

Charles M. Southgate - Ruth's choice - All the elements of a true choice of God are here described.

1. It involves the surrender of a false belief. This quiet scene may be placed beside that on Carmel. Ruth's decision is mightier in its gentleness than Israel's in its terror. In manner the two are as unlike as the dawn to the earthquake; in results as the clear ray of a planet to the flash of a meteor. In essence they are the same. Our false god has no repulsive name, such as Baal or Chemosh; its real title is self, its worship sin, its wages death. It must be surrendered.

2. True choice of God involves sacrifice. To start out with Naomi meant not pleasantness, but bitterness. Ruth followed, as she thought, to loneliness, homelessness, perpetual widowhood; against the desire of those she left, without the wish of those to whom she was going; ready to work, to beg, to die if need be, for the one who stood to her as representing God. To-day, Canaan in the Church welcomes even Moab to its circle. Earthly advantages are largely on its side. But a cross seems to wait somewhere in the way, if only that sore surrender of pride and pleasure and will which prompt the soul's real refusal.

3. God sends help to a right choice. Providences both of joy and of sorrow; attractions and repulsions of heart; subtle influences of companionship; favor and famine; marriage and mourning; our life is one long plea for Him.

4. A decision is forced. Somewhere in the way comes a test. On either side example, desire, promise; we must hold to the one and forsake the other.

5. Right decision has its great rewards. What Ruth feared proved only unsuspected blessings. Losing her life, she found it. Bishop Hall exclaims: "Oh, the sure and beautiful payment of the Almighty! Who ever forsook the Moab of this world for the true Israel, and did not at length rejoice in the change?" (Ruth 1 - Biblical Illustrator)

C H Spurgeon - Ruth deciding for God

I. Affection for the godly should influence us to godliness. Many forces combine to effect this.

1. There is the influence of companionship.

2. The influence of admiration. Let us therefore copy the saints.

3. The influence of instruction. When we learn from a teacher we are affected by him in many ways. Instruction is a kind of formation.

4. The influence of reverence. Those who are older, wiser, and better than we are create in us a profound respect, and lead us to follow their example.

5. The influence of desire to cheer them.

6. The influence of fear of separation. It will be an awful thing to be eternally divided from the dear ones who seek our salvation.

II. Resolves to godliness will be tested.

1. By the poverty of the godly and their other trials.

2. By counting the cost.

3. By the drawing back of others.

4. By the duties involved in religion. Ruth must work in the fields. Some proud people will not submit to the rules of Christ's house, nor to the regulations which govern the daily lives of believers.

5. By the apparent coldness of believers. Naomi does not persuade her to keep with her, but the reverse. She was a prudent woman, and did not wish Ruth to come with her by persuasion, but by conviction.

6. By the silent sorrow of some Christians. Naomi said, "Call me not Naomi, but call me Bitterness." Persons of a sorrowful spirit there always will be; but this must not hinder us from following the Lord.

III. Such Godliness must mainly lie in the choice of God.

1. This is the believer's distinguishing possession: "Thy God shall be my God."

2. His great article of belief: "I believe in God."

3. His ruler and lawgiver: "Make me to go in the path of Thy commandments" (Ps 119:38).

4. His instructor: "Teach me Thy way, O Lord" (Ps 28:2).

5. His trust and stay (see Ru 2:12): "This God is our God for ever and ever, He will be our guide even unto death" (Ps 48:14).

IV. But it should involve the choice of His people: "Thy people shall be my people." They are ill spoken of by the other kingdom. Not all we could wish them to be. Not a people out of whom much is to be gained. But Jehovah is their God, and they are His people. Our eternal inheritance is part and parcel of theirs. Let us make deliberate, humble, firm, joyful, immediate choice for God and His saints; accepting their lodging in this world, and going with them whither they are going. (C. H. Spurgeon.) (Ruth 1 - Biblical Illustrator)


  • 2Sa 15:21; Mt 8:19; Jn 13:37; Rev 14:4

In effect, Ruth was forsaking all that she had ever known to follow the one true God. She was following in the footsteps of Abraham, who had forsaken his family and his homeland in response to God’s command (Ge 12:1, 2, 3, 4, He 11:8, 9 -see notes He 11:8; 9).

Although not as famous, Scripture records the commitment of another foreigner named Ittai the Gittite a Philistine was in a group of 600 men from Gath who had come to the side of David in Jerusalem. As King David fled Jerusalem, this group of 600 marched by David who then addressed Ittai saying

"Why will you also go with us? Return and remain with the king, for you are a foreigner and also an exile; return to your own place. You came only yesterday, and shall I today make you wander with us, while I go where I will? Return and take back your brothers; mercy and truth be with you." And here although the context is not the same, we see Ittai's loyalty to David for he "answered the king and said, "As the LORD lives, and as my lord the king lives, surely wherever my lord the king may be, whether for death or for life, there also your servant will be." Therefore David said to Ittai, "Go and pass over." So Ittai the Gittite passed over with all his men and all the little ones (their families) who were with him." (2Sa 15:19, 20, 21, 22)

Later when David organized and numbered the army at Mahanaim, Ittai was given command of a third part of the force, and seems to have enjoyed equal rank with Joab and Abishai (2Sa 18:2,5,12).

Compare Ruth's famous commitment with Peter's profession -

"Lord, why can I not follow You right now? I will lay down my life for You." (Jn 13:37)

Peter however momentarily shrank back (Mt 26:75), but did eventually follow through, tradition teaching that he was crucified upside down (cf Lk 22:31,32).


Every place you go, I will go. Every place you live, I will live (ICB)

where you take your rest I will take my rest (BBE)

She did not know if she was going to a cottage or if she would even have a place to lay her head, so total was her sweet surrender. This is reminiscent of Jesus' reply to those professed a desire to follow Him.

A certain scribe came and said to Him "Teacher, I will follow You wherever You go." And Jesus said to him, "The foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests; but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head. (Mt 8:19, 20)

Ruth was willing to follow Naomi wherever it led!


  • Ruth 2:11-12 Ps 45:10; Isa 14:1

As Boaz reiterates in the next chapter, Ruth "left (her) father and (her) mother and the land of (her) birth, and came to a people that (she) did not previously know" (Ru 2:11-note) and sought refuge under the wings of "the LORD, the God of Israel" (Ru 2:12-note) Boaz's declaration implies that Ruth's parents were still alive, making her commitment to the "Chosen People" even more striking.

Ruth as a foreigner or “sojourner” was entitled to certain privileges such as the right to glean the harvest fields (Lv 19:10).

However, Ruth was not simply a foreigner, but a Moabite and the Law stated that no Moabite could “enter the assembly of the Lord… forever” (Dt 23:3) because of what the Moabites had done to Israel during the wilderness journey (Nu 22-25; Nu 31:15, 16).

Moabites were so abhorred that Jews were forbidden even to “seek their peace (or) their prosperity” (Dt. 23:6). Whether she was aware of this is unknown.

Henri Rossi - her thoughts go farther than simple association with Israel; she identifies herself with the people, whatever their state might be, in order to belong to the God of Israel, the true God who does not change: “Thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God.”


  • Jos 24:18; Da 2:47; 3:29; 4:37; Ho 13:4; 2Co 6:16;17, 18, 1Th 1:9-note


This  expression 'the tie that binds' is used to describe a common idea or belief that links people together. It can also be used plurally as 'the ties that bind'. For example, you may say: ''We are family, held together by the ties that bind. Nothing will tear us apart." In short it is a shared belief that links people together, in this case the greatest belief of all, the belief in the living God of all creation! 

Blessed be the tie that binds
Our hearts in Christian love
The fellowship of kindred minds
Is like to that above.

Your God, my God - This is the actually the second mention (of 3 total) of Elohim, the first being in Ru 1:15 referring to the "gods" of the Moabites. Here and in the last use of  Elohim in Ru 2:12+ the reference is to the true and living God. It should not be missed that Ruth makes this confession during the dark days of the judges when the majority of the "chosen people" chose to forsake the living God and cleave to dead idols that are no gods (Jdg 2:12-13+).

BRIEF DIGRESSION OF NAMES OF GOD IN RUTH - Although the name "God" (Elohim - see study - only found in Ru 1:16+, Ru 2:12+) or "LORD" (Jehovah - see study) occurs less than 20x in the book of Ruth (18x in 15v - Ru 1:6+, Ru 1:8, 9+, Ru 1:13+, Ru 1:17+, Ru 1:21+ twice; Ru 2:4+ twice, Ru 2:12+ twice-, Ru 2:20+; Ru 3:10+, Ru 3:13+; Ru 4:11-14+) or Almighty (Shaddai - Ru 1:20, 21+), God is clearly in control from the beginning (famine in land) to end (fertility of Ruth). God is sovereign, (what word do you see in "sovereign"?) which in simple terms means that He is in complete control over ALL the affairs of nature and history and has the absolute right to act according to His perfect will and His good pleasure. The Bible in general and Ruth in particular is the story (history = "His-Story") of God working out His sovereign plan of redemption for the world toward a conclusion which is so certain that we can stake our very life on it. So don't think that the paucity of the mention of God's name in Ruth suggests that He is absentee (as Deism teaches) or that He is not actively involved. It follows that no "famine" just "happens" in the land, but that God sovereignly controls every famine.

Ruth's action of turning from the idols of Moab and unto Jehovah is an excellent illustration of the meaning of genuine Biblical repentance (click discussion) and it reminds us of the picture of repentance among the pagan, idol worshipping Thessalonians who heard the gospel from Paul

For they themselves report about us (Paul, Silvanus, Timothy 1Th 1:1) what kind of a reception we had with you and how you turned to God from idols to serve a living and true God (1Th 1:9+)

It has been well said that faith is not only believing in spite of evidence but obeying in spite of the consequence. Ruth and Esther point the way to that kind of dynamic and exciting faith and all believers do well to emulate their excellent example. True faith is not based on empirical evidence but on divine assurance (He 11:1+) and ''is the gift of God'' (Ep 2:8+)

Alexander Maclaren characterize Ruth's words this way:Put the sweet figure of the Moabitess beside the heroes of the Book of Judges, and we feel the contrast. But is there anything in its pages more truly heroic than her deed, as she turned her back on the blue hills of Moab, and chose the joyless lot of the widowed companion of a widow aged and poor, in a land of strangers, the enemies of her country and its gods? It is easier far to rush on the spears of the foe, amid the whirl and excitement of battle, than to choose with open eyes so dreary a lifelong path. The gentleness of a true woman covers a courage of the patient, silent sort, which, in its meek steadfastness, is nobler than the contempt of personal danger, which is vulgarly called bravery. It is harder to endure than to strike. The supreme type of heroic, as of all, virtue is Jesus Christ, whose gentleness was the velvet glove on the iron hand of an inflexible will. Of that best kind of heroes there are few brighter examples, even in the annals of the Church which numbers its virgin martyrs by the score, than this sweet figure of Ruth, as the eager vow comes from her young lips, which had already tasted sorrow, and were ready to drink its bitterest cup at the call of duty. She may well teach us to rectify our judgments, and to recognise the quiet heroism of many a modest life of uncomplaining suffering. Her example has a special message to women, and exhorts them to see to it that, in the cultivation of the so-called womanly excellence of gentleness, they do not let it run into weakness, nor, on the other hand, aim at strength, to the loss of meekness. The yielding birch tree, the 'lady of the woods,' bends in all its elastic branches and tossing ringlets of foliage to the wind; but it stands upright after storms that level oaks and pines. God's strength is gentle strength, and ours is like His when it is meek and lowly, like that of the 'strong Son of God.'… How many hearts, since Ruth spoke her vow, have found in it the words that fitted their love best! How often they have been repeated by quivering lips, and heard as music by loving ears! How solemn, and even awful, is that perennial freshness of words which came hot and broken by tears, from lips that have long ago mouldered into dust! What has made them thus 'enduring for ever,' is that they express most purely the self-sacrifice which is essential to all noble love. The very inmost longing of love is to give itself away to the object beloved. It is not so much a desire to acquire as to bestow, or, rather, the antithesis of giving and receiving melts into one action which has a twofold motion,--one outwards, to give; one inwards, to receive. To love is to give one's self away, therefore all lesser givings are its food and delight; and, when Ruth threw herself on Naomi's withered breast, and sobbed out her passionate resolve, she was speaking the eternal language of love, and claiming Naomi for her own, in the very act of giving herself to Naomi, Human love should be the parent of all self-sacrificing as of all heroic virtues; and in our homes we do not live in love, as we ought, unless it leads us to the daily exercise of self-suppression and surrender, which is not felt to be loss but the natural expression of our love, which it would be a crime against it, and a pain to ourselves, to withhold. If Ruth's temper lived in our families, they would be true 'houses of God' and 'gates of heaven.' (Click)

How did Ruth know Naomi's God ("your God")? Clearly Naomi’s relationship with God had had an impact on Ruth. The application is clear -- Can people look at your life, as Ruth looked at Naomi’s, and say "I want your God to be my God!"?

Our trust in God, and turning towards Him in tough times (as exemplified by Naomi who still blesses/prays for them in the name of Jehovah - Ru 1:8, 9), will often be the very thing that draws others to the Lord. Let’s be the kind of persons who draw others to us, and through our friendship, to our God.

Spurgeon draws out this application - "This was a very brave, outspoken confession of faith. Please to notice that it was made by a woman, a young woman, a poor woman, a widow woman, and a foreigner. Remembering all that, I should think there is no condition of gentleness, or of obscurity, or of poverty, or of sorrow, which should prevent anybody from making an open confession of allegiance to God when faith in the Lord Jesus Christ has been exercised. If that is your experience, then whoever you may be, you will find an opportunity, somewhere or other, of declaring that you are on the Lord’s side." (Click Surgeon's sermon on Ruth 1:16: Deciding for God)

Looking at these events from a slightly different light, the events suggest that ten years of Naomi’s "compromise" in Moab was not accompanied by Ruth confessing the God of Israel. Yet as soon as Naomi says, "I’m going back to the God of Israel and put my fate in His hands" Ruth stands with her. Do you see an application to your own life? If we think we will persuade our friends or relatives to come to Jesus by our compromise, we are mistaken. We may be very sincere, albeit sincerely mistaken. Only a Spirit emboldened stand for Jesus is what we must exhibit.

Spurgeon said "Ah! you will never win any soul to the right by a compromise with the wrong. It is decision for Christ and his truth that has the greatest power in the family, and the greatest power in the world, too."

THOUGHT - Do you have unsaved family members? Most of us do. The important lesson is to remember that you should not try to coerce or coax them into the kingdom by a watered down or compromised "Christian" message. Don't make the word of Christ, the word of the Cross void (empty) of its life giving power (1Cor 1:17, 18+).

Maclaren adds that "We hear in Ruth's words also that forsaking of all things which is an essential of all true religion. We have said that it was difficult to separate, in the words, the effects of love to Naomi from those of adoption of Naomi's faith. Apparently Ruth's adhesion to the worship of Jehovah was originally due to her love for her mother-in-law. It is in order to be one with her in all things that she says, 'Thy God shall be my God.' And it was because Jehovah was Naomi's God that Ruth chose Him for hers. But whatever the origin of her faith, it was genuine and robust enough to bear the strain of casting Chemosh and the gods of Moab behind her, and setting herself with full purpose of heart to seek the Lord. Abandoning them was digging an impassable gulf between herself and all her past, with its friendships, loves, and habits. She is one of the first, and not the least noble, of the long series of those who 'suffer the loss of all things, and count them but dung, that they may win' God for their dearest treasure. We have seen how, in her, human love wrought self-sacrifice. But it was not human love alone that did it. The cord that drew her was twisted of two strands, and her love to Naomi melted into her love of Naomi's God. Blessed they who are drawn to the knowledge and love of the fountain of all love in heaven by the sweetness of the characters of His representatives in their homes, and who feel that they have learned to know God by seeing Him in dear ones, whose tenderness has revealed His, and whose gracious words have spoken of His grace! If Ruth teaches us that we must give up all, in order truly to follow the Lord, the way by which she came to her religion may teach us how great are the possibilities, and consequently the duties, of Christians to the members of their own families. If we had more elder women like Naomi, we should have more younger women like Ruth. (Bolding added) (Click)


Committed To Serve - Wherever you go, I will go; … your people shall be my people, and your God, my God. —Ruth 1:16

The best-known words of Ruth are most often heard at weddings, even though they were spoken by a grieving young widow to her mother-in-law, Naomi. Ruth said, "Wherever you go, I will go; and wherever you lodge, I will lodge; your people shall be my people, and your God, my God" (see note Ruth 1:16).

Ruth had no legal or cultural responsibility to Naomi, who also was a widow and had no means of support. No one would have blamed Ruth for staying with her own people in Moab where the chances of remarriage were greater.

Naomi even urged Ruth to stay, but Ruth was determined to go with her to Judah, and to follow her God. Ruth's unselfish devotion was considered worthy of praise. Boaz, Ruth's future husband, told her, "It has been fully reported to me, all that you have done for your mother-in-law since the death of your husband … The Lord repay your work" (Ru 2:11, 12-Ru2:11; 12).

Promises spoken at a wedding are full of hope and meaning, but Ruth's words have survived the centuries because of her unwavering commitment to God and a person in need. She points us to the value of loving sacrifice for the Lord, and to His rich blessing on all who give themselves unselfishly to others. —David C. McCasland (Our Daily Bread - Committed To Serve)

Searching to know life's true meaning?
You'll find it in only one way:
Serving the Lord with commitment
And living for others each day. —Branon

A life filled with love for the Lord
and for others is a fulfilling life.


Choices (Ruth 1:11-18) - A friend once told me: "Joe, I’ve come to realize that my life is not made by the dreams that I dream but by the choices that I make."

Count on it: You will have plenty of choices in life. And usually they boil down to a choice between "What do I want?" and "What’s best for others?"

After their husbands died, Ruth and Orpah were faced with a strategic choice (Ru 1:11-note). Their mother-in-law Naomi told them they should go home. She didn’t want them to feel any obligation to her, in spite of the fact that her loss was far greater. She had lost her own husband and both of her sons.

Orpah and Ruth could either go home and start a new life, or stay with Naomi to help her in a time of great need. They knew very well that the latter choice would probably mean living in a foreign land as widows for the rest of their lives, since few Jewish men would want to marry a foreign woman.

Ruth chose to serve the needs of Naomi rather than to serve herself. Orpah chose to leave Naomi for what she thought would be a better life. Ruth went on to play a significant role in Jewish history and became an ancestor of Jesus (Mt 1:5). (Our Daily Bread - Choices)

Make the best choice. Choose to serve others. —Joe Stowell

When we’re involved in serving
And meeting others’ needs,
We’re imitating Jesus
In thoughts and words and deeds. —Fitzhugh

Serve God by serving others.


Thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God

The Book of Ruth stands in striking contrast to the Book of Judges, and especially to the last five chapters thereof. The story which it tells illustrates the truth that God has never left Himself without witness. It is an idyll of faith-fulness amid infidelity. It has, moreover, the value of being a link in the chain of history, showing how God moved forward to the central things of His redeeming pur­pose through faithful souls. The choice of Ruth, here recorded, in its devotion and in the very manner in which she expressed it, has become enshrined in the heart of humanity. With constant recurrence her language has been employed to express the fidelity of love. The younger woman found her heart closely knit to the older one, and she declined to be severed from her in the pathway that lay before her, choosing to share whatever the future might have in store for the one upon whom her love was set. While all this is true, it does not touch the deepest note. It is patent that Ruth's love for Naomi was created by the new faith which she had learned from her.

The deepest note in her expression of devotion was: "Thy God, my God." It is a beautiful illustration of how a quiet, strong fidelity to God produces faith in Him on the part of others. Happy indeed are we, if our life is such as to compel some soul to say, "Thy God shall be my God."

This is what Naomi had done for Ruth. This result is never obtained by the witness of the lips, save as that is vindicated and reinforced by the witness of life. (Morgan, G. C. Life Applications from Every Chapter of the Bible)

Turn back (07725)(shub/shuv) is the 12th most frequent verb in the OT with over 1000 uses so it should be obvious that any summary of this verb will be woefully lacking! There is also some repetition in the following notes on shub. That said, shub/shuv essentially means to turn (Josh 19:12), to return (Ge 3:19), to turn back (Ex 14:2), to do again, to change, to withdraw, to bring back, to reestablish, to be returned, to bring back, to take, to restore, to recompense, to answer, to hinder. Shub refers to a reversal or change of direction, an “about face.” Shub describes movement back to the point of departure or reversal of direction. (See another study on shub/sub)

Here are a variety of uses of shub - Anger subsides or "turns away" (Ge 27:44-45). Water recedes (Ge 8:3). Messages are revoked (Isa 45:23). Promises are not abandoned (Ps 132:11). Shub describes change in flesh (Lev 13:16). Waters of Jordan returned to their place (Josh 4:18). Describes leprous mark breaking out again (reappears) (Lev 14:43). Describes age 50 as time to retire (Nu 8:25) "Take it to your heart" = keeping in mind, recognize, keep in mind (Dt 4:39, "call to mind" - Dt 30:1). Means repent in Ps 7:12 (Heb - shub; Lxx = epistrepho). Shub accompanies other verbs to show a repeated action (Zech 5:1) God says He will surely return to Abraham (Ge 18:10, 14). "Restore" or "return" the man's wife (Ge 20:7, 14). When told to sacrifice Isaac Abraham says "we will worship and return" so confident is he that God would provide (Ge 22:5).

One of the more well known uses of shub is 2Chr 7:14 - and My people who are called by My name humble themselves and pray, and seek My face and turn from (Heb - shub; Lxx = apostrepho) their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, will forgive their sin, and will heal their land. In Ps 51:13 David says "Then (after Ps 51:12) I will teach transgressors Your ways, And sinners will return (Heb - shub; Lxx = epistrepho) to You."

Jer 8:4-5 has 4 uses of shub - "And you shall say to them, ‘Thus says the LORD, “Do men fall and not get up again? Does one turn away (Heb - shub; Lxx = apostrepho) and not repent (Heb - shub; Lxx = epistrepho)? 5“Why then has this people, Jerusalem, Turned away (shub) in continual apostasy? They hold fast to deceit, They refuse to return (Heb - shub; Lxx = epistrepho)." Note that in these two passages shub describes apostasy on one hand or repentance on the other hand. Shub is also used 4 times in Jeremiah 15:19 "Therefore, thus says the LORD, "If you return (Heb - shub; Lxx = epistrepho), then I will restore (Heb - shub; Lxx = apokathistemi = restore to an earlier condition) you-- Before Me you will stand; And if you extract the precious from the worthless, You will become My spokesman. They for their part may turn to you (Heb - shub; Lxx = apostrepho), But as for you, you must not turn to them (Heb - shub; Lxx = apostrepho)."

Daniel Hays on Jeremiah's frequent use of shub/shuv - The Hebrew word shūv is one of Jeremiah’s favorite words, occurring more than one hundred times in the book. Theologically, it lies at the heart of his message. The basic meaning of shūv is “to turn.” However, it can mean “to turn to,” “to turn back,” or “to turn away.” Thus Jeremiah uses shūv as his central word for “repent” (i.e., a turning away from sin and a turning to Yahweh). On the other hand, Jeremiah also uses shūv for turning away from Yahweh. So shūv can refer either to true repentance or to apostasy. Jeremiah is fond of wordplay, and he employs the multiple meanings possible for this word in numerous ways. In Jeremiah 3:1–4:4 (the call to repentance) shūv occurs eleven times. In Hebrew, Jeremiah 3:22 only has five words, and three of the words are forms of shūv. The English text reads, “Return, faithless people; I will cure you of backsliding.” If we are allowed to mix the Hebrew and English word forms a bit, the text would literally read, “Shūv, sons of shūving, I will cure you of your shūvings.” Likewise, note the repeated use of shūv in Jeremiah 8:4b–5: “When a man turns away [shūv] does he not return [shūv]? Why then have these people turned away [shūv]? Why does Jerusalem always turn away [shūv]? They cling to deceit; they refuse to return [shūv].” Both the proclamation of apostasy (turning away from Yahweh) and the call to repentance (turning to Yahweh) are central themes in Jeremiah, and they both center on the word shūv. (Message of the Prophets)

Shub is an important word in God's repeated call to Israel to "Return to Me" (Neh 1:9, Isa 44:22, Jer 3:12, 4:1, Jer 24:7, Joel 2:12, Zech 1:3, Mal 3:7 (Refused to return - Jer 3:7, 10, Hos 11:5).

Study the 15 uses of shub in the prophet Amos (Amos 1:3, 6, 8-9, 11, 13; 2:1, 4, 6; 4:6, 8-10; 9:14;) and observe the meaning of shub shift from God not revoking (or relenting) from His punishment (to other nations, to northern tribes - Israel, to Judah - Amos 1:3 = Heb - shub; Lxx = apostrepho, etc), to the people not returning (Amos 4:6 = Heb - shub; Lxx = epistrepho, etc), finally to His promise to restore (Amos 9:14 = Heb - shub; Lxx = epistrepho).

Shub often conveys the idea of movement back to the point of departure (Ge 33:16). Of reversal of direction (sundial - 2Ki 20:10), restoration of soul or life (shub + nephesh - soul) = Ru 4:15 Job 33:30 Ps 19:7, 23:3, 35:17, Pr25:13.

Shub/shuv is used in almost half the verses of chapter 1 of Ruth - Ruth 1:6-8, 10-12, 15-16, 21-22 and clearly is a key word (and key concept) in this chapter. Shub is used in Ru 4:15 (note) where God is referred to as "a Restorer (Shub) of life". (cf Ps 23:3-note "He restores [shub] my soul") David uses shub to describe the restorative power of the Word of God writing "The law of the LORD is perfect ("complete" comprehensive, all-sided so as to cover all aspects of some thing, conveys the idea of integrity), restoring (shub) the soul (Ps 19:7-note) The Septuagint (LXX) often uses epistrepho (1994) (epí = motion toward + strépho = turn) to translate shub. In fact the LXX uses epistrepho over 400 times for shub/shuv to convey the ideas of restore, return or repent, any or all of these ideas being compatible with Naomi's "return". Epistrepho literally means a change of direction and figuratively also refers to such a change which conveys the idea of repentance or the change of one's mind. For example epistrepho is used by Paul to describe the formerly pagan worshipping Thessalonians who "turned to (epistrepho) God from idols to serve a living and true God (1Th 1:9-note) In Naomi's case epistrepho could reflect simply a literal turning back toward her home country, although in the context of the story, this point in time clearly marks a decisive moment which we discover has significant spiritual implications. Dear reader, perhaps you have wandered off to "Moab" and need to make a definite decision to return to "Bethlehem" and "Bethlehem's greatest Son", the Lord Jesus Christ. Rest assured He is waiting for you to "Return to Bethlehem", as He so poignantly taught in the story of the Prodigal Son, who in a critical moment made the right decision to return (Luke 15:18-20)

The meanings of shub/shuv include literal significance Qal (over 680x), "to turn back" (e.g., Ge 8:3; 14:7; 1Sa 24:1), and metaphorically turning back to God (1Ki. 8:33, 48; Jer. 3:7). In the Qal, it means "to turn from," literally or metaphorically (1Ki. 2:33; Jer. 4:28); e.g., God will not turn from his promises (Ps. 132:11).

Shub/shuv can depict repentance - turning from evil and turning to good, a radical change in one's attitude toward sin, Implies a conscious moral separation & personal decision to forsake sin and enter fellowship with God. A striking OT example is seen in Nineveh - Jonah 3:8 (Lxx = apostrepho).

Shub describes a change of mind or heart (Ex 13:17, Josiah in 2Ki 23:25, Jer 34:15, Israel in the last days = Dt 30:2, Isa 59:20, Hos 3:5; return to Egypt = Isa 6:10, Hos 11:5, nation turning from evil = Jer 18:8). God's call is always to return to Him (1Ki 8:33, Jer 4:1). Shub is used figurative to describe things returning (God's Word = Isa 45:23, 55:11, Esau's anger subsiding or "turning back" = Ge 27:44-45; blood [guilt] returning on one's head = 1K 2:33, Ps 7:16). The first use in Ge 3:19 describes man's death as a "return (Lxx = apostrepho) to the ground" (cp Eccl 12:7), and 2Sa 12:23 says there is no return to life David speaking of his illegitimate son's death. The last use of shub in the OT God promises He "will restore the hearts of the fathers to their children." (Mal 4:5).

Shub/shuv in simple uses means to return, to restore, to go back. Abraham’s descendants in their fourth generation would return to Canaan (Gen. 15:16); God returned to visit His people (Ge 8:9; 18:10). It is also used to describe turning chariots about when needed (1Ki. 22:33; Mic. 2:8).

Water receded (turned back) = Ge 8:3 (shub also used of the waters at Red Sea and the Jordan River that returned after God's great works of deliverance = Ex. 14:26; Josh. 4:18).

Stephen Renn on shub - RETURN - shub is a common verb occurring over one thousand times with the predominant meanings “return,” “turn,” along with a variety of associated nuances, both literal and metaphorical. (See TURN below) The literal meaning “to return” (i.e., go, come back) is indicated in a variety of contexts. General, non-specific usage is illustrated in Ps 73:10. shub refers to people returning, in a directional sense, in Ge. 14: 9; 50:14; Ex 4:21; Lev. 25:10ff.; Num. 14: 3; Dt 20:5ff.; 1Sa. 7:17; Song. 6:13; Dan. 11: 9ff. Dt 3:20; Jos. 1:15; Ru 1: 6ff. refer to the people of God returning to their land. In particular, the promised return of the remnant of Israel to Canaan after their period of exile is noted Isa. 10:21; 35:10; 51:11. See also Lev. 27:24; Eccl 1: 7. The people of Israel and Judah “return” to God in the sense of recommitting themselves to him in faith, trust, and repentance (cf. Dt 30:2; 1Sa. 7: 3; 1Ki. 8:48; 2Chr. 6:24, 38; Job 22:23; Jer. 15:19; 24:7; Hos. 6:1). However, in Isa. 19:22 such a return to Yahweh is predicated also of Egypt in a remarkable prophetic passage anticipating divine blessing for the nations. Isa. 44:22; Jer. 3:12; Hos. 14:1; Mal. 3:7 record pleas from Yahweh for his people to return to him. Jer. 23:14, in contrast, records an indictment of those who refuse to return to God with a penitent heart. Hos. 2:7 speaks metaphorically of such a return by Israel to her God, describing it as a return to her “first husband.”

shub means “return” in the metaphorical sense of “come back” in several contexts. The concept of blood returning upon one’s head, as a sign of retribution, is noted in 1Ki. 2:32. The same is said in relation to wickedness in Esther 9:25; Ps 7:16; Joel 3:4, 7; Obadiah 1:15. The kingdom of Israel returns to the house of David (1Ki. 12:26); and people return to the dust after their physical death (Ps 104:29; Ec 12:7). See also Eccl 5:15. The term shub is also used in relation to God “returning.” God promises to return to his people and bring them back to the land of Canaan (cf. Jer. 12:15; 29:10; 30:3). See also Dt 30:3. Jer. 22:27 declares a prohibition against the apostate Israelites returning to the land. The psalmist pleads with God in Ps 90:13, beseeching him to return to his people. In addition, shub means “restore” in Jer. 33: 7, 11, 26, where Yahweh promises to “return” (i.e., restore) the fortunes of Judah and Israel as they once were. Such a restoration is also promised to Egypt in Eze. 29:14.

TURN - The sense of “returning” to one’s original state is indicated in relation to physical death (i.e., a return to dust) in Ge 3:19; Job 34:15; Ec 3:20; 12:7. See also Ec 1: 6. The transitive force of “return” or “restore,” “bring back,” is used in relation to stolen property (Jdg 17:4); and to former cities of Judah, “brought back” from Edomite control (cf. 2Ki 14:22). In Gen. 8:3, the floodwaters are described as “returning,” or “receding,” so as to reveal dry land once more. The literal sense of “returning” to an original location is noted in Ge 8:9; 31:55; Ex 4:19ff. This meaning is also applied to water (Ex 14:28) and to a plague (Lev. 14:43). Jdg 11:31; 1Sa 18: 6 depict a return from battle; and Ezra 2:1; Isa 10:4 ff.; 35:10; 51:11 depict the significant return of the people of Israel to Canaan. See also Jos 1:15. The law relating to the “return” of property to the original Israelite owner(s) in the Year of Jubilee is described in Lev. 25:13ff. The action of “turning away” or “turning back” with transitive force is indicated with respect to one’s anger (Ge 27:44; Pr 15: 1); and to the wrath of God (Nu 25:11). Shub is often employed in the negative, indicating Yahweh’s refusal to turn back his anger, which results in inevitable judgment for those who have sinned against him (cf. Isa 9:12; 10:4; Jer. 4:8; Amos 1:3ff.; 2:1ff.). Similarly, Yahweh is said “to turn against” his people in punishment for their sin in Jos. 24:20; 1Ki. 2:32. In contrast, Jer. 32:40 contains the promise of the new covenant, whereby God solemnly declares that he will never again “turn away” from his people to punish them as he had done in the past. The meaning “turn from” is applied to Yahweh in Jos 7:26; Ps 78:38; 85:3; Hos. 14:4, where he is said to “turn from” his anger. And 1Ki. 8:35 contains a

plea for God to “turn away from” the sin of his people. In other negative contexts, this meaning is applied to those people who “turn from” Yahweh, or who rebel against him (cf. Num. 32:15; Dt 23:14; Jos. 22:18; Jer. 34:16; Eze. 33:18). In a number of places, “returning” to Yahweh indicates repentance (cf. Dt 1:45; 4:30 1Sa. 7:3; 1Ki. 8:48; Ps 22:27; Isa. 19:22; Jer. 18:8; Da 9:13; Hos. 6: 1). (SEE REPENT;) Yahweh himself is also depicted as “returning” in several contexts. For example, he returns to enable Sarah to conceive a son in Ge 18:10ff. Then he acts to fulfill his promise to “bring back” (lit., “causes to return”) his people to the land of Canaan after their exile (cf. Dt 30: 3; 1Ki. 8:34; Ps 68:22; Isa. 49:6; Jer. 12:15; 23:3; 29:10ff.; Zec. 10:10). There are various pleas for God to “turn toward” his people in compassion and deliver them (cf. Ps 6:4; 80:14); to “restore” salvation to his people (cf. Ps 51:12; 80:7; 126:4); and to “restrain” (i.e., turn away) his anger (cf. Da 9:16).

REPENT - One of the nuances of shub is “repent,” and it is used exclusively of human beings expressing sorrow for sin, as in 1Ki. 8:47. Other texts contain the divine command to repent of one’s sin (cf. Ezek. 14:6; 18:30). Related to the idea of expressing sorrow for wickedness is the idea of “turning away” from it. Such an action is predicated of Israel (1Ki. 8:35; 2Ch. 6:26; 7:14; Isa. 59:20; Da 9:13); of foreign nations (Jer 18:8); and of human beings in general (Ezek 18:21; 33:9). (Expository Dictionary of Bible Words)

Victor Hamilton on shub - The Bible is rich in idioms describing man's responsibility in the process of repentance. Such phrases would include the following: "incline your heart unto the Lord your God" (Joshua 24:23); "circumcise yourselves to the Lord" (Jeremiah 4:4); "wash your heart from wickedness" (Jeremiah 4:14); "break up your fallow ground" (Hosea 10:12) and so forth. All these expressions of man's penitential activity, however, are subsumed and summarized by this one verb shûb. For better than any other verb it combines in itself the two requisites of repentance: to turn from evil and to turn to the good.

In the Qal stem it has been suggested that there are ten different meanings for shûb with subdivisions within each, plus a few uses diffcult to pinpoint (Holladay, p. 59ff.). Of these two or three merit special observance.

To begin with, the basic meaning of shûb "to (re)turn" implying physical motion or movement appears over 270 times. A few times God is the subject, "At the appointed time I will return to you (Sarah)," (Genesis 18:14). Most often the subject is a person: "I (Abraham) and the lad (Isaac) will go yonder and worship, and return to you" (Genesis 22:5). In the Hiphil there are eighty-seven occurrences of shûb in the sense of "bring back, carry back."

Second, often (over 120 times) shûb acts as a sort of an auxiliary verb whose function is to repeat the action of the second verb: "and 'again' Isaac dug the wells (wayyāshōb yiṣhāqwayyaḥpōr," Genesis 26:18).

The third important use of shûb in the Qal, and theologically the most crucial, is in passages dealing with the covenant community's return to God (in the sense of repentance), or turning away from evil (in the sense of renouncing and disowning sin), or turning away from God (in the sense of becoming apostate). In such contexts shûb in the Qal is used 129 times. By contrast, in the Hiphil shûb is used only eleven times when discussing the divine-human relationship. "turn back (Qal imperative) and 'let yourself be turned from your idols' (Hiphil) from your idols" (Ezekiel 14:6).

Taking all stems into consideration, Holladay (p. 117) concludes that there are a total of 164 uses of shûb in a covenantal context. The majority of them, as one might expect, are to be found in the classical/literary prophets 113 times, with Jeremiah leading the way (forty-eight times). By way of contrast with Jeremiah, the covenantal usage of shûb is found only six times in the first thirty-nine chapters of Isaiah (maybe only five if we read Isaiah 30:15 not, "in returning (to God) and rest shall you be saved," but "in sitting still yāshab, i.e. abstention from foreign alliances, resting shall you be saved"). In the remaining twenty-seven chapters it is found only four times: Isaiah 44:22; Isaiah 55:7; Isaiah 57:17; Isaiah 59:20. Thus, we encounter the interesting phenomenon of two prophets back to back in the canon, the first virtually silent on the subject and the second quite vocal. Perhaps the paucity of references in Isaiah is the prophet's way of saying the die has already been cast. Quite poignantly God says to Isaiah, "Make the heart of this people fat … lest they be converted (shûb) and healed." A point of no return has been reached. God has foreseen the stubbornness of his people and has incorporated it into his plan. The prophet, therefore, is not to be frustrated (Matthew 13:13ff.).

It should be noted that in a number of places shûb means "to return from exile." In the Qal: naturally in Ezra and Nehemiah (Ezra 2:1; Neh. 7:6); also Isaiah 10:22; Jeremiah 22:10; Zech. 10:9, inter alia; in the Hiphil: 1 Kings 8:34; Jeremiah 12:15, inter alia. The association between the ideas of a return from exile and a return to the covenant should be obvious. A return from exile was reclamation as much as a return from any form of sin. That God should permit either return is corroborative of his covenantal faithfulness.

To be sure, there is no systematic spelling out of the doctrine of repentance in the OT. It is illustrated (Psalm 51) more than anything else. Yet the fact that people are called "to turn" either "so" or "away from" implies that sin is not an ineradicable stain, but by turning, a God-given power, a sinner can redirect his destiny. There are two sides in understanding conversion, the free sovereign act of God's mercy and man's going beyond contrition and sorrow to a conscious decision of turning to God. The latter includes repudiation of all sin and affirmation of God's total will for one's life. (Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament- R Laird Harris, Gleason L Archer Jr., Bruce K Waltke)

Shub/shuv - Over 1050 times in 948 verses in the OT most often in Jeremiah (111x), Psalms (71x), Genesis (68x), Ezekiel (62x) - Translated by many words and phrases in the NASB: again(53), answer(4), answer*(5), answered(5), averted(1), back(7), back again(2), bring(1), bring her back(1), bring him back(2), bring it back(1), bring me back(2), bring the back(1), bring them again(1), bring them back(14), bring you back(5), bring back(14), bring presents(1), bring… back(4), bringing(1), bringing the back(1), brought(2), brought him again(2), brought him back(3), brought it back(3), brought me back(4), brought the again(1), brought them back(2), brought us back(1), brought again(1), brought back(17), brought… back(1), call(1), came again(1), came back(1), cause(1), certainly bring(1), certainly bring them back(1), come back(10), converted(1), deluded(1), desist(2), draw and turning(1), draw it back(1), drawn(1), drew back(1), drives(1), ever go back(1), fro(1), forth(1), gave… return(1), get(1), get it back(1), give(2), give a answer(1), give it back(1), give them back(1), give back(2), gives(2), go(1), go on back(1), go back(10), go*(1), going back(1), gone back(1), indeed(1), indeed bring(1), indeed bring me back(1), indeed return(2), indeed turn away(1), keeps(2), make them return(1), make restitution(1), paid(2), pass your again(1), pass away(1), pay(1), pays us back in full(2), punishing(1), put(3), put his back(1), put the back(1), put back(1), rebuilt*(2), recall(2), recalls*(1), receded(1), recompense(1), recompense*(1), recompensed(4), recovered(4), refreshes(1), refund(3), refuse(4), refute(1), regain(1), remade*(1), render(8), repaid(1), repay(5), repeatedly(2), repeats(1), repel(1), repent(6), repent and turn away(2), repentant(1), repented(1), replace(1), reply(6), reply*(1), reported(1), reported*(1), repulse*(2), rescue(1), respond(1), restitution may be made(1), restitution which is made(1), restore(58), restored(17), restorer(2), restores(7), restoring(1), retire(1), retreat(1), return(261), return and take back(1), return*(1), returned(151), returned*(1), returning(2), returns(9), reverse(1), revived(1), revoke(10), revoked(1), sent back(1), set(1), spent(1), still(3), subsides(2), surely return(4), take(4), take it back(1), take me back(1), take my back(2), take your back(1), take back(2), there(1), took back(2), turn(49), turn and and withdraw(1), turn her away(1), turn his away(1), turn it back(1), turn me into again(1), turn them back(1), turn to you again(1), turn you about(1), turn you around(1), turn you back(2), turn your away(1), turn again(1), turn aside(1), turn away(24), turn away and not repent(1), turn back(20), turn… back(1), turned(16), turned them back(1), turned around(1), turned away(9), turned back(16), turned… back(1), turning(2), turning away(1), turns(7), turns again(1), turns away(5), unleash(1), went back(5), went*(1), withdraw(4), withdrew(1).

Gen 3:19; 8:3, 7, 9, 12; 14:7, 16f; 15:16; 16:9; 18:10, 14, 33; 20:7, 14; 21:32; 22:5, 19; 24:5f, 8; 26:18; 27:44f; 28:15, 21; 29:3; 30:31; 31:3, 13, 55; 32:6, 9; 33:16; 37:14, 22, 29f; 38:22, 29; 40:13, 21; 41:13; 42:24f, 28, 37; 43:2, 10, 12f, 18, 21; 44:8, 13, 25; 48:21; 50:5, 14f;

Exodus 4:7, 18ff; 5:22; 10:8; 13:17; 14:2, 26ff; 15:19; 19:8; 21:34; 22:26; 23:4; 24:14; 32:12, 27, 31; 33:11; 34:31, 35;

Lev 6:4; 13:16; 14:39, 43; 22:13; 25:10, 13, 27f, 41, 51f; 26:26; 27:24;

Num 5:7f; 8:25; 10:36; 11:4; 13:25f; 14:3f, 36, 43; 16:50; 17:10; 18:9; 22:8, 34; 23:5f, 16, 20; 24:25; 25:4, 11; 32:15, 18, 22; 33:7; 35:25, 28, 32;

Deut 1:22, 25, 45; 3:20; 4:30, 39; 5:30; 13:17; 17:16; 20:5ff; 22:1f; 23:13f; 24:4, 13, 19; 28:31, 60, 68; 30:1ff, 8ff; 32:41, 43;

Josh 1:15; 2:16, 22f; 4:18; 5:2; 6:14; 7:3, 26; 8:21, 24, 26; 10:15, 21, 38, 43; 11:10; 14:7; 18:8; 19:12, 27, 29, 34; 20:6; 22:8f, 16, 18, 23, 29, 32; 23:12; 24:20;

JUDGES - Judg 2:19; 3:19; 5:29; 6:18; 7:3, 15; 8:9, 13, 33; 9:56f; 11:8f, 13, 31, 35, 39; 14:8; 15:19; 17:3f; 18:26; 19:3, 7; 20:48; 21:14, 23; Ruth 1:6-8, 10-12, 15-16, 21-22; 2:6; 4:3, 15; 1 Sam 1:19; 3:5f; 5:3, 11; 6:3f, 7f, 16f, 21; 7:3, 14; 9:5; 12:3; 14:27; 15:11, 25f, 30f; 17:15, 30, 53, 57; 18:2, 6; 23:23, 28; 24:1; 25:12, 21, 39; 26:21, 23, 25; 27:9; 29:4, 7, 11; 30:12, 19; 2 Sam 1:1, 22; 2:26, 30; 3:11, 16, 26f; 6:20; 8:3, 13; 9:7; 10:5, 14; 11:4, 15; 12:23, 31; 14:13, 21; 15:8, 19f, 25, 27, 29, 34; 16:3, 8, 12; 17:3, 20; 18:16; 19:10ff, 14f, 37, 39, 43; 20:22; 22:21, 25, 38; 23:10; 24:13; FIRST KINGS - 1 Kgs 2:16f, 20, 30, 32f, 41, 44; 8:33ff, 47f; 9:6; 12:5f, 9, 12, 16, 20f, 24, 26f; 13:4, 6, 9f, 16ff, 22f, 26, 29, 33; 14:28; 17:21f; 18:43; 19:6f, 15, 20f; 20:5, 9, 34; 22:17, 26, 28, 33;

2 Kgs 1:5f, 11, 13; 2:13, 18, 25; 3:4, 27; 4:22, 31, 35, 38; 5:10, 14f; 7:8, 15; 8:3, 6, 29; 9:15, 18, 20, 36; 13:25; 14:14, 22, 25, 28; 15:20; 16:6; 17:3, 13; 18:14, 24; 19:7ff, 28, 33, 36; 20:5, 9ff; 21:3; 22:9, 20; 23:20, 25f; 24:1;

1 Chr 19:5; 20:3; 21:12, 20, 27; 2 Chr 6:23ff, 37f, 42; 7:14, 19; 10:2, 5f, 9, 12, 16; 11:1, 4; 12:11f; 14:15; 15:4; 18:16, 25ff, 32; 19:1, 4; 20:27; 22:6; 24:11, 19; 25:10, 13, 24; 26:2; 27:5; 28:11, 15; 29:10; 30:6, 8f; 31:1; 32:21, 25; 33:3, 13; 34:7, 16, 28; 36:13; Ezra 2:1; 6:21; 9:14; 10:14; Neh 1:9; 2:6, 15, 20; 4:4, 12, 15; 5:11f; 6:4; 7:6; 8:17; 9:17, 26, 28f, 35; 13:9; Esth 2:14; 4:13, 15; 6:12; 7:8; 8:5, 8; 9:25; Job 1:21; 6:29; 7:7, 10; 9:12f, 18; 10:9, 16, 21; 11:10; 13:22; 14:13; 15:13, 22; 16:22; 17:10; 20:2, 10, 18; 22:23; 23:13; 30:23; 31:14; 32:14; 33:5, 25f, 30, 32; 34:15; 35:4; 36:10; 39:4, 12, 22; 40:4; 42:10;

PSALMS - Ps 6:4, 10; 7:7, 12, 16; 9:3, 17; 14:7; 18:20, 24, 37; 19:7; 22:27; 23:3; 28:4; 35:13, 17; 44:10; 51:13; 53:6; 54:5; 56:9; 59:6, 14; 60:1; 68:22; 69:4; 70:3; 71:20; 72:10; 73:10; 74:11, 21; 78:34, 38f, 41; 79:12; 80:3, 7, 14, 19; 81:14; 85:3f, 6, 8; 89:43; 90:3, 13; 94:2, 15, 23; 104:9, 29; 106:23; 116:7, 12; 119:59, 79; 126:1, 4; 132:10f; 146:4; Prov 1:23; 2:19; 3:28; 12:14; 15:1; 17:13; 18:13; 19:24; 20:26; 22:21; 24:12, 18, 26, 29; 25:10, 13; 26:11, 15f, 27; 27:11; 29:8; 30:30; Eccl 1:6f; 3:20; 4:1, 7, 9; 5:15; 9:11; 12:2, 7; Song 6:13; Isa 1:25ff; 5:25; 6:10, 13; 9:12f, 17, 21; 10:4, 21f; 12:1; 14:27; 19:22; 21:12; 23:17; 28:6; 29:17; 31:6; 35:10; 36:9; 37:7f, 29, 34, 37; 38:8; 41:28; 42:22; 43:13; 44:19, 22, 25; 45:23; 46:8; 47:10; 49:5f; 51:11; 52:8; 55:7, 10f; 58:12f; 59:20; 63:17; 66:15;

JEREMIAH - Jer 2:24, 35; 3:1, 7, 10, 12, 14, 19, 22; 4:1, 8, 28; 5:3; 6:9; 8:4ff; 11:10; 12:15; 14:3; 15:7, 19; 16:15; 18:4, 8, 11, 20; 22:10f, 27; 23:3, 14, 20, 22; 24:6f; 25:5; 26:3; 27:16, 22; 28:3f, 6; 29:10, 14; 30:3, 10, 18, 24; 31:8, 16ff, 21, 23; 32:37, 40, 44; 33:7, 11, 26; 34:11, 15f, 22; 35:15; 36:3, 7, 28; 37:7f, 20; 38:26; 40:5, 12; 41:14, 16; 42:10, 12; 43:5; 44:5, 14, 28; 46:16, 27; 48:47; 49:6, 39; 50:6, 9, 19; Lam 1:8, 11, 13, 16, 19; 2:3, 8, 14; 3:3, 21, 40, 64; 5:21;

EZEKIEL - Ezek 1:14; 3:19f; 7:13; 8:6, 13, 15, 17; 9:11; 13:22; 14:6; 16:53, 55; 18:7f, 12, 17, 21, 23f, 26ff, 30, 32; 20:22; 21:5, 30; 27:15; 29:14; 33:9, 11f, 14f, 18f; 34:4, 16; 35:7; 38:4, 8, 12; 39:2, 25, 27; 44:1; 46:9, 17; 47:1, 6f;

Dan 9:13, 16, 25; 10:20; 11:9f, 13, 18f, 28ff;

Hos 2:7, 9; 3:5; 4:9; 5:4, 15; 6:1, 11; 7:10, 16; 8:13; 9:3; 11:5, 9; 12:2, 6, 14; 14:1f, 4, 7;

Joel 2:12ff; 3:1, 4, 7; Amos 1:3, 6, 8f, 11, 13; 2:1, 4, 6; 4:6, 8ff; 9:14; Obad 1:15; Jonah 1:13; 3:8ff; Mic 1:7; 2:8; 5:3; 7:19; Nah 2:2; Hab 2:1; Zeph 2:7; 3:20; Zech 1:3f, 6, 16; 4:1; 5:1; 6:1; 7:14; 8:3, 15; 9:8, 12; 10:6, 9f; 13:7;

Mal 1:4; 2:6; 3:7, 18; 4:6