Monday, July 7, 2008

Ruth: shub

Yesterday we learned a new Hebrew word, shub, which means “return.” Shub captures the idea of movement to an earlier state and, as a key word in the book of Ruth, captures an important idea in the book.

Let’s take a look at the uses of shub in the first chapter:

Ruth 1:6 Then she arose with her daughters-in-law that she might return (“shub”) from the land of Moab…

Maybe Naomi’s allegiance is still more closely tied to Moab, for her thoughts are of her new home.

Ruth 1:7 So she departed from the place where she was, and her two daughters-in-law with her; and they went on the way to shub to the land of Judah.

Now the focus is on Bethlehem. She’s returning to her homeland, a prodigal of sorts coming back in emptiness and defeat.

Ruth 1:8 And Naomi said to her two daughters-in-law, "Go, return each of you to her mother's house. May the LORD deal kindly with you as you have dealt with the dead and with me.

Naomi thinks of the two young women in her care and tries to send them back to their homeland. She doesn’t plan to bring two young Moabite women to Bethlehem. She blessed their kindness and wishes to send them to their own people.

Ruth 1:9 And they said to her, "No, but we will surely return with you to your people."

The daughters-in-law refuse. They are family now and they intend to tie their fate to hers. They aren’t literally returning to Bethlehem, for they have never been there. But they are committed: what happens to Naomi happens to them. They are returning because Naomi is returning.

Ruth 1:10 But Naomi said, "Return, my daughters. Why should you go with me? Have I yet sons in my womb, that they may be your husbands?”

Now we see a verbal tug of war. The daughters intend to “return” to Bethlehem (they are not literally from there) but Naomi intends them to actually return to their own

roots. She rejects their commitment, setting them free. They need not feel a family covenant. They can return to their past.

Ruth 1:12 "Return, my daughters! Go, for I am too old to have a husband. If I said I have hope, if I should even have a husband tonight and also bear sons…”

Both daughters have demurred, indicating they will follow Naomi. So she takes a harder line: your hope is in husband and offspring. I can do nothing to help you. She assumes their hope is as hers, and that the way to fullness is in their past.

We’ll keep looking at this concept next time.

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