Note from C H
Spurgeon on Albert Barnes:
"Albert Barnes", say you, "what, do you
think of Albert Barnes?" Albert Barnes is a learned and able divine, but
his productions are unequal in value, the gospels are of comparatively
little worth, but his other comments are extremely useful for Sunday
School teachers and persons with a narrow range of reading, endowed with
enough good sense to discriminate between good and evil. If a
controversial eye had been turned upon Barnes's Notes years ago, and his
inaccuracies shown up by some unsparing hand, he would never have had the
popularity which at one time set rival publishers advertising him in every
direction. His Old Testament volumes are to be greatly commended as
learned and laborious, and the epistles are useful as a valuable
collection of the various opinions of learned men. Placed by the side of
the great masters, Barnes is a lesser light, but taking his work for what
it is and professes to be, no minister can afford to be without it, and
this is no small praise for works which were only intended for Sunday
School teachers." (from
Commenting and Commentaries)
(Comment: Other sources classify Barnes as an Arminian. Still other
sources note that Barnes does not believe in the doctrine of original sin.
Keep these thoughts in mind as you review his comments. Remember that
every commentary is a reflection of the writer's theological persuasion
and like "leaven" this "persuasion" will tend to permeate all of their
comments. It therefore behooves the discerning Bible student to determine
as best one can what the author's beliefs are).
RUTH - INTRODUCTION
The Book of Ruth is
historically important as giving the lineage of David through the whole
period of the rule of the Judges (Ruth 1:1),
i.e. from Salmon who fought under Joshua, to “Jesse the Bethlehemite” (1
Samuel 16:1); and as illustrating the ancestry of “Jesus Christ, the son
of David,” who “was born in Bethlehem of Judea” (Matthew 1:1; 2:1). The
care with which this narrative was preserved through so many centuries
before the birth of Christ is a striking evidence of the providence of
God, that “known unto God are all His works from the beginning of the
world.” The genealogy with which the Book closes (Ruth 4:18), is also an
important contribution to the chronology of Scripture history. We learn
from it, with great distinctness, that Salmon, one of the conquering host
of Joshua, was the grandfather of Obed, who was the grandfather of king
David; in other words, that four generations, or about 200 years, span the
“days when the Judges ruled.”
But the Book of Ruth has another interest, from the charming view it gives
us of the domestic life of pious Israelites even during the most troubled
times. If we only had drawn our impressions from the records of violence
and crime contained in the Book of Judges, we would have been ready to
conclude that all the gentler virtues had fled from the land, while the
children of Israel were alternately struggling for their lives and
liberties with the tribes of Canaan, or yielding themselves to the
seductions of Canaanite idolatry. But the Book of Ruth, lifting up the
curtain which veiled the privacy of domestic life, discloses to us most
beautiful views of piety, integrity, self-sacrificing affection, chastity,
gentleness and charity, growing up amidst the rude scenes of war, discord,
Ruth, from its contents, as anciently by its place in the canon, belongs
to the Book of Judges, and is a kind of appendix to it. In the present
Hebrew Bible it is placed among the Kethubim (Hagiographa), in the group
containing the Song of Solomon, Ruth, Lamentations, Ecclesiastes, and
Esther; but in the Greek Septuagint and the Latin Vulgate it occupies the
same place as in our English Bibles, which was its ancient place in the
The language of the Book of Ruth is generally pure Hebrew. But there are
words of Aramaic form and origin.
(For example, the originals of the verbs “go,” “abide fast” (Ruth 2:8),
“lay thee down,” “thou shalt do” (Ruth
3:4), “put,” “get thee down” (Ruth
3:3), “confirm” (Ruth
4:7); the word translated twice “for them” but meaning
1:13), “Mara” (Ruth
and other expressions unique to the later Hebrew. The inference would be
that, the Book of Ruth was composed not before the later times of the
Jewish monarchy; and this inference is somewhat strengthened by the way in
which the writer speaks of the custom which prevailed in former times in
4:7). Other expressions, which the book has in common with the
Books of Samuel and Kings, and a certain similarity of narrative, tend to
place it upon about the same level of antiquity with those Books.
(For example, originals of “such a one” (Ruth
4:1); “the Lord do so to me, and more also” (Ruth
1:17); “the beginning of barley harvest” (Ruth
1:22); “lifted up their
voice and wept” (Ruth
Ruth 1:14); “blessed be he of the Lord” (Ruth
The Books of the Old Testament, to the contents of which reference seems
to be made in the Book of Ruth, are Judges, Leviticus, Deuteronomy,
Genesis, 1 and 2 Samuel, and perhaps Job. Ruth is not quoted or referred
to in the New Testament, except that the generations from Hezron to David
in our Lord’s genealogy seem to be taken from it.
No mystical or allegorical sense can be assigned to the history; but Ruth,
the Moabitess, was undoubtedly one of the first-fruits of the ingathering
of Gentiles into the Church of Christ, and so an evidence of God’s
gracious purpose in Christ, “also to the Gentiles to grant repentance unto
life;” and the important evangelical lesson is as plainly taught in her
case, as in that of Cornelius, “that God is no respecter of persons, but
in every nation he that feareth God, and worketh righteousness, is
accepted of Him.” The great doctrine of divine grace is also forcibly
taught by the admission of Ruth, the Moabitess, among the ancestry of our
Lord Jesus Christ.
NOTES ON RUTH 1
Ruth 1:1. In the days when the Judges
ruled “Judged.” This note of time, like that in
Ruth 4:7; Judges 18:1-note;
indicates that this Book was written after the rule of the judges had
ceased. The genealogy (Ruth
4:17-22) points to
the time of David as the earliest when the Book of Ruth could have been
A famine Caused probably by one of the hostile invasions recorded
in the Book of Judges. Most of the Jewish commentators, from the mention
of Bethlehem, and the resemblance of the names Boaz and Ibzan, refer this
history to the judge Ibzan (Judges 12:8-note), but without
The country of Moab Here, and in
Ruth 4:3, literally, “the field” or
“fields.” As the same word is elsewhere used of the territory of Moab, of
the Amalekites, of Edom, and of the Philistines, it would seem to be a
term pointedly used with reference to a foreign country, not the country
of the speaker, or writer; and to have been specially applied to Moab.
Ruth 1:4. Marriages of Israelites with
women of Ammon or Moab are nowhere in the Law expressly forbidden, as were
marriages with the women of Canaan (Dt 7:1, 2, 3). In the days of
Nehemiah the special law (Dt 23:3, 4, 5, 6) was interpreted as
forbidding them, and as excluding the children of such marriages from the
congregation of Israel (Neh 13:1, 2, 3). Probably the marriages of Mahlon
and Chilion would be justified by necessity, living as they were in a
foreign land. Ruth was the wife of the older brother, Mahlon (Ruth
Ruth 1:8 Accompanying their
mother-in-law to the borders of their own land would probably be an act of
Oriental courtesy. Naomi with no less courtesy presses them to return. The
mention of the mother’s house, which the separation of the women’s house
or tent from that of the men facilitates, is natural in her mouth, and has
more tenderness in it than father’s house would have had; it does not
imply the death of their fathers (Ruth 2:11).
See marginal references and notes. The Levirate law probably existed among
the Moabites, and in Israel extended beyond the brother in the strict
sense, and applied to the nearest relations, since Boaz was only the
kinsman of Elimelech (Ruth
Ruth 1:14. The kiss at parting as well as
at meeting is the customary friendly and respectful salutation in the
East. The difference between mere kindness of manner and self-sacrificing
love is most vividly depicted in the words and conduct of the two women.
Ruth’s determination is stedfast to cast in her lot with the people of the
Lord (compare the marginal references and Matthew 15:22, 23, 24, 25, 26,
And they said i.e. the women of Bethlehem said. “They” in the Hebrew
See the margin. Similar allusions to the meaning of names are seen in
Genesis 27:36; Jeremiah 20:3.
The Almighty Shaddai (see Genesis 17:1). The name “Almighty” is
almost unique to the Pentateuch and to the Book of Job. It occurs twice in
the Psalms, and four times in the Prophets.
The LORD hath testified against me The phrase is very commonly applied
to a man who gives witness concerning (usually against) another in a court
of justice (Ex 20:16; 2Samuel 1:16; Isaiah 3:9). Naomi in the
bitterness of her spirit complains that the Lord Himself turned against
her, and was bringing her sins up for judgment.
NOTES ON RUTH 2
Ruth 2:1. A kinsman More literally
“an acquaintance”; here (and in the feminine, Ruth 3:2) denoting the
person with whom one is intimately acquainted, one’s near relation. The
next kinsman of
etc. (goel) ), is a wholly different word.
Boaz - Commonly taken to mean, “strength is in him” (compare 1Kings 7:21).
Ruth 2:7 The house The shed or
booth where they took their meals, and were sheltered from the sun in the
heat of the day (see Genesis 33:17).
Ruth 2:8 The grammatical forms of the
verbs “go hence” and “abide,” are unique and Chaldaic. They are supposed
to indicate the dialect used at Bethlehem in the time of Boaz.
Ruth 2:9. After them i.e. “after my
maidens.” The fields not being divided by hedges, but only by unplowed
ridges, it would be easy for her to pass off Boaz’s land without being
aware of it, and so find herself among strangers where Boaz could not
Ruth 2:10. She fell on her face
With Oriental reverence (compare Genesis 33:3, and the marginal
Ruth 2:12. The similarity of expression
here to Genesis 15:1, and in
Ruth 2:11 to Genesis 12:1, makes it
probable that Boaz had the case of Abraham in his mind.
The LORD God of Israel “Jehovah the God of Israel.” Compare Joshua
14:14, where, as here, the force of the addition, the God of Israel, lies
in the person spoken of being a foreigner (see
Ruth 2:14. To dip the morsel, or sop,
whether it were bread or meat, in the dish containing the vinegar (compare
Matthew 26:23; Mark 14:20: Exodus 25:29; Numbers 7:13) was, and still is,
the common custom in the East.
Parched or “roasted” corn Grain was the common food of the country then
(compare 1Samuel 17:17, 25:18; 2Samuel 17:28) as it is now.
And left Or “reserved” (Ruth
2:18). Rather, “had
some over” (compare Luke 15:17). Ruth 2:18 tells us that she took to her
mother-in-law what she had left over.
Ruth 2:17. And beat out that she had
gleaned Namely, with a stick, as the word implies (compare Deuteronomy
24:20; Isaiah 27:12). This method is still commonly practiced. Ruth
gleaned enough to support herself and her mother-in-law for five days
Blessed be he of the LORD ... We may gather from Naomi’s allusion to
the dead that both her husband and son had been faithful servants of
Jehovah, the God of Israel. His kindness to the dead consisted in raising
up (as Naomi hoped) an heir to perpetuate the name; and, in general, in
His care for their widows.
One of our next kinsmen The word here is goel, the redeemer, who had the
(1) of redeeming the inheritance of the person;
(2) of marrying the widow;
(3) of avenging the death. (See Lev 25:25, 26, 27, 28, 29, 30, 31,47, 48,
49, 50, 51, 52, 53, 54, 55; Dt
25:5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10; 19:1-13.)
Since these rights belonged to the next of kin, goel came to mean the
NOTES ON RUTH 3
Ruth 3:2. Behold, he winnoweth barley
... The simple manners of Boaz and his times are here before us. This
“mighty man of wealth” assists personally in the winnowing of his barley,
which lies in a great heap on the floor (Ruth
3:15), and sleeps in the open threshing-floor to protect his
grain from depredation.
Tonight For the sake of the breeze which springs up at sunset, and greatly
facilitates the “cleansing” (separation) of the grain tossed up across the
Ruth 3:4. Uncover his feet Rather,
“the place of his feet;” the foot of his bed, as we should say. So also
Ruth 3:8. Turned himself Rather,
“bent forward,” so as to feel what it was which was at his feet. The same
word is translated “took hold of,” in
Ruth 3:9. Spread thy skirt ... The
phrase indicates receiving and acknowledging her as a wife.
Ruth 3:10. Thou hast shewed more
kindness ... Literally, “Thou hast made thy last kindness better than
the first.” Her last kindness was her willingness to accept Boaz for her
husband, advanced in years as he was.
3:13. By “kinsman,” understand the
goel (see note above on
Ruth 3:15. The vail Quite a
different word from that rendered “vail,” in Genesis 38:14. It seems
rather to mean a kind of loose cloak, worn over the ordinary dress (see
Six measures i.e. six seahs, in all two ephahs, twice as much as she
3:17), and a heavy load to
carry; for which reason he laid it on her, probably placed it on her head.
It is well known that women can carry great weights when duly positioned
on their heads.
And she went into the city The Hebrew has “he went,” namely, Boaz, where,
accordingly, we find him (Ruth
Ruth 3:16. Who art thou, my daughter? In the dim twilight (Ruth
3:14) her mother was not sure at first who the young woman was,
who sought admittance into the house.
Ruth 4:1. The gate is the place of
concourse, of business, and of justice in Oriental cities (see Judges
19:15 note; Genesis 34:20; Deuteronomy 16:18). Ho, such a one!
Indicating that the name of the kinsman was either unknown or purposely
concealed (1 Samuel 21:2; 2 Kings 6:8).
Ruth 4:2. Every city was governed
by elders (see Deuteronomy 19:12; Judges 8:14). For the number “ten,”
compare Exodus 18:25. Probably the presence of, at least, ten elders was
necessary to make a lawful public assembly, as among modern Jews ten (a
minyon) are necessary to constitute a synagogue.
Ruth 4:3. According to the law
(Leviticus 25:25, 26, 27, 28), if any Israelite, through poverty, would sell his
possession, the next of kin (the goel had a right to redeem it by paying
the value of the number of years remaining until the jubilee (see the
marginal reference). This right Boaz advertises the goel of, so as to give
him the option which the law secured to him of redeeming “our brother
Elimelech’s” land, i.e. our kinsman’s, according to the common use of the
term brother, for near relation (see Genesis 13:8; 24:27; Leviticus 25:25;
Numbers 27:4; Judges 9:1).
Ruth 4:4. See the margin; a phrase
explained by the act of removing the end of the turban, or the hair, in
order to whisper in the ear (see 1Samuel 9:15: 2Samuel 7:27).
Ruth 4:5. Observe the action of
the Levirate law. If there had been no one interested but Naomi, she would
have sold the land unclogged by any condition, the law of Levirate having
no existence in her case. But there was a young widow upon whom the
possession of the land would devolve at Naomi’s death, and who already had
a right of partnership in it, and the law of Levirate did apply in her
case. It was, therefore, the duty of the goel to marry her and raise up
seed to his brother, i.e. his kinsman. And he could not exercise his right
of redeeming the land, unless he was willing at the same time to fulfill
Ruth 4:6. I mar mine own inheritance
The meaning of these words is doubtful. Some explain them by saying that
the goel had a wife and children already, and would not introduce strife
into his family. Others think that there was a risk (which he would not
incur) of the goel’s own name being blotted out from his inheritance (Ruth
4:10). Others take the word translated as “mar” in a sense of
wasting or spending. If he had to find the purchase-money, and support
Naomi and Ruth, his own fortune would be broken down, if, as is likely, he
was a man of slender means. Boaz, being “a mighty man of wealth,” could
Redeem thou my right ... Literally, redeem my redemption — perform
that act of redemption which properly belongs to me, but which I cannot
Ruth 4:7. In former time in Israel
Showing that the custom was obsolete in the writer’s days. The letter of
the law (see the marginal reference) was not strictly followed. It was
thought sufficient for the man to pull off his own shoe and give it to the
man to whom he ceded his right, in the presence of the elders of his city.
Ruth 4:11. See the margin. There
is something of a poetical turn in this speech of the elders, and
something prophetic in the blessing pronounced by them. It is unique and
obscure. The Greek Version (LXX) is unintelligible. Jerome seems to have
had a slightly different reading, since he applies both clauses to Ruth.
“May she be a pattern of virtue in Ephratah, and have a name famous in
Bethlehem.” The meaning of “be famous” seems to be, Get thyself a name
which shall be celebrated in Bethlehem, as the head of a powerful and
illustrious house: literally it is, “proclaim a name,” i.e. cause others
to proclaim thy name, as in
Ruth 4:14. Without a kinsman i.e.
Boaz, not the infant Obed.
Obed i.e. serving, with allusion to the service of love and duty which
he would render to his grandmother Naomi.
It is probable that there was a family book for the house of Pharez, in
which their genealogies were preserved, and important bits of history were
recorded; and that the Book of Ruth was compiled from it. (See the note at
Salmon begat Boaz Matthew has preserved the additional interesting
information that the mother of Boaz was Rahab (Joshua 2; 6). It is
possible that the circumstance that the mother of Boaz was a Canaanite may
have made him less indisposed to marry Ruth the Moabitess. As regards the
whole genealogy in
it should be remarked that it occurs four times in Scripture, namely,
here, 1Chronicles 2:10, 11, 12; Matthew 1:3, 4, 5, 6; and Luke 3:32,33, and is of
course of singular importance as being the genealogy of our Lord. One or
two difficulties in it still remain unsolved.