“Do not press me to abandon you.” These are the first words in the Book of Ruth solely attributed to Ruth, and they show her firmly, resolutely, and honestly dealing with her mother-in-law. First, Ruth lovingly demands that Naomi stop pressuring her to leave. The Hebrew word for “press me” (“urge me” in many English versions) is paga (#06293 פָּגַע) and it has a few different meanings, including “confront, assault, attack.” While paga can mean press or urge, it rarely completely loses its attachment to the idea of a confrontation, assault, or attack, and so while Ruth is in fact saying, “do not press me to abandon you,” buried in the Hebrew words she uses is her making it clear to Naomi that she feels that Naomi’s imperative pressure for Ruth to leave is an attack, and she answers with her own imperative vocabulary, “Don’t press (attack) me!” She had decided to go to Israel and support Naomi and has chosen Yahweh as her God and that is the end of the story.
What a powerful lesson we learn from Ruth. Yes, Naomi’s life had many unexpected disappointments. Yes, Naomi was angry and bitter. And there is a time to be very gentle and accommodating in such situations, but there is also a time to get gut-level honest and say what needs to be said, and that is exactly what Ruth did. She met Naomi’s frustration and bitterness head-on and told her in no uncertain terms that she, Ruth, had made up her mind that the Israelites were going to be her people and Yahweh was her God. But Ruth did not stop speaking to Naomi with this mild rebuke. She immediately confirmed her love for Naomi, saying she would go wherever Naomi went and be with her where she lived and where she died. Finally, Ruth ends her speaking to Naomi by demonstrating her sincerity by speaking an oath-curse over herself if she abandoned Naomi: “Yahweh do so to me, and more also, if anything but death parts you and me.” Ruth’s love for Naomi and her determination to be with her and help support her opened the door for her, a Moabite woman, to be part of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, showing that God cares for all people and looks on the heart, not on outward circumstances.
“your people are my people, and your God is my God.” Ruth 1:16 indicates that Ruth had already made up her mind who her people and her God were—she accepted Yahweh as her God—and so told Naomi not to press her to leave. Although most English versions have the future tense verb, “will be” in the verse, and thus read, “your people will be my people,” the Hebrew has a future tense verb but does not use it here. Generally in Hebrew when no verb is in the text—and there is no verb here in Ruth 1:16—then it is understood that the present tense verb is meant unless the context directs otherwise, which it does not seem to do. Young’s Literal Translation gets the sense correctly: “thy people is my people and thy God my God.”
The idea that Ruth is speaking of the future is imported in many versions from Ruth 1:17, where the future tense Hebrew verbs are used, but the events in Ruth 1:17, death and burial, are future events so future tense verbs would be used to describe those events. But here in Ruth 1:16, the reason Ruth told Naomi not to press her to leave was that she had already decided who her people and her God were, and that is reflected in the Hebrew text which would normally be translated with a present tense verb, as in the YLT and REV.
Ruth 1:16 is one of the profound verses in the Bible that shows that the attributes of Yahweh—His care and concern for people, and His fairness, grace and mercy—are clearly displayed for anyone who cares to take the time and make the effort to get to know Him, and His arms are open to all who will come to Him. Ruth was openly accepted into the society of Israel, and God clearly accepted her, so she is in the genealogy of Jesus Christ.