Lesson 3: Ruth 1:8-10

See the bottom of this post for an audio recording of the live class.

וַתֹּאמֶר נָעֳמִי לִשְׁתֵּי כַלֹּתֶיהָ לֵכְנָה שֹּׁבְנָה אִשָּׁה לְבֵית אִמָּהּ יַעַשׂ יְהֹוָה עִמָּכֶם חֶסֶד כַּאֲשֶׁר עֲשִׂיתֶם עִם–הַמֵּתִים וְעִמָּדִי
(Ruth 1:8)

Need help reading? See “Reading Tutor, Ruth 1:8.”

HESED: The word hesed occurs in vs. 8. Learn more about it here.

Ruth 1:8 has a few imperative forms, which is a good occasion to learn a few things about them:

  • Imperatives are only addressed to “you” (not “I” or “they”). A command is related to 2nd person forms of the Imperfect (“you will [do something]” is similar to “do something”).
  • So there are only four forms of the Imperative: ms, fs, mp, fp.
  • Basically, an Imperative is the same as the corresponding Imperfect form, if you simply leave off the initial tav.
  • Slight vowel changes occur when you cause the initial tav to disappear, but this is not confusing.
  • Negative commands (“do not [do so-and-so]”) use the particle לֹא with the Imperfect (“you shall not [do so-and-so]”) — so that there are no Imperative forms used for prohibitions.
  • As is the case with all Hebrew verbs, certain kinds of letters in certain places make for changes in the verb form: I-Guttural verbs take a composite sh’va instead of simple sh’va; in III-Hey verbs the hey often is replaced with a yod; for I-Yod verbs and הלך the first letter disappears; for I-Nun verbs the nun usually (not always) disappears; in II-Yod and II-Vav verbs the middle letter usually remains except in the fp.
  • You can easily find the correct form of the Imperative in a lexicon or grammar text, but the frequently used exceptions are easily memorized once you read Hebrew for a while.


  • וַתֹּאמֶר This is a vav conversive (see lesson 1) from the root alef-mem-reish and it is 3fs (3rd person feminine singular). One of the delightful things about Ruth for Hebrew students is the frequency of feminine forms of various verbs which are uncommon and sometimes rare in the Bible.
  • נָעֳמִי is the name, Naomi, and it derives from a root meaning pleasant. Think of modern Hebrew and the expression נעים מאד na-eem me-oad = very pleasant [to meet you]. The vowel under the ayin is the rare Kametz Hatuph (kametz with sh’va) which is pronounced as a long “o”.
  • לִשְׁתֵּי is the preposition ל (“to” or “for”) prefixed to the short form of the number two (see Lesson 2 about numbers).
  • כַלֹּתֶיהָ has the suffix הָ following the plural form of כַּלָּה and the suffix means “her.” The word itself denotes a woman in terms of her social status, so that it can simply mean woman, or daughter-in-law, or bride, depending on context. Here it means daughter-in-law.
  • לֵכְנָה and שֹּׁבְנָה are both imperatives (command verbs) and they follow one after the other without any conjunction, which can happen in Hebrew. The force of this would be “go, return” (from the roots הלך and שׁוב). See the notes on “Imperatives” (above) for more. These are both in the 3fp (3rd person feminine plural) form and this is a rare occurrence of the 3fp imperative in the Bible. Note that the imperative forms from הלך leave off the initial ה and are rather unique in doing so. Many verbs forms of שׁוב omit the ו.
  • אִשָּׁה is simply the word for woman, but that is not what it means here. There is an idiom in Hebrew in which אִישׁ (man) can mean “each one.” This is a rare example of the feminine use of this idiom.
  • לְבֵית אִמָּהּ Is the prefixed preposition ל in front of a word pair (construct chain, genitive) formed from the roots בַּיִת (house) and אֵם (mother) with a ה suffix (which means “her”).The expression “house of her mother” is unusual, as the JPS Commentary notes, to the extreme. Only two other places in the Bible contain the phrase. Women were usually regarded as being of the house of their father if they were husband-less. This expression is one of many examples of a female perspective in Ruth, one that exceeds the requirements of telling a story about a heroine. Why this female perspective? It is a question we should ask ourselves as close readers.
  • יַעַשׂ is the Qere (what should be read) even though the Ketib (written) is יַעַשֶׂה. The medieval scribes would copy from their master copy even if they were pretty sure a reading was wrong. The Qere is in many cases a correction of a known error. יַעַשׂ is a Jussive: “may he do,” while יַעַשֶׂה is the Imperfect form: “he will do.” In Ruth Rabbah 2:13, one of the rabbis says both meanings are significant and that “he will do with you kindness” is a promise to be added to the Qere “may he do with you kindness,” which is a blessing. In midrash, it is considered artful to find meaning in both the forms when there is a discrepancy. Note that many times the Jussive and Imperfect forms cannot be distinguished, but with the root עשׂה they are easy to tell apart.
  • עִמָּכֶם is the preposition עִם with the suffix כֶם which means “you” but is (surprisingly) the masculine plural. Why would the author use a masculine form when such care has been exhibited in using feminine forms? The JPS Commentary says that this is not significant. There are a number of possible explanations and there are other examples of this phenomenon. It does not indicate a tension in gender issues. For details consult the commentary, footnote 19.
  • חֶסֶד is a noun. See “Hesed and Ruth” by clicking here for more details.
  • כַּאֲשֶׁר is listed in the lexicon just like this (if you catch it, I just made a pun).
  • עֲשִׂיתֶם is the Perfect 2fp (2nd person feminine plural) of the root ayin-sin-hey.
  • עִם–הַמֵּתִים Is the preposition עִם attached by maqqeph (hyphen) to the definite plural form of the Participle from the root מות. The Participle is functioning here as a noun. The reference is to Ruth and Orpah’s deceased husdands.
  • עִמָּדִי is a form of the preposition עִם with a transitional consonant ד and the suffix י (“me”).


VERSE 9: yee-tayn is a Jussive 3ms from the root nun-tav-nun (Jussive means the “may he” or “let him” form). la-khem is “to you” masculine plural. See notes on vs. 8 about the uses of the masculine form at times for feminine objects. oom-tzena is a vav conversive (but in this case it converts a Perfect into a future) from mem-tzadei-alef. The na ending is hard to explain, but I see it as a suffix meaning “them” (feminine, so “that he will find them”). eeshah here is used as “each one” just as in vs. 8. bayt eeshah (note the difference in Hebrew spelling for this eeshah) is the word pair (construct, genitive) form of bet-yod-tav and the word for “husband” with the 3fs suffix attached (“her”). va-teeshak is a vav conversive 3fs of the root nun-shin-qof (notice the dagesh in the shin, which lets you know the nun disappeared). la-hen is the preposition lamed with the 3fp suffix (note: there is no need in English to translate the lamed preposition here — Hebrew verbs sometimes take prepositions in ways the corresponding English verb wouldn’t). va-tees-sen-ah is a vav conversive 3fp of the root nun-sin-alef (again, the dagesh marks the disappearing nun). kolan is the noun qof-vav-lamed with the 3fp suffix (“their”). va-teev-kaynah is the vav conversive 3fp of bet-kaf-hey.

VERSE 10: va-to-marnah is the vav conversive 3fp of alef-mem-reish and it is attached to lah, the preposition lamed with the 3fs suffix. kee-eetakh starts with the particle kaf-yod, which can mean various things. Here it means “no.” eetakh is the preposition alef-tav with the 2fs suffix. na-shuv is the Imperfect 1cp (1st person common plural, with “common” meaning the masculine and feminine are the same) from the root shin-vav-bet. le-amaykh is the preposition lamed before the noun alef-mem with the 2fs suffix.

Listen to audio recorded from the live class for Lesson 3. Ruth #3


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