The point of this unit is revealed in the repetition of the word return (šûḇ, variously translated “go back,” “return home,” and “turn back”), which is used twelve times in seventeen verses. In vv. 6 and 22 it serves as an inclusio, a kind of literary envelope for the intervening verses. The unit opens with Naomi returning to her homeland with her daughters-in-law (although the Hebrew verbs of v. 5 are all singular and the exact role of the two younger women is unclear). Midway (vv. 12-14) Orpah obeyed her mother-in-law's advice and returned (v. 12) to her home, not to be mentioned again. Finally, v. 22 contains a double reference to returning, which is obscured by the NIV (cf. rsv). The Hebrew applies the expression “who had returned from Moab” to Ruth (Campbell, 77-80). Thus Naomi and Orpah return to their respective homes. But in a peculiar and surprising way, Ruth “returns” by accompanying her mother-in-law to a land she had never seen before.
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