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I'm asking this on behalf of a friend. One of his favorite parts of the bible is that of Elisha, in 2 Kings. But he wanted to get more familiar with the bible as a whole, so in January he started a Bible In A Year reading program.

He got to the book of Ruth, and immediately made a connection to Elisha: Ruth and Elisha each set out to follow a mentor figure, the mentor tells them to go home, but Ruth/Elisha insists on following their mentor.

At first I was skeptical, but digging into the Hebrew, I found there were a few verbal parallels in the mentor/follower interactions:

  • Naomi and Elijah use similar wording when telling their follower to 'go return' home:

    • לכנה שבנה in Ruth 1.8
    • לך שוב in 1 Kings 19.20
  • The actions of Ruth and Elisha are described with similar phrasing:

    • Ruth does not 'return from following' (לשוב מאחריך) in Ruth 1.16
    • Elisha 'returned from following' (וישב מאחריו) in 1 Kings 19.21
  • Ruth and Elisha each refuse to separate from their mentor:

    • 'Do not persuade me to leave you' (אל תפגעי בי לעזבך) in Ruth 1.16
    • 'I will not leave you' (אם אעזבך) in 2 Kings 2.2,4,6

We also found this essay written by Ruth Walfish, appropriately titled Ruth and Elisha: A Comparative Study, which begins:

In this brief article, I will compare two biblical characters, Ruth and Elisha. On the face of it they seem to have little in common, yet it is my contention that the Bible purposely connects these two thematically. A study of these characters also necessitates an analysis of the two people most significant in their lives: Naomi on the one hand and Elijah on the other. I will argue that the two characters under discussion have several common characteristics, most strikingly the rejection of their former lives and the adoption of a new mentor or parent-like figure.

Walfish does mention a couple of other (coincidentally recent) studies on this subject, but we were hoping others might have more input. Is there more to this alleged parallelism between these two figures, Ruth and Elisha? How far back in history have people made this connection?

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The Book of Ruth is used as the basis for 'acceptance' of a Gentile into Judaism, one is asked 3 times, like Ruth, if it is her answer; in fact the question is put to 'dissuade' one, like Ruth. Ultimately one says, "I will go where you go, your people shall be my people, and your God shall be my God." Elisha is interesting, as when Elijah 'threw his mantle upon him' then told him to "go back, what have I done to thee?" Here is a call by God, and the same act of surrender as Ruth, as well as servitude, for Elisha "poured water on the hands" of Elijah.(2Kings 3:11) – Tau May 22 '14 at 5:01
    
Very interesting stuff, Mark. Great observations, user2479. I'm looking forward to the answers to this question. – Dan May 22 '14 at 14:25
    
@MarkEdward I really have been thinking about an answer to this question; I appologize for not posting sooner. And I'm very surprised there are so many apparently like myself-What's up with this? – Tau May 28 '14 at 1:22
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Good question. The Bible provides us with plenty of examples of parallels between two (or more) biblical characters. Look at Hebrews 11, for example. The writer of Hebrews lumps together all the characters in that chapter, based on one basic commonality; namely, faith in God. Then too, what about comparing Ruth with ABRAHAM? They both left paganism and each had a role in fulfilling God's covenant with Abraham: Abraham, in that his descendants came through Isaac, the child of promise, and Ruth, in that she was David's (and Jesus') forbear, as Matthew tells us in his Gospel (1:5). – rhetorician Oct 26 '14 at 19:35
    
If there is an intentional parallel then one must exist in the results or the consequences of the two. A key point of Ruth is the importance of the kinsman-redeemer who establishes Ruth's child as Naomi's and an Israelite not a Moabite and connects the Davidic line to Abraham. As there is no mention of Elisha having a child, one should consider how these principles are illustrated (or contrasted) by events in Elisha's ministry. – Revelation Lad Dec 26 '15 at 16:55
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Frankly, I also searched for but couldn’t find much of others addressing the parallels of Ruth and Elisha. Walfish was almost always the writer. What I did find were mostly studies of one book that had cross references to the other(s) (e.g. Ruth noting a Kings book or vice versa). For some other material I found, see the comment at the bottom of this answer.

I was surprised with the quantity of parallels, especially with Ruth having only four chapters, and how specifically the parallels matched. They seem beyond coincidental, both apparently stressing how important it is to be mentor, or to learn from, properly serve, and be loyal to a mentor. In each case the follower (Ruth or Elisha) is well rewarded and becomes able to reward others who treat him/her well.

This list of parallels has some you and Bench have mentioned.

  • Famine, drought, and poor widow providers: Naomi (Ruth’s mentor) travels with her two daughters-in-law after a famine; realizing and stating she’s destitute, Naomi has to have a poor widow provide for her once they reach Bethlehem. The widow Ruth provides. (Ruth 1:21, 3:17)
    When Elijah (Elisha’s mentor) has a drought, the Lord tells him “I have commanded a widow there to provide for you.” (i.e. the widow/mother who has only a handful of flour and a little oil). 1 Kings 17:7-9 (NASB)

  • Three important men die: Naomi, whose husband had died ten years earlier, has both of her sons die ten years later. She therefore moves away with her daughters-sin-law (Ruth and Orpah), traveling toward Bethlehem. (Ruth 1:3-5)

    Elijah has the king send a captain to order him down from the hilltop; because Elijah is “a man of God”, fire comes down from heaven and consumes the captain. That soon happens to a second captain. Then the king also dies. (2 Kings 1: 9-12)

    In the case of Naomi and Ruth the three men who died were as close as a father, husbands, and sons. In the case of Elijah and Elisha, they weren’t relatives, but the mentor/”father” Elijah died not long afterward.

  • “Return” ordered 4 times, “Stay here” 3 times, “Go back” once: When Naomi no longer wants Ruth and Oprah following her, she 3 times tells both daughters-in-law to “Return” to their mothers/families. With Ruth the one who won’t leave her, Naomi tells Ruth to return a fourth time. (Ruth 1:8, 11, 12, 15)

    Ruth 1:8-16 (NASB) 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. 9 May the LORD grant that you may find rest, each in the house of her husband.” Then she kissed them, and they lifted up their voices and wept. 10 And they said to her, “No, but we will surely return with you to your people.” 11 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? 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, 13 would you therefore wait until they were grown? Would you therefore refrain from marrying? No, my daughters; for it is [a]harder for me than for you, for the hand of the LORD has gone forth against me.” Ruth’s Loyalty 14 And they lifted up their voices and wept again; and Orpah kissed her mother-in-law, but Ruth clung to her. 15 Then she said, “Behold, your sister-in-law has gone back to her people and her gods; return after your sister-in-law.” 16 But Ruth said, “Do not urge me to leave you or turn back from following you; for where you go, I will go, and where you lodge, I will lodge. Your people shall be my people, and your God, my God. 17 Where you die, I will die, and there I will be buried. Thus may the LORD do to me, and worse, if anything but death parts you and me.”

    When the mentor Elijah no longer wants Elisha following him, he asks him to “Stay here” three times.

2 Kings 2:4-6 (NASB) 2 Elijah said to Elisha, “Stay here please, for the LORD has sent me as far as Bethel.” But Elisha said, “As the LORD lives and as you yourself live, I will not leave you.” So they went down to Bethel. 3 Then the sons of the prophets who were at Bethel came out to Elisha and said to him, “Do you know that the LORD will take away your master from over [a]you today?” And he said, “Yes, I know; be still.” 4 Elijah said to him, “Elisha, please stay here, for the LORD has sent me to Jericho.” But he said, “As the LORD lives, and as you yourself live, I will not leave you.” So they came to Jericho. 5 The sons of the prophets who were at Jericho approached Elisha and said to him, “Do you know that the LORD will take away your master from over [b]you today?” And he [c]answered, “Yes, I know; be still.” 6 Then Elijah said to him, “Please stay here, for the LORD has sent me to the Jordan.” And he said, “As the LORD lives, and as you yourself live, I will not leave you.” So the two of them went on.

Previously, when Elisha first decided to follow, Elijah told him to “Go back” to plowing. (1 Kings 19:20)

  • Only the end of life on earth will separate: When Naomi repeatedly tells Ruth to go back, Ruth firmly replies “Do not urge me to leave you”, but then Ruth even says “Where you die, I will die, and there I will be buried. Thus may the LORD do to me, and worse, if anything but death parts you and me.” (Ruth 1:17) (NASB)

    Each of the three times Elijah asks his follower to “stay here”, Elisha strongly replies with “I will not leave you”. Elisha is well aware that he is about to lose his master, and the guild prophets even confront and remind him “Do you know that the LORD will take away your master from over [b]you today?” And he said, “Yes, I know; be still.”(2 Kings 2:3) (NASB)

  • Leaving behind family and more: Naomi tells Ruth the four times to go to her family, to be with them and possibly find a husband. She never does. (Ruth 1:1-16) Elisha kisses and leaves his parents behind, along with his 12 yoke of oxen. He even slaughters the oxen for the good of his people. (1 Kings: 19:20)

  • Always following and servicing: Ruth always decides to remain loyal, obey and follow her mentor, Naomi, ready to act as a servant (i.e. except when she’s told to leave). (e.g. Ruth 3:6) Likewise, Elisha remains loyal to Elijah, always ready to service him (i.e. except when he’s told to leave).

  • Followers greatly rewarded: Since Ruth “did just”/exactly what her mentor and the gentleman kinsman wanted, along with helping to provide, she was rewarded with a prominent husband and child son. (Ruth 2:11-14, 3:15)

    Elisha also did what his mentor expected. He was rewarded with what he asked for, a “double portion of” Elijah’s spirit. After the chariot took Elijah into heaven, Elisha picked up the mantle and became able to divide and cross the water, heal bad water, bring a dead child back to life, etc. (2 Kings 2:13-14, 19-22, 4:35)

  • Followers reward prominent people’s hospitality:
    The prominent kinsman, Boaz, noticed everything Ruth had been doing, such as the gleaning after the harvesters. He treated her well, as in protecting her; he invited her to eat with him. (Ruth 1:11-14) She later became his wife and gave birth to their son. (Ruth 4:13)

    Elisha once had a rich woman show him some hospitality too. She urged him to dine with her, and he did. Later when he passed by he was also allowed to dine with her. (2 Kings 4:8-9) At one point Elisha promised that she’d be holding a son at that time next year. She gave birth to a son, who died a few years later, but Elijah helped bring him back to life. (2 Kings 4: 15-20, 31-36)

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With Bible.org I found some interesting analyses of one book at a time. One for example focuses on Ruth and virtue, Naomi and redemption, etc. No Kings book is mentioned. bible.org/article/literary-analysis-book-ruth This set of Bible studies I found focuses on a specific book and has some cross referencing. I don't see any parallel comparisons regarding the books of Ruth and 1 Kings or 2 Kings. agapebiblestudy.com – John Martin Dec 30 '15 at 6:18

I found some interesting conenctions between the two:

  1. Both Ruth and Elisha are forceful and determined. Ruth "clung" to Naomi ("At this they wept aloud again. Then Orpah kissed her mother-in-law goodbye, but Ruth clung to her". Ruth 1:14, NIV) and is determined to go with her ("When Naomi realized that Ruth was determined to go with her, she stopped urging her". Ruth 1:18, NIV).

Elisha on the other hand was determined not to leave Elijah ("Elijah said to Elisha, "Stay here; the LORD has sent me to Bethel." But Elisha said, "As surely as the LORD lives and as you live, I will not leave you." So they went down to Bethel". 2Kings 2:2, also in verse 4Then Elijah said to him, "Stay here, Elisha; the LORD has sent me to Jericho." And he replied, "As surely as the LORD lives and as you live, I will not leave you." So they went to Jericho.)

  1. Both Ruth and Elisha were focused to serve regardless of the distractions in their sorrounding. Naomi painted a bleak picture: no husband, a life of loneliness and poverty, and a situation where she perceive that "the LORD's hand has turned against me". ("Return home, my daughters; I am too old to have another husband. Even if I thought there was still hope for me--even if I had a husband tonight and then gave birth to sons--would you wait until they grew up? Would you remain unmarried for them? No, my daughters. It is more bitter for me than for you, because the LORD's hand has turned against me! Ruth 1:12-13)

Elisha on the other hand did not allow the distraction he faced. ("The company of the prophets at Bethel came out to Elisha and asked, "Do you know that the LORD is going to take your master from you today?" "Yes, I know," Elisha replied, "so be quiet." 2Kings 2:3)

  1. Both are willing to leave everything behind - in order to serve: Ruth to Naomi and Elisha to Elijah and subsequently serve the God of both Naomi and Elijah.

(But Ruth replied, "Don't urge me to leave you or to turn back from you. Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God. Ruth 1:16)

("...Let me kiss my father and mother goodbye," he said, "and then I will come with you." 1Kings 19:20b and "Then he set out to follow Elijah and became his servant. 1Kings 19:21d)

  1. Both lost somebody dear to them: Ruth, her husband while Elisha, Elijah - both of whom are considered their "master" in probably different sense of the word.

  2. Both were rewarded by God. Ruth became the wife of Boaz and she became the great grandmother of King David, to whom the Messiah - Jesus is to be born. Jesus is the "firstborn over all creation". Colossians 1:15

Elisha inherited a double portion of Elijah's spirit - similar to the rights or priviledges of the first born son.

I hope this small contribution can be of any help.

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