Summary of Passage:
A famine forced the family of Elimelech, an Ephrathite from Bethlehem, to settle in Moab, a neighboring, unbelieving country. Elimelech died, leaving his wife, Naomi, a widow with their two sons, Mahlon and Kilion. Mahlon and Kilion marry, but ten years later, both Mahlon and Kilion die, leaving all without someone to support the family.
The famine had ended so Naomi sets out with her two daughters-in-law named Orpah and Ruth back to Judah. Naomi tells her daughters-in-law, both of whom are Moabites, to return to their families and remarry, so they can be cared for.
Both protest, but Orpah goes. Ruth, however, refuses to leave Naomi’s side. Ruth loved Naomi too much to leave, so they returned to Bethlehem with Naomi being very bitter over her situation. Luckily for them, the barley harvest was just beginning.
BSF Study Questions People of the Promised Land 1: Lesson 6, Day 2: Ruth 1:
3) Elimelech died, leaving his wife and two sons alone. Her two sons married eventually, but then they died as well. Everyone died except Ruth and the daughters-in-law.
4) Ruth gave up a chance to remarry a Moabite and have children and restart her life. Ruth gave up her land and her gods and all that she knew. I’m not sure Ruth thought about her gains. Moab and Israel were bitter enemies, so Ruth is taking a big risk immigrating to a land where the people may treat her as a despised foreigner. All she knew was she wanted to be with Naomi no matter what and she wanted to be God’s child. She gained a life in God.
5) Personal Question. My answer: It’s easy to get pulled down in the muck of misfortune. Anger, depression, sorrow, grief, heartache, and an overwhelming sadness are human emotions we all face and all must deal with. These emotions do pull us down and affect everything we do including family and decisions. I’ve been very fortunate as I haven’t been through misfortune like others (I’ve had my difficulties but not compared to basic survival needs like how I’ll eat, slavery, torture, back-breaking hard work, etc. like others in this world). My view of God has stayed the same. I question Him and ask Him why, but I don’t doubt Him and turn away from Him. I know it’s all for a reason and if I stay the course (His course), He will never lead me astray.
Conclusions: BSF Study Questions People of the Promised Land 1 Lesson 6, Day 2: Ruth 1:
Such a powerful story of love and pushing through the heartache to still see God in the clearing. Death caused by man’s sin is never easy to abide, but it’s a fact of life and fighting it only creates more misery. I love how Naomi and Ruth stick together in their heartache. Both are grieving severely, but man, created to be together and not apart, is stronger together and both women are stronger as one unit than separately. God is good to give us this story and encourage us when we face the same situation in our lives. Through it all God is there. And He has a plan. Believe in Him.
Read my original posting on Ruth HERE
Amazing video on the entire book of Ruth HERE
End Notes BSF Study Questions People of the Promised Land 1 Lesson 6, Day 2: Ruth 1:
This account begins in the closing days of the Judges, a 400-year period of general anarchy and oppression when the Israelites were not ruled by kings, but by periodic deliverers whom God raised up when the nation sought Him again.
Notable among the Judges were Gideon, Samson, and Deborah. Each of these was raised up by God, not to rule as kings, but to lead Israel during a specific challenge, and then to go back to obscurity.
The days when the Judges ruled were actually dark days for Israel; the period was characterized by the phrase everyone did what was right in his own eyes (Judges 17:6, 18:1, 19:1, and 21:25).
Elimelech and his family had to hike through the desolate Jericho pass, through the Judean wilderness near the Dead Sea, going across the Jordan River, into the land of Moab. This was a definite departure from the Promised Land of Israel, and a return towards the wilderness from which God had delivered Israel hundreds of years before. These were clearly steps in the wrong direction.
God specifically promised there would always be plenty in the land if Israel was obedient. Therefore, a famine in the land meant that Israel, as a nation, was not obedient unto the LORD (Deuteronomy 11:13-17).
Elimelech has intentions to return to Bethlehem, but it turned into ten, tragedy-filled years – and Elimelech never returned to Israel. The name Elimelech means “God is king” – but he didn’t really live as if God was his king.
Life was not easier in Moab. Elimelech soon died, leaving his wife Naomi a widow with two boys, Mahlon and Chilion, to care for.
Was Elimelech’s death God’s judgment?
It is hard to say that this was the direct hand of God’s judgment. Why bad things happen to good people is a hard questions to answer. What is certain, however, is that the change of scenery didn’t make things better.
We sometimes think we can run away from our problems, but find our problems follow us. That’s because you can’t escape you–fallible, imperfect sinner.
Mahlon and Chilion took wives among the Moabite women, named Orpah and Ruth. Again, this was not in obedience to God; God commanded the Israelites to not marry among the pagan nations surrounding them.
Ten years pass and both the sons die, leaving all the women widows. To be a childless widow was to be among the lowest, most disadvantaged classes in the ancient world. There was no one to support you, and you had to live on the generosity of strangers. Naomi had no family in Moab, and no one else to help her. Indeed, these were desperate times.
Why was Naomi deciding to return to Bethlehem significant?
From distant Moab, Naomi heard that God was doing good things back in Israel. She wanted to be part of the good things that God was doing.
Our life with God should make others want to come back to the LORD just by looking at our life. Our walk with the LORD should be something that makes others say, “I want some of that also!”
Naomi took action. Many hear of the good things God is doing in the lives of others, and only wish they could have some of it – instead of actually setting out to receive it. Naomi could have stayed in Moab all of her life wishing things were different, but she did something to receive what God had to give her. She took action. Where do you need to take action today?
By telling the Moabite women to go back to their families this was the best thing for the two women. Their families would care for them. She blessed them and prayed they would remarry.
Deal kindly is the ancient Hebrew word hesed. “Hesed encompasses deeds of mercy performed by a more powerful party for the benefit of the weaker one.” (Huey)
In Ruth 1:9, Naomi described marriage as a place of rest: The LORD grant that you may find rest, each in the house of her husband. God intends that each marriage be a place and source of rest, peace, and refreshment in life.
From the crying going on, it is obvious the women had grown to love one another.
According to the laws of ancient Israel, if a young woman was left widowed, without having had a son, then one of her deceased husband’s brothers was responsible for being a “surrogate father” and providing her with a son. Naomi here says that she has no other sons to give either Orpah or Ruth.
Naomi realizes their sin
Naomi realizes their disobedience and says their calamity is of their own making. They were disobedient, leaving the Promised Land of Israel and marrying their sons to Moabite women.
However, Naomi is returning to God; she’s not running away. She was not bitter against God. She is drawing closer to Him, not going further away from Him.
Naomi didn’t accuse God of doing something wrong against her. She acknowledged His total control over all circumstances. It was actually an expression of trust in Him.
What does Naomi’s return to Israel teach us?
- If we will return to Him, His hand will go out for us again! Naomi had no idea – not the slightest – of how greatly God was going to bless her in a short time.
- Ruth’s declaration to follow God is made upon seeing Naomi’s action to return to Him. Actions do speak louder than words.
Ruth forsakes her gods for Naomi’s God.
People should be able to look at your life, just as Ruth looked at Naomi’s, and say “I want your God to be my God.” Your trust in God and turning towards Him in tough times will often be the thing that draws others to the LORD.
The Long Walk Home
It was a long walk from Moab to Bethlehem, and the trip was mostly uphill. We can imagine along the way Ruth asking her mother-in-law Naomi all about the God of Israel and the land of Israel.
Bethlehem was just a village with probably a hundred or so people; everyone in the village would have known everyone else and remembered those who had left years ago.
The name Naomi means “pleasant”; the name Mara means “bitter.” Naomi used this to tell the people of Bethlehem that her time away from Israel, her time away from the God of Israel, had not been pleasant – it was bitter.
Naomi wasn’t ones of those who says “fine” when asked how she’s doing. She’s not going to pretend all is right in her world. She tells it like it is.
So many of us pretend life is find instead of dealing with our problems. We run away instead of draw close.
Naomi was not bitter against the LORD. She knew the answer to her problems lay in getting right with God.
Themes of Book of Ruth
- The answer to our problems lies in turning towards God, not running away from Him.
- It all begins with one decision: to go back to God. So many blessings come from that decision (the Lord Jesus whose relative is Naomi) that you don’t know about.
- God blesses those who turn towards Him.