The Book of Ruth is above all, a wonderfully romantic love story.
Its beauty is all the greater because of its setting.
takes place during the dark days of the Judges, when
The book opens at a time of famine, when God had sent calamity on the land to awaken the people to their apostasy.
If we’d been reading straight
over from the previous book, Judges then we’d have just learned about 2 case
studies of just how terrifying things were in
You may remember that the last 5 chs. of Judges tell 2 separate shocking stories to illustrate what the author means when he says that in those days, because there was no king in Israel, everyone did what was right in his/her own eyes.
The story of Ruth is a
beautiful bright spot in the midst of an ugly dark time in
The authorship of Ruth is uncertain.
Jewish tradition attributes it to the last of the Judges, Samuel.
While it’s very possible he composed the majority of the book, its ending was probably added by a later author, as we see with some other of the OT books.
1 Now it came to pass, in the days when the judges
ruled, that there was a famine in the land. And a certain man of
The time of the Judges was a time of repeated cycles of renewal & apostasy.
would bless &
Instead of giving God thanks, they lost their sense of dependence on God & used their excess wealth to fund immorality.
They turned from God to worship idols more appealing to their lusts.
God warned them to repent & return or experience judgment.
But their ears were deaf, so judgment came until the land was reduced to desperation.
Then they would cry out to God, Who in His steadfast mercy delivered them by sending a powerful leader who turned things around.
As this book opens, it’s a time of apostasy, so famine has settled on the land.
The neighboring region of
2 The name of the man was Elimelech, the name of
his wife was Naomi, and the names of his two sons were Mahlon and
Chilion— Ephrathites of
Elimelech means “My God is King.”
he was born during a time in the cycle of revival & apostasy when
Elimelech’s wife was Naomi, which means “My Delight” a precious name for a daughter or wife.
They had 2 sons, Mahlon & Chilion [Mach-lone & Kil-yone].
Mahlon means “sick.” Chilion means “pining” as in a desperate but passive longing.
V. 2 identifies the family as “Ephrathites.”
was another name for
What likely happened is that 2 neighborhoods grew & merged into one village.
In other passages the city is called Bethlehem Ephrathah.
it was shortened to just “
Elimelech’s family lived in the neighborhood known as Ephrathah.
3 Then Elimelech, Naomi’s husband, died; and she was left, and her two sons.
How long they lived in
But his death would have been a crushing blow to Naomi.
Remember that in that culture & time, a woman’s fate was entirely dependent on her husband. Being a widow was a terrifying prospect.
So here’s Naomi – living in a foreign land, a widow, with 2 kids.
It seems no matter what decision the family makes, the noose only gets tighter.
4 Now they took wives of the women of
Naomi’s family lived in
That was long enough for Mahlon & Chilion to mature to the age of needing wives.
married Moabite women; which they really ought not have because the Moabites
had been marked by Moses in Deut. 23 as exempt from the congregation of
was their judgment for opposing
5 Then both Mahlon and Chilion also died; so the woman survived her two sons and her husband.
It’s often said that a parent should never have to attend the funeral of their child.
There are some important lessons in these first 5 vs.
First, Elimelech ought never
had left his home in
Later events prove that while life was tough during the famine, it wasn’t impossible.
Things were tight for nearly a decade, but the famine eventually lifted.
Like his ancestors Abraham & Isaac, when famine came, instead of staying put & looking to God, he bailed & went running to a foreign land where he placed his family in grave danger.
Elimelech’s name means “My God is King.” But he didn’t live up to his name.
God was really his sovereign, Elimelech would have stayed put in the
cut & ran, not because life was impossible in
What good could possibly come from moving to a place God says is off limits?
Elimelech is a good portrait of those who call themselves “Christians” but really have no interest in living God’s way.
of abiding in the mercy & grace of God, they consider the life of a genuine
believer too tough & adopt a lifestyle more in tune with the world than the
By doing so, they drag their entire family along with them into a place of compromise & grave spiritual danger.
Mom & Dad, if you want your children to grow up to be godly men & women, who follow the Lord & make wise choices, you need to be modeling that path for them now.
The Christian life isn’t easy, but it’s right & good & bears wonderful results & rewards when you hang in there.
The way of the world looks easier & more fun, but its promises always end up being empty & yielding nothing but grief.
6Then she arose with her daughters-in-law that she might return from the country of Moab, for she had heard in the country of Moab that the Lord had visited His people by giving them bread.
With news that the famine had lifted, Naomi began the trip home.
7Therefore she went out from the place where she was,
and her two daughters-in-law with her; and they went on the way to return to
As Naomi began her journey, she told Orpah & Ruth their fortunes would be better served by staying in their own land – something Naomi had come to learn the hard way!
She told them to return to their parents’ homes & find nice Moabite men to marry.
Because both women were childless, finding new husbands wouldn’t be too difficult.
10 And they said to her, “Surely we will return with you to your people.” 11 But Naomi said, “Turn back, my daughters; why will you go with me? Are there still sons in my womb, that they may be your husbands? 12 Turn back, my daughters, go—for I am too old to have a husband. If I should say I have hope, if I should have a husband tonight and should also bear sons, 13 would you wait for them till they were grown? Would you restrain yourselves from having husbands? No, my daughters; for it grieves me very much for your sakes that the hand of the Lord has gone out against me!”
When Naomi told them to go home, both ladies declared their intentions of following her home.
So Naomi tried to reason with them – since a woman’s welfare at that time was totally dependent on her husband, she focused on that issue.
According to custom, if a man died before producing any heirs, it was his brother’s duty to produce a child in his name with his widow.
Naomi makes it clear she’s not going to be having any more sons, she’s too old now.
Even if she were to get pregnant that very day, it would be years before any sons would be old enough for them.
In the meantime, the best years of their lives would pass away childless.
saw the whole thing as a huge injustice & she’s ruing the decision to leave
None of this would have happened if they had just stayed where they belonged.
14 Then they lifted up their voices and wept again; and Orpah kissed her mother-in-law, but Ruth clung to her.
Orpah was persuaded by Naomi’s logic, said a tearful goodbye, & headed home.
Logic wasn’t the issue with Ruth, love was. She loved her mother-in-law & decided she was willing to endure whatever fate handed her as long as she could be close to Naomi.
15 And she [Naomi] said, “Look, your sister-in-law has gone back to her people and to her gods; return after your sister-in-law.” 16 But Ruth said: “Entreat me not to leave you, Or to turn back from following after you; For wherever you go, I will go; And wherever 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 will I be buried. The Lord do so to me, and more also, If anything but death parts you and me.”
Ruth’s mind is made up –
she’s going to follow Naomi, not just back to
A special bond had grown between these two women.
love for Ruth moved her to urge her to stay in
It’s clear from Ruth’s use of the covenant name of God in v.17 that Naomi had been teaching her about the God of Israel.
Though Moses had made it clear in Deut. 23 the Moabites were barred from participating in the life & covenant of Israel, Ruth, a Moabite, ended up becoming, not only part of Israel, but the ancestor of both King David & Jesus Christ! How do we reconcile this?
Ruth’s love of Naomi was so strong, it erased all other loyalties.
was nothing of
Ruth is a wonderful picture of the sinner who repents & comes to faith in Christ.
God has made it clear that no sinner shall inherit eternal life.
But when the sinner repents of his/her sin, turns their back on all they once were & pledges unswerving devotion to Christ, God no longer calls that person a sinner – now they’re a saint.
18 When she saw that she was determined to go with her, she stopped speaking to her.
That is, she stopped trying to dissuade her.
I’m sure Naomi was comforted now in the knowledge she would not be making the trek home alone.
19 Now the two of them went until they came to
There’d been no communication
between Elimelech’s family & home for 10 years so the people of
What a surprise to see Naomi again after all those years!
While the people of
She blamed her misfortune on God, which is what people often do when they experience loss.
But God is not the source of tragedy, sin is.
Sin isn’t usually the DIRECT cause of death, but ultimately it IS the indirect cause.
It was Man’s choice to rebel against God in the Garden of Eden that brought the curse on creation & began the process of corruption & death.
All disease & illness has at their root the curse of sin.
It was wrong for Naomi to blame God for the loss of her husband & sons.
death had more to do with their decision to spend a decade in
22 So Naomi returned, and Ruth the Moabitess her
daughter-in-law with her, who returned from the country of