Summary: The opening scene of the book is tragic for we find three graves in Moab. Let’s notice the story behind these 3 graves.
Edward Boone said, "The book of Ruth is the history of a Jewish family, who, like the prodigal of Luke fifteen, went into the far country of Moab and there "began to be in want."
W.G. Heslop writes, “The book of Ruth consists of less than 100 verses, and yet it would be impossible to exhaust it during the lifetime of a minister preaching from it every Sunday…It is a garden enclosed, a mine filled with the rarest and richest gems and rubies, a treasury of illuminating truths."
Ruth is one of two books in the Bible that is named after a woman. There is Esther, a Jew that married a Gentile husband, and Ruth, a Gentile that married a Hebrew husband.
The key word and thought in the book is that of a “kinsman” (2:20). As we go through the book we will see this love story of redemption unfold and be reminded that Jesus is our Kinsman Redeemer.
The setting of this book is in the days when the Judges ruled. You only have to look back to the last verse of the book of Judges to see what kind of day it was. Because everyone did what was right in his or her own eyes, sin was rampant, and God’s people had hardened hearts.
We can all relate to the story of Ruth, because Ruth is the story of everyday people coping with the problems that life throws at them.
The opening scene of the book is tragic for we find three graves in Moab. Let’s notice the story behind these 3 graves.
I. A FAMILY AND ITS CONCERN
There were six members in this family: Elimelech and Naomi, the husband and wife; Mahlon and Chilion, the two sons; and Orpah and Ruth, the two daughters-in-law.
A. The names of the family members
ELIMELECH means “My God is King.” Elimelech reminds us of a Christian that has served God and lived for God because God is King in their life. He is called an “Ephrathite” (Vs.2), which means “fruitful.” He reminds us of one who had lived a godly and fruitful life. We will also sadly see that he illustrates the Christian that is out of the will of God, living away from God and disobedient to God.
NAOMI means “pleasant.” She reminds us of the contentment and happiness one finds as they live for God and serve Him. But she like her husband will also remind us of how that joy and happiness is lost when one is out of fellowship with God.
MAHLON means "sickly." The offspring of Elimelech and Naomi were sickly. By suggestion, we note the spiritual decline of the parents is manifested in the names of their children. Usually children reap a portion of what is sown by the father and mother. When there is a decline in spirituality at the head of the home, the effect is soon noticeable in the children.
CHILION name means "consumptive." He is possessed with a germ and a disease that will terminate in death. Again the spiritual departure of the parents is being manifested in the second child but in a worse form, showing their spiritual state is rapidly declining as years go on.
ORPAH means "a portion of the neck and back." When Naomi left Moab for the land of Bethlehem, she tried to induce her daughters-in-law, Orpah and Ruth, to return to the land of Moab, but they both declared, "We will return with thee unto thy people," (1:10). When she again tried to persuade them to return to Moab, "Orpah kissed her mother-in-law; but Ruth clave unto her,” (v. 14). The meaning of her name was fulfilled in her act when she turned her back on Bethlehem to worship idols in the land of Moab. How many have started like Orpah, but later turned back.
RUTH means "satisfied." She did not find her satisfaction in Moab, in Naomi, or in Bethlehem-Judah, but she found it in Boaz, whom she later married. As we shall see Boaz points to Him who is to be the descendant of David.
Many have tried to find satisfaction in different things, but the only lasting satisfaction that is to be found is found in JESUS CHRIST.
B. The need of the family members
There was a “famine in the land” (Vs.1). In Palestine, the country in which was Bethlehem-Judah, they did not have rivers as in Egypt upon which to rely for water for their crops. They had to depend entirely on Heaven’s mercy to send them rain, and if the Heavens were shut, and GOD failed to give them rain, nothing but shortage, suffering, and death lay before them.
A lack of rain would produce a famine, and a famine meant a lack would mean a lack of food. Elimelech and his family were facing desperate times. Elimelech finds himself struggling to feed his family.