Summary: The introduction to a series on the Book of Ruth, looking at Naomi’s courage and hope in the face of tragedy.
Ruth 1:1-7 – “Doing what needs to be done”
By James Galbraith
First Baptist Church, Port Alberni
June 3, 2007
1 In the days when the judges ruled, there was a famine in the land, and a man from Bethlehem in Judah, together with his wife and two sons, went to live for a while in the country of Moab. 2 The man’s name was Elimelech, his wife’s name Naomi, and the names of his two sons were Mahlon and Kilion. They were Ephrathites from Bethlehem, Judah. And they went to Moab and lived there.
3 Now Elimelech, Naomi’s husband, died, and she was left with her two sons. 4 They married Moabite women, one named Orpah and the other Ruth. After they had lived there about ten years, 5 both Mahlon and Kilion also died, and Naomi was left without her two sons and her husband.
6 When she heard in Moab that the LORD had come to the aid of his people by providing food for them, Naomi and her daughters-in-law prepared to return home from there. 7 With her two daughters-in-law she left the place where she had been living and set out on the road that would take them back to the land of Judah.
1-2 Journey to Moab
3-5 Tragedy Strikes
6-7 Returning Home
1-2 Journey to Moab
The first two verses of this book convey information that serves to set the stage for the rest of the story.
The first phrase, “when the judges ruled”, puts the story into history during the time just after the people of Israel had moved into the Promised Land.
The great leaders, Moses, Joshua, Caleb and Aaron have all passed away, and without strong central leadership the infant nation soon falls into civil unrest, not a lot different from Palestine today.
The people, unused to living free and in their own land, soon reverted to fighting among the tribes.
This made Israel very vulnerable to attack from the outside,
and the period of the Judges shows several different nations,
including Moab, controlling Israel from time to time.
The priesthood was helpless to defend the nation and it was left to military leaders, called judges, to assume control from time to time.
God would raise up good judges to take back the Kingdom,
but as they passed away their survivors inevitably sank back into disorder.
use overhead to illustrate the period’s chaotic history.
Add to this civil unrest the fact that “there was a famine in the land”,
and you see that the situation was bleak for anyone living in Israel.
It’s ironic that our main characters would hail from Bethlehem, for the meaning of this city’s name is “House of bread” and this Bethlehem was indeed known for the abundance of crops that usually surrounded it.
The bread box was empty, however, and our family of four is forced to move from their home into the neighbouring land of Moab.
Now let’s talk about this family for a minute,
and the move they have to make.
Put on map overhead
There are four of them in total, Elimelech, his wife Naomi and their two sons Mahlon and Kilion.
Elimelech means “My God is King”,
so it’s fair to say that he comes from a family faithful to God.
Naomi means “pleasant”, a fact set against the tragedy of the situation they are in and the deeper tragedy she’s about to face.
As for the sons, they play such a minor role that their names are really irrelevant.
They are leaving their homeland together to find a land which can sustain them as a family. They would be at the mercy of the inhabitants of the land they travel to, so they must be desperate to leave.
Furthermore, by leaving they put at risk ever getting back whatever they left behind. The land was supposed to stay within the family unit, but if no one was there to claim it then it would be passed on to someone else.
And the journey they take is not an easy one.
The miles may have added up to less than 100,
but each on of those miles was travelled on foot or beast,
they have to carry all their own provisions,
and they were most likely travelling hungry.
On top of this - the land they travelled through were not easy in Israelites.
The land of Moab had received a severe beating from Israel when they hindered Israel from entering the promised land,
and the Moabites had not forgotten this.
All in all, this was a journey from despair into uncertainty,
a father uprooting his family to keep them alive in tough times.
3-5 Tragedy Strikes
The despair turns quickly into tragedy as Elimelech dies as a foreigner in a strange land. We don’t know how long they had been in Moab before he dies, but we do know that the boys have grown up and are able to marry and begin families on their own.