Ruth: Chapter 1

1. During which historical period in Israel did this narrative occur?

…It came to pass in the days when the Judges ruled...” (Ruth 1:1), a period of about 450 years between the conquest and the kingdom (Acts 13:20).

2. What was the moral climate in Israel at that time?

In those days there was no king in Israel; everyone did what was right in his own eyes” (Judges 21:25). It is written, “There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death” (Proverbs 14:12), and again, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding” (Proverbs 3:5). Those who rely on themselves instead of an objective moral standard will surely be brought to ruin. With this backdrop, the faithfulness and loyalty of the gentile Ruth is all the more remarkable.

3. What event drove Elimelech's houshold from Judah?

…There was a famine in the land...” (Ruth 1:1). Such had motivated others to temporarily depart the promised land on previous occasions (Genesis 12:10; 26:1).

4. What country did they settle in?

And a certain man of Bethlehem, Judah, went to dwell in the country of Moab, he and his wife and his two sons” (Ruth 1:1).

5. Who were the Moabites?

The Moabites were the descendants of Moab who was simultaneously the son and grandson of Lot by incest with his daughter (Genesis 19:30-37). Lot was the nephew of Abram (Genesis 11:27). Therefore, the Moabites were kinsmen of the Israelites.

6. What was God's will concerning Israel's relationship with the Moabites?

Although Israel was not to conquer Moab (Deuteronomy 2:9), as other nations were meant to be overthrown, neither were the Moabites to be accepted into the assembly of Israel (Deuteronomy 23:3-4). Marriage with them was not explicitly forbidden (Deuteronomy 7:1-4), but it was definitively implied (I Kings 11:1-2; Ezra 9:1-2; Nehemiah 13:23-27).

7. What became of the household of Elimelech in Moab?

Elimelech died (Ruth 1:3). His sons Mahlon and Chilion married Ruth and Orpah (Ruth 1:4), then they died, too. All this transpired within a decade of their arrival in the land (Ruth 1:4).

8. Why did Naomi decide to return to Judah?

…She had heard in the country of Moab that the Lord had visited His people by giving them bread” (Ruth 1:6). Whenever there is bread, God has supplied it (Acts 14:17).

9. Who accompanied her on the way?

Her two daughters-in-law, Ruth and Orpah, joined Naomi on the way (Ruth 1:6-7). It may have been customary courtesy to “walk her out”, as it were. They may simply have been taking her to the border of Moab, from which she would return home alone.

10. What did Naomi tell them and what did she do to them?

She instructed them to return to their mother’s homes (Ruth 1:8). She extended blessings from Jehovah (Ruth 1:8), acknowledging the kindness with which they had treated her and their husbands (Ruth 1:8). She further extended Jehovah’s blessings, suggesting they find rest with new husbands (Ruth 1:9). Widows should be encouraged to marry again (I Corinthians 7:39; I Timothy 5:14). Then, she kissed them (Ruth 1:9), to bid them farewell.

11. How did they react and what did they say?

…They lifted up their voices and wept. And they said to her, ‘Surely we will return with you to your people’” (Ruth 1:9-10). Naomi was probably a very special woman to endear her daughters-in-law to her in this way.

12. How did Naomi reason with them?

She explained that she had no other sons for them to marry, nor could she give birth to sons whom they could marry in the future (Ruth 1:11-13). The Law of Moses provided that a widow without sons marry her brother-in-law in order to produce an heir (Deuteronomy 25:5-6), but this did not appear to Naomi to be an option for her daughters-in-law. When potential disciples sought to follow Jesus, He dissuaded them with straightforward explanations of what following Him meant (Luke 9:57-62). Naomi did the same with her sons’ widows. Prerequisite to every serious undertaking is to “count the cost” (Luke 14:25-33).

13. How did Orpah and Ruth each respond?

Then they lifted up their voices and wept again; and Orpah kissed her mother-in-law, but Ruth clung to her” (Ruth 1:14). Whereas Orpah relented by kissing her mother-in-law farewell, Ruth chose to cling to Naomi. Orpah chose her family and their false religion (Ruth 1:15), but Ruth would not leave her. Orpah’s choice was not wise (Matthew 10:37; Luke 14:26).

14. What did Ruth tell Naomi? Was her statement effective?

Ruth said: ‘Entreat me not to leave you, or to turn back from following after you; For where you go, I will go; And wherever you lodge, I will lodge; Your people shall be my people, and your God, my God. Where you die, I will die, and there will I be buried. Lord do so to me, and more also, if anything but death parts you and me.’ When she saw that she was determined to go with her, she stopped speaking to her” (Ruth 1:16-18). Few words written anywhere compare to the beauty of this statement, expressing one woman’s steadfast devotion to the mother of her late husband. So effective were her words that Naomi ceased trying to dissuade her. Notice that Ruth took her vow in the name of the Lord (Deuteronomy 6:13). Although a Moabitess, she served the God of Abraham.

15. How was Naomi received in Bethlehem?

…All the city was excited because of them” (Ruth 1:19). It is interesting to note that this woman was recognized by her neighbors ten years after her departure. Apparently, Elimelech’s was a prominent family (Ruth 2:1).

16. What did she tell the women of Bethlehem?

She declined to be called Naomi since the name meant “pleasant” and she was not pleased; she asked instead to be called Mara, which meant “bitter” because she felt the Almighty had been bitter toward her (Ruth 1:20), having afflicted her (Ruth 1:21). Naomi is not to be held in the wrong for this statement. Job acknowledged that God gives and takes, yet was never guilty of slandering God (Job 1:21-22). Even a statement of praise for the Lord’s generosity can mention the apparently negative aspects of His power (I Samuel 2:7).

17. When did Naomi and Ruth arrive?

…They came to Bethlehem at the beginning of barley harvest” (Ruth 1:22), which sets the stage for the rest of the story to unfold.