Ruth Chapter 1

The writings in the book of Ruth, took place during the time of the judges, but is an account that is different from those preceding it. In the Bible Dictionary we read, “The book appears to be intended to connect the history of David with the earlier times, and also to form a contrast, in its peaceful and pastoral simplicity, to the disorders of which we read so continually in the Book of Judges.” (see Bible Dictionary:Ruth) The book of Ruth begins:

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 Beth-lehem-judah went to sojourn in the country of Moab, he, and his wife, and his two sons.
2 And the name of the man was Elimelech, and the name of his wife Naomi, and the name of his two sons Mahlon and Chilion, Ephrathites of Beth-lehem-judah. And they came into the country of Moab, and continued there.
3 And Elimelech Naomi’s husband died; and she was left, and her two sons.
4 And they took them wives of the women of Moab; the name of the one was Orpah, and the name of the other Ruth: and they dwelled there about ten years.
5 And Mahlon and Chilion died also both of them; and the woman was left of her two sons and her husband.

There was a famine in the land of Israel, which had become so bad, that a man named Elimelech felt the need to leave and go to the land of Moab. He took his family with him, which consisted of his wife, Naomi, and two sons, Mahlon and Chilion. There is no indication as to whether this famine was this bad all over Israel, but it was bad enough in the area of Beth-lehem-judah, that they needed to leave. While living in Moab, Elimelech died, leaving Naomi and her two sons. Her sons married women of Moab, namely Orpah and Ruth. They lived in Moab for 10 years, during which Mahlon and Chilion also died. They left all three women as widows.

6 Then 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 how that the Lord had visited his people in giving them bread.
7 Wherefore she went forth out of the place where she was, and her two daughters in law with her; and they went on the way to return unto the land of Judah.
8 And Naomi said unto her two daughters in law, Go, return each to her mother’s house: the Lord deal kindly with you, as ye have dealt with the dead, and with me.
9 The Lord grant you that ye may find rest, each of you in the house of her husband. Then she kissed them; and they lifted up their voice, and wept.
10 And they said unto her, Surely we will return with thee unto thy people.
11 And Naomi said, Turn again, my daughters: why will ye go with me? are there yet any more sons in my womb, that they may be your husbands?
12 Turn again, my daughters, go your way; for I am too old to have an husband. If I should say, I have hope, if I should have an husband also to night, and should also bear sons;
13 Would ye tarry for them till they were grown? would ye stay for them from having husbands? nay, my daughters; for it grieveth me much for your sakes that the hand of the Lord is gone out against me.
14 And they lifted up their voice, and wept again: and Orpah kissed her mother in law; but Ruth clave unto her.
15 And she said, Behold, thy sister in law is gone back unto her people, and unto her gods: return thou after thy sister in law.
16 And Ruth said, Entreat me not to leave thee, or to return from following after thee: for whither thou goest, I will go; and where thou lodgest, I will lodge: thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God:
17 Where thou diest, will I die, and there will I be buried: the Lord do so to me, and more also, if ought but death part thee and me.
18 When she saw that she was steadfastly minded to go with her, then she left speaking unto her.

Naomi had heard that the famine was over in the land of Israel, and she intended to return there, along with her daughters-in-law. They headed for Judah. Naomi told her daughters-in-law, to go back to their parents homes with a blessing from the Lord, and wished them well with their future husbands. She kissed each of them, and they cried at this farewell parting. They both loved her, and did not desire to leave her. They said they would stay with her. Naomi wondered why they would go with her, seeing as she had nothing more to offer her, and had no more sons for them to marry. It was an Israelite custom, for brothers of the deceased, to marry his widow and care for her. Naomi was too old to get married again, and though she hoped for a miracle of sorts, it was unlikely to happen for her. Even if she was married that day, and had sons, these women could not be expected to wait until those sons were old enough to marry them. In those days, life as a widow was hard. Women were supported by the husbands, and once their husbands were gone, they could no longer expect to be sheltered and fed, or loved by a man. If they chose to be with Naomi, they chose this life along side her, which meant they would be far less likely to remarry and live a decent life. Out of love, Naomi desired for these women to have better lives than her own, which was that of a beggar. Orpah chose to return to her family, but Ruth chose to continue with Naomi. Ruth told her not to plead with her to return to her people and their gods. She chose to go with Naomi, to be a part of the people of Israel, and to be converted and follow after the god of Israel.

19 So they two went until they came to Beth-lehem. And it came to pass, when they were come to Beth-lehem, that all the city was moved about them, and they said, Is this Naomi?
20 And she said unto them, Call me not Naomi, call me Mara: for the Almighty hath dealt very bitterly with me.
21 I went out full, and the Lord hath brought me home again empty: why then call ye me Naomi, seeing the Lord hath testified against me, and the Almighty hath afflicted me?
22 So Naomi returned, and Ruth the Moabitess, her daughter in law, with her, which returned out of the country of Moab: and they came to Beth-lehem in the beginning of barley harvest.

Naomi and Ruth traveled to Beth-lehem at the time of the barley harvest, and the people there remembered Naomi. She told the people to call her Mara, because she was widowed and felt she was being humbled by God through her afflictions.

The book of Ruth begins by showing us the character of Ruth. She had married into a family of a different faith and background. Ruth had come to love her new family, and when the men were no longer with them, she had love and compassion for her mother-in-law. She chose to follow Naomi to the Israelite land and take care of her, rather than leave for what would have seemed to be better chances at a good life. Likewise, we learn that Naomi had a great love for her daughters-in-law. She was willing to live alone and in poverty, so that they could have better chances for a decent future. This love and willingness to sacrifice personal desires, should be a great example to us of how we should feel towards our family, including those whom we are not related to by blood. When we are married, we become one with our spouse and become a part of their family just as much as our own. Our families, especially our parents, deserve our love, compassion, care and companionship. I do not think this kind of love is fostered in many families today, when it should be. I am grateful to feel the love of my own mother-in-law and I have a desire to have a good and loving relationship with her as well.

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