Ruth 1:1-11



The book of Ruth is written not only as a love story between Boaz and Ruth but it gives a narrative about how the Lord Jesus Christ effects redemption in the lives of his people.  It gives a binding of the Jew and the Gentile in Christ.  There is no specific date given for the writing of the book but it is likely it was written well after the time of the Judges since the genealogy at the end of the book extends to David who ruled Israel from 1011 B.C. to 971 B.C.  The author of Ruth is not given but tradition gives Samuel the credit for writing the book.  The name “Ruth” means “satisfied or filled.” 


Ruth 1:1

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.


The judges ruled for a period of 411 years from the 14th to the 11th centuries B.C.  The famine is not mentioned in the book of Judges so the timing of the famine is unknown.  The land which had the famine was the land of Judah.  So the man Elimelech took his wife and two sons to Moab which would have been east of Judah.  It would have been across the Dead Sea.  It was like the famine in the time of Jacob when he sent his sons to buy grain and eventually the whole family of Jacob had moved to Egypt and were given the land of Goshen to dwell in. So Elimelech, whose name means “my God is king” decided to go east into the land of Moab and also took his family with him.  As an Israelite he did not plan to stay there permanently but just till the famine ended in Judah.


Ruth 1:2

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.


Elimelech’s wife was Naomi whose names means “beautiful or agreeable.”  They had two sons Mahlon whose name means “song or infirmity” and Chilion whose name means “finished or complete.”  They were from the town of Bethlehem which at this time was a small town and not built up as it was in the time of Christ.   There was another Bethlehem in the tribe of Zebulun which was about 70 miles north (113 KM) of the Bethlehem in Judah.  Moab was the incestuous son of Lot so it was a pagan nation from the start.  Moab became a lifelong enemy of Israel.  Chemosh was the chief deity of the Moabites.  Then did Solomon build an high place for Chemosh, the abomination of Moab, in the hill that is before Jerusalem, and for Molech, the abomination of the children of Ammon.  (1 Kings 11:7)


Ruth 1:3

And Elimelech Naomi's husband died; and she was left, and her two sons.


Then Elimelech had died in the land of Moab leaving Naomi a widow along with her two sons Mahlon and Chilion.  According to Josephus Elimelech had dwelt in the land of Moab for ten years before he died.  Some believe he died right after they went to Moab but the Scripture in Verse 2 states they “continued there” so it must have been a while rather than an immediate death after entering Moab.  The exact timing of his death is unknown.

Ruth 1:4

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.


Since they had dwelled in the land ten years and there were no Israelite women for the sons to marry, they married two women of Moab which was forbidden under the law.  Neither shalt thou make marriages with them; thy daughter thou shalt not give unto his son, nor his daughter shalt thou take unto thy son.  (Deuteronomy 7:3)  The name Orpah means “neck, skull or nakedness of the neck.” 


Ruth 1:5

And Mahlon and Chilion died also both of them; and the woman was left of her two sons and her husband.


Since they both had violated the law of God by marrying the daughters of Moab, it may be the Lord had struck them with death.  Now Naomi was left without a husband to support her or sons to help support her.  A widow was one of the lowest social classes in Israel and looked down upon because many would believe that she did something against the law of God and that is why God made her a widow.  They saw widowhood as punishment unless the husband died in battle for his country.  Naomi was in a desperate situation.


Ruth 1:6

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.


Then Naomi made a conscious decision to return to Judah when she found out that the famine was over.  She had decided to take her daughter in laws with her.  Since Naomi was an Israelite by birth she had no desire to live the rest of her life in a pagan nation so it was like she was returning to the Lord after being under the influence of Chemosh although she was not a worshipper of Chemosh but maybe her two daughter in laws were since they were born in Moab.  It seems the famine had lasted ten years.  Long famines in ancient times were not uncommon.  About 800 B.C. there was a famine in Lydia which lasted 18 years.  Lydia was located east of Greece and north of Israel.


Ruth 1:7

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.


They had now put their plan into action and was beginning to return to Judah.  It is probable that they had lived in tents for the ten years since they would have been forbidden to live in the cities of Moab since the times of Joshua and the Judges would still be fresh in their mind as being recipients of the judgments of God.  They had begun to head toward the border of Judah.


Ruth 1:8

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.


The Naomi says unto Ruth and Orpah that they should return to their mother’s homes because being Moabites, they would not be welcomed in Israel since they were not to mingle with the pagan nations and Naomi knew that they would face hard times.  They both must have been kind women since Naomi asks the LORD deal kindly with them as they had dealt with their husbands, Naomi’s sons, and how nice they dealt with her.  They had helped support her and it seems like they did not want to leave her because of their affection for her.


Ruth 1:9

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.


Then Naomi requests that the LORD would give them rest which was consolation and happiness especially in the confines of marriage.  They were still young and were still able to marry and bear children.  As a sign of great affection she then kissed them and  they had wept which to them meant they would never see each other again.  In the Middle East it was even common for men to kiss each other as a sign of affection.


Ruth 1:10

And they said unto her, Surely we will return with thee unto thy people.


Then both Ruth and Orpah assured Naomi that they would return to Judah with her and that they would adapt to living among her people.  They must have seen a great kindness in Naomi over the years and wanted to continue the friendship.  They probably also thought to themselves that their husbands were good to them and would not mind becoming Israelites and finding good husbands like Mahlon and Chilion.  Surely there must be others like them.


Ruth 1:11

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?


Naomi tried to discourage them from coming to Judah knowing that Moabites would be looked down upon maybe even persecuted.  Naomi had thought that they were clinging to her in hopes that she would have more children and they would be sons and that they would marry them.  Their affection was not for the fruit of Naomi’s womb but for Naomi herself because they had built up a great bond with each other.