Ruth 1:1 Now it came about in the days when the judges governed, that there was a famine in the land. And a certain man of Bethlehem in Judah went to sojourn in the land of Moab with his wife and his two sons. (NASB: Lockman)
ASV: And it came to pass in the days when the judges judged, 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.
BBE: Now there came a time, in the days of the judges, when there was no food in the land. And a certain man went from Beth-lehem-judah, he and his wife and his two sons, to make a living-place in the country of Moab.
GWT: Long ago, in the days before Israel had a king, there was a famine in the land. So a man named Elimelech, who belonged to the clan of Ephrath and who lived in Bethlehem in Judah, went with his wife Naomi and their two sons Mahlon and Chilion to live for a while in the country of Moab. (GWT)
KJV: 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 Bethlehem judah went to sojourn in the country of Moab, he, and his wife, and his two sons.
Young's Literal: And it cometh to pass, in the days of the judging of the judges, that there is a famine in the land, and there goeth a man from Beth-Lehem-Judah to sojourn in the fields of Moab, he, and his wife, and his two sons.
Septuagint (LXX): kai egeneto (3SAMI) en to krinein (PAN) tous kritas kai egeneto (3SAMI) limos en te ge kai eporeuthe (3SAPI) aner apo Baithleem tes Iouda tou paroikesai (AAN) en agro Moab autos kai e gune autou kai oi huioi autou
Click for explanation of verb parsing abbreviations in parentheses after each verb
English of Septuagint: And it came to pass when the judges ruled, that there was a famine in the land: and a man went from Bethleem Juda to sojourn in the land of Moab, he, and his wife, and his two sons.
|ESTABLISH THE CONTEXT
A TIMELINE OF ISRAEL'S HISTORY
"in the days when the JUDGES governed"
(Note: All dates are approximations & time gaps NOT to scale)
|Exodus||40 Years||Israel Enters Canaan||JUDGES||Saul||David||Messiah|
Redemption from Slavery
LIGHT of book of RUTH
To obey is better than sacrifice
Man after God's Own Heart
The Lamb that was slain
|--||40 yrs||~24 yrs||
|40 yrs||40 yrs||Forever|
|MESSIAH'S LINE||To Salmon was born Boaz by Rahab||To Boaz was born Obed by Ruth||To Obed was born Jesse||To Jesse was born David the King||Jesus Christ the Lord|
Roy Hession introduces his comments on Ruth commenting on the pivotal statement by Naomi that...
Literally the Hebrew reads "it was the days of the judging of the judges" which we first encounter in Judges 2...
Observe that from this introduction one can accurately establish the historical context. What do we know about the days when the judges governed?
The book of Judges sums up these "days" as "dark days" because
The phrase "there was no king in Israel" occurs in each of these preceding verses and helps one understand the self-centered, self-seeking mindset that controlled the children of Israel during this 350+ year period which accounts for almost 25% of Israel's history in the Old Testament (see the abbreviated timeline above)!
Who should have been the king over Israel? Read 1Samuel...
The days when the Judges governed marked a time of apostasy, apathy, and anarchy, associated with idolatry, immorality, and war. It is instructive (and poignant) to contrast the two contemporaneous books of Judges with Ruth (adapted and modified from Wilkinson, B, & Boa, K. Talk thru the Bible. Nashville: T. Nelson)
Ruth is the story of one individual's faithfulness, in the face of national faithlessness and provides testimony to the truth that God graciously preserves a godly remnant (see study of the important doctrine of "remnant") who do what is right in the sight of the Lord even when the ungodly majority do what is right in their own eyes. Ruth is far more than a beautiful "love story" and in fact the word "love" is not even used in the narrative!
Ruth is part of the unfolding narrative of how God will carry out His covenant promise to redeem a people who will be His own. The book of Ruth focuses particularly on the details of divine providence in the day to day affairs of ordinary people and how these details play an intimate role in the unfolding of the grand redemptive plan of God. An apropos title of Ruth might be
An Extraordinary God
William Cowper wrote a hymn which beautifully expresses the essence of the providential working of God in unfolding the story of Ruth and Naomi and our Kinsman Redeemer (see especially stanzas 4 & 5 - this may be where you are dear saint even as you are reading these notes...but remember that God is the same yesterday, today and forever, Heb 13:8-note). Note especially stanza 4...
God moves in a mysterious way
The hymntime.com/tch (ref) has the following note introducing Cowper's beautiful poem...
"THE GLASS HALF FULL"
Or using more modern vernacular, one might entitle chapter 1 "The Glass Half Full." Why? Because there are generally two types of people (even Christians!) - pessimists (gall half empty) and optimists (glass half full). By the end of this chapter Naomi seems to fit in the former, and Ruth more in the latter group (based primarily on her decision in Ru 1:16, 17). The point is that we all tend to view our temporal circumstances with physical eyes and are all in continual need to lay hold of that supernatural, eternal vision that comes when we put on the "glasses of faith" (2Co 5:7, 2Cor 4:16, 17, 18, cp Ro 8:24, 25-note, 1Co 13:12, 1Pe 1:8-note). Faith, albeit intangible, is nevertheless not some imaginary entity, but a vital component in the life of every believer, whether in the Old or New Testament. And faith is cultivated (Ps 37:3-note) by taking in the truth about God (Ro 10:17-note) found only in His Word of Truth (Ps 119:43-note, 2Co 6:7, Col 1:5-note, 2Ti 2:15-note, the word of truth birthed us and is necessary to grow us = Jas 1:18-note; 1Pe 2:2-note). Naomi needed to lay hold of truths (written later by Ruth's offspring David) like Psalm 34:19 (note the contrast word "but" which Spurgeon calls a "blessed but" see notes below - read Spurgeon's excellent note), a truth all believers have access to now and need to recall to our minds when afflictions strike unexpectedly and our tendency is to become bitter.
I like Spurgeon's comments on Ps 37:3 (ESV has "befriend faithfulness";) that relate to the book of Ruth where he writes that...
Psalm 34:19 reads...
Alexander Maclaren - The lovely idyl (means "a short poem") of Ruth is in sharp contrast with the bloody and turbulent annals of Judges. It completes, but does not contradict, these, and happily reminds us of what we are apt to forget in reading such pages, that no times are so wild but that in them are quiet corners, green oases, all the greener for their surroundings, where life glides on in peaceful isolation from the tumult. Men and women love and work and weep and laugh, the gossips of Bethlehem talk over Naomi's return ('they said,' in Ruth 1:19-note, is feminine), Boaz stands among his corn (Ed: actually barley and wheat, cp Ru 2:23-note), and no sounds of war disturb them. Thank God! the blackest times were not so dismal in reality as they look in history. There are clefts in the grim rock, and flowers blooming, sheltered in the clefts. The peaceful pictures of this little book, multiplied many thousand times, have to be set as a background to the lurid pictures of the Book of Judges. (Ruth Exposition)
How important is an understanding of the "days when the Judges governed"?
Paul comments that "these things happened to them as an example and they were written for our instruction, upon whom the ends of the ages have come...that we should not crave evil things, as they also craved. (1Co 10:11, 10:6)
The Greek word for "instruction" (nouthesia [word study] from nous = mind + tithemi = place - click for word study of related verb noutheteo) literally means to place in one's mind and refers to training of one's mind (nous) and conveys the ideas of encouraging, warning and advising and is a comprehensive term for counseling. Ruth is one of those books that counsels us in our affliction.
A T Robertson says the word nouthesia describes "Putting sense into the heads of people. A thankless, but a necessary, task."
So it behooves us to be knowledgeable of those days so that we might not repeat their mistakes and also that we might not become discouraged and lose hope at the darkness that seems so prevalent and so powerful in America in the 21st Century, for...
Apparently it was Augustine who in explaining the interwoven nature of the Old and New Testaments declared that...
The New is in the Old concealed
C. I. Scofield parallels the 4 chapters of Ruth with the general pattern of the Christian experience:
The book of Ruth is nothing short of a literary masterpiece as every careful reader will attest. In the 18th century Dr. Samuel Johnson, a Christian, read a copy of Ruth before a prestigious London book review club and did so as if it were a recently written work. The club was vocal and unanimous in its praise of this new work. It was only after their acclaim abated that Dr. Johnson inform them that the masterpiece they had so unreservedly endorsed was to be found in a book they all rejected—the Bible! Thus we see that Ruth’s literary genius is recognized even by those with no Christian allegiance.
A very similar story is told of Benjamin Franklin who while serving at the French court heard some aristocrats denigrating Holy Bible as not worth reading, lacking style, etc. Although Franklin was not a born again believer (as best can be discerned from written descriptions of his beliefs), he had been sufficiently exposed to the merits of Scripture as literature that he foisted the following ruse on the French skeptics. Franklin proceeded to copy Ruth in longhand, changing all the names to French names. He then read the manuscript to the aristocratic elitists who to a man praised the elegance and simple style of the touching story. One then queried Franklin
Who wrote Ruth and When?
Ruth was written by an anonymous author, but in its final form must date from the time of David because of the facts noted in (Ru 4:7-note, Ru 4:18 19 20 21 22-note). Jewish tradition says that Samuel is the author of Ruth. Since the book ends with David, the final manuscript cannot have written before his time. Samuel did anoint David king and may well have provided the book to show the monarch-to-be's pedigree. Alternatively it is possible that David was the author but we will have to wait until glory to find out for sure.
THAT THERE WAS A FAMINE IN THE LAND: (Ge 12:10; 26:1; 43:1; Lv 26:19, 26; Dt 28:23,24,38; 2Sa 21:1; 1Ki 17:1-12; 18:2; 2Ki 8:1,2; Ps 105:16-note; Ps 107:34-note; Isa 3:1, Jer 14:1, 15:2; Lam 4:9, 10, Ezekiel 14:13, 14, 15, 16, 21; Joel 1:10,11,16, 17, 18, 19, 20; Am 4:6) (See Dictionary Articles)
Famine (7458) (ra'ab) is the standard word for hunger or famine occurring 101 times in the NAS, the first occurrences in Genesis...
Through His prophet Ezekiel God warned Judah (the 10 northern tribes having already been taken off into captivity by Assyria in 722BC)...
What irony...famine in Bethlehem, a place whose very name meaning the "house of bread"! (Not to mention that the word Ephrathite means fruitful and Judah [Elimelech's tribe] means praise!)
Missionary Application: God's intention was that Israel should be blessed and then be a blessing to the nations. Instead, Israel scorned her Maker, and God's subsequent affliction of people and land drove many Israelites to seek sustenance from other nations. When God's people refuse to use the resources God has given them to bless the families of the earth, God may withdraw those blessings from them and bring them by force to face both their own poverty of soul and the needs of the peoples of the earth.
Elimelech's family left "the house of bread" and went into Moab (God calls it "My washbowl"! - Ps 60:8-note; Meaning of Moab = "Water of a father; i.e., seed, progeny; desire; progeny of a father; of the father. Waste; nothingness" - from Smith & Cornwall's book "The Exhaustive Dictionary of Bible Names") losing essentially everything and not seeing it restored until Naomi returned to the the house of bread. It appears that Elimelech seems to have forgotten the eternal truth about God's faithfulness to His covenant promises for as David wrote years later
However, lest we be too critical of Elimelech, we need to remember that there is a little of "Elimelech" in all of us and looking into the face of famine (in whatever form that takes in our life) can be quite fearful and overwhelming!
Although the name "God" (Elohim - see study - only found in Ru 1:16-note, Ru 2:12-note) or "LORD" (Jehovah - see study) occurs less than 20x in the book of Ruth (18x in 15v - Ru 1:6-note, Ru 1:8, 9-note, Ru 1:13-note, Ru 1:17-note, Ru 1:21-twice-note; Ru 2:4-twice-note, Ru 2:12-twice-note, Ru 2:20-note; Ru 3:10-note, Ru 3:13-note; Ru 4:11, 12, 13, 14-note) or Almighty (Shaddai - Ru 1:20, 21-note), God is clearly in control from the beginning (famine in land) to end (fertility of Ruth). God is sovereign, (what word do you see in "sovereign"?) which in simple terms means that He is in complete control over ALL the affairs of nature and history and has the absolute right to act according to His perfect will and His good pleasure. The Bible in general and Ruth in particular is the story (history = "His-Story") of God working out His sovereign plan of redemption for the world toward a conclusion which is so certain that we can stake our very life on it. So don't think that the paucity of the mention of God's name in Ruth suggests that He is absentee (as Deism teaches) or that He is not actively involved. It follows that no "famine" just "happens" in the land, but that God sovereignly controls every famine.
Moses had warned Israel that one of the consequences of disobedience would be famine writing that...
Roy Hession comments that...
The Psalmist adds that God
As God's sovereign plan unfolded in Joseph's life he said to his deceitful brothers
So in order to "preserve many people alive" God used "famine on the land."
If you don't believe that God is in control of "famines" than you will also have difficulty believing the NT counterpart of Genesis 50:20 that
Meditate and meander slowly through the book of Ruth and you will be encouraged as you come to the understanding that God's sovereignty is also His surety (ground of confidence and security). Lay hold of this great attribute of God (see "Attributes of God" for an encouraging study: see also "Sovereignty"), so that you won't faint during times of "famine", but instead firmly grounded in this truth about God, you will continue steadfast in the confidence that
So what began with a famine in the land was but opening of the "Director's" master script for Ruth to be brought into the nation of Israel through her kinsman-redeemer Boaz, thereby becoming a link in the line of the Messiah, our Kinsman-Redeemer.
There are some other important principles regarding famine which are worth noting. A famine brings hunger and hunger tests a man (Ge 12:10; 26:1; 43:1) for as Moses reminded Israel
The lesson for each of us to learn is that pressures and trials wrought by the ''famines'' in our life are sovereignly sent (or allowed) by God not to destroy us but to humble us (repeated in Dt 8:2, 3) and to teach us to
John Blanchard in his book The Complete Gathered Gold: A Treasury of Quotations for Christians (one of the best books of Christian quotations I have read = quotes are Biblically faithful rather than emotionally attractive and are often very thought provoking - highly recommended!) has the following quotes on the blessings of affliction...
May we all grow in grace and the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ (2Pe 3:18-note) and learn what Habakkuk learned so that we respond the way he did to "bad news" --
The "famine" times will help grow us in our dependence on the all sufficient supply of Jehovah
See also Jehovah Ezer: The LORD our Helper
How comforting for believers to recall to mind Paul's great encouragement "Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?...in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us. For I am convinced that (nothing) ...shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord." (Ro 8:35, 36, 37, 38, 39 - see notes Ro 8:35; 36; 37; 38; 39)
Genesis records another "famine in the land, besides the previous famine that had occurred in the days of Abraham" (Ge 26:1) in the life of Isaac.
In contrast to the responses of Abraham in Genesis and Elimelech in Ruth, Moses records that "the LORD appeared to (Isaac) and said, "Do not go down to Egypt. Stay in the land of which I shall tell you. Sojourn in this land and I will be with you and bless you, for to you and to your descendants I will give all these lands, and I will establish the oath which I swore to your father Abraham." (Ge 26:2, 3)
Israel refused to be a "lighthouse" to the Gentiles dying without the covenants and promises of God...it is often that way in our life--when we refuse to go the direction which God foreordained for us to walk in He orchestrates events to shuttle us in the way we should go!
Bethlehem - 47 times in OT and 8 times in NT - Gen. 35:19; 48:7; Jos. 19:15; Jdg. 12:8, 10; 17:7ff; 19:1f, 18; Ruth 1:1,2, 19, 22; 2:4; 4:11; 1Sa 16:4; 17:12, 15; 20:6, 28; 2Sa 2:32; 23:14, 15, 16, 24; 1Chr. 2:51, 54; 4:4; 11:16, 17, 18, 26; 2Chr. 11:6; Ezra. 2:21; Neh. 7:26; Jer. 41:17; Mic. 5:2;
Bethlehem in the NT - Matt. 2:1, 5, 6, 8, 16; Lk. 2:4, 15; Jn. 7:42
WENT TO SOJOURN :
NIV "live for a while"
NET Bible "went to live temporarily"
Sojourn (1481) (gur) meaning to dwell as an alien, stranger or foreigner. The idea is to be in a place with a focus that one is living as a guest or stranger in a place, whether a territory, city, or house and so; in the reflexive sense, to seek hospitality with.
The TWOT adds that the root of gur...
Webster defines "sojourn" as a "temporary stay".
Gur is commonly used to describe the movement of the patriarchs, and the first use, which closely parallels the use of the same verb used here in Ruth, describes the sojourn of Abram (Abraham) who went...
Unfortunately Abram "went down" in more ways than one, for he received more than he bargained for, returning with the Egyptian handmaiden Hagar, the eventual mother of Ishmael who became the protagonist of Isaac, presaging the current Jewish-Muslim conflict in the Middle East.
And so it seems Elimelech was only going for a short time, just to sojourn. But it became a long sojourn, for as we soon learn he never came back, nor did his sons; and when at last Naomi did, ten long years had passed.
It is vital that we remember that every test ("famine") or temptation is an opportunity to trust God. As we see in the description of Elimelech's sojourning, there is no Scriptural record of Abram or Elimelech seeking God's leading to "sojourn". It is not surprising that both "sojourns" ended up reaping a "harvest" of tragedy (at least until we get to chapter 2 of Ruth!). We on this side of the cross would do well to remember that when the "famine" comes, and especially if it is related to personal disobedience, God is still there, mercifully holding out the promise that if...
What does it mean to "sojourn"?
Let's look at how the Hebrew scholars translated the word "sojourn" into Greek. The Septuagint translation (often abbreviated "LXX" for "seventy" which by tradition is the number of Hebrew scholars involved in the translation) is the name of the Greek translation of the Hebrew Old Testament and it will be used frequently to supplement the meaning of key words in these notes. It may surprise you to know that most of the Old Testament quotations in the New Testament (by Jesus, Paul, John, Peter, etc) are not from the original Hebrew (with exceptions) but are from the Greek translation, the Septuagint.
In this verse the Septuagint (LXX) translates "sojourn" with the Greek verb "paroikeo" (from pará = near + oikéo = to dwell - see word study of related word - paroikos) literally means to dwell beside or among and describes one living in a place without holding citizenship and thus one who is living as an alien dwelling temporarily in the land.
Paroikeo is used positively to describe Abraham who "by faith...lived as an alien (paroikeo) in the land of promise" (Heb 11:13-note) In this sense all believers are sojourners "aliens and strangers" (2Pe 2:11-note) who because of
How can we as believers apply these truths to our everyday life?
Some choices have good consequences but Elimelech's choices led to dire consequences. Someone has well said that if you don't want to end in failure, be sure to begin with God. As you make your decisions today, be sure to include God (there is no record Elimelech included God in his decision to detour). It's tempting for us all to look for the "easy way" out of pressing problems and crushing circumstances, forgetting that God uses these to press out of us what is on the inside and ultimately to mold us into the image of His son. Everyone loves to read Romans 8:28-note but many forget the important rule of reading verses in context for proper interpretation, so be sure to note God's purpose in Romans 8:29-note. Paul writes
Do you see problems as...
When we keep our eyes on Christ and God's ultimate purpose in our lives, obstacles begin to be seen as opportunities.
Remember that any choice that takes us away from God (from Bethlehem to Moab so to speak) is a sojourn in the wrong direction. Elimelech's choice which he made to preserve life, ultimately brought death to himself and his two sons. No matter how desperate the situation, it is always better to face what our sovereign God has allowed and trust His hand of mercy and provision than to run from the circumstances. If you are going through a "famine", seek to make your choice based on clear direction from God as revealed in His all sufficient Word and prayer supplemented by the counsel from godly men and women.
To enjoy your walk with God, keep in step with His Word, which always unfolds His will (cp Ps 119:130-note). Don't allow a feeling of desperation to steer you in the wrong direction. Unaided human nature (i.e., the fallen flesh) leads people to make wrong choices which can lead ultimately to death as Solomon writes in this proverb. The untrained conscience cannot be a trusted guide. When pressing circumstances come, press harder against the "sufficient One", EL Shaddai - God Almighty, for
Austrian psychiatrist Viktor Frankl died on September 2, 1997 at the age of 93. During World War II, Dr. Frankl was imprisoned at Auschwitz, where he was stripped of his identity as a medical doctor and forced to work as a common laborer. His father, mother, brother, and wife died in the concentration camps. All his notes, which represented his life's work, were destroyed. Yet Frankl emerged from Auschwitz believing that
We may not be able to choose our circumstances, but we can choose our attitude toward them. The apostle Paul gave us an example of how this works. He wrote,
True contentment does not come in having everything, but in being satisfied with everything you have! Whatever our circumstances may be, we can draw on the power of Christ for the strength to face them and experience the rest and contentment found in Him and ultimately only in Him (cp Mt 11:28, 29, 30).
Yes, we have free will and so we always have a choice--and that choice will always make a difference.
Remember that desperate choices are seldom the best choices but those who learn to
What may appear to be a shortcut to success may in fact be a broad road to disaster. Remember, the decisions you make will make you. So to reiterate, even though you can't control your circumstances, you can control your attitude. Therefore rather than complaining about the thorns on roses, begin to practice the discipline of being thankful for the roses among the thorns. As discussed in the quotes recorded above, afflictions can become blessings when blended with acceptance and Spirit enabled obedience. When we stop saying, "Why me?" and start saying, "Why not me?" we take the first step to glorifying God in our trials.
Warren Wiersbe adds that
Remember that true freedom comes not from choosing our way, but from yielding to God's way.
It does seem very likely that Elimelech and family made a wrong choice in hard times, as subsequent events suggest. The point is that they didn't have to make the choice they did because as we read in Chapter 2 the inhabitants of Bethlehem are still there and haven't perished from hunger.
IN THE LAND OF MOAB: Google Maps: Moab
The Moabites (Moab, Moabites - articles) were descended from Lot (Ge 19:37) and so were distant relations of Israel, but they had been hostile when the Israelites had approached from Egypt after the exodus (Nu 21:29 ).
Early in the period of the judges Eglon King of Moab had invaded and dominated the Israelites for eighteen years (Jdg 3:14-note).
The Moabites worshiped Chemosh (associated with the practice of child sacrifice) and other pagan gods. Scripture records two times when the Moabites fought against Israel (Jdg 3:12-30-note 1Sa 14:47). As best we can determine the events in the book of Ruth took place about 200 years after the first war and approximately 80 years before the second war.
Moab is an elevated, rolling plateau (averaging 3,300 ft elevation), bounded on the west by the rugged escarpment which drops down to the Dead Sea (which is almost 1,300 ft below sea level), on the east by the Arabian desert, and running through it the steep Wadi Mujib canyon with the Arnon River which flows east-west and enters the Dead Sea approximately mid-way along western shore, separating northern Moab from Moab proper. Relatively few springs appear on the Moabite plateau, and the waters of the Arnon are virtually inaccessible because of the steepness of the river canyon. Still, the area is well watered by winter rains brought by winds from the Mediterranean.
In Psalm 60:8, God declares "Moab is my washbowl", which was the bowl used to wash dirty, dusty feet!
1. Son of Lot, Ge 19:37.
2. Plains of. Israelites come in, Deut. 2:17, 18.
Military forces numbered in, Nu 26:3, 63.
The law rehearsed in, by Moses, Nu 35, 36; Deut. 29-33.
The Israelites renew their covenant in, Deut. 29:1.
The land of promise allotted in, Josh. 13:32.
Descendants of Lot through his son Moab, Gen. 19:37.
Called the people of Chemosh, Nu 21:29.
The territory E. of Jordan, bounded on the N. by the river Arnon, Num. 21:13; Jdg. 11:18.
Children of Israel commanded not to distress the Moabites, Deut. 2:9.
Refuse passage of Jephthah's army through their territory, Jdg. 11:17, 18.
Balak was king of, Num. 22:4; calls for Balaam to curse Israel, Nu. 22-24; Jos. 24:9; Mic. 6:5.
Are a snare to the Israelites, Nu. 25:1, 2, 3; Ru 1:4; 1Ki 11:1; 1Chr 8:8; Ezra 9:1, 2; Neh. 13:23.
Land of, not given to the Israelites as a possession, Dt. 2:9, 29.
David takes refuge among, from Saul, 1Sa 22:3, 4.
David conquers, 2Sa 8:2; 23:20; 1Chr 11:22; 18:2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11.
Israelites had war with, 2Ki 3:5-27; 13:20; 24:2; 2 Chr. 20.
Prophecies concerning judgments upon, Jer. 48.
WITH HIS WIFE AND HIS TWO SONS:
Elimelech appears to have made a bad decision, exchanging one famine for three funerals!
Spurgeon feels that this "was a bad move on their part; Better poverty with the people of God, than plenty outside of the covenanted land."
Alexander Maclaren points out that "The household of Elimelech emigrated to Moab in a famine, and, whether that were right or wrong, they were there among heathens as Jehovah worshippers. They were meant to be missionaries, and, in Ruth's case, the purpose was fulfilled. She became the 'first-fruits of the Gentiles'; and one aim of the book, no doubt, is to show how the believing Gentile was to be incorporated into Israel...All this is a beautiful completion to the other side of the picture which the fierce fighting in Judges makes prominent, and teaches that Israel's relation to the nations around was not to be one of mere antagonism, but that they had another mission other than destruction, and were set in their land, as the candlestick in the Tabernacle, that light might stream out into the darkness of the desert. The story of the Moabitess, whose blood flowed in David's veins, was a standing protest against the later narrow exclusiveness which called Gentiles 'dogs,' and prided itself on outward connection with the nation, in the exact degree in which it lost real union with the nation's God, and real understanding of the nation's mission. (Ruth Exposition)
Baker's Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology - The Book of Ruth furnishes a panorama of God's sovereignty in everyday life, especially in the three most important needs of ancient Near Eastern people: food, marriage, and children. Famine drove Elimelech's family from the land of Judah; the likelihood of starvation appears to have compelled Naomi to return to her native land after the death of her husband and sons. The need for the protection of marriage induced Ruth to implement the bold plan of requesting Boaz to act as her kinsman redeemer. Barrenness in ancient times was a cause of embarrassment and concern; without an heir, the family name and lineage could not be carried on, and estates were forfeited. God blessed Ruth with both a child and an important lineage, the lineage of David. (Reference)