Ruth 1:1 Commentary

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.


"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

Wilderness Wandering

Canaan Conquered
Joshua Dies

LIGHT of book of RUTH
Shines forth
in Dark Days of Judges

To obey is better than sacrifice

Man after God's Own Heart

The Lamb that was slain

-- 40 yrs ~24 yrs

350+ 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

1445 -1405

1405 -1381


1051-1011 1011-971 4AD

Roy Hession introduces his comments on Ruth commenting on the pivotal statement by Naomi that...

I went out full, and the Lord hath brought me home again empty." The first chapter of the book of Ruth is a very important one. Every preacher knows, or should know, he has to begin by awakening a sense of need in his hearers. He cannot plunge in too quickly with the positive side of his message. He must first convince the people that they are in just that state of need which requires the provision he proposes to speak about. So it is, before we are introduced to the subject of redemption in the book of Ruth, we have brought before us a story of trouble and loss which occasions the need for one who can redeem.

And that is what the first chapter is all about. Although the title of the book is Ruth, the central character of the first chapter is Naomi, whom I think we can describe as the prodigal daughter of the Old Testament. As we pursue the story we cannot but notice certain marks of similarity between her and the prodigal son in our Lord's parable in the New Testament (Luke 15:11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29, 30, 31, 32). That son, as he returned, could well have used the same words that Naomi did, `I went out full, and the Lord bath brought me home again empty.' True, he did not remain empty and neither did Naomi; and that is what the remaining chapters of the book of Ruth unfold. (Hession, Roy: Ruth: Our Nearest Kinsman: The Message of Redemption and Revival in the Book of Ruth.)



Literally the Hebrew reads "it was the days of the judging of the judges" which we first encounter in Judges 2...

Then (Always stop and ask questions like When? Why? [see 5W'S & H] Read the "pathogenesis" in Jdg 2:8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15) the LORD raised up judges who delivered them from the hands of those who plundered them.

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

In those days there was no king in Israel; every man did what was right in his own eyes (Jdg 17:6, 18:1, 19:1, 21:25 - see notes Jdg 17:6, cf 18:1, 19:1, 21:25)

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...

And the LORD (see Jehovah) said to Samuel, "Listen to the voice of the people in regard to all that they say to you, for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected (A strong verb in Heb = ma'ac/maas = reject, despise, abhor, refuse; treat as loathsome, cp uses in 1Sa 10:19, Je 8:9; Lv 26:15, Is 30:12, and even Israel's first king, Saul - 1Sa 15:23, cp the ultimate rejection of the ultimate King - Ps 118:22-note!!! Septuagint -LXX = exoudenoo = to make of no account, to despise utterly! And the perfect tense = speaks of the permanence of their rejection! Used in 1Th 5:20-note) Me from being king over them. 8 Like all the deeds which they have done since the day that I brought them up from Egypt even to this day-- in that they have forsaken Me and served other gods-- so they are doing to you also. (1Sa 8:7, 8)

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)

Purity Immorality
Deciding for
the One true God
Pursuing Idols
who are no gods
Devotion Disloyalty
Love Lust
Peace War
Kindness Cruelty
brings blessing
brings sorrow
of righteousness
of rebellion
of a Gentile alien
of the "chosen people"

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
In the Lives of
Ordinary People

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

(Play this hymn)
(Or Listen to a chorale arrangement)

God moves in a mysterious way
His wonders to perform;
He plants His footsteps in the sea
And rides upon the storm.

Deep in unfathomable mines
Of never failing skill
He treasures up His bright designs
And works His sovereign will.

Ye fearful saints, fresh courage take;
The clouds ye so much dread
Are big with mercy and shall break
In blessings on your head.

Judge not the Lord by feeble sense,
But trust Him for His grace;
Behind a frowning providence
He hides a smiling face.

His purposes will ripen fast,
Unfolding every hour;
The bud may have a bitter taste,
But sweet will be the flower.

Blind unbelief is sure to err
And scan His work in vain;
God is His own interpreter,
And He will make it plain.

The (ref) has the following note introducing Cowper's beautiful poem...

It is reportedly the last hymn Cowper ever wrote, with a fascinating (though unsubstantiated) story behind it. Cowper often struggled with depression and doubt. One night he decided to commit suicide by drowning himself. He called a cab and told the driver to take him to the Thames River. However, thick fog came down and prevented them from finding the river (another version of the story has the driver getting lost deliberately). After driving around lost for a while, the cabby finally stopped and let Cowper out. To Cowper’s surprise, he found himself on his own doorstep: God had sent the fog to keep him from killing himself. Even in our blackest moments, God watches over us.


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...

Faith cures fretting. Sight is cross-eyed, and views things only as they seem... faith has clearer optics to behold things as they really are, hence...peace.

And do good. True faith is actively obedient. Doing good is a fine remedy for fretting. There is a joy in holy activity which drives away the rust of discontent.

So shalt thou dwell in the land. In "the land" which flows with milk and honey; the Canaan of the covenant. Thou shalt not wander in the wilderness of murmuring, but abide in the promised land of content and rest.

"We which have believed do enter into rest."

Very much of our outward depends upon the inward:
where there is heaven in the heart there will be heaven in the house.

And verily thou shalt be fed, or shepherded. (Ed: The Hebrew actually is an imperative or command to "shepherd" or "tend" faithfulness, which explains the NAS translation of "cultivate faithfulness") To integrity and faith necessaries are guaranteed. The good shepherd will exercise his pastoral care over all believers. In truth they shall be fed, and fed on truth. The promise of God shall be their perpetual banquet; they shall neither lack in spirituals nor in temporals. Some read this as an exhortation, "Feed on truth;" certainly this is good cheer, and banishes for ever the hungry heart burnings of envy.

Psalm 34:19 reads...

Many (Read that again!) are the afflictions of the righteous; but the LORD delivers him out of them all.

Spurgeon comments that...

Many are the afflictions of the righteous. Thus are they made like Jesus their covenant Head (cp Col 1:24-note). Scripture does not flatter us like the story books with the idea that goodness will secure us from trouble; on the contrary, we are again and again warned to expect tribulation (Acts 14:22) while we are in this body. Our afflictions come from all points of the compass, and are as many and as tormenting as the mosquitoes of the tropics. It is the earthly portion of the elect to find thorns and briars growing in their pathway, yea, to lie down among them, finding their rest broken and disturbed by sorrow. BUT, blessed but, how it takes the sting out of the previous sentence! (cp Ps 119:50-note)

But the Lord delivereth him out of them all. Through troops of ills Jehovah shall lead His redeemed scatheless and triumphant. There is an end to the believer's affliction, and a joyful end too. None of his trials can hurt so much as a hair of his head, neither can the furnace hold him for a moment after the Lord bids him come forth of it (Da 3:22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29, 30). Hard would be the lot of the righteous if this promise, like a bundle of camphire (see description of camphire), were not bound up in it, but this sweetens all. The same Lord Who sends the afflictions will also recall them when His design is accomplished, but He will never allow the fiercest of them to rend and devour His beloved.

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...

whatever was written in earlier times (reference to the Old Testament Scriptures [see in depth study of graphe = Scriptures] - this should be a motivation for all teachers and preachers to be sure to amply "supplement" their exposition of the NT with the OT! cp Paul's testimony = Ac 20:27) was written for our instruction (didaskalia [word study] --shaping of our will of the one instructed and doing so by Word), that through perseverance (hupomone [word study]) and the encouragement of the Scriptures (graphe) we might have hope. (elpis; see also in depth study on the Believer's Blessed Hope)" (Romans 15:4-note)

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
The Old is the New revealed

C. I. Scofield parallels the 4 chapters of Ruth with the general pattern of the Christian experience:

I. Ruth deciding II. Ruth serving III. Ruth resting IV. Ruth rewarded

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

“But where did you find this gem of literature, Monsieur Franklin?”

Franklin quipped

"It comes from that Book you so despise, la sainte Bible!”

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.

PLOT God moves Ruth to Israel God introduces Ruth to Boaz God arranges details for marriage proposal God culminates marriage of Ruth & Boaz
PLACE Moab Barley Field
in Bethlehem
Threshing Floor
in Bethlehem
City Gate
in Bethlehem
PEOPLE Elimelech & sons
Naomi, Ruth, Orpah
Ruth Cares for Naomi
Boaz Cares
for Ruth
Boaz, Nearest Kinsman, Ruth, Naomi
PROGRESS Ruth's Decision Ruth's Devotion Ruth's Request for Redemption Ruth's Reward of Redemption
MOOD Death & Despair
in Moab
Hope Dawning
in Bethlehem
Hope Growing
in Bethlehem
Life & Joy Birthed
in Bethlehem
TIME 10 years Months One Day One Year


  • 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
  • Ruth 1 Resources - Multiple Sermons and Commentaries

Famine (7458) (ra'ab) is the standard word for hunger or famine occurring 101 times in the NAS, the first occurrences in Genesis...

Now there was a famine in the land; so Abram went down to Egypt to sojourn there, for the famine was severe in the land. (Genesis 12:10)

Now there was a famine in the land, besides the previous famine that had occurred in the days of Abraham. So Isaac went to Gerar, to Abimelech king of the Philistines. (Genesis 26:1)

Through His prophet Ezekiel God warned Judah (the 10 northern tribes having already been taken off into captivity by Assyria in 722BC)...

Son of man (God's name for Ezekiel many times in this book), if a country sins against Me by committing unfaithfulness, and I stretch out My hand against it, destroy its supply of bread, send famine against it, and cut off from it both man and beast (Ezekiel 14:13)

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

Trust in Jehovah and do good. Dwell in the land, and feed on His faithfulness.

Delight yourself also in the Lord, and He shall give you the desires of your heart. (Ps 37:3,4 NKJV)

Spurgeon: There is an ascent in this third precept. He who was first bidden not to fret, was then commanded actively to trust, and now is told with holy desire to delight in God.

Delight thyself also in the Lord. Make Jehovah the joy and rejoicing of thy spirit. Bad men delight in carnal objects; do not envy them if they are allowed to take their fill in such vain idols; look thou to thy better delight, and fill thyself to the full with thy more sublime portion. In a certain sense imitate the wicked; they delight in their portion -- take care to delight in yours, and so far from envying you will pity them. There is no room for fretting if we remember that God is ours, but there is every incentive to sacred enjoyment of the most elevated and ecstatic kind.

Every name, attribute, word, or deed of Jehovah, should be delightful to us, and in meditating thereon (see Primer on Biblical Meditation) our soul should be as glad as is the epicure who feeds delicately with a profound relish for his dainties.

And he shall give thee the desires of thine heart. A pleasant duty is here rewarded with another pleasure. Men who delight in God desire or ask for nothing but what will please God; hence it is safe to give them carte blanche. Their will is subdued to God's will, and now they may have what they will. Our innermost desires are here meant, not our casual wishes; there are many things which nature might desire which grace would never permit us to ask for; these deep, prayerful, asking desires are those to which the promise is made.

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...

"if you will not obey the LORD your God, to observe to do all His commandments and His statutes with which I charge you today, that all these curses shall come upon you and overtake you...And the heaven which is over your head shall be bronze, and the earth which is under you, iron. The LORD will make the rain of your land powder and dust; from heaven it shall come down on you until you are destroyed." (Deut 28:15, 23, 24)

Roy Hession comments that...

The rains, it would seem, had ceased to come at their usual seasons, and that probably not for one year, but for several years. As a result, crops had failed and there was a terrible famine in the area. Could it be, famine in the `house of bread'? Surely not; but so it was. It was the very opposite of what one would have expected, a virtual denial of the very name of Bethlehem. Had God not also said about the Promised Land that it was to be a land of milk and honey (Ex 3:8, 17; 13:5; 33:3; Lv 20:24; Nu 13:27; 14:8; 16:13, 14; Dt 6:3; 11:9; 26:9, 15; 27:3; 31:20; Jos 5:6; Je 11:5; 32:22; Ezek 20:6, 15) where His people would eat bread without scarceness (Dt 8:9KJV)? Indeed, He had; but He had also said in various places that if His people who were called by His name should turn away from Him, worshipping other gods, transgressing His laws, and not be willing to repent, He might well find it necessary to shut up heaven that there should be no rain, and even to command the locusts to devour the land and, further, to send pestilence among His people. (2Chronicles 7:13, 14, 2Chr 6:26, 27, Dt 11:17, Lv 26:19, 1Ki 8:35, 36, 17:1, Je 14:1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, Dt 28:23, 24, Hag 1:9, 10, 11)

Sadly, this too is pictorial of what sometimes happens in the life of a Christian. Yes, it is a land of milk and honey for him (e.g., Ep 1:3-note, Col 2:3-note), but if he turns away from the Lord his God in this matter or that, and will not heed the word of correction that God is sure to give him, He sometimes finds it necessary for the restoration of that saint to shut up heaven over his head that there be no rain (cp Heb 12:5, 6-note, He 12:7, 8, 9, 10-note, He 12:11-note). The refreshing movings of the Spirit are no longer known in his heart, the Bible becomes dead, prayer is empty, personal witness and Christian service are chores and he ceases to have a joyous testimony. What a terrible possibility that there can be such a famine in our souls! Amos talks about a famine, not `of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the Lord.' Amos 8:11 That is a famine indeed when we cease to hear from heaven, and who of us has not known such times? And all this can take place, if you please, m the `house of bread.' (Hession, Roy: Ruth).

The Psalmist adds that God

called for a famine on the land and destroyed all their supplies of food and he sent a man before them -- Joseph, sold as a slave. (Ps 105:16, 17 NIV).

Spurgeon: How grateful ought we to be that he does not often call in that terrible servant of His, so meager and gaunt, and grim, so pitiless to the women and the children, so bitter to the strong men, who utterly fail before it.

He brake the whole staff of bread. Man's feeble life cannot stand without its staff -- if bread fail him he fails. As a cripple with a broken staff falls to the ground, so does man when broad no longer sustains him. To God it is as easy to make a famine as to break a stall. He could make that famine universal, too, so that all countries should be in like case: then would the race of man fall indeed, and its staff would be broken for ever. There is this sweet comfort in the matter, that the Lord has wise ends to serve even by famine: He meant his people to go down into Egypt, and the scarcity of food was his method of leading them there, for "they heard that there was corn in Egypt.

As God's sovereign plan unfolded in Joseph's life he said to his deceitful brothers

"as for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good in order to bring about this present result, to preserve many people alive." (Ge 50:20)

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

God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. (Ro 8:28 - note)


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

"He Who began a good work in you will complete in the day of Christ Jesus." (Php 1:6-note)

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

And you shall remember all the way which the LORD your God has led you in the wilderness these forty years, that He might humble (Heb = 'anah = to afflict, cause to be bowed down, often as in this verse conveys the idea that God sends affliction to discipline/correct/instruct - used in Ps 90:5) you, testing (Heb = nacah= conveys the idea of testing someone by allowing stress, adversity, difficulty, hardship) you, to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep His commandments or not (What shows the true state of our heart? Obedience!). 3 And He humbled you and let you be hungry, and fed you with manna which you did not know, nor did your fathers know, that He might make you understand that man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by everything that proceeds out of the mouth of the LORD. 4 "Your clothing did not wear out on you, nor did your foot swell these forty years. 5 "Thus you are to know in your heart that the LORD your God was disciplining (Hebrew = yasar/yacar = instructs, chasten, reflects God's loving correction) you just as a man disciplines his son. (Dt 8:3, 4, 5; cf Mt 4:4, Lk 4:4).

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

trust in Jehovah with all (our) heart and...not (to) lean on (our) own understanding" but "in all (our) ways (to) acknowledge Him", fully confident that "He will make (our) paths straight. (Pr 3:5, 6)

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...

  • Adversity introduces a man to himself.-Anon.
  • Affliction is God's shepherd dog to drive us back to the fold.-Anon.
  • Affliction is the school of faith.-Anon.
  • Affliction, like the iron-smith, shapes as it smites.-Anon.
  • Afflictions are often God's best blessings sent in disguise.-Anon.
  • Crosses are ladders that lead to heaven.-Anon.
  • Fire is the test of gold, adversity of strong men.-Anon.
  • Our great Teacher writes many a bright lesson on the blackboard of affliction.-Anon.
  • Some hearts, like evening primroses, open more beautifully in the shadows of life.-Anon.
  • The Christian justifies tribulation. Ten thousand times ten thousand saints... are ready to witness that their most manifest and rapid spiritual growth is traceable to their periods of trial.-Anon.
  • The darker the night, the brighter the stars; the hotter the fire, the purer the gold.-Anon.
  • The gem cannot be polished without friction, nor man perfected without trials.-Anon.
  • The hammer shatters glass, but forges steel.-Anon.
  • The more a tree of righteousness is shaken by the wind, the more it is rooted in Christ.-Anon.
  • The water that dashes against the wheel keeps the mill going; so trial keeps grace in use and motion.-Anon.
  • Trial is the school of trust.-Anon.
  • Where there are no trials in life, there are no triumphs.-Anon.

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" --

Though the fig tree should not blossom, and there be no fruit on the vines, though the yield of the olive should fail, and the fields produce no food, though the flock should be cut off from the fold, and there be no cattle in the stalls, yet I will exult in the LORD, I will rejoice in the God of my salvation. (Hab 3:17, 18, 19)

The "famine" times will help grow us in our dependence on the all sufficient supply of Jehovah

"our Refuge and Strength, a very present Help (Heb = 'ezrah ; Lxx/Greek = boethos [word study] = , see Heb 13:6-note) in trouble." (Ps 46:1-note)

See also Jehovah Ezer: The LORD our Helper

Spurgeon comments: God is our Refuge and Strength. Not our armies, or our fortresses. Israel's boast is in Jehovah, the only living and true God. Others vaunt their impregnable castles, placed on inaccessible rocks, and secured with gates of iron, but God is a far better refuge from distress than all these: and when the time comes to carry the war into the enemy's territories, the Lord stands His people in better stead than all the valour of legions or the boasted strength of chariot and horse. Soldiers of the cross, remember this, and count yourselves safe, and make yourselves strong in God.

Forget not the personal possessive word our; make sure each one of your portion in God, that you may say, "He is my refuge and strength." Neither forget the fact that God is our refuge just now, in the immediate present, as truly as when David penned the word. God alone is our all in all. All other refuges are refuges of lies, all other strength is weakness, for power belongeth unto God: but as God is all sufficient, our defence and might are equal to all emergencies.

A very present help in trouble, or in distress He has so been found, hH has been tried and proved by His people. He never withdraws Himself from His afflicted. He is their help, truly, effectually, constantly; He is present or near them, close at their side and ready for their succour (see word study on boethos), and this is emphasized by the word very in our version, He is more present than friend or relative can be, yea, more nearly present than even the trouble itself. To all this comfortable truth is added the consideration that His assistance comes at the needed time. He is not as the swallows that leave us in the winter; He is a Friend in need and a Friend indeed. When it is very dark with us, let brave spirits say, "Come, let us sing the forty-sixth Psalm."

"A fortress firm, and steadfast rock,
Is God in time of danger;
A shield and sword in every shock,
From foe well known or stranger."

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? 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 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!

Torrey's Topic

  • Sent by God -Psalms 10:16-note
  • Often on account of sin -Leviticus 26:21,26; Lamentations 4:4, 5, 6
  • One of God’s four sore judgments -Ezekiel 14:21


  • God’s blessing withheld -Hosea 2:8,9; Haggai 1:6
  • Want of seasonable rain -1 Kings 17:1; Jer 14:1, 2, 3, 4; Amos 4:7
  • Rotting of the seed in the ground -Joel 1:17
  • Swarms of insects -Deuteronomy 28:38,42; Joel 1:4
  • Blasting and mildew -Amos 4:9; Haggai 2:17
  • Devastation by enemies -Deuteronomy 28:33,51
  • Often long continued -Genesis 41:27; 2 Kings 8:1,2
  • Often severe -Genesis 12:10; 1 Kings 18:2; Jeremiah 52:6


  • Taking away the stay of bread, &c -Isaiah 3:1
  • Cleanness of Teeth -Amos 4:6
  • The arrows of famine -Ezekiel 5:16
  • Often accompanied by war -Jeremiah 14:15; 29:18
  • Often followed by pestilence -Jeremiah 42:17; Ezekiel 7:15; Matthew 24:7


  • Wild herbs -2 Kings 4:39,40
  • Ass’s flesh -2 Kings 6:25
  • Dung -2 Kings 6:25; Lamentations 4:5
  • Human flesh -Leviticus 26:29; 2 Kings 6:28,29
  • Provisions sold by weight during -Ezekiel 4:16
  • Suffering of brute creation from -Jeremiah 14:5,6


  • Burning and fever -Deuteronomy 32:24
  • Blackness of the skin -Lamentations 4:8; 5:10
  • Grief and mourning -Joel 1:11-13
  • Faintness -Genesis 47:13
  • Wasting of the body -Lamentations 4:8; Ezekiel 4:17
  • Death -2 Kings 7:4; Jeremiah 11:22
  • God provided for his people during -1 Kings 17:4,9; Job 5:20; Psalms 33:19; 37:19


  • In the days of Abraham -Genesis 12:10
  • In the days of Isaac -Genesis 26:1
  • In the days of Joseph -Genesis 41:53-56
  • In the day of the Judges -Ruth 1:1
  • In the reign of David -2 Samuel 21:1
  • In the reign of Ahab -1 Kings 17:1; 18:5
  • In the time of Elisha -2 Kings 4:38
  • During the siege of Samaria -2 Kings 6:25
  • Of seven years foretold by Elisha -2 Kings 8:1
  • In the time of Jeremiah -Jeremiah 14:1
  • During the siege of Jerusalem -2 Kings 25:3
  • After the captivity -Nehemiah 5:3
  • In the reign of Claudius Caesar Acts 11:28
  • Before destruction of Jerusalem -Matthew 24:7
  • The Jews in their restored state not to be afflicted by -Ezekiel 36:29,30


  • A dearth of the means of grace -Amos 8:11,12
  • Destruction of idols -Zephaniah 2:11

Sent as a judgment

  • Leviticus 26:19-29; Deuteronomy 28:23,24,38-42; 1 Kings 17:1; 2 Kings 8:1; 1 Chronicles 21:12; Psalms 105:16; 107:33,34; Isaiah 3:1-8; 14:30; Jeremiah 19:9; 14:15-22; 29:17,19; Lamentations 5:4,5,10; Ezekiel 4:16,17; 5:16,17; 14:13; Joel 1:15,16; Amos 4:6, 7, 8, 9; 5:16,17; Haggai 1:10,11; Matthew 24:7; Luke 21:11; Revelation 6:5-8

Righteous delivered from -

  • Job 5:20; Psalms 33:19; 37:19

Related Resources:

  • Nave Topical Bible Famine
  • Thompson Chain Reference Famine
  • American Tract Society Famine
  • Easton's Bible Dictionary Famine
  • Fausset Bible Dictionary Famine
  • Holman Bible Dictionary Famine and Drought
  • Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible Famine
  • Hastings' Dictionary of the NT Famine (2) Famine
  • Hawker's Poor Man's Dictionary Famine
  • People's Dictionary of the Bible Famine
  • Smith Bible Dictionary Famine
  • 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica Famine
  • International Standard Bible Encyclopedia Famine
  • McClintock and Strong's Bible Encyclopedia Famine
  • The Jewish Encyclopedia Famine


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


"Bethlehem" (click link pix of modern Bethlehem) means "house of bread" - "Rachel died and was buried on the way to Ephrath (that is, Bethlehem)." (Ge 35:19)

Ephrath means fruitful or fruitful region.

Click to enlarge

David's father Jesse was from Bethlehem which was David's birthplace --

"Now David was the son of the Ephrathite of Bethlehem in Judah, whose name was Jesse, and he had eight sons. And Jesse was old in the days of Saul, advanced in years among men." (1Sa 17:12, cf Ru 4:22-note)

Bethlehem was later referred to as "the city of David...called Bethlehem..." (Lk 2:4)

The Messiah, who referred to Himself as true "Bread of life" (Jn 6:48, 33, 34, 35) would one day be born in the "house of bread" as God prophesied through Micah --

"from (Bethlehem Ephrathah) One will go forth for Me to be ruler in Israel. His goings forth are from long ago, from the days of eternity." (Micah 5:2 fulfilled in Mt 2:1) (See Messianic Prophecies )

O Little Town of Bethlehem

O little town of Bethlehem, how still we see thee lie!

Above thy deep and dreamless sleep the silent stars go by.

Yet in thy dark streets shineth the everlasting Light;

The hopes and fears of all the years are met in thee tonight.

For Christ is born of Mary, and gathered all above,

While mortals sleep, the angels keep their watch of wondering love.

O morning stars together, proclaim the holy birth,

And praises sing to God the King, and peace to men on earth!

How silently, how silently, the wondrous Gift is giv’n;

So God imparts to human hearts the blessings of His Heav’n.

No ear may hear His coming, but in this world of sin,

Where meek souls will receive Him still, the dear Christ enters in.

Where children pure and happy pray to the blessèd Child,

Where misery cries out to Thee, Son of the mother mild;

Where charity stands watching and faith holds wide the door,

The dark night wakes, the glory breaks, and Christmas comes once more.

O holy Child of Bethlehem, descend to us, we pray;

Cast out our sin, and enter in, be born in us today.

We hear the Christmas angels the great glad tidings tell;

O come to us, abide with us, our Lord Emmanuel!

Centuries later the angels announced to the "shepherds staying out in the fields, and keeping watch over their flock by night" (Lk 2:8) that

"today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, Who is Christ the Lord." (Lk 2:11)

Bethlehem is situated 2,527 feet above sea level (commanding a view of the mountains of Moab to the East) about 5-6 miles (8-10 km) south of Jerusalem (click map below) in the district known as Ephrathah in the land of the tribe of Judah (Micah 5:2), on a narrow eastward ridge which breaks down in abrupt terraced slopes to the deep valleys below, surrounded by fertile fields, fig and olive orchards, and vineyards. Bethlehem is about 40-60 miles from Moab which lies on the southeastern side. In 1995 the estimated population of Bayt Lahm was 32,000. Bethlehem was particularly susceptible to the climate because there was no spring and it relied on cisterns to gather water. The main produce of the area includes grain crops (wheat and barley), olives and grapes.

Click to Enlarge


  • A city southwest of Jerusalem -Judges 17:7-note; Jdg 19:18-note
  • Called Ephratah and Ephrath -Ge 48:7; Ps 132:6-note; Micah 5:2
  • And Bethlehem Judah - Jdg 17:7, 8, 9; 19:1,18; Ru 1:1; 1Sa 17:12
  • Rachel dies and is buried at -Ge 35:16,19; 48:7
  • The city of Boaz -Ruth 1:1,19; 2:4
  • Taken and held by the Philistines -2Sa 23:14, 15, 16
  • Jeroboam converts it into a military stronghold -2 Chr 11:6
  • The city of Joseph -Matthew 2:5,6; Luke 2:4
  • Birthplace of Jesus -Micah 5:2; Matthew 2; Lk 2:4,15
  • Herod murders the infants of -Mt 2:16, 17, 18
  • A town of Zebulun, six miles west of Nazareth -Jos 19:15
  • Israel judged at -Jdg 12:10-note


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...

means to live among people who are not blood relatives; thus, rather than enjoying native civil rights, the gēr ("sojourner") was dependent on the hospitality that played an important role in the ancient near east. When the people of Israel lived with their neighbors they were usually treated as protected citizens; foreigners in Israel were largely regarded as proselytes. (Harris, R L, Archer, G L & Waltke, B K Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament. Moody Press)

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...

"down to Egypt to sojourn there, for the famine was severe in the land" (of Canaan) (Gen 12:10).

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.

Along life's road are obstacles—
Our choice becomes a test;
Help us, O Lord, to know Your way
That we may choose what's best. |
—D. De Haan

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.

Every test
is an opportunity
to trust God

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...

"My people (this applies primarily to Israel but in principle to saints of all ages) who are called by My name humble themselves and pray, and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, will forgive their sin, and will heal their land." (2Chronicles 7:14)

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

His promise...are looking for new heavens and a new earth, in which righteousness dwells. (2Pe 3:13-note)

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

And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. For (explains why He works all things out) whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed (or molded, describing an inward and not merely a superficial conformity) to the image of His Son, that He might be the first-born among many brethren."

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.

The obstacles that we must face
Along life's rocky way
Are used by God so we might hear
"Well done" from Him someday.

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.

"There is a way which seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death." (Pr 14:12)

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

after you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace, who called you to His eternal glory in Christ, will Himself perfect, confirm, strengthen and establish you. (1Pe 5:10-note).

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

"everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms--to choose one's attitude in any given set of circumstances."

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,

I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content...I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me" (Php 4:11, 12 -note, Php 4:13-note).

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

wait (hope with a sense of expectancy and confidence) for the LORD will gain (Hebrew word means to exchange their "strength" for God's strength) new strength. They will mount up with wings like eagles. They will run and not get tired. They will walk and not become weary." (Isa 40:31)

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.

O Lord, give me the grace to be
Content with what You give to me!
No! More than that, let me rejoice
In all You send me--it's Your choice!

Be this the purpose of my soul,
My solemn, my determined choice:
To yield to God's supreme control,
And in my every trial rejoice. —Anon

Warren Wiersbe adds that

When trouble comes to our lives, we can do one of three things: endure it, escape it, or enlist it. If we only endure our trials, then trials become our master, and we have a tendency to become hard and bitter. If we try to escape our trials, then we will probably miss the purposes God wants to achieve in our lives. But if we learn to enlist our trials, they will become our servants instead of our masters and work for us; and God will work all things together for our good and His glory (Ro 8:28-note).

Remember that true freedom comes not from choosing our way, but from yielding to God's way.

Although I may not understand
The path You've laid for me,
Complete surrender to Your will—
Lord, this my prayer shall be.

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.

Thompson Chain Reference - Sojourners - Ge 12:10; 20:1 ;21:34 ; 47:4 Lv 18:26, 20:2, 25:40 Nu 15:15 Dt 26:5 Jdg 17:7-note Ru 1:1 Heb 11:9-note


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!

Nave's Topic

  • 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.


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)