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Ruth 1:1-5

In the days when the judges ruled in Israel, a severe famine came upon the land. So a man from Bethlehem in Judah left his home and went to live in the country of Moab, taking his wife and two sons with him. The man’s name was Elimelech, and his wife was Naomi. Their two sons were Mahlon and Kilion. They were Ephrathites from Bethlehem in the land of Judah. And when they reached Moab, they settled there. Then Elimelech died, and Naomi was left with her two sons. The two sons married Moabite women. One married a woman named Orpah, and the other a woman named Ruth. But about ten years later, both Mahlon and Kilion died. This left Naomi alone, without her two sons or her husband.


1:1-2 - Within the first two verses, we are introduced to the historical timeframe, setting, and characters. The timescale is in the days of the Judges (refer to the Book of the Judges) and is believed to be in Gideon's time as Judge (Judges 6) because of the setting and famine. A man of Bethlehem left Judah and went to Moab; although it does not say why this man left Bethlehem and chose Moab, it is likely because he discovered Moab's land was not experiencing a famine. The Moabites were excluded from being the people of God because of their worship of Chemosh, a god much like Baal.

The man is identified as Elimelech, and his wife was Naomi. Their two sons were Mahlon and Kilion. They were Ephrathites, an old name for the region and possibly indicating a wealthy family. This information also bears significance by its mere mention of the family being Ephrathites as it connects to a coming messiah, according to Micah 5:2. The conclusion to verse does bring with it a depressing statement; they settled there. A family with such significance has decided to leave the chosen nation for something that appears better. The grass may seem greener on the other side, but as we will see, it is not.

1:3-5 - After reading about four people, we immediately read the obituaries of three. Elimelech dies, leaving his wife Naomi, a widow. But Naomi still has her two sons that are now adults. Mahlon and Kilion marry two Moabite women, which would have been a violation of God's law (Deut. 7:3-4). The reason for such an ordinance becomes more apparent with Solomon's experience in (1 Kings 11:1-6) and has to do with the temptation to serve the gods of one's foreign wife. The importance of being equally yoked, i.e., in the same faith. The two women were Orpah and Ruth; nothing shares information about the family worship traditions, whether they worship the Lord of Israel or Chemosh. And about ten years have now gone by in this way; the family continues to live in the same way and the same location, proving that the move from the Promise Land to Moab was for good.

But then we come upon the death of both Mahlon and Kilion, making Orpah and Ruth widows like their mother-in-law Naomi. And Naomi is left now with no one, just her two daughters-in-law. Ironically, this family's very reason to leave Bethlehem was to escape death, but three of the four have still perished. Jewish tradition states that these three men's death is God's punishment upon a family that left the chosen land. But the text does not make this argument clear. Naomi has experienced great personal grief. She is now a stranger in a foreign land. A woman alone at this time is a horrific outcome. The men were the providers and suppliers; a woman, even with two daughters-in-law, would not provide the same living style. But an even darker outcome exists for Naomi, there is no heir. The family name would not carry on.


  1. What is the significance of these first five verses? Comment below.

  2. Spend time reading and studying verses 6-14.



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