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PRINT PASSAGE: Ruth 1:1-9, 14b, 16

The story of Ruth takes place during the period of the Judges. It was a time in the life of Israel that was punctuated by everything from small skirmishes to all-out warfare with the natives of Canaan . Israel had no king, no national leader. Because of this, the nation – though more than two-million strong – had no standing army. This left the people at the mercy of hostile neighbors, and the situation almost relied on the Hand of God to save them from their enemies...

This situation continued for possibly 250-300 years before Samuel finally anointed King Saul...

Because of the manner in which the Book of Judges is written, it is difficult if not impossible to determine at what period it was in this span of time that the events of Ruth 1:1 took place. This writer is of the opinion that it may have been during the time of Gideon, since the term “famine” is mentioned. It is interesting that the word “famine” is not mentioned in the entire Book of Judges. But look at the story of Gideon. Judges 6:1-6 paints a dismal picture of an impoverished nation completely at the mercy of a merciless enemy. Could this be the “famine” that drove Naomi and her husband out of the area?

Ruth 1:1-6

It is impossible to know just how long, or how much Naomi and her husband, Elimelech suffered in their native Bethlehem before feeling compelled to leave home in search of food. It has historically been somewhat commonplace for there to be food shortages for one reason or another in the area of Canaan, but for the most part, people didn’t leave home (an exception would be Jacob and his clan). But the couple did leave, along with their two sons, and head for Moab where the crops were plentiful...

It is also noteworthy that Naomi was faithful to God before she left home; remained faithful to God during her “exile”, and prayed to God after it was over. This is remarkable, since her “leaning” on God would on the surface appear to do her little good: she lost two sons and a husband and wound up in a strange land that served strange gods. Was God hearing her prayers? Do we have occasion to lift similar concerns today? It was at least ten years of being away from home and suffering tragedy after tragedy before Naomi even got news about God’s blessings back home. But her patience had paid off. She would go home to plenty...

Somewhere hidden in this tragedy was a blessing. Naomi’s sons married, and died without fathering children. According to Jewish custom this left the widows free to marry a next of kin who would take certain responsibilities for the family. It would be this window of opportunity that God would use later to further His Plan for the coming of His Son to earth...

Ruth 1:7-9

Even with the crops now flourishing in Canaan , Naomi had little to offer the two daughters-in-law, because in those days a widow was wholly dependant on society to support her. For this reason, and possibly for others, Naomi made no attempt to persuade the two women to follow her home, but directed them to their respective Moabite homes in the hope that they would remarry and find security...

We can’t be sure about Orpah, but we know that Ruth had a father living (2:11), and would have an even more valid reason to return home. But God’s Will defies any human logic...

It is also true that the tears that were shed in verse 9 were not selfish tears; indeed, these women were weeping over concern for the welfare of one another. Each woman longed for the other two to be blessed...

Ruth 1:14b, 16

In the end, though the women dearly loved one another, it was Ruth who finally made the ultimate sacrifice. It would be symbolic of what Jesus requires of all mankind today: to leave all behind and follow Him. Ruth traded in her Moabite citizenship, her friends, and family (without returning to first say goodbye), and clang to her mother-in-law. Why, possibly because the mother had above all else, been promoting not only her land, but her God for the ten or more years the three had been together...

It is amazing how much influence one can have over another simply by causing that “other” person to become convinced that you serve an all powerful God, and that you love Him more than life itself....

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