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TO MOAB AND BACK
Victor M. Eskew
A. Ruth 1:1 shows a family departing from Bethlehem to go into Moab.
…And a certain man of Bethlehem-judah went to sojourn in the country of Moab, he, and his wife, and his two sons.
B. Ruth 1:22 reveals the return to Moab.
So Naomi returned, and Ruth the Moabitess, her daughter in law, with her, which returned out of the country of Moab: and they came to Bethlehem in the beginning of the barley harvest.
C. In this chapter, we will be introduced to Ruth, the character for whom this book was named.
D. An Outline of Ruth 1
i. DEPARTURE (Ruth 1:1-2)
ii. DEATH (Ruth 1:3-5)
iii. DECISIONS (Ruth 1:6-18)
iv. DEPRESSION (Ruth 1:19-22)
I. THE DEPARTURE (Ruth 1:1-2)
Now it came to pass in the days when the judges ruled, that there was a famine in the land. A certain man of Bethlehem-judah went to sojourn in the country of Moab, he, and his wife, and his two sons. And the name of the man was Elimelech, and the name of his wife Naomi, and the name of his two sons Mahlon and Chilion, Ephrathites of Bethlehem-judah. And they came into the country of Moab, and continued there.
A. The Framework (Ruth 1:1a)
Now it came to pass in the days when the judges ruled…
1. “This phrase refers to the period of time spanning the end of the Conquest (1380 B.C.) to the beginning of the United Kingdom (1050 B.C.)” (A Comment-ary on Ruth, David Stewart, p. 19).
2. The period of the judges began at the death of Joshua (Judg. 1:1) and extended to the days of the prophet Samuel who anointed Saul as the first king over Israel (I Sam. 10:1).
3. This was a time of great depravity in Israel.
a. Judges 21:25
In those days there was no king in Israel: every man did that which was right in his own eyes.
b. Judges 2:11-19 sets forth a pattern that would continue throughout the history of the judges.
4. Which judge ruled in the days of Ruth? We do not have an answer given to us in Scripture.
5. “Like a sparkling diamond set against a black velvet background, Ruth’s life and story stand in sharp contrast to one of Israel’s darkest times” (Ruth & Esther, John MacArthur, p. 6).
B. The Famine (Ruth 1:1b)
…that there was a famine in the land…
1. The word “famine” means “hunger.”
2. This is the initial crisis of the story.
3. Several causes of famines:
a. Lack of rainfall
b. Conquering armies
c. Locust plagues
d. Divine judgment (Lev. 26:29-20; Deut. 28:23-24)
And thy heaven that is over thy head shall be brass, and the earth that is under thee shall be iron. The Lord shall make the rain of thy land powder and dust: from heaven shall it come down upon thee, until thou be destroyed.
4. There may have been many famines during the period of the Judges (See Judges 6:1-5). This one was extremely significant. It would force a family to move to a foreign land.
C. The Family (Ruth 1:1c-2)
And a certain man of Bethlehem-judah went to sojourn in the country of Moab, he, and his wife, and his two sons. And the name of the man was Elimelech, and the name of his wife Naomi, and the name of his two sons Mahlon and Chilion, Ephrathites of Bethlehem-judah. And they came into the country of Moab, and continued there.
1. The Places
1) This town was located in the territory of Judah.
2) The earliest mention of it is during the days of Rachel. She was buried here when she died during childbirth (Gen. 35:16-17).
3) The town was located about 5 miles south of Jerusalem.
4) Definition: house of bread
5) It was the town of David (I Sam. 16:18; 17:12) and the birthplace of Jesus (Mic. 5:2; Matt. 2:1-6; Luke 2:4-7).
6) “Judah” distinguishes this Bethlehem from the Bethlehem located north in Zebulon (Josh. 19:10, 15).
b. The country of Moab
1) Moab was the land of the descendants of Lot (See Gen. 19:37).
2) It was located on the east side of the Jordan River.
a) Northern boundary – Arnon River
b) Southern boundary – Zered River
c) Western boundary – The Dead Sea
d) Eastern boundary – Arabian Desert
3) It was an undesirable place to go for several reasons:
a) The Moabites worshiped a false god, Chemosh, and practiced child sacrifice (I King 11:33.
b) The Moabites had a less than glorious beginning. They were the descendants of Lot through an incestuous relationship with his eldest daughter.
c) During the Wilderness Wanderings, Balak the king of Moab hired Balaam the prophet to curse God’s people (Num. 22-24).
d) Moabite women seduced the Israelites to commit fornication during the Wilderness Wanderings (Num. 25:1-2).
e) The Lord had forbidden Moab from entering into the assembly of Israel (Deut. 23:3).
f) During the period of the Judges, Eglon, a Moabite king, oppressed Israel for 18 years (Judg. 3:12-30).
c. NOTE: Elimelech was not planning on staying in Moab. The text says that he “went to sojourn.”
2. The People
a. The name of the man was Elimelech
1) At first, he was referred to as “a certain man.”
a) God is concerned about and knows one ordinary man.
b) LESSON: “God’s interest in the fortunes of a certain man in the days when the judges ruled should remind us that even our small ordinariness is not insignificant to God, and falls within his almighty care” (The Message of Ruth, J.A. Motyer, p. 32)
2) Definition: God is my King
a) This is the only man in the Bible with this name.
b) Interestingly, he left Israel where God was king and went into a place where idols were worshiped.
c) There is much debate as to whether Elimelech was right or wrong to leave Bethlehem to go to Moab.
1) Definition: pleasant or sweet
2) Her pleasantness will be stifled by her circumstances. Yet, her joy will be restored by the end of the book (Ruth 4:15).
And he shall be unto thee a restorer of thy life, and a nourisher of thine old age…
3) She was Elimelech’s wife. This gave her a specific role in life and a defined status in the community.
1) Definition: sickness
2) It could have been that he was sickly from birth.
1) Definition: wasting, pining, failing
2) NOTE: “Black refers to each of the names as a ‘nomen omen’ (‘omi-nous name’) pointing to the disasters that will soon strike Naomi” (Stewart, 24).
e. Ephrathites of Bethehem in Judah
1) The term Ephrath was an early alternative for Bethlehem (Gen. 35:16-19; 48:7).
2) No one knows where the name came from or what it means.
3) “Perhaps ‘Ephrathites’ points back to an old, distinguished family from the tribe of Judah that had settled in that area during the Conquest” (Stewart, 24).
1. Families can be faithful to God even when their surroundings are dark, corrupt, and sinful.
2. Situations often arise that force us to make decisions. In essence, necessity forces a decision upon us.
3. Choices may not necessarily be right or wrong, but they could be classified as either wise or unwise.
4. When a man makes a decision, it will often impact the entirety of that family.
5. What one intends versus what actually happens can be different.
a. Elimelech left Bethlehem to “sojourn” in Moab (Ruth 1:1).
b. They came into the country of Moab, and continued there (Ruth 1:2, emp. mine, vme).