I can’t tell you how giddy I am to be reading the Book of Ruth. It’s been a long time, and I’m excited about all the goodies I know Ruth provides as well as all the new goodies I know we’re bound to find together. I did a Beth Moore Bible study on the Book of Ruth a few years ago. HIGHLY RECOMMEND, folks, HIGHLY RECOMMEND. One thing new already I’ve noticed is that Ruth is really the first book of the Old Testament that “branches” out into a story about an individual person. We read the Book of Joshua, which was about Joshua’s journey, yes, but as we were reading through it we probably had the Israelites as a whole in our thoughts rather than Joshua as an individual. This book we’re starting today is all about Ruth – and her immediate family, of course. And to me, it is one of the loveliest books on Earth. Let’s look at a few things in this first chapter. First, locations and time period are key: Elimelech took his family from the land belonging to the tribe of Judah to a foreign land. That’s how desperate he was for food. We know from the Book of Judges that Israel spent about 400-ish years after they entered the Promised Land fighting – and sometimes losing – battles for control over the territories they took when they made their way into Canaan. Judges wavered back and forth from the Israelites being controlled by Palestine and other kingdoms to having a judge and living in peace. But sometimes even when the Israelites had a judge, they still weren’t in control. Remember Deborah? She was a judge when the Israelites had to go to battle to take back their power. We don’t know exactly when Ruth takes place, but from its placement and from what we’ve read so far, we can estimate that it takes place about the time judges left off, which from my (probably bad) calculations was a little more than 400 years after the Israelites entered the PL. (I know I said that above.)
Another really important thing we should notice is where Elimelech went and where Ruth was from. Moab is not an Israelite territory. In fact, the Israelites all but wiped out the Moabites more than once, so they probably weren’t on the greatest of terms. Elimelech had to have been extremely desperate to have loaded up his family to go to Moab. Now, Elimelech and Naomi’s boys were Israelites, but they also were of the marrying age, and probably out of necessity, and desperation too, the parents allowed their sons to marry Moabite women. We can kind of see into this a little more also. Like I said above, the Moabites and Israelites shouldn’t have been on kindly terms, but it seems something happened that allowed Elimelech and Naomi to not only move there and survive there but also to intermarry there. They must have had friends and neighbors who accepted them as part of the community. Still, when Naomi loses everyone that made their transition to Moab possible, she feels a little out of place, maybe? Regardless of her exact feelings, which probably were many at the time, she makes the decision that she wants to go home. Can you blame her? I love when she goes back to town and everyone still recognizes her and welcomes her. That’s my hometown, for sure. They never forget a face, and there’s always a welcome hug or handshake from most people I see. And that’s kind of where we are at the end of Chapter 1. Naomi has gone home, and her daughter-in-law Ruth – a Moabite, a foreigner, an outsider – has not only stayed by her mother-in-law’s side, but more importantly, she has vowed to become an Israelite.
Writing prompt: becoming an Israelite
Before we move on to Chapter 2, think of the implications of what Ruth has proposed and write about why her decision to join Naomi’s people is so monumental and unique.