Journey Through The Scriptures
The Life of Ruth
Lesson 1: Ruth Marries Naomi’s Son
(Scripture to Read: Ruth 1:1–10)
Women played many key roles at critical times in Israel’s history-and none more so than Ruth. She appeared on the scene during a dark time in Israel some 400 years after the time of Jacob. This era was the days of the judges (see Judges 21:25), when people who were faithful to God were hard to find. Ruth is also set against a dark background of famine in Israel and death in a foreign land. The famine led a Jewish man named Elimelech (whose name means "my God is king") to take his wife Naomi ("pleasant, lovely") and their sons, Mahlon and Kilion, and leave Israel in search of food.
The family traveled from Bethlehem, about five miles south of Jerusalem, to the land of Moab, fifty miles east on the opposite side of the Dead Sea. The events that unfolded during the family’s ten years in Moab show that this was not a wise decision. All of the men in Naomi’s family had died by the time the famine in Israel ended. Naomi decided to go back to Bethlehem, and told her Moabite daughters-in-law, Orpah and Ruth, to go home to their own families.
- It is likely that Elimelech planned to be in Moab for just a short time. Read Deuteronomy 23:3-6 and explain why Moab was not a land where Israelites would feel welcome.
- Naomi asked God to show "kindness" to Orpah (Ruth 1:8). Kindness is the Hebrew word chesed, meaning God’s loyal, covenant love. What clue does Naomi’s prayer give us about Orpah’s relationship to the God of Israel?
- Why was Naomi so concerned that both Orpah and Ruth go where they had the best chance to "find rest" (v. 9) by marrying again?
- It is clear that Naomi loved both Orpah and Ruth, and they loved her, too. Why do you think they insisted on staying with Naomi after their husbands’ deaths?
Something to Think About
The saga of Ruth is a classic example of God’s power to overcome our human limitations and adverse circumstances and turn hardships into blessing.
At the same time, the expressions of loyalty that Orpah and Ruth made to Naomi remind us of the importance of family and of honoring the vows we have made, whatever the cost.