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Ruth Chapter 1:1-22

Introduction: We begin our new study on the book of Ruth this week. It will only last a few weeks as we have just a few books (4 chapters) in this short account. Hopefully it will be a help and encouragement as we learn from the errors and later the faith of Ruth.


The events recorded here took place in the time of the Judges. This time is described in Judges 21:25. In those days there was no king in Israel: every man did that which was right in his own eyes. Ruth was not written until at least the reign of David. Samuel may have been used of the Lord to write down this book.
It is the only instance in the Bible in which a whole book is devoted to the history of a woman. There are two books of the Bible named after women: Ruth, a Gentile, who married a Hebrew husband; Esther, a Jewess, who married a Gentile husband. Ruth is one of four women who are mentioned in the genealogy of our Lord. As a Moabite she was shut out by the Law (Deut. 23:3), but she was admitted by grace.

Ruth is a type of the Church, the Gentile bride, and Boaz as the kinsman redeemer is a type of Christ. She was the great grandmother of David, and the genealogy of Ruth, is the chief reason for the book being written.

"The book of Ruth is the eighth book of the Bible. The number "eight" is the number which signifies something new, a new beginning. Christ arose from the dead on the first day of the week, which is the eighth day. Noah was the eighth person (II Pet:2:5), and eight people were saved in the Ark. Jewish boys were circumcised on the eighth day."

2Pe 2:5 And spared not the old world, but saved Noah the eighth person, a preacher of righteousness, bringing in the flood upon the world of the ungodly;

One of the themes of the book is REST, and we find it only comes through redemption and union.

I. The Land of Rest & the Land of Distress

Ruth 1:1 Now it came to pass in the days when the judges ruled, that there was a famine in the land. And a certain man of Bethlehemjudah went to sojourn in the country of Moab, he, and his wife, and his two sons.
Ruth 1:2 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 Bethlehemjudah. And they came into the country of Moab, and continued there.

Verse 1 says that the time of their departure was in the days when judges ruled. There was a famine in the land and this gave occasion of their departure. Famine was often a disciplinary testing of God's people in the land.

Gen. 12:10, And there was a famine in the land: and Abram went down into Egypt to sojourn there; for the famine [was] grievous in the land.

2Sa 24:13 So Gad came to David, and told him, and said unto him, Shall seven years of famine come unto thee in thy land? or wilt thou flee three months before thine enemies, while they pursue thee? or that there be three days' pestilence in thy land? now advise, and see what answer I shall return to him that sent me.

Psa. 105:16, Moreover he called for a famine upon the land: he brake the whole staff of bread.

Other verses speaking of famine are Gen. 26:1 and Gen 42:5;

The place of their departure is identified as Bethelhem-judah. Bethlehem-judah means the house of bread and praise. This is what they departed from, a house of bread and praise. This is a sad case where separation was abandoned. Moab was a land and a people under God's judgment. They were descendants of Lot and his daughter.

Gen 19:35 And they made their father drink wine that night also: and the younger arose, and lay with him; and he perceived not when she lay down, nor when she arose.
Gen 19:36 Thus were both the daughters of Lot with child by their father.
Gen 19:37 And the firstborn bare a son, and called his name Moab: the same is the father of the Moabites unto this day.

It was the Moabites who hired Balaam to curse Israel.

Num 22:1 And the children of Israel set forward, and pitched in the plains of Moab on this side Jordan by Jericho.
Num 22:2 And Balak the son of Zippor saw all that Israel had done to the Amorites.
Num 22:3 And Moab was sore afraid of the people, because they were many: and Moab was distressed because of the children of Israel.
Num 22:4 And Moab said unto the elders of Midian, Now shall this company lick up all that are round about us, as the ox licketh up the grass of the field. And Balak the son of Zippor was king of the Moabites at that time.
Num 22:5 He sent messengers therefore unto Balaam the son of Beor to Pethor, which is by the river of the land of the children of his people, to call him, saying, Behold, there is a people come out from Egypt: behold, they cover the face of the earth, and they abide over against me:

Num 22:6 Come now therefore, I pray thee, curse me this people; for they are too mighty for me: peradventure I shall prevail, that we may smite them, and that I may drive them out of the land: for I wot that he whom thou blessest is blessed, and he whom thou cursest is cursed.
Num 22:7 And the elders of Moab and the elders of Midian departed with the rewards of divination in their hand; and they came unto Balaam, and spake unto him the words of Balak.
Num 22:8 And he said unto them, Lodge here this night, and I will bring you word again, as the LORD shall speak unto me: and the princes of Moab abode with Balaam.

Chemosh was the god of Moab, and was called the "abomination of Moab".

I Kings 11:7, Then did Solomon build an high place for Chemosh, the abomination of Moab, in the hill that is before Jerusalem, and for Molech, the abomination of the children of Ammon.

I Kings 11:11, Wherefore the LORD said unto Solomon, Forasmuch as this is done of thee, and thou hast not kept my covenant and my statutes, which I have commanded thee, I will surely rend the kingdom from thee, and will give it to thy servant.

Several people were involved in the departure. The man Emilech, his wife Naomi, and their two sons, Mahlon and Chilion. Elimelech means "my God is King." It is a shame that he did not live up to his name. Naomi's name means "pleasant", while Mahlon means "sick" and Chilion means "pining." These two names reveal the spiritual famine in the life of Elimelech and Naomi before they left Judah. God could have preserved them in Judah. Many others stayed in Judah and survived, but this family was tested and they failed. We need to look at these examples in God's word and learn from them. When things look the most hopeless, and the devil tells you to run, we need to seek help from above. Most of the time, God will tell us to stay the course and see things out. And his way is the way of peace. Satan promises a lot, but lies almost all of the time.
Remember what Jesus told those Jews who claimed righteousness through the lineage of Abraham.

Joh 8:42 Jesus said unto them, If God were your Father, ye would love me: for I proceeded forth and came from God; neither came I of myself, but he sent me.
Joh 8:43 Why do ye not understand my speech? even because ye cannot hear my word.
Joh 8:44 Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own: for he is a liar, and the father of it.

II . The Land Of Distress Found

Ruth 1:3 And Elimelech Naomi's husband died; and she was left, and her two sons.
Ruth 1:4 And they took them wives of the women of Moab; the name of the one was Orpah, and the name of the other Ruth: and they dwelled there about ten years.
Ruth 1:5 And Mahlon and Chilion died also both of them; and the woman was left of her two sons and her husband.

Elimelech dies there in Moab, out of the heaven blessed land from which they had left. The
way of the transgressor is hard. Leaving the will of God never brings peace and prosperity.

I John 5:16, If any man see his brother sin a sin which is not unto death, he shall ask, and he shall give him life for them that sin not unto death. There is a sin unto death: I do not say that he shall pray for it.

After fleeing from Judah, Naomi and her two sons are now left in an unblessed land. One problem leads to another, and Naomi allows her sons to marry unblessed wives.

Deut. 23:3, An Ammonite or Moabite shall not enter into the congregation of the LORD; even to their tenth generation shall they not enter into the congregation of the LORD for ever.

Orpah means "double-minded"or some say "stiff-necked." Ruth means "satisfied." Remember that God's plan for Israel was to stay away from "Gentile nations." Similarly, we as Christians should stay separate from the world.

2Co 6:14 Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness?
2Co 6:15 And what concord hath Christ with Belial? or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel?
2Co 6:16 And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? for ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.
2Co 6:17 Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you,
2Co 6:18 And will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty.

Naomi stayed 10-years too long in the land of distress. Sin will take us sometimes a lot farther than we want to go. And the trip back to the Father is sometimes long in coming. We need to stay close and never wander from the perfect will of God. Verse 5 shows that death strikes again in the land of distress as both of Naomi's sons die. This shows the cost of departing from God. Now there are three sad heartbroken widows.

III. Leaving the Land of Distress for the Land of Rest

Ruth 1:6 Then she arose with her daughters in law, that she might return from the country of Moab: for she had heard in the country of Moab how that the LORD had visited his people in giving them bread.
Ruth 1:7 Wherefore she went forth out of the place where she was, and her two daughters in law with her; and they went on the way to return unto the land of Judah.
Ruth 1:8 And Naomi said unto her two daughters in law, Go, return each to her mother's house: the LORD deal kindly with you, as ye have dealt with the dead, and with me.

Naomi makes a big decision to return to the land of rest. She had heard of God's blessings upon Judah. Even when we may not be close to the Lord, when the Lord blesses his chosen people, others will hear. "Then she arose" after all of her distress and chastisement. Verse 7 says "She went forth OUT of the place." Separation always precedes sanctification.

Gen. 12:1, Now the LORD had said unto Abram, Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father's house, unto a land that I will shew thee.

Naomi urges her two daughters in law to remain in Moab and go back to their Mother's house.

Ruth 1:9 The LORD grant you that ye may find rest, each of you in the house of her husband. Then she kissed them; and they lifted up their voice, and wept.
Ruth 1:10 And they said unto her, Surely we will return with thee unto thy people.
Ruth 1:11 And Naomi said, Turn again, my daughters: why will ye go with me? are there yet any more sons in my womb, that they may be your husbands?
Ruth 1:12 Turn again, my daughters, go your way; for I am too old to have an husband. If I should say, I have hope, if I should have an husband also to night, and should also bear sons;
Ruth 1:13 Would ye tarry for them till they were grown? would ye stay for them from having husbands? nay, my daughters; for it grieveth me much for your sakes that the hand of the LORD is gone out against me.

Naomi loves these daughters in law, but she mistakenly thinks they will find REST in Moab. She had made a big impression on them, and they express a desire to go with her. She confesses her barren fruitless condition and that she had nothing to give them. She was too old she says to be married again and to have further sons to replace those who had died. This was the custom of the land for a brother to take a sister in law if the first brother died.

Deu 25:5 If brethren dwell together, and one of them die, and have no child, the wife of the dead shall not marry without unto a stranger: her husband's brother shall go in unto her, and take her to him to wife, and perform the duty of an husband's brother unto her.
Deu 25:6 And it shall be, that the firstborn which she beareth shall succeed in the name of his brother which is dead, that his name be not put out of Israel.
Deu 25:7 And if the man like not to take his brother's wife, then let his brother's wife go up to the gate unto the elders, and say, My husband's brother refuseth to raise up unto his brother a name in Israel, he will not perform the duty of my husband's brother.
Deu 25:8 Then the elders of his city shall call him, and speak unto him: and if he stand to it, and say, I like not to take her;
Deu 25:9 Then shall his brother's wife come unto him in the presence of the elders, and loose his shoe from off his foot, and spit in his face, and shall answer and say, So shall it be done unto that man that will not build up his brother's house.

Naomi had suffered much, and this was a result of disobedience. Chastisement comes to our lives to bring us back to God and it is because God loves us. Note the end of verse 13

"...The hand of the Lord is gone out against me."

Prov. 3:11, My son, despise not the chastening of the LORD; neither be weary of his correction.

Heb. 12:5-8, And ye have forgotten the exhortation which speaketh unto you as unto children, My son, despise not thou the chastening of the Lord, nor faint when thou art rebuked of him: For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth. If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons; for what son is he whom the father chasteneth not? But if ye be without chastisement, whereof all are partakers, then are ye bastards, and not sons.

Matthew Henry said this about Naomi and her decision to return to home.
See here, I. The good affection Naomi bore to the land of Israel, Ruth_1:6. Though she could not stay in it while the famine lasted, she would not stay out of it when the famine ceased. Though the country of Moab had afforded her shelter and supply in a time of need, yet she did not intend it should be her rest for ever; no land should be that but the holy land, in which the sanctuary of God was, of which he had said, This is my rest for ever. Observe,
1. God, at last, returned in mercy to his people; for, though he contend long, he will not contend always. As the judgment of oppression, under which they often groaned in the time of the judges, still came to an end, after a while, when God had raised them up a deliverer, so here the judgment of famine: At length God graciously visited his people in giving them bread. Plenty is God's gift, and it is his visitation which by bread, the staff of life, holds our souls in life. Though this mercy be the more striking when it comes after famine, yet if we have constantly enjoyed it, and never knew what famine meant, we are not to think it the less valuable.

Ruth 1:14 And they lifted up their voice, and wept again: and Orpah kissed her mother in law; but Ruth clave unto her.
Ruth 1:15 And she said, Behold, thy sister in law is gone back unto her people, and unto her gods: return thou after thy sister in law.
Ruth 1:16 And Ruth said, Intreat me not to leave thee, or to return from following after thee: for whither thou goest, I will go; and where thou lodgest, I will lodge: thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God:

Ruth 1:17 Where thou diest, will I die, and there will I be buried: the LORD do so to me, and more also, if ought but death part thee and me.
Ruth 1:18 When she saw that she was stedfastly minded to go with her, then she left speaking unto her.

The two daughters in law face a time of decision. Orpah decides to return to her people and her gods. We cannot believe but what this is exactly what Orpah wanted. There are many like her today who are seemingly very close to being Christians, but they turn back. The result in her case is that she disappears from history. Ruth decides for rest and the true God. She states her allegiance to the true God of Israel, and not to Chemosh the god of Moab. If she had not made the right decision she would never have been and ancestor of our Lord Jesus Christ. Right decisions are important. A few months ago, the story of Ruth and Naomi played on one of the Christian channels we have on tv. It was a very accurate portrayal (unusual for Hollywood), and they really captured the agony in Naomi and Ruth as the decision was being made for the girls future. Ruth surely made the right decision to stay with Naomi, and determined she would stay with her no matter what. Whither thou goest, I will go, and where thou lodgest, I will lodge: thy people shall be my people, and most importantly, and thy God my God.
In verses. 16-17 we have one of the most beautiful statements to be found in all of literature. Her heart was fixed. She did not know it, but she was headed for a city whose builder and maker is God.

Heb. 11:10, For he looked for a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God.

Surely the grace of God was at work in her heart. Even though Naomi may not have been close to God during those 10 years they had known one another, still something came through to Ruth. Never doubt that your testimony is affecting others, either good or bad.
John Gill said this about how Naomi left off speaking when she saw the determined decision of Ruth.

Ruth 1:18 When she saw that she was steadfastly minded to go with her,.... That she was strong in her resolutions, and steadfast in her determinations not to go back to her own country, but to go forward with her; and nothing could move her from the firm purpose of her mind, which was what Naomi wanted to make trial of:

then she left speaking unto her: that is, upon that head of returning home; otherwise, no doubt, upon this a close, comfortable, religious conversation ensued, which made their journey the more pleasant and agreeable.

IV. Naomi's Features Marked By Distress.

Ruth 1:19 So they two went until they came to Bethlehem. And it came to pass, when they were come to Bethlehem, that all the city was moved about them, and they said, Is this Naomi?
Ruth 1:20 And she said unto them, Call me not Naomi, call me Mara: for the Almighty hath dealt very bitterly with me.

The city was moved by her return. The people look up on her, and ask "Is this Naomi?" She didn't look the same, and there is a price for backsliding. In just 10 years, she had changed totally. She went from "pleasant" to "bitter" in just a short span of time. Ten years had left their mark. Do you want a life that the Lord shows through in your countenance day by day. If so, you need to stay close to God and resist the devil. Those seed you plants day by day will come to harvest, and it is a bitter harvest when we plant the wrong kind of seed.

Pro 20:9 Who can say, I have made my heart clean, I am pure from my sin?
Pro 20:10 Divers weights, and divers measures, both of them are alike abomination to the LORD.
Pro 20:11 Even a child is known by his doings, whether his work be pure, and whether it be right.

Ruth 1:21 I went out full, and the LORD hath brought me home again empty: why then call ye me Naomi, seeing the LORD hath testified against me, and the Almighty hath afflicted me?
Ruth 1:22 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 barley harvest.

"The Lord hath brought me home again." God always does this for His erring children. She was "empty" as a result of backsliding. The bitterness of those years away had a price and it hurt Naomi in a great way. The Almighty God had afflicted her.

Heb. 12:5-6, And ye have forgotten the exhortation which speaketh unto you as unto children, My son, despise not thou the chastening of the Lord, nor faint when thou art rebuked of him: For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth.

The two ladies returned home at a time of harvest and blessing. Things may have been hard, but as we talked about in our recent study of Joseph, God can take the bad and work it to our good.

Rom. 8:28, And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.

Phil. 2:13, For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure.

Naomi had left three graves in Moab as a result of sin, but at long last she is back in the land of blessing. If you used to be close to God and are not close today, believe me, the Lord wants you to return. The heavenly father is waiting with open arms to receive back a child of disobedience when he or she repents and turns back to God. Sometimes we have to be in a far off land before we can 'come to ourselves' as the prodigal son did. When the prodigal son returned home, it said that the father saw him from a great way off. There is the typification of God watching for us and hoping we will return to a life of peace and blessings.

Luk 15:17 And when he came to himself, he said, How many hired servants of my father's have bread enough and to spare, and I perish with hunger!
Luk 15:18 I will arise and go to my father, and will say unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and before thee,
Luk 15:19 And am no more worthy to be called thy son: make me as one of thy hired servants.
Luk 15:20 And he arose, and came to his father. But when he was yet a great way off, his father saw him, and had compassion, and ran, and fell on his neck, and kissed him.
Luk 15:21 And the son said unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and in thy sight, and am no more worthy to be called thy son.
Luk 15:22 But the father said to his servants, Bring forth the best robe, and put it on him; and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet:
Luk 15:23 And bring hither the fatted calf, and kill it; and let us eat, and be merry:
Luk 15:24 For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found. And they began to be merry.


1. At what time did the events in Ruth take place?

Time of the kings as a famine was coming into the land.

2. Name each member of the Jewish family and the meaning of their names.

Elimelech means "my God is King." Naomi's name means "pleasant".
Mahlon means "sick" and Chilion means "pining."

3. How many books of the Bible are named after women?

Two, Ruth and Esther.

4. How many women are mentioned in the genealogy of our Lord and who were they?

Ruth is one of four women who are mentioned in the genealogy of our Lord. The others were Thamar, Rahab, and Mary.

5. What did the Law say about a Moabite?

Moab was a land and a people under God's judgment.

Deut. 23:3, An Ammonite or Moabite shall not enter into the congregation of the LORD; even to their tenth generation shall they not enter into the congregation of the LORD for ever.

6. Why did Naomi and her family leave their homeland?

Famine. They didn't trust God would see them through the tough days.

7. What is the meaning of Bethlehem-judah?

Bethlehem-judah means the house of bread and praise.

8. How does the names of her children reflect the spiritual condition of Naomi and her family?

Mahlon means "sick" and Chilion means "pining."
This pretty well sums up their condition. They were not close to God and were seeking things on their own.

9. What was wrong with the marriages of her two sons?

They married Moabites which were certainly not of the tribes of Israel.

10. Give the five-fold expression of resolve made by Ruth?

Ruth 1:16 And Ruth said, Intreat me not to leave thee, or to return from following after thee: for whither thou goest, I will go; and where thou lodgest, I will lodge: thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God:
Ruth 1:17 Where thou diest, will I die, and there will I be buried: the LORD do so to me, and more also, if ought but death part thee and me.

11. What did the people of Bethlehem-judah say when Naomi and Ruth arrived?

They questioned whether this could be Naomi, as the years had taken a great toll on her physical condition.

12. What time of the year was it when they arrived?

Time of barley harvest.

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Prov 4:18 But the path of the just is as the shining light, that shineth more and more unto the perfect day.


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