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The Book of Ruth Study Guide

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 Bethlehem, Judah, went to dwell in the country of
Moab, he and his wife and his two sons. ~Ruth 1:1

Ruth begins by telling us the time frame, “In the days when the judges ruled”. This is important
because we need to understand what was going on when these events take place. So lets take
a short trip back in time to the Exodus.

The Israelites were promised a land that would flow with milk and honey (Exodus 3:17) when
they ventured out of Egypt. This was to be their new home, one in which they were no longer
slaves and they no longer had to scrape to get by. But this land did not come without a few
rules. God sets these rules in Exodus 6 where he tells the Israelites to be care to obey Him so
that it would go well with them in this land of milk and honey. They need to love God with all
their heart, soul and strength, be careful not to forget him, serve only him, not test him, keep his
commands and to do what is right in his sight. If they did these things then all would go well.

The land was supposed to be famine free. It had to have an abundance of water and fertile soil
if it were to “flow with milk and honey” otherwise the milk producing animals would not be able to
produce a flow of milk and there would not be enough nectar producing flowers to maintain an
ample supply of wild honey. God was providing everything they needed for an abundant life, as
long as they remembered to put him first.

Then Judges begins. The Israelites had entered this land and not followed God’s instructions.
They did not remove the foreign altars and they did not force out the people already living in the
land God had given them. God surely knew that His people would be easily tempted to turn
away from Him if the inhabitants remained with their gods and cultures, especially after their
behavior in the desert. Unfortunately, they chose to not remove the altars or the people and
God told them that he would leave them there to test them, to see if they would keep His ways.

They did not. But God did not give up on them. He appointed judges to help guide them to
what was right. While the judges were alive the Israelites did well. When there was no judge,
well the Israelites “did evil in the eyes of the Lord”. (Judges 2:11, 3:7, 3:12, 4:1, 6:1, 10:6, 13:1)
The Isrealites were frequently at was with other countries because they did not drive them out of
the Promised land, as well as being at war with each other almost every other generations for
years at a time. The land may not have had time to recover. Or perhaps the enemy frequently
invaded during harvest time. (This did happen at least once as it was mentioned specifically in
Judges) Perhaps God was just allowing the Israelites to reap the consequences of their actions.
(See Judges 10:11-14) Whatever the cause of the famine, the life definitely wasn’t what the
Israelites had expected it to be, primarily because they chose not to follow God.

Now, back to Ruth. During one of the famines we meet a man who decides to pack his wife and
two sons up to move to Moab rather than stay in a country that was ravished by famine, the
consequences of the peoples actions.

The name of the man was Elimelech, the name of his wife was Naomi, and the
names of his two sons were Mahlon and Chilion—Ephrathites of Bethlehem, Judah.
And they went to the country of Moab and remained there. Then Elimelech, Naomi’s
husband, died; and she was left, and her two sons. Now they took wives of the
women of Moab: the name of the one was Orpah, and the name of the other Ruth.
And they dwelt there about ten years. Then both Mahlon and Chilion also died; so the
woman survived her two sons and her husband. ~Ruth 2-5
Q 1.) Read Deuteronomy 23:3-6. What judgment did God place upon Moab? Why was this
judgment given? What would it have meant for Elimelech to travel to Moab? What does this
show about his character?

Q 2.) Read Judges 3:12-14. What was Israel’s relationship with Moab during this time period?
What does this tell us about the desperation of Elimelech?

Personal reflection:
Would you have done as Elimelech did? He appears to have not trusted that God would
provide for his people. When times are hard, do you look to outside help, even when/if you
know it may not really be helpful, or do you turn to God? Elimelech ran from the consequences
of his actions and those of his people and we find that he was unable to escape them. It is the
same for us. Do you find yourself running from consequences more often than facing them and
dealing with them? How can you begin to take steps to correct this if you are?