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September 14, 2011 / Daniel

The story of Ruth, the crisis

what i'm reading

Here’s the first scene in the book of Ruth.    The narrator lays out the setting for the book.

In the days when the judges ruled, there was a famine in the land. So a man from Bethlehem in Judah, together with his wife and two sons, went to live for a while in the country of Moab. 2 The man’s name was Elimelek, his wife’s name was Naomi, and the names of his two sons were Mahlon and Kilion. They were Ephrathites from Bethlehem, Judah. And they went to Moab and lived there.

3 Now Elimelek, Naomi’s husband, died, and she was left with her two sons. 4 They married Moabite women, one named Orpah and the other Ruth. After they had lived there about ten years, 5 both Mahlon and Kilion also died, and Naomi was left without her two sons and her husband.

The time of the judges (tribal leaders) was bad.  It was characterized by complete moral chaos (Judges 21:25).   The nation of Israel were no different than the Canaanites.    They worshiped the gods of the Canaanites.  They married Canaanite women.   They acted like the Canaanites.

That’s why there was the famine.  It was a covenant curse (Lev. 26:19-20).   If Israel was unfaithful to her covenant with YHWH, then YHWH would judge  the nation by send famine, enemies, and pestilence.

But Elimelech tries to escape the famine.  Who can blame him?  He wants to provide for his family.  The town of  Bethlehem (the Hebrew means “house of bread”)  had no bread.   He heads to Moab.

Here’s the irony.   By attempting to provide for his family, Elimelech impoverishes his family.  He leaves his wife a widow.  Both of his sons die within ten years.  Now the future royal line of Israel faces extinction.  Here’s the central question in the book of Ruth.   Will YHWH show hesed to Naomi?  What will happen to the future royal family?  Where is God’s loyal love when you really need it?

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