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 Bethlehem, Judah, went to dwell in the country of Moab, he and his wife and his two sons.
The book of Ruth opens with adversity. A man from Bethlehem called Elimelech moved to Moab because of a famine in the Israel. While in Moab, all the male members of a family die. The issue revolves around what will happen to the women left behind.
Now it came to pass, in the days when the judges ruled,
The days of Ruth were the times of the Judges. These were the days when “every man did that which was right in his own eyes” (Judges 17:6; 18:11; 19:1; 21:25). This was a time of unbelief and rebellion against God. It was a period of oppression, anarchy, apostasy, moral decline, and turbulence in Israel (1250-1050 BC). The time frame was between the death of Joshua and the crowning of Saul.
that there was a famine in the land.
Famine in Bethlehem precipitated the events of Ruth. Famines were means of God’s discipline of Israel (Le 26:18-20; Dt 28:15,23-24). God disciplined the people in the period of the judges (Judges 2:10-19). The Israelites worshipped Baal and Ashtoreth. Baal was believed to be in control of crops which related to famine. Sexual intercourse between Baal and Ashtoreth (female god) was supposed to produce fertile land. Thus, divine control of crops is a major issue in the book of Ruth.
Midianite oppression of Israel for seven years by invasions caused famine to come upon the land. This famine was divine discipline upon the nation Israel for her unfaithfulness.
And a certain man of Bethlehem, Judah,
Elimelech, Naomi’s husband, was a landowner in Bethlehem (5 miles south of Jerusalem) who fell on hard times financially. The idea that he was from an insignificant town called Bethlehem is noteworthy because the first king of Israel will come from Bethlehem. Jesus was a descendant of David and was born in Bethlehem.
went to dwell in the country of Moab,
The Moabites descended from Lot (Ge 19:27), thus, they were distant relatives of Israel. This is where Elimelech waited out the famine. His brother Boaz did not go to Moab.
he and his wife and his two sons.
The move to Moab was a foreboding event. Elimelech left the land of promise across to the east side of the Jordan River. Moab was on the east side of the Dead Sea.
We can run from our problems but we cannot hide from them.
People who run from their problems never fully face the realities of their lives. They cannot resolve their problems if they do not deal with them.