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October 27, 2018

The historical and geographical life of Ruth and Naomi occurred during the period of Judges in Bethlehem (1200-1020 BC), and it is believed the book of Ruth was possibly penned by Samuel or Hezekiah.

Chapter 1 of Ruth opens with an Ephrathite family from the tribe of Judah consisting of Elimelech (God is his king), his wife Naomi (my pleasantness), and two sons Mahlon (sickly), and Chilion (pining, wasting away) migrating approximately fifty miles from famine-stricken Bethlehem to the fertile well-watered highlands of the adjoining country Moab.

Though cautioned by God not to intermarry with the Moabites (Numbers 25:1-4; Deut. 7:1-11; 23:3-6;), Mahlon and Chilion each marry Moabitish women. Mahlon married Ruth and Chilion married Orpah. Sadly, during their ten-year stay in Moab Elimelech dies first followed by his sons, Mahlon, and Chilion leaving three destitute widows.

After receiving word that the famine had ended in Bethlehem, Naomi decided to return home. While traveling home with her two daughters-in-law, Naomi had an earnest conversation with them about her age, and her ability to birth more sons for them to marry. Consequently, she urged them to return to their homeland where they possibly could remarry.

After much tears between the women, Orpah with the blessing of Naomi decided to return home; however, Ruth enduring the three entreaties of Naomi clung to her and 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: 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 1:16-17).

By the time Naomi and Ruth reached Bethlehem, it was the start of the barley harvest. With the announcement of her arrival the village women were excited, surprised and bewildered to see her to which Naomi responded, “Call me not Naomi, call me Mara: for the Almighty hath dealt very bitterly with me. 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 1:20-21)

Names carry meaning; therefore, I would like to restate the beginning verses of this book as follows, “God is king, My Pleasantness, Sickly, and Wasting Away left their promised land of the House of Bread to go into Moab.” Thus, Elimelech walking by sight took his family to a place where hereditary enemies of Israel resided because it appeared to be prospering. God did not direct him to go there, he went on his own, and Elimelech and his son died there leaving three widows without a male to protect or care for them. Plus, living in a patriarchal society Naomi and her daughters-in-law lost their identity and security without men in their lives

Ruth’s till death pledge of allegiance to Naomi and Naomi’s God revealed her commitment, resolve, fortitude, and willingness to give up her ancestral religion.

With the turn of events, life changed for Naomi. She no longer wanted to be called “My Pleasantness” but rather “Bitterness” for when they left the House of Bread she had a husband and two sons and now she returns home bereft.

The barley harvest took place in Bethlehem in the spring of the year, and it represented new beginnings as things spring forth. Naomi did not realize it, but God whom she thought dealt her a horrible blow was about to bless her unexpectedly. New things would be coming into her life through Ruth, who pledged to be with her always.

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