During the time of the Judges, a family went from Bethlehem (meaning “house of bread)” to the land of Moab. Elimelech (meaning “God is my King”) and Naomi (meaning “pleasant’) left the land of promise because of a famine. Bethlehem did not live up to its name. In the story of Ruth, misery immediately attacks this family in Moab. Elimelech and his two sons die, leaving three women without husbands, and thus incredibly vulnerable. Naomi indicates the depths of her bitterness by suggesting she change her name from “pleasant” to “bitter”. In the midst of this horrid situation, we see a surprising turn. Ruth, the recently widowed Moabite daughter-in-law, shows uncommon devotion to both Naomi and YHWH in spite of Naomi’s mocking attitude towards Ruth’s loyalty (Ruth 1:11-13). Still, Naomi returns to Bethlehem a childless widow with only a daughter-in-law to help her face her distress.
Unlike the book of Judges, the book of Ruth begins with misfortune and misery. Unlike the book of Judges, a Moabite shows a kind of openness and devotion to God that reminds us of Rahab during the days of Joshua. Tomorrow we will begin to see how God is up to great good during the evil days of the Judges in this story of broken and hopeless women.