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  • Writer's pictureAshley Duren

In the Foreign Land: Ruth 1:1-5

I’ve been thinking a lot about the kinds of women I’d like to host on this podcast. Women who would so graciously share their stories of grace and redemption.

Women who are just like you and me, that live next door, but have the passions, hopes, and dreams of what tomorrow will hold and the knowledge of what yesterday looked like.

As these thoughts were rambling through my head, I started thinking about the women in the Bible who were also probably just like us, with hopes and dreams for the future, but uncertainty as to what that would look like.

This brought me to Ruth and Naomi’s story. I’m big on inductively studying the Bible-so stick with me here. This could get long.


Ruth 1:1-5

(1) In the days when the judges ruled there was a famine in the land, and a man of Bethlehem in Judah went to sojourn in the country of Moab, he and his wife and his two sons.

If you have any background knowledge on OT Israel, you’ll remember that they constantly had back and forth encounters with God. They disobeyed, started losing wars and land, cried aloud to Him again, and He’d deliver them again. This is after His covenant to deliver Canaan, the land He had already promised to their ancestors. But they wouldn’t stay faithful. I’d like to interject here and say, nothing about me is faithful. If you find me faithful, please know that’s the hand of God gently but firmly pulling me back into right relationship with Him. Same with these Israelites, except the Bible is clear that they were whoring after the gods of the foreign nations.

If you go back one page in your Bible, you’ll see Joshua 21:25 “In those days, there was no king in Israel. Everyone did what was right in his own eyes.” Knowing this, is it any wonder that there is a famine and need within the land that the judges were attempting to rule?

Sojourn means to stay temporarily. So this man, his wife, and his sons had no long-term plans, except to eat and survive.

(2) The name of the man was Elimelech and the name of his wife Naomi, and the names of his two sons were Mahlon and Chilion. They were Ephrathites from Bethlehem in Judah. They went into the country of Moab and remained there.

I’ll note here that Elimelech means “my God is king”. The names of the man and his two sons aren’t overly important, as we’ll soon learn. However in ancient Israel, who you came from and where you came from were extremely important. Your ancestral tree revealed your inheritance, so that’s kind of a big deal. (Gen 49:1-28) So this man was from the tribe of Judah- sound familiar? Judah is the tribe from which Jesus would ascend on his mother Mary’s side.

I can understand that you gotta do what you gotta do to survive, but Moab, however, was not the place to flee. They worshiped pagan gods and were also characteristically hostile to the Israelite nation.

One other thing I noticed was the quick turn from sojourn to remain. A quick trip turned long for this family of sojourners.

(3) But Elimelech, the husband of Naomi, died, and she was left with her two sons.

I would pretend to understand the hurt Naomi must have felt. The Bible unclear here about the circum

stances surrounding her husband’s death. But I would definitely presume that Naomi and her sons were facing greater hardship without her husband in a foreign land.

(4) These took Moabite wives; the name of the one was Orpah and the name of the other Ruth. They lived there about 10 years,

At first glance, these verses don’t hold significant weight. But remember what we said about the folks from Moab. They worshiped pagan gods. They were outsiders to Israel, not God’s chosen people, had no covenant with Him, and didn’t know Him at all. But beyond that, they didn’t want to. They were perfectly content worshiping their gods and sneering at the Israelites.

So again, short stay turned into 10 years in a foreign land with 2 new family members (plus their families presumably) intermixing.

(5) and both Mahlon and Chilion died, so that the woman was left without her two sons and her husband.

I could leave the only home I’ve ever known with my family. I could make it work. Really. Foreign land? No problem. But this woman lost her husband and TWO sons…in a matter of ten years, in a foreign land. That would set me over the edge and then some.

Naomi gets a strong woman award here. We’ll get to know her and her character more in the following verses and chapters, along with Orpah and Ruth.

But I’d like to ponder on the God shot here. Elimelech could have taken his family anywhere, or even stuck it out at home. BUT God’s sovereign plans reaches beyond “could haves”. You’ll soon see His hand at work as He is orchestrating and still writing a story for a women who may feel essentially hopeless at this time in her life.

If I say it once, I’ll say it a million times, God allows us to walk through hard things, and as a result, builds our testimony. Reflect today. See if you can see Him in the circumstance you’re walking through, sister.

Glad you’re here!

Ashley Duren

Normal Mama


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