I love a good love story, the mushier the better. One of my favorite love stories is found in the Bible and before you think love stories in the Bible, I’m here to tell you there are many. Take Issac and Rebekah or the Shulamite woman in Song of Solomon. Yet, my favorite is the story of Ruth and Boaz. So for the next week or so I’d like to explore and learn from this with you. However, before we can even begin to dig, we have to understand the context and what is taking place.
The events of this book took place during the final days of the judges. It was a dark time. Judges 21:25 describes this time as follows. “In those days Israel had no king, everyone did as he saw fit.” To understand why it was a dark time, we have to look way back to the book of Exodus. Here we see the Lord deliver His people from slavery and in Deuteronomy and Joshua we find the Lord preparing His people to enter the Promised Land. He promises to bless them and care for them, to fight their enemies as long as they serve Him. Deut. 6:13-15 says, “Fear the Lord your God, serve him only and take your oaths in his name. Do not follow other gods, the gods of the peoples around you; for the Lord your God, who is among you, is a jealous God and his anger will burn against you, and He will destroy you from the face of the land. They are told again and again not to fear for the Lord is with them and will fight for them. However they are also warned to serve the Lord alone with all their heart, soul, mind and strength. Deut. 8:20 says, “If you ever forget the Lord your God and follow other gods and worship and bow down to them, I testify against you today that you will surely be destroyed.
Yet by the end of the book of Judges, we find they have served others gods, they have intermarried with other people (which was also a no-no) and they are living and doing whatever they want. The days were dark, but they were dark because the Israelites had brought much of this upon themselves. They had heard the warnings many time, they had heard the stories of how God had delivered them from Egypt and brought them into the promised land. However, they didn’t care. So the Lord, who always fulfills His word, brought upon them suffering. This suffering resulted in famine and war.
The book of Ruth opens explaining the famine that is in the land. a famine that according to Biblical scholars was the result of the Midianites invasion which we can find in Judges 6. Here it tells us that because the Israelites had done evil in they eyes of the Lord, that for 7 years, He gave them into the hands of the Midianites. This was an intense time of oppression that resulted in many fleeing to caves and finding shelters in the mountains. In Jud.6:3 we are told that every time the Israelites planted crops, the Midianites, Amalekites and other eastern people invaded the country and ruined the crops and killed livestock.
If Ruth did take place during this time, one can begin to understand the desperation of Elimelech. For in verse one of Ruth we find that he, his wife, and their two sons leave Judah and move to live in the land of Moab. To understand the severity of what Elimelech did, we have to understand who the Moabites were.
In Gen. 19:30-38 we learn that the Moabites were the result of an incestuous relationship between Lot and his daughter. After leaving Egypt, we see the Israelites passing by the land of Moab and when the king of Moab sees this huge mob, he is terrified and calls Balaam to come and call down curses on them (which of course God turns to blessings). We encounter the Moabites again in Numbers 25 when we see the men were led astray by the Moabite women, whom they indulged in sexual immorality with and who led them to sacrifice to their gods. As we observe the Moabites throughout the Old Testament, we find that they like the Philistines are used by God to punish the Israelites when they turn away from Him.
So, Elimelech made a grave mistake in moving to Moab, but also according to Jewish law he also made a blunder in allowing his sons to marry Moabite women. Nehemiah 13:1-2 says, “On that day the book of Moses was read aloud in the hearing of the people and there it was found written that no Ammonite or Moabite should ever be admitted into the assembly of God; because they had not met the Israelites with food and water but had hired Balaam to call curses down on them. The Lord knew the Moabite women would be used to lead the Israelites astray and yet in this great love story we see God using none other than a Moabite to bring about Jesus. But, lets not get ahead of ourselves.
As you can see, the book of Ruth begins in a dark time, a dark time that was a result of the sins of God’s people. The book begins with a man leading his family out of the protection of God into a land of sin because he feared the famine. The book begins with little hope. Oh, but just wait, as we dig deeper into this book, we will find the great mercy and grace of our Lord, who will discipline us for a time out of love, but is always there to restore us when we cry out to Him. I don’t know about you, but I’m excited about this study and the great truths waiting to be unveiled.