Previous Lessons: 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. 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. 3 But Elimelech, the husband of Naomi, died, and she was left with her two sons. 4 These took Moabite wives; the name of the one was Orpah and the name of the other Ruth. They lived there about ten years, 5 and both Mahlon and Chilion died, so that the woman was left without her two sons and her husband.
6 Then she arose with her daughters-in-law to return from the country of Moab, for she had heard in the fields of Moab that the Lord had visited his people and given them food. 7 So she set out from the place where she was with her two daughters-in-law, and they went on the way to return to the land of Judah. 8 But Naomi said to her two daughters-in-law, “Go, return each of you to her mother’s house. May the Lord deal kindly with you, as you have dealt with the dead and with me. 9 The Lord grant that you may find rest, each of you in the house of her husband!” Then she kissed them, and they lifted up their voices and wept. 10 And they said to her, “No, we will return with you to your people.” 11 But Naomi said, “Turn back, my daughters; why will you go with me? Have I yet sons in my womb that they may become your husbands? 12 Turn back, my daughters; go your way, for I am too old to have a husband. If I should say I have hope, even if I should have a husband this night and should bear sons, 13 would you therefore wait till they were grown? Would you therefore refrain from marrying? No, my daughters, for it is exceedingly bitter to me for your sake that the hand of the Lord has gone out against me.” 14 Then they lifted up their voices and wept again. And Orpah kissed her mother-in-law, but Ruth clung to her.
15 And she said, “See, your sister-in-law has gone back to her people and to her gods; return after your sister-in-law.” 16 But Ruth said, “Do not urge me to leave you or to return from following you. For where you go I will go, and where you lodge I will lodge. Your people shall be my people, and your God my God. 17 Where you die I will die, and there will I be buried. May the Lord do so to me and more also if anything but death parts me from you.” 18 And when Naomi saw that she was determined to go with her, she said no more.
19 So the two of them went on until they came to Bethlehem. And when they came to Bethlehem, the whole town was stirred because of them. And the women said, “Is this Naomi?” 20 She said to them, “Do not call me Naomi; call me Mara, for the Almighty has dealt very bitterly with me. 21 I went away full, and the Lord has brought me back empty. Why call me Naomi, when the Lord has testified against me and the Almighty has brought calamity upon me?”
22 So Naomi returned, and Ruth the Moabite her daughter-in-law with her, who returned from the country of Moab. And they came to Bethlehem at the beginning of barley harvest.
The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.
Questions to Consider
1. Briefly review the background and setting of the book of Ruth from lesson 1 (link above).
2. What does verse 1 tell us about the period of Israel’s history in which the events of the book of Ruth take place? As we learned in lesson 1, Jair was most likely judging Israel at this time. What else does verse 1 tell us was happening in Israel as the story opens?
3. Describe the sequence of events in verses 1-5 in your own words. Who are each of the people in this passage, and how are they related to one another? What is an Ephrathite?
4. On the map, trace Naomi’s family’s journey to and from Moab. What does the Old Testament tell us about Moab and the Moabites? Were they enemies or allies of Israel? Were they worshipers of God or of idols? What had happened the last time Israel joined with Moab? Did God want His people mingling with the Moabites?
5. Compare Naomi and Ruth’s journey (6) from the pagan land of Moab back to Israel, the Promised Land of God’s people, with the prodigal son’s journey from the pig pen back to his father’s house. How can both of these stories symbolize passing from death in sin to life in Christ?
6. In verses 8-13, what is Naomi’s main concern for Ruth and Orpah? Considering the culture and socio-economic status of women at that time, was this a valid concern? But considering the fact that Ruth and Orpah would be returning to a life of idolatry (15) if they stayed in Moab, why didn’t Naomi concern herself more with their spiritual state and urge them to come back to Bethlehem with her? Is it possible Ruth was already a believer and didn’t want to stay in a land of idolatry? Could this have been one of the things on Ruth’s mind in verses 16-17? (Note Ruth’s mention of “God” in 16 and her invoking of “the Lord” in her vow in 17).
7. Look at the footnotes on verse 20. What do the names “Naomi” and “Mara” mean? Describe Naomi’s outlook and attitude in verses 20-21. The Bible tells us to give thanks in all circumstances. Naomi had certainly been through some sad and difficult times, but she had many things to be thankful for. What were some of those things? What impact might it have had on the women of Bethlehem (19) if Naomi had testified to God’s love, care, and faithfulness in her adversity instead of spewing bitterness?
8. Which of God’s attributes do we see displayed in this chapter? Point to examples in the text of God’s sovereignty, provision, guidance, and other attributes you see.
Like Naomi, sometimes we can get so wrapped up in our own problems and suffering that we don’t think about what our attitude, words, and demeanor are saying to others about God. Think about a difficult time you’ve experienced in the past (or may be experiencing now). How did you talk about it to others? With bitterness and complaints? What were some things you could have been thankful to God for in that situation? What impact might it have had on those around you if you had testified to God’s love, care and faithfulness instead? Might your testimony about God’s goodness during your suffering have led to an opportunity to share the gospel with someone?