Now it came to pass in the days when the judges ruled, that there was a famine in the land…
Ruth 1:1. There was a famine in the land. Providence led Elimelech, his wife Naomi, and his two sons Mahlon and Chillon, into the land of Moab, on the other side of Jordan. Whilst there was scarcity of bread in Israel, there was plenteous supply in Moab. So they left their fatherland and home in Bethlehem. We carry "home" with us when we go with wife and children. It is the exile's solitary lot that is so sad. It is when God setteth the solitary in families, and the child is away from home in a foreign land, amongst strange faces, that the heart grows sick. We ought always to remember in prayer the exile and the stranger. Sometimes, amongst the very poor, a man has to go and seek substance far away from wife and child; but in this case sorrow was mitigated by mutual sympathy and help.
I. THERE ARE WORSE FAMINES THAN THIS. It was famine of another sort that led Moses from Egypt, when he feared not the wrath of the king, that he might enjoy the bread of God; and it was religious hunger that led the Pilgrim Fathers first to Amsterdam, and then to New England, that they might find liberty to worship God. In the day of famine we read Elimelech could not be satisfied. No. And it is a mark of spiritual nobility never to be contented where God is dishonored and worship demoralized. The word "Bethlehem" signifies the house of bread; but there was barrenness in the once wealthy place of harvest. And the name of Church cannot suffice when the place is no longer the house of God, which the word Church means.
II. IS THIS FAMINE ELIMILECH'S NAME WAS A GUARANTEE OF GUIDANCE AND SUPPLY. It means, "My God is King." Beautiful that. He reigns, and will cause all things to work together for good. Mark the words, My God; for as Paul says, "My God shall supply all your need." King! Yes, "the earth is the Lord's, and the fullness thereof," and he will not let his children want bread. They go without escort, but the Lord goes before them. There are no camels or caravanserai behind them, but the Lord God of Israel is their reward. So is Divine promise translated into family history.
III. THE TROUBLE THAT SEEMS LEAST LIKELY OFTEN COMES. Bread wanting in Bethlehem, "the house of bread." Yes! But have not we often seen this? The sorrows of life are often such surprises. They do not take the expected form of the imagination, but they assume shapes which we never dreamed of. The king not only loses his crown, but becomes an exile and a stranger in a strange land. The rich man in health loses all in a night. A sudden flicker, and the lamp of health which' always burned so brightly goes out in an hour.
IV. BETHLEHEM WAS A QUIET, RESTFUL ABODE. Nestling in its quiet beauty, ten miles or so from time-beloved Jerusalem, who would have thought that the golden ring of corn-fields which surrounded it would ever have been taken off its hand? Very early in history it was productive. Here Jacob fed his sheep in the olden times. Famine in a city impoverished and beleaguered we can understand; but famine in Bethlehem! So it is. The rural quietness does not always give us repose. There too the angel with the veiled face comes - the angel of grief and want and death. Happy those who have a Father in heaven who is also their Father and their King. - W.M.S.
Parallel VersesKJV: Now it came to pass in the days when the judges ruled, that there was a famine in the land. And a certain man of Bethlehemjudah went to sojourn in the country of Moab, he, and his wife, and his two sons.