Ruth Bible Study Chapter 1 Answers

About These Answers

Questions and Answers

1.  Elimelech departed Judah to go to Moab because there was a famine in Judah.  From reading the following Scriptures, why do you think there may have been a famine?

  • Leviticus 26:14, 18-20
  • Deuteronomy 28:15, 24
  • Jeremiah 24:10; 27:8-13; 29:16-18; 34:17; 38:2;
  • Ezekiel 6:11; 7:5-15; 12:16


The famine in Judah probably was a result of God’s punishment.  However, we don’t know that for sure - but we can surely say that there is biblical evidence of a promise of a famine for disobedience to God and punishment by Him.

2.  Where is the country of Moab in relation to Judah and why do you think there was no famine there as there was in Judah?


Moab was located east of the Dead Sea (Sea of Galilee). 

We don’t know why the land of Moab didn’t suffer from famine as Judah did.

However, we can review some biblical references and venture an educated guess. The information below comes from the Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary and provides an educated guess.

While there was a famine in the land of Judah, the land of Moab likely was not affected by the famine.  Moab was a land that featured a rolling plateau bound on the West by a very steep drop in elevation of almost 5,000 feet that led to the Dead Sea.  On the East lay the desert, and in the middle of the land a very steep canyon which rose up from the Arnon River.

Relatively few springs appear on the Moabite plateau, and the waters of the Arnon River are virtually inaccessible because of the steepness of the river canyon. Still, the area is well watered by winter rains brought by winds from the Mediterranean. The porous soil holds enough of the moisture for the villagers to grow cereal crops and to find good pasturage for their sheep and goats. 

Questions and Answers

3.  Read Deuteronomy 23:3-6.  In light of these scriptures, what do you think Elimelech’s decision to go to Moab?

Deuteronomy 23:3-6:

“No Ammonite or Moabite may enter the assembly of the Lord. Even to the tenth generation, none of them may enter the assembly of the Lord forever, because they did not meet you with bread and with water on the way, when you came out of Egypt, and because they hired against you Balaam the son of Beor from Pethor of Mesopotamia, to curse you. But the Lord your God would not listen to Balaam; instead the Lord your God turned the curse into a blessing for you, because the Lord your God loved you. You shall not seek their peace or their prosperity all your days forever.


Elimelech disobeyed God by seeking the prosperity of the Moabites (verse 6); therefore, it was a bad and ungodly decision.

One commentator regards Elimelech’s decision to go to Moab an act of unbelief and offers the following analysis:

According to the Book of Deuteronomy, if the people would repent, Yahweh would withdraw his anger and lift the famine.  It seems, however, that Elimelech designed his own solution instead of calling on God for mercy and repenting of the sins that plagued the nation during the dark days of the judges.  The narrator’s choice of the verb, gur, “to sojourn,” suggests that he intended to wait out the famine in the land of Moab and to return to Bethlehem when it was over.

From: D.I. Block, New American Commentary, Volume 6, Judges and Ruth, 1999, p 626-7

4.  Based on your review of Genesis 19:30-38, who was the father and mother of Moab, the first Moabite?  Also, how are Naomi and the mother of Moab similar?


The father of Moab was Lot and the mother of Moab was Lot’s oldest daughter.

Both were worried about the aspect of not having descendants, i.e. their family not producing offspring because they lacked husbands.

5.  What can you determine about Ruth and Orpah from chapter one, verses 8, 14-17?


Orpah and Ruth treated their husbands, Mahlon and Chilion kindly (“the” dead from verse 8); and they also treated Naomi kindly (“me” from verse 8).

Orpah kissed Naomi but Ruth clung to her and stayed with Naomi even after Orpah had left and returned from going to Judah (verses 14 and 15).

Questions and Answers

6.  There is a fundamental difference in the decisions of Orpah and Ruth from reading verses 15 and 16.  What is that difference?


Naomi noted that Orpah had returned to her god (verse 15); however, Ruth said to Naomi “Your God will be my God” (verse 16).  Ruth chose the living God but Orpah chose “her god” likely a god of the Moabite people.

Also, Ruth made a lifelong commitment to follow not just Naomi but the God of Naomi.  She said to Naomi that she would die where Naomi died (verse 17).  This was quite a commitment because of the age of the two women.

Naomi was likely to die many years before her daughter-in-law. Instead of returning to Moab after the inevitable death of Naomi, Ruth was saying that she would remain in the land of Naomi even after Naomi died.

7.  Orpah was concerned for herself more than for Naomi but Ruth was more concerned for Naomi than for herself.   With what we know about the spiritual choices each made, how does this insight affect your future choices?

Your Answer Here

8.  Based on a review of verses 13, 20, and 21, how did Naomi view the cause of her troubling circumstances?


She saw the hand of the Lord had gone out against her (verse 13); and that the Lord had dealt bitterly with her (verse 20); and that the Lord had testified against her and brought calamity upon her (verse 21).  Consider this from the IVP Bible Background Commentary:

The cycle of nature (that had brought the famine) as well as disease and death were all in the hands of deity.  It is natural then, that Naomi identifies Yahweh as the source of her misery.  It is important to note that this does not explicitly translate into blame.  She does not proclaim her innocence or seek vindication, and she does not openly call into question God’s justice.

Questions and Answers

9.  Why would Naomi tell the women of Bethlehem not to call her Naomi and to call her Mara instead?


Because the name Naomi means pleasant and the name Mara means bitter.  Naomi didn’t want to be called pleasant but thought she should be called Mara instead because of her bitter circumstances.

10. Based on your reading of chapter one, what do you think may have been a reason for God’s “bitter treatment” of Naomi (assuming her circumstances were in fact the result of God’s judgment)?


We do not know that her circumstances were the result of God’s judgment because the Bible doesn’t tell us that.  However, we do know that there are some things God may have not liked.  Consider this from the Book All the Women of the Bible by Herbert Lockyer:

In taking the initiative to go to Moab – a foreign country – from Bethlehem, Naomi’s husband stepped out of the will of God.  If the famine was a judgment upon the nation, Elimelech should have repented, tried to help his fellow countrymen back to God, and prayed for the removal of the scourge (Psalm 34:9, 10, 17). 

One may argue that Elimelech was wise in taking Naomi and her two sons out of a famine-stricken area to another land where there was sufficient food.  But Elimelech was a Hebrew, and as such had the promise, “In the days of famine, thou shalt be satisfied.” 

Elimelech means “My God is King.”  Had he truly believed God was his King, he would have stayed in Bethlehem, knowing that need could not throttle God who is able to furnish a table in the desert.  But Elimelech belied the name he bore when he left Bethlehem – “the House of Bread” – for Moab, meaning “waste” or nothingness.”  With his family he went from a place where God was honored to another land so heathen in its ways.  [Elimelech] had fled to Moab to escape a possible death from famine, and died in the midst of plenty leaving his wife a widow in a land of idolators.

Another commentator offers five factors in Israelite history that must be considered regarding Elimelech’s decision to go to Moab:

The Moabites’ contemptible origins in the incestuous relationship of Lot and his daughter. (Genesis 19:30:38)

The Moabites’ resistance to Israelite passage through their territory when they came from Egypt. Numbers 22-24

The Moabite women’s seduction of the Israelites and the latter’s subsequent punishment. Numbers 22-24

Israel’s constitutional exclusion of Moab from the assembly of the LORD. Deuteronomy 23:3-6

The recent oppression of the Israelites by Eglon the king of Moab. Judges 3:15-30

From: D.I. Block, New American Commentary, Volume 6, Judges and Ruth

Yet, the Bible doesn’t specifically state that God punished Elimelech’s family for anything at all but it seems to reason that in seeking to preserve his life he actually lost it; which leads to the conclusion that God’s blessing and favor was not on him, his widow, his two sons, or their widows.  Therefore, God’s punishment may have been on him because he left Judah for Moab.

11.  Have you tried to fix problems in your life using your own methods, talents, and schemes; and then in hindsight seen how only God could have fixed your problem?

Your Answer Here

Questions and Answers

12.  Here’s some background information from a book titled Illustrated Manners and Customs of the Bible on the significance of the death of a husband in biblical times.  It helps us understand the context of the story for this Ruth Bible study.

The death of a husband always has far reaching consequences for his family.  The people of biblical times were no exception.  After a period of mourning, the widowed wife might follow several courses of action.

If she was childless, she was expected to continue living with her husband’s family, according to levirate law (Deuteronomy 25:5-10).  She was to marry one of her husband’s brothers or a near kinsman.  If these men were not available, she was free to marry outside the clan (see verse 9).

Widows with children had other options open to them.  From the deuterocanonical Book of Tobit we learn that some moved back to the family of their father or brother (Tobit 1:8).  If the widow were elderly one of her sons might care for her.  If she had become financially secure, she might live alone.  For example, Judith neither nor moved into the home of a relative, for “her husband Manasses had left her gold, and silver, and menservants and maidservants, and cattle, and lands; and she remained upon this estate (Judith 8:7).” 

Occasionally a widow was penniless and had no male relative to depend on. Such women faced great hardships (cf. 1 Kings 17:8-15; 2 Kings 4:1-7).

As you can see having a husband to produce an heir was a big issue in the culture of the Old Testament in which this story takes place.  Find two verses from chapter one that reflect this.


Here are 3 verses:

  • Verse 9 -- “Rest in the house of your husband”
  • Verse 11 -- Don’t go with me – I have no sons that can become husbands for you
  • Verse 12 -- “I am too old to have a husband” – in other words - I can’t take care of you
  • Verse 12 -- The hope of a husband and sons

13.  How can we be faithful to people like Ruth is to Naomi?


It’s important to know that meaningful relationships are ones that are built on faith and not a focus on self but loving others as we wish to be loved (Matthew 22:39). Everything else is superficial.

14.  What can we learn about the character of God from the following verses?

  • Verse 6
  • Verses 8-9
  • Verse 16
  • Verse 17


With minor exception, the name Yahweh is consistently used in the Book of Ruth according to R.L. Hubbard Jr. in The New International Commentary, and God’s character as the covenant God of Israel is revealed in the verses below.  As Israel’s covenant God he:

  • Verse 6 – broke the famine in Judah by giving them bread
  • Verses 8-9 – God is invoked to answer prayer
  • Verse 16 – the refuge of God is sought
  • Verse 17 – God is the one who guarantees oaths

Questions and Answers

15.  What influence have you made in someone’s life like Naomi made in Ruth’s life? Do you point others to God?

Your Answer Here

16.  What spoke to you the most so far in this Ruth Bible study?

Your Answer Here

God can use you to point others to himself.

But how can God do that if you are unwilling to be used by Him – the creator of the universe?   Consider this poem.

If God Could

If God can hang the stars on high,

Can paint the clouds that drift on by;

Can send the sun across the sky,

What could He do through you?

If He can send a storm through space,

And dot with trees the mountain’s face;

If He, the sparrow’s way can trace,

What could He do through you?


If God can do such little things

As count our hairs, or birds that sing,

Control the universe that swings,

What could He do through you?

G. E. Wagoner

Download the poem above as a pdf file