Ruth 1:1 Parallel Verses [⇓ See commentary ⇓]

Ruth 1:1, NIV: In the days when the judges ruled, there was a famine in the land. So a man from Bethlehem in Judah, together with his wife and two sons, went to live for a while in the country of Moab.

Ruth 1:1, ESV: 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.

Ruth 1:1, KJV: 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.

Ruth 1:1, NASB: Now it came about in the days when the judges governed, that there was a famine in the land. And a man of Bethlehem in Judah went to reside in the land of Moab with his wife and his two sons.

Ruth 1:1, NLT: In the days when the judges ruled in Israel, a severe famine came upon the land. So a man from Bethlehem in Judah left his home and went to live in the country of Moab, taking his wife and two sons with him.

Ruth 1:1, CSB: During the time of the judges, there was a famine in the land. A man left Bethlehem in Judah with his wife and two sons to stay in the territory of Moab for a while.

What does Ruth 1:1 mean? [⇑ See verse text ⇑]

Without Moses and Joshua as national leaders, the Israelites do as they wish (Judges 17:6; 18:1; 21:25), including worshiping the idols referred to as Baals and Ashtaroth (Judges 2:11–13). God had warned the Israelites of many potential curses they would experience if they disobeyed Him; famine is on the list (Leviticus 26:18–20). Faced with starvation in the region of Judah around Bethlehem, an Israelite man named Elimelech (Ruth 1:2) takes his wife Naomi and their sons, Mahlon and Chilion, to Moab.

Moab has a poisonous relationship with Israel. Its founder was the son of drunken incestuous relations between Abraham's nephew Lot and Lot's daughter (Genesis 19:30–38). When the Israelites passed Moab on their way into the Promised Land, the Moabite king first tried to curse God's people and then lured them with women (Numbers 22:1—25:9). God punished the Moabites by banning them from temple worship for ten generations, and Israelites were not to "seek their peace or their prosperity" forever (Deuteronomy 23:3–6). Throughout the time of the judges, the Israelites oscillated between conquering the Moabites or being conquered by them. For an Israelite family to settle in Moab to escape God's judging famine must have been humiliating, especially since "Elimelech" means "my God is king."

"Bethlehem in Judah" differentiates the town from the Bethlehem in Zebulun. "Bethlehem" means "house of bread" which makes the famine even more ironic and tragic. "Sojourn" is a specific term. It means the family aren't migrants passing through with minimal legal protection, but neither are they residents with full legal protection.

The "days when the judges ruled" were between the time of Joshua's death and Saul's coronation as king (Joshua 24:29; 1 Samuel 10); scholars disagree on the timing, but it was roughly between 1350 and 1050 BC.

The specific time in which Ruth lives is also debated. Some think it was between the judges Ehud (Judges 3:26–30) and Jephthah (Judges 11:4–6), around 1275–1100 BC, when Israel dominated Moab. Others look to the genealogy in Ruth 4:18–22 and consider that even if Boaz, Obed, and Jesse were old when their sons were born, a date later in the era of the judges would be more appropriate. Jesse is described as "advanced in years" when David defeats Goliath (1 Samuel 17:12), but he is still alive when David reaches adulthood (1 Samuel 22:3).