"Wherever you go, I will go; and wherever you lodge, I will lodge; your people shall be my people, and your God, my God." Ruth 1:16
A Famine in the Land
In the days when the Judges ruled, there was a famine in the land of Israel. Elimelech took his wife, Naomi and their two sons, Mahlon and Chilion, away from Bethlehem, Judea, to the country of Moab. Bethlehem means 'the house of bread' and yet there was famine in Bethlehem. The land flowing with milk and honey was being judged by the Lord with famine. The name Elimelech means 'my God a King'. Naomi means 'pleasant'. However, their childrens' names were Mahlon (sickness) and Chilion (consumption). It must have been a terrible time in the history of Israel.
The rabbis of Israel believed that Elimelech's family left Israel in the days of Ehud, and that Naomi and Ruth returned during the judgeship of Deborah. It is also believed that Samuel edited and included the book of Ruth in the Scriptures.
Disobedience Leads to Disaster
By taking his family for so long into the land of the heathen, Elimelech dishonoured God and set a bad example. His sons married Moabite women and Orpah is said to have returned to her gods (1:15). It does not appear that the Moabite women converted to the Jewish religion before their marriage to the sons of Elimelech. Naomi lost her husband Elimelech, and then her children. The country of Moab now held no attraction at all. Naomi determined to return to Bethlehem.