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The Sojourn In Moab

Family Devotions:
M. Moab, God’s Washpot..............................................................................Psalm 108:7-13
T. Moab Could Not Curse Israel...................................................................Numbers 22:1-12
W. Moab and the Congregation of the Lord..................................................Deuteronomy 23:1-5
T Israel Not Allowed to Pass Through Moab................................................Judges 11:12-18
F. Seduced by Moab - Judged by God............................................................Numbers 25:1-5
S. Servitude to Moab.......................................................................................Judges 3:12-14
S. Victory over Moab......................................................................................Judges 3:15-30

Devotional Reading: Isaiah 43:1-7

Memory Selection: “Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding". (Proverbs 3:5).

Lesson Scripture: Ruth 1:16-18


Moab was located to the east of Judah, across the Salt Sea, or Dead Sea, as we refer to it today. It was situated just below the tribe of Reuben which came down about half way the length of the Salt Sea. The distance from Bethlehem to the closest region of Moab was probably no more than about fifty miles, as the crow flies. If Elimelech and his family crossed the Salt Sea, the journey would not have taken a great deal of time, even with their slow mode of transportation. More important than the distance they traveled were the cultural lines they crossed and the religious implications.

They left their home in Bethlehem and became strangers, or sojourners, in the land of Moab, which had on occasion been hostile to God’s people, Israel. Balak, king of Moab, was afraid of the Israelites and tried to hire Balaam to curse them. God would not allow him to curse His people, and so the Moabites seduced them in order to invoke God’s wrath upon Israel. Understandably, tensions persisted through the years because a Moabite was not allowed to “enter the congregation of the Lord, even to the tenth generation” (Deuteronomy 23:3). Elimelech, Naomi, Mahlon and Chilion may not have intended to become permanent residents, but for an extended period of time they settled there and sojourned with the inhabitants of Moab.

Life in Moab

(Please read Ruth 1:1-5.)

1. It important for us to know that these events took place during the period of the judges. Discuss the repeated occurrence of sin and how the judges were involved.

2. Elimelech’s family of four went to Moab as a family unit; therefore, what affected one, to some degree also affected the other members of the family. Discuss our impact on the lives of others.

The first verse gives us a bit of important information when it tells us that the incidents of this book occurred during the period of the judges. It was a time of ups and downs for Israel; they would drift away from God and be given over to sinful indulgences. When they became sinful, God would send His just judgments upon them but He would also raise up a judge to lead them back to Him. Time and time again they repeated this cycle of rebellion and repentance. Today as then, many never really understand how devastating the effects of sin can be, or how it affects our fellowship with God.

It was during the period “when the judges ruled,” that a famine came upon the land assigned to the Tribe of Judah. Most of us can only imagine the difficulty of famine for we have never experienced a real, lasting scarcity of food. It was during such difficulties that Elimelech made a decision which would forever affect the lives of his family. He chose to go to Moab, not to get food and return; instead, he carried his entire family there. The name Elimelech means God is King, but he chose to move his family into a land that did not acknowledge God’s lofty reign. Why would he do such a thing? The answer appears simple; food was more plentiful there and it would be easier to exist day by day. In doing so, he made the same mistake many others have repeatedly made through the years; he put temporal needs ahead of spiritual needs. In Moab he gained food for his family but not faith for their souls.

During their stay in Moab some awful events transpired. Elimelech died and left Naomi in the care of their two sons, who eventually married Moabitish women. We should notice that it was not until after Elimelech’s death that they married. Perhaps their father had reminded them that such unions were strictly forbidden by God or maybe while Elimelech lived they hoped some distant day to return home and marry. When their father died, either their restraints or their hopes were gone and they took wives of Moab.

Mahlon and his brother Chilion married Orpah and Ruth and apparently, some ten years later both of Naomi’s sons died. I cannot help but wonder if a genetic predisposition for poor health and early death, might have been passed on from father to sons. We shall never know about that, but we do know that all three males in the family died prematurely and their wives faced very difficult and lonely times.

Three Widows

(Please read Ruth 1:6-18.)

3. Initially Elimelech made a decision to move to Moab, but Naomi makes the decision to return home. Discuss any spiritual effects the move would have upon the three women.

4. Discuss Ruth’s devotion to Naomi and her God. How was God involved in the matter?

In this largest division of the chapter a chain reaction began to occur. Clearly Naomi did not want to remain in Moab until she died. She informed Orpah and Ruth of her decision to return alone to Bethlehem-Judah and sent them back to their individual families. Orpah was not all that difficult to convince and may have recognized that she would be equally uncomfortable in Naomi’s homeland. In any case, she took Naomi’s advice and returned to her family; however, Ruth was not so easily convinced. Apparently, she had grown to love Naomi and did not want to be separated from her. Nothing Naomi said convinced Ruth to return to her family and friends. She was adamantly set upon remaining with Naomi, regardless of where she might live. Returning to Bethlehem would certainly have been a dangerous trip for Naomi alone, but Ruth’s decision gave her needed company for the trip home. Ruth was a jewel of a person and a genuine blessing to Naomi. We have all been blessed to know people of such spiritual character that the lives of all who know them are enriched.

Verses sixteen and seventeen have blessed the hearts of many of God’s children. Some have even included those beautiful words in their wedding ceremonies. To Naomi, those words meant she would not return home alone, Ruth would be with her to the end of life’s road. Naomi gave no further arguments; she willingly conceded. Obviously, God’s hand was at work in the matter, to put Ruth in the lineage of our Saviour, Jesus Christ (Matthew 1:5).

Going Home

(Please read Ruth 1:19-22.)

5. By the blessings of God they arrived home safely. Can we really attribute such blessings to God’s care? Discuss our need for “traveling grace.”

6. Discuss Naomi’s complaint against God as recorded in Ruth 1:20-21.

In this last paragraph, virtually nothing is said about the trip home. God knew that none of the difficulties or pleasures of the trip could possibly compare to the greetings of loved ones and friends upon their arrival. God focused our attention completely upon their homecoming and it is almost as though they were transported through time and were suddenly home. The details of their journey seemed lost in their reunion.

No doubt, there was a wide range of emotions as family and friends welcomed Naomi back, but they are the feelings of Naomi that are most interesting here. She seemed to speak harshly about God and yet it was her husband who took her to a strange land. Sometimes, when loved ones die, those left behind become angry with God. For some, blaming God is the easiest way to deal with the disappointments of life. People often do as Naomi; they ignore mortal failures and quickly criticize the Almighty. While some become filled with bitterness and resentments, others graciously accept their loss. Oh, to be like Job when he said, “...the LORD gave, and the LORD hath taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD” (Job 1:21). In her grief, Naomi said, “I went out full,” but had they been “full,” they never would have left home in the first place. It was a lean and difficult time when they left Bethlehem, but maybe she had forgotten how difficult it really was. Do we not all do that as the years unfold themselves? We remember hard times but they do not seem so difficult as we look back because time and circumstances have changed our perspective.

Naomi also failed to understand how richly God had blessed her in her return home. She thought so longingly at what she had lost that she failed to recognize how lovingly God had blessed her. She said, “the Lord hath brought me home again empty.” At that moment Naomi seemed to have overlooked the importance of Ruth. Of course she loved Ruth, but a bitter spirit had blinded her heart to the great treasure she had brought home. She was not empty! Naomi was still alive, she had family and friends gathered with her and she had with her that wonderful Moabitish woman we have all come to love through the years. Amidst her grief and mourning, while sharing her loss, she neglected to say, I have the finest daughter-in-law anyone could possibly want. Let us take care to guard our souls against the blinding powers of loss; instead, let us give thanks to God for all He has done.

While Naomi sojourned in Moab, God was still on His throne, and had richly blessed her in spite of her losses. In reality, God has blessed all of us in ways we have not fully understood. Consider these truths: God gave His Son to die for our sins on the cruel cross of Calvary (I Corinthians 15:3-4). He quickened us by the Holy Spirit in the new birth (Ephesians 2:1) so as to make us new creatures in Christ Jesus (II Corinthians 5:17). God has given us His inspired Word to help us understand His love and grace (II Timothy 3:16-17). He also provides daily bread and forgiveness of sins (Matthew 6:11-12), and a host of blessings too numerous to list or mention (James 1:17). Yet, so often, like Naomi, we spend precious time complaining rather than thanking God for His priceless gifts. Paul said, “In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you” (I Thessalonians 5:18).


There is a Divine and human side to this lesson. The Divine side reveals God at work in this world and our personal lives. He was at work in the days of Ruth or would she have been included in the lineage of Christ. Sometimes His work is clearly seen and at other times it is concealed even to the point that we are unaware of His power. In either case, we should acknowledge God in all our ways (Proverbs 3:6).

On the human side, we consider many lessons that remind us of our responsibility to God and our fellow man. We should be encouraged to spend more time in prayer, that we may understand God’s will. The Bible is also a great source of instruction and encouragements, enabling us to know and to do His will. Woven throughout this lesson there are “mirror experiences,” times when we look at ourselves in the “mirror” of God’s Word (James 1:23). When we look at ourselves through the perspective of His Divine truth, we clearly see our need of Him. Let us always examine our daily lives in the light of our Lord Jesus Christ (John 8:12).

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This page last updated on June 17, 2014