Famine in the House of Bread

from Lynda Lindsey

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

Boaz to Ruth: “Come here and eat some bread and dip your morsel in the wine.” So she sat beside the reapers, and he passed to her roasted grain. And she ate until she was satisfied, and she had some left over.  Ruth 2:14

And she (Ruth) took it up and went into the city. Her mother-in-law saw what she had gleaned. She also brought out and gave her what food she had left over after being satisfied. Ruth 2:18

A severe famine, a widespread scarcity of food, can be brought on by lengthy drought, resulting in crop failure, malnutrition, starvation, epidemics, and increased mortality. Israel, in the days of the judges was experiencing a physical famine; but even worse, there was also a spiritual famine. It was a time of lawlessness, of spiritual and civil anarchy. It was a chaotic and disordered time. People spurned God and did what was right in their own eyes until God eventually left them to their vile practices. In such times of heightened evil, even Samson was unaware when the Lord departed from him. 

During the days of the judges a family from Bethlehem, headed by Elimelech, along with his wife Naomi, fled to Moab to avoid the ongoing famine. Eventually the man died, his sons grew up, took Moabite wives, and then the sons also died. Ruth, hearing that the Lord had visited His people and given them food, set out to return home. One daughter-in-law stayed behind, but Ruth, refusing to leave Naomi, clung fast and was determined to embrace not just a new homeland, but the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Out of tragedy and difficult circumstances, hope began to emerge. 

God promised abundant harvests in the land, conditional upon Israel’s obedience; idolatry would provoke God to withhold rain resulting in fruitlessness and famine. Famine in Bethlehem (the house of bread) describes the spiritual ruin of God’s people. People that should have celebrated God’s abundance, His inexhaustible provision, and His bounteous plentitude experienced lack, scarcity, and death. Refusing to be nourished by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God, the people hungered. Into this milieu comes Ruth who, at Boaz’s invitation, eats and is satisfied! Hope arises!