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. The name of the man was Elimelech and the name of his wife Naomi, and the names of his two sons were Mahlon and Chilion. They were Ephrathites from Bethlehem in Judah. They went into the country of Moab and remained there. But Elimelech, the husband of Naomi, died, and she was left with her two sons. These took Moabite wives; the name of the one was Orpah and the name of the other Ruth. They lived there about ten years, and both Mahlon and Chilion died, so that the woman was left without her two sons and her husband. (Ruth 1:1-5 ESV)
Bethlehem. We know the town well today because it was the birthplace of Jesus. In Naomi’s day it was a little-known spot on the landscape of southern Israel. However everyone knew what the name meant–the house of bread. Ironically enough Elimelech and Naomi were from the aristocratic Ephrathite clan living in the House of Bread and they couldn’t find anything to eat. There was a famine in the land. When God decides He’s going to send a famine, the house of bread isn’t exempt from his disciplining hand.
Elimelech and Naomi ran–to Moab. Moab was a stretch of land east of the Dead Sea. It wasn’t part of Israel–as a matter of fact it was settled by the descendants of a tragic incestuous relationship between Lot (Abraham’s nephew) and his daughter. The Moabites’ heritage wasn’t anything to write home about. However, it isn’t the Moabites’ family tree that is most surprising in light of Naomi’s plight–it is the meaning of the word “Moab” itself. Moab means “seed of father.”
Think about it. Naomi left the House of Bread because she couldn’t find bread. She went to the “Seed of Father” and lost both her sons. You can run but you can’t hide. Bethlehem starved Naomi and Moab robbed her of her sons. The House of Bread and the Seed of Father came up empty.
Corrie Ten Boom said, “There are no ‘if’s’ in God’s world. And no places that are safer than other places. The center of His will is our only safety – let us pray that we may always know it!”