Skip to main content

Digging Deeper: Ruth Chapter 1 Bible Study

I'm a daughter, granddaughter & niece of pastors. I love God & studying the Bible and want to empower others to do the same.


Symbols code: ⇩ Digging Deeper option

M Memory verse suggestion

➤Optional Activity


Read Ruth Chapter 1. Write out any verses, phrases or anything that stands out to you here:


Read verse 1. Bethlehem means “House of Bread.” It was also the future birthplace of Jesus, the Bread of Life. Yet at this time there was a famine in this city in Israel. The famine was so bad that this family left their home and moved to a place called Moab. Moab was a town named after the son of one of the daughters of Lot (Gen. 19:37), the nephew of Abraham. The Moabites were distant cousins of the line of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob/Israel. Read Deut. 23:3-6. The generation of Israelites that built the Tabernacle were not allowed to seek what from the Moabites and for how many generations?

Yet roughly 100 years later (according to a timeline most scholars believed for the death of Moses in 1406 B.C. and the story of Ruth between 1290 B.C. and 1100 B.C.), barely one or two generations later, these starving people chose to go against Moses’ command and live in Moab. We see another hint of why Moses issued this warning in verses 3 and 15.

What is the meanest thing you’ve said or done because you were hungry?

Though we need to obey the Lord no matter the circumstances, does a famine explain (not justify) why this man left Israel and disobeyed Deut. 23:6? Why or why not?

Remember that despite our sin and shame, there is no place God’s grace cannot reach us, nothing He cannot redeem us from if we’ll turn back to Him, nothing that surprises Him or makes Him throw His hands up in desperation that now we’ve allegedly ruined His plans beyond all hope. Keep that and the word “redemption” in mind as we read this book.

⇩ Digging Deeper option: For a bit of history on the Moabites prior to this, read Numbers 22.


Read verse 2. Elimelech means “My God is King.” Naomi means “pleasant” or “delightful.” We’ll see the significance of Naomi’s name (and a change of it) later. An Ephrathite is someone from Ephrath, or an Israelite from the tribe of Ephraim. Ephraim was a grandson of Jacob/Israel and son of the Joseph who had a coat of many colors and was sold as a slave by his brothers. (Gen.37) Joseph also is one of the twelve tribes of Israel. This Joseph’s story was a redemption story as well, again and again. Another Joseph, Jesus’ earthly “father”, was a descendant of Judah, the brother of Joseph and another one of the twelve tribes.

Optional Activity: Have you ever looked up the meaning of your names, and if so, what do they each mean?

What would the combined meanings say about you if you were to put them together into a sentence about yourself?


Read verse 3. Widows at this time typically had no way of providing for themselves, unless they previously owned land (Prov. 31:16). Naomi had left her and her husband’s homeland. They were “resident aliens” in Moab. Grown sons could earn a living and provide for their mother. However, what do you think Naomi might have been going through emotionally, mentally, and financially as a result of these circumstances?


Read verse 4. Read Deut. 21:10-13. Some think these verses create allowance for Naomi’s sons marrying Moabite women. But the Israelites were also given a warning about marrying women of a different religion. Read Exodus 34:15-16. While we don’t know if Orpah and Ruth did this with their husbands, we do know that Orpah returns to her people and their ancestral gods later in verse 15. Orpah comes from the Hebrew word “oreph” meaning literally “back of the neck” and is translated to mean stubborn or strong-necked, obstinate. Ruth means “friendship.” Read through this whole first chapter and explain how these names are appropriate for each woman:



Calvin Coolidge said: “Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. The slogan 'Press On!' has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race.”

How can stubbornness or persistence be a positive thing, applied to the right thing, and even be a necessary quality for success in some fields or with certain accomplishments? (look up how many submissions some famous authors had to make before a publishing company accepted their manuscripts, or how many times it took Edison to invent the incandescent lightbulb)

➤Optional Activity: Look up what celebrity’s real name is Orpah.




Read verses 4-7. What tragedy happened to Naomi and her daughters-in-law?

Why was this devastating to them?

What did Naomi decide to do as a result?


Read verses 8-9. What did Naomi tell her daughters-in-law to do?

What does this suggest about the daughters—were they elderly, infertile women like her?

Some versions of verse 9 put the word “new” in front of the word husband. What blessings did Naomi speak over the two women with her?


Read verses 8 and 10. “Faithful love” or “lovingkindness” or “kindness” mentioned in verse 8 is the Hebrew word “hesed” or “chesed.” It can mean goodness, kindness, lovingkindness, and faithfulness, and it is abundant. What kind of wives and daughters does verse 8 suggest Ruth and Orpah were based on the use of the word hesed?

What did Orpah and Ruth reply to Naomi and why do you think they argued with her request?


Read verses 11-13. What was Naomi’s return argument to her daughters-in-law and why do you think she brought up those points (again remembering their financial situation in this society)?

⇩ Digging Deeper option: Questions to keep in mind after you finish this book of the Bible: Sometimes God’s hand is against us (Job 1:21, 2:10) for example at times when we sin unrepentantly, choosing to remain in wickedness. Was Naomi’s life really “too bitter to share” and the Lord’s hand against her as she states here, or did it merely seem that way at the time because of her circumstances?

When has life ever felt that way to you and how did things turn out?

What makes things seem hopeless, and yet looking back, we realize they weren’t, but part of a grander purpose we couldn’t see at the time?


Read verses 14-15. What was Orpah’s final response to Naomi?

What did Ruth do in verse 14? ___________________ What are some synonyms for this verb?

What did Orpah go back to?

When we are in distress or sorrow, why do we often regress to unhealthy habits, and which ones do you struggle to resist when tired, frustrated, or discouraged?

What truths, promises, songs, good habits, or verses can you use to help yourself get back on track at times of weakness? (Personally, I have a list of verses/promises in the Bible by topic, I get alone to pray and pour it all out, and I also keep unfinished lists I can add to, of things I love or enjoy when I’m tempted toward despair or hopelessness that help pull me out. I also go for walks—especially in nature—or run my anger out, or hug a loved one, or laugh at silly jokes and memes, or I pray verses or read books that teach me something so my brain is more concerned with learning a new thing and refocuses. I go through my list of tactics that have worked in the past until one realigns my thinking and behavior.)




Read verses 16-17. M - Memory verse suggestion: Consider writing out verse 16 somewhere, in whole or part to memorize. What does Ruth vow or what oath does she make?

Read Deut. 23:21-23. According to these verses, why should we not take lightly that/what Ruth vowed?


Read verse 18. What adjective/descriptive word is used for Ruth’s attitude about her decision?

How does that relate to the earlier Calvin Coolidge quote and Ruth's sister-in-law, especially since they both had this trait, but aimed at different things?

As a result of this trait of Ruth's, what did Naomi stop doing?

This showed an obvious amount of respect from Naomi to Ruth. Anyone who truly respects us ought to respect the healthy rules and boundaries we set down for ourselves, even if they don’t always agree with them, not try to compromise our convictions.

In this case, Ruth was in the right, and Naomi was merely trying to protect her from what she probably thought of as an added burden. God never sees us as a burden, and promises to take care of our needs (Phil. 4:19, Ps. 23:1, Matt. 6:25-34).

But it is also wise to listen to and at least consider the counsel of older Christians, even if God reveals to us that their advice isn’t applicable to our current situation. This is why we need to rely on God’s Word and Holy Spirit living in the hearts of His followers, as well as godly counsel, and that of more than just one person (though it is possible for a group of believers to believe falsehood and speak untruth or bad advice as well).

It is also wise to remove ourselves from the influence and company of those who do not respect or who try to push our boundaries to what merely pleases them, or makes them more comfortable, or their life more convenient at the expense of others.

How did Ruth act wisely in verses 16-18? (this question will be further and fully answerable at the end of the book—feel free to revisit it later and write what you've learned)


Read verses 19-21. Where did the women return to?


What did Naomi mean?

What did she change her name to? ____________ Why? (answer using verse 20 and 21)

Again, keep in mind that this is Naomi’s perception at the time, but the Lord often has purposes we cannot imagine, even in awful situations. “For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” -Jeremiah 29:11

Joseph, from whom Naomi’s husband received his lineage, said in Genesis 50:20: “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.”

If you are ever in such a state as Naomi, read Job 2:10, 5:17, 23:13-14; 1 Sam. 3:18; James 1:12, 5:11.




Read verse 22. Where and when did Naomi and Ruth arrive?

Barley is used in breads, soups, stews, puddings and breakfast porridges. It is also used to make beer. The “spent grain” that remains from the beginning “mash” leftovers after fermenting in this process makes excellent animal feed, particularly for pigs and cows, and can lead to better milk production for cows. Spent grain can also be dried, ground into flour, and used in small quantities in baking, adding more fiber and protein to the whole than regular flour would have, because of the malted grains.

In ancient Israel, barley was harvested in the spring, in late March or early April, before wheat and oats which weren’t ready until late May. Barley can also stand up well against harsh climates, unlike some grains. Much of Israel is desert, so this would have been a very valuable and sustainable crop, particularly since wheat needs much more rain than barley does. It would have survived drought better.

Vegetables also were difficult to grow, so much of the average ancient Israelite’s diet consisted largely of grains like barley, oats, sesame, flax, millet, and wheat, then of lentils, chickpeas, and meats, and finally of whatever fruits were native to their individual area such as olives, grapes, pomegranates, figs, raisins, and dates.

The Festival of Unleavened Bread, which begins with Passover, represents the exodus of the Israelites from Egypt. It is a celebration of God saving them from slavery and the power of the cruel taskmaster Pharaoh, who wished to be treated as a god and worshiped (Ex. 23:15, 19). The people were to take unleavened bread with them when they left, in a hurry, with no time to wait for the dough to rise. This festival is usually celebrated in the spring, in April or late March, when typically only barley would be ready as the grain for their bread.

Barley would have been the first grain harvested each year, and it therefore also represented the first of each year’s firstfruits grain offering given at the Temple, in sacrifice to the One True God (Neh. 10:35, Lev. 2). Jesus Himself was also called the firstfruits from the dead, bringing everyone a chance at resurrection and new life in Him (1 Cor. 15:20-23). Before He died, Jesus ate the Last Supper with His disciples. They ate unleavened bread (Matt. 26:17-30), and Jesus again talked about His body being the bread which was broken for them, for all of us. Jesus’ earthly father Joseph was a descendant of Ruth, for whom barley harvesting will play a significant role in the next chapters (Matt. 1). Jesus was also born in Bethlehem, the town Ruth has just arrived in as a foreigner.

⇩ Digging Deeper option: Read John 6 and answer—What did Jesus do with 5 small barley loaves?

Keep in mind that only the men were counted, so it could have been 15,000 or more people. Then later in this same chapter (verse 35), what does Jesus call Himself?

Why would that have had a special impact after He performed this miracle (verses 41-59)?


Conclusion of the chapter:

What verse or passage stood out to you most?

What are each of the promises in this chapter?

What verse are you working on memorizing?

What’s your biggest takeaway idea or lesson from this chapter?


© 2021 Amanda Lorenzo

Related Articles