1 Now it came to pass in the days when the judges [ yamim when HaShofetim] ruled, that there was a famine [ra'av] in the land. And a certain man [Elimelech] of Bethlehemjudah [ish of Beit-Lechem Yehudah] went to sojourn in the country of Moab [sadei Moav], he, and his wife [isha], and his two sons [banim].
The judges (shophetim) ... acted as vice-regents of Yahweh, as His deputies, ruling on His behalf. He was the real King in Israel (Judges 8:23), though the people often revolted against His rule.
"There was no king in Israel" - Judges 18:1*
...There was great hunger throughout the land. It was the means whereby Yahweh punished His people because of sin ...
if ye will not yet for all this hearken unto me, then I will punish you seven times more for your sins Lev 26: 18
The worst famine, however, is a lack of the Word.
"Behold, the days come, saith the Lord Yahweh, that I will send a famine in the land, not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of Yahweh...In that day shall the fair virgins and young men faint for thirst" - Amos 8:11-13.
The dispersion of Israel was foreshadowed by Elimelech leaving Bethlehem to seek bread elsewhere.
The Christadelphian Expositor
The description of Elimelech as "a certain man" indicates that he was well known in Bethlehem, and that he was a prominent citizen of the town. This is further suggested by the reception Naomi receives on her return, and the connection of the family with the wealthy and prominent Boaz.*
Rachel died in giving birth to Benjamin, and before her death called him Ben-oni, or The Son of my sorrow. But his father changed his name to Benjamin.
Then Herod... slew all the children that were in Bethlehem...Rachel weeping for her children, would not be comforted - Matt 2: 16
To Israel after the flesh, the Lord was "a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief," but his Father called him to the heavens, and constituted him [Benjamin] the Son of His Right Hand - Psa 80: 17.
Went to sojourn
- Lit. To dwell as a foreigner or stranger
Apparently the original intention of Elimelech was to remain separate from the people of Moab; but gradually its influence involved him more and more. In similar manner, Israelites in dispersion, gradually assimilated the culture and teaching of the countries where they were driven, and finally adopted their manner of life.
Notice how the influence of their environment gradually dominated Elimelech and his family. The sojourning of v. 1, merges into the continuing of v. 2, and finally becomes the dwelling there of v. 4. Three steps of decline in which their original resolve to return was forgotten.
In the country of Moab
- Moab was situated east and south-east of the Dead Sea, and occupied a stretch of land about 50 miles long by 30 miles wide. It consisted of high tablelands 2,300 to 3,300 feet above sea level, and could be clearly seen from Bethlehem. The soil is extremely fertile and produces large crops of wheat. It is known as the "green plateau," be-cause of the rich, luxuriant growth of pasture and crops, especially in its well watered canyons and hollows. Strictly the area was south of the River Arnon - Num. 21: 13,26; Jud. 11: 18.
..."Moab" signifies one derived from a father, that is, one born of the flesh. He was the son of Lot's elder daughter, and was conceived in sin, through incest - Gen. 19: 37. The Moabites were known for their hostility towards Israel. It was a king of Moab who hired the Babylonish prophet, Balaam, to curse Israel - Num. 22:7, and the daughters of Moab who caused the people to commit whoredom and bow down to pagan gods - Num. 25: 1-3