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. Then she arose with her daughters-in-law to return from the country of Moab, for she had heard in the fields of Moab that the LORD had visited his people and given them food.
Comment: After Moses died Joshua led the people of Israel into the Promised land. When he died there was still a lot of land to be conquered which was done gradually. There was no designated leader but until a king was appointed a number of Judges controlled the people. This time span after the death of Joshua is estimated to be about 350 years. No one knows how old Joshua was when he died.
At sometime during this period there was a large famine and Elimelech took Naomi, his wife, and his two sons into the land of Moab. No doubt he was driven by desperation. These six verses obviously cover some time as the husband died and the two sons married and died within this time. The wife, Naomi, was left destitute with two daughters-in-law without husbands. The daughters-in-law were Moabites but the Israelite Naomi had no heritage and no helpers in the land.
She heard that the famine in Israel was over and decided to return to her own land. Initially the two daughters in law leave with her. It must have been very trying times for the three of them.
Prayer: Life is not always easy for us, O Lord. Help us to return to our faith roots when we tend to stray.