In the story of Ruth and Naomi, the overarching concern is for economic security, and its close cousin, food security. When their husbands die in chapter 1, Naomi and Ruth lose the income their husbands had brought into the household. With fewer economic resources, Naomi and Ruth are now more vulnerable to poverty and hunger. Their present is dicey; their future is precarious. In their search for greater economic security, Naomi and Ruth agree to leave the land of Moab and emigrate to the land of Israel, where Naomi owns a small plot of land near Bethlehem (4:3). This plot of land is their only significant asset in the world. So off to Israel these two women go.
When they finally arrive in Bethlehem, Naomi and Ruth are hungry. They have virtually no money for food; and while Naomi does own that plot of land, dirt is not something you can eat. Therefore at the beginning of chapter two, their immediate crisis is the very real possibility of starvation. They need something to eat. Now. And they will need more food for the rest of this week and for the week after that and for the long succession of weeks after that. Where and how to get all this food? How will they live? How will they survive?
Their situation is dire, so they must act quickly. You would expect that Naomi would take charge of this situation. After all, this is her home village. She knows lots of people here in Bethlehem, and they know her. Moreover, she’s the older of the two women; and as the mother-in-law, she should be the one taking charge, strategizing plans, making contacts, and getting this problem solved. But she inexplicably does nothing. She procrastinates, and we don’t know why. Is she trapped in depression? Is she in a dark night? Do her problems seem so overwhelming that she’s immobilized? Whatever the case, Naomi dawdles.
- Ruth 3:1 - 18