One phrase I keep hearing as I have been preparing to write my book is, “Do your homework.” If I don’t live in the area that I am writing about and I don’t know the culture of the time, then it stands to reason that I can’t write very much about it if I don’t do some research. Sooo.
As I launched into my venture as an author, I was met with that challenge right away! My book is about Ruth, of the Bible and, well, I got stuck in the very first verse! It says, “there was a famine in the land.” Whoever was writing the book may have thought that the ones who would been reading it would have known a probable cause to the famine. Also, since they would have been familiar with the Bible, I’m sure they have known the warning given by God that famine would be a consequence of certain national behaviors. But, I am not them and, although I can conclude from scripture that God was the who that caused the famine, (there is scripture that says that), I don’t know for sure what caused the famine. And, quite honestly, historians aren’t sure either.
A famine could be the result of a natural disaster. We’ve seen several disasters of “nature” these past two months, and it’s been hard to watch others suffer. (for example, see my previous post about Puerto Rico.) Any “famine” we may have seen here in the U.S. recently is temporary. When I think of long term famine, I automatically think, “drought”. Areas in Africa have faced famine due to decades of drought. In the 1930s, great droughts followed by great swarms of locusts caused a widespread famine in our American mid-western farmlands. Those years of drought were also accompanied with vast dust bowls, rendering farmlands infertile. The whole country was affected by it and at the same time, economic disaster was happening. My father lived through it as a child. I’ve heard his stories of rations and other challenges of the time. Images show sad people with no work and wearing ragged clothes. It caused many people to move about, looking for food and work.
So, one thing for sure: the Lord tell the Israelites that if they worship other gods, he will send them famine. After researching and putting two and two together, I think that a natural disaster is not the answer to the question, “what caused the famine?”. Let me explain.
Joshua had died, and within a generation, they had given up on inhabiting all of the land God had told them to inhabit and many compromises of faith were made with those people groups that they had failed to conquer. (It wasn’t fully conquered and Israel was not fully united until several hundred years later under King David.) The result-scripture tells us that neighboring enemies were wreaking havoc on them! And they were quite sneaky! They would allow the Israelites to live a fairly normal life. Fields would be planted and animals were raised and farmed. But, when it was time for the harvest, the enemy would come and steal it! Free labor! The story of Gideon gives us a bit more detail about it, but this kind of invasion was not isolated to that time and place. Marauding armies came against all the separate tribes at different times and in varying ways. The tribe of Judah was no exception with Philistines as neighbors. In addition, the Israelite tribes were still disjointed and seldom came to each other’s aid to conquer enemies of their fellow tribes.
This can explain a reason why Elimelech, who is said to be a rich man, decided to temporarily relocate to a nearby country, Moab.
Can you imagine having to watch over your shoulder never knowing if the enemy will come? Can you imagine having land but unable to keep the produce? Even if I am wrong, and it was a natural disaster, such as drought, the resulting famine would have been severe enough to cause a man to leave everything. The more I try to imagine this, the more I know I can’t! Yet, we see this happening in Puerto Rico, even today, having to relocate because the prospect of returning to work is just not there.
Tomorrow, I have a guest writing about what it’s like to live in South Africa with that sense of having to be aware of your surroundings, knowing that safety can be taken in a moments notice.
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Lots of love,