Now Elimelek, Naomi’s husband, died, and she was left with her two sons. They married Moabite women, one named Orpah and the other Ruth. After they had lived there about ten years, both Mahlon and Kilion also died, and Naomi was left without her two sons and her husband.
When Naomi heard in Moab that the Lord had come to the aid of his people by providing food for them, she and her daughters-in-law prepared to return home from there. With her two daughters-in-law she left the place where she had been living and set out on the road that would take them back to the land of Judah.
Then Naomi said to her two daughters-in-law, “Go back, each of you, to your mother’s home. May the Lord show you kindness, as you have shown kindness to your dead husbands and to me. May the Lord grant that each of you will find rest in the home of another husband.”
Then she kissed them goodbye and they wept aloud and said to her, “We will go back with you to your people.”
But Naomi said, “Return home, my daughters. Why would you come with me? Am I going to have any more sons, who could become your husbands? Return home, my daughters; I am too old to have another husband. Even if I thought there was still hope for me—even if I had a husband tonight and then gave birth to sons—would you wait until they grew up? Would you remain unmarried for them? No, my daughters. It is more bitter for me than for you, because the Lord’s hand has turned against me!”
At this they wept aloud again. Then Orpah kissed her mother-in-law goodbye, but Ruth clung to her.
“Look,” said Naomi, “your sister-in-law is going back to her people and her gods. Go back with her.”
But Ruth replied, “Don’t urge me to leave you or to turn back from you. Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God. Where you die I will die, and there I will be buried. May the Lord deal with me, be it ever so severely, if even death separates you and me.” When Naomi realized that Ruth was determined to go with her, she stopped urging her.
So the two women went on until they came to Bethlehem. When they arrived in Bethlehem, the whole town was stirred because of them, and the women exclaimed, “Can this be Naomi?”
“Don’t call me Naomi,” she told them. “Call me Mara, because the Almighty has made my life very bitter. I went away full, but the Lord has brought me back empty. Why call me Naomi? The Lord has afflicted me; the Almighty has brought misfortune upon me.”
So Naomi returned from Moab accompanied by Ruth the Moabite, her daughter-in-law, arriving in Bethlehem as the barley harvest was beginning.
- Ruth 1:3-22
Now Naomi had a relative on her husband’s side, a man of standing from the clan of Elimelek, whose name was Boaz.
And Ruth the Moabite said to Naomi, “Let me go to the fields and pick up the leftover grain behind anyone in whose eyes I find favor.”
Naomi said to her, “Go ahead, my daughter.” So she went out, entered a field and began to glean behind the harvesters. As it turned out, she was working in a field belonging to Boaz, who was from the clan of Elimelek.
- Ruth 2:1-3
Her mother-in-law asked her, “Where did you glean today? Where did you work? Blessed be the man who took notice of you!”
Then Ruth told her mother-in-law about the one at whose place she had been working. “The name of the man I worked with today is Boaz,” she said.
“The Lord bless him!” Naomi said to her daughter-in-law. “He has not stopped showing his kindness to the living and the dead.” She added, “That man is our close relative; he is one of our guardian-redeemers.”
Then Ruth the Moabite said, “He even said to me, ‘Stay with my workers until they finish harvesting all my grain.’”
Naomi said to Ruth her daughter-in-law, “It will be good for you, my daughter, to go with the women who work for him, because in someone else’s field you might be harmed.”
So Ruth stayed close to the women of Boaz to glean until the barley and wheat harvests were finished. And she lived with her mother-in-law.
- Ruth 2:19-23
One day Ruth’s mother-in-law Naomi said to her, “My daughter, I must find a home for you, where you will be well provided for. Now Boaz, with whose women you have worked, is a relative of ours. Tonight he will be winnowing barley on the threshing floor. Wash, put on perfume, and get dressed in your best clothes. Then go down to the threshing floor, but don’t let him know you are there until he has finished eating and drinking. When he lies down, note the place where he is lying. Then go and uncover his feet and lie down. He will tell you what to do.”
“I will do whatever you say,” Ruth answered. So she went down to the threshing floor and did everything her mother-in-law told her to do.
- Ruth 3:1-6
When Ruth came to her mother-in-law, Naomi asked, “How did it go, my daughter?”
Then she told her everything Boaz had done for her and added, “He gave me these six measures of barley, saying, ‘Don’t go back to your mother-in-law empty-handed.’”
Then Naomi said, “Wait, my daughter, until you find out what happens. For the man will not rest until the matter is settled today.”
- Ruth 3:16-18
So Boaz took Ruth and she became his wife. When he made love to her, the Lord enabled her to conceive, and she gave birth to a son. The women said to Naomi: “Praise be to the Lord, who this day has not left you without a guardian-redeemer. May he become famous throughout Israel! He will renew your life and sustain you in your old age. For your daughter-in-law, who loves you and who is better to you than seven sons, has given him birth.”
Then Naomi took the child in her arms and cared for him. The women living there said, “Naomi has a son!” And they named him Obed. He was the father of Jesse, the father of David.
- Ruth 4:13-17
[Ruth 1:15-18] ”Naomi was trying to cover up, Orpah had given up, but Ruth was prepared to stand up! She refused to listen to her mother-in-law’s pleas or follow her sister-in-law’s bad example. Why? Because she had come to trust in the God of Israel (2: 12). She had experienced trials and disappointments, but instead of blaming God, she had trusted Him and was not ashamed to confess her faith. In spite of the bad example of her disobedient in-laws, Ruth had come to know the true and living God, and she wanted to be with His people and dwell in His land.”
- Warren W. Wiersbe, Be Committed
What Do We Know about their Relationship?
Naomi, her husband, and two sons left their farm outside Bethlehem and travelled to Moab during a famine. The Moabites were the descendants of an incestuous relationship between Lot, Abraham’s nephew, and Lot’s daughter. They worshipped false gods. The Moabites were enemies of the Israelites.
But with all that, the sons married Moabite women. But as the story begins, Naomi’s husband dies, then the two sons die. Naomi has no one other than her two daughters-in-law. The famine is over in Israel by this point. Naomi leaves for home, but someone has moved onto her land. They only way that she could have her land back is for someone to act as a kinsman-redeemer.
She encourages her daughters-in-law to stay. Orpah turns back and returns to Moab, but Ruth will not leave her mother-in-law. She swears to make Naomi’s God her God.
Ruth does as Naomi instructs, and Ruth tells Naomi everything that happened each day.
What Can We Infer about their Relationship?
In the various expressions of faith, or lost faith in Naomi at one point of depression, it is hard to know whether Naomi or Ruth is better versed in the Scriptures. To cook up the scheme of getting Boaz to be the kinsman-redeemer, it took their combined knowledge of the Levitical Law and the social customs of the day. I think that we can infer that Naomi studied the Scripture and passed it on to Ruth, and maybe Ruth did some study on her own.
In What Ways Can We Fill in the Gaps about their Relationship?
While a major gap to fill might be the spiritual attitude about Naomi’s husband and sons. Them dying in Moab seems to do two things – ridding Naomi of her reasons to stay in Moab and punishing the men in the family for leaving the Promised Land where God would provide for them. Yet, even then, God used the situation.
Orpah suddenly becomes a lost character in this story. Had Naomi planted a seed of the Israelite religion in her? If so, it shows that head knowledge of the true God is not a saving knowledge. Ruth committed herself and Orpah turned away.
What Can We Learn from this Relationship?
Even if we never have to leave the land of our birth, maybe not even the town where you were born, accepting Jesus can lead to everything in your life changing. The key is that we do as Ruth did, accept the true God and leave everything else behind.
There is a strong love bond between Naomi and Ruth. Ruth trusts Naomi and obeys. These two things, trusting and obeying, is what Jesus asks of us.
What Have We Learned thus far?
We have learned to:
- Own our own mistakes and not blame others.
- Be faithful to God, and worship properly, in the proper spirit.
- Go to God in prayer, especially before any major decisions.
- Do not show favoritism among family members, but always go to God.
- Forgiveness is extremely important for none of us are perfect except for God.
- Beyond physical love, there are other expressions of love, and respect is very important.
- A relationship requires maintenance, nurturing, and an acceptance of the roles.
- At times, we must be bold and trust God, and we must obey.
- And to love, love, and love.
- Be trustworthy. Trust is required.
- And don’t worry. God has this situation, and He has us in the palm of His hand.
- And remember to forgive others and confess our sins.
- And never go against what God instructs us to do.
A Closing Prayer
We look to You for guidance. Thank You, Lord, for those people that You place in our lives, whether family or friends, who are people that we can confide in and who we trust. Help us to discern that these people are giving us good advice and give us the strength to obey,
In Thy Name we pray,
Soli Deo Gloria. Only to God be the Glory.