Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Ruth and Naomi's Deep Friendship


Ruth 1

1-2Long ago when the judges ruled Israel, there was a shortage of food in the
land. So a man named Elimelech left the town of Bethlehem in Judah to live in
the country of Moab with his wife and his two sons. His wife was named Naomi,
and his two sons were named Mahlon and Kilion. They were Ephrathahites from
Bethlehem in Judah. When they came to Moab, they settled there.

3Then Naomi’s husband, Elimelech, died, and she was left with her two sons.
4These sons married women from Moab. One was named Orpah, and the other
was named Ruth. Naomi and her sons had lived in Moab about ten years 5when
Mahlon and Kilion also died. So Naomi was left alone without her husband or
her two sons.

6While Naomi was in Moab, she heard that the LORD had come to help his
people and had given them food again. So she and her daughters-in-law got ready
to leave Moab and return home. 7Naomi and her daughters-in-law left the place
where they had lived and started back to the land of Judah. 8But Naomi said to
her two daughters-in-law, “Go back home, each of you to your own mother’s
house. May the LORD be as kind to you as you have been to me and my sons
who are now dead. 9May the LORD give you another happy home and a new

When Naomi kissed the women good-bye, they began to cry out loud. 10They
said to her, “No, we want to go with you to your people.”

11But Naomi said, “My daughters, return to your own homes. Why do you
want to go with me? I cannot give birth to more sons to give you new husbands;
12go back, my daughters, to your own homes. I am too old to have another
husband. Even if I told myself, ‘I still have hope’ and had another husband
tonight, and even if I had more sons, 13should you wait until they were grown
into men? Should you live for so many years without husbands? Don’t do that,
my daughters. My life is much too sad for you to share, because the LORD has
been against me!”

14The women cried together out loud again. Then Orpah kissed her mother-in-
law Naomi good-bye, but Ruth held on to her tightly.

15Naomi said to Ruth, “Look, your sister-in-law is going back to her own
people and her own gods. Go back with her.”

Ruth Stays with Naomi

16But Ruth said, “Don’t beg me to leave you or to stop following you. Where
you go, I will go. Where you live, I will live. Your people will be my people, and
your God will be my God. 17And where you die, I will die, and there I will be
buried. I ask the LORD to punish me terribly if I do not keep this promise: Not
even death will separate us.”

18When Naomi saw that Ruth had firmly made up her mind to go with her,
she stopped arguing with her. 19So Naomi and Ruth went on until they came to
the town of Bethlehem. When they entered Bethlehem, all the people became
very excited. The women of the town said, “Is this really Naomi?”

20Naomi answered the people, “Don’t call me Naomi. Call me Mara,
because the Almighty has made my life very sad. 21When I left, I had all I
wanted, but now, the LORD has brought me home with nothing. Why should you
call me Naomi when the LORD has spoken against me and the Almighty has
given me so much trouble?”

22So Naomi and her daughter-in-law Ruth, the Moabite, returned from Moab
and arrived at Bethlehem at the beginning of the barley harvest.

The Holy Bible, New Century Version


Ruth was a Moabitess who married an Israelite. Her husband's family had left Judah during a famine and migrated to Moab. There all the men of the family died, leaving three women alone and helpless: Naomi, the mother-in-law, and Ruth and Orpah, her daughters-in-law. The women were helpless for a simple reason. Property was owned by men, not by women. With no men left in the family, the women lacked any means of


Only one course of action seemed open to Naomi. She would return to Judah and seek aid from her relatives. Naomi urged her daughters-in-law to return to their fathers' households, where they would be supported until they could remarry. Orpah followed Naomi's advice, but Ruth insisted on staying with her mother-in-law. The loyalty and support she offered Naomi proved to be the turning point in her own life.

Ruth’s relationship with Naomi. The first chapter of Ruth makes it clear that Ruth deeply loved and appreciated her mother-in-law. That love was expressed in a loyalty that surpassed all other ties. Rather than return to her father's home, and stay in her own country, Ruth chose to accompany Naomi into uncertain future in a strange land.

To see how Ruth's commitment to her mother-in-law continued to work itself out is fascinating. For Ruth, Judah was a strange land, with unfamiliar customs. But in Naomi

Ruth had a mentor, and she wisely followed her advice. The two women had returned at harvest time. Old Testament Law provided that the poor and landless could gather food in fields owned by others. That law said, "When you reap the harvest in your field, and forget a sheaf in the field, you shall not go back to get it; it shall be for the stranger, the fatherless, and the widow, that the LORD your God may bless you in all the work of your hands" (Deut. 24: 19). Naomi sent Ruth out to gather grain that the harvesters missed, a process called gleaning.

Gleaning was hard work, but for the poor each kernel of grain was precious. And Ruth "continued from morning" until late in the day gathering food for Naomi and herself.

Later, after Ruth's modesty and virtue had won the admiration of one of Naomi's relatives, Naomi explained to Ruth the law of the redeeming relative. When a man died childless a near relative could marry his widow. The first son produced by the couple would be given the name of the dead husband and inherit his estate. Hearing of the admiration of such a relative for Ruth, Naomi urged Ruth to approach the man and ask him to take on the redeeming relative's responsibility.

Ruth allowed herself to be guided by her mother-in-law in the selection of a potential husband. Although Naomi's choice was neither young nor especially handsome, Ruth realized that he was a man of quality, and she followed her mother-in-law's advice.

In every way Ruth showed herself to be loyal, hard-working, sensible, and responsive to Naomi's advice. Clearly Ruth had a deep respect for Naomi, as well as a real love for her mother-in-law.


Ruth is one of Scripture’s most attractive women. She was a woman with a marvelous capacity for love and loyalty. While Ruth was decisive and ready to risk an uncertain future out of loyalty to Naomi, she was far from headstrong. She was wise enough to follow Naomi’s advice, ready and willing to work to support the two of them Ruth quickly established a good reputation in her adopted homeland and won the approval of all who knew her. Her reputation rather than her physical attributes first won the admiration of Boaz, who responded by treating her graciously. The relationship that grew between them was founded solidly on the mutual appreciation of each for the good and gracious qualities of the other.

While Ruth truly is a love story, it is far from those romantic novels that emphasize passion and physical attributes. Ruth’s and Boaz’s love grew out of their commitment to values far more significant than mere good looks.


Naomi’s name, “pleasantness,” is suggestive. She cared for her daughters-in-law and earned their love and loyalty. Even Orpah, who chose to remain in Moab, wept when she left Naomi to return home. We can sense in Naomi an especially generous spirit. Although alone, she urged her daughters-in-law to think of their own future rather than Naomi’s welfare. Back in Judah, Naomi felt a deep responsibility to Ruth and determined to “seek security” for her, “that it may be well with” you (Ruth 3:1).

We should hardly be surprised that Naomi was such a powerful influence in Ruth’s life. People who truly and selflessly love others have a tendency to draw those others to them and through them to the Lord.

(From Every Woman in the Bible by Sue and Larry Richards).

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