Mothers of the Bible: Naomi, from Sorrow to Joy

When we think of ideal mother-in-law, we may think about Naomi.

Naomi’s sons married local Moabite women

Naomi was married to Elimelch and had two sons, Mahlon and Chilion.   Due to famine the family moves from Judea to Moab.  While they are there both sons married women named Orpah and Ruth.  Elimelch dies and later both sons die, leaving their widows childless.

This is where the book of Ruth begins.

Naomi decides to return to her homeland, after a decade living in Moab.  While she has been away, her family structure has completely changed.

Both of her sons died

With our other mothers, we have met then before they had children.  All of them longed for a child of their own.  With Naomi, we are meeting her after both of her natural children have died.

Hers is a story of being a mother to those that were not her children.  Her story is her role as a mother0in-law.

The Women of the Bible says, “Naomi felt their widowhood as a double grief.  Together they had cried and comforted each other.”

Naomi had two daughters-in-law, Ruth and Orpah

As they begin their journey, Naomi tells Orpah and Ruth “Go, return each of you to her mother’s house: Jehovah deal kindly with you, as ye have dealt with the dead, and with me.”  {Ruth 1:8}

She lovingly sends them home.  She knows the journey is long and not an easy journey.  But, she leaves them with a blessing.  The love her daughters-in-law had for their husbands I clear when she says “as you have dealt with the dead”.

“Then she kissed them, and they lifted up their voice, and wept.”  {v.9}  The Women of the Bible says, “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.”

Both girls vow to stay with Naomi and again she beseeches them to return home.

Ruth refused to leave Naomi “Your people will be my people and your God my God”

Naomi makes a speech about Jehovah leaving her and even if she had children, it was too late for her daughters.   Naomi says, “nay, my daughters, for it grieveth me much for your sakes”. {v.13}.  Notice she calls these women her daughters, not her daughter-in-law.

The women again weep together and “Orpah kissed her mother-in-law”.  {v.14}

Our study guide says,Naomi’s name, which means “pleasantness”, abbreviates the tender way she cared for her daughters-in-law and earned their love and loyalty.” Naomi loved Orpah and Ruth tenderly.

Orpah leaves, but Ruth “clave unto her”.  {v.14}   Naomi urges Ruth to follow Orpah.

Naomi was warmly welcomed back to Bethlehem

However, Ruth says, “ And Ruth said, Entreat me not to leave thee, and to return from following after thee, for whither thou goest, I will go; and where thou lodgest, I will lodge; thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God; 17 where thou diest, will I die, and there will I be buried: Jehovah do so to me, and more also, if aught but death part thee and me.”  {Ruth 1:16-17}.  This is a speech that has been used in many wedding ceremonies over the centuries.

The Women of the Bible devotional says, “the old woman’s stubbornness was no match for

Naomi guided and advised Ruth

the younger woman’s love… Ruth deeply loved and appreciated her mother-in-law; that love was expressed in a loyalty that surpassed all other ties.”

When they arrive in Bethlehem, we discover just how bitter Naomi is and how much she is hurting.

When her friends come out to greet her, Naomi says, “Naomi, call me Mara; for the Almighty hath dealt very bitterly with me. I went out full, and Jehovah hath brought me home again empty”.  {Ruth 1:20}

Our devotional says, “Naomi could not see past her suffering.  Like many of us, she may

Naomi advised Ruth to go to Boaz

have felt her tragedies were punishment for her sins….  ..the anguish of losing her husband and sons is replaced with the loving care and concern of her daughter-in-law Ruth, who is better to [Naomi] than seven sons.”

Naomi had a kinsman named Boaz, who owned a field.  Now in Bethlehem, Naomi directs Ruth to go glean the field.   Ruth does not know Boaz is related, she just chooses the closest or best field.  Upon discovering who she is, Boaz watches out for Ruth. Naomi watches the relationship grow and instructs Ruth on how to go into Boaz and declare her intentions.  By having Ruth lie at Boaz feet, that is what she is doing.

Ruth did as Naomi directed and went in to Boaz

The Women of the Bible says, “Later in Judah, Naomi felt a deep responsibility to Ruth and determined to “seek security” for her , “that it may be well with you.”

Boaz goes before the elders to ask to marry Ruth, the wife of Mahlon.  Boaz says, “ I have bought all that was Elimelech’s, and all that was Chilion’s and Mahlon’s, of the hand of Naomi.”   {Ruth 4:9}

Boaz marries Ruth and they eventually have a son named, Obed.  {The grandfather to King David}.

Boaz was Naomi’s kinsman redeemer

The women bless Naomi by saying, “Blessed be Jehovah, who hath not left thee this day without a near kinsman; and let his name be famous in Israel. And he shall be unto thee a restorer of life, and a nourisher of thine old age, for thy daughter-in-law, who loveth thee, who is better to thee than seven sons, hath borne him.”  {Ruth 4:14-15}

“Naomi loved Ruth and lived a life that inspired Ruth to love and trust her.”  {Women of Faith}

Ruth had a son and Naomi relished her new role as grandmother.  “And Naomi took the child, and laid it in her bosom, and became nurse unto it. And the women her neighbors gave it a name, saying, There is a son born to Naomi; and they called his name Obed.”  {Ruth 4:16-17}

Naomi’s joy was restored when Ruth married Boaz and had a son

Naomi shows throughout the book of Ruth, how to be a gracious in-law.  She watched over and protected Ruth, gently guiding and directing her in a new land and through a tenuous situation.

In the Old Testament Bible History, we are told that with Ruth marrying Boaz, “Naomi had now a “redeemer,” not only to support and nourish her, nor merely to “redeem” the family property, but to preserve the name of the family in Israel.”

Our devotional says, “God’s faithfulness to restore to fullness an empty life is revealed more in this story of Naomi than in any other biblical account.”

How has God restored your life?


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