Scripture gives many examples of mothers, and in the Book of Ruth, we see two women who hold a special place in history: Naomi, whose name means “my delight,” and Ruth, whose name means “friendship.” Both names fit these ladies perfectly. “Now it came to pass in the days when the judges ruled, that there was a famine in the land. And a certain man of Bethlehemjudah went to sojourn in the country of Moab, he, and his wife, and his two sons” (Ruth 1:1).
Naomi was married to a man named Elimelech, and they had two sons named Mahlon and Chilion. Although they owned property in Bethlehem, there was a drought that forced them to leave in order to find food. They moved to Moab where the famine wasn’t bad. Eventually, Elimelech died, and her two sons took care of her, so Naomi’s situation wasn’t desperate. Her sons married Moabite women who loved Naomi. Chilion married Orpah, and Mahlon married Ruth. Sadly, Chilion and Mahlon also died, and the three widows drew close together.
Naomi was in a troubling position. She had no means of support in Moab, so she needed to return to Bethlehem. Her husband had owned property there, but it would have to be redeemed by a kinsman (Leviticus 25:25). This is where her story gets exciting.
Naomi decided to return to Bethlehem, and her two daughters-in-law, both Gentiles, decided to go with her. The younger women must have loved Naomi very much to leave their home to follow her. As they traveled, Naomi was concerned for Orpah and Ruth. It would be quite a change for them to leave their homes and start a new life in the Jewish culture. “And Naomi said unto her two daughters in law, Go, return each to her mother’s house: the LORD deal kindly with you, as ye have dealt with the dead, and with me” (Ruth 1:8).
Naomi was loved by her daughters-in-law, but she loved them enough to encourage them to return to the life they knew. Even though they weren’t Jewish and didn’t worship God Almighty, she still asked His blessing upon them. “The LORD grant you that ye may find rest, each of you in the house of her husband. Then she kissed them; and they lifted up their voice, and wept. And they said unto her, Surely we will return with thee unto thy people” (Ruth 1:9-10). Naomi wanted Orpah and Ruth to remarry and raise a family. She wanted the best for them, but the two younger ladies didn’t want to leave their mother-in-law.
Naomi encouraged the younger women to return to their own city and culture in order to find husbands. “And Naomi said, Turn again, my daughters: why will ye go with me? Are there yet any more sons in my womb, that they may be your husbands? Turn again, my daughters, go your way for I am too old to have an husband. If I should say, I have hope, if I should have an husband also to night, and should also bear sons; would ye tarry for them till they were grown? Would ye stay for them from having husbands? Nay, my daughters; for it grieveth me much for your sakes that the hand of the LORD is gone out against me” (Ruth 1:11-13).
The younger women needed husbands and to have children. Naomi knew this, and even if they stayed with Naomi, hoping that she would remarry and give birth to more sons, it would be many years until those sons would be old enough to marry and provide for a family, according to the law of the Levirate marriage (Deuteronomy 25:5-10).
Orpah decided to return to her home, but Ruth stayed with Naomi. Naomi was concerned. “And she said, Behold, thy sister in law is gone back unto her people, and unto her gods: return thou after thy sister in law” (Ruth 1:15). Instead of moving forward and learning to follow the God that Naomi followed, Orpah returned to her own people and to her own pagan gods. She had the chance to go with Naomi and learn of the one true God of all creation, but she chose to turn back. Sadly, she’s like too many people today. They have the opportunity to find salvation through Jesus Christ, but turn back to the gods they can’t let go of. Ruth made the better choice.
Ruth wouldn’t be persuaded to return to her old life. She chose to follow Naomi to Bethlehem. She wanted a better life and knew Naomi would lead her to it. “And Ruth said, Intreat me not to leave thee, or 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: where thou diest, will I die, and there will I be buried: the LORD do so to me, and more also, if ought but death part thee and me” (Ruth 1:16-17).
What a beautiful love Ruth had for Naomi. This decision would make a major mark on the history of the world. The way Naomi conducted her life was an example to Ruth of a better life by knowing the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. As Christians, we need to represent Christ in such a way that the people around us will want to follow us to a saving faith in Jesus Christ.
Bethlehem was a small town, and people knew each other. Even after many years of absence, they remembered Naomi. Her husband, Elimelech, had a rather notorious family tree. When the Israelites were ready to conquer the Promised Land, their first battle was in Jericho. Rather than immediately attacking this city, they sent spies who accomplished very little other than make a way for the harlot Rahab to escape before the walls of Jericho came tumbling down. This woman went from the life of a harlot in an extremely pagan city to joining the Israelites and marrying Salmon. “And Salmon begat Booz of Rachab…” (Matthew 1:5a).
“Booz” and “Rachab” in this Scripture (translated from Greek) and “Boaz” and “Rahab” from the Old Testament are the same people. This is important to the story of Naomi and Ruth. “And Naomi had a kinsman of her husband’s, a mighty man of wealth, of the family of Elimelech; and his name was Boaz” (Ruth 2:1). Jewish law provided for a kinsman redeemer (Leviticus 25:25). If a man was in debt or had to sell his property, someone in his family of a close relationship could pay his debt and redeem what had been lost. Naomi’s husband was a close kinsman to Boaz, so it was possible for him to redeem what Elimelech had lost.
Ruth learned from Naomi the ways of the Jewish community. They needed food, and Ruth said she would go to the field and glean what the reapers had left. As it turned out, she went to a field owned by Boaz. This was not a coincidence, but it was God’s hand leading her. While she was gleaning the grain, she caught Boaz’s eye, and he asked his foreman about her. Boaz learned she was the Moabitess who had returned to Bethlehem with Naomi. Boaz was a kindhearted man. He knew Naomi’s plight and admired how hard Ruth worked to put food on their table. He also might have been struck by her beauty.
Boaz told Ruth to only glean in his fields, that he had warned the young men to leave her alone, and that she had special privileges to get water to drink. Ruth was very thankful and humble for Boaz’s kindness and asked why he was so nice to her. “And Boaz answered and said unto her, It hath fully been shewed me, all that thou hast done unto thy mother in law since the death of thine husband: and how thou hast left thy father and thy mother, and the land of thy nativity, and art come unto a people which thou knewest not heretofore. The LORD recompense thy work, and a full reward be given thee of the LORD God of Israel, under whose wings thou art come to trust” (Ruth 2:11-12).
Ruth worked hard, and Boaz was a good man who appreciated her. His kindness was extended even further. He invited her to eat with his workers, and also told his men to let her glean among the sheaves and let handfuls of the grain fall so she could get plenty. Welfare was not an option in Israel. Ruth worked hard for the grain, and Boaz made sure she got plenty.
Naomi was very happy when she found out all Boaz had done. She knew Boaz could redeem her husband’s property and that his interest in Ruth could result in marriage. Naomi was about to help the Gentile Ruth find a husband…a kinsman redeemer. Naomi didn’t encourage any improper behavior from Ruth, but helped her to show Boaz that she was willing to be his bride. Boaz was not only willing to marry Ruth but to also redeem the property. “And now it is true that I am thy near kinsman: howbeit there is a kinsman nearer than I” (Ruth 3:12).
One of the requirements of a kinsman redeemer is that he must be willing. Boaz was willing, but there was one who was a closer relation and would be able to act if he was willing. As it turned out, the nearer kinsman was willing to redeem the property but wasn’t willing to marry Ruth. “And Boaz said unto the elders, and unto all the people, Ye are witnesses this day, that I have bought all that was Elimelech’s and all that was Chilion’s and Mahlon’s, of the hand of Naomi. Moreover, Ruth the Moabitess, the wife of Mahlon, have I purchased to be my wife, to raise up the name of the dead upon his inheritance, that the name of the dead be not cut off from among his brethren, and from the gate of his place: ye are witnesses this day” (Ruth 4:9-10).
Ruth had made the right choice to follow Naomi rather than return to the pagan life in Moab. We aren’t told about Orpah’s life, but had she followed Naomi to Bethlehem, she would have been better off. She would have come to know the God of all creation and could have gotten a share of her husband’s property.
Boaz and Ruth did have children. “…and Booz begat Obed of Ruth; and Obed begat Jesse; and Jesse begat David the king…” (Matthew 1:5b-6a). Ruth was the great-grandmother of King David and listed in the genealogy of Jesus Christ. What an honor! But, there’s more.
The events recorded give us a beautiful picture of Jesus. God first chose Israel, pictured by Naomi. It was through Naomi that Ruth, representing the Gentiles, met the kinsman redeemer, pictured by Boaz, who redeemed what Naomi had lost. Jesus is the ultimate Kinsman Redeemer. He was human because His mother was human and Mary’s ancestry was directly from King David, though not through the royal line. This qualified Him as our Kinsman. His adopted father, Joseph, also had ancestry through King David, but his line followed the royal line through Solomon. This qualifies Jesus to sit on the Throne of David.
Since Jesus had no earthly father (He was conceived by the Holy Spirit), His blood wasn’t tainted by the sin that cripples and condemns humans. This allows Him to Redeem us from sin. When we accept Christ’s sacrifice for salvation, we are redeemed, born again, and have a new life in Christ.
Naomi and Ruth are both mothers who honored God and found His blessings multiplied through their obedience. Mothers today need to follow their example and be Godly influences on their children. Even though we live in a fallen world in which Satan’s lies and evil intentions are all around, mothers need to lead by example.
Jesus Christ is greater than all evil, and He shed His blood for our redemption. Honor His sacrifice and live for Him daily.
God bless you all,
All original scripture is “theopneustos,” God-breathed.
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