Return From Moab – Ruth 1:6-13
6 She and her daughters-in-law prepared to leave the land of Moab, because she had heard in Moab that the Lord had paid attention to His people’s need by providing them food. 7 She left the place where she had been living, accompanied by her two daughters-in-law, and traveled along the road leading back to the land of Judah.
8 She said to them, “Each of you go back to your mother’s home. May the Lord show faithful love to you as you have shown to the dead and to me. 9 May the Lord enable each of you to find security in the house of your new husband.” She kissed them, and they wept loudly. 10 “No,” they said to her. “We will go with you to your people.”
11 But Naomi replied, “Return home, my daughters. Why do you want to go with me? Am I able to have any more sons who could become your husbands? 12 Return home, my daughters. Go on, for I am too old to have another husband. Even if I thought there was still hope for me to have a husband tonight and to bear sons, 13 would you be willing to wait for them to grow up? Would you restrain yourselves from remarrying? No, my daughters, my life is much too bitter for you to share, because the Lord’s hand has turned against me.” (HCSB)
Looking back at last week’s lesson, Naomi was left with her two daughters-in-law after the passing of her husband and both sons. She was in the very bottom of the valley of despair and grief, left with no viable source of income and no immediate family.
But now the grey clouds start to break, and a ray of sunshine touches Naomi’s heart, “because she had heard in Moab that the LORD had paid attention to His people’s need by providing them food.”
There are four features in this sentence that illustrate God’s divine grace.
- It was a gift from God that, in the depths of Naomi’s despair and grief, she was able to hear good news.
- Naomi heard that Yahweh intervened for the benefit of His people.
- The object of the divine intervention is the nation of Israel, God’s people.
- Yahweh provided bread to His people. This is actually a play on words as the name “Bethlehem” means “the house of bread.”
Upon hearing the good news, Naomi’s actions were immediate and decisive.
- She left.
- She traveled.
- She headed back to Judah.
- Moab was never intended to be their home.
- The Promised Land was their true home.
- It was a mistake for Elimelech to take the family to Moab.
- Naomi could expect to receive the treatment that Scripture afforded widows.
- Deuteronomy 14:29 Then the Levite, who has no portion or inheritance among you, the foreigner, the fatherless, and the widow within your gates may come, eat, and be satisfied. And the Lord your God will bless you in all the work of your hands that you do.
- Deuteronomy 16:11 Rejoice before Yahweh your God in the place where He chooses to have His name dwell—you, your son and daughter, your male and female slave, the Levite within your gates, as well as the foreigner, the fatherless, and the widow among you.
There is a message here for Christians who have wandered from the faith. The same God who showed kindness to Naomi in bringing home the “wanderer” is the same God who shows mercy and grace to us today.
8 She said to them, “Each of you go back to your mother’s home. May the Lord show faithful love to you as you have shown to the dead and to me. 9 May the Lord enable each of you to find security in the house of your new husband.” She kissed them, and they wept loudly.
Naomi prays for two blessings on Orpah and Ruth.
- The phrase mother’s home, in Hebrew bêt ʾēm, is found in the Old Testament in only three other places. Twice in Song of Solomon, 3:4 and 8:2, and Genesis 24:28. The context for each occurrence involves love and marriage. What Naomi is doing is releasing Orpah and Ruth to go back to their homeland and find new husbands. They no longer have any obligation to Naomi.
- It is striking the devotion that the two Moabite women show towards Naomi, an Israelite, in beginning the journey back to Bethlehem together.
- The firmness of the command to return home is matched by the compassion and gentleness she displays to the two women when she prays for a double blessing over them. The term “faithful” in verse 8 is chesed in Hebrew, a word that is not possible to translate into a one-word definition in English. It is a word that expresses a covenant relationship best understood as a combination of love, covenant faithfulness, mercy, grace, kindness, and loyalty.
- At the same time, Orpah and Ruth have shown chesed to Naomi, her deceased husband, and two sons. The praise she bestows on the two Moabite women depicts them as models of grace and that acts of human kindness, as displayed by Orpah and Ruth, warrants grace and kindness from Yahweh.
- Naomi also petitions Yahweh for security in the household of a new husband.
- Naomi doesn’t want them to experience a life of wandering and restlessness as widows.
- She desires that they find a new home with a new family.
- Naomi understands the world in which they live is heavily dependent on a male providing physical and economic security.
Naomi then kisses them farewell, and they vent their emotions with loud weeping. However, the discussion is not over.
“No,” they said to her. “We will go with you to your people.”
Although a short verse, it is packed with meaning.
- Considering all that they have been through, it would seem logical for Orpah and Ruth to want to start over in their own land.
- The grief of watching their father-in-law die.
- Each woman losing their husband.
- Likely observing Naomi in despair and deep sadness over losing her husband and both sons.
- Yet Orpah and Ruth have more attachment to Naomi than they do to their own people.
11 But Naomi replied, “Return home, my daughters. Why do you want to go with me? Am I able to have any more sons who could become your husbands? 12 Return home, my daughters. Go on, for I am too old to have another husband. Even if I thought there was still hope for me to have a husband tonight and to bear sons, 13 would you be willing to wait for them to grow up? Would you restrain yourselves from remarrying? No, my daughters, my life is much too bitter for you to share, because the Lord’s hand has turned against me.”
The first thing to note in Naomi’s exchange with Orpah and Ruth is that she acted in an unselfish manner towards them. It would have been easy for her to try and take them along, maybe even to hope that they could take care of her in the future. However, her first thought is towards their future welfare.
The rhetorical question “why do you want to go with me” appears, at first glance, to be a request for Orpah and Ruth to weigh the advantages of continuing the journey to Bethlehem. However, Naomi is actually scolding them. In essence, she is saying it is foolish to come with me; you’d be much better off returning to your home country and finding a husband there.
Here, Naomi answers her own rhetorical question. She is telling Orpah and Ruth to be realistic. She is too old to remarry and have children, and even if she could, it is unrealistic to think they’d wait for the new sons, assuming she had sons if she was even able to get pregnant again, until they were grown enough to marry.
Again, Naomi answers her question. And in her answer, we see the bitterness that she feels, as well as believing Yahweh is the source. This is an interesting twist on the narrative. Earlier, Naomi had pleaded with Yahweh to be gracious to Orpah and Ruth by providing them new husbands and a secure place to live. Now, Naomi is accusing Yahweh as the source of her bitterness. This feeling is based on an understanding of God’s previous judgments against the nation of Israel.
- Exodus 9:3 then the Lord’s hand will bring a severe plague against your livestock in the field—the horses, donkeys, camels, herds, and flocks.
- Deuteronomy 2:15 Indeed, the Lord’s hand was against them, to eliminate them from the camp until they had all perished.
- Judges 2:15 Whenever the Israelites went out, the Lord was against them and brought disaster on them, just as He had promised and sworn to them. So they suffered greatly.
If we read this narrative casually and without a historical/cultural understanding, it is easy to miss the concepts in the first part of the book of Ruth.
- The famine in Bethlehem.
- The family’s self-imposed exile to Moab, not a logical choice for an Israelite.
- The death of her husband and sons as a form of judgment.
- The inability of Orpah and Ruth to have children is evidence of God’s disapproval of their marriage.
- The first one I mentioned earlier in this lesson. There is a message here for Christians who have wandered from the faith. The same God who showed kindness to Naomi in bringing home the “wanderer” is the same God who shows mercy and grace to us today.
- Disobedience has consequences. The first part of Ruth has a litany of mistakes; moving to Moab, allowing the sons to marry local women, and Naomi not speaking out against the poor choices.
- Do our choices in life reflect obedience to God’s Word and shine the light of Christ?
- If we see others around us, family or friends, make choices contrary to a Christian lifestyle, do we say anything, or do we keep quiet?
- If we have wandered down the wrong path, do we repent and return?
- We should never blame God for our circumstances.
- If we are disobedient, there are consequences. Repent.
- If we are faithful followers of Jesus, there will be times of testing and persecution. We should view those experiences as God shaping us for future service. They may not be fun, but God knows what we need better than we do.