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Biblical Women Ruth and Naomi

Updated on September 8, 2010

Naomi and her two daughter-in-laws

Ruth and Naomi, two women similar yet different.

Naomi and Ruth are two great women whose stories are told in the pages of the Old Testament. Naomi was of the house of Israel, who found herself in a strange land in a peculiar predicament. Ruth was a Moabite, who ultimately found herself in a strange land in a peculiar predicament. Similar and connected in countless ways, these two women speak of courage, love, and commitment in the way they conducted themselves throughout their lives.

By the choices that they each made, we are shown great examples of the rewards that are given by living and understanding the law of obedience and sacrifice, the crowning reward being the gift of charity, or the pure love of Christ.

Map of Biblical Moab

Naomi felt loss at being driven from her homeland.

Naomi was a mother who understood the sorrow associated with loss. The first loss she suffered was that of her homeland. Because of a severe famine in the land of Bethlehem-judah, she and her husband Elimelech, along with two sons, were forced to flee to the land of Moab in search of food; this resulted in her being a stranger in a strange land.

Moab was a kingdom which was located on the border of the Dead Sea, perhaps only 30-40 miles distant from the land of Naomi's heritage, but although not too far in distance, the customs were miles apart, as the people of Moab worshiped the God, Chemosh.

Naomi suffers the loss of her husband and her sons.

While in Moab, Naomi suffered another great loss with the death of her husband. This left her a widow, with the responsibility of raising her two sons alone. Although her sons marry two Moabite women, Orpah and Ruth, and live ten more years in the land of Moab, ultimately they die too, leaving Naomi with two daughter-in-laws to care for now, with no means of support.

Upon hearing that the famine was no longer felt in the land of Judah, Naomi decided to take her chances with her own people and return to the land of her heritage. It is here that a problem arises for her concerning her daughter-in-laws.

The terms of a Levirate Marriage.

Perhaps to fully understand Naomi's dilemma we must, at this point, discuss the laws of a "Levirate Marriage." This law states that if a married man should die, the dead man's brother should marry the widow and raise a family to the dead man, meaning all children born to this new union would be counted seed to the deceased brother. The firstborn son to this union would still be considered the birthright child of the dead husband and would inherit all the property and rights that should have been his dead fathers.

This custom insured the security and protection of the widow, who might have otherwise been left friendless and destitute. The law further stated that if there were no brothers to take upon themselves this widow a more distant male relative would be required to perform this duty of marriage and continuation of seed to that family. This was the responsibility of the closest blood relative, who actually became the widows "redeemer or protector" called a "Go'el."

For Naomi to have a continuation of seed, she must require her daughter-in-laws to marry her husbands nearest living relative. It is important to note that posterity was one of the ways in which a person was measured as far as worth.

Ruth and Naomi, Orpah Departing

by Philip Hermogenes Calderon (1833-1898)
by Philip Hermogenes Calderon (1833-1898)

Naomi sacrifices her chances of posterity.

Upon deciding to return to Judah, Naomi makes a selfless sacrifice and releases the obligation of her daughter-in-laws to her of raising up seed to her sons, and thinking only of their well being not her own, makes a request of them to stay with their people and family in Moab.

Orpah who obviously loved her mother-in-law dearly kissed her and decided to remain in Moab, but Ruth on the other hand "clave" unto her.

Ruth stays with Naomi

The most famous line in the book of Ruth is then rendered by Ruth to Naomi,

"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."

In this beautiful expression of devotion and loyalty to Naomi, Ruth also makes known her devotion to the Lord, which as we learn later in the account, becomes rewarded in full.

Ruth Gleaning in the Field

Upon arrival in Bethlehem, the table becomes turned and Ruth now becomes a stranger in a strange land.

The need of sustenance provoked Ruth to offer her services in finding food. She desired to go into the field and "glean ears of corn." The process known as gleaning was extremely difficult and laborious, but was a means of offering service to the destitute who resided in the city.

To glean was to gather random stalks that were left over or dropped by the reapers of the harvest. Harvesting was difficult work in itself, requiring the young men to move through the field grasping handfuls of stalks, cutting them with sickles, and then binding them into sheaves. If any of the grain in the process fell to the ground it was left for the poor people that followed behind, to glean from the field.

Such was the job of Ruth.

Boaz and Ruth

Boaz offers Ruth food and protection.

As Ruth is gleaning in the field, the land owner Boaz sees her and desires to know who she is. Upon learning that she is the daughter-in-law of Naomi he offers her a protected place to come and glean and tells 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."

A true love story in bloom.

The true magic of the story is felt when Ruth informs Naomi of her good fortune with Boaz, and Naomi tells her, "The man is near of kin unto us, one of our next kinsmen."

A Proper Marriage Proposal for the Time.

One might be confused at what happens next, but when viewed by the customs of the people of Israel at the time of this account, the further actions of Ruth reveal her true character. As instructed by her mother-in-law, Ruth makes a statement of proposal to Boaz in a virtuous manner.

As the custom during harvest time, the owner would sleep at the threshing floor guarding his precious harvest, and this is precisely what Boaz did. When he awoke from his sleep near the pile of grain he was harvesting, he noticed Ruth lying near his feet. At which point Ruth tells him, "I am Ruth thine handmaid: spread therefore thy skirt over thine handmaid; for thou art a near kinsman." This was her way of asking for him to take her "under his wing" and offering a proper proposal for marriage.

Boaz Sends Ruth Away

Boaz an honorable man.

Boaz immediately sees her as a virtuous woman, who although she is young, has chosen the refuge of an older man, proving her modesty and showing her confidence in Boaz as an honorable man, unlikely to have taken advantage of her. Unable to claim her as his yet, Boaz sends her away with provisions and tells her he will return.

Ruth was redeemed with a price.

Boaz then goes to transact business with the person who is closer in kin to Naomi than himself. It is required that Ruth be redeemed by a price, so that the actual kinsman may not lay claim to her later. Relinquishing his responsibilities and rights to the property of Naomi, the kinsman accepted payment and Ruth now belonged to Boaz.

The First Shall Be Last and The Last Shall Be First

"So Boaz took Ruth, and she was his wife: and when he went in unto her, the Lord gave her conception, and she bare a son."

"And Naomi took the child, and laid it in her bosom, and became nurse unto it. And the women her neighbours gave it a name, saying, There is a son born to Naomi; and they called his name Obed: he is the father of Jesse, the father of David."

...And such is the lineage through which the ultimate Redeemer, Jesus Christ, comes.

What do you think?

There are a countless number of lessons or applications that can be seen throughout the entire account of Ruth and Naomi. Some of them are more obvious, and yet some are more obscure, requiring some pondering and guidance by the spirit to be revealed. Perhaps some insights could be shared in the comments below.


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    • Jamie Wallin profile image

      Jamie Wallin 

      4 years ago from Winchester, KY

      Very informative and helpful hub. Thanks for doing the work.

    • Tamarajo profile image


      5 years ago

      I liked your emphasis on Naomi's graciousness to her daughter's-in-law by releasing them from the obligation to raise up seed to her sons. What a lost image in today's culture of how our chief desire as believers should to be to...

      "Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations..."

      ...raising up seed for our Lord to continue His name in the earth.

      A well written summarization of Ruth.

    • FSlovenec profile image

      Frank Slovenec 

      6 years ago from San Francisco, CA

      Yes lots of information..God is always showing us more of Himself in HIs Word..

    • FSlovenec profile image

      Frank Slovenec 

      7 years ago from San Francisco, CA

      Ruth was the devoted daughter in law, who loved her husband's mother. A great demonstration of familial devotion which is then returned to her by Boaz.Not sure the reasons to go to Moab were seated in the Lord. They left Judah and as far as we can tell all bad happened in Moab. A loving God then restores them to Judah and once there blesses Ruth and Naomi with a God fearing family member. Thank you, Ruth is one of the great demonstration of our faithful loving God.

    • profile image

      eri-victir jacqueline 

      7 years ago

      you 've made me remember that hmility is very important

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      I learnt a lot in this story. To God be the glory

    • Micky Dee profile image

      Micky Dee 

      8 years ago

      You have a beautiful work of art here. Thank you very much!

    • lambservant profile image

      Lori Colbo 

      8 years ago from Pacific Northwest

      Quite a comprehensive breakdown of the story of Ruth and Naomi. That verse is indeed, one of the most beautiful expressions of devotion in all the Bible. I wish husbands and wives could say, belive, and commit to acting on those words. The divorce rate would disappear. Thank you for a very, very well written and insightful hub. Many blessings to you In the Dog House.

    • vogue4us profile image


      9 years ago from USA

      This reminds me that it is so important to have the teaching of Christ from the young age. So often life circumstances caused us to drift away from God and when we are left with near destitute we return to Christ. When we return to Christ, all He asked from us is our true repentance and our sincerity – the reward in exchange for that is astronomical!

      Thanks for expounding on this biblical story so eloquently and thank you for painting the picture of Ruth’s selfless act of love so vividly which in a great way reflect God’s agape love.

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      found this after wanting more info on the sermon about these women, now I get it, thanks.

    • peggypat profile image

      Peggy Patrick Medberry 

      9 years ago from Los Angeles

      I love the Ruth and Naomi story. Such a powerful study of love, faith and obedience. Wow. How much better the world would be if there were more Ruth's out there!

      Thank you for this post!

    • DeBorrah K. Ogans profile image

      DeBorrah K Ogans 

      9 years ago

      The Doghouse, Nice Hub! Wonderful story demonstrating the value of loyalty and commitment! Thank you for sharing, Blessings!

    • probrack profile image


      9 years ago from Lexington,Ky

      Great Biblical content with excellent imagery ! I look forward to following your blog posts ! God bless !

    • Glenda Grosjean profile image

      Glenda Grosjean 

      9 years ago from Wayne, MI

      I agree with Jim W. I think Naomi's bitterness was short term. I think she was depressed when her family died, and now she returned to her home country unsure of what their reaction might be that she was accompanied by a Moabitess. But ultimately, when she found that there was a chance for the kinsman redeemer with Boaz, she began to get out of her depression, and regained hope in the LORD. Naomi does mean well favoured. Mara means bitter. So, if you name her Naomi, you won't be subjecting her to a hard life. I think it's a beautiful promise.

      Now, about the hub itself - a couple of comments. I think it was very easy reading, yet informative. I think you have a gift for teaching. I was wondering about the "Levirate Marriage" you referenced. It was my impression that upon remarriage of the widow, only the firstborn son was counted as the brothers seed, to be raised as the first husbands child.

      I also noticed that your interpretation of Naomi's actions with Orpah and Ruth as being sacrificing her chances of posterity are different than mine. I may be wrong, but, I always read it as if Naomi were saying, "I don't want any more mouths to feed. I don't even know if I'll be able to feed my own", because of the bitterness of her soul at the time. I think she was worried of the reaction she would get by bringing Moabites - the enemies of the Israelites - back with her. Hence, the reference by Ruth, in Ch 2:10 "Then she fell on her face, and bowed herself to the ground, and said unto him, Why have I found grace in thine eyes, that thou shouldest take knowledge of me, seeing I [am] a stranger?"

      Again, I may be wrong. Over all, this is one of the best hubs I have read to date! Great reading!

    • profile image


      9 years ago


      Here is my response to your question: "Does anyone know if she always felt that 'the Lord dealt bitterly with her?'"

      According to verse, 2:20, I think Naomi bagan to realize that the Lord had not forgotten her when she said: "May he (Boaz) be blessed of the Lord who has not withdrawn his kindness to the living and to the dead." In other words, since Naomi was poor and not in a position to return any of the favors Boaz had extended to Ruth, she asks the Lord to return a blessing to Boaz. I get the impression that Naomi now felt she could make such a request of the Lord because she realized that the Lord had not forgotton her and was actually showing her kindness through Boaz. In short, her prayer demonstrates that she was back on speaking terms with the Lord.

      In the short run, I get the impression from 2:20 that Naomi's spirits were greatly lifted when Ruth reported the days adventures to her. Furthermore, as time progressed, I think Naomi began to gain strength and perspective from the way she saw God work things out in her life and in the life of Ruth. So, in the long run, I believe Naomi's attitude remainded consistent with the meaning of her name.

    • Hannah Ministries profile image

      Hannah Ministries 

      9 years ago

      This is a great story but you manage to expose it bieutifully with those pictures! Thanks. It truly has blessed me.

    • Zenani profile image


      9 years ago

      I love the story of Ruth and Naomi: the sacrifice, love and loyalty. You have done such a wonderful job here you should be teaching Bible Study. Maybe you already do. I will certainly share the link to this with my group. Well done.

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      Thank you for this. It is very helpful. I am pregnant and have felt so drawn to the name Naomi my entire pregnancy, but am hesitate because it she had such a painful life. I have found that the meaning of her name is agreeable,beautiful & pleasant and in Japan, it means, "beautiful honesty," which I translate as Truth. Does anyone know if she always felt that "the Lord dealt bitterly with her?" I know this is a strange question, but I am asking God for guidance to understand her better so I won't feel I am giving my child such a "bitter" legacy...

    • profile image


      10 years ago

      That was beautiful. I read it twice to get more value out of it, and the second time yielded the best results.

      On the first reading, I was puzzled about the behavior. On the second reading, I was thinking about how the customs of the time were used to make a lovely imprint on the heart, in a way that was meaningful, beautiful, lasting.


    • profile image


      10 years ago

      I have a plate that my grandparents gave to me. It has a painting of Ruth on it with gold trim. I believe it was brought back from Germany in WWII. Does anyone know of it's history or value?

    • In The Doghouse profile imageAUTHOR

      In The Doghouse 

      11 years ago from California


      Thanks for coming and visiting... I am glad you learned something from the Hub. :)

    • Cindi Pearce profile image

      Cindi Pearce 

      11 years ago from United States

      I just learned a lot that I didn't know.

    • In The Doghouse profile imageAUTHOR

      In The Doghouse 

      11 years ago from California

      I am glad you enjoyed the Hub. Thanks for the translation.

    • G@D profile image


      11 years ago from Almost Heaven WV

      Wow Doggies,

      You just inspired me to release one I didn't think the world was ready for. Look out for "Signs in the Clouds".

      Wof, wof ... tail waggle!

      transtaled in human terms


    • In The Doghouse profile imageAUTHOR

      In The Doghouse 

      11 years ago from California


      I concur with you wholeheartedly. Everytime I hear those words I have to hold back the tears, they simply touch my soul. Thank you for reading and enjoying.

    • MrMarmalade profile image


      11 years ago from Sydney

      "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."

      I belive these words are some of the most wonderful words out of the Old Testament

      Thanks for a great hub.


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