Biblical Women Ruth and Naomi
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
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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