We first meet Naomi in the midst of a horrible famine. She and her husband are raising their two boys in Bethlehem of Judah; however, due to the famine, they move to Moab. While living in this foreign land, Naomi’s husband dies.
As a single mother, she is committed to her sons who eventually marry Moabite women: Orpah and Ruth. They reside in Moab for at least 10 years when tragedy strikes and both of Naomi’s sons die. Burying children is something no mother should ever have to do. It is devastating.
Naomi YEARNS for her people. Her culture. Her family back in Judah.
One day while working in the fields of Moab, she learns that the LORD has provided food for His people, and she decides right then and there that it’s time to return home to Judah. She encourages her daughters-in-love to return home to their families of origin, remarry, and have children of their own.
If they leave, Naomi will have no one. This is NOT an option. In one of the most emotionally tender scenes in the Bible, Ruth and Orpah refuse to leave Naomi’s side. They hug and cry and cry and hug. Naomi is determined to send them on their way (mothers-in-law can be stubborn sometimes).
Orpah accepts Naomi’s instruction and returns to her home, but Ruth refuses and swears an oath to her mother-in-law: “Where you go I will go, and where you lodge I will lodge. Your people shall be my people, and your God my God. Where you die I will die, and there will I be buried.” (Ruth 1:16b-17a)
Together they travel to Bethlehem where their roles are reversed. Now, Naomi is the native, and Ruth is the foreigner. Naomi plays match-maker and helps Ruth secure a husband. Ruth then bears a son named Obed who is the grandfather of King David.
You can read more about Naomi, Ruth, and Orpah in the book of Ruth in the Bible.
* In case you didn’t know it, Oprah was named after Naomi’s daughter-in-law, Orpah. Here’s a footnote from Wikipedia’s article on Oprah:
“Winfrey has said in interviews that ‘my name had been chosen from the Bible. My Aunt Ida had chosen the name, but nobody really knew how to spell it, so it went down as “Orpah” on my birth certificate, but people didn’t know how to pronounce it, so they put the “P” before the “R” in every place else other than the birth certificate. On the birth certificate it is Orpah, but then it got translated to Oprah, so here we are.’ Oprah Winfrey Interview Academy of Achievement. January 21, 1991. Archived from the original on January 19, 2016. Retrieved August 25, 2008.”
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