Going Home, Nagging Naomi, Risky Ruth

Next, in Ruth 1:6-14 Naomi makes her despair crystal clear:

“Then she arose with her daughters-in-law that she might return from the land of Moab, for she had heard in the land of Moab that the LORD had visited His people in giving them food. So she departed from the place where she was, and her two daughters-in-law with her; and they went on the way to return to the land of Judah. And Naomi said to her two daughters-in-law, “Go, return each of you to her mother’s house. May the LORD deal kindly with you as you have dealt with the dead and with me. “May the LORD grant that you may find rest, each in the house of her husband.” Then she kissed them, and they lifted up their voices and wept. And they said to her, “No, but we will surely return with you to your people.” But Naomi said, “Return, my daughters. Why should you go with me? Have I yet sons in my womb, that they may be your husbands? “Return, my daughters! Go, for I am too old to have a husband. If I said I have hope, if I should even have a husband tonight and also bear sons, would you therefore wait until they were grown? Would you therefore refrain from marrying? No, my daughters; for it is harder for me than for you, for the hand of the LORD has gone forth against me.” And they lifted up their voices and wept again; and Orpah kissed her mother-in-law, but Ruth clung to her.”

In her despair Naomi gets word that God had visited His people Israel and brought food to them. So Naomi leaves Moab and departs for Bethlehem because the “house of bread” is now full of bread again. Orpah and Ruth followed Naomi, but along the way Naomi turns to them and pleads with them to go back. Naomi gives two reasons as to why they should turn back.

First, they are young and she cannot provide husbands for them. If they went back to Moab they could move back in with their father or marry someone else and be taken care of for life. They would have kids if they went back Moab. They would not have to worry about finding food or shelter in Moab. But if they go with Naomi it is likely that they’ll have no food, no shelter, no kids, and no husbands for the rest of their lives. Naomi makes it plain that she cannot take care of them.

Secondly, she tells them that the Hand of the Lord has gone out against her, that she is cursed by God, and because of this, they should stay away from her. Do they want to be cursed too and end up like her? A hungry, homeless widow? Both the daughters wept because they knew staying with Naomi would cost them much. Orpah takes Naomi’s advice and goes home, but Ruth wouldn’t leave. It’s easy to see that Naomi is in despair. She’s at the end of her rope. Naomi looks at what has happened to her and concludes that her hard and bitter circumstances are a sign that God hates her and is against her. BUT, the rest of the book will make it “plain as day” that Naomi is wrong.

After Orpah leaves Naomi continues to plead with Ruth to go home and follow her sister-in-law. Naomi says, “Behold, your sister-in-law has gone back to her people and her gods; return after your sister-in-law.” Ruth answers Naomi, speaking for the first time in book and says in 1:16-18, “Do not urge me to leave you or turn back from following you; for 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 I will be buried. Thus may the LORD do to me, and worse, if anything but death parts you and me.” When she saw that she was determined to go with her, she said no more to her.”

The language Ruth uses here is awesome. Many people use it their weddings. But it is awesome because it reminds us of the covenant language God uses to speak to His people all throughout the Bible. God says all over Scripture, “I will establish My covenant with you and your descendants, and I will be your God…I will take you as My people, and I will be your God, and you shall know that I am the LORD…I will never leave you or forsake you.”

Why does Ruth use covenant language here? I think it’s because she’s telling Naomi that she will not only follow her, but follow the Lord, the God of Israel as well! She is now a God-follower, and makes a vow to Him in this passage, the God of Naomi will be the God of Ruth from now on. Now, this should sound strange to you because what did Ruth know about Naomi’s God from Naomi’s life? Naomi’s life was nothing but strife and turmoil. Strange huh? Whatever happened, Ruth came to trust in the true God, the only God, and this language shows the deepness of Ruth’s commitment. Ruth is leaving all she ever knew and is embracing a hard life with Naomi. Naomi will not remarry, and will not have children. She’s a widow, and Ruth is signing up for the same things by following her. Ruth was radically committed in her relationship to Naomi.

But we, as the readers, know about Boaz, when Naomi has seemingly forgot about him and Ruth doesn’t even know him. We know that God will turn all of this despair into gladness soon by providing Boaz as a husband for Ruth. BUT Ruth makes this commitment without knowing Boaz exists. That’s astonishing is it not? Elimelech, the Israelite, took his life into his own hands and left the promise land, Ruth, the Moabite, puts her life into God’s hands and goes into the promise land.

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