The Word Made Fresh
1Back in those days when judges led the people, there was a famine in the land. A man from Bethlehem in Judah went with his wife and two sons to live for a while in Moab. 2His name was Elimelech, and his wife was Naomi. Their two sons were Mahlon and Chilion. They were part of the Ephrathite clan.
3Then Elimelech died, leaving Naomi with their two sons. Her sons married Moabite women, Orpah and Ruth. After they had been living there for ten years 5both Mahlon and Chilion died, and Naomi was left without husband or sons.
6She decided to leave Moab and her daughters-in-law and return to Bethlehem when she heard that the LORD had pity on the people and the famine had ended. 7So, she set out with her daughters-in-law from their home in Moab and headed back to Judah, 8but Naomi said to them, “Go back home to your mothers. May the LORD be kind to you as you have been to me and our men who have died. 9May the LORD grant that you find peace in the home of your new husbands.”
She kissed them, and they wept together. 10They said, “No, we want to go with you and live among your people.”
11But Naomi insisted. “Go back, my daughters. Why go with me? Can I bear more sons to be your husbands? 12Turn back, my daughters, and go your way. I am too old to find another husband, and even if I did have a husband, and even if I should be able to bear more sons, 13Would you want to not be married and wait until they are grown? It is far worse for me than for you; the LORD has turned against me.”
14They wept again, and Orpah kissed her mother-in-law goodbye, but Ruth would not let go of her. 15Naomi said, “Look, your sister-in-law has gone home to her people and to her gods. Go with her.”
16But Ruth said, “Please do not make me leave you, and don’t ask me not to follow you. I will go wherever you go and live wherever you live. Your people shall be my people. Your God shall be my God. 17Where you die, I will die, and that is where I will be buried. May the LORD deal harshly with me, or worse, if anything but death separates us.”
18Naomi realized that Ruth was determined to go with her, and she said no more. 19So, they walked together to Bethlehem. When they arrived, the whole town was surprised to see them, and the women said, “Is this Naomi?”
20She replied, “Don’t call me Naomi (which means ‘Pleasant’). Call me Mara (which means ‘Bitter’), because the Almighty has made my life bitter. 21When I left I had everything, but the LORD has brought me back with nothing. Why call me Naomi when the LORD has allowed these terrible things to happen to me?”22So, Naomi returned to Bethlehem with her Moabite daughter-in-law Ruth. When they arrived, the barley harvest was just underway.
1-5: We return to the time of the judges. The setting is once again Bethlehem. A famine causes economic hardship, and a man named Elimelech immigrates to Moab with his wife Naomi and their two boys, Mahlon and Chilion. Soon after, Elimelech dies. Naomi stays in Moab, and the two sons marry Moabite women, Orpah and Ruth. Tragedy strikes the family again when the two sons die, leaving Naomi completely bereft.
6-14: Naomi determines to return to Bethlehem when she hears that the famine is over. She advises her two daughters-in-law to return to their mothers’ houses and remarry. They insist that they will go with her, to her people. A moving scene ensues as the two young women cling to her and they all weep together. Orpah finally leaves, but Ruth still lingers.
15-18: Naomi insists that Ruth return also, noting that Orpah has gone back to her people and to her gods. Ruth refuses to leave, telling Naomi, “your people shall be my people, and your God my God.” At this, Naomi relents.
19-22: They arrive at Bethlehem and attract attention from the townspeople. The women recognize Naomi, but she still bears her grief, and says her name is no longer Naomi, which means “Pleasant,” but rather Mara, which means “Bitter” (see Exodus 15:23). They arrive at the beginning of the barley harvest, a very well-chosen time to come home.
After reading of all the troubles in Joshua and Judges, it is refreshing to come to a time without war. Naomi simply accepts the fact that her two daughters-in-law were raised to recognize other gods. But take note that Ruth has made a declaration to Naomi that “your God shall be my God.” Regardless, we are learning in the book of Ruth that people of different faiths can get along together without killing each other.