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Who are Naomi and Ruth?

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walking with naomi

Who are Naomi and Ruth?

In this series on Ruth, after encouraging you to read the whole book, I’ve been looking at different aspects of the story. This article looks at Naomi and Ruth.

Related articles include:

And now the story from the perspective of Naomi.

Who is Naomi in the Book of Ruth?

In the Book of Ruth, Naomi is the woman who loses her husband and her two sons while in a foreign country for 10 years.  She is Ruth’s mother-in-law.

Their story tells a story of redemption after a literal abandonment through death of her support team.

Why do Ruth and Naomi return to Bethlehem?

Naomi believes she has no future in Moab since her husband and sons died, so she plans to return home to Bethlehem where she knows people and that there is a system in place where widows can support themselves and get help when needed.  When I read Ruth Chapter 1, I sometimes get the feeling that Naomi never thought that Ruth would actually come with her.

Both daughters-in-law start off with Naomi, but she convinces Orpah to stay in Moab with her people.

Ruth is another matter.

This brings us to the most famous scripture in the book of Ruth.

Wherever you go I will go

So, Ruth tells Naomi in no uncertain terms that she is sticking with her.

Ruth said, “Don’t entreat me to leave you, and to return from following after 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, will I die, and there will I be buried: Yahweh do so to me, and more also, if anything but death part you and me.”

—Ruth 1:16-17

Naomi has met her match and so they went back to Bethlehem.

Why does Ruth stay with Naomi?

Ruth clearly loves Naomi and God. But let’s think about this from Naomi’s point of view for a second.

Naomi must have influenced Ruth during the time when the men were alive either through direct teaching or simply by being a good example of someone who belongs to God.

It reminds me of “letting your light shine” in Matthew 5.  I contend that Naomi let her light shine brightly – brightly enough for Ruth to give up her country and customs.

What does Naomi’s name mean?

Naomi’s name means “pleasantness”. Some scholars suggest that it indicates contentedness and happiness.

But when she returns to Bethlehem, the women greet her asking, “Is that Naomi?” And Naomi replies, “Don’t call me Naomi. Call me Mara, for the Almighty has dealt very bitterly with me.” 

She said to them, “Don’t call me Naomi. Call me Mara, for the Almighty has dealt very bitterly with me.  I went out full, and Yahweh has brought me home again empty. Why do you call me Naomi, since Yahweh has testified against me, and the Almighty has afflicted me?”

– Ruth 1:20-21

Naomi wants to change her name to “bitterness”! 

As a side note, names and their meanings carry significance in the bible.  So it is a big deal that Naomi feels that she has been treated bitterly.

But all in all, for someone who got lemons, she does a pretty good job making lemonade of her situation.

Naomi’s walk

In the rest of the book of Ruth, Naomi may not be young enough to do the gleaning, but she certainly appraises the situation quickly and negotiates Ruth’s future, thus ensuring her own future. Naomi sets up Ruth to glean in the fields of Boaz.

This guiding role is the path that God has given Naomi.  She recognizes that Boaz is a near-kinsman who will be able to redeem Ruth.

Naomi said to her daughter-in-law, “May he be blessed by Yahweh, who has not abandoned his kindness to the living and to the dead.”

– Ruth 2:20

Despite the claim that she wanted to be called “Mara”, Naomi quickly realizes that God is still providing for her, and will continue to provide for her and Ruth through the redemptive figure of Boaz.

Why is the story of Ruth & Naomi important?

Redemption is one of the key themes of the book of Ruth.

That God takes care of us and knows our needs, we understand with the example of the sparrow.

“Aren’t two sparrows sold for an assarion coin? Not one of them falls to the ground apart from your Father’s will.  But the very hairs of your head are all numbered.  Therefore don’t be afraid. You are of more value than many sparrows.”

– Matthew 10: 29-30

But redemption goes a bit deeper than God simply looking out for us.  In fact, Redeemer is one of the names of God, referenced in a number of places including Psalms, the prophets, and Job.

“But as for me, I know that my Redeemer lives.
In the end, he will stand upon the earth.”

– Job 19:25

For more in-depth about how God is our redeemer, we can look towards Boaz another day. 

Meanwhile, let’s finish up Naomi’s story.

Naomi redeemed as well as Ruth

In the end, God delivers both Naomi, one of his people of Israel, as well as Ruth the Moabitess.  The women of town say that a “son is born to Naomi” when Ruth gives birth to Obed.  They also praise Yahweh for his mercy.

Quote from Ruth 4:14

So it goes from Naomi to Ruth to Obed to Jesse to David.

Naomi is the great-great-grandmother to King David.

Ruth & Naomi Scripture Coloring Page

I’ve given you a lot of scriptures from Naomi’s story in the book of Ruth.  By far, that key one is Ruth 1:16.

I’ve practiced my hand-lettering with that scripture.  I think I need more practice.

This lettering practice page encourages me to keep practicing!

I encourage you to write out your favorite scripture from the book of Ruth.  If you would rather color it in, I’ve got two downloadable versions of it if you like coloring pages. 

Simple on page 1 or busy version on page 2.  Depending on your style.

Ruth Coloring Page 1.16sDownload

Enjoying walking with Naomi

I enjoy Naomi’s part in the story of Ruth.  I find her encouraging for several reasons.

  • She’s lost everything, but God is still there for her, even if she forgets that temporarily.
  • I think she’s a good role model.  I hope to be a good mother-in-law someday.
  • She doesn’t seem to wallow around feeling sorry for herself.  Even though she has some serious problems, she seems to deal with them, trying to move on to a solution.

That last one in particular resonates with me. Sometimes our circumstances can feel pretty overwhelming. But no sense in worrying about what you can’t change.

Coming from a recovering worrier, these are important reminders for me. Get on with it. Baby steps towards things you can change—that seems to be more productive than worrying about that which you cannot change!

So I take baby steps. Naomi’s walk makes me hopeful and reminds me to remember that “my Redeemer liveth” and He is with me in my journey.

I hope you have enjoyed walking with Naomi from the book of Ruth.  There’s always more to think about the more you think about it, isn’t there?

For more study

What does Naomi mean? What does Mara mean?

From Behind the Name

From Jerusalem Prayer Team

What is the Redeemer: “GOEL”?

From Names For God


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