Three Widows on the road
Escaping a drought1Back in the days when heroic leaders known as judges ruled Israel, a drought struck that part of the world. A Bethlehem man moved his family to the country of Moab. He took his wife and two sons. 2His name was Elimelech. His wife was Naomi, and their sons were Mahlon and Chilion. They belonged to the tribe of Ephraim, but had lived in Bethlehem, a city in Judah’s tribal territory. They settled in Moab and decided not to move back to Bethlehem.
3Elimelech died there, leaving his widow Naomi with her two sons. 4Her sons married local Moabite women named Orpah and Ruth. Elimelech’s family lived there about 10 years. 5Then both Naomi’s sons died, Mahlon and Chilion. Suddenly, there were three widows: Naomi with her two widowed daughters-in-law.
Naomi’s road trip6Naomi heard that the drought in her homeland was over, and the LORD had let the people grow food again. 7So, she headed there with her daughters-in-law. They were on their way to Judah’s tribal territory.
8But along the way, Naomi told her two daughters-in-law, “You should go back to your own mothers. May the LORD treat you with the same wonderful kindness you showed me and my husband and my sons. 9May you each stay safe and find security with another husband.” She kissed them and they all cried.
10Both women told Naomi, “No. We don’t want to go back to our families. We want to stay with you and go to your people.”
11Naomi said, “Listen to me, daughters. Why on earth would you go with me? Do I look pregnant? Am I going to have more sons so they can marry their brothers’ widows? 12It’s not going to happen. So go home. Am I going to have more sons so they can marry their brothers’ widows? Just imagine me getting remarried and having more sons. 13Seriously, would you wait that long for a husband, even if I got pregnant tonight? This tragedy is hard on all of us, but I’m getting the worst of it because God has turned against me for some reason.”
14The women cried together, then Orpah kissed Naomi goodbye. Ruth would have none of it. She refused to leave Naomi.
Ruth refuses to leave Naomi15Naomi pleaded with Ruth, “Look, your sister-in-law is already headed home. She’s going back to her people and to their gods. You should do the same.” 16Ruth said,
“Don’t push me away.
Don’t tell me I can’t come.
Where you go, I’ll go.
Where you stay, I’ll stay.
Your family will be my family.
Your God will be my God.
Where you are buried, I’ll be buried.
May the LORD do this for me, and more,
For as long as we both will live.” 18Naomi realized there was no talking Ruth out of it. So, she stopped trying. 19Naomi and Ruth traveled on to Bethlehem. When they finally got there, the whole town knew it. Excited, the women said, “Is this really Naomi?” 20Naomi said,
“No, don’t call me Naomi anymore.
Call me Mara, because I’m bitter.
The LORD made me that way
Because he treated me that way.
I return empty.
The LORD brought me back this way
Why call me Joyful Naomi
After the LORD did this to me?
This is harsh, and he did it. 23So Naomi came home, and she brought along her daughter-in-law Ruth, from Moab. They arrived in Bethlehem when farmers were just starting to harvest their barley.
These leaders included Deborah, Gideon, and Samson. Few “judges” actually presided over legal disputes. Deborah was an exception who did (Judges 4:5).
Moab was a nation east of the Dead Sea, in what is now Jordan. Naomi’s great-great grandson, King David, would eventually annex Moab and claim it as part of his kingdom.
One of the laws Moses gave the Israelites said that when a married man died, one of the man’s brothers should marry the widow, his sister-in-law (Deuteronomy 25:5).
Mara is a Hebrew word for “bitter.” Naomi’s name is just the opposite: “pleasant,” “happy,” or “joyful.”
Farmers in the region usually begin harvesting barley in late March or early April. Barley harvest usually comes after the harvest of flax (February-March) and before the harvest of wheat (May-July).
- Sorry, there are currently no questions for this chapter.