Naomi was a wife and mother of two sons. She and her family left their home in Bethlehem, Judah to live in Moab. In the land of Moab, Naomi’s sons met and married two Moabite women after their father died. The Moabites were considered to be enemies of the Israelites. Naomi’s daughters-in-law, Ruth and Orpah seemed like remarkable women and they adored Naomi.
Tragedy struck Naomi’s family again when she lost both of her sons ten years after they were married. Now only Naomi and her two daughters-in-law were left. When word came to Naomi that the famine in the land of Judah was over, she decided to leave Moab and return home. Her daughters-in-law begged to go with her but she said to them, “Go, return each to her mother’s house. The LORD deal kindly with you, as you have dealt with the dead and with me. The LORD grant that you may find rest, each in the house of her husband.” She kissed them.
She must have been a wonderful mother-in-law to them because they didn’t want to be separated from her. They wept and said to her, “Surely we will return with you to your people.”
But she shook her head and insisted, “Turn back, my daughters; why will you go with me? Are there still sons in my womb, that they may be your husbands? Turn back, my daughters, go—for I am too old to have a husband. If I should say I have hope, if I should have a husband tonight and should also bear sons, would you wait for them till they were grown? Would you restrain yourselves from having husbands? No, my daughters; for it grieves me very much for your sakes that the hand of the LORD has gone out against me!” They wept again but this time, Orpah kissed her mother-in-law and went away with a heavy heart. But Ruth clung to Naomi.
Naomi tried to talk her into going with Orpah but Ruth refused.
“ Entreat me not to leave you,
Or to turn back from following after you;
For wherever you go, I will go;
And wherever 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.
The LORD do so to me, and more also,
If anything but death parts you and me.”
When Naomi saw how determined Ruth was, she stopped trying to talk her out of going with her and they returned to Judah together.
The people in the community were delighted to see Naomi but still reeling from the losses of her husband and sons, Naomi changed her name to reflect how she felt. “Do not call me Naomi; call me Mara, for the Almighty has dealt very bitterly with me. I went out full, and the LORD has brought me home again empty. Why do you call me Naomi, since the LORD has testified against me, and the Almighty has afflicted me?”
Even though Naomi felt that Lord had dealt her a heavy hand of affliction, He was working to restore her faith and joy in her life. Ruth met Boaz and she went to work in his field with Naomi’s encouragement. Boaz was kind to her because he had heard how all she had done for her mother-in-law–the sacrifices she had made for her–coming to a strange land to live among strangers. When Naomi found out that it was Boaz who had been kind to Ruth, she said, “Blessed be he of the LORD, who has not forsaken His kindness to the living and the dead!” And Naomi said to her, “This man is a relation of ours, one of our close relatives.” This wasn’t a coincidence. It was God’s plan. Inevitably the two fell in love and Boaz married Ruth. Ruth gave birth to a baby boy, Obed.
The women said to Naomi, “Blessed be the LORD, who has not left you this day without a close relative; and may his name be famous in Israel! And may he be to you a restorer of life and a nourisher of your old age; for your daughter-in-law, who loves you, who is better to you than seven sons, has borne him.” Then Naomi took the child and laid him on her bosom, and became a nurse to him. Also the neighbor women gave him a name, saying, “There is a son born to Naomi.” And they called his name Obed. He is the father of Jesse, the father of David.
In the story of Naomi and Ruth, we see that God allows some tragedies to take place. Naomi lost her husband and sons but God blessed her with a loving and faithful and dutiful daughter-in-law who was willing to give up her life and home for a woman she had grown to love as a mother. Naomi’s love and devotion to Ruth was rewarded. She lived to see Ruth marry her husband’s relative and bear a son who would be the grandfather of Israel’s most beloved king–David.
Naomi saw that the God whom she thought had dealt bitterly with her had not left her without a close relative. He had blessed her with a new family and she was a grandmother for the first time. Her faith was restored and she was Naomi (“my delight”) again.