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Women in the Bible: Naomi

God Takes Away Naomi’s Bitterness Over Losing Her Husband and Her Sons

Naomi means pleasant. She, her husband, and their two sons leave their home country and travel to Moab because of a famine. While in Moab, her husband dies, leaving her a widow. Later both of her sons die, too, leaving her with two widowed daughters-in-law, Orpah and Ruth.

Naomi blames God for her misfortune and grows bitter.

She decides to return home when she hears they have food. Orpah and Ruth start back with her. At Naomi’s urging Orpah decides to remain in Moab, but Ruth expresses deep commitment to her mother-in-law and to God, promising to stay with her forever.

Soon after they return to Israel, Naomi develops a plan for Ruth to marry their relative, Boaz. They get married and Ruth has her first child, Obed. Naomi cares for Obed like a son, as the local women celebrate the baby and Naomi’s good fortune.

Like all of us, Naomi’s life contains struggle and disappointment, but God cares for her, providing a loyal daughter-in-law and a cherished grandson.

[Read through the Bible with us this year. Today’s reading is Ruth 1-4, and today’s post is on Ruth 1:1-5.]

Learn about other biblical women in Women of the Bible, available in e-book, paperback, hardcover, and audiobook.

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices. Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

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Women in the Bible: Orpah

Orpah Begins a Journey but Then Returns Home

Orpah is the widowed daughter-in-law of Naomi and sister-in-law to Ruth. When Naomi decides to return to Judah, her daughters-in-law start out with her, but Naomi releases them. She encourages them to return to their mothers and find new husbands.

Though Ruth stubbornly refuses, Orpah does the smart thing and goes home.

That’s the last we hear of her. We don’t know if she marries again or ever has any children. We don’t know how long she lives. We only know she does what makes sense from a human perspective.

However, Orpah’s sister-in-law chooses a path that doesn’t make sense, and God honors her for her loyalty to him and to her mother-in-law.

Sometimes what seems right to us is far different than God’s plan for us.

[Read through the Bible with us this year. Today’s reading is Ruth 1-4, and today’s post is on Ruth 1:6-15.]

Learn about other biblical women in Women of the Bible, available in e-book, paperback, hardcover, and audiobook.

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices. Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

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Bible Insights

How Can We Help the Poor?

Deuteronomy Instructs Us to Help Foreigners, Orphans, and Widows

In the book of Deuteronomy, Moses reminds God’s people that when they’re harvesting a field to not pick it clean, to leave some of the produce for others. This includes foreigners, orphans, and widows (Deuteronomy 24:19).

Help Foreigners Orphans and Widows

Moses’s words reiterate the same command that we read twice in the book of Leviticus (Leviticus 19:9-10 and Leviticus 23:22). It’s good for Moses to remind the people of this command. They’ve been in the desert for forty years and not planted or harvested.

Soon that will change. He’s telling them their harvest won’t just be for them, but it’s also to help poor people, specifically to help foreigners, orphans, and widows.

Ruth Gleans Grain

Let’s fast forward a few centuries to Ruth and her mother-in-law Naomi. Ruth and Naomi are both widows. Ruth is also a foreigner. When they return to Israel, they’re poor. Dirt poor.

Aside from each other, they have no family. They have no means for support. They have no money. What do they do?

Ruth goes out in the fields to glean grain, to pick up what the harvesters left behind or overlooked. This wouldn’t have been possible had the landowners not followed Moses’s command to leave some of the harvest behind for the foreigners, orphans, and widows so they can glean.

Even though this is an act of generosity on the part of the farmers, notice that Ruth does need to work to get her free food. She must glean grain from the field, working and sweating behind the day laborers.

For Ruth and Naomi, their story ends happily. Ruth gets married again and this time she has a child. Ruth’s husband also takes care of his mother-in-law, Naomi. They no longer need to worry about their day-to-day survival.

But not all poor people are so fortunate. They must continue to glean from the fields and rely on the generosity of others.

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How Can We Apply This Principle Today?

Today, few of us are farmers to leave food in the fields for people to glean. Yet that does not remove the responsibility from us to help the foreigners, orphans, and widows who are destitute and have no food. What can we do to help them?

[Read through the Bible with us this year. Today’s reading is Deuteronomy 22-24, and today’s post is on Deuteronomy 24:19.]

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices. Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.