Ruth and Naomi is one of the most beloved stories in the Bible: a story of loyalty, love, and faith in God.
Two of the most powerful lessons that we learn from the account of Ruth and Naomi are God rescues the world by sending babies and he sends those babies to righteous and prepared mothers. Ruth and Naomi were the grand-ancestors of the future King David and the King of kings, Jesus Christ.
President Spencer W. Kimball, a prophet of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, quoted Mr. F. M. Bareham in his book, Faith Precedes the Miracle:
We fancy God can manage his world only with great battalions, when all the time he is doing it with beautiful babies. When a wrong wants righting, or a truth wants preaching, or a continent wants discovering, God sends a baby into the world to do it.
Ruth and Naomi – Great Women Who Changed the World
One of the messages of the Old Testament is that God prepares great women and mothers who teach great lessons and demonstrate what it truly means to be great Christians. In the Book of Ruth we get a discerning look at two remarkable Christians, Ruth and Naomi, who are great women and mothers.
I wonder if the placement of these stories in the Bible is coincidental. If we examine the final chapters of the Book of Judges together with the Book of Ruth and the first chapter of the Book of Samuel, we find that a great contrast to the wickedness described in the Book of Judges. Whether intended or not, there are great lessons here about the things that matter most.
Ruth and Naomi Leave Moab to go to Bethlehem
The story of Ruth and Naomi begins with Naomi’s husband, Elimlech, who took his family to Moab for a decade. While there, he died and his sons died, who had married two Moabite women, Orpah and Ruth, died also. Naomi, wife and mother, was left with great sorrow. To her daughters-in-law she said, “The hand of the Lord is gone out against me” (Ruth 1:13).
Knowing that there was little opportunity in Israel for Moabite widows, Naomi encouraged her daughters to remain in Moab while she returned to her home in Bethlehem. Orpah agreed, but Ruth refused to leave Naomi. The account of the story of Ruth and Naomi suggests two reasons for this. First, Ruth loved Naomi, and would not send her away alone to a life without offspring or opportunity. Second, Ruth had been converted to Jehovah, the God of Naomi.
And Ruth said, Intreat me not to leave thee, or to return from following after thee: for whither thou goest, I will go; and where thou lodgest, I will lodge: thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God: Where thou diest, will I die, and there will I be buried: the LORD do so to me, and more also, if ought but death part thee and me (Ruth 1:16,17).
Life is filled with opportunities to make choices about the things that matter most. Orpah chose family, friends, familiarity. Ruth and Naomi chose love and faith. Consider this:
The adversary is delighted when we act like sightseers, meaning those who are hearers rather than doers of the word (see James 1:22), or shoppers, meaning those preoccupied with the vain things of this world that suffocate our spirits. Satan baits us with perishable pleasures and preoccupations–our bank accounts, our wardrobes, even our waistlines–for he knows that where our treasure is, there will our hearts be also (see Matt. 6:21). Unfortunately, it is easy to let the blinding glare of the adversary’s enticements distract us from the light of Christ (Sheri Dew, Ensign, Nov. 1999, p. 97).
Ruth would not be distracted by the “perishable pleasures.” Ruth left for Bethlehem with Naomi, her mother-in-law.
Over the centuries, since the time of Ruth and Naomi, many wonderful women have sacrificed comforts and familiar surroundings to “follow” and declare “whither thou goest, I will go; and where thou lodgest, I will lodge.” Many valiant women have equally exhibited the attributes of loyalty, love, and faith to family and to God. And we believe that they will be rewarded as were Ruth and Naomi.
Ruth and Naomi are devoted to Each Other’s Welfare
When Ruth and Naomi returned to Bethlehem, there seems to have been a great outpouring of sympathy for them. “All the city was moved about them, and they said, is this Naomi?” (Ruth 1:19) Naomi responded, “Call me not Naomi, call me Mara [the word means bitter]” (Ruth 1:20) . . . I went out full and the Lord hath brought me home again empty.”
Certainly life had dealt roughly with Naomi. It often does with all of us. What a blessing it is to have these spectacular scriptural examples of women who, like Ruth and Naomi, refused in spite of their troubles to become discouraged. They determined the right thing to do, and despite the sacrifice, they did it.
But Naomi was not as empty as she thought she was. I imagine that in our own lives all of us encounter weeks or months when we feel empty, when the cup of our lives seems filled with bitterness. But Naomi had one of the great daughters of all time—Ruth–one who would stand by her and give her an immortal scriptural legacy. As mentioned, because of their righteousness, both Ruth and Naomi had the honor of becoming ancestors of the Son of God.
These are also lessons worth learning. As we walk down the sidewalk of sorrows that so often defines our mortal experiences, we must remember that we are loved by a God with absolute power, who knows our needs and our limits, and who knows what we can become.
Let us take a moment here to consider how good Ruth really was. In addition to her willingness to change her life and her religion and to stay with Naomi, her destitute mother-in-law, we learn these wonderful things about Ruth:
- Ruth was willing to go into the fields and glean for food her and for Naomi (Ruth 2:2).
- Boaz, the owner of the field where Ruth gleaned, knew of all that she had done for Naomi (Ruth 2:11).
- Ruth sought a husband who would preserve Naomi’s inheritance in Israel rather than a man who was just young or rich (Ruth 3:10).
- Ruth had a reputation for goodness. The entire city of Bethlehem knew how good Ruth was (Ruth 3:11).
- Naomi’s friends told her that Ruth was better to her than seven sons would be (Ruth 4:15).
Ruth and Boaz enter into a “Levirate Marriage”
The Levirate marriage is an ancient Hebrew custom that provides safety, security and an inheritance for a woman who has lost her husband. The Law of Moses states that the deceased husband’s brother or a close relative should marry the widow so that she might be redeemed and returned to her former status (Deuteronomy 25:5-10, cf. Gen. 38:8). This system of marriage forms a major aspect of the story of Ruth and Naomi (Ruth 4:1-12).
In a Levirate marriage, the man becomes a go’el to the suffering widow. The translation of go’el is “redeemer.” The prophets were so impressed by the selflessness and mercy of the widow’s redeemer that they borrowed the term to describe the prophesied Divine Redeemer, who would rescue and ransom us, provide us an inheritance in his “home,” and provide us safety and security.
In the story of Ruth and Naomi we read about the Levirate marriage when Ruth met Boaz as she was gleaning in his fields. Boaz treated Ruth kindly, fed her, and praised her for her goodness. When Ruth reported this to Naomi, who had thought that the Lord had left her “empty,” Naomi began to realized that her life could be full again. This glimmer of hope caused Naomi to instruct Ruth carefully concerning the custom of the Levirate marriage:
And Naomi said unto her daughter in law, Blessed be he of the LORD, who hath not left off his kindness to the living and to the dead. And Naomi said unto her, The man is near of kin unto us, one of our next kinsmen (Ruth 2:20).
Naomi had no more sons to fulfill for Ruth the Levirate marriage custom, but in the absence of a brother, a near kinsman could accept the obligation to marry the widow and raise up seed to the departed man. “Then Naomi her mother in law said unto her, My daughter, shall I not seek rest for thee, that it may be well with thee? And now is not Boaz of our kindred…?” (Ruth 3:1-2).
Obediently, Ruth presented herself to Boaz and invited him to accept the duty of a near kinsman by marrying her. He was willing, but, he said, “there is a kinsman nearer than I” (Ruth 3:12). Therefore, Boaz took witnesses and approached the nearer kinsman and told him that the property of Elimelech was available for purchase, but, he explained, the purchase also involved a Levirate marriage to Ruth:
What day thou buyest the field of the hand of Naomi, thou must buy it also of Ruth the Moabitess, the wife of the dead, to raise up the name of the dead upon his inheritance. And the kinsman said, I cannot redeem it for myself, lest I mar mine own inheritance: redeem thou my right to thyself; for I cannot redeem it (Ruth 4:5,6).
In other words, the “nearer kinsman” declined and his name was lost forever to history. On the other hand, the selfless Boaz agreed and said to the witnesses, “Ruth the Moabitess, the wife of Mahlon, have I purchased [redeemed] to be my wife, to raise up the name of the dead upon his inheritance, that the name of the dead be not cut off from among his brethren, and from the gate of his place: ye are witnesses this day” (Ruth 4:10).
Ruth and Naomi are blessed by the Lord
Boaz then pronounced a blessing upon Ruth, the kind of blessing that was typical of betrothals in Israel, which hearkened back to the blessing pronounced upon Rebekah when she left to marry Isaac: “And they blessed Rebekah, and said unto her, Thou art our sister, be thou the mother of thousands of millions, and let thy seed possess the gate of those which hate them” (Genesis 24:59-60). Similarly, Boaz pronounced his blessing upon Ruth in these words:
The LORD make the woman that is come into thine house like Rachel and like Leah, which two did build the house of Israel: and do thou worthily in Ephratah, and be famous in Bethlehem . . .” (Ruth 4:11).
And a similar thing was said to Naomi:
And the women said unto Naomi, Blessed be the LORD, which hath not left thee this day without a kinsman, that his name may be famous in Israel (Ruth 4:14)
We only need survey history to confirm that the blessings promised to Ruth and Naomi were fulfilled completely. Most certainly, by their righteousness, both Ruth and Naomi became forever “famous in Israel” (Ruth 4:11,14).
More about “Ruth and Naomi”
“Ruth and Naomi” was written by Larry Barkdull. The principles learned in the story of Ruth and Naomi are of importance to members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. If you would like to know more about Mormons with no obligation, please click on the following links:
If you have other questions about Mormons, click below on Mormon Beliefs, or Mormon FAQ.