Seeds of Promise Series by Shenica Graham
Naomi: Blessed to Bitterness
Women of The Bible
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Devotional Reading: Ruth 1:1-4 AMP
1 In the days when the judges ruled, there was a famine in the land. And a certain man of Bethlehem of Judah went to sojourn in the country of Moab, he, his wife, and his two sons. 2 The man’s name was Elimelech and his wife’s name was Naomi and his two sons were named Mahlon [invalid] and Chilion [pining]; they were Ephrathites from Bethlehem of Judah. They went to the country of Moab and continued there. 3 But Elimelech, who [was] Naomi’s husband, died, and she was left with her two sons. 4 And they took wives of the women of Moab; the name of the one was Orpah and the name of the other Ruth. They dwelt there about ten years; 5 And Mahlon and Chilion died also, both of them, so the woman was bereft of her two sons and her husband.
The verses above do not tell what was the cause of Naomi’s husband’s demise. You can read that the famine in their home country was so great, it warranted them uprooting their family to another place; and ironically, they left a famine to settle in Moab, which means waste, or nothingness. Jewish tradition holds that the relocation was an unfortunate mistake because the husband Elimelech was a Hebrew – who should have clung to the promise of God that in days of famine, God’s chosen people would be satisfied . Staying in Bethlehem would have meant putting total trust in Jehovah-Jireh, my provider. Instead, Elimelech – whose name means “house of bread” was fearful; and being a husband with children, he sought provision carnally, which was outside of God’s will – however unintentionally. Leaving Bethlehem was stepping outside of God’s will . “Naomi’s husband, Elimelech had fled to Moab to escape a possible death from famine, and died in the midst of plenty leaving his wife a widow in a land of idolaters” . The family would have fared better through standing still (not relocating) in prayers of faith, rather than separating themselves from the Children of Israel, which symbolized a separation from God. The death of the husband could have been retribution for leaving God in Bethlehem.
It is doubtful that the sons of Elimelech were made to observe the Hebrew traditions of his forefathers, after moving to Moab. Now in Moab, the sons of Naomi acclimated to the local scene. Eventually, both sons took wives from Moab, rather than seeking wives from their mother’s kinsmen, which was forbidden in the Jewish tradition (to marry outside of the Hebrew nation). Lacking proper knowledge of and reverence for their heritage – most likely by omission rather than rebellion against what the knew (they had not been taught God’s laws), the sons of Naomi doomed themselves to destruction by marrying women from a country of idolators.
After only a decade of marriage, both of Naomi’s sons died unexpectedly. Like their father, the two sons are not noted as being specifically ill or having some unknown ailment that should have taken their lives, thus their passing was something tragically misunderstood and the more daunting seeing that their father was already passed and all the women of Naomi’s immediate family were now widows, including her young daughters-in-law.
“Naomi means “my joy,” “my bliss,” or “pleasantness of Jehovah,” and is a name suggestive of all that is charming, agreeable, attractive” . This was the nature of Naomi before she was devastated by the loss of her husband and sons. The lifestyle to which Naomi was accustomed changed drastically as she waded into depression of bereavement. She might have taken heart and been encouraged to have her daughters-in-law still among the living with her, had they at least been believers in her God and from among her people. However, they were foreigners to her in more ways than one. Learning that God had provided food amidst hard times in Bethlehem, Naomi determines to return to her home country – in a reverse of the situation that drove her from there in the first place: once again, she is moving to find food – but this time, she is moving “toward God.”
Devotional Reading: Ruth 1:6-7 AMP
6 Then she arose with her daughters-in-law to return from the country of Moab, for she had heard in Moab how the Lord had visited His people in giving them food. 7 So she left the place where she was, her two daughters-in-law with her, and they started on the way back to Judah.
Naomi would have felt responsibility for her daughters-in-law, to accommodate them, just as if they were daughters of her own body. However, Naomi had no resources sufficient to sustain the three of them. Their parting was grevious; not only had they lost the men in thier lives, but it seemed that they would now all be separated, and with nothing to show for their brief unity.
Devotional Reading: Ruth 1:8-15 AMP
8 But Naomi said to her two daughters-in-law, Go, return each of you to her mother’s house. May the Lord deal kindly with you, as you have dealt with the dead and with me. 9 The Lord grant that you may find a home and rest, each in the house of her husband! Then she kissed them and they wept aloud. 10 And they said to her, No, we will return with you to your people. 11 But Naomi said, Turn back, my daughters, why will you go with me? Have I yet sons in my womb that may become your husbands? 12 Turn back, my daughters, go; for I am too old to have a husband. If I should say I have hope, even if I should have a husband tonight and should bear sons, 13 Would you therefore wait till they were grown? Would you therefore refrain from marrying? No, my daughters; it is far more bitter for me than for you that the hand of the Lord is gone out against me. 14 Then they wept aloud again; and Orpah [a]kissed her mother-in-law [good-bye], but Ruth clung to her. 15 And Naomi said, See, your sister-in-law has gone back to her people and to her gods; return after your sister-in-law.
Naomi felt punished by all the calamity that had befallen her. She must have had the intuition that leaving Bethlehem, though it seemed good at the time, was the worst thing that her family could have done. Perhaps she thought that had she protested, they would have seen the salvation of the LORD when he provided food for those who trusted in him, and she would not have ended up in a foreign country with people contrary to her faith. However, had she never been in Moab, she would missed a great blessing in the life of Ruth, which not only gave Naomi a feeling of something to live for, it actually restored to her some lost time. Orphah saw no future with Naomi and she returned to her people and likely their idolatrous living. But Ruth had the instinct that her future for good to her, was tied to her mother-in-law, and she refused to leave Naomi’s side.
Devotional Reading: Ruth 1:16- AMP
16 And Ruth said, Urge me not to leave you or to turn back from following 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. 17 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 me from you. 18 When Naomi saw that Ruth was determined to go with her, she said no more. 19 So they both went on until they came to Bethlehem. And when they arrived in Bethlehem, the whole town was stirred about them, and said, Is this Naomi? 20 And she said to them, Call me not Naomi [pleasant]; call me Mara [bitter], for the Almighty has dealt very bitterly with me.
When Naomi returned to Bethlehem, her people recognized and received her and Ruth, her daughter-in-law. However, Naomi was so emotionally ravaged, she asked that her name be changed in the sight of all her kin. She wanted to be called Mara, a name reflecting all of the bitterness that filled her heart.
,, Naomi: The Woman Who Tasted The Cup of Bitterness. All The Women of The Bible. BibleGateway. https://www.biblegateway.com/devotionals/all-women-bible/2011/09/12. Accessed April 8, 2015.