During the time of the judges there was a famine in Israel. Elimelech was from Bethlehem and a member of the tribe of Judah. Because of the famine, he decided to take his wife, Naomi, and 2 sons, Mahlon and Chilion, to the land of Moab. They left the Promised Land and went to Moab. While they were there Elimelech died. Mahlon and Chilion decided to marry Moabites while they were there and their names were Orpah and Ruth. Now marrying Moabites wasn’t forbidden by God, but they were not viewed as nice people by most Israelites and were not allowed to enter the temple. Sometime later both Mahon and Chilion die. Naomi, Ruth and Orpah are all alone!!
There were very few jobs that women were allowed to do in these days so these ladies were going to have a hard time surviving. Naomi decides to return to Bethlehem where she knows her extended family will care for her. They prepare to go, but then Naomi tells Orpah and Ruth to go back to their families in Moab. Now to us that sounds perfectly normal. In our culture we often stay close to both our families after we marry. But in this time and culture when a woman married she left her family behind and became part of the man’s family. Her family no longer had any responsibility for her wellbeing. In Naomi and Ruth’s culture, if a woman’s husband died, his family would continue to care for his wife and children. However in this case, Naomi knew that because Ruth and Orpah were Moabites they were not going to be easily accepted back in Bethlehem. She also knew that even though the girls’ families didn’t have to care for them anymore, they loved them and would take them in. Thus Naomi encouraged Orpah and Ruth to stay in Moab. Both girls argue at first but eventually Naomi convinces Orpah to go back. Ruth however is adamant that she stay with Naomi. Ruth tells her that her people will be Ruth’s people and Naomi’s God will be her God. Ruth will not turn back! Naomi finally agrees and they return to Bethlehem together.
But why did Ruth refuse to turn back? I firmly believe because she had learned to have faith in the one true God in Naomi’s home. She wanted to honor God by continuing to care for Naomi and she did not want to stay in a land where they worshipped false gods. Ruth’s faithfulness would eventually be rewarded and serves as a reminder to us to faithfully follow God, even when the other choices make more sense and are easier!
Do you think it would be hard to move to another place where the people are different? Which would you want to do, go or stay? Following God is sometimes hard, but always worth it!