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Icons of the Bible: Naomi, Ruth and Boaz - From Bitter Sorrow Comes Great Blessings

Updated: Aug 31, 2023

Icons of the Bible: Naomi, Ruth and Boaz
Icons of the Bible: Naomi, Ruth and Boaz

Images from Icons of the Bible James Lewis

The Icons of The Bible Series will go through all the people of the Bible in chronological order. I will attempt to provide you focused article and videos that will help you become more familiar with those whom God chose to tell us about in His Holy Scripture

Icons of the Bible: Naomi, Ruth and Boaz - From Bitter Sorrow Comes Great Blessings

Who was Naomi in the Bible?

The story of Naomi appears in the Bible in the book of Ruth. Naomi lived during the time of the judges. She was the wife of a man named Elimelech, and they lived in Bethlehem with their two sons, Mahlon and Kilion. Naomi’s life illustrates the power of God to bring something good out of bitter circumstances.

When a famine hits Judea, Elimelech and Naomi and their two boys relocate to Moab (Ruth 1:1). There, Mahlon and Kilion marry two Moabite women, Orpah and Ruth. After about ten years, tragedy strikes. Elimelech dies, and both of Naomi’s sons also die, leaving Naomi, Ruth, and Orpah widows (Ruth 1:3–5). Naomi, hearing that the famine in Judea was over, decides to return home (Ruth 1:6). Orpah stays in Moab, but Ruth chooses to move to the land of Israel with Naomi. The book of Ruth is the story of Naomi and Ruth returning to Bethlehem and how Ruth married a man named Boaz and bore a son, Obed, who became the grandfather of David and the ancestor of Jesus Christ.

The name Naomi means “sweet, pleasant,” which gives us an idea of Naomi’s basic character. We see her giving her blessing to Ruth and Orpah when she tells them to return to their mothers’ homes so that they might find new husbands: she kisses them and asks that the Lord deal kindly with them (Ruth 1:8–14). But her heartache in Moab was more than Naomi could bear. When she and Ruth arrive in Bethlehem, the women of the town greet Naomi by name, but she cries, “Don’t call me Naomi. . . . Call me Mara, because the Almighty has made my life very bitter. I went away full, but the Lord has brought me back empty. Why call me Naomi? The Lord has afflicted me; the Almighty has brought misfortune upon me” (Ruth 1:20–21). The name Mara means “bitter.” The cup of affliction is a bitter cup, but Naomi understood that the affliction came from the God who is sovereign in all things. Little did she know that from this bitter sorrow great blessings would come to her, her descendants, and the world through Jesus Christ.." from the article: Who was Naomi in the Bible?

photo of ruth

Biography of Ruth in the Bible

According to the biblical Book of Ruth, Ruth was a Moabite woman who married into an Israelite family and eventually converted to Judaism. She is the great-grandmother of King David and hence an ancestor of the Messiah.

Ruth Converts to Judaism

Ruth's story begins when an Israelite woman, named Naomi, and her husband, Elimelech, leave their hometown of Bethlehem. Israel is suffering from famine and they decide to relocate to the nearby nation of Moab. Eventually, Naomi's husband dies and Naomi's sons marry Moabite women named Orpah and Ruth.

After ten years of marriage, both of Naomi's sons die of unknown causes and she decides that it is time to return to her homeland of Israel. The famine has subsided and she no longer has immediate family in Moab. Naomi tells her daughters-in-law about her plans and both of them say they want to go with her. But they are young women with every chance of remarrying, so Naomi advises them to stay in their homeland, remarry, and begin new lives. Orpah eventually agrees, but Ruth insists upon staying with Naomi. "Don't urge me to leave you or to turn back from you," Ruth tells Naomi. "Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God." (Ruth 1:16).

Ruth's statement not only proclaims her loyalty to Naomi but her desire to join Naomi's people—the Jewish people. "In the thousands of years since Ruth spoke these words," writes Rabbi Joseph Telushkin, "no one has better defined the combination of peoplehood and religion that characterizes Judaism: 'Your people shall be my people' ('I wish to join the Jewish nation'), 'Your God shall be my God' ('I wish to accept the Jewish religion').

Ruth Marries Boaz

Shortly after Ruth converts to Judaism, she and Naomi arrive in Israel while the barley harvest is underway. They are so poor that Ruth must gather food that has fallen on the ground while harvesters are gathering the crops. In doing so, Ruth is taking advantage of a Jewish law derived from Leviticus 19:9-10. The law prohibits farmers from gathering crops "all the way to the edges of the field" and from picking up food that has fallen to the ground. Both of these practices make it possible for the poor to feed their families by gathering what is left behind in a farmer's field.." from the article: Biography of Ruth in the Bible


"One of the relatives of Elimelech, husband of Naomi; a wealthy Judean, living at Bethlehem in Judah (Ruth ii. 1). He was one of the kinsmen of Ruth; as such he had the privilege of redeeming the family estate sold by Naomi after Elimelech's death. Therefore when Ruth appealed to his kinship, he redeemed the property (Ruth iii. 9, iv. 3). In consequence of this he had to marry Ruth, in order "to raise up the name of the dead" (Ruth iv. 5, 10). Their son Obed was, according to tradition, the grandfather of David (Ruth iv. 22).

His Conduct Approved.—In Rabbinical Literature:

Boaz is identified by some rabbis with the judge Ibzan of Bethlehem (Judges xii. 8). It is further said that he lost all his sixty children during his lifetime because he did not invite Manoah, Samson's father, to any of the marriage festivities in his house. For, since Manoah was at that time without children, Boaz thought that he need not consider on such occasions a childless man who could not pay him back in kind (B. B. 91a). According to Josephus, "Ant." v. 9, § 1, Boaz lived at the time of Eli. Boaz was a just, pious, and learned judge, and the custom of using the Divine Name in greeting one's fellow-man (Ruth ii. 4) formulated by him and his bet din received the approval of even the heavenly bet din (Mak. 23b; Yer. Ber. ix. 14c; Ruth R. to ii. 4).

Being a pious man, Boaz on his first meeting with Ruth perceived her conscientiousness in picking up the grain, as she strictly observed the rules prescribed by the Law (compare Gleaning of the Fields). This, as well as her grace and her chaste conduct during work, induced Boaz to inquire about the stranger, although he was not in the habit of inquiring after women (Ruth R. to ii. 5; Shab. 113b). In the conversation that followed between Boaz and Ruth, the pious proselyte said that, being a Moabite, she was excluded from association with the community of God (Deut. xxiii. 4). Boaz, however, replied that the prohibition in Scripture applied only to the men of Moab, and not to the women. He furthermore told her that he had heard from the Prophets that she was destined to become the ancestress of kings and prophets; and he blessed her with the words: "May God, who rewards the pious, also reward you" (Targ. Ruth ii. 10, 11; Pesiḳ, ed. Buber, xvi. 124a). Boaz was especially friendly toward the poor stranger during the meal, when he indicated to her by various symbolic courtesies that she would become the ancestress of the Davidic royal house, including the Messiah (Ruth R. to ii. 14; Shab. 113b). As toward Ruth, Boaz had also been kind toward his kinsmen, Naomi's sons, on hearing of their death, taking care that they had an honorable burial (Ruth R. to ii. 20).." from the article: Boaz

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