2008-06-22 - Ruth: Faith and Cultural Issues
Installment 11 ~ Chapter 1, Part 6
Verses 9b-10: Nevertheless both women committed to going with her. This demonstrated their deep love for Naomi. And, as we will see, it also says a lot about Ruth's faith in the power of Naomi's God. Huey notes:
"Both Orpah and Ruth refused to be separated from Naomi. They pledged themselves to return to Judah with her. Their devotion, while remarkable in the light of what they were giving up to remain with Naomi, was at the same time high commendation of Naomi's character. By following her, they were abandoning their families, friends, homeland, deities, and prospects for remarriage." 1
Verses 11-13: The other reason Naomi want them to return home was that she had nothing to offer. The fulfillment of women in Middle Eastern cultures was not just marriage, but also children. Naomi's world and her line had come to an end. Her concerns speak directly to the law of marriage.
"If brothers are living together and one of them dies without a son, his widow must not marry outside the family. Her husband's brother shall take her and marry her and fulfill the duty of a brother-in-law to her. The first son she bears shall carry on the name of the dead brother so that his name will not be blotted out from Israel.
Keeping this in mind, Naomi believed the only hope for these women was to be found in Moab - with new husbands, homes and children. Her thinking is understandable, but it left God out of the picture. It gave no recognition of His power to change circumstances.
And why did Naomi ignore God's possible intervention? After all, Israel had a history of being watched over and directed by God. The problem may be understood in light of her view of God's past dealing with her life. From her perspective, He had been active, but to her detriment. She believed that her losses were due to God's hand, His judgment against her for her sins. This being the case, while God might bless Ruth and Orpha in Moab, they certainly wouldn't be blessed if they stayed with her. Instead, from her perspective, they too might suffer from any future action God would take against her.
What of Ruth and Orpah? They loved Naomi. They didn't want to be separated from her. The text is not critical of Orpah's decision to leave. The impression we get is that Orpah realizes the wisdom of Naomi's words. Although she grieves, she turns toward home. She obeys Naomi's instructions. Huey points out:
"Nevertheless, by returning to her land she returned to her gods (v.15). So she stood in marked contrast to Ruth's faith (v.16). Later tradition, probably reflecting a critical attitude toward Orpah, made her an ancestor of David's foe, Goliath. Verse 14 is another example of the terse manner in which action and emotion can be expressed in Hebrew; there are only ten Hebrew words in this verse." 2
Ruth, on the other hand, doesn't listen to Naomi or her instructions. She instead listens to her heart. And from the outcome, we might suspect that she is also listening to the prompting of the Holy Spirit.
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