The Homecoming Of Naomi

Title: The Homecoming Of Naomi

Bible Book: Ruth 1 : 1-22

Author: David E. Owen

Subject: Homecoming; Naomi; Repentance; Renewal; Straying from the Lord



This book of four chapters and eighty-five verses is closely connected to the previous book, the book of Judges. In fact, some of the ancient scholars have suggested that they comprise a single book.

In speaking of the transition from Judges to Ruth, R. A. Watson said...

(In Judges) We have seen the ebb and flow of a nation's fidelity and fortune; a few leaders appearing clearly on the stage, and behind them a multitude indefinite, indiscriminate, the thousands who form the ranks of battle and die on the field, who sway together from Jehovah to Baal, and back to Jehovah again. What the Hebrews were at home, how they lived in the villages of Judah or on the slopes of Tabor, the narrative has not paused to speak of with detail. Now (as seen in Ruth) there is leisure after the strife, and the historian can describe old customs and family events, can show us the toiling flockmaster, the busy reapers, the women with their cares and uncertainties, the love and labour of simple life. (R. A. Watson from The Biblical Illustrator)

Samuel Ridout said, "In Ruth we have the bright picture, not of man but of God's grace. It begins, morally... where Judges ends, in departure from God. But it is a history of mercy all through, mercy beyond all thought, abounding thus in the surprises which mercy delights to give." (Samuel Ridout - Gleanings from The Book of Ruth)

Roy Hession said, "Although the title of the book is Ruth, the central character of the first chapter is

Naomi, whom I think we can describe as the prodigal daughter of the Old Testament. As we pursue the story we cannot but notice certain marks of similarity between her and the prodigal son in our Lord's parable in the New Testament." (Roy Hession - Our Nearest Kinsman)

In fact, as Rev. Edward Boone said, "The Book of Ruth is the history of a Jewish family, who, like the prodigal of Luke fifteen, went into the far country of Moab and there "began to be in want." (Rev.

Edward Boone - Ruth's Romance Of Redemption)

It has been said that the book of Ruth could well have been called the book of Naomi because of her centrality and prominence in the story. The first chapter in particular, shows us the sad account of  this prodigal daughter. It begins with the mention of her husband and their departure. Then we quickly see the mention of her heartache with the deaths in her family. Finally, the chapter reveals her homecoming and the distress that she felt in her heart.

As we think about Naomi and her eventual homecoming, let's go back to the beginning of the chapter and notice that the first point.

I. There Was A Departure In Naomi's Experience vs. 1-5)

A. Let's Consider The Movement Involved In This Departure

Notice The Places In This Movement

They Departed From The Father's Car - Ruth 1:1

From The Place Of Provision - Bethlehem - "house of bread" From The Place Of Praise - Judah - "praised"

They Departed Into The Far Country - Ruth 1:1-2

Moab was not as far from Israel as Egypt (a type of the world), but it was still outside the area of God's blessings. (Dr. Cecil Johnson - Ruth: An Exposition)

Moab would have been about 70-75 miles from Bethlehem.

Ralph Waldo Emerson used to say that change in geography will never overcome a flaw in character. (Warren Wiersbe - Put Your Life Together: Studies In The Book Of Ruth)

Notice The Progression In This Movement Notice Their Straying - vs. 1 - went to sojourn

sojourn - Hebrew 1481. guwr, goor; a prim. root; prop. to turn aside from the road (for a lodging or any other purpose), i.e. sojourn (as a guest):--abide, remain.

Notice Their Staying vs. 2 - continued there continued - Hebrew 1961. hayah, haw-yaw'; a prim. root [comp. H1933]; to exist, i.e. be or become, come to pass.

Finally, the Bible tells us that "they dwelled there about ten years." And the word "dwelled" indicates that they sat down and settled down.

(Ruth 1:4) And they took them wives of the women of Moab; the name of the one was Orpah, and the name of the other Ruth: and they dwelled there about ten years.

No one intends to stay in Moab. They justify their leaving by their intention of not staying. (Pastor Stan Vespie)

B. Let's Consider The Motivation Involved In This Departure

The Thing That Prompted Them To Leave Seems To Have Been The Deficiency In The Food

(Ruth 1:1) Now it came to pass in the days when the judges ruled, that there was a famine in the land. And a certain man of Bethlehemjudah went to sojourn in the country of Moab, he, and his wife, and his two sons.

"The famine in Israel probably was a result of God's chastening." (Dr. Cecil Johnson - Ruth: An Exposition)

The Thing That Prompted Them To Leave Seems To Have Been A Dissatisfaction In The Family

(Ruth 1:2) And the name of the man was Elimelech, and the name of his wife Naomi, and the name of his two sons Mahlon and Chilion, Ephrathites of Bethlehemjudah. And they came into the country of Moab, and continued there.

One gets the impression that Elimilech's defection was of long standing because he named his  sons Mahlon and Chilion, names given as meaning "sick" and "pining." Away back at their birth there seems to have been in their father's soul that hopeless, defeatist attitude of the wanderer. His heart was away from God long before his feet followed. (August Van Ryn - Boaz And Ruth)

Elimelech means "God the King" or "God is King." This name is found in scripture only here. With this meaning in mind, it is striking to read in the last verse of the preceding book (Judges), "In those  days there was no king in Israel." Then in the very next verse (Ruth 1:1) we find a designed contrast: Elimelech was a man in Israel who carried about in his name the constant witness that "God is King," though the nation at large disowned the authority of Him Who dwelled between the cherubim in the tabernacle. However cloudy and dark the day of apostasy may become, we may be sure that God has His torchbearers. Elimelech was one who bore the light of truth in his name. ... "Elimelech" seemed to be a suitable name for this man in the land of Judah; in the land of Moab it certainly was a misnomer, for he who bore it had forsaken the people of God in order to be there.

Naomi, Elimelech's wife's name, like his own, does not occur elsewhere in scripture. Her name appears to mean "pleasantness" or "sweetness," especially that graciousness of manner which is associated with spiritual beauty. By name therefore, the gracious, good, and wise Naomi must have been a fitting consort for Elimelech; united they would be a noble and goodly pair, powerful and pleasant in their joint lives.

Mahlon and Chilion. Here again are names occurring nowhere else in scripture. For this reason the exact meaning of both names is obscure; but it is sufficiently clear that a deterioration from the sterling qualities implied in the parental names is indicated. Mahlon has been variously translated: "great infirmity," "painful," "mild." Chilion may mean "consuming," or "consumption," or "pining." Evidently, the general sense of both names is that weakness and wasting characterized the two sons of Elimelech. There was a recognized declension in the family status. (W.J. Hocking - Studies in the Book of Ruth)

This Wandering Was Wholly Unnecessary. These Israelites were not poor and perishing. They "went out full" (vs. 21). Their wandering was therefore willful, and this made it the more rebellious and guilty. But is not all wandering from God unnecessary? Why need we ever go astray from Him? It will be always a solemn charge against us, "they went out full." It is the wandering which makes us empty. (S. H. Tyng from The Biblical Illustrator)

C. Let's Consider The Mistake Involved In This Departure

Moab was born of incest. In Genesis 19:37, Lot had a son with his oldest daughter, and the name of the son was Moab, the father of the Moabites. The very name Moab means "from her (the mother's) father."

The Warnings About Moab Should Have Revealed That Going There Was A Mistake (Deuteronomy 7:2-4) And when the Lord thy God shall deliver them before thee; thou shalt smite

them, and utterly destroy them; thou shalt make no covenant with them, nor show mercy unto them:

{3} Neither shalt thou make marriages with them; thy daughter thou shalt not give unto his son, nor his daughter shalt thou take unto thy son. {4} For they will turn away thy son from following me, that they may serve other gods: so will the anger of the LORD be kindled against you, and destroy thee suddenly.

(Deuteronomy 23:3-4) An Ammonite or Moabite shall not enter into the congregation of the Lord; even to their tenth generation shall they not enter into the congregation of the Lord for ever: {4} Because they met you not with bread and with water in the way, when ye came forth out of Egypt; and because they hired against thee Balaam the son of Beor of Pethor of Mesopotamia, to curse thee.

Moab was a doomed country. More than a hundred years before Ruth's birth its sentence had been pronounced through the mouth of the prophet Balaam: "There shall come a Star out of Jacob; and a Sceptre shall arise out of Israel, and shall smite the corners of Moab" (Numbers 24:17). (C. F. Hall from The Biblical Illustrator)

The Weeping In Moab Surely Revealed That Going There Was A Mistake

(Ruth 1:3) And Elimelech Naomi's husband died; and she was left, and her two sons.

(Ruth 1:5) And Mahlon and Chilion died also both of them; and the woman was left of her two sons and her husband.

II. There Were Some Decisions In Naomi's Experience (vs. 6-18)

August Van Ryn called this section "The Tale Of The Three Widows." Here Is The Grieving Widow (vs. 13), Said Naomi, "It grieveth me much." Here Is The Leaving Widow (vs. 15), Orpah went back to her gods.

Here Is The Cleaving Widow (vs. 14), Ruth clave unto her. (August Van Ryn - Boaz And Ruth)

A. We See The Decision To Return

This Decision Was Prompted By The Desire Of Appetite

(Ruth 1:6) Then she arose with her daughters in law, that she might return from the country of Moab: for she had heard in the country of Moab how that the Lord had visited his people in giving them bread.

There Was A Longing For Home - A Desire For Bethlehem

There Was A Longing Of Hunger - A Desire For Bread

This is reminiscent of the prodigal in Luke 15...

(Luke 15:17-18) And when he came to himself, he said, How many hired servants of my father's have bread enough and to spare, and I perish with hunger! {18} I will arise and go to my father, and will  say unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and before thee,

B. We See The Decision To Refuse

This Decision Was Prompted By The Discouragement Of Age

(Ruth 1:11-13) And Naomi said, Turn again, my daughters: why will ye go with me? are there yet any more sons in my womb, that they may be your husbands? {12} Turn again, my daughters, go your way; for I am too old to have an husband. If I should say, I have hope, if I should have an husband also to night, and should also bear sons; {13} Would ye tarry for them till they were grown? would ye stay for them from having husbands? nay, my daughters; for it grieveth me much for your sakes that the hand of the LORD is gone out against me.

She Felt That She Was No Longer Fruitful - I am too old

They went out as Ephrathites, and Ephrath or Ephratah is another name for Bethlehem, a word that means "fruitful." But now she says that her days of fruitfulness are over.

She Felt That She Was No Longer Favored

It grieveth me much for your sakes that the hand of the LORD is gone out against me

In the 1870's, Edmund Simon Lorenz wrote these words, "Are you grieving over joys departed? Tell it to Jesus alone."

C. We See The Decision Of Ruth

This Decision Was Prompted By The Dedication Of Affection

There Is A Difference In The Cleaving Of Ruth

(Ruth 1:14-15) And they lifted up their voice, and wept again: and Orpah kissed her mother in law; but Ruth clave unto her. {15} And she said, Behold, thy sister in law is gone back unto her people, and unto her gods: return thou after thy sister in law.

Orpah went back. Some give the meaning of her name as "the back of the neck," and she certainly turned that to God. ... It is true that Orpah wept as she departed; but still she departed. The feelings may be touched, the emotions stirred, yet the heart refuse to respond to the grace of God. (August Van Ryn - Boaz And Ruth)

There Is A Devotion In The Comments Of Ruth

(Ruth 1:16-18) And Ruth said, Entreat 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: {17} 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. {18} When she saw that she was stedfastly minded to go with her, then she left speaking unto her.

Ruth stood up and declared her love for Naomi, but more than that, she gave a testimony of her love for, and faith in, God. (Warren Wiersbe)

Isaac Watts in one of his great hymns asked, "Is this vile world a friend to grace, To help me on to God?"

Ruth, whose name means "friend," did become a friend to grace, to help Naomi back to God.

III. There Was A Destination In Naomi's Experience (vs. 19-22)

A. She Returned To The Place Where Love Is Revealed

Human Love Is Evident In The Recognition

(Ruth 1:19) So they two went until they came to Bethlehem. And it came to pass, when they were come to Bethlehem, that all the city was moved about them, and they said, Is this Naomi?

It is possible that they said this in a mocking way, but let's give them the benefit of the doubt.

Heavenly Love Is Evident In The Restoration

(Ruth 1:21) I went out full, and the Lord hath brought me home again empty: why then call ye me Naomi, seeing the LORD hath testified against me, and the Almighty hath afflicted me?

Let us emphasize the fact that the Lord brought her home, and not that she came home empty. The emptiness cannot be blamed on God.

B. She Returned To The Place Where Loss Is Realized

(Ruth 1:20-21) And she said unto them, Call me not Naomi, call me Mara: for the Almighty hath dealt very bitterly with me. {21} I went out full, and the Lord hath brought me home again empty: why then call ye me Naomi, seeing the LORD hath testified against me, and the Almighty hath afflicted me?

She Felt That She Had Lost Her Testimony - Call me not Naomi (pleasant), call me Mara (bitter) She Felt That She Had Lost Her Treasure

I went out full, and the Lord hath brought me home again empty

C. She Returned To The Place Where Lessons Are Remembered

(Ruth 1:21-22) I went out full, and the Lord hath brought me home again empty: why then call ye me Naomi, seeing the Lord hath testified against me, and the Almighty hath afflicted me? {22} So Naomi returned, and Ruth the Moabitess, her daughter in law, with her, which returned out of the country of Moab: and they came to Bethlehem in the beginning of barley harvest.

There Is The Lesson That The Father May Bring Punishment

(Ruth 1:21) I went out full, and the Lord hath brought me home again empty: why then call ye me Naomi, seeing the Lord hath testified against me, and the Almighty hath afflicted me?

There Is The Lesson That The Future May Bring Possibilities

(Ruth 1:22) So Naomi returned, and Ruth the Moabitess, her daughter in law, with her, which returned out of the country of Moab: and they came to Bethlehem in the beginning of barley harvest.

Notice The Developments In Her Life

  • God Restores Provision Ruth 2:2, 16
  • God Restores Position Ruth 3:1, 16-18
  • God Restores Prominence Ruth 4:14
  • God Restores Productivity Ruth 4:17a a son born to Naomi
  • God Restores Praise Ruth 4:17b Obed -means "worshipper" or "servant"
  • God Restores Prospects Ruth 4:17 c father of David

When the world-renowned lay preacher, Dwight Lyman Moody, lay on his deathbed in his Northfield, Massachusetts, home, Will Thompson made a special visit to inquire as to his condition. The attending physician refused to admit him to the sickroom, and Moody heard them talking just outside the bedroom door. Recognizing Thompson's voice, he called for him to come to his bedside. Taking the Ohio poet composer by the hand, the dying evangelist said, "Will, I would rather have written "Softly and Tenderly Jesus is Calling" than anything I have been able to do in my whole life." (Ernest Krikor Emurian - Forty Stories of Famous Gospel Songs)

Will Thompson wrote...

"Softly and tenderly Jesus is calling,

Calling for you and for me;

See, on the portals He's waiting and watching,

Watching for you and for me.

"Why should we tarry when Jesus is pleading,

Pleading for you and for me?

Why should we linger and heed not His mercies,

Mercies for you and for me?

"Time is now fleeting, the moments are passing,

Passing from you and from me;

Shadows are gathering, deathbeds are coming,

Coming for you and for me.

O for the wonderful love He has promised,

Promised for you and for me!

Though we have sinned, He has mercy and pardon,

Pardon for you and for me.

Come home, come home,

You who are weary, come home;

Earnestly, tenderly, Jesus is calling,

Calling, O sinner, come home!"

Wandering saint, won't you come home as Naomi did? Other Notations -

The famine in Bethlehem took place "in the days when the judges ruled." It is impossible to read the historian's account of those days (Judges 2:11, etc.) without realizing that the times were very bad indeed, and just such as we should expect to be characterized by famine and distress of all kinds. For, to begin with, they were days of religion by fits and starts-days in which the Israelites served God when they were in trouble and forgot Him as soon as their circumstances improved. Is it likely that such a condition of things and such a fashion of living can succeed? (H. A. Hall from The Biblical Illustrator)

Lessons from the conduct of Elimelech and Naomi - Learn from the change in the circumstances of Naomi's husband not to trust in the uncertain possessions of this world. You may now be wealthy and respectable among your neighbours and acquaintances; a few years or months may reduce you to a condition of discomfort, if not of poverty and indigence. (H. Hughes from The Biblical Illustrator)

Elimelech an exile - In the "Field of Moab" ... people lived very much as they did about Bethlehem,  only more safely and in greater comfort. But the worship was of Chemosh, and Elimelech must soon have discovered how great a difference that made in thought and social custom and in the feeling of men toward himself and his family. The rites of the god of Moab included festivals in which humanity was disgraced. Standing apart from these he must have found his prosperity hindered, for Chemosh was lord in everything. An alien who had come for his own advantage, yet refused the national customs, would be scorned at least, if not persecuted. Life in Moab became an exile, the Bethlehemites saw that hardship in their own land would have been as easy to endure as the disdain of the heathen and constant temptation to vile conformity. (R. A. Watson from The Biblical Illustrator)

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