Winners and Losers: Part 23 - Naomi: A Woman Who Learned to Believe in God’s Providence
Kathy's Sunday School Lessons - Written for Young Boys and Girls by Kathryn Capoccia
© Copyright Kathryn Capoccia 2001. This file may be freely copied, printed out, and distributed as long as copyright and source statements remain intact, and that it is not sold.
I. Who Was She? (RUT 1-4).
A. What was her name? Her name “Naomi” means “pleasant”; she called herself “Mara” or bitterness.
B. When and where did she live?
1. When: the time of the Judges- probably from c. 1380 to c. 1050 B. C.
2. Where: in Judah and in Moab
a. in Judah: she lived in Bethlehem (“house of bread or food”), also known as Ephrath (GEN 35:19) a town 6 mi. SW of Jerusalem; it lay 2,300 ft. above sea level near the main N-S road that connected Hebron to the S. and was often fortified as a natural position of strength; the surrounding area was fertile.
b. in Moab: no exact location is given in Scripture but Moab was the country lying between the Dead Sea and the Arnon River gorge with most of the inhabitants occupying the grain rich 4,300 ft. plateau immediately east of the Dead Sea. The Moabites were frequent adversaries of Canaan. In the book of Judges the Moabite king, Eglon invaded Canaan as far as Jericho and subjugated the people for 18 years before God brought deliverance through Ehud; at the time of Naomi’s sojourn there was apparently a state of peace between the nations .
*This information came from “The Zondervan Pictorial Encyclopedia of the Bible”, © 1975, vol. 1, pg. 538, and vol. 4, pgs. 257,260.
C. Who were her people?
1. Her family background is not mentioned but her husband, Elimelech, was from a Jew from the tribe of Judah (RUT 4:18-22; MAT 1:2-6).
2. Her immediate family members were:
a. Elimelech, her husband, was an Ephrathite (a resident of Bethlehem) in Judah: his name means “(My) God is King”.
b. Mahlon, her first-born son, was the Moabite Ruth’s husband: his name means “Weakling”.
c. Kilion, her second son, was married to the Moabite Orpah: his name means “Pining”.
d. Ruth, the Moabitess, was daughter-in-law to Naomi through marriage to Mahlon: she was childless.
e. Orpah, the Moabitess, was daughter-in-law to Naomi through marriage to Kilion: she was childless.
f. An unknown kinsman- redeemer who was related to her through her husband’s family.
g. Boaz, a kinsman-redeemer related to her through her husband’s family.
WHAT IS A KINSMAN-REDEEMER?
IT IS THAT NEAREST MALE RELATIVE WHO AGREED TO AVENGE A FAMILY MEMBER’S MURDER (“TO REDEEM THE BLOOD OF THE VICTIM”), OR TO PURCHASE LOST FAMILIAL PROPERTY AND/OR ENTER INTO A LEVIRATE MARRIAGE TO PRESERVE THE FAMILY NAME AND PROPERTY RIGHTS.
D. What was her occupation? She was married; later she was a widow.
E. What was her age? She was too old to remarry and bear children (RUT 1:12).
II. What Did She Do?
A. She experienced affliction (RUT 1:1-5).
1. She experienced famine in Israel.
WHY WOULD ISRAEL SEE FAMINE?
a. Israel may have been under judgment as the era of the Judges was a time of punishment for Israel: famine is a frequent means of discipline/punishment for God to use (see DEU 32:15ff).
b. This period corresponds to the Midianitish oppression (which Gideon faced) of Israel when fields were ravaged and produce destroyed with famine being the inevitable result, according to Keil-Delitzch’s, “Commentary on the Old Testament”, vol. 2, pg. 470.
2. She was forced to sojourn with her husband and sons in Moab.
a. WAS SHE WRONG TO LEAVE JUDAH DURING THE FAMINE?
1) Leaving Judah was her husband’s decision; as a married woman her only responsibility was to submit to her husband’s leadership.
2) Scripture makes it clear that God would have provided for Elimelech’s family if they had stayed in Judah (PSA 37:25) and that by leaving they prevented God from displaying His power and care in their behalf.
3) Scripture makes it clear that God did not call their leaving the famine sin; Abraham and Issac left Canaan to sojourn in two foreign countries during famines (GEN 12:10; 26:1) and God did not say they sinned by doing so.
b. WAS MOAB A DIIFCULT LOCATION IN WHICH TO SOJOURN?
1) Moab had a long history of warfare with Judah prior to this and they may have faced some enmity there.
2) Moab was a pagan country involved in the same Baal-peor cultic rites which condemned Canaan: they also worshipped Astarte (the “mother-goddess”), Ashtar-Chemosh (a fertility goddess), and Chemosh (the pre-eminent diety, a god of war and providence who required blood sacrifices of bulls, rams and humans); and it was the Moabites who tried to hire Balaam to curse the Israelites (NUM 22:4-24:25) and succeeded in first drawing the Israelites into gross sexual idolatry through Balaam’s advice to Balak (NUM 25; 31:16); therefore Moab would have been a spiritually trying place in which to live (see 2PE 2:8).
*this information came from “The Zondervan Pictorial Encyclopedia of the Bible, vol. 4, pg.266.
3. She became a widow in Moab, leaving her with only her two sons to care for her (RUT 1:3).
4. She lost her sons in Moab.
a. Her sons had married Moabite women (RUT 1:4).
1) marriage for Jews:
a) Jewish custom prescribed marriage at 18 yrs. for males, 12 ˝ yrs. for females, but males could be married at as young as 13 yrs. and females at puberty.
b) Custom dictated that ordinarily the parents choose mates for their children, but sometimes the children were allowed to control the choices.
2) intermarriage with Moabites:
a) It was lawful for Jews to marry Moabites but the children from such a union were restricted from “entering the assembly of the LORD” until the 10th generation (GEN 19:36,37).
b) The family line of inheritance would continue uninterrupted in the case of a Moabite union.
B. She experienced bitterness of heart (RUT 1:6-21).
1. She was desolate.
a. She dismissed her daughters-in-law to find happiness in Moab.
1) She admonished them to return to their mother’s homes to remarry, and she blessed them.
2) She acknowledged that she had nothing to offer them.
a) their husbands, her sons and heirs, were dead.
b) Naomi could not produce more sons for them to marry.
b. She described herself as being up against God’s hand of disfavor.
1) Orpah left her to return to her family and her gods.
2) Ruth remained with Naomi and identified herself with Naomi and her God.
WHY WOULD RUTH STAY WHEN ORPAH LEFT?
a) Ruth may have had a stronger love for Naomi, since she was married to Mahlon and may have married before Orpah did and, therefore, known Naomi longer.
b) Ruth had a desire to stay because she wanted to share Naomi’s faith in the true God (RUT 1:16).
2. She was downcast, calling herself “Mara” when they returned to Bethlehem.
C. She experienced understanding of God’s providence.
1. Unseen providence
a. Their return to Bethlehem was at the beginning of harvest.
1) Harvesting grain started in April with the barley, followed by wheat in May.
a) The grain was cut in the fields and bound into sheaves, the fields were gleaned and the sheaves were transported to the threshing floors.
b) The sheaves were threshed by either trampling cattle or by threshing sledges, winnowed (separating grain from chaff), sifted (removing foreign debris), bagged, transported and stored.
2) The Law allowed poor people to glean in the harvested fields after the harvesters had left that area (LEV 19:9; 23:22; DEU 24:19).
WHY WAS IT IMPORTANT THAT THEY RETURNED AT HARVEST TIME?
BECAUSE WIDOWS WITHOUT RELATIVES HAD NO MEANS OF SUPPORT EXCEPT GLEANING OR BEGGING, AND RETURNING AT HARVEST TIME MEANT THAT THEY WOULD HAVE FOOD FOR MONTHS TO COME.
b. Ruth wanted to glean for them and she chose Boaz’s field in which to glean.
1) Boaz was a near relative of Elimelech (RUT 2:1).
2) Boaz had already heard favorable reports of Ruth before he saw her (RUT 2:11,12).
3) Boaz heard a favorable report from his foreman about Ruth and he offered her protection in his fields, water to drink, roasted grain to eat and abundant gleanings.
c. Naomi recognized God’s arrangement of circumstances (RUT 2:20).
2. Providence working through men (RUT 3,4).
a. Naomi sought to provide for Ruth
1) She appealed to Boaz to become Ruth’s kinsman-redeemer.
a) She sent Ruth, in wedding attire, to the threshing floor where Boaz was.
b) She instructed Ruth in what to say to Boaz to ask him to become her husband.
2) Boaz was willing to be kinsman-redeemer.
a) Boaz committed himself with a oath and showed his willingness to provide for her by giving her more grain (RUT 3:13,15).
b) Boaz sought to settle the matter that day (RUT 3:18).
3) The nearest kinsman declined to be redeemer and Boaz became their kinsman-redeemer and Ruth’s husband.
b. Ruth and Boaz had a son, Obed, who became Naomi’s heir through the Levirate law.
c. The genealogy of Obed leads to King David and then to David’s “son”, Jesus Christ, thus showing God’s complete provision for Naomi and all those of faith.
III. What Can We Learn From Her?
A. God controls the circumstances of our lives even when things look bleak, and He is working all things to our good even when we don’t understand or trust Him.
B. Our faith in Him, especially in adverse circumstances, attracts others to true faith as well.
C. Our faith will grow as we observe God at work in our lives.
Added to Bible Bulletin Board's "Kathy Capoccia's Sunday School Lessons for Young Adults" by:
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