In Deuteronomy 7:3, the Israelites were prohibited from marrying Canaanite women. It doesn’t say anything about Moabites. However, we’re to find out later that marrying a woman outside the faith creates great problems in the home. As we learn from Solomon’s life, “…the greatest problem in such a marriage is the temptation to serve the gods of one’s foreign wife.” Ruth 1:3-4a tells us about the marriages of Elimelech’s sons to Moabite women. It says, “But Elimelech, the husband of Naomi, died, and she was left with her two sons. These took Moabite wives; the name of one was Orpah, and the name of the other was Ruth. They lived there for about ten years, and both Mahlon and Chilion died, so the woman was left without her two sons and her husband.” My Doctoral advisor from Dallas Seminary writes, “No doubt orthodox Israelites would have thought that marrying Moabite women was unwise. The Book of Ruth does not record the length of these marriages, but they were childless.”[1] We don’t know which son married which daughter until Ruth 4:10, when we learn that Ruth married Mahlon. That means Orpah married Chilion.

So, we find Naomi, a Jewess, alone in a foreign land, husbandless and childless. The name Naomi in Hebrew means “pleasantness or sweetness.” I think sweetness was the focus because later, we’ll see that she wishes to change her name to Marah, which means bitterness. We have a bitter childless widow alone in the world. She has no sons or grandsons and is alone in a foreign land with people who do not speak her language and do not worship the God she has been raised to believe in. Maybe she’s like the prodigal son. She and her husband had followed what they believed to be the most prosperous path for them at the time of famine, but things did not work out for them. What would she do now? She did not know what God’s plan was for her.

I’m sure many of us have gone through similar experiences. We’ve made decisions that have not turned out like we wanted them to and ended up lost and alone, struggling with God’s will for our lives. Jackman applied this to his preaching commentary. He wrote, “In any congregation today, many people will identify only too readily with Naomi’s experience. Some will have gone through similar traumatic times of bereavement. Others will have made life decisions they now feel very bitter about—the job move that led to being laid off, the marriage that broke up almost from the beginning, the disappointment of children who have overthrown their parents’ faith and are sowing wild oats. ‘Where did I go wrong?’ is very often followed by ‘why did God let this happen to me?’”[2] Like Naomi, we just don’t know what God plans. Instead of judging Naomi and Elimelech’s decision to leave the land, as many commentators do, I can relate to Naomi. It’s so encouraging to see that there would be a great redemption for Naomi in the woman that Mahlon married. As a matter of fact, through this Moabite woman Mahlon married, our redemption also comes. Naomi returns to her homeland and her God with Ruth. Ruth marries and gives birth to Jesse. Who marries and gives birth to David, through whom comes Jesus, our redemption from bad decisions and those of the whole world for whoever believes in Him.


[1] Reed, John W. 1985. “Ruth.” In The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures, edited by J. F. Walvoord and R. B. Zuck, 1:419. Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.

[2] Jackman, David, and Lloyd J. Ogilvie. 1991. Judges, Ruth. Vol. 7. The Preacher’s Commentary Series. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Inc.