“And she [i.e., Naomi] said [to Ruth], ‘Look, your sister-in-law has gone back to her people and to her gods; return after your sister-in-law.’ But Ruth said: ‘Entreat me not to leave you, or to turn back from following after you; for wherever you go, I will go; and wherever you lodge, I will lodge; your people shall be my people, and your God, my God. Where you die, I will die, and there will I be buried. The LORD do so to me, and more also, if anything but death parts you and me.’ When she saw that she was determined to go with her, she stopped speaking to her” (Ruth 1:15-18).
Naomi believed that if Ruth remained in Moab, like Orpah, she would return to the Moabite gods. It seems reasonable to suggest that when Orpah and Ruth married Naomi’s sons the entire family worshipped Jehovah, the God of the children of Israel. There is no evidence that Mahlon and Chilion forsook the Lord for Chemosh or any other Moabite idol under the influence of their wives. I believe during that span of ten years that Ruth, in particular, was influenced strongly by the beliefs of Elimelech’s family, and it shows on this occasion.
Ruth’s words here demonstrate her love for Naomi as well as her faith in Jehovah–faith that Elimelech’s family had cultivated. The love seen here is not the sensual type shared by husband and wife. No, it is the love of sacrifice and dedication. Ruth’s choice to stay with Naomi meant leaving everything behind–her people, her land, and her family’s religion. She promised that nothing but death would separate them, and even then, she did not want to be brought back to Moab for burial. Certainly Ruth’s decision was based in part upon her love for Naomi, but the fact cannot be ignored that her desire to please God must have also factored in to this decision. She believed in Jehovah to the extent that she wished for Him to punish her if anything except death separated her from Naomi. Ruth’s commitment to Naomi and to God is commendable. May all married couples today develop this type of selfless love–a love that is fully dedicated to the Lord and each other!
“Now the two of them went until they came to Bethlehem. And it happened, when they had come to Bethlehem, that all the city was excited because of them; and the women said, ‘Is this Naomi?’ But she said to them, ‘Do not call me Naomi; call me Mara, for the Almighty has dealt very bitterly with me. I went out full, and the LORD has brought me home again empty. Why do you call me Naomi, since the LORD has testified against me, and the Almighty has afflicted me?’ So Naomi returned, and Ruth the Moabitess her daughter-in-law with her, who returned from the country of Moab. Now they came to Bethlehem at the beginning of the barley harvest” (Ruth 1:19-22).
The two women arrived in Bethlehem at the time of barley harvest (about mid-April) and Naomi was quickly recognized. She desired to be known by her condition instead of her actual name. The name Naomi literally meant pleasant. However, she considered the term bitter to be a more accurate description presently. It would seem that Naomi believed she had suffered greatly at God’s hand for leaving Israel originally for a pagan land. Nevertheless, she would not remain bitter for long as the following chapters unfold.