Naomi’s story is told in the Book of Ruth. She was the wife of Elimelech of Judah and together the couple escaped the devastation of famine in Canaan by fleeing to the foreign land of Moab.
When Elimelech died, Naomi was left in a strange land with her two sons, Mahlon and Chillon. The sons met Moabite women, Ruth and Orpah, and were soon wed. The five lived comfortably together. Naomi was accepting of the ways of her daughters-in-law and they, too, of hers.
When Naomi’s sons both died she was left alone in the land of Moab with no connection to it. She decided to return to Bethlehem with her daughters-in-law. Naomi had suffered through so much in her time; she could not do without the support of her daughters. Orpah and Ruth did not question Naomi’s decision to return to her land, thereby demonstrating the strength of their bond.
When Naomi had realized what she had asked of her daughters-in-law, she changed her mind. She ordered them to turn back, saying, “Turn back, each of you, to her mother’s house. May God show you faithful love, as you have done with those who died within me.” (Ruth 1:8-9)
Orpah decided to remain in Moab, but Ruth was determined to carry on. Through Ruth’s love and friendship Naomi discovered a way out of her pain. Ruth was determined to learn the ways of her mother-in-law’s people, saying, “Do not urge me to leave you or to turn my back from you. For wither thou goest, I will go …Your people shall be my people, and your God my God.” (Ruth 1:16-17) Naomi could not refuse her.
Upon her return to Bethlehem, the women who remembered her embraced Naomi. Naomi chose to stay on the field belonging to her relative Boaz, who would be obligated by the laws of the Bible to marry Ruth and continue Naomi’s line.
Naomi represents the need for friendship and love and her story is one of sorrow and joy. The hardships she endured were softened by her relationship with Ruth. Their story presents a different and positive perspective on the idea of intermarriage.