Character Bible Study on Naomi Background and Lessons

Character Key Verse: Now these things happened as examples for us, so that we would not crave evil things as they also craved. 1 Corinthians10:6

Character’s Name: Naomi/ Mara

Meaning of Name: pleasant / bitter

Her Ancestry and Family Life: She was married to Elimelech (my God is King) from Bethlehem of Judah, and had two sons- Mahlon (sick) and Chileon (pining). She had two Moabite daughters-in-law, Ruth and Orpah.

When and Where She Lived: Naomi lived during the days when the judges governed Israel (Ruth 1:1), between 1370 and 1031 B.C. Most likely, Jair was judge at that time, between 1126 and 1105 B.C. She was most likely born in the land of Judah, but migrated husband Elimelech to escape the famine, and then returned with Ruth to Bethlehem, Israel after her husband died and the famine was over in Israel. The book of Ruth covers about 11-12 years: 1:1-18, ten years in Moab; 1:19-2:23, several months (mid-April to mid-June) in Boaz’s fields); 3:1-18; one day in Bethlehem and one night on the threshing floor; 4:1-22, about one year in Bethlehem.

Circumstances of Birth: It doesn’t say, but she was likely also of Bethlehem, Judah.

Place in History: As Ruth’s mother-in-law, she was not directly in the lineage of Christ, but she was instrumental in bringing Ruth to Bethlehem, where she met Boaz. Therefore, she was a kind of adoptive grandparent in the lineage of Christ. I find it interesting that God used the famine and their fleeing the Promised Land (which displayed a lack of faith on their part, because He promised that He would provide for

His people there), and then the subsequent death of her husband and sons to bring them back to where He wanted them to be, and to bring Ruth to Israel so that she could be in her divinely appointed place in the lineage of Christ.

Special traits: She was widowed (Ruth 1:3)

She spent part of her life as a foreigner (Ruth 1:1-2)

She was a kind mother-in-law (Ruth 1:7-15)

She had a truly exceptional daughter-in-law (4:15)

She seemed rather emotional, going back and forth between strength and weakness, weeping with her daughters-in-law, at times grateful and positive, and at other times ungrateful and bitter.

Weaknesses: Possible weakness in training up her sons, since they took foreign women, against God’s command to Israel (Ezra 10:10)- (1:4)

Complained against the Lord (1:13, 20-21)

Encouraged her daughters-in-law to return to their gods (1:15)

Bitter- (1:20)

Ungrateful; she said that the Lord had brought her back empty, but she still had Ruth, her life, her health, and apparently many people in her hometown who cared about her- (1:21)

I’m not sure what to say about Naomi’s reaction to Ruth’s son in 4:16-17. On the one hand, it seems kind of selfish to take someone’s child and kind of claim him for your own. On the other hand, it shows a lot of love to basically adopt a kid and care for him, especially at her age. What do you think? Is this a strength or a weakness?

Strengths: Loyal to her husband in following him from her native land to a foreign place- (1:1-2)

Faithful in returning to the Promised Land-(1:6)

Kind and unselfish towards her daughters-in-law, asking them to stay in their homeland, even though it would have been comforting to have them return with her, instead of returning alone- (1:7-15)

Grateful- (1:8; 2:20)

Loving- (1:9)

Wise- (2:22, 3:3-4, 18)

Protective-(2:22-23; 3:1 )

Patient-(3:18)

Unselfish in being willing to sell her land in order to secure Ruth a husband- (4:3-5)

Important Acts and Events:

Famine in her homeland and migration to Moab-(1:1-2)

Widowhood-(1:3)

Sons’ marriages-(1:4)

Sons’ deaths-(1:5)

End of famine-(1:6)

Orpah leaves her-(1:14)

Ruth stays-(16-18)

Return to homeland/Bethlehem-(1:18)

Name change to Mara-(1:19-20) Note:the Bible never calls her Mara, nor does it show any of her friends doing so (she’s referred to by them as Naomi in 2:6; 4:3,5,9,17)

Allows Ruth to glean in Boaz’s fields-(2:2)

Advises Ruth in how to lay lawful claim to Boaz’s protection-(3:1-4)

Sold her land and secured a husband for Ruth-(4:9-10)

Daughter-in-law marries-(4:13)

Ruth bears a son who will carry on Naomi’s husband and son’s name-(4:13)

Naomi assumes the care of the child-(4:16)

Lessons from Her Life:

Even though it led her into enemy territory, she followed her husband-(1:1-2).

She seems to have been influenced away from the Lord somewhat by her time in Moab, because her sons married foreign women (1:4) and she encouraged the young widows to go back to their gods (1:15).

She returned to the Promised Land after her husband’s death. When she had responsibility for making her own decisions, she tried to make wise ones.

Though she had times of weakness (1:15, 20-21), she ultimately believed and trusted in the Lord (2:19-20; 4:14-15). The Christian life often has doubts or even bitterness, but we need to work through those things and re-establish trust in and love for the Lord.

She was a care giver, protecting and looking out for the interests of those in her care-(1:8-13, 15; 2:22; 3:1-4; 4:3-5, 16). As a caregiver, could that be why she was bitter with God for a time, because those He had given her to care for were taken from her by death? What can we learn about having a healthy level of affection for those in our care?

She kept up a clear line of communication with her daughter-in-law, not just trusting that she’d take care of herself, but taking an active interest in the process.

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