The story of Ruth is not complete without Naomi, her mother-in-law. She was the surviving matriarch of the Elimelech family. With the death of Elimelech, she was the only link to the ancestral family in Bethlehem. She was there to ensure that Ruth was fully integrated into the family.
Naomi must have been a good mother-in-law who endeared herself to her daughters-in-law, otherwise, her decision to return to Bethlehem after the death of Elimelech would not have elicited any emotional reaction.
“Therefore she went out from the place where she was, and her two daughters-in-law with her; and they went on the way to return to the land of Judah. And Naomi said to her two daughters-in-law, “Go, return each to her mother’s house. The Lord deal kindly with you, as you have dealt with the dead and with me. The Lord grant that you may find rest, each in the house of her husband.” So she kissed them, and they lifted up their voices and wept” (Ruth 1:7-9 NKJV).
Their immediate reaction to her decision to relocate back to Bethlehem without them was one of the interesting scenes of the story. Initially, they both refused to part with Naomi. Eventually, Orpah left, but Ruth remained.
The arrival of Naomi and Ruth to Bethlehem elicited excitement in the city. “Is this Naomi” they exclaimed? But Naomi’s reaction betrayed their excitement. “Don’t call me Naomi,” she responded. “Instead, call me Mara, for the Almighty has made life very bitter for me. I went away full, but the Lord has brought me home empty. Why call me Naomi when the Lord has caused me to suffer and the Almighty has sent such tragedy upon me?” (Ruth 1:20-21 NLT).
It is doubtful if Naomi saw the refusal of Ruth to separate from her as a burden. Even if it was, she did not express it. She rather enjoyed the company of Ruth. A relationship that brought mutual benefits to their lives.
The time of their arrival to Bethlehem was divinely ordained. It was at the beginning of the barley harvest. it was a time that tasked the industriousness of Ruth. Like every thoughtful and caring mother would do for her daughter, Naomi’s paramount interest was how to secure a future for Ruth. “Then Naomi her mother-in-law said to her, “My daughter, shall I not seek security for you, that it may be well with you?” (Ruth 3:1 NKJV).
Naomi’s interest to seek security for Ruth made her advise her on how best to prepare herself to get close to Boaz their kinsman. Interestingly, Ruth was willing to take to her mother-in-law’s counsel, “And she said to her, “All that you say to me I will do.” (Ruth 3:5 NKJV).
It was only a matter of time before the relationship between Boaz and Ruth would blossom. Meanwhile, the news of her reputation had filtered to Boaz who now described her as a “virtuous woman.” Who would not want to have a virtuous woman for a wife? With time, the matter between Boaz and Ruth was concluded as Naomi predicted in Ruth 3:18.
Eventually, Boaz got married to Ruth, after a relative closer to Elimelech declined to marry her. The marriage of Ruth and Boaz was blessed with the birth of Obed, the grandfather of Jesus and David. Naomi found joy in the birth of Obed. Obed became a symbol of joy and restoration to Naomi’s shattered life. Thus, Ruth by Providence became incorporated into the lineage of Jesus. What a mystery!