“Go,” Naomi said quietly, almost in a whisper.
(Continued from Re-Imagining Ruth Part 1)
After stopping to gather her nerve, she began again. “Go home. Go back to your mother’s house.”
The tears began as she drew them near and blessed them. “May the Lord deal kindly with you, as you have dealt with the dead and with me. The Lord grant that you may find rest in the house of your husband.”
Though she loved them, Naomi knew she had to release them. She embraced them and kissed each of them on the forehead. And she wept. There were more tears after all.
Orpah and Ruth had also known this moment would come. They also wept now that it was upon them.
It was Orpah who spoke first. “No, we will return with you to your people.”
Naomi appreciated the gesture, but knew it would be impossible. She shook her head. “Turn back, my daughters. Why would you go with me? I have nothing to offer you. I wish that I had more sons who could marry you, but I have been left with no one. You have a chance for a future, but I’m too old to have a husband.”
Her voice had been rising as she spoke, as the raw emotion began to bubble forth. So she paused to collect herself.
The younger women didn’t know what to say. It was true. Naomi was not a young woman – she was well beyond the years where she could bear more children. No, the line and family of Elimelech would die with her.
They also all knew that, while Orpah and Ruth were young, they were older than most maidens. They could not afford to wait and squander their own hopes by following her to Bethlehem.
The silence of the young women led Naomi to continue.
“Even if I was younger, even if I took a husband tonight and bore sons, you could not wait for them to grow up. Would you follow an old woman and refrain from marrying? Would you wind up like me?”
Her tone and sarcasm betrayed her bitterness. “No, my daughters. It is exceedingly bitter to me – for your sake – that the hand of the Lord has gone out against me.”
Naomi wept again. These were words she had passed through her mind frequently, but had not yet passed her lips. The Lord had abandoned her and taken from her everything – everyone – she loved. She had no doubt the Lord had punished her family when they left home and moved to Moab.
Perhaps they had abandoned Him. Naomi didn’t know, and she wasn’t even sure if she cared anymore. Those were difficult days in Israel, days of famine and unrest, so Elimelech and Naomi did what they felt they needed to do. They did what seemed right to them at the time. (Judges 17:6, 21:25) But now Naomi was sure the Lord had cast them away.
The three women embraced. Orpah kissed her mother-in-law goodbye. Of course Naomi was right – there was little sense in traveling with her to a foreign land at this season of her life. She would return to her parents’ house. They would care for her and help her find a husband with whom she could build a new life.
So with sorrow, she turned back and left, walking quickly to escape the emotional scene.
Naomi was not prepared for what happened next.
To be continued…