The Significance of Naomi in the Jewish Religion
29 SEP 2017
According to the Biblical book of Ruth, Naomi was the matriarch of the Jewish monarchs King Solomon and King David. After personal tragedies, she brought her daughter-in-law Ruth to her home in Israel where Ruth gave birth to some of the most important Jewish political figures. The story's interpretations range from the importance of fidelity in friendship to the birth of a new political movement in Jewish history.
1 Naomi's Early Life
The book of Ruth tells the story of Naomi. A plague strikes Judah, Naomi's home, which causes a famine and leads her and her family to move from Bethlehem to the neighboring country Moab. Naomi's husband, Elimelech, then dies and her sons marry Orpah and Ruth. However, her sons also die before producing any offspring. Naomi begins to doubt her faith after the loss of her land, husband and children.
2 Naomi's Return to Judah
When the famine ends, Naomi decides to return to her homeland. Her two daughters-in-law want to return with her, but Naomi attempts to dissuade them. while Orpah decides to stay, Ruth insists on traveling with her mother-in-law.
Some interpret Naomi's instructions to her two daughters-in-law to stay in Moab as a test of their loyalty. Ruth returns with Naomi to Judah where she meets Boaz, a relative of Naomi and Elimelech. Boaz wants to marry Ruth, and Naomi encourages this union. When the two marry, they have children, an act which was not possible with Ruth and Naomi's son. Jews believe God made Ruth and her first husband infertile so she could reproduce with Boaz. These children become the ancestors of King Solomon and King David.
3 Thematic Interpretations of Naomi
Many interpret two predominant themes in the story of Naomi: bonding and friendship, particularly between two women, and a celebration of the family. Because Ruth declares her fidelity to Naomi and refuses to stay in Moab despite Naomi's attempts to dissuade her, Ruth is rewarded with a marriage to Boaz, with seeing her descendant Solomon become king and with being a matriarch in an essential Jewish lineage. Others interpret the story as a celebration of kinship; Ruth and Naomi demonstrate a fidelity between mother-in-law and daughter-in-law, and their situation improves with the aid of family members.
4 Politics and the Story of Naomi
The story of Naomi takes place in a time of political change from rule by a group of judges, which lead to a chaotic state of affairs, to a stable rule under a monarchy. The famine may signify God's dissatisfaction with the unrest in Israel, according to Brian Weinstein, Ph.D., of Howard University, and researcher of Jewish history in India. Naomi was responsible for bringing back Ruth who would produce offspring that led to rule by a monarchy, and created a new stability. The fact that Naomi brought in an outsider may signify the importance of preserving faith while accepting contributions from other cultures to the Jewish faith. Since Jews believe that God is universal and presides over all people, they believe it beneficial to accept contributions and innovations from the other cultures that God created while simultaneously maintaining their own identities.