Stuck on You
Naomi Prepares to Go Home
Naomi’s First Argument
1:11 In the first speech Naomi challenges Ruth and Orpah’s perception of reality by asking two rhetorical questions. On the surface the first, “Why would you come with me?” looks as though Naomi is asking them to recite the advantages for them of casting their lot with her. But it is much more—it is actually a rebuke, which may be rephrased indicatively as “It is foolish for you to come with me; you will be much better off in your home country.”
Naomi’s Second Argument
NAOMI’S SECOND ARGUMENT (1:12–13a)
1:12–13a In the second phase of this speech Naomi answers her own rhetorical question. First she calls upon Orpah and Ruth to be realistic. She is too old to remarry. If she was married at fifteen years of age and had her sons by twenty, and they in turn were twenty when they married, and this event occurs at least ten years later, she would now be at least fifty years of age, a senior citizen in that context and certainly past menopause. Second, in a flight of fancy she imagines60 a more hopeful situation. Even if she could marry and could bear sons, would her daughters-in-law wait for those lads63 to grow up and marry them? Would they, in the meantime, restrain their own impulses and remain single until the boys had grown up, refusing to give themselves to a man?
Naomi’s Third Argument
In either case, together with her last statement, “because the LORD’S hand has gone out against me!” Naomi’s disposition toward her lot in life is exposed. Naomi is a bitter old woman who blames God for her crisis. Naomi feels that she is the target of God’s overwhelming power and wrath.
Many readers of biblical narrative tend to idealize and idolize the human characters, but in the context Naomi’s comment is troubling. The same person who had earlier implored Yahweh to be as gracious to her daughters-in-law as they had been to her and to provide them with security in the house of a husband turns around and accuses God of making her life bitter. Her comments offer no hint of human causation behind her tragedies. Instead of repenting of her own and her people’s sin (šûb), she accuses God of injustice toward her.
A al-tipgĕʿî-bî lĕʿozbēk
Do not pressure me to leave you,
To turn back from behind you.
B kî ʾel-ʾăšer tēlĕkî ʾēlēk
For where you go I will go,
ûbaʾăšer tālînî ʾālîn
And where you lodge I will lodge.
C ʿammēk ʿammî
Your people my people,
Your God my God.
B´ baʾăšer tāmûtî ʾāmût
Where you die I will die,
And there I shall be buried.
A´ kōh yaʿăśeh yhwh lî wĕkōh yōsîp
Thus may Yahweh do to me and thus may he add,
kî hammāwet yaprîd bênî ûbênēk
Surely nothing but death will separate me and you.
With radical self-sacrifice she abandons every base of security that any person, let alone a poor widow, in that cultural context would have clung to: her native homeland, her own people, even her own gods. Like any Near Easterner of her time, she realized that if she would commit herself to Naomi and go home with her, she must also commit herself to Naomi’s people (Israel) and to Naomi’s God (Yahweh).