So the two of them went on until they came to Bethlehem. And when they came to Bethlehem, the whole town was stirred because of them. And the women said, “Is this Naomi?” She said to them, “Do not call me Naomi; call me Mara, for the Almighty has dealt very bitterly with me. I went away full, and the Lord has brought me back empty. Why call me Naomi, when the Lord has testified against me and the Almighty has brought calamity upon me?”
So Naomi returned, and Ruth the Moabite her daughter-in-law with her, who returned from the country of Moab. And they came to Bethlehem at the beginning of barley harvest. (Ruth 1:19-22, ESV)
Up to now we have seen a famine come into Bethlehem which cased Elimelech to move his family from Bethlehem to Moab. They must’ve though this was a great move because then they wouldn’t die. But then all the men in the family do die. They made their life there and now there is only Naomi left from the immediate family.
Naomi decides to return and when she does she is greeted by those that knew her in Bethlehem. Upon her return she tells them not to call her Naomi, but to call her Mara, which meant bitter. Remember, Naomi meant pleasant, and now she is wanting to be called bitter. But is she ever referred to as Mara? She is never called Mara in the whole book. She was accepted back.
Naomi and the Prodigal
- She goes out from her home in search for something better because Bethlehem just wasn’t suiting their needs. Just as the prodigal son had enough of being in his father’s house so he took what he had and left.
- She arrives in Moab and everything seems great at first, but what is she left with? The prodigal son left his father’s house and everything seemed great, he had all this money and was having all this fun, but what is he left with? No friends, no money. He’s found living with the animals.
- When Naomi realized she had nothing in Moab she decided it was best that she went home. The prodigal son saw what he was living in and decided it was time to go home.
- Upon their returns both Naomi and the prodigal son both show remorse and say they do not deserve to be reinstated to their previous place. Naomi tells them to call her Mara (“bitter”) and the prodigal son asks to be one of his father’s servants.
- But both are reinstated. The prodigal son has a party thrown for him and his father embraces him as his son. Naomi is called Naomi and at the end of the book we see those around her celebrating with her, not calling her Mara.
This is always a lesson for us in our relationship with God. We do fail, we all go away from the ‘Father’s house’ but upon return he embraces us, and shows us His great love.