What does Ruth 1:20 mean?
ESV: She said to them, "Do not call me Naomi; call me Mara, for the Almighty has dealt very bitterly with me.
NIV: "Don’t call me Naomi, " she told them. "Call me Mara, because the Almighty has made my life very bitter.
NASB: But she said to them, 'Do not call me Naomi; call me Mara, for the Almighty has dealt very bitterly with me.
CSB: "Don’t call me Naomi. Call me Mara," she answered, "for the Almighty has made me very bitter.
NLT: Don’t call me Naomi,' she responded. 'Instead, call me Mara, for the Almighty has made life very bitter for me.
KJV: And she said unto them, Call me not Naomi, call me Mara: for the Almighty hath dealt very bitterly with me.
NKJV: But she said to them, “Do not call me Naomi; call me Mara, for the Almighty has dealt very bitterly with me.
Verse Commentary:
The women of Bethlehem are excited and likely delighted to see Naomi. She has been gone for ten years. In that time, however, Naomi's husband and two sons have died (Ruth 1:1–5). When she left Bethlehem, the famine emptied her stomach; as she returns, the loss of her family has emptied her hands of every blessing God had given her (Ruth 1:21).

In a somewhat melodramatic display, Naomi demands people refer to her with a new name. Nō'omi literally means "pleasant and lovely." Mārā means "bitter" (Genesis 27:34; Proverbs 5:4; Isaiah 38:17). She is still referred to as "Naomi" throughout the story, but she believes God has given her nothing but bitterness, and so that is how she identifies herself.

"The Almighty" is El Shaddai. Naomi does not use "Yahweh," the personal name of God given to the Jews as part of His covenant with them. "Almighty" reflects God's power, sovereignty, and mystery. It is used throughout Scripture, but particularly in the account of Job, who also felt cursed by God despite his innocence and was surrounded by friends who could not help. By referring to God as "The Almighty" instead of "Yahweh," Naomi is looking at her loss through the culture's eyes. God has failed—or so she believes—to keep His covenant with her. He has taken everything, and she is too old to hope for restoration. There is nothing she can do.

Fortunately, through Ruth, Naomi will eventually remember Yahweh who promises to reward the faithful (Leviticus 26:3–13) and champion the widow (Exodus 22:22–24).
Verse Context:
Ruth 1:19–22 describes Naomi's return to Bethlehem. Ten years prior, she fled with an empty stomach, but also with a husband and sons who filled her hands with blessings. Now, Bethlehem can again fill her stomach, but her family has died. In her bitterness, she seems to forget the faithful, loving Moabite daughter-in-law who has followed her and vows to stay at her side. She will learn soon enough how God will use Ruth to restore her hope and her future.
Chapter Summary:
Ruth 1 depicts how a person can feel "starved" for things other than food. Elimelech and his wife, Naomi, flee a famine in Bethlehem and settle in Moab where there is plenty of food and their sons find devoted wives. Within ten years, however, Naomi's husband and sons are dead. When she hears Judah has food again, she prepares to return as an old, bitter widow. One daughter-in-law, Ruth, insists on accompanying her. On the surface, a young Moabite widow in Israel would be the last person who could help, but God honors Ruth's lovingkindness and eventually uses her to restore Naomi's hope and future.
Chapter Context:
Ruth chapter 1 introduces the tumultuous life of a Jewish woman in the era of the judges (Judges 2:16–19). The Israelites have entered the Promised Land but have only half-heartedly pursued God's command to drive out the depraved Canaanites. Too often, they rejected God for foreign idols. God responds with war and famine. In the face of one such famine in Judah, Elimelech and Naomi take their two sons and flee to Moab. After ten years, when the famine is lifted, Naomi returns to Bethlehem with all that is left of her family: one daughter-in-law. They encounter Boaz, whose character is explained more in chapter 2.
Book Summary:
Though set in a time of violence and tragedy, the book of Ruth tells one of Scripture’s most uplifting stories. Naomi, an Israelite, leaves her home during a famine. While away, in Moab, her husband and sons die. Naomi convinces one of her Moabite daughters-in-law to leave her and seek a new life. The other, Ruth, refuses, declaring her love and loyalty to Naomi. When the pair return to Israel, they encounter Boaz. This man is both kind and moral; his treatment of Ruth secures Naomi’s future and becomes part of king David’s ancestry.
Accessed 6/18/2024 9:49:20 PM
© Copyright 2002-2024 Got Questions Ministries. All rights reserved.
Text from ESV, NIV, NASB, CSB, NLT, KJV, NKJV © Copyright respective owners, used by permission.
www.BibleRef.com