“And they lifted up their voices and wept again; and Orpah kissed her mother-in-law, but Ruth clung to her.” Ruth 1:14 nasb
We meet Orpah in verse 4 in the first chapter of Ruth when she marries one of the widow Naomi’s two sons. The two sons, Mahlon and Chilion came to the land of Moab east of their homeland, Bethlehem of Judah, with their parents, Elimelech and Naomi, at the time of a great famine.
Elimelech dies and Naomi was left with her two sons. With her permission, the sons took these Moabite women, Orpah and Ruth, the more famous daughter-in-law, as wives of their own. The Moabites worshipped pagan gods and were descendents of Lot, the nephew of Abraham. But soon, both sons died, leaving these three widowed women to fend for themselves.
Naomi heard stories of the Lord’s blessings upon her homeland, so she decided to return to Judah. The daughters-in-law packed to go with her, but she told them to return to their land and their people with her blessings.
The scene described in verses 6-14 is one of great love and admiration between these three women. There were hugs and kisses and tears galore. Both young women proclaimed their devotion to Naomi and were determined to go with their mother-in-law to Judah. The older woman insisted that they go back to find new husbands as she had no more sons for them.
More weeping. More hugs. More kisses.
Orpah finally submitted to returning to Moab and that’s the last we hear of her.
Orpah’s name means forelock, (I had to look this up) which means lock of hair like a horses’ mane between its ears or back of the neck. It is also the name by which the famous Oprah Winfrey is named only someone misspelled it on her birth certificate.
I admire our Orpah’s loyalty to her mother-in-law—which says a great deal about Naomi—even though she returned to her family. Too often we hear of terrible relationships between mother- and daughter-in-law, but hear is one of love, admiration, and loyalty.
Would you cling to your mother-in-law if your husband died? Would you follow her to a foreign land to stay with her? It’s something for couples contemplating marriage to consider before they say “I do.”
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