In many places within the Bible, names are highly significant, and aid interpretation of the text. I’m about to start a mini preaching series on Ruth as part of a wider preaching series, and Ruth is a book I’ve never preached on before, mainly because it is the chick-flick book of the Bible…..girl-meets-boy sort of thing….or so I thought!
So yes I repent of that, and acknowledge that whilst it is that, it is also so much more! In my early study investigations I came accross my old Ruth notes from when I studied it on the YWAM School of Biblical Studies. In these notes I found a scrap of paper which told the story of Ruth using the meaning of the names of the characters involved.
Here’s a list of the character names and the meanings, including, not insignificantly, Bethlehem:
Bethlehem (= house of bread)
Elimelech (= my God is king)
Naomi (= delight, pleasurable)
Mahlon (= sickness, sterility)
Kilion (= consumption)
Orpha (= neck, back of the neck)
Ruth (= friend)
Mara (= bitter)
Boaz (= in him is strength)
Nameless man (the one who refused to redeem Ruth and give her his name for fear of corrupting his family property is himself unnamed in the book)
So taking these names and their meaning, here is the beginning of the story of Ruth rarely heard:
“There was famine in the House of Bread. The man whose king was God went with his wife, Delight, to live in a foreign land.
While there, the couple’s two sons, Sickness and Consumption, married Moabites. The man My God is King and his two sons, Sickness and Consumption, died, leaving Delight with two widowed daughters-in-law, Back of the Neck and Friend, and no posterity.
After hearing that the drought had ended in the House of Bread, Delight determined to return home.
Her daughters-in-law asked to return with her, but after some discussion, Back of the Neck turned back to her ancestral home. Only Friend stayed with Delight. Together the two returned empty and alone to the House of Bread.
Delight was so devastated by her recent circumstances that she requested her old friends to change her name to Bitter….”
The nameless man who refused to redeem Ruth and so perpetuate her name, not only remains nameless in all of history, but his stinginess contributed to his own name not being perpetuated, an ironic twist of fate to the miserly and ungenerous!