Question: "Why did Ruth and Orpah make different decisions?"
Answer: In Ruth 1, we read that the husband of Naomi died in the land of Moab. Naomi’s two sons, the husbands of Ruth and Orpah, also died. Naomi then chose to return to Israel and encouraged her daughters-in-law to return to their families. In verse 8 she says, “Go back, each of you, to your mother’s home. May the Lord show you kindness, as you have shown kindness to your dead husbands and to me.”
Initially, both Ruth and Orpah refused, saying, “We will go back with you to your people” (Ruth 1:10). Naomi then argued that she could provide no more husbands for Ruth and Orpah. From Naomi’s perspective, Ruth and Orpah would remain widowed and childless unless they returned to the homes of their parents. After Naomi’s continued encouragement, Orpah agreed and returned to her family (Ruth 1:14).
Naomi then told Ruth, “Look . . . your sister-in-law is going back to her people and her gods. Go back with her” (Ruth 1:15). Ruth’s response revealed the difference between Orpah and herself. Ruth said, “Don’t urge me to leave you or to turn back from you. Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God. Where you die I will die, and there I will be buried. May the Lord deal with me, be it ever so severely, if even death separates you and me” (Ruth 1:16–17).
This response reveals an important detail about Ruth. In the first statement, in which Ruth and Orpah both said they would return to Israel with Naomi, they said they would return to “your people” (Ruth 1:10). But when Ruth answered this second time, she also added that Naomi’s God would be her God. She agreed to live with Naomi’s people and to follow the Lord.
Naomi and Ruth returned to the humblest of circumstances, yet God used this situation to work in a remarkable way. Ruth would not only join Naomi’s people; she would later marry one of Naomi’s relatives and give birth to a son named Obed—who became the grandfather of King David.
Ruth’s response is a powerful example of how we are to give allegiance to God even when we do not know what the future holds. When we surrender to Him, God sometimes works in unexpected ways to show His power and reveal His love.