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She said to them, “Do not call me Naomi.a Call me Mara,b for the Almighty has dealt very bitterly with me. Bible
a[20]
“Naomi” means “Pleasant”
b[20]
“Mara” means “bitter”

“She said to them.” Naomi had not seen these women for ten years, and they had a lot to catch up on. This conversation could have lasted for hours with many women speaking in the conversation. Yet what the Divine Author wants to draw our attention to is Naomi’s four statements against Him, which reveals her bitterness; an understandable emotion given what Naomi has been through with the death of her husband and sons. It is very human to be bitter at God when things go wrong in life, but we should learn from the New Testament that there is a furious war going on between Good and Evil, and God does not cause harm to believers. The New Testament lesson is that it is wrong to blame God for evil and misfortune; those things come from the Devil (see commentary on Luke 4:6).

“Do not call me.” The verb is feminine plural, so it is the women of the city who Naomi is addressing.

“Call me Mara.” Although many names in the biblical world were like names today, just chosen because they sounded nice or the parents liked them, some names were significant. Some were used because they were long-standing family names, and other names were used because of the meaning of the name. We do not know why Naomi’s parents decided to name her “Pleasant” (“Naomi” means “pleasant”) but it fit until she lost her husband and sons, at which time her name no longer fit her circumstances and she did not want to be called “Pleasant.” Sadly, she wanted to be called “Mara,” “Bitter.” This reflects a difference between The Old Testament and the New Testament. The New Testament has exhortation to put away things like bitterness, anger, and rage (Eph. 4:31), whereas the Old Testament does not have that same exhortation, although it recognizes the value of joy and gladness.

“the Almighty.” The Hebrew is Shaddai (also in Ruth 1:21). Naomi’s talk with the women revealed her bitterness, and the Author draws our attention to it by a beautiful introversion pattern, where Naomi speaks of (A) “the Almighty” then (B) “Yahweh” then (b) “Yahweh,” and lastly (a) “the Almighty.”


Commentary for: Ruth 1:20