Naomi changed her name to Mara, meaning “bitter,” after a series of setbacks in her life left her a widow, without sons, destitute, and alone. In the end, her sole ally was her loyal and loving daughter-in-law Ruth, who stuck by Naomi when things couldn't get any worse.

Naomi, with her two sons, Mahlon and Chilion, had followed her husband Elimelech to Moab when the famine came and threatened their survival. Elimelech died first, followed by Naomi's sons. Following the deaths of their men, Naomi and her daughters-in-law, ruth and orpah, charted a new course toward the land of Judah, specifically Bethlehem, Naomi's homeland. But before they left Moab, Naomi turned to her daughters-in-law and counseled them to turn back and stay with their own kind, perhaps thinking that the young women might marry again. Orpah followed Naomi's suggestion, but Ruth could not be convinced. She chose to remain with Naomi, so the two women continued toward Bethlehem.

It must have been very touching to Naomi that Ruth would abandon her own people and religion to become part of Naomi's world, in the land of the Israelites where Moabites were despised. Naomi's life may have been full of bitterness, but Ruth showed her the unconditional love of a daughter.

It was Ruth who entered the field of Naomi's distant relative, Boaz, who became enchanted by the young woman; so enchanted that he inquired after her and was told that she had accompanied Naomi back into Bethlehem. Ruth and Naomi hatched a plan for Ruth to seduce Boaz. It worked, and Boaz married Ruth and fathered a child named Obed. In the Bible narrative, women in Bethlehem proclaimed her good fortune.

And the women said unto Naomi, Blessed be the Lord, which hath not left thee this day without a kinsman, that his name may be famous in Israel. And he shall be unto thee a restorer of thy life, and a nourisher of thine old age: for thy daughter in law, which loveth thee, which is better to thee than seven sons, hath born him. (Ruth 4:14'15)

The Bible says that the women named the child and called him a son born to Naomi (Ruth 4:17), instead of a son born unto Boaz or Ruth. Naomi's bitterness began to dissipate, and hope turned into happiness with the marriage of Ruth and Boaz and the birth of their male child. The Bible doesn't say she changed her name back to Naomi, but it also doesn't say that people ever called her Mara.

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