And the women her neighbors gave it a name, saying, There is a son born to Naomi; and they called his name Obed…
No doubt there were circumstances connected with the birth of this child which surrounded it with a special interest. But take the birth of any child, and while few events are more common, few can occur on the earth which in sober reality are more momentous. What a mystery hangs over its wondrous constitution of thought and matter, of soul and body! What a capacity is there of sin and suffering, of holy service and blessedness l What will be its future and final destiny? The hopes of friends at such a moment are naturally sanguine, woven far more of sunbeams than of shadows. And there were circumstances which made the congratulations of Ruth's friends peculiarly glad and hopeful; for this little smiling boy folded in his young mother's arms was not only the heir of Boaz but of Mahlon. He was to unite the family inheritances; he was to save the name of an old and honoured family in Bethlehem from being "extinguished in Israel," and to give to Naomi and to Ruth that position of honour and consequence in Jewish society which grew out of the maternal relation. There was now "hope concerning this tree, that it would yet bud and flourish." This will account to us for the warmth of the language in which the birth of Obed was hailed. To some it may appear strange that the congratulations of the friendly women were addressed to Naomi rather than to Ruth, the child's own mother. The explanation has in part been suggested already, in the fact that the birth of this child exercised so peculiar and propitious an influence over Naomi's social position and family fortunes. It secured to her the position of a tribe-mother. It may be, too, that those kindly women had known Naomi and been her comforters in the days of her deep affliction, when she appeared in the streets of Bethlehem claiming to be called Mara — "the woman with the sorrowful spirit"; and as they beheld her on this day of revived hopes and vanished clouds the same true sympathy that had formerly made them weep with her when she wept now made them rejoice with her when she rejoiced. That we are correct in this explanation is evident from the words of the women, in which, with such glad anticipations for the future, there is also a looking back upon the sorrowful past." There shall be unto thee "in this child "a restorer of thy life and a nourisher of thine old age." How beautifully descriptive are these words of what children should aim to be to aged parents and relatives, and of what there is every reason to believe this child eventually became to Naomi. The former clause brings before us the picture of a tree in whose roots there remains a kind of lingering life, but which, assailed by storms and smitten by other unkindly influences, stands almost without leaf or blossom, with no birds making music in its branches, a blighted and forsaken thing. But there comes at length a genial influence of shower, and sunshine, and breeze, which quickens within it the vegetative life, and covers it with the leaves and blossoms of its earlier springs. Now, Naomi's life had been to her for many years like a long winter. But this little child would bring back to her the recollections and the joys of her happier days; the blank in her heart would be filled up; she would find something to love and cherish without restraint, and this itself would be to her a well of happiness; she would remember Mahlon and Chilion in little Obed's childish sports and expanding mind; her thoughts, which had been too much turned inward upon her sorrows, would hence forth go outward upon him, and the future would not so much be a prolongation of the present as a return to her sunnier days — "He shall be unto thee a restorer of thy life," and he shall be unto thee "a nourisher of thine old age." The meaning of this is not exhausted by supposing that Naomi would never want the means of support while Obad lived, but that his affluence would be her riches. It includes in it, besides, those thousand varied acts of respect and tenderness which we are accustomed to describe by the name of kindness. In the case of persons in advanced years many sources of enjoyment are dried up, many frailties are induced, the senses are dulled, the power of motion is diminished, not a few of their companions have been removed into the other world, and they are apt to feel, in their infirmity and inaction, as if they had become useless to their generation. It is the duty of the young, and especially of the children and descendants of the aged, to endeavour to cheer them in the autumn of their life, to anticipate their wishes, to study their feelings, to make growing frailties only another reason for growing attentions, and, by kind words and kinder acts, to shed a calm sunshine on the path by which they are travelling to the tomb. Religion, and even the instincts of our human nature, command us to "stand up before the old man," and to put honour on the hoary head. And never do children appear more lovely than when they are thus seen nourishing the old age of a father or a mother.
(A. Thomson, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: And the women her neighbours gave it a name, saying, There is a son born to Naomi; and they called his name Obed: he is the father of Jesse, the father of David.