NAOMI (nā'ō-mī, nā-ō'mĭ, Heb. nā‘ŏmî). Wife of Elimelech of Bethlehem. Left without husband or sons, she returned from a sojourn in Moab with her Moabite daughter-in-law Ruth. In her depression she said she should no longer be called Naomi, “pleasantness,” but now more appropriately Mara, “bitterness.” She advised Ruth in the steps that led to Ruth’s marriage to Boaz (Ruth.3.1-Ruth.3.6), and she nursed Ruth’s child (Ruth.4.16-Ruth.4.17).

NAOMI nā’ ō mĕ (נָעֳמִ֜י, LXX Νωεμίν, meaning my pleasantness or the like). The mother-in-law of Ruth.

Naomi is one of the major characters in the Book of Ruth, and at the beginning, at least, the narrative centers around her. Naomi and her husband, Elimelech the Bethlehemite, had two sons, Mahlon and Chilion (Ruth 1:1-3). When Naomi was widowed her sons married Moabite wives, namely Orpah and Ruth (v. 4). After ten years the two sons died, so Naomi and her two daughters-in-law left Moab for Elimelech’s native land of Judah since they understood that food was available there (vv. 5-7). Apparently on the way Naomi suggested that the two girls find security with their families rather than stay with her. Orpah took the advice of her mother-in-law, but Ruth responded with the famous words: “Where you go I will go, and where you lodge I will lodge; your people shall be my people, and your God my God; where you die I will die, and there will I be buried” (vv. 16, 17).

When Naomi and Ruth arrived in Bethlehem, Naomi asked that her name be changed from Naomi, meaning “pleasantness,” to Mara, meaning “bitter,” “for the Almighty has dealt very bitterly with me” (v. 20). Naomi counseled Ruth to work for a near kinsman, Boaz, and seek his favor. Naomi arranged that when her inherited real estate would be sold Ruth should be included in the transaction (4:5). Since the nearest kinsman found that arrangement unsuitable, Boaz bought both the land and Ruth. Because Ruth bore Obed, the grandfather of King David, Naomi was mother-in-law to an ancestress of Jesus, the Messiah (4:17; cf. Matt 1:5). See Book of Ruth.


Cf. Commentaries on Ruth.

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915)

na’-o-mi, na-o’-mi, na-o’-mi (no`omi, probably equals "pleasantness"; Septuagint. Codex Vaticanus Noemein; Codex Alexandrinus Noemmei(n)): Wife of Elimelech and mother-in-law of Ru (Ru 1:2-4:17). She went with her husband to the land of Moab, and after his death returned to Bethlehem. When greeted on her return, she told the women of the town to call her, not no`omi ("pleasantness"), but marah ("bitterness"), "for," she said, "the Almighty hath dealt very bitterly with me." She advised Ru in her dealings with Boaz, and afterward nursed their child.ith Anaitis (equalsAnahita), the Asian Artemis. She was the Venus, but sometimes the Diana, of the Romans. There are many variants of the name: Anaea (Strabo xvi.738), Aneitis (Plut. Artax. xxvii), Tanais (Clement of Alexandria, loc. cit.), also Tanath, sometimes in Phoenician inscriptions, Tanata, Anta (Egyptian). In 2 Macc 1:13 ff, a fictitious account is given of the death of Antiochus Epiphanes, in a temple of Nanaea in Persia, by the treachery of Nanaea’s priests. The public treasury was often placed in Nanaea’s temple; this, Epiphanes was anxious to secure under the pretext of marrying the goddess and receiving the money as dowry. The priests threw down great stones "like thunderbolts" from above, killed the king and his state and then cut off their heads. But 1 Macc 1 ff, which is more reliable, gives a different account of the death of Epiphanes after an attempt to rob a rich temple in Elymais. The account of 2 Macc 1:13 ff must be mere legend, as far as Epiphanes is concerned, but may have been suggested or colored by the story of the death of Antiochus the Great, who met his death while plundering a temple of Belus near Elymais (Strabo xvi.l.18; Diod. Sic. 573; Justin, xxxii.2). The temple of Nanaea referred to in 2 Macc 1:13 ff may be identified with that of Artemis (Polyb. xxxi.11; Josephus, Ant, XII, ix, 1) or Aphrodite (Appian, Syriac. 66; Rawlinson, Speaker’s Comm.).

The name may mean "my joy," "my bliss," but is perhaps better explained according to the traditional interpretation as "the pleasant one."