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Naomi as a Type of Mary

Naomi as a Type of Mary


– Sister Mary Virginia Quinn, I.H.M.

In Matthew's genealogy of Jesus we hear:

"...Boaz became the father of Obed, whose mother was Ruth. Obed became the father of Jesse, Jesse the father of David the king.

But hidden in this lineage was a very humble and courageous woman who I would dare say prefigured Mary. I am speaking here of Naomi, the wife of Elimelech, from Bethlehem of Judah.

Elimelech, along with his wife Naomi, and their two sons had to leave Bethlehem and go settle for some time in the land of Moab because of a severe famine. It was here that Naomi became a young widow. She was left with the care of her two sons without the support of family or homeland. She suffered further heartache for her sons grew up and married in this foreign land, but both sons died childless. God did not forsake this noble woman. God provided for Naomi by giving her a very faithful daughter-in-law.

It is this relationship between Naomi and her daughter-in-law Ruth that I see a connection with the relationship between Mary and John the Apostle.

When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple there whom he loved, he said to his mother, “Woman, behold you son." Then he said to the disciple, “Behold your mother." And from that hour the disciple took her into his home. (John 19: 26)

After the death of her sons, Naomi told her daughters-in-law to go back to their own families. Ruth stayed on and Naomi encouraged her to follow her sister-in-law. "See now, your sister-in-law has gone back to her people and her god. Go back after your sister-in-law." (Ruth 1:15)

Ruth responded:

Do not ask me to abandon or forsake you! For wherever you go I will go, wherever you lodge I will lodge, your people shall be my people, and your God my God. Wherever you die I will die, and there be buried. (Ruth 1: 16-17)

Can we not hear a similar exchange between Mary and John?

It is not improbable that Mary said:

See now! Your brothers (the other apostles) have gone home to their families and then off to preach Jesus' message. Don't stay with me; you have your life to live. You are young, and have no legal obligation to stay with me.

And John responded:

Do not ask me to abandon or forsake you! For wherever you are I will be will be my mother and I will be your son.

When Ruth pledged her love and fidelity to Naomi, her future marriage to Boaz was not apparent. Naomi humbly welcomed Ruth's love and in so doing cooperated in God's plan for salvation. Mary, too, accepted a gesture and pledge of selfless love. What had she to offer John but a broken heart? She had lost her one treasure in life. John was young and had a life ahead of him. Yet, Mary, like Naomi, held the promise of salvation. It was through Mary's loving and humble acceptance of John as son that the Church came into the plan of salvation.

Some further comparisons can be made between these two women:

After the death of her sons, Naomi and Ruth went back to Judah. Naomi cared for Ruth as a loving mother, and she helped plan for Ruth's future welfare. We know from scripture that she counseled Ruth about working in the fields of Boaz. "You would do well, my dear, to go out with his servants; for in someone else's field you might be insulted." (Ruth 2:22) Our church tradition tells us that Mary spent many intimate years with John, sharing her knowledge and understanding of her Son and his plan for salvation with him. It was this wisdom that came to fruition in John's Gospel.

In the Book of Ruth we see Naomi as a woman of blessing. She blessed Boaz for his goodness to Ruth: “May he who took notice of you be blessed.” (Ruth 2:19) The Church today tells us that Mary blesses all those who do the will of her Son, Jesus.

In the last chapter of Ruth, we hear the Israelite women praising God for sending Naomi a grandson, so that her son's name would not perish: "Blessed is the Lord who has not failed to provide you today with an heir." (Ruth 4:14) Yes, the Lord looked on Naomi's plight and he blessed her fidelity with the birth of her grandson, Obed. Mary in her Magnificat echoed this blessing:

...The hungry he has filled with good things and the rich he has sent away empty. He has helped Israel his servant, remembering his mercy, according to his promise to our fathers, to Abraham and to his descendants forever. (Luke 1 :53-55)

For her courage as a young widow, who raised her sons alone, her suffering the death of her sons, and her open embrace of Ruth as her own daughter, Naomi found favor with the Lord, who blessed her as the grandmother of King David. This same God blessed Mary, who at the death of her Son willingly embraced John as her Son, by making her the Mother of the His Church.

All About Mary includes a variety of content, much of which reflects the expertise, interpretations and opinions of the individual authors and not necessarily of the Marian Library or the University of Dayton. Please share feedback or suggestions with


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