Lesser known characters :: Orpah

If I was to ask you, if you have heard about the Biblical Ruth, it is likely that you would say yes. In fact, an entire book in the Bible is named Ruth after this character. But if I was to ask you, if you have heard about the Orpah, mentioned in the Bible, it is likely that most of us would not answer that question affirmatively. Who was Orpah?

Orpah is from the land of Moab, and the daughter in law of Naomi and sister in law of Ruth (Ruth 1:15). When the sons of Naomi, and the husbands of Orpah and Ruth died, Naomi tells each of her daughters in law to return to their mother’s house and prays that the LORD’s blessings be on them (Ruth 1:8). To this both Orpah and Ruth respond that they will stay with Naomi and return to Judah, to Naomi’s people (Ruth 1:10). Naomi insists that her daughters in law go back to their own families, and unlike Ruth, who remained loyal to her kin and her word, Orpah, kisses her mother in law and returns to her own people (Ruth 1:14-15). Orpah did not only return back to her own people, but sadly she returns back to her Moabites gods (Ruth 1:15).

What can we learn from Orpah?

Orpah, the sister in law of Ruth, in her words, vowed to stay with Naomi and to return to the land of her husband, the son of Naomi. But later she decides to leave Naomi and backslides to her kin and gods. Jesus asked, which of the two sons did the will of the father, the first who refused to go to his father’s vineyard to work but later repented and went or the one who promised to go and work in the father’s vineyard and went not? It was the first (Matthew 21:28-31). Orpah promised to go with her mother in law but went not like the second son who did not do what his father willed. Imagine for a moment, if Orpah had had the same response as that of Ruth, that she would go where Naomi would go, and stay where Naomi stayed, and that Naomi’s people will be her people and that Naomi’s God would be her God as well and that only death may separate them. If Orpah had done so, I wonder if the book of Ruth would be named Orpah and Ruth.

Many a times, we act like Orpah as well, promising to do what God the Father wills for us, but then failing to do so. We backslide to our sin and to the false gods in our lives. Let us be more like Ruth and not like Orpah, true to our word and never failing to do what God the Father has willed for us.

Ruth 1:3-17 (KJV)
And Elimelech Naomi’s husband died; and she was left, and her two sons.
And they took them wives of the women of Moab; the name of the one was Orpah, and the name of the other Ruth: and they dwelled there about ten years.
And Mahlon and Chilion died also both of them; and the woman was left of her two sons and her husband.
Then she arose with her daughters in law, that she might return from the country of Moab: for she had heard in the country of Moab how that the LORD had visited his people in giving them bread.

7 Wherefore she went forth out of the place where she was, and her two daughters in law with her; and they went on the way to return unto the land of Judah.
8 And Naomi said unto her two daughters in law, Go, return each to her mother’s house: the LORD deal kindly with you, as ye have dealt with the dead, and with me.
9 The LORD grant you that ye may find rest, each of you in the house of her husband. Then she kissed them; and they lifted up their voice, and wept.
10 And they said unto her, Surely we will return with thee unto thy people.
11 And Naomi said, Turn again, my daughters: why will ye go with me? are there yet any more sons in my womb, that they may be your husbands?
12 Turn again, my daughters, go your way; for I am too old to have an husband. If I should say, I have hope, if I should have an husband also to night, and should also bear sons;
13 Would ye tarry for them till they were grown? would ye stay for them from having husbands? nay, my daughters; for it grieveth me much for your sakes that the hand of the LORD is gone out against me.
14 And they lifted up their voice, and wept again: and Orpah kissed her mother in law; but Ruth clave unto her.
15 And she said, Behold, thy sister in law is gone back unto her people, and unto her gods: return thou after thy sister in law.
16 And Ruth said, Intreat me not to leave thee, or to return from following after thee: for whither thou goest, I will go; and where thou lodgest, I will lodge: thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God:
17 Where thou diest, will I die, and there will I be buried: the LORD do so to me, and more also, if ought but death part thee and me.