ReThink everything you thought you Knew

How do you respond to Ruth 1:13?

Because her husband and two sons had died, Naomi says to her two daughter-in-laws (Ruth and Orpah), “[I]t has been far more bitter for me than for you, because the hand of the Lord has turned against me” (1:13, cf. vs. 20).

Some compatibilists cite this passage to support the conclusion that all misfortune is ordained by God. Several considerations show that this conclusion is not necessary.

First, it’s not entirely clear that the opinion Naomi expresses in this passage is an opinion that the inspired author of the book of Ruth intends to endorse. The author may intend only to communicate Naomi’s despair.

Second, ancient near eastern people sometimes spoke of things happening under the watch of a ruler or god as coming from that ruler or god. When we combine this observation with the strong emphasis in the Hebrew Bible on Yahweh as the only Creator-God and the one who alone was ultimately responsible for the world, it seems we should take care not too read too much into expressions about events “coming from” the Lord. When Naomi says the “hand of the Lord” had “turned against” her, she may only be expressing a belief that Yahweh had created the kind of world where misfortunes such as she had endured can occur and that Yahweh was ultimately responsible for this.

A parallel case may be when the author of Job reports that Job’s family consoled him for all the misfortune “the Lord had brought on him” (Job 42:11) even though the prologue (chapters 1-2) makes it clear that it was Satan, not God, who brought about this misfortune.

Finally, even if we conclude that Naomi’s misfortune was specifically willed by God, this wouldn’t justify the conclusion that all misfortune comes from God. The point of Naomi’s complaint has nothing to do with such a general metaphysical conclusion.