We run our website the way we wished the whole internet worked: we provide high quality original content with no ads. We are funded by your direct support for ReKnew and our vision. Please consider supporting this project.

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.

Related Reading

How do you respond to Psalm 135:6?

“Whatever the Lord pleases he does, In heaven and on earth…” (cf. Job 23:13–14; Ps. 115:3; Dan. 4:35) Some conclude from passages such as this that God’s will can never be thwarted. Since Scripture explicitly teaches that God’s will is in fact sometimes thwarted (Isa. 63:10; Luke 7:30; Acts 7:51; Eph. 4:30; Heb. 3:8, 15;…

What is the significance of Exodus 32:33 ?

The Lord says “I will blot out of my book” all those who persist in rebellion against him. If everything is eternally foreknown by God, one wonders why he would have recorded in his “book” the names of people who were to be blotted out eventually (cf. Rev. 3:5). Indeed, if God foreknew that certain…

Topics:

What is the significance of 2 Chronicles 32:31?

“God left [Hezekiah] to himself, in order to test him and to know all that was in his heart.” God tests his covenant partners to discover whether they will choose to remain faithful to him, an exercise that is absurd if God exhaustively foreknows exactly how faithful every person will choose to be. If the…

Topics:

How do you respond to Matthew 26:36?

At the last supper Jesus said to Peter, “Truly I tell you, this very night, before the cock crows, you will deny me three times.” This is probably the most frequently quoted verse by defenders of the classical understanding of God’s foreknowledge against the open view. How, they ask, could Jesus have been certain Peter…

Topics:

What is the significance of Exodus 16:4?

The Lord commands the Israelites to gather only enough bread for one day while in the wilderness. “In that way,” the Lord says, “I will test them, whether they will follow my instruction or not.” Testing people to find out how they will resolve their character only makes sense if God is not certain of…

Topics:

What is the significance of Deuteronomy 13:1–3?

Moses tells the Israelites that God allowed false prophets to sometimes be correct because “the Lord your God is testing you, to know whether you indeed love the Lord your God with all your heart and soul.” If God already knows such matters with certainty, Scripture’s inspired description as to why such testings take place…

Topics: