Who named you?
Then Naomi took the child in her arms and cared for him. The women living there said, “Naomi has a son!” And they named him Obed.
- from Ruth 4:16-17
Today we want to draw your attention to a tiny little feature in the passage, one so small we wouldn’t have even noticed it if a commentator hadn’t brought it to our attention. But pulling on this little thread opens up a big question.
Who named Obed?
Traditionally, his parents would name him. Or, perhaps in honor of the levirate nature of the situation, maybe Naomi his grandmother could name him. But that isn’t what happened.
The women living in Bethlehem were the ones who name Obed “Obed.” These were the same women who walked with Naomi through her experience of bitterness. These were the same women who spread the news of Ruth’s faithfulness to Naomi around town (boosting Ruth’s reputation in Boaz’ eyes). These women named Obed.
Obed’s name means “servant” or “worker.” Most often in the Bible, the noun that overlaps Obed’s name is used to indicated a religious devotee or worshipper of the Lord.
We’ll learn at the end of the chapter that Obed turns out to be the grandfather of King David. The grandfather of a king would have the name “servant.” The grandfather of a man who would have wealth would have the name “worker.” The grandfather of a ruler with almost god-like authority would have the name “worshipper.”
We each have been given names and nicknames. Some of those have been blessings and some have been curses. These names that are placed on you shape the way the world sees you and the way you see yourself. You don’t have to accept every name given to you, but even the work of rejecting unhealthy or untrue names can influence the shape of your soul.
What names have you received over the years? How do those names influence the way people treat you? What names have you given others?