Orpah (not Oprah) did not live during a pleasant time in Israel’s history. But Israel’s troubles were not her problem – in fact, Orpah was a Moabite.
Orpah was the daughter-in-law to Naomi, whose family migrated from Bethlehem to Moab during a time of famine in Israel. Naomi’s story, told in the first chapter of the book of Ruth, reads like a Shakespearean tragedy. First, her husband died – tragic in any context, but potentially disastrous for a woman living in the patriarchal culture of the ancient Near East. Having a husband meant having protection – no husband meant vulnerability and possibly severe poverty. But, all was not lost… since Naomi had 2 sons. While living in Moab, they married Moabite women: Orpah & Ruth. But, soon after that, both of Naomi’s sons died, also. Now 3 women were left vulnerable and destitute.
When Naomi heard the famine had eased in Israel, she decided to return home. She tried to encourage Orpah & Ruth to stay in Moab with their families. Naomi was sure she would friendly and sympathetic faces back in Israel; she could not guarantee the same for Moabite girls. At first, both daughters-in-law protested, saying they intended to stay with Naomi. But, eventually Orpah decided to stay behind in Moab.
She kissed her mother-in-law goodbye, and returned home – back to her own family… and, we assume, to her own gods. But, Ruth had decided Naomi was her family now; and Naomi’s God was her God.
The contrasting results of their decision are striking. Orpah disappears from the story, destined to become nothing more than a minor character in the Biblical narrative. Ruth rose to prominence – and ultimately became an ancestor to King David… as well as Jesus the Messiah!
Orpah is always mentioned first in the book of Ruth; an assumption could be made she had been married to Naomi’s oldest son. So, when Boaz enters the scene later in the story, it would have probably been Orpah he would have had to “redeem” and marry. Orpah’s one decision to stay – while probably the decision that made the most sense in almost every way – was a life-changing decision… and, possibly, a destiny-altering decision.
The choices you make today may have far-reaching affect.
You can read Orpah’s story in Ruth 1.