Lessons from Orpah on Success (And what NOT to do!)

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To a certain degree, Orpah reminds me of Vashti. Like Vashti, Orpah appears in a book of the Bible that chronicles one of our most celebrated matriarchs of the faith's life (Vashti is mentioned in the book of Esther, whereas Orpah is mentioned in Ruth). Yet, neither of these ladies are remembered and held in as high regard as their more esteemed counterparts (Esther and Ruth respectively). Despite this, there are still lessons to be gleaned from each of these women as to why that is. For example, Vashti has already given us lessons on (the importance of) obedience and today, we are going to take lessons from Orpah on how to be successful.

Orpah features in Ruth 1:3-14, which says:

"Then Elimelech, Naomi’s husband, died; and she was left, and her two sons. Now they took wives of the women of Moab: the name of the one was Orpah, and the name of the other Ruth. And they dwelt there about ten years. Then both Mahlon and Chilion also died; so the woman survived 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 that the Lord had visited His people by giving them bread. Therefore she went out from the place where she was, and her two daughters-in-law with her; and they went on the way to return to the land of Judah. And Naomi said to her two daughters-in-law, 'Go, return each to her mother’s house. The Lord deal kindly with you, as you have dealt with the dead and with me. The Lord grant that you may find rest, each in the house of her husband.'

So she kissed them, and they lifted up their voices and wept. And they said to her, 'Surely we will return with you to your people.'

But Naomi said, 'Turn back, my daughters; why will you go with me? Are there still sons in my womb, that they may be your husbands? Turn back, my daughters, go—for I am too old to have a husband. If I should say I have hope, if I should have a husband tonight and should also bear sons, would you wait for them till they were grown? Would you restrain yourselves from having husbands? No, my daughters; for it grieves me very much for your sakes that the hand of the Lord has gone out against me!'

Then they lifted up their voices and wept again; and Orpah kissed her mother-in-law [and left], but Ruth clung to her."


The rest of Ruth 1 then goes on to detail how:

  • Ruth not only clung to Naomi but refused to leave her (Ruth 1:16-17)
  • Seeing how determined Ruth was to go with her, Naomi finally relented and let Ruth journey to Bethlehem with her (Ruth 1:18-22)


Related: An Interview with Michelle Shaw on Ruth and Hannah


Remember me saying that Ruth is much more celebrated than Orpah? Well, this is why! Literally, after Orpah's 15 verses of fame, there is no further mention of her in the Bible. Her decision to go "back to her people and to her gods" (Ruth 1:15) meant that she faded into obscurity like so-

Ruth, on the other hand? Well, her decision to follow Naomi led to her:

  • Marrying Boaz and birthing children (Ruth 4:13-22)
  • Becoming one of Jesus' fore-mothers, as Jesus was a direct descendant of hers (Matthew 1:1-16)

This is why, of the two, she is the most celebrated.


Related: An Interview with Dija Henry on Ruth

In thinking about this story, I was struck by many things. The first thing that struck me were the differences between Orpah and Ruth (that subsequently led to one of these women being perceived as more successful than the other). For example:

#1 Although they both started in the same place, one turned back (whilst the other did not)

Ruth 1:7 says:

"Therefore [Naomi] went out from the place where she was, and her two daughters-in-law with her; and they went on the way to return to the land of Judah"

This demonstrates the fact that both Ruth and Orpah had started out following Naomi to Bethlehem, with the intention of going with her. So, initially, they were in the same mental place.

The only reason that Ruth went on to be "successful" where- we can only assume that- Orpah didn't is because she continued to follow Naomi. Unlike Orpah, she didn't turn back when she had the chance to but continued to pursue her purpose.


#2 one was able to be discouraged and DISSUADED (where the other persisted and persevered)

The reason that Orpah went back to Moab rather than continue to follow Naomi is because she was able to be discouraged and dissuaded by her words in Ruth 1:11-14. This is in stark contrast to Ruth who refused to be put off by her mother-in-law's words, but rather persist and persevere until she finally got her way.


#3 one went back to her "people and gods" (whereas the other forsook them)

As previously mentioned, in leaving Naomi, Orpah chose to go "back to her people and to her gods" (Ruth 1:15). In other words, she chose to return to what was familiar and comfortable to her rather than rock the boat or shake things up- even if that cost her, her life (remember Naomi's husband and children had died of famine. So, Naomi wasn't just leaving Moab because she was sad about this, she'd heard that Bethlehem had food. Relocating was potentially their only chance of survival)! Orpah essentially had a "better the devil you know than the angel you don't" mentality, Ruth, on the other hand, forsook all of these things in faith that if she shed her (previous) life, she'd gain in her new one.


Related: An Interview with Jess on Ruth


what about you, lovely?

What is your definition of success? Are you currently pursuing those things? If you are, I hope that you realise by now that the best way to attain them is to not do as Orpah did. So-

#1 Don't give up

This takes grit which, according to Travis Bradberry, is:

"that 'extra something' that separates most successful people from the rest. It's the passion, perseverance, and stamina that we must channel in order to stick with our dreams until they become a reality"


#2 Don't be dissuaded

The ability to not give up until successful is also a matter of refusing to become distracted, discouraged or dissuaded. It is the act of using faith to look beyond and overcome life's challenges, as and when they arise. It is the decision to "never doubt in the dark what God told you in the light".


#3 Don't cling so tightly to the past

The pursuit of purpose will ultimately require you to "[forget] those things which are behind and [reach] forward to those things which are ahead" (Philippians 3:13). So, like Ruth, it may require you to:

  • Walk away from some relationships
  • Forsake your gods

What do I mean by that? Well, "gods" can be:

  • Habits
  • Mindsets
  • Places
  • And so on

that no longer benefit you. In fact, they hinder you and stop you from elevating to the level of success that you are hoping to attain.

As the saying goes:

"The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results".


If you want to be successful, you can't operate on the same level as you did in the past. You must up-level by developing the network, habits etc that will help you go forward.


Related: An Interview with Eleanor Akaho on Ruth