What happened to Orpah?
It was spring time when Ruth and Orpah stood on the road leading from Moab, east of the Dead Sea, to Bethlehem in Judea. Naomi their Jewish mother-in-law bade them farewell. She was destitute, her husband and two sons deceased. The boys’ wives were Moabites, foreigners to the people of Israel.
Naomi had nothing to offer them, and suggested they return to their mother’s house, until they could find new husbands. When the girls protested, and said they would follow her, Naomi knew that they could not find acceptance unless they became believers in the One True God of Israel. Ruth made her confession of faith in Jehovah God ₁, but her sister Orpah decided to stay, and turned back.
The name Orpah means ‘the nape of the neck’.
This was a polite way of naming the woman who had turned her back on her mother-in-law of ten years.
Orpah figured out that she could do better by returning to her mother’s house, her grandmother was the Queen, married to Eglon the Moabite King. Princesses did not have to die of hunger as widows in a foreign land!
The granddaughters of Eglon had married the sons of Elimelech, a wealthy prince of Judah, and son of Salmon. He had been driven by famine from Bethlehem, and arranged a politically advantageous marriage for his sons, forming an alliance with the King of Moab ₂. After the death of Elimelech and his sons, there was nothing left for the widow, Naomi except the family property in Bethlehem. In those times the land remained the possession of the family; it was like a life insurance policy to a widow. We know that Ruth became the Great-Grandmother of King David ₃, and her name is found the line of Jesus’ ancestors.
But what happened to Orpah?
The Jewish Rabbins tell us, in the Aggadah₂, that the real name of Orpah was 'Harafu'.
She did find a new husband, again the result of a shrewd political alliance between Eglon King of Moab and the Philistine King of Gath. In those days there were still giants living in Moab, but most of them had moved to the Coastal plain₃, and Orpah became the wife of one of these ‘Eminem’, or giants. She bore him four very big boys. Their names were Ishbibenob, Saph₄, Lahmi and Goliath₅.
When her boys were of full age and mature fighters, Goliath challenged the army of Israel, and was killed by young David. Goliath's great grandmother Princess Harafu, whom we call Orpah, was sister to Ruth.
Having killed Goliath, David was challenged in subsequent battles by the brothers of Goliath, until all of them were killed by the leaders of David’s army. Orpah was an aged woman, when Abishai, a general in David’s Army, attacked Ishbibenob, her last living son. Jewish tradition relates that she tried to hinder Abishai from killing her son, and died in the effort.
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©2012 – Jim Cole-Rous
₁. (Ruth 1:4–14). ₂. http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/judaica/ejud_0002_0015_0_15218.html
₃. (Joshua 15:14) ₄. (2 Sam 21:16-18) ₅. (1 Chron 20:5)