Who was Obed in the Bible? 

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By BibleAsk Team


Who was Obed in the Bible? 

Obed, in the Bible, is a significant yet often overlooked figure. He is most notably recognized as the son of Boaz and Ruth. His story is detailed in the Book of Ruth, where his birth is seen as a blessing and a symbol of God’s provision. Ruth, a Moabite woman and the widow of Mahlon, marries Boaz, a wealthy and kind landowner in Bethlehem, after a series of events that highlight loyalty, kindness, and divine providence. Obed’s birth is celebrated by the women of Bethlehem, who see him as a restorer of life and a sustainer in Ruth’s old age. Importantly, Obed becomes the father of Jesse, who is the father of David, making Obed an ancestor of King David and, according to the New Testament, part of the genealogy of Jesus Christ. This places Obed in the lineage that fulfills the Messianic prophecy, underscoring his critical role in biblical history.

The name Obed means “servant,” that is, of God. This is an abbreviated form of Obadiah, which means “the servant [or worshiper] of Jehovah.” There are different persons by this name in the Bible:

Obed – the Son of Ruth 

The most famous Obed was the son of Ruth, the converted Moabitess, and Boaz. Ruth was first married to an Israelite man sojourning with his father (Elimelech) and his mother (Naomi) in the land of Moab because of the famine in Judah. Unfortunately, Ruth’s husband, his brother, and father died in the land of Moab. The young woman was left with Naomi, her mother-in-law. 

Naomi wanted to return to Israel from Moab and asked her two daughters-in-law to return to their own families in Moab. Orpah did but Ruth said to Naomi, “Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God” (Ruth 1:16-17). After learning about the God of Israel, Ruth experienced a change and felt she would rather live in the strange land of Israel and among its people who worshiped God than live among her own people who worshiped heathen gods. She was so impressed by the loving God of Naomi and could not separate herself from Him.

Naomi and Ruth returned to Bethlehem at the beginning of the barley harvest. They were very poor, so the young woman asked permission to go to the fields each day to glean wheat during the harvest after the reapers. The owner of the land she was gleaning from was Boaz, who was of the family of Elimelech. He heard of Ruth’s situation and told his workers to allow her to work in the fields and not hurt her. The young woman was very grateful to him and said:

“Why have I found favor in your eyes, that you should take notice of me, since I am a foreigner?”

Ruth 2:10

Boaz told Ruth that he was impressed with her kindness to Naomi (Ruth 2:11-12)

Naomi learned that Boaz was a close relative who, according to Jewish law, had the right to redeem Elimelech’s property, probably already sold for debt (Leviticus 25:24). Also, he had the right to marry Ruth to raise a seed for her deceased husband and become trustee of the property. Naomi then asked Ruth to go to Boaz and be in his presence as a sign of acceptance of a marriage proposal from him.

Ruth obeyed Naomi and Boaz was very happy. But there was another relative who was closer than he. So, Boaz needed to first ask that relative for his permission. The second day, he met with that relative in the presence of the town leaders and asked him if he would be willing to redeem Naomi’s late-husband’s land and marry Ruth. When the relative declined, Boaz then made a public announcement that he would redeem the land and marry Ruth.

Ruth’s supreme desire to be among God’s people was honored by Him greatly. Ruth and Boaz had a son named Obed who became the grandfather of King David, from whose lineage came the Messiah (Matthew 1:5-6).

Obed-Edom 

The name Obed-Edom appears in 2 Samuel 6:10 1 Chronicles 15:18, 21; 26:4, 8, 15. 2 Samuel 6 tells the story of David wanting to bring the Ark to Jerusalem. After Eli’s death, the ark was placed in the house of Abinadab at least for two or three generations (1 Samuel 4:15–18; 6:1; 7:1).    

Since Uzzah and Ahio, the sons of Abinadab, had taken care of the ark while it was in their home, they should have followed the divine instruction concerning its transfer. There was no proper excuse for their disregard in this matter.  The Bible tells us that when the Ark reached Nachon’s threshing floor, “Uzzah put out his hand to the ark of God and took hold of it, for the oxen stumbled. Then the anger of the Lord was aroused against Uzzah, and God struck him there for his error; and he died there by the ark of God” (2 Samuel 6:6,7). 

Then, King David was afraid of the Lord that day and would not move the ark of the Lord with him into the City of David; but he took it aside into the house of Obed-Edom the Gittite. This man was likely a member of the family especially appointed to bear the ark (Numbers 4:15; 7:9). 

The presence of the ark in the home of the Gittite brought a blessing, not a curse. He knew how fearfully the Lord had punished irreverence when the ark had been dishonored. Yet, despite all this, he welcomed the ark to his house. The experience that came to this man demonstrated that although God is a holy God, He need not be feared by one who is humble and obedient to Him.   

So, when David saw that the house of Gittite was blessed, he went and brought up the ark of God from there to the City of David with gladness. He learned the lesson of complete obedience to God’s requirements. The ark was not now carried on a cart but, in harmony with the command of God (1 Chronicles 15:2, 15), it was carried by Levites.

Lesser Known Obeds 

There are other lesser known Obeds that are also mentioned in the Bible. These are: Obed, a son of Ephlal (1 Chronicles 2:37–38), Obed, one of David’s mighty men (1 Chronicles 11:47), Obed, the father of Azariah (2 Chronicles 23:1), and Obed, son of Shemaiah, who was among the men of ability (1 Chronicles 26:7).  

Resources

For a full list of Obed references in the Bible, check out: Bible Names that start with O (see Obed)

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