We are now in our 17th week of storytelling our way through the Bible. There was one week that was just a review so tonight was our 16th story. I wrote a version of the book of Ruth that I called Naomi’s story. It was a fun one to write because the story of Ruth, Naomi, and Boaz is such a rich one, but also a very straightforward story. I have included the story after the jump. There may be a typo or two, but I think you will find it helpful.
During the time of the judges in the town of Bethlehem there lived a man named Elimelech and his wife Naomi, which means pleasant. Because of a Famine in the land Elimelech, Naomi, and their two sons moved from Bethlehem into land that was controlled by the Moabites. There in the land of Moab Elimelech died and Naomi was left with her two sons who married Moabite women, one named Orpah and the other Ruth. After 10 years the sons of Naomi also died and she was left alone in a foreign country without husband or sons to take care of her.
In this day there weren’t many options for a widow, and a woman without a husband would be dependant on the handouts of others. So when Naomi heard that the famine was over in Israel she made plans to go back to Bethlehem. Orpah and Ruth made to go with her but she stopped them saying, “What good is it for you to come back with me. My sons are dead and I will have no more sons. Stay here with your people and maybe you will find another husband.”
Orpah agreed and stayed in the land of Moab, but Ruth said to Naomi, “Where you go I will go. Where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God will be my God.”
So Naomi returned to her hometown without husband, sons, or possessions. When people recognized her they exclaimed, “Look! Naomi is back!” but she silenced them and said, “Don’t call me Naomi, for the Lord has made my life bitter. Call me Mara, or bitter, instead” So Naomi returned from Moab with Ruth the Moabitess her daughter-in-law just as the barley harvest was beginning.
Ruth asked Naomi to be allowed to go into the fields and follow behind the men harvesting grain. One of the rules that Moses had left the Israelites was to allow the poor and the widows to walk behind the harvesters and pick up what ever fell out on the ground. Naomi gave her permission and Ruth ended up in the field of a man named Boaz.
When Boaz arrived at the field he noticed Ruth and spoke kindly to her and gave her something to eat. When he returned to the field with his workers he said to them. Let Ruth come up and gather right where you are working and pull a few extra stalks of grain from your sheaves and leave them for her so that she will have plenty.
So Ruth gleaned in the field until evening and gathered a large amount of grain. Naomi was surprised to see so much grain and asked Ruth where she had been. When Ruth told Naomi that she had been in the field of Boaz Naomi was excited.
“Boaz is my husband’s relatives.” Naomi said, “He is a man of standing in this community and it is good that he has taken notice of you for he is one of our kinsman-redeemers.”
In Israel at the time it was custom for an unmarried brother or family member to marry the widow of someone from their family. This was so that the family name could be continued and also to provide for the woman that your family had already pledged to support. This person was called a kinsman-redeemer.
Naomi told Ruth to wait until it was dark and all of the men had fallen asleep around the threshing floor. Then she told Ruth exactly what to do in order to convince Boaz to propose to her.
Ruth, following Naomi’s instructions got dressed up in her finest clothes and went to the threshing floor. She pulled his robe up over his feet and lay down. In the middle of the he woke up and was shocked to see a woman lying at his feet.
“Who are you?” he asked.
“I am your servant Ruth,” she replied, “Spread the corner of your garment over me since you are a kinsman-redeemer to me.” This wasn’t a simple request because she was cold. Ruth was asking Boaz to marry her and to bring her and Naomi back into good standing.
Boaz had heard of Ruth and of her commitment to stay with Naomi. He agreed to pursue her, but since there was someone else who was a closer relative to Elimelech than he was Boaz didn’t have the right to ask her first. Because Boaz was a man of integrity he offered Ruth and all of the land that Naomi had a right to purchase as Elimelech’s widow to nearest relative. This man refused however and gave the rights to redeem both Ruth and the land to Boaz.
So Boaz took Ruth to be his wife and it was long before she conceived and bore him a son. Naomi, no longer denying her name, praised God and rejoiced that he had taken her empty life and made it full.
Boaz and Ruth named their son Obed who later became the father of Jesse. Jesse was the father of David. David was the father of Solomon. Following the path on down through the generations we find that the descendant of Solomon was Joseph who was the earthly father of Jesus.