Warrior Prophets 3 Chapter 10
“How can you leave me?” Neema asked her daughters as they packed their belongings in their room.
“We follow our husbands,” Orpa stated, as she placed a gold pin in her bags.
“Your husbands have been perfectly happy here for ten years, why do they need to leave now?”
“I fear Zipor.” Orpa looked at her mother straight in the eye. “I fear that his new-found power has made him mad, if he wasn’t mad already.”
“I can always protect you from Zipor.” Neema did not contradict Orpa’s claim. “He will never hurt me or mine. No matter how ambitious he may be, my daughters will always be safe.”
“Nonetheless, our husbands return to Judah and we follow them,” Orpa said simply.
“How will you live there? They hate our kind. They detest our worship.”
“What do I care about our worship? I was unmarried too long to risk losing a husband. I will follow him as long as he is there to follow,” Orpa answered.
“What about you, Ruth?” Neema asked. “You’ve been unusually quiet. Will you be happy amongst Judeans and their ways? Is a man all you think about? I have lost two husbands, yet have never given up our traditions. The Judeans will not allow worship of Molech or Kemosh.”
“I like the Judean ways,” Ruth said softly. “Mahlon has taught me a certain gentleness, a certain peace that I like. I see little value in the worship of the old gods. The God of the Hebrews is powerful and protects His Children. We have seen it with our own eyes.”
“So you leave me?” Neema asked with growing anger. “This is the gratitude you show me after everything I’ve done for you? You abandon your own mother in her old age?”
“You will be fine, mother,” Orpa waved her hand. “And Judah is not so far away. Perhaps, once Zipor settles down, we will visit from time to time. There are merchant caravans coming all the time. We will see you soon, mother. Don’t worry and don’t be upset.”
“I see your minds are set.” Neema breathed out through her nose. “Well, if you change your minds, you will always have a room here, even with those Judean husbands of yours. Make sure to visit soon in any case.” Neema kissed her daughters and left their room.
Orpa and Ruth walked to Naomi’s room and saw that she was packed herself. Naomi was wrapping some last cloths into a bundle. Ashban had sold Naomi a few bolts of fabric at a reasonable price and Naomi and Ruth had already discussed the types of dresses they would sew for a Judean clientele. Ashban had promised to supply them with more fabric at a fair price if the demand was strong.
“Greetings, my daughters,” Naomi smiled at the two Moabite princesses. “How did your mother deal with the news?”
“Unsurprisingly,” Orpa answered. “She will be fine. She made a big deal about it, but I think it’s her way of showing she will miss us. We’re ready.”
“Good. You are very brave to undertake this move, but I think it will be good for all of us, especially for Mahlon and Kilyon. They should never have left Judah.”
Naomi held her throat suddenly and coughed violently, doubling over.
“What’s the matter?” Ruth asked and held Naomi up.
“I can’t breathe,” Naomi said hoarsely. “Mahlon and Kilyon, they’re in danger!”
“Where? What? How do you know?” Orpa joined Ruth in holding their mother-in-law up.
“I suddenly sense it. They’re in a fire. They can’t breathe. We must go to them!”
Naomi ran out of the room and into the palace hallway. From the tall windows she could see smoke rising from the northern end of Kir Moav. She ran out of the palace, with Ruth and Orpa following closely.
People fled southward, away from the fire, as soldiers moved in closer, carrying buckets of water from the wells.
Naomi was panting heavily as they reached the street that was the source of the blaze. Nearby animals seemed to be in a craze, attacking any soldier they could see. Naomi clutched her chest and fell to the ground. She spasmed again as if an arrow had entered her heart. Tears poured freely down her face on to the Moabite cobblestones.
“No,” she wept. “No. Not my boys.”
“What happened?” Ruth asked, as she and Orpa raised her from the ground.
“They are dead. I can feel it.”
They walked slowly down the road, the Moabite sisters on either side of their mother-in-law. They reached a scene that at first they did not comprehend.
The house that Elimelech had rented all those years ago had burnt to the ground. The fire was spreading to nearby houses. Moabite soldiers were throwing buckets of water on the fire. Over twenty Moabite soldiers lay dead on the road. And then they saw Mahlon and Kilyon, both dead with still-burning arrows in their heart. The newly-crowned King Zipor, Ruth and Orpa’s brother, was directing the soldiers putting out the flames.
He spotted Naomi and approached with anger in his eyes.
Before he could open his mouth, Naomi slapped him hard across the face.
“You killed them, you evil creature,” Naomi said with quiet rage. Zipor looked at Naomi in shock and then the anger returned to his eyes.
“I did not, you witch, but I intended to. They were wild dangerous men. If you do not leave the city immediately, I will kill you where you stand.”
“What is wrong with you, Zipor!?” Orpa finally found her voice. Ruth knelt beside her murdered husband, extinguished the burning arrow and wept quietly.
“You will address me as ‘Your Majesty’ or ‘Your Highness’ from now on, sister. I did not approve of your choice of husband.”
“So you burned down the city?”
“Do not use such a tone with me, Orpa. I am now the ruler here.”
“You are nothing but a cowardly sniveling little runt pretending to be a man.”
“Enough, sister! I banish you as well, on pain of death!”
“I’m leaving this decrepit city, anyway. If you’re running things now, you’re likely to destroy the whole place in less than a week, Your Majesty.” Orpa said his title with as much sarcasm as she could muster.”
“Begone then, begone!”
“Not before I say goodbye to Kilyon.” Orpa knelt by her husband’s corpse. The fire of his arrow had already gone out. She closed his vacant eyes and kissed him tenderly on the cheek.”
“Goodbye, Kilyon,” Orpa said with a heavy voice. “I will miss you. Come, Ruth. We must get out of here.” Orpa grabbed her sister and tore her away from her husband’s body.
“We can’t leave them here like this,” Ruth protested. “They must be buried, as per their tradition.”
“Zipor is mad,” Orpa whispered. “If we stay any longer he will kill us and Naomi. We must leave now.”
“Know this, Zipor son of Jalet,” Naomi said as Orpa and Ruth joined her. “My sons will be avenged. If I had the strength, I would kill you where you stand. There will be a blood redeemer for these deaths. If not from my family, then the God of Israel, the God who took us out of Egypt and gave us the Land of Canaan. He will avenge the deaths of Mahlon and Kilyon. If not upon you, then upon your descendants. Our God has a long memory and he does not forget the injustices committed upon His children. I curse you, Zipor that you should never know relief, that you should never know peace until this crime is avenged. God shall take you down to the pits of Sheol and you will never know joy. My grief is beyond description – may you taste it soon.”
Naomi turned abruptly and left a wide-mouthed Zipor behind. Orpa and Ruth followed quickly, after a mother-in-law the likes of which they had never encountered before.
The threesome left the city, with nothing but the clothing on their backs. Naomi’s bravado had run its course and now she walked slowly, hunched over in grief, looking blankly at the desert road. They walked wordlessly northwards until the road that led westward, to the Tribe of Judah.
“Leave me, my daughters.” Naomi awoke from her reverie. “Return to your mother. She will protect you from your brother’s madness. Judah is no place for princesses. Go, my daughters. God should deal kindly with you as you have dealt with the dead and with me. Go. Find new husbands. Find rest and peace.” Naomi kissed both sisters. Ruth and Orpa cried.”
“No,” Orpa said. “We will return with you to your people.”
“Go back, my daughters.” Noami shook her head. “Do I have more sons in my womb that might be husbands for you? Go back, go home. I am too old to have a husband. Even if I were to marry tonight and bear sons, would you wait until they were grown? Would you lock yourselves up and have no husband until they were of age? No, my daughters. I grieve for you as well. You have suffered along with me. The hand of our God has gone forth against me and you have lost as well. Think well. Go home.”
Orpa and Ruth hugged their mother-in-law and wept with her.
“How can we leave you?” Orpa asked.
“How can you follow me? You doom yourself to a life of poverty and loneliness. It will not be easy for you to find husbands amongst my people. Stay. Return to your mother, return to the palace. Return to your comforts and marry from your own people.”
Orpa looked at Kir Moav, a dark plume of smoke rising to the blue sky. She then looked west to the barren rocky desert they would have to cross to reach Judah.
“Perhaps you are right,” Orpa said. “Without Kilyon it makes less sense for me to leave the palace. Zipor will calm down and I will seek a new husband. But how will you fare?”
“I will return to my people, to my family and I will know peace, though perhaps never joy or contentment. Leave me, my daughters. Go back to your mother with my blessings.”
Orpa kissed Noami tenderly on the cheek, nodded, bowed down lightly and left her, as if departing from monarchy. She walked slowly back towards Kir Moav. Ruth did not budge from Naomi’s side.
“Ruth,” Naomi said gently. “Your sister has returned to your people, to your god. Go back with her.”
“Do not ask me again to leave you or to stop following you, mother.” Ruth shook her head. “Wherever you go, I will go. Where you sleep, I will sleep. Your people will become my people and your God my God. Where you die, I will die, and there I will be buried. May God, the God of Israel do so to me and more if anything but death parts you from me.”
Naomi looked at Ruth as if seeing her for the first time. This was not the act of a Moabite. But this was the act of Ruth. All the years of kindness she had perceived in Ruth, all the generosity, the loftiness of spirit and the hidden strength had come forth at this moment of choice. Naomi cried again. But not tears of grief. Rather she cried tears of relief, tears of joy, and tears of companionship, as she experienced a loyalty she had never known even amongst her own people.
Wordlessly, Naomi walked towards her homeland, followed by a woman she thought was now closer to God than any Israelite in the Land of Canaan.
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Ruth Chapter 1:
5 And Mahlon and Chilion died both of them; and the woman was left of her two children and of her husband. 6 Then she arose with her daughters-in-law, that she might return from the field of Moab; for she had heard in the field of Moab how that the Lord had remembered His people in giving them bread. 7 And she went forth out of the place where she was, and her two daughters-in-law with her; and they went on the way to return unto the land of Judah. 8 And Naomi said unto her two daughters-in-law: ‘Go, return each of you to her mother’s house; the Lord deal kindly with you, as ye have dealt with the dead, and with me. 9 The Lord grant you that ye may find rest, each of you in the house of her husband.’ Then she kissed them; and they lifted up their voice, and wept. 10 And they said unto her: ‘Nay, but we will return with thee unto thy people.’ 11 And Naomi said: ‘Turn back, my daughters; why will ye go with me? have I yet sons in my womb, that they may be your husbands? 12 Turn back, my daughters, go your way; for I am too old to have a husband. If I should say: I have hope, should I even have an husband to-night, and also bear sons; 13 would ye tarry for them till they were grown? would you shut yourselves off for them and have no husbands? nay, my daughters; for it grieves me much for your sakes, for the hand of the Lord is gone forth against me.’ 14 And they lifted up their voice, and wept again; and Orpah kissed her mother-in-law; but Ruth cleaved unto her. 15 And she said: ‘Behold, thy sister-in-law is gone back unto her people, and unto her god; return thou after thy sister-in-law.’ 16 And Ruth said: ‘Entreat me not to leave thee, and to return from following after thee; for whither thou goest, I will go; and where thou lodgest, I will lodge; thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God; 17 where thou diest, will I die, and there will I be buried; the Lord do so to me, and more also, if aught but death part thee and me.’ 18 And when she saw that she was steadfastly minded to go with her, she left off speaking unto her.