Category Archives: Naomi

Warrior Prophets 3 Chapter 27 – House of the Removed Shoe

Warrior Prophets 3 Chapter 27

House of the Removed Shoe

Boaz sat calmly on the stone bench beside the gate, inside the large open alcove. Benches lined each of the three walls of the enclosure, within view of the main thoroughfare of Bethlehem. It was the place of judgment. The streets of Bethlehem were quieter than usual at the early hour. The residents of Bethlehem were slow to rise on the morning after the harvest feast. For a few moments Boaz enjoyed the warm summer sun rising above the mountains of Moab. Then he saw Ploni walking slowly towards the gate.

“Uncle,” Boaz called.

“Good morning, Boaz. Thank you again for an enjoyable feast. What is the matter? Why do you sit here?”

“I call for judgment,” Boaz answered. “Please sit here and we will assemble the elders.”

“For what matter?”

“In regard to the family and the property of Elimelech.”

“Very well.” Ploni sat down on an opposing bench.

The elders walked from their homes, one by one, to the gate of Bethlehem. “We sit in judgment today,” Boaz announced to each one.

Within a number of minutes a quorum of ten Elders had taken their seats on the stone benches. Other passersby stood by the entrance of the alcove, awaiting the proceedings. Children sat cross-legged on the top of the walls, sensing that it would be a judgment worth watching. Word of the judgment spread quickly throughout the city as the crowd swelled around the enclosure.

Naomi and Ruth, not able to restrain themselves, joined the crowd. Ruth wore the new white dress Naomi had made for her. Ehud was there, as was Garto. Garto smiled gently at Ruth, raised his shoulders and whispered: “They’ll be no work in the fields today, that’s for sure.”

Boaz stood up and faced Ploni.

“The land of Elimelech is being sold by his wife Naomi who has returned from the fields of Moab,” Boaz said to Ploni in a strong voice that the entire assembly could hear. “And I have decided to formally announce this to you. You may buy the land in front of all of this assembly and in front of the Elders. This would be your redemption of the land. If you are willing, then redeem it. But if not, you must let me know, for you have the first right as Elimelech’s brother. I come after you, for I am only his nephew.”

“I am willing to redeem the land of Elimelech, my brother, and acquire it.” Ploni stood up solemnly and declared.

“The day you buy the land from Naomi,” Boaz replied, “you also must buy it from Ruth the Moabite, widow of Mahlon and inheritor of Elimelech. Furthermore, as a redeemer, it will become your obligation to take Mahlon’s widow as your wife to carry on the name of the dead on his inheritance.”

“Absolutely not!” Ploni yelled. “She is a Moabite. She is not of Israel. I do not recognize her marriage to Mahlon nor her eligibility to join the Children of Israel. This is nonsense, Boaz, and you know it.”

“Let us examine your claims,” Boaz said, unruffled. “A woman of another nation has taken upon herself the laws and traditions of Israel. She was married to one of our family for many years. She has returned with her mother-in-law to our land to live and work amongst us. She is of noble character, of humble bearing and possesses a modesty that all the daughters of Israel can learn from. She identifies completely with the people of Israel and has taken on the Law of Moses. What else does she require to be recognized as one of us?”

“Don’t bandy words with me, Boaz. She is a Moabite. Moses himself wrote ‘a Moabite shall not enter into the covenant of Israel.’

“True,” Boaz answered. “But it has been argued in front of us that Moses may have easily meant that only male Moabites are prohibited from marrying Israelites. More than that, we have the evidence of our very own eyes. Ruth the Moabite has lived amongst us for these last few months. The people of Bethlehem,” Boaz turned to the crowd, his arms open to them, “have come to know her kindness, her bravery, her piety. I ask you, my brothers, is Ruth not a woman of valor?”

“Yes!” A chorus resonated from the crowd. “Ruth is one of us!”

“My fellow Elders,” Boaz continued, “I submit to you. Let us resolve this question once and for all. Moses did not mean to exclude Moabite women from marrying into Israel – only the men. He could not have meant to prevent such beauty of spirit from joining our nation. What say you? Shall we allow such purity within our people or shall we reject it? You must decide now, for a life, a family, the very future of a line of Israel hangs in the balance. Please give us your judgment.”

The Elders huddled and argued with each other. They pointed at Ploni, at Boaz, at Ruth and Naomi in the crowd and then they nodded at each other.

One of the Elders stepped away from the huddle to the center of the enclosure and faced the crowd.

“We hereby decree,” the Elder stated, “that the prohibition against marrying Moabites is in force exclusively against the men from that nation. Israelite men are permitted to marry Moabite women provided they have renounced their idol-worshipping ways and have embraced the Laws of Moses and the traditions of Israel. The Moabite woman will then be considered a convert and will be subject to all the laws, commandments and prohibitions as any daughter of Israel. We recognize both the conversion of Ruth the Moabite and her lawful marriage to Mahlon son of Elimelech. Ruth is a legal childless inheritor and all our traditions of Redemption and Levirate marriage apply to her fully. Ploni is tasked with the redemption of the Elimelech’s land and taking Ruth as his wife in order to continue the name of the dead. This is our decree.”

“No!” Ploni exclaimed. “I cannot, I will not, bring myself to redeem her. I will not risk my name, my soul, my identity, by marrying this Moabite, even on your say-so. You redeem her, Boaz. I transfer the responsibility to you. You can acquire Elimelech’s land and marry Mahlon’s widow. I cannot bring myself to do this thing.”

“Then you must perform the Halitzah ritual,” the Elder advised Ploni. “This court calls upon Ruth the Moabite, widow of Mahlon, to fulfill the ceremony.”

The crowd by the entrance parted to let Ruth walk into the middle of the alcove. She walked slowly in her new gown, looking from side to side at the residents of Bethlehem watching the proceedings.

“Welcome, our daughter,” the Elder nodded at Ruth. “We shall now instruct you as to how the ceremony shall be conducted. Do not fear. It shall free you from Ploni’s obligation and transfer it to Boaz, allowing him to marry you.”

The Elder spoke quietly with Ruth, pointing at Ploni, at his shoe, and had her repeat a number of phrases. Satisfied that Ruth understood the procedure, the Elder directed her to start.

“My relative refuses to establish for his brother a name in Israel,” Ruth announced in a strong clear voice. “He does not consent to perform the Levirate marriage.”

“I do not wish to marry her,” Ploni responded formally.

Ruth sat on the floor and untied the sandal off of Ploni’s right foot. She took the sandal off his foot and threw it on the packed earth. She then stood up and spat on the ground in front of Ploni.

“So is done to the man who will not build up his brother’s house,” Ruth announced. “His name will be proclaimed in Israel as ‘the House of the one whose shoe was removed!’”

Red-faced, Ploni picked up his shoe and left the assembly. The crowd parted to let him out.

“Ruth is free from the bond of obligation to Ploni,” the Elder announced. “She may marry Boaz. We may now perform the Levirate marriage,” the Elder announced.

A wedding canopy was brought out. Four poles with a white fabric on the top. Four Elders grabbed each corner and directed Boaz and Ruth to stand under the canopy.

“I object!” a voice from the crowd called out.

The crowd parted once again, as Alron the Danite strode into the court area, followed by a dozen Philistine soldiers. They wore sturdy leather breastplates, carrying long spears in their hands and swords at their sides. They marched in two orderly rows behind Alron.

“What is the meaning of this!” the Elder berated Alron. “Who are you and why are these Philistines here?”

“I am Alron of Dan and I call for the end of this travesty. These men are my guards, for the last time I was in your inhospitable city I was threatened with death. A man is allowed to protect himself, is he not?”

“What is your connection to this matter?” the Elder asked.

“Princess Ruth, daughter of Eglon the Moabite, is meant to be my wife. And I will kill any man that thinks otherwise,” said Alron, as he pointed his sword at the Elder.

* * * * * *

Biblical Sources:

Book of Ruth, Chapter 4:

1 Now Boaz went up to the gate, and sat him down there; and, behold, the near kinsman of whom Boaz spoke came by; unto whom he said: ‘Ho, such a one! turn aside, sit down here.’ And he turned aside, and sat down. 2 And he took ten men of the elders of the city, and said: ‘Sit ye down here.’ And they sat down. 3 And he said unto the near kinsman: ‘Naomi, that is come back out of the field of Moab, selleth the parcel of land, which was our brother Elimelech’s; 4 and I thought to disclose it unto thee, saying: Buy it before them that sit here, and before the elders of my people. If thou wilt redeem it, redeem it; but if it will not be redeemed, then tell me, that I may know; for there is none to redeem it beside thee; and I am after thee.’ And he said: ‘I will redeem it.’ 5 Then said Boaz: ‘What day thou buyest the field of the hand of Naomi–hast thou also bought of Ruth the Moabitess, the wife of the dead, to raise up the name of the dead upon his inheritance?’ 6 And the near kinsman said: ‘I cannot redeem it for myself, lest I mar mine own inheritance; take thou my right of redemption on thee; for I cannot redeem it.’– 7 Now this was the custom in former time in Israel concerning redeeming and concerning exchanging, to confirm all things: a man drew off his shoe, and gave it to his neighbour; and this was the attestation in Israel.– 8 So the near kinsman said unto Boaz: ‘Buy it for thyself.’ And he drew off his shoe.

 

Warrior Prophets 3 Chapter 26 – Seducing a Saint

Warrior Prophets 3 Chapter 26

Seducing a Saint

Boaz officiated at the wedding of Ruth and Garto. Ruth looked stunning in her new white gown. Garto was grinning from cheek to cheek. Naomi looked on in mourning, whispering to Boaz: “failure.” Vered joined Naomi’s chant and then Elimelech, Mahlon and Kilyon joined in proclaiming: “failure.” Boaz’s father, Salmoon appeared and stated: “You have failed me, son. All I ever wanted was continuity. Such a simple thing. But you have broken the chain. Our line ends with you.”

Finally, Nachshon the Brave appeared in Boaz’s dream. Boaz had never met his legendary grandfather, but there was no mistake who it was. The bright red hair and beard, the cocky confidence mixed with supreme faith.

“Such promise,” Nachshon said to Boaz. “You were the key, Boaz. You had the gifts, the training, the spirit, but you lacked that final bit of courage. Were you asked to jump into the sea? Were you asked to risk your life? No! Merely to take in this most worthy, most honorable woman and make her your wife. But you worried too much about the superficial. What people would think. What people would say. Blood of my blood! What a disgrace! Joshua prophesied to you; Ehud confirmed it; Vered returned from the dead to push you, but still you dragged your feet, and now it is too late, too late. You were my last anchor to this world. The King will not be born, the Tribes of Israel will never be united, the Temple will not be built, God’s hope has gone awry, the light will be extinguished, the world will return to chaos, another failed trial, so close this time.”

“No! Wait! What do you mean?” Boaz cried out. “How can one poor decision lead to such a catastrophe?”

“The balance of free will is always on the edge of a blade,” Nachshon explained, “it must ever be so, but this was a moment, this was a confluence of time, a pivot, and you failed, you in whose hands all our hopes rested. It is a shame. Such a shame. God will find another path, another vehicle, another history. He never tires. What is another world to Him? Infinity is His playground, though I truly thought our world, our history, our time would be the one. Too bad, Boaz. Farewell, son of my son. Use your remaining time well.”

The wind over his uncovered legs awoke Boaz with a start. His head spun, still heavy from the wine. The night was pitch black, thick clouds blocking any moonlight or stars. It was as if a thick blanket had snuffed out all the light of the world. Boaz could sense the large pile of grain to one side. He was shocked to discover a woman lying next to him though not touching him. He trembled in fear and apprehension. Am I still dreaming? Boaz wondered through the haze of the wine. He could feel the warmth radiating from her body and unconsciously he was aroused. It is dark, was his first thought. No one will know.

By God, no! Boaz swore to himself. I will overcome this urge. Did I not just admonish all my people against this very thing? Whoever she is, she is a person, not a thing! I cannot ignore that. I cannot give in to the anonymity of the dark or the effects of the wine. Am I as drunk as Lot who could not recognize his own daughters?

“Who are you?” Boaz whispered to the dark.

The woman froze, not expecting conversation, not expecting to identify herself.

“I am Ruth, your maidservant,” the dark whispered back.

Ruth!? Boaz gasped. She is the last person I expected here. What does this mean? What about Garto? Why is this most modest of women by my side after the harvest festival?

“Spread your wings over your maidservant, for you are a Redeemer,” Ruth answered Boaz’s unspoken question.

A Redeemer! She asks for the Levirate marriage! How can I deny her? Boaz’s heart was filled with joy. She maintains her purity. I have been remiss. I have delayed. God has given me a second chance!

“Blessed are you to God, my daughter,” Boaz whispered back, not moving a muscle towards Ruth. “Your kindness to me tonight surpasses all your previous kindnesses. You did not go with the younger men. Not with the wealthy Danite nor with hard-working Garto.”

“I request this for the line of Nachshon,” Ruth said more comfortably, feeling the invisible barrier Boaz had created between them, not touching her. For that alone she loved him even more. “I do this to restore the name of Mahlon, your cousin. I do this for you, and most of all I do it for Naomi.”

Can there be a more righteous woman than this? Boaz asked himself.

“My daughter, do not be afraid. All that you say I will do for you. All of our people, all the people of the gate of Bethlehem, know that you are a woman of valor. And yes, I am a Redeemer, but there is one who is closer. Lie here tonight and in the morning we will settle the matter. If the other Redeemer will redeem you, fine. But if not, I will redeem you. I swear by God. Stay here until the morning.”

Boaz did not say another word.

Ruth respected his silence, though she thought her heart would leap for joy.

He said yes! Ruth thought. He swore he would redeem me. There is no way Ploni would. But how will I break the news to Garto? I must tell him first thing in the morning, before he is further shamed. Poor Garto. But this is the right thing. I feel it in every fiber of my body! He is the one. Naomi was right, but not the way she thought. What a man! I did not need to foist myself upon him. How many men such as he can exist in the world?

Ruth eventually calmed down and fell asleep, never touching Boaz’s body.

She arose before dawn. Boaz was awake. In the dim light of the beginning of the world, she could tell he had not slept the rest of the night.

“It should not be known that a woman came to the threshing floor,” Boaz whispered.

Ruth nodded her understanding. Boaz smiled at her intelligence.

“Give me the scarf that is on you and grasp hold of it,” Boaz ordered gently.

Ruth unbound her scarf from her hair and held it in front of her. He dropped six kernels of barley into the scarf, one for each working day of the week.

“You should not return to your mother-in-law empty-handed,” Boaz whispered. “She will understand the symbolism. Return now to Bethlehem. I shall be right behind you to ensure that you come to no harm. Go, my daughter. I will send word as soon as the matter of the redemption is concluded.”

Ruth nodded one last time and returned to Bethlehem. Boaz waited a few moments and followed her, keeping her always within eyesight until she reached the gate of the city.

*

Ruth opened the door to Naomi’s house silently, not wanting to disturb her mother-in-law at the early hour. The first rays of sun peeked into the house before Ruth closed them out.

“What happened?” Naomi asked urgently, sitting upright at the table. Her face was puffy from tears. She had not slept the entire night. “Who are you, my daughter? Are you still single, or have you bonded with Boaz?”

“Neither,” Ruth responded with a smile. “Boaz is a man of the greatest honor. He did not touch me at all. He will redeem me this morning. He gave me these six kernels,” Ruth handed them to Naomi. “He said do not return empty-handed to your mother-in-law.”

Naomi looked at the kernels of barley tenderly. She held them as she would a newborn child. She stroked each one gently as tears of joy ran down her face.

“This is more than I hoped for,” Naomi spoke to the kernels. “He signals that our work is over. We have worked the six days of the week and now we can rest. He will redeem you. He will. Once he has said so, he will not stop until it is done. You must wait here now, until the matter is decided. He will most likely be in fierce debate with Ploni and the other Elders. But he will succeed. Boaz is masterful in debate and they all respect him. Wait here, daughter, for today it will be decided.”

“There is one thing I must do first.” Ruth looked downward. “I must inform Garto. He will be devastated. But I would rather tell him myself than have him find out from someone else.”

“Go then, my daughter. But then come right back. I am hopeful for good news.”

*

Garto had borrowed a fresh tunic from one of his wealthier neighbors. He had taken a significant portion of his savings and had the blacksmith fashion a simple, unadorned gold ring for Ruth. He was on his way to another neighbor to ask if they could help with the preparation of the wedding feast. He had never felt so happy, so excited in his life. Ruth is mine! Garto thought, still incredulous.

Suddenly, he saw Ruth, in a beautiful blue gown walking rapidly to intercept him. The look on her face was filled with anguish.

“Ruth, what is the matter?” Garto asked with growing concern.

“We must talk,” Ruth said simply.

“Of course. Have I done something wrong? I have just started to tell people the news. I told Boaz last night and he agreed to officiate at the wedding.”

“We cannot marry,” Ruth said.

“What? Why not? Don’t tell me you are suddenly concerned about the Elders. We can leave here if they make an issue of it. There are plenty of cities in Israel that are not so particular about the laws and I can make a good living in any of them. The most important thing is you and me, Ruth. Do not let the so-called righteous intimidate you.”

“It is not that. I have called on Boaz to redeem me, to perform the Levirate marriage.”

“What? When? How is this possible?”

“Last night. After the feast. You are a good man, Garto, and I have deep affection and eternal gratitude to you. But I am meant to be joined with Boaz. There is much more at stake than just the happiness of two people. There is a family line to be resuscitated. There is the memory of my dead husband that needs to be restored. I can only do that through the Levirate marriage. I can only do that with a relative of Mahlon, and Boaz is the best, the most honorable candidate. I know what you will say. Our time may be short. Be that as it may, I must do this thing; for myself, for the Nachshon clan and most importantly, for Naomi. Anything else will break her heart. Do you understand, Garto? Can you forgive me for leading you astray?”

“I don’t believe it! Do you know how much money I just spent? I’m not a rich landowner like Boaz whom you can toy around with. What sort of woman are you? You agree to marry one night and the very next morning you change your mind? Do I understand? Of course I understand. I’m just a plaything to you. A tool in your feminine manipulations. Who else are you using? Are you marrying Boaz for his money? Will you count the days until he dies and then seek some other victim of your Moabite wiles? Will you come back to me after you’re done with Boaz? I understand. I understand very well!”

Garto turned around and stomped back to his house.

“No, Garto, please.” Ruth ran after him. “Please listen to me. It’s not like that at all. I promise you. Please.”

Garto stopped and faced Ruth, his face red with anger.

“I don’t have time for games anymore, Princess. Say what you have to say and let me be on my way.”

“Garto, when I agreed to marry you, I truly meant it. What I didn’t realize, what I didn’t remember was how much my marriage meant to Naomi. She is a mother to me. She is the reason I am here. She is the reason I have joined the Children of Israel. The marriage is not about me alone. It affects my wider family. It affects the memory of my dear Mahlon. It gives continuity to the families of Elimelech, of Boaz, of Nachshon the Brave. It has to be me and Boaz, and it has to be now. I don’t know what the future holds. But I know I must do this. I hope you can forgive me, Garto. I never meant to hurt you. I can understand if you never want to see me again, but know that no matter what, I will always treasure the memory of your friendship and kindness.”

“How can you do this?” Garto responded. “How can you lift a man’s heart to the heavens and then dash it to pieces? How can you promise someone a life of commitment, of loyalty, of love and then just walk away? Are the ghosts of the dead that important? What makes you think Boaz will give you a child at his advanced age? You would walk away from a good thing for a memory? Together we can make as many children as you’d like and we can name them after the entire Nachshon clan. Would that satisfy you?”

“It’s not that.” Ruth shook her head. “It has to be Boaz. We are destined for each other. I know it. I feel it with every part of my body. Please, Garto. Just accept it. I’m sorry. I was wrong. I was confused. I should not have agreed to marry you. I don’t know what else to say in my defense. I just ask for forgiveness.”

Ruth got on her knees and cried.

“Get up, Princess. I get it. He’s the one for you. I forgive you, though it may take me time to forget.”

“Thank you, Garto.” Ruth stood up. “It means a lot to me.”

Garto felt the gold ring in his pocket. How much can I get for it? he wondered. It’s a good thing I didn’t tell the whole city yet.

“I did think it was too good to be true,” Garto finally said. “You are special, Ruth. Truly special. And I’m not sure that I deserved you. Well, good luck then. I expect I will still see you around. If anything should change, I am still here and won’t mind being considered again. Perhaps I should hold on to the ring.

“You are a prince, Garto. Now the rest is up to Boaz.”

* * * * * *

Secondary Sources:

“Nor is this world inhabited by man the first of things earthly created by God. He made several worlds before ours, but He destroyed them all, because He was pleased with none until He created ours.” Ginsburg, The Legends of the Jews, based on Bereshit Rabba 3.7 and 9.2, Midrash Koheleth 3.11 and Midrash Tehillim 34, 245, mentions there were 974 generations before creation of our world.

Biblical Sources:

Book of Ruth, Chapter 3:

1 And Naomi her mother-in-law said unto her: ‘My daughter, shall I not seek rest for thee, that it may be well with thee? 2 And now is there not Boaz our kinsman, with whose maidens thou wast? Behold, he winnoweth barley to-night in the threshing-floor. 3 Wash thyself therefore, and anoint thee, and put thy raiment upon thee, and get thee down to the threshing-floor; but make not thyself known unto the man, until he shall have done eating and drinking. 4 And it shall be, when he lieth down, that thou shalt mark the place where he shall lie, and thou shalt go in, and uncover his feet, and lay thee down; and he will tell thee what thou shalt do.’ 5 And she said unto her: ‘All that thou sayest unto me I will do.’ 6 And she went down unto the threshing-floor, and did according to all that her mother-in-law bade her. 7 And when Boaz had eaten and drunk, and his heart was merry, he went to lie down at the end of the heap of corn; and she came softly, and uncovered his feet, and laid her down. 8 And it came to pass at midnight, that the man was startled, and turned himself; and, behold, a woman lay at his feet. 9 And he said: ‘Who art thou?’ And she answered: ‘I am Ruth thine handmaid; spread therefore thy skirt over thy handmaid; for thou art a near kinsman.’ 10 And he said: ‘Blessed be thou of the LORD, my daughter; thou hast shown more kindness in the end than at the beginning, inasmuch as thou didst not follow the young men, whether poor or rich. 11 And now, my daughter, fear not; I will do to thee all that thou sayest; for all the men in the gate of my people do know that thou art a virtuous woman. 12 And now it is true that I am a near kinsman; howbeit there is a kinsman nearer than I. 13 Tarry this night, and it shall be in the morning, that if he will perform unto thee the part of a kinsman, well; let him do the kinsman’s part; but if he be not willing to do the part of a kinsman to thee, then will I do the part of a kinsman to thee, as the LORD liveth; lie down until the morning.’ 14 And she lay at his feet until the morning; and she rose up before one could discern another. For he said: ‘Let it not be known that the woman came to the threshing-floor.’ 15 And he said: ‘Bring the mantle that is upon thee, and hold it’; and she held it; and he measured six measures of barley, and laid it on her; and he went into the city. 16 And when she came to her mother-in-law, she said: ‘Who art thou, my daughter?’ And she told her all that the man had done to her. 17 And she said: ‘These six measures of barley gave he me; for he said to me: Go not empty unto thy mother-in-law.’ 18 Then said she: ‘Sit still, my daughter, until thou know how the matter will fall; for the man will not rest, until he have finished the thing this day.’

Warrior Prophets 3 Chapter 25 – Plea for Seduction

Warrior Prophets 3 Chapter 25

 Plea for Seduction

“No,” Naomi moaned. “Not Garto. You must marry Boaz.”

“Boaz?” Ruth asked in confusion. “Last night you wanted me to marry Alron.”

“I know. That was a mistake. Forget Alron. You must marry Boaz. You must.”

“No. He is old and hesitant. Garto is here, he’s young and he’s ready. How much longer can I wait for Boaz?”

“Tonight. You must go to him tonight.”

“No. I’ve already told Garto I would marry him, with or without the approval of the Elders.”

Noami picked up the dress she had dropped on the floor, dusted it off and smoothed it out on the table.

“Ruth, my daughter. Please sit down.” Naomi motioned sharply to the opposite chair.

Ruth sat down slowly, not understanding her mother-in-law’s intensity.

“Listen to me, Ruth.” Naomi reached for Ruth’s hands across the table. “The most important thing is that the line of Nachshon must continue. You are the one who is meant to continue that line. Boaz may not realize this. He is cautious. He waits for consensus from the Elders. You must take the choice out of his hands.”

“What do you mean?”

“It will be best for you and you will finally know the peace of a noble husband and an established home. It must be Boaz, our kinsman, in whose field you gleaned together with his maidens. You must go to him tonight, after the harvest feast. Bathe, perfume yourself and put on your beautiful dress. Wait until after the festivity. Do not let him see you beforehand. He will sleep by the threshing floor, next to the grain, as is his custom. Note where he lies down. Wait until he is sleeping. He will most likely be inebriated as well. It will be dark. Uncover his legs and lay down next to him and then do as he directs.”

“What?” Ruth stood up from her chair, releasing Naomi’s hands. “Would you make me into a harlot?”

“If that is what it takes, yes. The line must not be extinguished. This is what we must do. It is what my ancestress Tamar did with Judah when she disguised herself as a harlot upon the crossroads. Your own ancestress did the same with your grandsire Lot even earlier than that. His daughters got him so drunk he did not know who he lay with. You must bind Boaz to you, even if he does not know it. He will be merry from the wine. It will be dark. He may think you one of the many maidens that seek such frivolity and may even succumb to the male impulses of the night. The night of the harvest festival is now known for such revelry. Lay with him and in the morning he will be yours.”

“Why do you ask this thing of me?” Ruth responded. “Do you know why I first set my eyes on your son? Do you know why I left my people and followed you to Bethlehem? Do you know why I’ve stayed here, a pauper, gleaning in the field with the poorest of Israel? It was in part because of your modesty. It was because Mahlon did not look upon me merely as an object. It was because of your kindness. It was because I believed the God of Israel is a compassionate God, a God that appreciates and demands modesty between men and woman. That is what I love about Boaz. Now you would have me betray that very principle? You would destroy the one area of respect between us? You would turn me back to the worst licentiousness of my Moabite ancestry? Is that what you want?”

“Yes,” Naomi answered, locking Ruth in her gaze. “The sacrifice is great, but the stakes are even greater. Sometimes we are tested on the ideals that are dearest to us. After many years of waiting, Abraham and Sarah were finally blessed with their beloved son Isaac. For years, Abraham had publicly denounced idol worship and child sacrifices. Yet what does God then ask of him? To sacrifice his own son! His entire dream and hope for the future. Abraham had to betray everything he stood for. It was his greatest test and his greatest moment.”

“Is God then asking me to do this thing?” Ruth asked.

“I don’t know. God does not speak to me. But I know this is right. And I know tonight is the night. Boaz may not choose the Levirate marriage option. He may not choose to fulfill his role as Redeemer. This is not only for you, or for Boaz. It is for Elimelech, my dear Elimelech. It is for Mahlon, my poor boy. And it is for me. Do not extinguish my last hope. Do not let me witness the utter destruction of our family. We are of proud, noble descent and tonight may be the very last opportunity to rekindle that flame. Please, Ruth. Please. This will be the ultimate kindness. For me.”

Ruth did not answer, but rather paced back and forth in the house. She stopped and looked at the new dress Naomi had been sewing. She appreciated the intricate patterns and the workmanship of the stitching. For the first time Ruth noticed the quality of the white fabric. It was a wedding gown.

“I will do what you have asked of me,” Ruth stated.

“Bless you, child. May God light your way.” Noami arose and hugged Ruth. They both cried, but for different reasons.

 

*

 

Boaz symbolically threshed the last of the barley. The freed kernels were added to the large pile of grain and there was spontaneous clapping by all of the assembled workers and their families. A plentiful harvest was good for all and Boaz was known for his generosity.

Knee-high makeshift tables forming three sides of a square occupied the threshing floor. Boaz sat on the ground beside the central table which was heavy with food. His uncle Ploni sat to his left and Ehud to his right. Four dozen others sat down as well. A servant came and poured water over Boaz’s hands. Servants washed the hands of the other guests. Boaz recited the benediction over the washing of the hands, dried them thoroughly and took one of the fresh pitas. In a loud voice he recited: “Blessed are You, God, our Lord, King of the world, who draws forth bread from the land.” A loud “Amen” resounded throughout the threshing floor.

Boaz dipped his pita in a bowl of olive oil and ate a morsel. The assembly did likewise. After that the food flowed freely. They were served slices of steaming roasted lamb with a sauce of pomegranate juice and pine nuts. A mash of peas and beans mixed with spicy peppers were placed in bowls next to the olive oil. Maidservants took turns bringing trays of fresh pita to the guests. Guests bit into fluffy cakes of wheat baked with honey, dates and almonds.

Fine wine flowed from jugs to goblets and from goblets to mouths. Boaz partook liberally of all the food and more of the wine, again grateful to God for the bountiful harvest. Boaz kept looking for the arrival of Ruth, but was disappointed by her absence. Garto was curiously missing as well. Naomi finally arrived to the threshing floor as torches were lit in the darkening dusk. Boaz was eager to ask her of Ruth’s whereabouts, but Naomi sat herself at the edge of one of the further tables and did not meet Boaz’s gaze.

“Oh, that our wives could see this bounty, Boaz,” Ploni said, raising his goblet. “Thank you for including me in your feast. My own would have been a paltry thing. I will of course compensate you for everything my servants and I eat. But it is better to celebrate together.”

“As you wish, Uncle,” Boaz answered distractedly.

“I notice that the Moabite is not here,” Ploni commented approvingly.

“Ruth was invited, and I am concerned by her absence,” Boaz replied.

“You would be better off having nothing to do with that heathen, nephew. Though others may think well of her, I will never forget her father’s cruelty nor that our law forbids them to us.”

“That is a subject we will discuss in the full assembly of the Elders and decide once and for all. First thing in the morning.”

“Master Boaz,” Garto approached the head table breathlessly. “I am so sorry I was delayed to the feast. I have the most wonderful news.”

“It is good to see you, Garto. Have you seen Ruth?” Boaz responded.

“It is about Ruth. She has accepted my marriage proposal and we are to be married tomorrow. As you have been a father figure to both of us, we would be honored if you would perform the wedding ceremony.”

Boaz looked blankly at Garto, not comprehending his words.

“Master Boaz? Are you well?” Garto inquired.

“You are to be married to Ruth? Tomorrow?” Boaz finally uttered.

“Yes. I know it is sudden, but there is no time like the present.”

“Yes. I see. I…I will be honored to officiate at your wedding. But the matter of Ruth’s eligibility is still undecided.”

“With all due respect, Master Boaz. If Mahlon son of Prince Elimelech felt it was appropriate to marry Ruth, who am I to think otherwise? Ruth does not wish to wait or deal with the debates of the Elders. The people of Bethlehem have come to know and admire Ruth no matter what her legal technical status, meaning no disrespect, Elder Ploni.”

“This is how your people flaunt the law?” Ploni asked Boaz.

“This is a curious development,” Ehud chimed in. “And as Boaz previously stated, the law is not clear and has not been determined. Where is Ruth now?” Ehud asked Garto.

“I don’t know. I left her at Naomi’s house. Perhaps she is preparing herself for tomorrow. I do not know how women prepare for such things. I expect she has more on her mind than tonight’s feast. I shall also leave early, with your permission, Master Boaz.”

“Of course, Garto. Of course. Do what you must.”

“Thank you, Master Boaz. Thank you. I know you care deeply for Ruth and only want what’s best for her. Your blessing on our marriage is most meaningful for us.” Garto excused himself. He grabbed some slices of lamb, stuffing them into his mouth as he left the threshing floor.

“Well, better he than you,” Ploni said.

“This is not right,” Ehud added.

“What is not right, blacksmith?” Ploni asked him.

“Ruth is not meant to marry Garto,” Ehud answered.

“You are correct. She should not marry any Israelite. But I’m glad my nephew is now spared from his irrational infatuation with the Moabite.”

“Boaz, what have you to say?” Ehud asked.

Boaz drained his goblet and refilled it.

“Perhaps we thought incorrectly,” Boaz said slowly. “Everything God does is for the best. Perhaps this is why I hesitated. It is better to avoid controversy. Why should I be the talk of the town, for marrying Ruth of Moab, no matter how honorable and noble she is? Perhaps we did not interpret God’s signs correctly. Who knows? Maybe Garto has some Nachshonite blood we don’t know of? It is all for the best.” Boaz drained another goblet of wine. “It is now time for my customary speech.” Boaz stood up slowly with the help of his walking stick. He waited a moment until his head stopped spinning, took a deep breath and stood firmly. The assembly quieted down to listen to their host.

“Brothers and sisters,” Boaz addressed the group. “God has shown us great favor this year. Though we have lost loved ones to the famine, this harvest has been unlike any in memory. We are turning a new page in our history. God is answering our prayers. Where once there was poverty, we now have wealth. Where once there was little, now there is plenty. The parched earth has been watered. The trees blossom and give their fruit; the land is worked and gives its produce. But let us not forget the days of hardship, nor take our new blessings for granted. The blessings come from God and it is Him, His laws and His precepts that we must obey.”

“There is one precept in particular that I wish to stress,” Boaz continued, making sure he had everyone’s attention. “Licentiousness. I know that in other fields tonight, after their respective feasts are over, men and women will frolic. But not here!” Boaz stamped his walking stick loudly on the threshing floor. “Farmers will take from their fresh grain and pay harlots. Workers will find maidservants and cavort in the dark fields. But not here!” Boaz stamped his stick again. “I will sleep here tonight, as is my custom. My old bones would much rather prefer the comfort of my own bed. But I do this as a sign. Neither I, nor man of my employ, will take from our grain to pay a harlot’s fee. No worker, no maidservant will cavort in my field. Not here!” Boaz banged again. “I expect better of those in my employ. I treat you better. I pay you better, and now I demand better. We are children of Israel, not immoral heathens that constantly crave the pleasures of the flesh. It pains me that many of our brethren have followed the heathen ways, but we will change that. We change that by stating loud and clear. Not here!” Boaz banged his stick a final time, looked every single person in the eye amidst the flickering torches and sat down. He did not notice Naomi’s reddening face looking down intently at her empty plate.

* * * * * *

Biblical Source:

Ruth Chapter 3

1 And Naomi her mother-in-law said unto her: ‘My daughter, shall I not seek rest for thee, that it may be well with thee? 2 And now is there not Boaz our kinsman, with whose maidens thou wast? Behold, he winnoweth barley to-night in the threshing-floor. 3 Wash thyself therefore, and anoint thee, and put thy raiment upon thee, and get thee down to the threshing-floor; but make not thyself known unto the man, until he shall have done eating and drinking. 4 And it shall be, when he lieth down, that thou shalt mark the place where he shall lie, and thou shalt go in, and uncover his feet, and lay thee down; and he will tell thee what thou shalt do.’ 5 And she said unto her: ‘All that thou sayest unto me I will do.’

Secondary Sources:

Many of the themes, especially the motivations of Naomi, Boaz and Ruth are drawn from the excellent series by Dr. Yael Ziegler.

 

Warrior Prophets 3 Chapter 24 – Confusing Counteroffers

Warrior Prophets 3 Chapter 24

Confusing Counteroffers

Ruth composed herself and walked calmly to her mother-in-laws house. She needed to think clearly. Getting emotional would lead to poor decisions. Boaz had assured her that matters would work out and pleaded with her to stay. She was pained by his frail condition. Where was the valiant hero that had stormed Perath’s palace and rescued her from enslavement?

Strong, vibrant Garto approached Ruth as he spotted her exiting Boaz’s home.

“Ruth, may I speak with you?” Garto panted lightly.

“Yes, Garto. Of course. Ruth stopped, letting Garto catch his breath.

“I know that you care deeply for my master. And I likewise know that he is most fond and protective of you. He is a great man. There are none in Bethlehem and perhaps few in all of Israel like Boaz.”

“Yes. But why are you telling me this?”

“Because I care for you too.”

“I know, Garto. You have been very kind to me these past weeks. You’ve been a friend and a companion and I have very much appreciated your company and protection.”

“I know that I’m not as great, nor as distinguished as Boaz. But I do have one advantage over him.”

“And what is that?” Ruth raised her eyebrow.

“I am young. I am in the prime of my life, with many years of life and work ahead of me. Boaz is at the twilight of his life. He has had a full and glorious life and he is likely to follow the love of his life to the grave shortly. As great a man as he is, I think it better to marry a live dog than a dead lion. Do not cause yourself further heartache, Ruth. I am here. I am ready. I will treat you well. You will live in comfort and security with your mother-in-law. I will be happy to bring her as well into our home. Please, Ruth,” Garto got on his knees, “please consider me worthy of you. I do not care how the Elders will decide. I will marry you with their say-so or not. I will treasure you and protect you and make you happy and treat you like the person I have come to know. Please, Ruth. Will you marry me?”

Ruth looked at Garto with her mouth open wide.

“Garto, please stand up,” Ruth finally said. Garto stood up, awaiting Ruth’s words as if they would be a judgment on his life.

“Garto,” Ruth continued. “I like you. You are a good man. If Boaz were not part of my life, I would consider your offer most seriously. But now that you’ve made me think about it, I realize that as long as Boaz is alive I’m not ready to marry anyone else. Even if my time with Boaz would be short, I would be honored to be his wife, if he will have me. Thank you, Garto. Thank you for making me see that. I am in your debt. But I must go now. I must go home.”

Ruth walked briskly to Naomi’s house.

 

*

 

Naomi sat at the table, sewing intently, as Ruth entered the house.

“How is Boaz?” Naomi asked Ruth, without looking up.

“I think he will recover,” Ruth answered and sat down by the table.

“Most likely. The children of Nachshon are a hardy breed. Long-lived too – if they are not murdered before their time.” Naomi chuckled dryly.

“What is the matter?” Ruth asked, sensing Naomi’s unhappiness.

“Oh, nothing. I just never expected to have such a popular daughter-in-law.”

“What do you mean?”

“Ruth, what is so bad about that Danite, Alron? Perhaps it would be simplest for you to marry him. Great wealth, no hassles, no in-fighting between the Elders. We can leave Bethlehem and start anew, but not as beggars. If you were to marry Alron we could both live as royalty again.”

“What are you talking about? The man is detestable!” Ruth got up from the chair, agitated by the suggestion.

“Perhaps you should give him a chance,” Naomi pressed. “I think going with Alron may be the safest, the smartest way.”

“Give him a chance?” Ruth raised her voice. “Is a husband merely something one tries out like a dress and discards if it’s not to your taste? No, mother. I find him abhorrent and am surprised you would suggest him to me. I would prefer simple, honest Garto over that man. But not Alron, never Alron.”

“Garto? He is a peasant. You are of noble birth. You were married to the son of a Prince of Judah. You deserve much better.”

“Will I never escape the curse of my pedigree? You too will bind me to the station of my birth? I am Ruth, just Ruth, and a stranger in this land. I have no expectations of wealth or comfort, but I will not marry some arrogant lout to continue the farce of nobility.”

“Nonetheless, Garto would be a mistake. He is not worthy of you. Alron would be a better choice.”

“Enough!” Ruth banged her fist on the table, jolting Naomi upright in her chair. Naomi looked upon her daughter-in-law, and saw anger in her eyes. Naomi looked down, her face reddening. Ruth stormed out of the house, fresh tears streaming down her face.

 

*

 

Naomi pretended to be asleep as Ruth woke before dawn to glean in Boaz’s field. Naomi could not face Ruth. After Ruth departed Naomi arose and left the house, bucket in hand, and walked towards the well. She saw Alron standing casually by the well, a wolfish smile on his face. Naomi stopped in her tracks and turned back to the house. She closed the door to her house, leaned back against it and shivered, though the day was already proving to be warm.

“I am a granddaughter of Nachshon the Brave,” Naomi whispered to herself. “I will not be cowed by some fancy-threaded nitwit. This is not good for Ruth. I cannot help her like this. My dear Ruth. I cannot let you fall into Alron’s clutches. But I can’t do this alone. You need guidance, you need direction and we need clarity. I must go to Boaz. I can no longer postpone our meeting.”

Naomi placed her bucket gently on the floor, straightened out her dress and pinched her cheeks. She exited her house, standing tall and marching purposely through the streets of Bethlehem, ignoring the courteous nods and hellos of passersby. She rapped loudly on the door to Boaz’s house, remembering with a pang of pain the last time she had visited this house, to visit her lifelong friend, Vered, more than ten years before – a lifetime ago.

“Enter,” Boaz’s strong voice called.

Naomi opened the door and entered the house.

“Naomi.” Boaz stood up from sitting at his table. She noticed some crumbs of pita on his plate and a bowl of olive oil by its side. “I am honored by your visit.”

“I see you are on your feet again, Boaz. I am glad.”

“As am I. And I am glad you are here. Please, sit down.”

Naomi sat at the table and Boaz reseated himself, moving stiffly.

“Naomi, we have not had opportunity to talk since your return to Bethlehem. You have my most heartfelt condolences on your loss of Elimelech, and Mahlon and Kilyon. A part of me died when I heard the news of your tragedy. They were great men, each of them. It is a sorrow for all of Israel to have lost a Prince and his sons. I am sorry.”

“And I am sorry for the death of Vered. I missed her so much. The memory of her friendship is what brought me back to Bethlehem. It has become a colder, harsher place without her.”

“Yes, I still grieve for my Vered. We are – both of us – bereft and diminished.”

Boaz and Naomi sat speechless for a few moments, lost in their thoughts of mourning. Naomi cleared her throat.

“I did not come here to speak of the dead, Boaz. I am much more concerned for the living.”

“As am I.”

“Good. Then please tell me plainly what are your intentions regarding my daughter-in-law, Ruth.”

“Ruth. Ruth. She is an extraordinary woman. Any man would be fortunate to have her attention.”

“Boaz, now is not the time for waxing eloquent. Tell me plainly. What are your plans and intentions towards her? I must know now. And choose your words carefully, for the fate of many rests on your answer.”

“Plainly? I don’t know. I would marry her if she would have me, though I am not convinced that she would. Also, I would only do so with the consensus and approval of the Elders. I cannot turn my back on our traditions, no matter how much I may love Ruth.”

“Men! Are all men foolish, or is it just the ones in our family? You would pass up on Ruth just because cranky old Ploni disapproves of her?”

“Now see here, Naomi. I will not be spoken to this way. Not by you and not in my own home. I will uphold our traditions and will abide by the decisions of the Elders. If I do not, what hope is there for anyone else to continue our traditions?”

“Even if they are wrong? How many times was Elimelech wrong? How many times did the Elders stand aside and watched as our men gleefully killed each other? Where were the Elders when the people of Israel worshipped false gods? No, Boaz. Do not speak to me of the righteousness of the Elders or our leadership. I have seen first-hand that disaster.  Tell me that you will do the right thing and that you will marry Ruth no matter what the Elders say.”

“I cannot. I cannot go against them. It will unravel all I have done these years to establish ourselves as the law that should be followed. If the lawmaker does not follow the law, then anarchy will be our reward.”

“If you wish to debate matters of law, there is another law you haven’t considered.”

“What law?” Boaz asked.

“Levirate marriage. Ruth is the childless widow of your cousin. You have a legal obligation to marry Mahlon’s widow in order to continue the name of the deceased. Take that to your Elders!”

“There is one who precedes me in that obligation,” Boaz answered. “Ploni.”

“And will Ploni marry my Moabite daughter-in-law?”

“Unlikely.”

“Remember this, Boaz. Whoever marries Ruth inherits all the lands of Elimelech. That may be of interest to Ploni.”

“The land will interest Ploni, but not Ruth. Let me think about these matters, Naomi. I must leave soon to my own fields. There is much work to do today, for tonight is the harvest feast. You are welcome to join us at the feast. Tomorrow I will be able to give this more serious thought and consider the best way to approach the Elders on the matter. I will do the right thing, Naomi. Have you known me to do otherwise?”

“No, Boaz. I know. Which is why I came to you. There is one last thing, however.”

“What?”

“We have been threatened.”

“By whom?”

“Alron the Danite. He intimated to me that if Ruth would not accept his marriage proposal and come with him, he would hurt both me and her. I am fearful that he is a man that carries through on his threats.”

“That is disturbing news. I will take care of the Danite. No one threatens my family in my own city. Rest assured Naomi. That is a problem that will be easier to solve. We will talk more about Ruth tomorrow. Now if you’ll please excuse me, I really should get to my field before the sun is much higher. I’m glad you visited, Naomi. And I’m even happier you came back, with the treasure you brought us from Moab. I will see you at the feast?”

“Yes, Boaz. I will see you later. Thank you for everything.” Naomi smiled at Boaz and departed.

Boaz exhaled the breath he hadn’t realized he was holding and murmured: “Family. Always so complicated.”

A rap on the door interrupted Boaz’s thoughts.

“Enter,” Boaz called.

Ehud opened the door and stepped into the house.

“Ah, Ehud. Just the man I needed to talk to. There is a problem I would appreciate if you could deal with.”

“I am at your service.”

“Good. Accompany me out. I suddenly feel that time is of the essence. There is a certain Danite that has been troubling Noami…”

Boaz and Ehud mounted their horses. Boaz told Ehud of Alron’s threats. As they reached the city well, they saw Alron lounging nearby, sitting at the front of his canopied wagon.

“I’ll take care of it,” Ehud said. “You go on to the field. I’ll meet you there when I’m done.”

Boaz trotted past Alron with a polite nod. Ehud rode his horse right up to the Danite.

“Master Alron, a word, if I may.”

“But of course, master blacksmith. It is always a treat to converse with old heroes.”

“What is your interest in Ruth?”

“I don’t see how that is any of your concern, Ehud.”

“I am making it my concern.”

“Are you her father? No, wait. You’re the one who murdered her father. I was never strong in my knowledge of the laws, but I don’t recall hearing that assassinating a woman’s father gives one parental rights. Or perhaps I was sleeping during that class.”

“I do not like your tone, young man.”

“And I do not like you, old geezer. If your interrogation is done, I will go on my way.” Alron grabbed the reins of his horses.

“Not so fast.” Ehud grabbed Alron’s arm.

“You’re hurting me!” Alron squealed. “Unhand me!”

“Not until you answer my questions.”

“Alright. Alright. I have a romantic interest in Ruth. Are there laws against that? She is an available woman. Have I committed some crime by declaring my affection for her?”

“Only when those affections are coupled with threats.”

“Threats? There must be some misunderstanding. I have not threatened anyone. I am an honest, though successful merchant from the north. It happens frequently that I’m misunderstood, or that people are jealous of me because of my success. Please, master blacksmith, unhand me and let us discuss this as civilized gentlemen.”

“Alron, you are a liar.” Ehud tightened his grip on Alron’s arm. Alron winced in pain. “And you are dangerous. You are to leave Bethlehem immediately and are not to return.”

“Or what?”

“Or I will kill you.” Ehud grabbed Alron in a chokehold with his other hand. “I have killed men for much less in my day. Make no mistake, Alron. I do not jest. You have threatened a resident of Bethlehem, a member of Boaz’s family. We do not take such threats lightly. I am of a mind to break your wiry neck right now.” Ehud tightened his grip. “But Boaz is a kindly man. This is your last and only warning. Leave now, or die.”

Ehud released Alron. Alron caught his breath and rubbed his neck.

“I will leave, Ehud. But you will regret the day you crossed paths with Alron of Dan.” Alron took the reins of his horses and rode out of Bethlehem.

 

*

 

The harvest was complete. Boaz inspected the granary and was pleased by the record crop. The pile of grain reached above his head. There hadn’t been a harvest this good in Bethlehem even before the years of draught. Boaz felt a special fulfillment by the blessing of success. Only the gleaners remained in the field, picking up the last leavings of grain for themselves. Boaz’s workers were busy preparing for the feast.

Half a dozen tender sheep were slaughtered and were roasting on spits over an open fire. Workers brought jugs of wine and oil to the threshing floor, where they would conduct the feast. Maidservants kneaded dough and placed thin layers on metal domes on the fire, turning them into fresh pita. The sweet odor of the fresh bread wafted through the air. Children carried baskets filled with fresh figs and dates. There was a festive atmosphere as Boaz’s workers and their family members prepared for the event.

Boaz sought Ruth in the field. He found her gleaning morosely the few fallen grains of wheat that she could find.

“Ruth, how are you?” Boaz called from behind. Ruth turned to him.

“Boaz? You are here? It is wonderful to see you out and about. How are you feeling?”

“Much better. Will you come to the feast this evening?”

“Am I invited?”

“Yes, please do come.”

“Thank you. But what of us? What will be our future?”

“I cannot say yet. We will discuss further tomorrow.”

“Tomorrow? Another tomorrow? I don’t know how many tomorrows I can stand. I need answers today. I am confused. It is not a pleasant place to be. Please, Boaz. Give me answers today.”

“I must convene the Elders. Tomorrow.”

“The Elders. They will decide my fate?”

Our fate. Yes. We are a people of laws and traditions. I cannot merely do what my heart dictates.”

“What does your heart dictate, Boaz?”

“Tomorrow.”

“Tomorrow. I see. I guess we must live for the day. Who knows what tomorrow will bring? Thank you for your invitation, Boaz. I will consider it.” Ruth turned around and reached for a fallen grain she hadn’t noticed before. Boaz stood awkwardly behind her and then returned to the bustle of the feast preparations.

Ruth waited until after Boaz left the field, gathered her sheaves and left the field directly to the road. She walked tearfully back to Bethlehem. Garto spotted Ruth leaving and ran after her.

“Is everything okay?” Garto asked Ruth who walked with her head down.

“Yes.”

“You seem distraught.”

“So?”

“It pains me to see you like this. They say that a burden that is shared is a burden that is lightened. Won’t you share with me, Ruth?”

“Oh, Garto,” Ruth looked at him. “You are so sweet. You have changed. You are no longer that overbearing overseer that greeted me so inappropriately on my first day. You make me happy.”

“As do you. It is a blessing to be in your presence. May I walk you home?”

“Yes. It would please me.”

 

*

 

“Mother!” Ruth opened the door to their house. “I must talk to you!”

“As do I, child,” Naomi responded as she sat sewing a dress. “I’m sorry I mentioned Alron to you yesterday. It was a mistake and I shall not make it again.”

“That is okay. It doesn’t matter anymore. I’ve decided.”

“What have you decided?” Naomi stopped her sewing.

“I’ve decided to marry Garto. We shall marry tomorrow.”

Naomi dropped the dress and stared open-mouthed at the bride-to-be.

 

* * * * * *

 

Warrior Prophets 3 Chapter 23 – Romantic Threats

Warrior Prophets 3 Chapter 23

Romantic Threats

Boaz watched helplessly as Ruth left the assembly. He continued reading from the Torah scroll, pained by the anguish he had inflicted upon Ruth. He paused his reading and closed his eyes, searching for Ruth’s aura. He recognized the shimmering white of Ruth’s purity and nobility, but he saw a black despair penetrate her heart and spread through her aura like a sickly growth. Boaz sensed Ruth’s devastation. The revelation of Moses’ command against Moabites coupled with the antagonism of Ploni and the other Bethlehemites had destroyed Ruth’s hopes for living amongst the Judeans. No! Boaz thought to Ruth’s aura. There is good here in Bethlehem. Don’t let their hatred taint you! But the despair spread quickly until Boaz could barely discern any light left in Ruth’s aura.

Boaz felt his knees wobble. Ruth’s pain and desolation washed over Boaz like the flooding of a wadi. Boaz rolled the scroll closed and handed it to Ehud, who was standing next to him amidst the congregation of Bethlehem that eyed Boaz with sudden concern.

“Hold…” was all Boaz managed to say as he lost his breath. Boaz clutched his chest, thinking his heart would explode. Intense agony radiated throughout his body and then he collapsed, as a puppet whose strings had been cut, to the unified gasp of his audience.

*

“Boaz,” Vered whispered lovingly. “Boaz, my love. Your time has not come.”

“Vered?” Boaz asked the image of his dead wife. That was all he could see. Everything else was a white haze.

“Boaz, I will see you soon enough, but your work is not done.”

“Vered, I don’t understand.”

“You men are so thick sometimes,” Vered teased. “You need to marry Ruth. She is the one. You have my blessing.”

“Vered, I miss you so,” Boaz responded.

“I know, my love. I miss you too. But do not fear. We will have eternity together.”

“How can I love another?”

“Is your heart so small, that you cannot make room for someone worthy? I know you approve of her. She is a unique woman.”

“But Vered…”

“I am dead, Boaz. I am no longer amongst the living. It is to your credit that you honor my memory and if time allowed, you could do so longer. But time is running out. The line of Nachshon must continue. It must continue through you and through Ruth. It is the divine plan. But it is up to you, to both of you. God will put the pieces in place, but he does not interfere with free will. Other forces are working against you. You have met some of them. You must persevere, Boaz. For all of us. For our future. You must be strong. Now wake up, you lazy old soldier.”

Vered’s image approached Boaz and kissed him tenderly.

*

Ruth ran to the assembly and pushed her way through the crowd. People parted to let her through. People in their fine Sabbath garments stood around the prone body of Boaz. Ehud was on his knees, pushing his strong arms down on Boaz’s chest.

“What happened?” Ruth blurted as she got on her knees next to Ehud.

“He gave me the Torah, clutched his chest and then fell,” Ehud answered without looking at her as he rhythmically pushed on Boaz’s chest.

“What are you doing?” Ruth asked.

“Pushing the heart sometimes helps if it has stopped,” Ehud answered.

“What can I do?” Ruth asked.

“Pray,” Ehud said simply.

God, Ruth thought, as she closed her eyes. Don’t take this man away yet. You gave us a mission. I don’t know what it is, but we haven’t completed it yet, I know that much. Bring him back and give me a sign of what I’m meant to do. Give me hope.

Boaz suddenly coughed and opened his eyes. He looked straight at Ruth.

“You didn’t leave,” Boaz whispered hoarsely.

“Not yet.” Ruth smiled, thanking God inwardly.

“Please don’t leave, Ruth.”

“I will stay as long as you want me here,” Ruth responded.

Boaz closed his eyes, relieved. He noted that Ruth’s aura had returned to her natural bright white. The darkness that had engulfed her soul was gone.

“Good. It is good that you stay here with us. Now if someone wouldn’t mind helping me off the floor, I think I would be more comfortable at home.”

Ehud on one side and Garto on the other side lifted Boaz to his feet. They escorted Boaz back to his home. Ruth and Noami accompanied them. The assembly dispersed once the excitement was over. The whole town would talk about that Sabbath gathering for days to come – until the next chaotic incident entered their lives.

*

“Your agent has not been successful,” the ghost of Dirthamus addressed his old apprentice, Sumahtrid. As usual, young Beor sat in a corner, looking distastefully at the dead sorcerer in the dark smoke-filled room.

“I have given him a sizable sum and promised him much more should he bring Ruth back to us,” Sumahtrid answered, a tentative smile on his face.

“The critical moment is approaching,” Dirthamus croaked. “We cannot risk her being free. If the Israelite does not retrieve her, you will be forced to take direct action again.”

“Ehud protects her. He is powerful,” Sumahtrid whined.

“Your job this time will be simpler,” Dirthamus responded.

“How so?” Sumahtrid asked, one eyebrow arching questioningly.

“You will simply have to kill Ruth the Moabite. If the Hebrews do not let us retrieve her, then she must die.”

“That is much simpler,” Sumahtrid agreed. “Beor can shoot her from a distance with minimal risk. Right, Beor?”

“Yes,” Beor answered with a gleam in his eye. “Killing simple.”

*

“So am I allowed to be amongst Israelites or not?” Ruth asked as they sat in Boaz’s home. “I don’t understand. Your Moses wrote that we are not allowed. Yet you, Naomi and Ehud seem to be of the opinion that it’s possible.”

Boaz lay in his bed, recovering from his collapse. Ehud sat quietly next to Boaz. Naomi had returned to her own home after seeing that Boaz had made it safely and was being looked after.

“It is not simple, for a variety of reasons,” Boaz explained. “You are the first Moabite that I know of that has attempted to enter a community in Israel. There have been Israelites that have married Moabites before, but they had typically left their home and were frowned upon, to say the least. The text of Moses is of course problematic, but you must realize that there is an oral tradition that accompanies it as well. Naomi mentioned a valid point, that the text is prohibiting Moabite men and not woman, but our sages have not contemplated this subject in many, many years. We shall have to take it up again and I expect it will be a vociferous discussion. The sages as a group will need to rule on this matter.”

“Are you not one of the sages?” Ruth asked.

“Yes.”

“And what is your opinion?”

“My opinion is both obvious and biased.”

“Who else is on this council?”

“My uncle, Ploni.”

“His opinion is also well known.”

“Yes.”

“What will happen if the ruling goes against me?”

“You will need to leave Bethlehem and you will be forbidden from marrying any man of Israel.”

“Perhaps I should leave and spare everyone the heartache.”

“Your walking away already damaged my heart once, Ruth. I don’t know that I would survive your leaving again. Please stay. Have patience. Have faith. It will end well. It must.”

“I stay for you, Boaz. Though I’m not sure what that means. You know that Garto has been courting me and now this Danite has also proposed to me. I have two Israelites that would marry me, though my heart belongs to a third.” Ruth looked at Boaz meaningfully.

“Ruth,” Boaz shifted uncomfortably in his bed, ignoring Ehud’s smirk. “You have come into my life after the death of my beloved Vered. She came to me in a dream, as I lay unconscious in the town square. She… she said… well, it is not important right now. Give me a little time. I need to get back on my feet again, which I’m confident Ehud here will make sure of. He won’t let an old man die in peace. Know Ruth, that I am committed to your protection, your sustenance and your best interests. Stay in Bethlehem until the matter of your acceptability is resolved. Keep coming to my field where my people can keep an eye on you and where I know that you will be provided with sufficient food for yourself and Naomi. Garto is a good man and I asked of him that he accompany you, for your own protection. Just a little more patience, Ruth. Just a little bit more.”

“I trust you, Boaz,” Ruth said and stood up abruptly. “I think I’ll let you rest now. Feel better.” Ruth turned and left Boaz’s house. Once outside, she started to sob. She wasn’t sure why she cried. All she knew was that her heart was in turmoil, and Boaz was at the center of it.

*

“Naomi, my dear,” Alron whispered in front of Naomi’s house. “That was some excitement this morning.”

“I can do without such excitement,” Naomi retorted.

“True, too true. But I couldn’t help noticing Ruth’s concern for Boaz. It was quite… loving.”

“Boaz has been a great benefactor to Ruth.”

“It is more than that, Naomi. One would need to be blind not to see it. I think that Ruth has been stringing me along all this time. Me and that poor buffoon, Garto. Boaz has had Ruth’s heart all this time.”

“Then you see more than I do, Master Alron. I expect you will be happy for Ruth whatever her decision may be.”

“Oh no, not at all, my dear. As far as I’m concerned, there is only one right decision for Ruth. In fact, I would be quite distraught were she not to choose to come with me. I am not a pleasant man when I am distraught, Naomi. People have been known to have gotten hurt when I am disappointed. You wouldn’t want any harm to come to Ruth, or to you, would you, my dear?”

“Harm? What harm? See here, young Alron. Are you threatening me? Are you threatening Ruth if she doesn’t give in to your artificial graces? What kind of man are you?”

“I am a man who gets what he wants.” Alron inched his face closer to Naomi. “I get what I want, whatever it takes. I am not afraid to use persuasion, bribery, threats or even violence. That is why I am successful. I am generous to my allies and merciless to anyone who stands in my way. It would be in your own self-interest and that of your daughter-in-law to consider most seriously my offer. I trust you will use your considerable influence to steer her to the right decision. The alternatives, quite frankly, would be devastating. Good day, my dear,” Alron bowed with a smile, turned and left Naomi, leaving her standing in front of her house, mouth wide in shock.

* * * * * *

Warrior Prophets 3 Chapter 22 – Biblical Bigotry

Warrior Prophets 3 Chapter 22

Biblical Bigotry

“How… how do you know me?” Ruth asked the smiling Danite standing in Naomi’s house.

“Why, you are famous, my dear,” Alron stated, his voice at a high pitch. “Word is spreading of your daring escape from Ashkelon. It would not surprise me if King Perath doesn’t offer a handsome reward to the man that returns you. Your escape is a big embarrassment to him. I’m sure he will also want your rescuers killed.”

“How do you know so much about what the Philistines think?” Ruth asked, noting Alron’s delicate hands. They had never known a day of labor.

“I have frequent business with the Philistines. I am in and out of all of their cities. Why, I’m the largest buyer of their beautiful ceramic, my dear. Have you not seen their innovative two-tone designs? It is the latest trend in my tribe, and now I am selling to other tribes as well. I have actually brought one as a gift to your mother-in-law.” Alron gestured to the elegant wine pitcher on the table. It had an intricate black and red design on the ceramic that she had never seen before. Even from a few feet away she could appreciate the beauty of the pitcher.

“You would marry me merely on a rumor?” Ruth asked, uncomfortable in Alron’s presence. His teeth were unnaturally bright.

“Men of my stature marry based on much less.” Alron’s smile grew wider. “And now that I’ve seen your beauty, I am pleased by the decision. Say yes, my dear Princess, and you and your mother-in-law will live in great comfort for the rest of your lives. I have a mansion overlooking the Great Sea, not far from the wondrous city of Ashdod. I have servants that will wait upon your every whim. You will not even have to lift a finger. Say yes, my Princess, and be happy and comfortable for the rest of your life.”

Ruth looked at Naomi, seeking guidance. Naomi shrugged her shoulders, not deciding herself how Ruth should proceed, though pleased by the young man’s attention.

“Alron,” Ruth stated formally, “I’m honored by your offer, but this is all too sudden for me. I for one prefer to know my suitors better. Your offer is attractive. I have lived as a princess before, and I prefer the freedom of labor over the prison of indolence. Will you give me time to consider and to get to know you?”

“Of course, my dear. Of course.” Alron paced within Naomi’s house. “Let us agree to the following. I will give you until the end of the harvest. My business will not pick up until then and I can afford to lounge in this quaint city for a few weeks. But by the night of the harvest celebration, I will require an answer. My business will not wait further and I will need to know whether I return home with a bride or not.”

“Agreed,” Ruth said quickly.

“Wonderful!” Alron clapped his hands. “Then with your permission, I shall take my leave and make arrangements for local accommodations. Farewell, Naomi. It was a great honor to meet you. Goodbye, Princess. I look forward to our future encounters and for you to get to know me better. A very pleasant night to you both.” Alron bowed to each woman with a flourish and exited the house.

“Whoah,” Ruth exhaled as Alron departed. “I’ve never met a man so forward.”

“He is certainly direct,” Naomi agreed.

“There was something odd about him,” Ruth commented.

“He is an Israelite merchant that has adopted the ways of the Philistines and never worked a day in his life. He probably couldn’t tell you the difference between wheat and barley.”

“That is not it. I have met many merchants in father’s palace. It is something else. He was too eager. There is something duplicitous about him. I just don’t know what it is. We should be wary around him.”

“Well, we got a beautiful pitcher from the visit. Come take a look.”

Ruth sat at the table and looked at the pitcher in the candlelight. It was an intricately drawn work of art. It showed an army of Philistines with their feathered helmets riding their narrow boats, carrying long swords and round shields. They were killing their Egyptian enemies, their bodies hanging over the sides of the Philistine boats and drowning in the water. Ruth shuddered, picturing the horde of Philistines in the Ellah Valley she had seen in her vision. Suddenly, Alron’s marriage proposal seemed much more sinister to her.

*

Ruth spent the next several weeks in utter confusion. She arose every day at dawn, to be greeted by a smiling Garto. Their walks to the field were always pleasant. No men thought of harassing her anymore. Even the errant wild dogs scampered away from Garto’s large bulk. The women of the town approached Ruth and engaged her in friendly conversation. Ruth enjoyed the procession of all the farmhands, of the farmers with their horses and oxen, of the shepherds and goat-herders with their teams of freshly shorn animals going to graze beyond the bronze fields of barley. As the barley was harvested, the wheat sprouted in green rows reflected by bright summer sun.

At the field, with Garto’s helpful tips, she improved her gleaning skills. But throughout the day, Ruth sought Boaz, rarely seeing him. The few times he came, he stayed for a short time, typically just for the meal. He would sit on the other side of Ruth, eating little and saying less, consciously avoiding eye contact with her. Ruth didn’t understand Boaz at all. He looked pale and frail, as if some internal struggle were consuming him. What happened to the man that had risked his life to save her? What happened to her savior and protector who ensured she was well-fed?

In the late afternoon, Garto walked her back home where she was met by elegant Alron. As the shadows lengthened, Alron would walk with her on the streets of Bethlehem, regaling her with tales of his business acumen and success, promising her riches and delights if she would join him. Alron told her how his father was the first Israelite to engage the Philistines in business and the thirst the tribes of Israel had for Philistine handiwork.

“Have you decided yet, my dear?” Alron would ask. Ruth didn’t know why she didn’t say ‘no’ each time. She didn’t like Alron. He was an arrogant, self-centered aristocrat and his promises of wealth did not entice Ruth. But something told her that if she refused him too quickly, the repercussions would be disastrous. She felt she was buying time.

“It’s been a long day, Alron,” Ruth invariably said. “Let us talk more tomorrow perhaps?”

“Don’t think I haven’t seen you with that boor, Garto,” Alron said one evening. “He is little more than a glorified farm-hand. He can’t even afford a horse!”

“Garto is a good man,” Ruth said defensively. “He is a dedicated and hard worker. I am grateful for his assistance and attention.”

“A princess with a common farmer?” Alron laughed. “Come now, my dear. You can do much better than that. Perhaps not here in Bethlehem. Come with me to a real city, a cosmopolitan city. A city with more than just farmers and shepherds. Ruth, you are a woman of the world, why do you shackle yourself to this lowly existence. Why do you sully your hands with menial labor when you can command an entire retinue of slaves to do your bidding?”

“Tomorrow, Alron,” Ruth said quietly. “Let us converse more tomorrow.”

“As you wish, my dear. But know that the harvest festival is fast approaching and my patience is running thin. Good night.” Alron excused himself in front of Naomi’s house, leaving a flustered Ruth behind.

*

Ruth’s only respite was the Sabbath. Ruth loved the Sabbath. She loved how the people of Bethlehem gathered in the town square, opposite the gate, to listen to the reading of the Torah. Boaz walked to the assembly gingerly, embracing a scroll against his chest. It was one of the original scrolls written in the desert by the hand of Moses himself. Moses had written thirteen identical scrolls. He gave one to each tribe of Israel. The original copy remained with the Ark of the Tabernacle at Shilo. Caleb, Boaz’s uncle, mentor and the second Prince of the Tribe of Judah had received one of the scrolls. Before his death, Caleb had charged the scroll to Boaz. Over the years, many other scrolls had been copied from the one Boaz carried reverentially in his arms.

Boaz also seemed more like himself when he read from the scroll. His confident stance, his easy comfort, his natural joy all showed themselves when he read with his melodic tune. That is my protector, my savior, Ruth thought to herself as Boaz stood in front of the residents of Bethlehem.

A lot of what Boaz read was familiar to Ruth. Over the years of her marriage to Mahlon, he had shared many of the stories and concepts with her. Naomi, with her sharp memory and analytical mind had further added to her education. Ruth enjoyed the review of the stories and of God’s commandments and she also enjoyed discovering new ones she hadn’t heard before.

Ruth sat next to Naomi, amidst a group of elderly women, most of whom had reestablished their friendship with Naomi. Ruth recognized a number of women from Boaz’s field and from her walks from Bethlehem and back. She smiled at them shyly, happy for the smile back or the warm greeting of ‘Sabbath peace’ they bestowed upon her. However, there were a number of men who refused to look at Naomi and certainly not at Ruth. Foremost amongst them was Ploni son of Nachshon, Naomi’s brother-in-law. He had not said a word to Naomi since her arrival. Other neighbors had followed Ploni’s lead in ostracizing Naomi for having brought the Moabite daughter of Eglon the Tyrant into their midst. Noami paid no attention to Ploni’s silent anger and chatted amicably with her friends as people found seats to hear the reading.

Boaz read from the book of Deuteronomy, the last of the Five Books of Moses, the only one written in the voice of Moses as opposed to dictated by God. He read about returning the ox of one’s enemy. He read about the sentence of a licentious woman. Then he read about those that Israelites cannot marry.

“A man shall not take his father’s wife, and shall not uncover his father’s robe,” Boaz chanted in his firm voice. “He that is crushed or maimed in his privy parts shall not enter into the assembly of the Lord. A bastard shall not enter into the assembly of the Lord; even to the tenth generation shall none of his enter into the assembly of the Lord.”

Boaz paused suddenly, hesitating to utter the next words. A confused murmur arose from the crowd. Ploni smiled thinly.

“Go on, Boaz,” Ploni called out. “Read the next part.”

Boaz looked uncomfortably at the scroll, swallowed and read in a hushed tone, as if he were reading a curse:

“An Ammonite or a Moabite shall not enter into the assembly of the Lord; even to the tenth generation none of them shall enter into the assembly of the Lord, ever; because they met you not with bread and with water on the way, when you came forth out of Egypt; and because they hired against you Bilaam the son of Beor from Pethor of Aram-naharaim, to curse you. Nevertheless, God would not listen to Bilaam; but turned the curse into a blessing for you, because the Lord your God loves you. You shall not seek their peace or their prosperity all your days, forever.”

Ruth sat dumbfounded. She was prohibited from marrying an Israelite? Not Mahlon, nor Naomi, nor even wise Boaz had ever mentioned this to her. Ploni stood up and pointed his walking stick at Boaz.

“You see?” Ploni bellowed. “It is right there. Ink upon parchment. By the hand of Moses himself. You sully yourself by reading these words from God yet bringing this heathen viper under your wings.” Ploni shifted his shaking stick towards Ruth. A murmur spread through the assembly. “Moabite” they said unkindly.

Ruth looked at the crowd. Boaz’s head was bowed, in sadness or resignation. Garto looked around as well, discomfort on his face. Alron, standing in the back of the congregation, took a step away from the unhappy crowd. Ehud sat pensively beside Boaz. Naomi looked at Ploni with fury.

“Listen to me. Listen to me!” Naomi called out amongst the growing anger of the people.

“Why should we listen to you, woman?” Ploni called back. “You are the one who brought this Moabite into our midst and allowed your son to marry her. You are the prime cause of this debacle!”

“I will be heard, last son of Nachshon!” Naomi yelled at the top of her lungs. The crowd quieted down. “Take your blinders of hate off for a moment. You are so bitter, Ploni, that the air you breathe must be bile. Be silent and let some light penetrate that dark and somber mind of yours. I have lived amongst the Moabites and I will tell you about them. It is true that their men are vile. Ruth’s half-brother, King Zipor, befriended my boys and then had them murdered. They are not to be trusted and if I had been blessed with daughters, I would never let them marry a Moabite. But the women of Moab are different and my daughter-in-law most of all. I have known only kindness and sacrifice from Ruth. She could have stayed with her people. She is of royal blood, but she chose to join us… us! The children of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Will we turn away the righteous? Will the people of loving-kindness demonstrate cruelty to those that seek us out with nothing but love and goodwill? Have we deteriorated so low from the ethics of Moses our teacher?”

“Pretty speech, Naomi,” Ploni responded. “But it doesn’t change the fact that she is a Moabite and Moses commanded that no Moabite will join the nation of Israel, ever!”

“Wait!” Naomi pleaded to the renewed murmurs of the crowd. “We have a prophet of the Lord right here amongst us: Ehud son of Gera who saved us from the clutches of Eglon. He was the very assassin of Ruth’s father. Ehud, what does the Lord say on this matter? Speak! Do not be silent.”

The congregation as one turned to the squat grey-haired blacksmith. Ehud stood up and cleared his throat.

“Ruth is beloved to God. Naomi speaks truth. The Word of Moses stands but is not independent of the Oral Tradition. This matter requires further elaboration, but now is not the time or place. Boaz, continue your reading from the sacred scroll. This discussion is ended.”

Boaz cleared his throat and continued reading. He read how Edomites and Egyptians could marry Israelites, but only after the third generation. Ruth stood up and excused herself from Naomi, leaving the assembly and heading to her house. Naomi stood up as well, cast an angry glance at Ploni and followed Ruth.

“Ruth, my daughter. Wait,” Naomi called.

“They hate me,” Ruth responded as she slowed down and allowed Naomi to catch up.

“They are ignorant,” Naomi answered.

“They are hateful, and your own Law substantiates it. You are commanded to hate Moabites. Why did you never tell me of this command? How could you have lived amongst us? How can I live amongst you? I thought myself one of you, but now I see I was naïve. Boaz was so silent. Is that why he has not spoken to me all these weeks? Did he recall the Law after he had shown such graciousness to me? I must leave.”

“Leave? How can you leave? Where will you go?”

“I don’t know. Perhaps Alron is right. Perhaps I need a bigger place, where people won’t hate me or desire me because of my nation or my parentage. Perhaps Damascus. That is a big city. I could lose myself in such a city. Become anonymous. I would just be Ruth. Not Princess Ruth, not Ruth the Moabite, not Ruth daughter of Eglon the Tyrant, just Ruth.”

“If you leave, I will follow you,” Naomi stated.

“Follow me?” Ruth looked at Naomi in shock. “You have finally returned home. You are amongst your people, your relatives, your friends. Your house is finally in order. How could you leave it all again.”

“I will not lose you, Ruth. You are more precious to me than all the people of Bethlehem. If they cannot appreciate what I see in you, it is their loss.”

“My dear ladies,”Alron interrupted from behind. “I couldn’t help but overhear your moving conversation and I would like to offer my humble services. Ruth, your suggestion of traveling to Damascus is inspired. I have long sought to extend my business network to that great city. It will be my most glorious privilege to transport such important women as yourselves to that bustling metropolis. What say you? Shall we leave this backward town and explore the greater, more accepting world? I can have my wagon and horses ready momentarily.”

Ruth looked at Alron and considered his generous offer. She looked at her mother-in-law, who was willing to leave the animosity of Bethlehem.

“It is the Sabbath,” Ruth responded. “And the little I know of Hebrew law is that it is forbidden to travel today. Thank you for your most generous offer, but I think it would be better if we contemplated it tomorrow.”

“Ruth! Naomi!” Garto ran towards them, yelling and waving his arms.

“What is the matter?” Ruth asked as he approached.

“Boaz,” Garto said panting. “Boaz has fallen!”

“What happened? Is he hurt?” Ruth asked, her heart beating madly.

“I don’t know. He just collapsed on the floor and is unmoving.”

Ruth ran back to the town square, thinking only of Boaz, the thought of leaving Bethlehem already forgotten.

* * * * * *

Biblical Sources:

Boaz’s Torah reading is directly from Deuteronomy Chapter 23.

Warrior Prophets 3 Chapter 21 – Romance with Strings

Warrior Prophets 3 Chapter 21

Romance with Strings

Sumahtrid the sorcerer chanted the regular chant. He stood in a dark rented room in the Philistine city of Ashdod, a few miles north of Ashkelon. Young, man-sized Beor sat quietly, brooding in a corner. The flickering of the flames in the center of the room made his shadow delirious against the stone walls.

Smoke filled the room. Sumahtrid called to his dead master, Dirthamus, expecting warm praise for having delivered Ruth to King Perath of Ashkelon. Dirthamus’ silhouette took form in the smoke. Sumahtrid was pleased once again with his ability to call upon his master from the netherworld.

“You fool!” Dirthamus’ ethereal ghost yelled at Sumahtrid. “Ruth has escaped! She was rescued by none other than Boaz. Failure! This is an utter failure! You are a failure! Oh, why did I take on such an incompetent as an apprentice? Do you know how much you’ve embarrassed me in front of my own master? My existence here is bad enough without adding this shame.”

“What? Impossible!” Sumahtrid declared. “How?”

“It doesn’t matter how! The question is what are you going to do about it? My unbearable anguish has multiplied.”

“What anguish?”

“The anguish of the netherworld. The vivid, painful reminder of every mistake. The constant reliving of a miserable life. The meaningless failure my existence has been. Swallowing burning coals would be more pleasant than having your very thoughts and memories stabbed into your consciousness like hot daggers. My one remaining purpose is to spread misery, to promote chaos in the land of the living, and even that is failing.”

“And your master Bilaam is with you as well?”

“Yes. His torment is even worse. His failure grander. But he still finds time to look at me with an evil eye. They are laughing here in hell at my latest failure. Bilaam and the late Pharaoh are taking bets if you’ll succeed or not.”

“Truly? What are they betting for?”

“Nothing. Just an old habit and the minor pleasure of being right.”

“Who’s betting against me?”

“Pharaoh. He says once you start with the Hebrews, the end can’t be good.”

“What does Bilaam say?”

“He still has hopes for you. He was pleased with your naming your apprentice after his father. He said his father was a mean, cruel, backstabbing son of a jackal and he thinks young Beor may live up to such notoriety.” Dirthamus smirked in Beor’s direction. Beor looked through slanted eyes at the dead sorcerer.

“What should I do?” Sumahtrid asked in confusion.

“The direct method has not worked. Ehud is too powerful and he is watching Boaz and Ruth. You must find a secondary path. Derail their relationship. Understand their sensitivities and weaknesses and exploit them. Use agents. Under no circumstances can those two wed. It will restore order to Israel which we cannot allow.”

“I understand, my master. I will obey. I will not disappoint you.”

“Disappoint me? You are a living disappointment. I’m a dead disappointment. There is little that divides us. Agghh!”

“What’s the matter?” Sumahtrid asked.

“Just a more intense recollection than usual of how an Israelite drunkard outwitted me. It is always painful here, and they keep changing the level of pain so you never get used to it. I leave.”

Dirthamus’ ghost disappeared with a wounded looked on his face.

Sumahtrid looked over the fire where his master had stood and wondered out loud: “Is this what awaits me as well?”

“Yes,” Beor whispered from the corner. It was the first time during his cruel apprenticeship that he had uttered an original, non-repetitive word.

*

Ruth arose at the crack of dawn, thanking God for the solid thatch roof over her head and a bed she considered her own. She shuddered at the thought that she might have awoken in the bed of Perath, King of Ashkelon and been imprisoned to the Philistine by invisible chains, as her sister Orpah was. Orpah had sensed strong life within herself right away. The previously lifeless stomach now held the seed of a child. Did Orpah know the terror she would unleash upon the world? Did she have visions of the giant Goliath destroying all in his path? Ruth pondered her empty womb and the realization that after all these years she might yet be able to carry a child. She had been too busy with survival to give it much thought. But now that she had the shelter of Naomi’s home and the sustenance of Boaz’s field, she needed to consider her future.

A simple yet pleasantly sown dress waited for Ruth by her bed. Naomi must have stayed up through the night finishing it, Ruth thought. Naomi lay unconscious on her own bed and Ruth dressed and moved about the house quietly, so as not to disturb her mother-in-law.

She walked through the street of Bethlehem unmolested. The men kept their distance, remembering the beating she had given the last man impudent enough to touch her. Some of the braver women approached her. They complemented her on her new dress and inquired about the wild stories they had heard of her abduction and her subsequent rescue by Boaz. Ruth blushed and downplayed the events, attributing them more to misunderstandings than to some nefarious plot.

Ruth reached Boaz’s land and was surprised to see the overseer, Garto, greet her with a warm smile.

“Ah, Princess Ruth, I’m so happy to see you,” Garto bowed to Ruth. Ruth looked at Garto apprehensively. This was the man that had suggested that she lie with him so that she may glean from the field. Sensing her apprehension, Garto cleared his throat.

“I know that at our first meeting, I was perhaps less than appropriate,” Garto explained. “I didn’t realize who you were. I thought you were just some common wench. I didn’t realize you were a woman of importance. I apologize for my behavior. Let us start again. I am Garto son of Leshem of the Tribe of Ephraim. I sold my ancestral land to my brother and have moved here to Bethlehem. I am unmarried and seeking a wife. I am a hard, diligent worker, which is why Boaz and others have hired me to oversee their harvest.”

“I see,” Ruth said, not sure how to respond. “Well, I appreciate your apology, though I would expect one should treat all women with respect, no matter what their station. May I glean here today?”

“Yes, yes. Of course. Go right ahead.” Garto stepped back and let Ruth enter the field. She found Boaz’s maidens cutting the golden sheaves and gleaned behind them. Ruth looked around the field for signs of Boaz, but did not see him. Garto, with his sharp eye, called out to workers who had missed harvesting an area or who didn’t make it until the end of a row. He also kept an eye on the gleaners, ensuring that they only take what rightfully belonged to the poor.

Garto walked into the field towards Ruth.

“How are you doing, Ruth?” he asked.

“Fine, thank you,” Ruth responded, reaching for another head of grain without looking at Garto.

“There are a few more over there.” Garto pointed.

“Thank you,” Ruth said and picked up the grain she had overlooked.

“You know, if you leave a bundle by the side, no one will take it. That way you don’t have to drag it with you wherever you glean. Then, if you make a series of bundles you can gather them all at once. It will save you time and effort.”

Ruth looked at Garto with new respect. That was the most helpful thing anyone had said to her in the field. For the first time she noticed that most of the gleaners were doing as Garto had suggested.

“That was most kind of you to point out. Thank you, Garto.” Ruth looked him in the eye.

“It is my pleasure, Princess. I hope you will think more kindly of me. I am here to assist you as I might.” Garto bowed and returned to the shade of the guardhouse.

Ruth watched his broad receding back and thought to herself that the overseer was not so bad after all.

*

Boaz and Ploni stood facing each other in Boaz’s spacious house. An observer might have confused them for a mirror image. Ploni was the youngest and only surviving son of Nachshon the Brave. Boaz was the oldest and only surviving grandchild of Nachshon the Brave. The uncle and nephew were close in age, in looks and in body structure. They both had long thick white beards. They had both aged considerably from the time they had fought alongside Joshua. But that was the end of their likeness. Ploni had a permanent scowl on his face. The wrinkles of his forehead and cheeks attested to a skin that had rarely laughed. Boaz’s face was calm and passive yet quick to smile. He was not smiling now.

“The rumors are spreading like fire through a parched field,” Ploni accused Boaz. “You dishonor the last days of our family.”

“Since when do you pay attention to the gossip of housewives, Uncle?” Boaz responded.

“Since it was reported to the council of Elders. Multiple witnesses saw you riding with that heathen woman pressed to your back. Have you lost all sense of shame? People are saying that you have taken her as a concubine and old Zelda yelled to an entire crowd that you had Amitai killed to save this woman, a daughter of Eglon, no less.”

“Then listen to me, Uncle, and tell the Elders so that we may set the record straight. I have not had any relations with Ruth. She is a noble woman, as Zelda herself later attested. And Amitai, Amitai sacrificed his life that Ruth may live. She is a great woman and you and all others err to disparage her and distance her. She has come under the wings of our people and we must honor her.”

“A Moabite, a daughter of Eglon, will never be honored amongst us,” Ploni replied. “We shall be better off if she leaves.”

“You are wrong and you have detained me long enough.” Boaz rose. “I am sorry that you are of a different opinion, but I see that further discussion will be a waste. Good day, Uncle. I must go to my field.”

Ploni turned and walked out of the house, followed by Boaz.

“Do not make matters worse for yourself,” Ploni warned. “Distance yourself from this woman and do not sully the House of Nachshon in its last days. Let us die out with a good name if not with any progeny.” Ploni hobbled to his home, leaning heavily on his walking stick.

Boaz mounted his horse and rode out of Bethlehem towards his field.

“Mind if I join you?” Ehud asked as he caught up with Boaz on his own mount.

“Not at all, I would welcome some friendly company.”

“Ploni?”

“Yes. He has warned me to distance myself from Ruth. The council is upset.”

“What will you do?”

“Keep my distance.”

“She is special.”

“Indeed. Nonetheless, there is little to be gained by upsetting the Elders. I will let matters and rumors calm down. As long as she is safe and sustained, I am content.”

“Boaz, I think she must be the one from Joshua’s prophecy.”

“What do you mean?”

“Remember when Joshua said I would kill your future father-in-law?”

“You have killed many men.”

“Yes, but how many were as meaningful as my killing Eglon? She must be the one!”

“Impossible.”

“Think, Boaz. Remember Joshua’s words. Remember the joint vision we just had. I know who that young hero must be. He is your progeny. A descendant of Boaz and Ruth.”

“No!” Boaz stopped his horse. Dust from the road swirled around the neighing stallion. Ehud was slower to stop and rode back to Boaz.

“It is the truth,” Ehud said.

“Vered,” Boaz said simply, tears streaming down his face. “My dear Vered. She must have known. I can’t, Ehud. I can’t bring myself to even think such a thing. The pain, the loss, the wound is still raw. Don’t push me. Give me time. Let’s wait until the end of the harvest to discuss. Perhaps the pain will have eased by then. Besides, the Elders would likely stone me in their revulsion of Ruth. Let it rest, old friend. Let us be patient. If God could have waited all this time to bring us together, He can wait a little longer.”

“Very well. I will remain. I still need to keep my eye on the two of you.”

“I am glad for your presence, Ehud. Thank you.”

The two rode into Boaz’s field and to the guardhouse, where they dismounted and tied their horses. Garto greeted Boaz and gave him an update as to the harvest. Ehud left to scout around the field. Shortly thereafter, all the workers congregated by the guardhouse for the meal, including Ruth.

“Hello, Boaz,” Ruth said. “Am I still welcome at your meal?”

“Yes. Please. Partake.” Boaz gestured that she should sit down, finding it difficult to speak at length to her.

“Thank you, Boaz. I became concerned when I did not see you at the field today.”

“Business matters. Was occupied. Occurs frequently.” Boaz murmured, not looking at Ruth directly. Ruth sat where she had last time, next to what was Boaz’s regular seat. But Boaz went and sat at the other edge of the circle, where Garto previously sat, the furthest away from Ruth. Garto, seeing his customary seat taken by Boaz, gladly sat next to Ruth and started an amicable conversation with her, telling jokes and getting her to laugh. Boaz was relieved by Garto’s intervention.

After the meal, Ruth and the workers returned to the field.

“Garto, a word please,” Boaz requested.

“Yes, sir.”

“I am pleased that you have befriended Ruth. She has been without friends or defenders since her arrival and I may be limited in my interactions with her. There are many that do not like her and that would even do her harm. Please keep a close eye on her and also upon her coming and going from the field. I will add to your wages for this service.”

“It will be my honor to look out for Ruth,” Garto said with great sincerity.

“Very good, that is a relief. It will be easier for me to leave the field knowing you are watching her. I may be more occupied in town over the coming weeks, so I will likely come to the field less often than is my want. Also, Garto, tomorrow, bring swords, for yourself and the men. The sorcerer that attacked previously is still on the loose and may make a second attempt, so stay alert and organize the men to harvest closer to Ruth and the women.”

“Understood. It will be done.”

“Good. I will leave now. God be with you, Garto.”

“May God bless you, sir.”

Boaz nodded, untied his horse and rode out of his field, for the first time in his life feeling as if he were being chased out of his own property. He looked once to the field to seek Ruth. Their eyes met. Boaz broke the contact quickly and rode away. Ruth stood looking at the back of her protector, her savior, not understanding the distance. She returned to the gleaning and making of bundles, as Garto had taught her, happy with the distraction of her work.

Towards evening, Ruth took her respectable amount of grain to the threshing floor, crushed and winnowed the barley and put the day’s production into her sack. When all the workers had gone, Garto stood by the guardhouse waiting.

“You have gathered a worthy amount of grain,” Garto commented.

“Thank you. Your advice was most helpful.”

“Come, I will walk with you back to Bethlehem.”

“That is most kind of you.”

The two walked on the road as dusk settled over the Judean Mountains.

Garto told Ruth more about himself. About his hometown by the hills of Ephraim. How he tired of tilling his own small land. As one of seven brothers, they had each inherited small lots from their father, who himself had been one of six brothers. Garto had wandered amongst the tribes of Israel. He had first worked as a hired hand, proving himself in the field and learning from different farmers. He learned how to best space the furrows dug by the oxen. He learned how to best plant the seeds and at what distance from each other. He had experimented with irrigation, but it was not as efficient or reliable as the rains, except during a drought, of course. Then he had hired himself out as an overseer, with greater and greater success. He was saving up money and hoping to buy a large field for himself. He had placed his eye on Elimelech’s vast fallow fields and now that Naomi had returned, he might discuss purchasing them from her. He would need enough money for oxen, plows, seed, workers, scythes, a new guardhouse, a threshing floor, storage houses and wagons. He was hopeful, as he had a good name in Bethlehem and Boaz was proving a trusting and generous master.

With every word Garto uttered, Ruth was more impressed: his diligence, his ambition, but most of all his normality. He was not of any significant descent. He claimed to be a distant cousin of Joshua, but wasn’t sure himself exactly how. He was not of grand stature and had no mortal enemies. He was too young to have fought in any of the major battles, though he was large and strong and not afraid to stand his ground and defend his own. With each step they took, Ruth liked Garto more. Her womb reminded her of her need to fill it, and she thought perhaps Garto would make a good husband. He clearly liked her and he was behaving extraordinarily well. Let’s see, she thought. I shouldn’t rush it. I should get to know him better.

Garto walked Ruth to the door of Naomi’s house.

“If it is okay with you, I’d like to meet you in the morning and walk you to the field. It would be a shame if anyone else would try to kidnap you. I will be armed.”

“That,” Ruth stammered, “that is most unexpected, and noble. Why, yes, Garto. I would appreciate it very much. Thank you.”

“God be with you, Ruth of Moab,” Garto bowed.

“May God bless you, Garto son of Leshem,” Ruth responded.

Garto turned around with a smile and left to his own house. Ruth entered Naomi’s house happier than she had been in a long time.

“Ruth!” Naomi exclaimed. “We were just talking about you.” Naomi motioned to the elegantly dressed young man sitting at the table with Naomi. He had the clothing, long hair and clean-shaven look of a Philistine, but he did not look like a Philistine. He wore a dark purple robe with the fringes of an Israelite peaking out from under the robe.

“Princess Ruth,” the young man stood up. “Allow me to present myself. I am Alron of Dan and I have come to seek your hand in marriage.”

* * * * * *