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.
* * * * * *
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.