« PreviousContinue »
affectionate and pious Ruth, who had conceived so favourable an opinion of the character and religion of the God of Naomi, as to be willing to give up her connexions and prospects in her own country, and to embrace hardship and penury in a new land, tendered to her mother-in-law this most beautiful and melting reply. 'Intreat me not to leave thee, or to return from following after thee: for whither thou goest, I will go; and where thou lodgest, I will lodge; thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God. Where thou diest will I die, and there will I be buried: the Lord do so to me, and more also, if aught but death part thee and me.' And when Naomi saw that Ruth was steadfastly minded to go with her, then she left speaking unto her. So they two went until they came to the city in Canaan. And when they were come to the city, behold, all the city was moved about them; and they said, Is this Naomi? Naomi appears to have been greatly altered in her person and circumstances, since she left Canaan, where she and Elimelech had probably lived in abundance, and been much respected; but now she and Ruth seem to have travelled on foot, for many, perhaps near a hundred weary miles, and around one end of the Salt Sea, without any attendants, which quite surprised her former neighbours. And they said, Is this Naomi? And she, humbly accepting her afflictions as coming from the Lord, and perhaps considering herself as guilty in not having left Moab immediately on the death of her husband, said unto her neighbours, Call me not Naomi, which signifies pleasant, but call me Mara, which means bitter; for the Almighty_hath dealt very bitterly with me. I went out full, and the Lord hath brought me home again empty; why then call ye me Naomi, seeing the Lord hath testified against me, and the Almighty hath afflicted me? So the humble widow Naomi, with the devoted Ruth, her daughter-in-law, returned out of the idolatrous country of Moab; and they came to the city in Canaan in the beginning of the barley-harvest.
Now in the city of Canaan Naomi had a relation of her husband's, who was a mighty man of wealth, and whose name was Boaz. And when Naomi and Ruth had become settled in some homely lodging, the latter, looking forward
to nothing in Canaan but a life of labour and dependance, in order to support her mother-in-law and herself, proposed to go out a gleaning, as was customary, in those simple times, for the poor. Let me, said the kind-hearted Ruth to Naomi, who was probably unable to endure the heat and fatigue of such employment herself, Let me now go to the field, and glean ears of corn that is, of barley corn, for what we call corn in our country was not there known - and glean ears of corn after him in whose sight I shall find grace. And Naomi said unto her, Go, my daughter. Thus, although the Lord intended other things for the devoted Ruth, he was pleased first to try her humility, and patience, and industry, which shone so superior in her above her sister Orpah. And Ruth went, and came, and gleaned in the field after the reapers. And she happened, by chance as it seemed to her, but doubtless by the Lord's secret_direction, to light on a part of the field belonging unto Boaz, the relation of her deceased father-in-law Elimelech. And, behold, Boaz came out from the city, and said unto the reapers, The Lord be with you. And they answered him, The Lord bless thee. Although Boaz was a mighty man of wealth, yet he went in person to superintend his own reapers. And it is delightful, to hear the condescending and pious salutation of the rich Boaz to his reapers, and their respectful and pious reply. Lord be with you, said he. And they answered him, The Lord bless thee. Would that such might be the language always heard in our fields, while the bounty of Providence is gathering in! Then Boaz asked his servant that was set over the reapers, Whose damsel is this? And the servant that was set over the reapers answered, It is the damsel that came back with Naomi out of the country of Moab. And she said, I pray you, let me glean and gather after the reapers among the sheaves: so she came, and hath continued even from the morning until now, that she tarried a little in the house. There is a beautiful simplicity in this narrative, and in the introduction of Boaz to the gleaning damsel. Hearest thou not, my daughter? spake Boaz kindly unto her, Go not to glean in another field, neither go from hence, but abide here fast by my maidens; for females in those days, and
in that country, were joined with the men in gathering in the harvest. Let thine eyes, continued Boaz, be on the field that they do reap, and go thou after them: have I not charged the young men that they shall not touch thee? And when thou art athirst, go unto the vessels, and drink of that which the young men have drawn ; that is, of the pure water from the spring, which, it seems, was all that Boaz thought necessary until the work of the day was done. Then Ruth fell on her face, and bowed herself to the ground, and said unto Boaz, Why have I found grace in thine eyes, that thou shouldest take knowledge of me, seeing I am a stranger? But Boaz had heard of Ruth, the pious damsel from a heathen land, how kind she had been to her mother-in-law since she was left a widow, and how she had left her own father and mother, and the land of her nativity, and was come unto a people which_she knew not heretofore. And he said to her, The Lord recompense thy work, and a full reward be given thee of the Lord, under whose wings thou art come to trust. And Ruth replied, being thus encouraged by the gracious notice of Boaz, Let me find favour in thy sight, my lord, though I be not like unto one of thine hand-maidens. And Boaz, who had now formed a very favourable opinion of the modesty and piety of Ruth, said to her, At meal-time, come thou hither and eat; and as she sat beside the reapers, and dipped her bread in the cooling vinegar, he himself reached her parched corn, the simple fare of those times, until she was sufficed. And when she was risen up to glean, Boaz commanded his young men, to let her glean even among the sheaves, and to reproach her not; and even to let fall some of the handfuls of purpose for her, and to leave them, that she might glean them, and to rebuke her not. So Ruth gleaned in the field until even, and beat out that she had gleaned, and it was about an ephah, that is, nearly a bushel of barley. And she took it up, and went into the city. And her mother-in-law, the good Naomi, when she saw what she had gleaned, said, Blessed be he, that did take knowledge of thee. And when she learnt, that the man from whom she had gleaned was Boaz, the one of their next kinsmen ; and that he had told Ruth to keep fast by his young men,
until they had ended all his harvest; she exclaimed, Blessed be he of the Lord, who hath not left off his kindness to the living and to the dead. It appears, that Boaz had formerly been kind to Naomi's husband Elimelech, and she was rejoiced to find that he was still disposed to befriend them in their present distressed condition. And Naomi said unto Ruth, It is good, my daughter, that thou go out with his maidens, that they meet thee not in any other field, which might appear as a slight of his kindness. So Ruth, little thinking indeed what a change of fortune was intended for her constancy, kept fast by the maidens of Boaz to glean unto the end of barley harvest and of wheat harvest; and dwelt with her mother-in-law.
It seems that, in this country, the law concerning a man's marrying his brother's widow, when he died childless, was by custom extended to the other near relations, when there were no brethren. And as Mahlon had left Ruth childless, and had no brother living, it happened that the law, and the usage of the times, gave the stranger Ruth a claim upon her kinsman Boaz, if there were no one nearer of kin, to become her husband. Therefore Naomi, like every tender and thoughtful mother, who wishes for the desirable settlement of her children, began to reflect upon this circumstance, and felt herself bound to endeavour, by such means as she deemed the most likely to succeed, to effect an union between the rich and worthy Boaz and the forlorn and gentle Ruth. My daughter, said she, shall I not seek rest for thee, that it may be well with thee? And then Naomi told Ruth, that Boaz was about to winnow barley on that night in his threshing-floor. And having bidden her to wash and anoint herself, and to put on her best raiment, she counselled her to go down privately to the threshing-floor; and when Boaz, after the work of the day was done, had feasted with his threshers, and his heart was cheerful, and he had gone to lie down at the end of the heap of corn to rest; that then she should modestly, and in the established manner of the country, assert her claim upon her kinsman Boaz. And Ruth said unto Naomi, All that thou sayest unto me, I will do. And she went down unto the threshing-floor, and there commenced her religious courtship, as it might well
be called, as her mother-in-law bade her. And the upright and excellent Boaz, being already prepossessed in her favour, and being moreover pleased that she had preferred him to the young men whether rich or poor, and that she regarded the law of God; instead of taking advantage of her exposed situation, or reproaching her with impropriety of conduct, or disdaining her as a poor destitute stranger, or suggesting that she was swayed by interested motives, he gave her his blessing, and his assent. Blessed be thou of the Lord, my daughter, said he. And now, my daughter, fear not; I will do to thee all that thou requirest for all the city of my people doth know that thou art a virtuous woman. Howbeit, continued he, there is a kinsman nearer than I. This, it is probable, was an unknown, or unlooked for impediment to Naomi. But Boaz, having promised to make inquiry in the morning, and if that nearer kinsman, who had a prior claim to marry Ruth, would waive his right, that he himself would become her husband; in token of his favourable regard for her and Naomi, he heaped her veil, or shawl, with six measures of barley, for he said, Go not empty unto thy mother-in-law. And when Ruth went back into the city, and Naomi inquired, what success she had? and she told her all that had happened; then said the good Naomi, Sit still, my daughter, until thou know how the matter will fall; for the man will not be in rest, until he have finished the thing this day.
And Naomi thought right. For, on that morning, Boaz went up to the city gate, where the people were wont to pass and repass, and when the kinsman of whom he spake came by, he said, Ho, such a one, calling him by name, turn aside, sit down here. And he turned aside, and sat down. Then he called ten of the elders of the city, and said, Sit ye down here. And they sat down. Then Boaz related, in presence of the ten elders, whom he had called as witnesses of the transaction, as was customary in former times in this country, all the circumstances attending the return of Naomi and of Ruth out of Moab; and of the lawful and asserted claim of the latter upon the kinsman, to redeem a certain parcel of land, which fell to her from Naomi's deceased husband Elime