R is for Ruth

The book of Ruth is the eighth book of the Old Testament. It starts with a brief history of how Elimelech, a man from Bethlehem took his wife and sons to Moab to escape a famine. It’s curious, to me, that he would choose to go to Moab, considering the hatred and enmity between the two groups. But, he did it and his two sons married Moabite women, Orpah and Ruth. In time, all three women were widowed.

You may remember that Moab bordered the southern half of the Dead Sea in what is now the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan.

Naomi heard that the famine in Bethlehem was over and she decided to go back home. She told her daughters-in-law to go back to their families. Both women wanted to go with her to Bethlehem. “Turn back, my daughters!”, said Naomi, “Why should you go with me? Do I have any more sons in my body who might be husbands for you?

Back in those days, a childless widow was taken by the brother of the husband in order to preserve the dead man’s posterity and to provide security for the woman.

Well, Orpah left and went back to her family, but Ruth refused to go. Again, Naomi urged Ruth to go back to her family.

Ruth embraced Naomi, and cried, “Do not urge me to leave you, or to turn back and not follow you. For wherever you go, I will go; wherever you lodge, I will lodge; your people will be my people, and your God my God. Where you die, I will die and be buried.” So, the two women made their way to Bethlehem at the beginning of the barley harvest.

One of the relatives of Naomi’s husband was rather wealthy, and Naomi sent Ruth into his barley fields to glean. According to Torah, the harvesters were to leave any stalks that had fallen to be gleaned by the poor. In time, Boaz noticed this foreign girl in his fields and started asking around about her. One of the workers told him she was the Moabite girl who came back with Naomi. So, he went to Ruth and told her not to glean in any other fields, but his. “Keep your eyes on my girls and follow them. I’ve ordered my men not to bother you. When you’re thirsty, drink from the water they’ve drawn. I’ve been told of your kindness to Naomi, and how you left your family to come into a foreign land.”

He then told his workers to leave some extra stalks for her to glean. When she got home and Naomi saw the amount of barley she’d gleaned she got an idea.

Daughter, I must find a home for you where you’ll be happy. There is our cousin, Boaz. He’ll be winnowing his barley on the threshing floor tonight. Now, get yourself in there and bathe, anoint yourself, dress up and go down there. When he lies down, go over and uncover his feet and lie down.

Ruth was a bit hesitant, but is sure Naomi knows what she’s about, and does as she was instructed.

Boaz demanded to know what she was doing after she uncovered his feet. She told him she was his handmaid and asked him to spread his cover over her because he was the redeeming kinsman. He expressed his admiration for her, but then told her there was another relative who was closer kin and he should be the one to take her in marriage.


Present day Moab, in southern Jordan (Photo credit: http://www.bibleplaces.com)

Ploni jumped at it and said he was willing to redeem the land. Boaz explained that, “When you acquire the property from Naomi, you also must marry Ruth, the widow, so that her late husband’s name will be perpetuated.

Oh, well…” he said, “I can’t do it myself. You take my right of redemption, I can’t do it.” So, Boaz took the land and married Ruth.


Statue at the entrance of what is believed to be King David’s tomb (Photo credit: http://www.jerusalem.com)

The set up housekeeping and Ruth gave birth to a son she named Obed. Obed was the father of Jesse, who was the father of David who became king of Israel. So, there is your Jordanian connection to King David.