Barbara Booker
Ruth - A Love Story

Chapter 4

Boaz had gotten to the gate early — too early really to expect any action regarding legal matters. He had paced back and forth, listening to an awakening town... and waiting. He watched mothers and children drift towards the nearby well. He tried not to notice the curious look several women had. Why was Boaz ben Salmon so early at the gate? What important matter was there to be heard and judged at such an early hour of the day? As for Boaz, he impatiently watched for the relative, a cousin, who was needed in this case. A few more of the town elders came along the streets, greeted Boaz and sat down. But the relative — why was he so long in coming on such an important day? But, then, Boaz mused... his cousin did not know it was a day any different than any other. So he waited... until finally, Boaz could see the man coming around a corner. As he approached, Boaz called to him:

“Come over here, my friend, and sit down.”

Boaz then called several other men and, when a total of ten had assembled, he cleared his throat and began to speak. Facing the relative, he explained the reason for the assembly:

“Naomi, who has come back from Moab, is selling the piece of land that belonged to our brother Elimelech. I thought I should bring the matter to your attention and suggest that you buy it in the presence of these seated here and in the presence of the elders of my people. If you will redeem it, do so. But if you will not, tell me, so I will know. For no one has the right to do it except you, and I am next in line.”

“I will redeem it,” he said.

Boaz continued:

“On the day you buy the land from Naomi and from Ruth the Moabitess, you acquire the dead man’s widow, in order to maintain the name of the dead with his property.”

The relative, Boaz told me, looked perplexed. He shifted uncomfortably from one sandaled foot to another; he coughed; and then without raising his eyes toward Boaz, he blurted out:

“Then I cannot redeem it because I might endanger my own estate. You redeem it yourself. I cannot do it.”

Boaz could not believe his ears. Was this man afraid of Ruth? Was this really what he was saying? He wanted the land, but not the widow. Was he afraid Ruth would bring him and his family poor fortune because of the three deaths in her family? Those deaths were not her fault. This was incredible! Had not this young woman proven herself a daughter of Abraham and Sarah, by her faith and her actions? Could not the people of Bethlehem see past the label “Moabite” and see a true daughter of Israel? Boaz snapped back to the situation when he heard his cousin say:

“Buy it yourself.”

And buy it Boaz would... the land, the young woman Ruth, the old woman Naomi and all that was theirs. For Boaz knew the Law — the Law of the kinsman-redeemer. But first his cousin had to remove his sandal and give it to Boaz, thus showing that he gave up all claims to Ruth, Naomi and their properties. For so said the Law. Boaz accepted the sandal in sight of all the elders and witnesses at the gate. For by now, there were many villagers passing by who were listening intently to the proceedings. Then in a clear, loud voice he announced to all:

“Today you are witnesses that I have bought from Naomi all the property of Elimelech, Chilion and Mahlon. I have also acquired Ruth the Moabitess, Mahlon’s widow, as my wife, in order to maintain the name of the dead with his property, so that his name will not disappear from among his family or from the town records. Today you are witnesses!”

Then the elders and all those with them replied:

“We are witnesses. May the Lord make the woman who is coming into your home like Rachel and Leah, who together built up the house of Israel. May you have standing in Ephrathah and be famous in Bethlehem. Through the offspring the Lord gives you by this young woman, may your family be like that of Perez, whom Tamar bore to Judah.”

Boaz’s waiting was over.

My waiting was continuing. I had begun to walk in little circles within Naomi’s humble home. Naomi busied herself with some spinning... and she waited also. We both saw him as he strode quickly down our lane, followed now by others. What would he say? To whom would I become a wife? What of Naomi? My heart was beating wildly. I felt numb. When he knocked Naomi arose slowly, putting her spinning to one side. We glanced at each other... my body was unmoving... so I waited for Naomi to open the door. As he came into the house, Boaz smiled, gently took my rough hands within his and told me our news. My wait... our wait was over.

Once again I prepared for a wedding. This time our betrothal period was very short — only a few weeks. There was much to be done in such a short time. Boaz had many friends and relatives to be invited to the festivities. Naomi and Boaz’s servants busied themselves with the preparations. Naomi seemed totally revived with the anticipation of a fresh start for both of us... for she was included in our plans. She would leave her little house and move into the larger home of Boaz. She took great pleasure daily in passing on to all her friends the details of “how it happened”, and in telling of the extensive wedding preparations.

Thus it was that before the end of harvest, Boaz and I were wed. There were days when I marveled at the sudden contrast in my life... from a position of gleaning in Boaz’s fields... to that of his wife! Never again would I want for anything of this world’s goods. Gone were the shabby widow’s clothing, the hoarding and counting of a few coins, the shame that a life of poverty brings. Suddenly I had menservants, maidservants, riches... and above all, a husband who loved me. My heart was overwhelmed many times during these early days and weeks of betrothal and marriage. I repeatedly thanked my Heavenly Father for removing my sackcloth and clothing me with joy. Thus my heart sang to my God day after day and would not be silent. I would give Him thanks forever.

The joys I had hoped to share with Mahlon would now be shared with Boaz. The past grew dimmer and I grew to love Boaz in ways different from my first love, my early love for my Mahlon. Naomi was happy with us; for her too, the past grew more distant and less painful.

Many times Boaz told me of his family and of his hope to have a son who might be the promised seed. He knew how desperately Israel needed a Savior appointed by God. I think I also learned why, Boaz, unlike our relative, had been unafraid to marry a “Moabitess”: his own mother had been Rahab... the woman of Jericho that Naomi had told me about. Boaz’s father, Salmon the prince of Judah, had heard of her faith and belief in Israel’s God and had taken her to him as wife. My Boaz was born to this remarkable couple.

A few months after our wedding I found that I was with child. Boaz was delighted at the prospect of fatherhood. He hurried to the gate to spread his news. Naomi also joyously made her way to the town well to spread her share of the happy tidings... although I think everyone between our home and the well had heard her before she got that far! And me? I arose daily with praise on my lips, glorifying the Lord. He had been mindful of the humble state of His servant and had not left me without the child we prayed for. The months seemed to pass so slowly as I waited, yet again, and prayed and prepared for the little one soon to be ours.

He finally arrived one day a little more than one year after our wedding. I felt the first pains of labor very early in the morning. It was a long struggle, and the late afternoon sun — very hot for that time of the year — was streaming in the windows when the midwife said “You have a son”, and the first cries of my baby boy resounded throughout that large, waiting home. Yes, “Obed ben Boaz” came into this town of Bethlehem with a piercing wail. And with him he brought tears from me — tears of joy, relief and thankfulness. This was he... the son for whom we had prayed. Within minutes, Obed was passed from my tired arms to the strong welcoming arms of his father. We both checked his fingers and toes — exactly ten of each! Then we washed him and wrapped him in swaddling clothes as the custom has always been, so that his limbs would grow straight and strong.

I prayed with all my being that just as we were binding his limbs for strength, so might his heart and life be bound up in the ways of his Creator, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Israel.

And then it was I who placed him in those old arms of Naomi — those arms reaching out, spanning many years of joys and sorrows, now to hold my son, my Obed

I remember it all — now as I gaze upon this new bundle of life, this my latest great-grandson, David...

David, son of Jesse, son of Obed, son of Boaz and Ruth, son of Salmon and Rahab... son of Abraham... and son of Israel!

And I have the strange and powerful feeling, at what must be nearly the end of a very long and full life, that something fresh and new and wonderful is just beginning.

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