In the first readings today and tomorrow we have the beautiful story of Ruth, the great-grandmother of King David.
In 1100 b.c., a man named Elimelech owned a small piece of land near Bethlehem, but when a draught struck the land, he found his acre did not produce enough to feed him, his wife Naomi and their two sons. So, on hearing that there was good free land across the Dead Sea in Moab, Elimelech packed up his wife and sons, and moved over there.
When the sons came of age, Elimelech found pagan girls Orpah and Ruth as their brides. Suddenly, then, disaster struck; with an epidemic taking the life of Elimelech and both of his sons. Feeling it best for her to return to her home in Bethlehem, Naomi told her two daughter-in-laws to return to the homes of their parents. Orpah, in tears, left her, but Ruth refused to leave Naomi.
She famously told Naomi ,“Wherever you go, I will go, wherever you lodge, I will lodge. Your people shall be my people, and your God, my God.”
The two arrived at Bethlehem at harvest time, and Ruth took to gleaning, or picking up grain that slipped though the fingers of the harvesters. A wealthy landowner named Boaz, inquired about the industrious girl; and, on finding that she was the daughter-in-law of his diseased cousin Elimelech, he told the harvesters to intentionally drop more grain for her to pick up.
Naomi was happy at learning that a near relative of her husband was showing interest in them. She still possessed Elimelech’s fields; but with no man to farm them, they were useless; and by Israelite law she could only sell the land to her husband’s nearest relative. What’s more, that relative in purchasing Elimelech’s land, also bound himself to take on Elimelech’s wife and children.
So, Naomi, detecting in Boaz’s a romantic interest in Ruth; dressed and perfumed Ruth. And on hearing that Boaz, after a hard day threshing, had fallen asleep on the threshing floor; sent Ruth to sneak up behind Boaz, then, laying down at his feet, to cover herself with the corner of his cloak.
Boaz, when he awoke and found Ruth at his feet, guessed at Naomi’s scheme; and he showed interest in it himself. However, he said that there was another of Elimelech’s relatives who had first call on buying their dead cousin’ land.
They next consulted with that relative; and although the man would have liked to buy the land, he didn’t want to take on Ruth as a bride.
So, Boaz married Ruth. That had a son they named Obed. He, in time had a son Jesse, the father of David, and the ancestor of Jesus.
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