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BOAZ AND RUTH.
(RUTH 11. 8.) DURING the period when the judges ruled over Israel—the precise date is uncertain—a famine occurred, which compelled an inhabitant of the town of Bethlehem of Judah to remove, with his wife and two sons, into the land of Moab, which, in consequence of the victories under Ehud, appears to have been in some degree subjected to the Israelites.* This man's name was Elimelech, his wife's Naomi, and his sons' names were Mahlon and Chilion. Soon after they arrived there, Elimelech died, and his two sons, who had married Ruth and Orpah, daughters of the Moabites, after the lapse of about ten years, were also buried in Moab, leaving no issue.
Thus deprived of her earthly protectors, and household comforts, and having heard that “the Lord had visited his people in giving them bread,” Naomi resolved to return to her native land. This resolution she disclosed to her daughters-in-law, and both expressed their attachment to her, and their willingness to accompany her to Bethlehem. At first Naomi allowed them to follow the bent of their inclinations; but when they had proceeded part of the way she intreated them to return, expressing her gratitude for the kindness they had shown to herself and her deceased sons.
The attachment of both Ruth and Orpah seems to have been great, for “they lifted up their voice and wept.” But the love of Ruth was the most sincere. While Orpah kissed Naomi and returned, Ruth, in the emphatic language of Scripture, “ clave unto her.”
Still, Naomi was unwilling to take Ruth from her country and her friends, and she therefore urged her to follow the example of Orpah. But Ruth had been instructed in the worship of the God of Israel, the Fountain of life and happiness, and had embraced the faith of Naomi. Her attachment to her mother-in-law was, therefore, founded on the principles of religion. Hence her touching and beautiful answer to Naomi :-“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.” Naomi could not resist this touching earnestness, so on they travelled to Bethlehem.
* See Judges iii. 12–30.
Worn down by the griefs which her threefold loss had inflicted upon her, when Naomi arrived at Bethlehem, her old neighbours crowded around her, and, gazing at her features, asked, in the language of astonishment, “Is this Naomi?” Her reply abundantly satisfied them that she was the selfsame person.
In the depth of her anguish, which was softened by pious submission to the will of God, she exclaimed, “ Call me not Naomi, call me Mara : 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?”
When Naomi and Ruth arrived at Bethlehem it was barley harvest; and during the ingathering of the harvest, the law of Moses directed very liberal treatment of the children of want. The corners of the fields were to be left unreaped; the owner was prohibited from gleaning therein; if a sheaf was accidentally left, then it was not to be fetched away, but left for the poor; and the privilege of following the reapers, to pick up the straggling ears, was to be granted to those persons the owner might wish to befriend. Ruth was acquainted with this benign law, and she solicited Naomi's permission to glean a few ears after him in whose sight she might find favour, in order to relieve their common wants.
The day had been when Naomi would, probably, have refused to comply with a request that implied such a state of poverty; but affliction had so effectually humbled her that she readily gave her consent. Accordingly, Ruth set out on her lowly, but honest employment, and a kind Providence directed her to that part of the field—the arable land not being inclosed in the east—which belonged to Boaz, a near relation of Elimelech. From his servant, who, according to oriental custom, was set over the reapers, she obtained permission to glean.
In the course of the day, Boaz himself came to view the progress of the harvest, and, after the usual devout salutations of this “mighty man of wealth” and his reapers—“ Jehovah be with you!" and “Jehovah bless thee!”_his eye lighted upon Ruth, and inquiring who she was, the overseer informed him that it was the Moabitish damsel who had shown such friendship for Naomi. It