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she had received at their hands, and lamented, for their sake, that the hand of the Lord had afflicted her; “ but go, return,” she said, “each to her mother's house, and the Lord deal kindly with you, as ye have dealt with the dead and with me!"
Orpah yielded to the persuasions of her mother, and returned into Moab, but the resolution of Ruth was unalterable. “Intreat me not to leave thee,” said she," 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 I will die, and there will I be buried; the Lord do so to me and more also, if aught but death part thee and me.”
A determination so solemn was not to be shaken by the faint remonstrances of Naomi. Her desolate condition demanded the consolations of friendship, nor could she refuse an offered proselyte to the covenant of Israel. Together therefore, they proceeded towards Judea.
It was now the bountiful season when the hills and the vallies of Canaan "were teeming with plenty; clustering vines and waving grain, just ready for the sickle, presented to the returning exile, a smiling landscape, the reverse of the impoverished fields which she had left, and overwhelmed her soul with a sense of the reverse in her own circumstances. “Call me not Naomi," cried she, when her former friends, crowding around, accosted her in the terms of gratulation. “Is this Naomi who is returned to us?”—“Call me not Naomi,* but call me Marant for the Almighty hath dealt very bitterly with me; I went full, and the Lord hath brought me home again empty!"
* Naomi signifies agreeable. † Mara signifies bitter.
The widow of Elimelech was not only bereaved of her husband and her sons, but a long residence in a foreign land had dissipated her property; so that she who was once able to open her hand liberally, was now obliged to depend on others for support! Her blooming daughter, the sole staff of her declining years, cheerfully embraced the opportunity, which the bounteous season of harvest and the common customs of the country afforded to the indigent, of gleaning after the reapers. Not knowing whither she went, she was providentially led into the fields of Boaz, a son of that Rahab who concealed the spies whom Joshua sent into Jericho; and a distinguished member of the house of Elimelech. Ainong the damsels of Bethlehem, the engaging appearance of the young Moabitess attracted the notice of Boaz, and induced him to ask the overseer of his fields whence she came.
Finding her to be a proselyte to his religion and his country, and being already acquainted with her character, he approached her with the respect which her virtues inspired, and, welcoming her to his fields, requested, that the would remain with his people, and partake also of his table during the whole harvest. Then going privately to the labourers, he commanded them to treat the fair stran. ger with delicacy, to leave large handfuls where she went, and even to let her glean among the sheaves. In the evening Ruth returned laden with grain, and related her good fortune to her delighted mother, who, anticipating the probable result, encouraged her to return every day and avail herself of the charity of Boaz.
Thus was the dejected Naomi sustained, whilst a
brighter day was beginning to dawn upon the generous Ruth. The two widows were yet in possession of some lands belonging to their late husbands, which their de. cayed circumstances obliged them to sell. By the law of Moses, the nearest kinsman of the deceased had the first right to purchase, and moreover the privilege of marrying the widow of his relation if no children survived: the first born of the second marriage succeeded, in such a case, to the rights of the former husband, so that “no name, or family should be lost in Israel.”
The wealthy Boaz had seen and admired the widow of Mahlon, but there was in Bethlehem a man whose relationship was nearer than his own. As soon, therefore, as the conclusion of harvest allowed him leisure to attend to other affairs, he summoned this man to appear at the gate of the city, where causes were usually heard, and there, in the presence of the elders, he required him to purchase the lands of Elimelech, and marry his daughterin-law: but this person, whose name is not mentioned, refused to comply with the law.
Boaz then called the elders to witness, that he there purchased “all that was Elimelech's and Mahlon's and Chilion's of the hand of Naomi; and Ruth the Moabitess he took to be his wife.” The usual testimonials of a con. tract were given to Boaz, and he was dismissed with the blessings of the elders on himself, and the fair stranger whom he had thus honourably espoused. The marriage was celebrated, and the last years of Naomi were happy in a flourishing family.
Fanny. Who were they, who were called the elders of the city ?
MOTHER. They are not described in the Old Testament, that I recollect; but are frequently mentioned. They appear to have been citizens, selected by the inhabitants, from among the most aged, and respectable, and invested with authority to determine causes.
CATHARINE. The gate of the city, was a strange place in which to hear a cause. Why did the people meet there?
MOTHER. Perhaps because it was the most frequented place.
In these early days, there were no such buildings, for all purposes, as modern times have contrived: but the love of social intercourse implanted in the hearts of all men, would in all times, collect them into some convenient spot to talk together; and this spot, might afterwards be found the most commodious one for public busi
In this way probably, the gate became the courthouse of the city.
The Gates of walled towns are large structures, containing sufficient room either on the ground-floor, or in the chamber above, to accommodate a number of people. Such we may suppose, was the Gate of Bethlehem where the elders convened to sanction the compact of Boaz.
Fanny. The patriarchal manners and moral beauty of this story, are really refreshing after your picture of the general depravity of the times. It bears so strong a resemblance to the Palemon and Lavinia of our favourite Thomson, that one would suppose it to have been the model of that exquisite story.
MOTHER. There is no doubt of the fact; with the alteration of some of its incidents, and the embellishments of his fine fancy, it is the same.
The Bible is the inexhaustible source from which rhetoric and poetry have delighted mankind in every age. In a multitude of instances, it surpasses all attempts at imitation. Let us take this opportunity of making a comparison; and we can no where do it with more advantage to the poet, for “Palemon and Lavinia,” is the admiration of the world! Yet with all the winning graces of Thomson's genius, it will be found inferior in variety, in pathos, and in moral interest, to the history of Ruth the Moabitess.
In the poem of the Scottish bard, an aged widow and her daughter are represented as reduced from affluence to poverty, and retired from the mortifying gaze of the world, to an obscure retreat. Urged by necessity, the daughter goes out to glean in the fields of a neighbour, who is “rich, generous, and young.” Her beauty, and her modesty attract his notice, and yet more his sympathy, by a fancied resemblance to his friend and benefactor! He converses with her and finds that she is indeed the daughter of that long lost friend, the sole author of his prosperity !-He marries her, and competency and joy again brighten the setting day of the widowed mother.
In the history of Israel, a family are driven from their native country by a famine: the two sons, the only chil. dren of their parents, narry; the father dies; and after. wards, both the sons, the hope and stay of their widowed mother, are also taken away! Bereft of all, the weeping