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Our Young Folk's Josephus by  William Shepard
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THE STORY OF RUTH

AFTER the death of Samson, Eli the high-priest ruled over Israel, and in his time there was a famine in Canaan. There was a man of the Israelites named Elimelech, who lived in the city of Bethlehem. Being unable to obtain food for his family, which consisted of his wife Naomi and two sons, he took them with him to the land of Moab. He prospered there, and married his sons to women of Moab. After ten years he died, and his sons soon after died also, and the mother Naomi was left alone with her daughters-in-law.

Naomi, full of grief, resolved to return to her own country, for she had learned that the famine was over there. Her daughters-in-law wished to go with her, but Naomi told them they had better remain and marry men of their own nation, and she prayed God that they would be happier in a second marriage than they had been in their first. And one of her [116] daughters-in-law, whose name is Orpah, did as Naomi desired, and remained behind, but the other, whose name was Ruth, would not leave her.

They came into Canaan, to the city of Bethlehem, where Naomi used to live. To all those who called Naomi by name she would answer, "Do not call me Naomi, for that means pleasant; call me rather Marah, which means bitter."

At Bethlehem there was a man named Boaz, a near relation of Naomi's husband Elimelech. He was a rich man, and owned a great deal of land. It was the harvest-time, and Ruth went out into the fields to glean, that is, to pick up the ears of corn that had been left by the reapers. She strayed into the fields that were owned by Boaz, and Boaz, seeing her, asked his chief servant, "What woman is this?" And the servant told him who she was.

When Boaz learned that this was the woman who had accompanied Naomi from the land of Moab, he praised her greatly for her goodness and her kindness to her mother-in-law, and he told his servants that she might not only glean, but might reap the grain and carry away all she was able. And he also said that the servants were to give her to eat and to drink when they served out the meals.

So Ruth gleaned in the fields all day. And when she had come home, she told Naomi of what had happened to her. Naomi informed her who Boaz was, that he was a kinsman of Elimelech, her former husband, and that according to the law of Moses he ought to marry Ruth, because she was the widow of one of his nearest relations.

"Wash thyself, therefore," said she, "and anoint thee, and put on thy best garments, and go down to the place where he is threshing his barley, but let the man not see thee till after he has done eating and drinking. Lay thyself down at his feet when he sleeps, and when he wakes he will tell thee what he will do."

So Ruth did as she was told. And after Boaz had eaten [117] and drunk, and had fallen asleep, she placed herself at his feet. When he woke, he asked her who she was and what she wanted. And she answered, "I am Ruth, thy servant; suffer me to remain here."

Then Boaz knew who she was, and remembered also that she was the widow of his kinsman. So he bade her gather up all the barley she could and take it to Naomi. And he said to her,—

"If the man whho is nearest of kin to thy dead husband wishes to marry thee, thou shalt follow him. But if he refuse, I will marry thee according to law."

Ruth returned to Naomi, and they rejoiced together at these words of Boaz, for now they knew he would not desert them in their poverty. And Boaz went down to the city at noon, and made Ruth come before an assembly of all the rulers. He also summoned the nearest kinsman of her dead husband, to whom he said,—

"Do you not possess the property of Elimelech and his sons?"

"Yes," answered the other, "I possess it, for the law gives it to me as their nearest kinsman."

"Nay," returned Boaz, "it is not sufficient to perform only a part of the law, for the wife of Mahlon is come hither, whom thou must marry, according to the laws, if thou wouldst retain the fields which belonged to her husband."

Then the man answered that, as he was already married and had children, he would forego his right, and give up the widow and the inheritance to Boaz.

Boaz accepted the offer, and took Ruth for his wife. And within a year they had a son, whose name was Obed. Obed was the grandfather of David, who was the greatest king that ever ruled over Israel.


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