two women had entered Bethlehem’s
perimeter when the sun began setting. Ruth looked at the beautiful colors and
she decided it was a good omen from the gods...
Stop it Ruth! You don’t believe
in those gods anymore. You believe in the God of Jacob and Isaac. There is no
such thing as omens and there are no other gods to give them. Thank you, God,
for providing such a beautiful sky. Help Naomi settle in well and help the town
to be accepting.
She felt better after praying. Ruth
wanted Naomi’s time here to be the quietest and happiest years of her life;
Heaven only knew how much she deserved that.
As the two entered into the busier
part of Bethlehem, Ruth observed people’s stares and Naomi’s head slowly
bending over and sinking lower and lower as if she was embarrassed. Ruth wanted
to run up and comfort her, but she decided against it. Instead, Ruth bent her
head as well, following Naomi’s example.
“Naomi? Naomi! Naomi’s back, Marta!
Bidigad, Naomi’s back!” Ruth looked up to see an elderly woman running towards
them and gesturing to others as she called out her proclamation.
Naomi must have been well known
and loved when she lived here.
Naomi kept walking and Ruth was
puzzled. If she was coming back to her hometown and to her old friends,
she would wildly be meeting them, but Naomi only seemed to lower her head
farther and quicken her pace.
The woman was getting closer and
kept calling out Naomi’s name. As she reached her, she held out her hand to
shake Naomi’s and welcome her, but Naomi ignored it and walked on. The woman
looked slightly puzzled but then she grabbed hold of Naomi’s shawl and spun her
around, a big smile ready for her friend.
“Naomi! You’re back! We should
celebr_” she began, searching Naomi’s face for even a slight trace of
“Don’t call me Naomi. My name is
Mara, for the Almighty has made my life very bitter for me,” snapped Naomi, but
she wasn’t finished. “I went away full, but the Lord has brought me home empty.
Why should you call me Naomi when the Lord has caused me to suffer and the
Almighty has sent such tragedy? Now leave my daughter and me; go have your
celebrations and let us mourn.” She abruptly turned away and beckoned Ruth to
Ruth was baffled. There was such
bitterness in her mother-in-law’s words. She was confused and didn’t know what
had happened to the loving woman she had known. Even when all of her family
died, she still held on to her happiness and she never doubted that God would
work things out. Now, as Ruth saw Naomi’s despair, she inwardly crumbled.
She’s carrying such a burden. Oh,
God Almighty! Help me bring back her happiness. Don’t let this kind woman live
the rest of her life in sadness. She needs to be happy again!
Ruth and Naomi had reached Bethlehem just when the
barley harvest had begun. Naomi knew this, and she told Ruth this information.
They needed to start gleaning as soon as they could so they would have food to
eat when the season ended and the cold months arrived. Determined to help Naomi
as best she could, Ruth decided that she was going to glean even though they
had just arrived. “Mother,
where shall I go to glean? Was there a field you went to before that I can go
“No, my daughter. Just follow all
the other gleaners and it will be okay. It doesn’t’ really matter where you
glean as long as you get good heads of barley. You do need to be careful,
because the landlords and other reapers are sometimes greedy. Do not let these
people bother you or harm you in any way. Let them be and they will let you be.
Now go,” Naomi went on as she gestured Ruth out the door. “Come back to me soon
because I am lonely without you.”
“Yes Mother, I shall not be gone
long. I’ll be as fast as you can imagine. Have a wonderful morning!” She picked
up her basket and stepped out the door.
As she looked around, she saw people
pointing and whispering and she couldn’t help wondering if they were talking
about her. What bits of gossip had gotten out?
Did you hear that Naomi brought a
heathen into Bethlehem
and she’s trying to convert her?
Ruth is trying to get all our
children to become heathens as she is!
Poor Naomi, bringing back that
heathen, it will only bring her trouble. That Moabite woman is probably
mooching off Naomi.
Ruth shivered as these ideas went
through her mind. Who in her circle of acquaintances were already taking
information and twisting it around? Of course those lies would spread like wild
fire. Everyone was always ready to hear a bad word about a new comer. In fact,
anyone was ready to hear something juicy about anyone.
Making a conscious effort to ignore
the whisperings, she held her head high and walked towards the fields she saw
in the distance. She felt a dark blush creeping up on her cheeks, but she could
not stop it. She kept her nose in the air, hoping that her false confidence
would not trick the others. She wanted anyone looking at her to think she was
as secure as any other gleaner in Bethlehem.
If this is how I am treated, how
will I gain permission to glean in any fields. I shall only work behind anyone
in whose eyes I find favor. I am a foreigner, and I don’t wish to offend
She came across a field and saw
others walking up to it with their homemade baskets. Ruth took a deep breath
and walked over to one of the women who had begun to glean.
“Excuse me, sister. Would it be okay
if I gleaned behind you? I’m a foreigner and I don’t wish to offend anyone.”
She thought her question sounded very professional and was surprised when the
woman scowled at her.
“Don’t you know that foreigners
aren’t welcome here? You cannot be here, for you will be a shame to_”
“Marta, let her be.” An elderly
woman came over and scolded the woman Ruth had been talking with. “How is she
responsible for being a foreigner? One of our own married her, and so therefore
bringing her into our family.”
“You are Ruth, the Moabitess?”
The woman didn’t even try to hide her shock. “The Moabite who married Mahlon!
And the Lord, for Mahlon's disobedience in marrying a Moabitess took him away.
You are the one who brought all the pain on Naomi? How dare you_”
“Please, I’m sorry.” Ruth backed up and
quickly turned to leave. “I didn’t mean to hurt anyone or have anyone punished
because of my actions. I will leave and I am sorry for_”
“Marta! Enough!!” Her voice was full
of authority as she made her commands. “Ruth, stay and I’ll take care of you.
Can’t you see Marta? She has left her own home to be with her husband’s mother.
She has come willingly and you are mocking her for it. Be gone and let her do
what she can to bring happiness back into Naomi’s face!”
“You beware of what you do!” yelled
the woman, as she turned around and resumed her gleaning. “The Lord is not
partial to pagans! You will bring more pain on Naomi if you stay with her! Do
us all a favor and leave while you still can!” She stomped off with her basket
and shot Ruth withering glances that could kill a fly.
“Don’t let Marta get to you my
dear,” soothed the elderly woman. “She has a big mouth and sometimes doesn’t
know when she should shut it up. Come, follow me and I will show you the best
places to glean and where you should never go. Do not be afraid.”
“Thank you so much, my friend.”
Ruth’s smile held a great desire to be friends with this woman. “Now whom must
I talk to if I wish to glean in this field?”
“These are Boaz’s fields, but he is
away at the moment, so the foreman, David, would be the one to ask. Don’t let
him bully you either. You are allowed to be here, just lightly remind
him, and he’ll let you glean.”
“I wish not to cause any problems.
Naomi has had too many, and I wish to be a help to her, not bring more sorrow.
She has had a great deal of pain as it is.”
“You are very sweet, my daughter.
Naomi is blessed to have a daughter like you. May the God of Abraham and Isaac
bless you richly for your sacrifice. When you go to the foreman, just tell him
you wish to glean and, by law, he cannot deny you because you are a foreigner
and a widow. If there are any problems, and you do not wish to fight, leave. I
will be sad to see you go, but if that is what you wish, then I’ll not stop
“Thank you so much, dear friend. I will
always remember your kindness. May your God_”
Ruth caught herself. She thought
back to the road outside of Bethlehem
when she promised Naomi that the God of Israel would be her God. She took a
deep breath and started again.
“May our God bless you kindly for
your generosity. I will never forget your kind eyes.” Ruth bent and kissed the
older woman’s face and went on her way, holding her blessing deep inside for
She was very grateful for the friendship that
they already seemed to be cultivating. Maybe her time here would be a
challenge, but if she could find a few friends, she’d be able to make it.
Walking towards the crude building she
saw in the distance, she came across many other gleaners. Most of them stared
at her and she quickly pushed on. The few that gave her a smile were enough to
keep her going.
There are still a few kind people in
this country. I could not survive without those smiles. Give me strength to
keep going, God. I cannot do this without you. I made a promise that you would
be my God, and I need your help to keep that vow.
She made it to the building and peeked
inside a door, seeing if anyone was inside.
“Excuse me,” she began, as she saw a
form sitting at a desk.
The tall, strongly built man looked up
from his desk and smiled at her. “What can I do for you, child?”
“If it would please you, might I be
able to glean in your fields? I am a foreigner and I would like to gather grain
for my family.”
“Yes my child. The landlord, Boaz, is
not here now, but I am sure he would approve of you gleaning. He is a very kind
man. You are welcome to glean in our fields, but keep your distance from the
other foremen, some of them might have ideas and you would not benefit from
“Thank you so much sir.” She was so
grateful for his encouragement and his warning. “I shall never forget your
kindness!” She bowed her head as a thankful gesture and stepped out the door.
That small kindness had brightened her day and she was ready to glean with a