Ruth finished another loaf of bread, her thoughts were still on the possible
marriage. According to Israel
custom, when there was a proposal, the couple was married. There was no
engagement period, like there was in Moab. But, did that rule stand when
the woman proposed, rather than the father arranging it? And what if the widow
who proposed actually had another kinship redeemer? Naomi could not answer
these questions for Ruth. There was no guarantee that she was married to Boaz
because she had proposed to him.
As she continued to mull over her
questions, she was startled to hear a knock on the door. Opening the door, Ruth
saw Boaz, smiling broadly with a group of men behind him. Ruth tried to say
something, but she could not. Naomi came running over and screamed when she saw
her guest was Boaz.
“Boaz! Good news, I assume, by your
enormous smile?” Naomi smiled back at him and took his hand to shake it. “May
Adonai bless your union!” She turned to Ruth, who was still staring at Boaz.
She had spent so much time telling herself that if it didn’t work it would be
okay. She had almost believed that it wasn’t going to work out and she would be
marrying Olmech, but now Boaz was here, ready to take her to their new home.
Ruth felt Naomi pinch her side and
she fell out of her shock. “Boaz, I... I guess Olmech doesn’t want me?” She
attempted to say, though it came out softly and she didn’t feel the confidence
that she was so sure she had before.
“Yes, Ruth, my love. We will be
married. I have come to collect you. Come with me; all the elders of the land
wish you to be like Leah and Rachel. We have the blessing from all those who
can give it. Come with me, and celebrate as my wife.” He took her hand, pulled
her towards him, and then turned her to face Naomi. “Mother, you can never know
my joy in taking your daughter as my wife. Please, take these 10 ephahs of
grain.” He motioned for some of the men behind him to bring the bride price.
Both Ruth’s and Naomi’s eyes widened at the amount of food brought to her. Boaz
was not finished. “Take 10 of my goats and 3 of my milk cows.” He once again
motioned fora couple men to bring the
animals. They came up, bowed before Naomi, and presented her with Boaz’s gifts.
“Kind Boaz, what can I say? This is
so much more than I could imagine. You are so thoughtful in giving such a large
bride price. May God bless you.” She smiled and then bent down to take off her
sandal to make the deal final. As he reached out to take her sandal, he said
“No, thank you Naomi. I could give you all my land and still, your daughter
would be worth more. You’ve given me a magnificent treasure.” He took her
sandal and turned to smile at Ruth. She nearly melted right there. Then,
looking at Naomi, Ruth smiled and hugged her. As Ruth leaned in Naomi
whispered, “Do not be afraid to love your husband. God will look down on it and
I know that Mahlon would not want you to be sad. Don’t let your past sorrows
live your life. Be sure to have struggles of joy, rather than struggles of
grief. Let your joy shine.” Then aloud she said, “May God bless your marriage
and may He bring your wife many children, even in your old age.”
“Come with us Mother!” Boaz replied.
“I am bringing my wife home and we shall celebrate. Come join us!”
“Yes, I shall come with you! Let’s
go celebrate this great happiness!”
As the procession led the newlyweds
to their new home, Ruth’s mind was full of questions. What had happened at the
city gates? What had Boaz said to have Olmech refuse to marry her? Was this
something God looked well on? Had she stepped out of her bounds in proposing to
Boaz instead of letting him come to her as it should have been done? Could she
really be a good wife to her husband? Could she be trusted, be shrewd, and have
generosity towards the needy; could she enhance her husband’s public
reputation? Would she have devotion to her family? She was a Moabitess and yet,
this high standing Israelite had married her. Had he only married her to
fulfill family obligations or were there any feelings for her?
How long could she last in his
household if there were no feelings for her in his heart? It wouldn’t be long.
Mahlon had loved her deeply and he showed her daily. When he died, she was
devastated. She didn’t know if she could live with a man and pretend to be
happy when she was desperately in love with him. If he had no feelings for her,
it would be like loving a dead man. There was no one to return the feelings
when she needed a loving glance or an affectionate caress.
Ruth started when she felt someone
tap her shoulder.
“Boaz!” she said, surprised to see
him. “Why aren’t you with your friends, being joyous!?” She smiled at him,
trying to show him the confidence in their marriage that she did not have.
“Ruth,” he said, forcing her to look
at him “I can’t be joyful when you are over here by yourself. Are you saddened
by what has happened?”
“Oh no!” replied Ruth, pulling back
from his touch. “It’s not that at all; I’m very happy.” She smiled again,
hoping she could disguise her restlessness.
“Ruth, please, let me know what’s
troubling you. I can’t enjoy anything when you’re like this. I want to help
Ruth turned around to face the wall
so she wouldn’t have to see his pleading eyes. Moments like these made her want
to forget everything in her past and run into his waiting embrace... but what
if....what if...what if. There were too many questions for her to keep up the
masquerade, especially when Boaz was standing right beside her. “Please, go. I
need time to think and to pray. Leave me be, I beg of you, Husband.” She heard
him sigh and then walk away. “Thank you,” she whispered. Her confidence in
their marriage was gone. She didn’t know what was right, and what was wrong.
She didn’t know how Boaz felt for her. Was she right in asking for time, or
should she have gone with him and been joyful, ignoring her “what ifs”? As her
questions kept coming, she slipped off her chair and fell to the ground.
Everything was falling apart. Her sobs wracked her body as she tried to
understand everything that was going on.
The guests had left the party and
Boaz and Ruth were alone at last. Ruth was trying to avoid Boaz, but it seemed
as if she didn’t need to. He had disappeared and was doing his own things. Ruth
began to feel as if she had made a mistake in proposing to him. How could she
live a marriage on her own? She could not have the love for both of them. She
couldn’t live on her love alone. A marriage involved two loving each
other. She decided that she would show love to Boaz any way she could, and
maybe one day he would turn around and love her back. She went in search of him
and found him standing in the fields.
“Boaz,” she whispered, trying not to
startle him, “Thank you for giving a celebration in our honor. I know that our
marriage will last. You’ve shown that you are a truly honorable man by marrying
me so that I can continue my husband’s name.” Boaz turned and looked at her and
Ruth saw the tears in his eyes. She could hardly resist the urge to run up and
hug him, but somehow she endured.
“Ruth, do you think the only reason
I married you was to fulfill a family obligation?” His words were harsh and
accusatory. “If that’s the only reason I took you as my wife, why am I
so interested in your happiness? Why was I even concerned with your well-being
during the festivity?” He turned away from her, unable to keep his composure.
“Ruth,” his voice cracked and she had to strain to understand him, “I love you
like I’ve loved no other, and you return it by saying that it’s only a family
obligation?” Ruth was frozen to the spot. She felt as if she had ripped him
apart. When she asked him for something she wanted and when he returned it, she
threw it in his face. What kind of wife was she?
“If family obligation is all you
desire, so be it. I’ll fulfill the duty that is now placed upon me and you will
not hear me complain. I just hope that one day, obligation might turn to
love.” Boaz walked away from her into the fields and let her sit in her
What was she to do? All along Boaz
had wanted to love her, but she was stubborn and unbelieving. She had pushed
the one thing that she had wanted the most away. Boaz was suffering and it was
her own fault. How could she tell him how she felt? How could she explain the
anguish she suffered when she imagined a life without his love? She had lived
without love for many years, and when it finally came from her beloved Mahlon,
it was snatched away from her. Now, no one had taken anything, she had pushed
it away herself. What kind of wicked person am I?
As Ruth walked back into their
house, she knew that she would not be able to face Boaz again. She had
embarrassed herself, and now she had hurt him. She would never forgive herself.
Stamping into the dining room, she threw herself against the wall in a fury.
“Adonai!” She shrieked, “Where are
you! I asked for your deliverance and you give me this!? I came all the
way from my home to do as I believed you were calling me and I get this?!
What do you want me to do?” She threw herself against the wall again and began
to sob uncontrollably. “You promised to take care of me! You promised to bring
me joy after Mahlon died! Where is that joy now?!” She sunk to the
ground in a heap of angry tears. She looked up at the heavens and hoarsely
whispered, “Adonai, if you are all powerful, I beg of you to bring us back
together. If this is what you had in mind, unite us. I can’t stand living with
a dead love. I need your help. We need your help.” As her tears cascaded
down her face, she buried her head in her knees. Her sobs shook her body. Ruth
sat there until it began to get dark. Feeling exhausted, she fell asleep
against the cold wall, regretting what she had done that day.