Warrior Prophets 3 Chapter 11
Orpa looked back at the receding silhouettes of the two people she loved most in the world. She did not regret her decision. She was honest enough to admit she was not suited for a life of hardship. She loved Ruth and Naomi, but she would have to love them from the comfort of the palace. She could not trek through the desert, without as much as a copper piece or any provisions. She was not ready to settle as a foreign dispossessed widow in an enemy’s land. Orpa consoled herself that she too was taking a gamble. Zipor in his anger might still find some way to hurt her. He might yet enforce exile upon her despite any protection their mother could provide. Perhaps Ruth and Naomi were safest fleeing from his wrath.
Orpa watched the two women disappear into the haze of the dessert. She walked back tiredly to the walls of Kir Moav, exhausted from the shocks and tribulations of the day. She still grieved her husband’s murder. She would return to the city and see to their burial, despite Zipor’s hatred of them. She remembered the burial place of Elimelech and resolved to bury his sons in the same place and in the same fashion.
More tired than she had expected, she stopped by the side of the wide dirt road and rested. This was the first time she could catch her breath since the mad rush out of the palace, seeing Mahlon and Kilyon dead, standing up to Zipor, fleeing the city and finally the painful parting from Ruth and Naomi.
A wagon led by two horses approached Orpa at high speed from Kir Moav. Two men sat at the front of the wagon. Orpa stood up straight and waved her hand at the wagon. She would ask the driver to take her back to the palace where she could arrange suitable payment.
As the wagon approached she recognized Sumahtrid and was relieved to see the familiar face. Driving the wagon was a man she did not recognize with the face of a boy and vacant eyes. The wagon slowed down and stopped in front of Orpa.
“Princess Orpa,” Sumahtrid hailed and offered his hand. “Can we be of assistance?”
“You most certainly can.” Orpa accepted the proffered hand and climbed onto the wagon. “Please return me to the palace,” she commanded.
“Where is your sister?” Sumahtrid asked, looking further down the road. “And Naomi?”
“They are gone. They have gone to Judah to return to Naomi’s home and people.”
“That is too bad.” Sumahtrid held his clean chin and shook his head. “We shall have to deal with them separately. One sister shall suffice for now.”
“What nonsense are you talking about?”
“I’m afraid we are not heading to the palace, princess. Beor, if you would please handle the chains?”
“Chains,” Beor repeated as he grabbed Orpa’s arm with an iron grip, hauling her to the back of the wagon. Orpa noticed a variety of weapons on the floor of the wagon together with long chains and shackles. Beor chained Orpa’s arms and legs to the side of the wagon as she screamed and hammered her fists against Beor’s chest.
“What are you doing? Where are you taking me!?” Orpa turned to Sumahtrid as Beor took the reins of the horses.
“We are going on a journey, daughter of Eglon. You see, your bloodline is important and we now wish to combine it with another.”
“You are wasting your time,” Orpa laughed. “I have not been able to bare a child for ten years now.”
“I am to blame for that. We did not wish you or your sister to combine with the scions of Nachshon. But their time has now passed, complements of my disciple, Beor.” Beor grinned at the mention of his name. “My old master Dirthamus, whom you might remember, has given me new instructions. I am to take you to the land of the Philistines and we will test your true fertility.”
“You are mad!” Orpa lunged at Sumahtrid, only to bounce back against the wagon wall, reined in by the chains. “Dirthamus has been dead for years.”
“You do not know the powers you are reckoning with, girl. Dirthamus speaks to me from the netherworld. He sees much that is beyond mortal comprehension.”
“I don’t understand,” Orpa massaged her bruised wrists under the shackles. “Who will you mate me with? Why didn’t you just ask me?”
“Because you would refuse. We shall mate you to a selection of mighty Philistine soldiers and together with your blood, the blood of Eglon, we shall produce warriors the like of which the world has not seen since the days of Og King of Bashan.”
“No!” Orpa pulled on the chains harder until she was bleeding from her wrist.
“Yes,” Sumahtrid answered. “First we shall mate you, and then we shall fetch your sister. Ruth will not enjoy a long stay in Bethlehem.”
The wagon rode unperturbed, Orpa spoke no further, and Beor merely repeated, “Bethlehem.”
Ehud, my son.
I am here, God. Ehud answered in his dream.
I am pleased with you. You have done well. I have another mission for you.
Thank you, God. I am ready.
You must journey to Bethlehem, to Boaz. He will have need of you one last time.
For what? Ehud asked.
He will need consolation, but more importantly, he will need protection.
From what? Who?
Go to Bethlehem. Protect Boaz. And the Moabite.
Moabite? What Moabite? God, can you be a little more specific?
No further communication came to Ehud that night.
God, You know I can’t sleep when you do that.
Vered’s cough racked her entire body. She lay in bed under heavy covers, despite the summer heat. She knew the end was near. Boaz sat by her bed looking at her with anguished eyes.
“We had a good life together, my husband,” Vered said.
“Don’t talk like that,” Boaz pleaded. “Do not talk in the past tense. You may yet recover.”
“How else should I talk? I do not fear death. We have ever known its company and my tired bones do not reject its embrace.”
“I always thought I would depart before you,” Boaz said. “I was always the one running headfirst into trouble.”
“God must have other plans for you. My task is done. Our people have survived. We fed them. We saved them. They are our children, of sorts.” Vered cried fresh tears.
“Hush, my love.” Boaz took Vered’s hand. “Do not reopen that wound.”
“That is my one regret, Boaz. My one complaint. Can a woman not have one grievance towards God? Could He not have blessed us with one surviving child? Did we sin? Did you sin? Savior of Israel? Blessed of God? Bearer of His mighty gifts? Could He not spare this one precious gift? Is it so hard for Him?”
“Enough, my love,” Boaz said tenderly. “We cannot question God’s ways. We must do our part but accept his judgment. We’ve had each other and I for one am content with that.”
“I do not accept his judgment.” Vered sat up straighter in the bed. “Your line must continue. Take another wife after me. It is not too late.”
“You jest,” Boaz smiled. “I am older than you and will follow you shortly. I would not want another woman and what sane woman would want me? I do not enjoy this discussion, Vered. You are the only woman in my life.”
“Look at me, Boaz son of Salmoon.” Vered looked deeply into her husband’s eyes and grasped his hand tightly. “There is still life and strength left in you. Do not give up hope. It was not my fate, but there may be another whom God will bless. Promise me. Promise me, Boaz, that you will take another wife after me. That you will try.”
“How can I find anyone like you?”
“You can’t.” Vered smiled weakly. “Find someone younger that can bare children. It is the right thing. I feel it. Promise me.”
“I promise to try,” Boaz finally agreed.
“It is said that the undertaking of Boaz of Judah is as a done deed.” Vered leaned back against the bed and relaxed.
“I’m not ready to let you go,” Boaz said.
“It is not up to you or me, Boaz. I do wish I could see Naomi one more time. I miss her. How do you think they are faring in Moab? Do you think Mahlon and Kilyon took wives? Would they have found Israelites amongst those heathens? Perhaps they succeeded in continuing the line of Nachshon?”
“I don’t know, my love. Do not worry about them.”
“You are right. I’m not worrying about anything. Goodbye, my love. You made me happy. It was a privilege being your wife. Goodbye.” Vered closed her eyes, loosened her hold on Boaz’s hand and breathed her last breath.
“Goodbye,” Boaz answered. He laid her lifeless hand on the bed, stood up and wept. He stepped out of their house, a house that now felt strangely empty. He looked towards the gate of Bethlehem and noticed two strange women walking slowly towards the city. Their clothing looked more like rags and they carried nothing on them. They entered the gates of the city and a small crowd formed around them, blocking his view of the newcomers.
An outcry erupted from the crowd. Boaz walked in the opposite direction, his whole being consumed with the death of Vered. He thought his mind was playing tricks on him when he heard the name “Naomi” called out.
* * * * * *
Boaz’s wife died on the exact day that Ruth the Moabite came to the Land of Israel. – Tractate Bava Batra 91a
Boaz was eighty years old and never had children. – Ruth Rabba 6:2
Boaz made 120 feasts for his children but they all died during his lifetime. – Tractate Bava Batra 91a
Orpa went to the Philistines and bore six illegitimate children. – Zohar Hadash, Ruth 81b
As compensation for the four tears that Orpa wept for her mother-in-law, she gave birth to four great warriors (Goliath was one of them). – Tractate Sotah 42b
The night Orpa left her mother-in-law, she slept with one hundred heathens. – Ruth Rabba 2:20