Warrior Prophets 3 Chapter 25
Plea for Seduction
“No,” Naomi moaned. “Not Garto. You must marry Boaz.”
“Boaz?” Ruth asked in confusion. “Last night you wanted me to marry Alron.”
“I know. That was a mistake. Forget Alron. You must marry Boaz. You must.”
“No. He is old and hesitant. Garto is here, he’s young and he’s ready. How much longer can I wait for Boaz?”
“Tonight. You must go to him tonight.”
“No. I’ve already told Garto I would marry him, with or without the approval of the Elders.”
Noami picked up the dress she had dropped on the floor, dusted it off and smoothed it out on the table.
“Ruth, my daughter. Please sit down.” Naomi motioned sharply to the opposite chair.
Ruth sat down slowly, not understanding her mother-in-law’s intensity.
“Listen to me, Ruth.” Naomi reached for Ruth’s hands across the table. “The most important thing is that the line of Nachshon must continue. You are the one who is meant to continue that line. Boaz may not realize this. He is cautious. He waits for consensus from the Elders. You must take the choice out of his hands.”
“What do you mean?”
“It will be best for you and you will finally know the peace of a noble husband and an established home. It must be Boaz, our kinsman, in whose field you gleaned together with his maidens. You must go to him tonight, after the harvest feast. Bathe, perfume yourself and put on your beautiful dress. Wait until after the festivity. Do not let him see you beforehand. He will sleep by the threshing floor, next to the grain, as is his custom. Note where he lies down. Wait until he is sleeping. He will most likely be inebriated as well. It will be dark. Uncover his legs and lay down next to him and then do as he directs.”
“What?” Ruth stood up from her chair, releasing Naomi’s hands. “Would you make me into a harlot?”
“If that is what it takes, yes. The line must not be extinguished. This is what we must do. It is what my ancestress Tamar did with Judah when she disguised herself as a harlot upon the crossroads. Your own ancestress did the same with your grandsire Lot even earlier than that. His daughters got him so drunk he did not know who he lay with. You must bind Boaz to you, even if he does not know it. He will be merry from the wine. It will be dark. He may think you one of the many maidens that seek such frivolity and may even succumb to the male impulses of the night. The night of the harvest festival is now known for such revelry. Lay with him and in the morning he will be yours.”
“Why do you ask this thing of me?” Ruth responded. “Do you know why I first set my eyes on your son? Do you know why I left my people and followed you to Bethlehem? Do you know why I’ve stayed here, a pauper, gleaning in the field with the poorest of Israel? It was in part because of your modesty. It was because Mahlon did not look upon me merely as an object. It was because of your kindness. It was because I believed the God of Israel is a compassionate God, a God that appreciates and demands modesty between men and woman. That is what I love about Boaz. Now you would have me betray that very principle? You would destroy the one area of respect between us? You would turn me back to the worst licentiousness of my Moabite ancestry? Is that what you want?”
“Yes,” Naomi answered, locking Ruth in her gaze. “The sacrifice is great, but the stakes are even greater. Sometimes we are tested on the ideals that are dearest to us. After many years of waiting, Abraham and Sarah were finally blessed with their beloved son Isaac. For years, Abraham had publicly denounced idol worship and child sacrifices. Yet what does God then ask of him? To sacrifice his own son! His entire dream and hope for the future. Abraham had to betray everything he stood for. It was his greatest test and his greatest moment.”
“Is God then asking me to do this thing?” Ruth asked.
“I don’t know. God does not speak to me. But I know this is right. And I know tonight is the night. Boaz may not choose the Levirate marriage option. He may not choose to fulfill his role as Redeemer. This is not only for you, or for Boaz. It is for Elimelech, my dear Elimelech. It is for Mahlon, my poor boy. And it is for me. Do not extinguish my last hope. Do not let me witness the utter destruction of our family. We are of proud, noble descent and tonight may be the very last opportunity to rekindle that flame. Please, Ruth. Please. This will be the ultimate kindness. For me.”
Ruth did not answer, but rather paced back and forth in the house. She stopped and looked at the new dress Naomi had been sewing. She appreciated the intricate patterns and the workmanship of the stitching. For the first time Ruth noticed the quality of the white fabric. It was a wedding gown.
“I will do what you have asked of me,” Ruth stated.
“Bless you, child. May God light your way.” Noami arose and hugged Ruth. They both cried, but for different reasons.
Boaz symbolically threshed the last of the barley. The freed kernels were added to the large pile of grain and there was spontaneous clapping by all of the assembled workers and their families. A plentiful harvest was good for all and Boaz was known for his generosity.
Knee-high makeshift tables forming three sides of a square occupied the threshing floor. Boaz sat on the ground beside the central table which was heavy with food. His uncle Ploni sat to his left and Ehud to his right. Four dozen others sat down as well. A servant came and poured water over Boaz’s hands. Servants washed the hands of the other guests. Boaz recited the benediction over the washing of the hands, dried them thoroughly and took one of the fresh pitas. In a loud voice he recited: “Blessed are You, God, our Lord, King of the world, who draws forth bread from the land.” A loud “Amen” resounded throughout the threshing floor.
Boaz dipped his pita in a bowl of olive oil and ate a morsel. The assembly did likewise. After that the food flowed freely. They were served slices of steaming roasted lamb with a sauce of pomegranate juice and pine nuts. A mash of peas and beans mixed with spicy peppers were placed in bowls next to the olive oil. Maidservants took turns bringing trays of fresh pita to the guests. Guests bit into fluffy cakes of wheat baked with honey, dates and almonds.
Fine wine flowed from jugs to goblets and from goblets to mouths. Boaz partook liberally of all the food and more of the wine, again grateful to God for the bountiful harvest. Boaz kept looking for the arrival of Ruth, but was disappointed by her absence. Garto was curiously missing as well. Naomi finally arrived to the threshing floor as torches were lit in the darkening dusk. Boaz was eager to ask her of Ruth’s whereabouts, but Naomi sat herself at the edge of one of the further tables and did not meet Boaz’s gaze.
“Oh, that our wives could see this bounty, Boaz,” Ploni said, raising his goblet. “Thank you for including me in your feast. My own would have been a paltry thing. I will of course compensate you for everything my servants and I eat. But it is better to celebrate together.”
“As you wish, Uncle,” Boaz answered distractedly.
“I notice that the Moabite is not here,” Ploni commented approvingly.
“Ruth was invited, and I am concerned by her absence,” Boaz replied.
“You would be better off having nothing to do with that heathen, nephew. Though others may think well of her, I will never forget her father’s cruelty nor that our law forbids them to us.”
“That is a subject we will discuss in the full assembly of the Elders and decide once and for all. First thing in the morning.”
“Master Boaz,” Garto approached the head table breathlessly. “I am so sorry I was delayed to the feast. I have the most wonderful news.”
“It is good to see you, Garto. Have you seen Ruth?” Boaz responded.
“It is about Ruth. She has accepted my marriage proposal and we are to be married tomorrow. As you have been a father figure to both of us, we would be honored if you would perform the wedding ceremony.”
Boaz looked blankly at Garto, not comprehending his words.
“Master Boaz? Are you well?” Garto inquired.
“You are to be married to Ruth? Tomorrow?” Boaz finally uttered.
“Yes. I know it is sudden, but there is no time like the present.”
“Yes. I see. I…I will be honored to officiate at your wedding. But the matter of Ruth’s eligibility is still undecided.”
“With all due respect, Master Boaz. If Mahlon son of Prince Elimelech felt it was appropriate to marry Ruth, who am I to think otherwise? Ruth does not wish to wait or deal with the debates of the Elders. The people of Bethlehem have come to know and admire Ruth no matter what her legal technical status, meaning no disrespect, Elder Ploni.”
“This is how your people flaunt the law?” Ploni asked Boaz.
“This is a curious development,” Ehud chimed in. “And as Boaz previously stated, the law is not clear and has not been determined. Where is Ruth now?” Ehud asked Garto.
“I don’t know. I left her at Naomi’s house. Perhaps she is preparing herself for tomorrow. I do not know how women prepare for such things. I expect she has more on her mind than tonight’s feast. I shall also leave early, with your permission, Master Boaz.”
“Of course, Garto. Of course. Do what you must.”
“Thank you, Master Boaz. Thank you. I know you care deeply for Ruth and only want what’s best for her. Your blessing on our marriage is most meaningful for us.” Garto excused himself. He grabbed some slices of lamb, stuffing them into his mouth as he left the threshing floor.
“Well, better he than you,” Ploni said.
“This is not right,” Ehud added.
“What is not right, blacksmith?” Ploni asked him.
“Ruth is not meant to marry Garto,” Ehud answered.
“You are correct. She should not marry any Israelite. But I’m glad my nephew is now spared from his irrational infatuation with the Moabite.”
“Boaz, what have you to say?” Ehud asked.
Boaz drained his goblet and refilled it.
“Perhaps we thought incorrectly,” Boaz said slowly. “Everything God does is for the best. Perhaps this is why I hesitated. It is better to avoid controversy. Why should I be the talk of the town, for marrying Ruth of Moab, no matter how honorable and noble she is? Perhaps we did not interpret God’s signs correctly. Who knows? Maybe Garto has some Nachshonite blood we don’t know of? It is all for the best.” Boaz drained another goblet of wine. “It is now time for my customary speech.” Boaz stood up slowly with the help of his walking stick. He waited a moment until his head stopped spinning, took a deep breath and stood firmly. The assembly quieted down to listen to their host.
“Brothers and sisters,” Boaz addressed the group. “God has shown us great favor this year. Though we have lost loved ones to the famine, this harvest has been unlike any in memory. We are turning a new page in our history. God is answering our prayers. Where once there was poverty, we now have wealth. Where once there was little, now there is plenty. The parched earth has been watered. The trees blossom and give their fruit; the land is worked and gives its produce. But let us not forget the days of hardship, nor take our new blessings for granted. The blessings come from God and it is Him, His laws and His precepts that we must obey.”
“There is one precept in particular that I wish to stress,” Boaz continued, making sure he had everyone’s attention. “Licentiousness. I know that in other fields tonight, after their respective feasts are over, men and women will frolic. But not here!” Boaz stamped his walking stick loudly on the threshing floor. “Farmers will take from their fresh grain and pay harlots. Workers will find maidservants and cavort in the dark fields. But not here!” Boaz stamped his stick again. “I will sleep here tonight, as is my custom. My old bones would much rather prefer the comfort of my own bed. But I do this as a sign. Neither I, nor man of my employ, will take from our grain to pay a harlot’s fee. No worker, no maidservant will cavort in my field. Not here!” Boaz banged again. “I expect better of those in my employ. I treat you better. I pay you better, and now I demand better. We are children of Israel, not immoral heathens that constantly crave the pleasures of the flesh. It pains me that many of our brethren have followed the heathen ways, but we will change that. We change that by stating loud and clear. Not here!” Boaz banged his stick a final time, looked every single person in the eye amidst the flickering torches and sat down. He did not notice Naomi’s reddening face looking down intently at her empty plate.
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Ruth Chapter 3
1 And Naomi her mother-in-law said unto her: ‘My daughter, shall I not seek rest for thee, that it may be well with thee? 2 And now is there not Boaz our kinsman, with whose maidens thou wast? Behold, he winnoweth barley to-night in the threshing-floor. 3 Wash thyself therefore, and anoint thee, and put thy raiment upon thee, and get thee down to the threshing-floor; but make not thyself known unto the man, until he shall have done eating and drinking. 4 And it shall be, when he lieth down, that thou shalt mark the place where he shall lie, and thou shalt go in, and uncover his feet, and lay thee down; and he will tell thee what thou shalt do.’ 5 And she said unto her: ‘All that thou sayest unto me I will do.’
Many of the themes, especially the motivations of Naomi, Boaz and Ruth are drawn from the excellent series by Dr. Yael Ziegler.