However, she converted to
Judaism. The first painting shows Naomi's loving care as Ruth left
behind all her family and all her former beliefs. Naomi welcomed Ruth
into their home and tribe and taught her the ways of Judaism.
When the two sons also
died, Naomi was devastated. She changed her name from Naomi, which
means pleasantness, to Ma'arah, which means bitterness. Jewish women
were not allowed to inherit at that time. Thus Naomi was rendered
destitute. She told Ruth and Orpah that she could not provide for
them. Naomi planned to return to Bethlehem and asked that they each
should go back to their homes. After much argument, she convinced
Orpah to return but Ruth would not leave her side. Ruth's poetic reply
is an often quoted and timeless passage: "Wither thou goest, I
shall goest. Your people shall be my people and your God, my God.
Where you die, I will die and there I will be buried."
So Ruth returned
with Naomi back to Bethlehem. This was a very brave act because she
was a Moabite and Moabites were despised enemies of Israel. During the
previous time of the Exodus, the Israelites had passed through the
land of Moav and had asked for water. The Moabites not only refused
them but also ran after them and killed as many as possible. From then
on, the Moabites became enemies of Israel. And in following Naomi,
Ruth forfeited the opportunity to remarry or have any life other than
to provide for Naomi. This responsibility weighed heavily on Naomi.
times the mandate was for field owners to leave a portion of their
field unharvested so that the poor could glean from them. Ruth, after
laboring in the fields, was able to provide for Naomi. Their
relationship comes full circle as depicted in this painting. The one
who was taken and nurtured becomes the caregiver and nurturer.
One of Naomi's
relatives was Boaz and he was a very wealthy landowner. Ruth was
gleaning his fields when he saw her. He thought she was very
dignified, modest and attractive. He heard how loyal and loving she
was to his cousin, Naomi. He instructed his workers to actually leave
bales of grain for Ruth to take home for Naomi so that she didn't have
to work so hard. This relationship went on in this tacit manner for a
while, until Naomi felt something should be done. She wished to give
Ruth a husband, a home and happiness.
she instructed Ruth to go at midnight to the threshing room floor
where Boaz slept and lay down at Boaz's feet and to do whatever he
instructed. When he awoke and saw her at his feet, he was surprised,
delighted and also concerned for her honor. He couldn't believe that
she would be interested in him, a man so much older. He was concerned
that her honor would be tarnished if someone saw her there, so he put
his cloak over her and sent her back to Naomi. He told her he would
take the necessary steps to make her his wife and they did marry.
and Boaz were also important because they were the great-grandparents
of King David. Samuel wrote the Book of Ruth in order to prove the
worth of David's lineage. In the time of David, King Saul was
threatened by David's rise to power. Saul's advisors spread propaganda
to counteract David's popularity. "How could you want a king with
Moabite blood? A man whose great-grandmother is Moabite is not fit to
be our king." Samuel wrote the Book of Ruth to defuse that
propaganda, not denying that David was Ruth's great-grandson, but
illuminating that she was a heroic and devoted woman.