“But Ruth replied, “Don’t urge me to leave you or to turn back from you. Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God. Where you die I will die, and there I will be buried. May the Lord deal with me, be it ever so severely, if even death separates you and me.” — Ruth 1:16-17
I love The Book of Ruth. You may remember hearing the passage above, sung or spoken at weddings. Though originally spoken to a mother-in-law who had become more than an in-law, the passage is quite romantic, isn’t it?
I’ve read The Book of Ruth more times than I can count, so I thought I knew the whole story. If you had asked me, I would’ve said, “The Book of Ruth is a wonderful story–a historical account of one of the four women mentioned in the lineage of King David, one of only six women in the lineage of Jesus.
It’s short–only four chapters–so it doesn’t take long to read. Unless you like to dig. BUT, is it really just history? Is it only a romantic tale? I believe each book is included in the Bible for a reason.
Is there a reason beyond sharing the history of this woman?
When I wrote the novel, Annabelle’s Ruth, I did a little digging. I read and re-read the Biblical story until I could relate it in my own words. But after my novel was published, I was asked to tell a little about the history, so I studied it again.
I was surprised by what I saw.
Especially since I’d read it so many times. How had I missed what I found this time? If you’re familiar with the story, you know how it begins. The widows are leaving their home in Moab. Naomi persuades one daughter-in-law to return to her family, but Ruth refuses to leave. She insists on staying with the woman who has become a mother to her. The woman who’d taught her to believe in the God of the Hebrews.
And I’m sure, you remember how Ruth went out to find work and ended up in the field of a man who was a kinsman of Naomi’s husband. His name was Boaz. He had heard of Ruth. Good things were spoken about her in Ephratah (Bethlehem)–and that was saying something. The Ephrathites could be a little judgmental about their non-Hebrew neighbors.
Boaz first drew my attention and appreciation by choosing to show kindness to this foreign woman who had shown great loyalty and love for his kinswoman. After all, she’d willingly given up the possibility of remarriage and having a family of her own, by following Naomi. That kind of thing was important in those days.
One thing I’ve learned: when you make that kind of sacrifice in life–for love and faith–God sees.
So, Boaz gave orders that his reapers drop extra barley for the woman to pick up. He ordered his men to keep their hands off her. And then he does something that pierced my heart. When he speaks to Ruth, he tells her to stay in his fields, so he can protect her. And then he invites her to partake of the water provided for his workers. I was immediately reminded of Jesus at the well in Samaria, offering living water to the woman at the well.
Ruth 2:10-14 “Boaz went over and said to Ruth, “Listen, my daughter. Stay right here with us when you gather grain; don’t go to any other fields. Stay right behind the young women working in my field. 9 See which part of the field they are harvesting, and then follow them. I have warned the young men not to treat you roughly. And when you are thirsty, help yourself to the water they have drawn from the well.”
10 Ruth fell at his feet and thanked him warmly. “What have I done to deserve such kindness?” she asked. “I am only a foreigner.”
11 “Yes, I know,” Boaz replied. “But I also know about everything you have done for your mother-in-law since the death of your husband. I have heard how you left your father and mother and your own land to live here among complete strangers. 12 May the Lord, the God of Israel, under whose wings you have come to take refuge, reward you fully for what you have done.”
But that’s not all. He invites her to dine at his table. Now I’m beginning to see a definite shadowing of a future event.
14 At mealtime Boaz called to her, “Come over here, and help yourself to some food. You can dip your bread in the sour wine.” So she sat with his harvesters, and Boaz gave her some roasted grain to eat. She ate all she wanted and still had some left over.”
There’s more to this story as Naomi guides her daughter-in-law through an ancient Hebrew ritual. For the conclusion of this beautiful story, click here: Ruth’s Legacy
After their husbands perish in a fishing boat accident, Connie Cross determines to follow her mother-in-law, Annabelle, from Southern California to Tennessee. Her misgivings begin as they cross the bridge over the muddy Mississippi River. In their new town, where living conditions are far below their previous expectations, they must set up a household and hunt for work to survive. Thanks to the kindness of Annabelle’s handsome, young cousin, life begins to settle down. But Connie has a secret that could uproot them once again.
Inspired by the Book of Ruth, Annabelle’s Ruth is a 1950’s era story, set in western Tennessee. How will Connie adapt to her new life amid the cotton farms, racial tension, and culture shock?
2015 Grace Award Winner for General Fiction/Women’s Fiction