The Antiquities of the Jews, 5.318–5.337

Flavius Josephus  translated by William Whiston

« J. AJ 5.275–5.317 | J. AJ 5.318–5.337 | J. AJ 5.338–5.351 | About This Work »

3181. Now after the death of Samson, Eli the high priest was governor of the Israelites. Under him, when the country was afflicted with a famine, Elimelech of Bethlehem, which is a city of the tribe of Judah, being not able to support his family under so sore a distress, took with him Naomi his wife, and the children that were born to him by her, Chillon and Mahlon, and removed his habitation into the land of Moab; 319and upon the happy prosperity of his affairs there, he took for his sons wives of the Moabites, Orpah for Chillon, and Ruth for Mahlon. But in the compass of ten years, both Elimelech, and a little while after him, the sons, died; 320and Naomi being very uneasy at these accidents, and not being able to bear her lonesome condition, now those that were dearest to her were dead, on whose account it was that she had gone away from her own country, she returned to it again, for she had been informed it was now in a flourishing condition. 321However, her daughters-in-law were not able to think of parting with her; and when they had a mind to go out of the country with her, she could not dissuade them from it; but when they insisted upon it, she wished them a more happy wedlock than they had with her sons, and that they might have prosperity in other respects also; 322and seeing her own affairs were so low, she exhorted them to stay where they were, and not to think of leaving their own country, and partaking with her of that uncertainty under which she must return. Accordingly Orpah staid behind; but she took Ruth along with her, as not to be persuaded to stay behind her, but would take her fortune with her, whatsoever it should prove.

3232. When Ruth was come with her mother-in-law to Bethlehem, Booz, who was near of kin to Elimelech, entertained her; and when Naomi was so called by her fellow citizens, according to her true name, she said, “You might more truly call me Mara.” Now Naomi signifies in the Hebrew tongue happiness, and Mara, sorrow. 324It was now reaping time; and Ruth, by the leave of her mother-in-law, went out to glean, that they might get a stock of corn for their food. Now it happened that she came into Booz’s field; and after some time Booz came thither, and when he saw the damsel, he inquired of his servant that was set over the reapers concerning the girl. The servant had a little before inquired about all her circumstances, and told them to his master, 325who kindly embraced her, both on account of her affection to her mother-in-law, and her remembrance of that son of hers to whom she had been married, and wished that she might experience a prosperous condition; so he desired her not to glean, but to reap what she was able, and gave her leave to carry it home. He also gave it in charge to that servant who was over the reapers, not to hinder her when she took it away, and bade him give her her dinner, and make her drink when he did the like to the reapers. 326Now what corn Ruth received of him she kept for her mother-in-law, and came to her in the evening, and brought the ears of corn with her; and Naomi had kept for her a part of such food as her neighbors had plentifully bestowed upon her. Ruth also told her mother-in-law what Booz had said to her; 327and when the other had informed her that he was near of kin to them, and perhaps was so pious a man as to make some provision for them, she went out again on the days following, to gather the gleanings with Booz’s maidservants.

3283. It was not many days before Booz, after the barley was winnowed, slept in his thrashing-floor. When Naomi was informed of this circumstance she contrived it so that Ruth should lie down by him, for she thought it might be for their advantage that he should discourse with the girl. Accordingly she sent the damsel to sleep at his feet; 329who went as she bade her, for she did not think it consistent with her duty to contradict any command of her mother-in-law. And at first she lay concealed from Booz, as he was fast asleep; but when he awaked about midnight, and perceived a woman lying by him, he asked who she was;— 330and when she told him her name, and desired that he whom she owned for her lord would excuse her, he then said no more; but in the morning, before the servants began to set about their work, he awaked her, and bid her take as much barley as she was able to carry, and go to her mother-in-law before any body there should see that she had lain down by him, because it was but prudent to avoid any reproach that might arise on that account, especially when there had been nothing done that was ill. 331But as to the main point she aimed at, the matter should rest here,—“He that is nearer of kin than I am, shall be asked whether he wants to take thee to wife: if he says he does, thou shalt follow him; but if he refuse it, I will marry thee, according to the law.”

3324. When she had informed her mother-in-law of this, they were very glad of it, out of the hope they had that Booz would make provision for them. Now about noon Booz went down into the city, and gathered the senate together, and when he had sent for Ruth, he called for her kinsman also; 333and when he was come, he said, “Dost not thou retain the inheritance of Elimelech and his sons?” He confessed that he did retain it, and that he did as he was permitted to do by the laws, because he was their nearest kinsman. Then said Booz, “Thou must not remember the laws by halves, but do every thing according to them; for the wife of Mahlon is come hither, whom thou must marry, according to the law, in case thou wilt retain their fields.” 334So the man yielded up both the field and the wife to Booz, who was himself of kin to those that were dead, as alleging that he had a wife already, and children also; 335so Booz called the senate to witness, and bid the woman to loose his shoe, and spit in his face, according to the law; and when this was done, Booz married Ruth, and they had a son within a year’s time. 336Naomi was herself a nurse to this child; and by the advice of the women, called him Obed, as being to be brought up in order to be subservient to her in her old age, for Obed in the Hebrew dialect signifies a servant. The son of Obed was Jesse, and David was his son, who was king, and left his dominions to his sons for oneandtwenty generations. 337I was therefore obliged to relate this history of Ruth, because I had a mind to demonstrate the power of God, who, without difficulty, can raise those that are of ordinary parentage to dignity and splendor, to which he advanced David, though he were born of such mean parents.

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