For a long time, I’ve had a project in the back of my head. It is an updating of the Book of Ruth with the setting being the Civil War. Eli and Naomi Armstrong leave their home in Bethlehem, Indiana to go live in Moab, Kentucky with his cousin and now business partner, Lot Bowman. Eli has failed as a farmer and is enticed by the opulent lifestyle of his merchant cousin, who breeds and sells horses on the side. Lot also has a black concubine. Eli dies and then both his sons do as well, leaving Naomi alone with her two daughter-in-law Ruth and Orpah. Orpah is happy with the Southern lifestyle and unapologetic about the Cause. However, Ruth sees a new sense of faith in both her husband and Naomi, and when the war ends, both she and Naomi return to Bethlehem. Well….you know the high points of the story.
One thing I was struggling with was how to present Naomi telling Ruth to lie beside Boaz within the framework of a Victorian era. Then, in reading something the other day, I realized that what she was essentially doing was proposing to him. So here is that scene, which I will use for this future project.
The moon shone across the fields, now shorn of their wheat, as Ruth moved silently toward them. The men lay near the tall bound bundles, each with his own bedding spread beside them. She had watched carefully to see where Boaz was settled and made every effort not to awaken anyone.
Her heart beat rapidly within her, though she kept control of her emotions. She knew that approaching him was risking herself, despite the fact that she had sensed his tenderness toward her on many occasions. Why he did not propose, she did not know, but it was difficult for him to hide the fact that he had a fondness for her.
She came upon him where he lay, and for a moment watched his face in peaceful repose. Her heart swelled with the admiration she held for him. It wasn’t that he had wealth, or that he had status in the community that she admired. Though a man approaching middle age, he had fine, strong features, though he was not as startlingly handsome as some of the younger men she had met. Above all, she felt he was a man of integrity and strong faith. She recalled the faith of Mahlon, and the faith of Naomi, and here was their cousin, a man of like, precious faith that she could trust to guide her life.
She knelt gently beside him, and then placed her hand on his shoulder, hoping to rouse him. Boaz opened his eyes, and at first could not adjust to the fact that she was there. He sat up quickly, and looked into her face, trying to search for meaning.
“Ruth…what are you doing here?” He looked at her, puzzling, trying to fit it together in his mind.
“Boaz, I wanted to speak to you. I am a poor widow, sir. These past few months, I have worked diligently to ensure that I and my mother-in-law have been provided for. I want to thank you for helping me in that.”
“Ruth, you have no need to thank me. I am your cousin, as I am Naomi’s. A man is supposed to provide for those in want among his family. But surely, my dear, you did not stay just to offer me your thanks.”
She hesitated, and her gaze met his. “No, that is so. I stayed behind tonight because I wanted to…I wanted to ask you sir if you would take away my burden. I wanted to ask if you would marry me.”
His face changed as he looked at her. He smiled, shaking his head that she had been so bold, but also knowing she was surrendering her pride to do so. He couldn’t believe that this lovely young woman was offering him marriage. It should’ve been he who had offered it to her.
“Ruth, there are many young men who would be glad to marry you. Why do you approach me?” He ran his hands through his hair to comb it. “I also know that Lucian has had his eyes on your property. I would want to ensure he has no intentions toward you first.”
Ruth nodded. “I understand that. I do understand you don’t want to create trouble with your cousin.”
“My dear”, he began, holding her gaze, “I want you to know I consider it a profound honor that you would ask this of me. I realize you have risked your reputation in doing so. Ruth, you must know that I do care for you. You are not only a lovely young woman, but I’ve seen your character, as you’ve cared for Naomi. The only reason I did not ask you before now is because I believed myself too old to hold your interest.”
She shook her head. “Mr. Armstrong, I would be proud to be your wife. I’m not looking for a young man, someone who can cater to romantic needs. When I married Mahlon, I saw the strength of faith he had, the faith of his mother. I wasn’t raised with that, Boaz. My father lived loosely, and my mother was stiff and proud because of it. I needed something more. I saw in my husband a light of hope, of a different life. I believe God led me here, to find the roots of that faith among his people. I see that same faith in you, Boaz, that strength of relationship with God that I need in my life.”
Boaz surveyed her for a moment. He couldn’t believe his good fortune. Here was this lovely lady asking to marry him. He hoped in his heart….he prayed he knew Lucian well enough.
“Ruth, I would ask one thing of you. I want to approach Lucian. If he has no intention of asking you to marry him so that he can have Eli’s property, then I will certainly, without a doubt marry you myself.” He brushed back her fine black hair. “My dear girl, you should leave here though before it turns light. People might think wrongly of you, and I wouldn’t want that. Do you trust me to do what is best for you as your cousin?”
She looked into his steady brown eyes and nodded. “Thank you, sir.” She stood and began to walk away when he said, “Wait.”
“I know you would not want charity, but I do not want you to return to Naomi without something.” He picked up a nearby wheat basket and filled it with wheat. “You can take this to the mill, and they can turn it into flour for you.”
She took the basket and nodded, and then slowly disappeared into the night.
Boaz thought of tomorrow. He must be convincing. He must somehow convince Lucian, because he wanted to marry Ruth. This dear, honorable girl who had sacrificed her pride to come to him.