Nearly 3000 years ago there lived a King whose fame is still on our lips today. Songs were made about his ability to lead and conquer in battle. He possessed charisma, devotion, popularity, and was a skilled musician who some say wrote over a 1000 songs. The Hebrew scriptures record him as a “man after God’s own heart.”
He rose to fame quickly after he called upon the power of Ya, God, to help him defeat a giant, named Goliath, with just a sling and a stone. Before he was king, before his military accomplishments, and before he defeated Goliath, he was a shepherd boy from a little town called Bethlehem in Israel. His father named him David.
Story Telling Time with Babed
One of David’s earliest memories takes him back to the campfire gatherings. He was very young, but the story telling time created in him a hunger to know everything about his tribe, all of the events of the children of Abraham, and how Ya blesses them. These stories caused a curiosity to arise in David. He wanted to know why Ya had chosen to bless Abraham and his children? His grandfather’s stories made the biggest impact on his heart and mind. Somehow, David began to see that all of the stories were woven together, and he wondered what his part would be?
The crackling fire brought forth a good amount of warmth as we finished up our supper meal. My brothers and I sat down in a circle around the fire for the evening storytelling time. The stories of Ya’s love for the children of Abraham were shared with vivid detail. Tonight, however, it was Babed’s turn to share the great stories.
Babed is my grandfather, but I have heard his friends call him Obed. His beard was gray and black. His hands were calloused from years of work, but they were gentle when he held me close to tell me he loves me. He loved all of my brothers and sisters, but I was his favorite.
All eyes focused on old Babed. “David! Come and sit on my knee.” He didn’t have to ask me twice. I scurried over and jumped toward him, fully expecting him to catch me. Then, I buried my hands in his beard just to see if they would disappear from sight.
“Please, Babed, tell me again about our family. How did we get here?”
Babed replied, “Do you mean how Ya created the world?”
“No, tell me about great grandfather Boaz and how rich and kind he was. And tell me about great grandmother, Ruth” David asked him with such wonder and excitement that it made all of the brothers’ chuckle.
Babed’s eyes became mesmerized by the fire as if the flames were taking him back to another time. We knew that he was thinking of his own childhood and the stories that were shared to and about him. He looked at each person around the fire in quietness, yet him seemed to be talking to each of us. In the stillness something was about to happen, something important was about to be shared, somebody was going to learn how we fit into the great stories.
“You know our little town of Bethlehem means ‘the house of Bread’, but as this story begins, there was a famine so severe that my grandmother Naomi with her family left Israel and went to the country of Moab to find food and work. When they arrived, Moab looked like a place of promise as her two sons found wives. This joy was short lived. When her husband and both of her sons died , Naomi changed her name to Mara which means bitter. My grandmother was devastated. At this low moment, she heard that the famine was over in Bethlehem. Even though it was a long trip to take by herself, she returned home alone.
“No, she didn’t. You are leaving out the part about your momma, my great grandma Ruth”, said David.
Babed chuckled, “I was just checking to see if you were still listening or if you had fallen asleep. So, let me continue. Naomi was determined to return home. However, a home with no family is a place of incredible loneliness and shame. The loss of her husband and sons was a sad story that Naomi would have to live out among her old friends in Bethlehem. But Ya, had another story in mind for Naomi.
One of her daughters-in-love was determined to return to Bethlehem with Naomi. This would be your great grandma, Ruth. Something wonderful happened when Ruth married Naomi’s son, Chilon. Naomi showed a love toward Ruth that she had never known before. She helped Ruth learn to cook and to be a great wife. However, it was the stories of Ya that Naomi shared with Ruth that made such an impact on her life. No one in all of Moab had shared the great stories of the God who called a people for Himself like Naomi.
Ruth loved Naomi so deeply that she too became a follower of Ya. For my mother, Ruth, the change was so deep, there would be no turning back to her old life. She clung to Naomi and begged her not to send her back to Moab. “Where you go, I will go, where you stay, I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God will be my Ya.” Naomi could not resist nor change Ruth’s mind, so the ladies made the long journey back to Bethlehem, together.
They arrived in Bethlehem at one of the busiest times of the year, the beginning of harvest. Everyone would be busy from sun up to sun down in the grain fields. First they would have to cut the wheat and then they would work on beating the wheat to separate the wheat from the chaff. This was hard work, but this was necessary as the wheat would be the main source of food for the entire year.
Even though workers collected as much wheat as possible, the poor could also help. The laws regarding harvest time required the workers to leave the dropped grain needles for the poor to gather up behind them for their own food. With very little resources, Naomi knew that they needed to collect as much grain as possible if they were to survive the winter. Naomi instructed Ruth to go and pick up the left-over grain. She could have gone to any field, but it just so happened that she started working in my father, Boaz’s field.
Let me tell you a little bit about your great grandmother Ruth. My beautiful mother had long black hair and skin that was as soft as a flower. Her voice was full of life that seemed almost as though she was singing and talking at the same time. There was a peace and love in her eyes that made it easy to look at her. When she did look at you, you felt as if she knew everything about you, and still loved you.
She was a strong woman also and never avoided hard work. She had the strength to work from dawn to dusk which is one of the reasons that my dad noticed her. Many said that she worked harder than most of my Daddy’s workers. When dad saw her working in his field, he gave her special treatment. He had heard that his distant relative, Naomi, had returned with a foreigner and was familiar with her plight. My Daddy made sure that she had enough and that his workers gave her special treatment. Naomi and Ruth were grateful for Ya’s immediate provision for their lives.
Now it just so happens that in the special laws given to us by Ya, there are specific guidelines to make sure our families grow. Not all families are blessed like your daddy, Jessie, having 8 sons. When a man dies, one of his brothers is supposed to marry his brother’s widow and have children. This would help the brother’s legacy continue. But, in grandma Naomi’s case, there were no more males in her immediate family to marry her or Ruth, which added to her brokenness. This is why she encouraged Ruth to return home, she had no guarantee that Ruth would ever have a husband again. However, the laws also provided for a way for a distant relative to marry a widow by redeeming (to pay a price) her. Who would do such a thing for Naomi and Ruth?
My daddy, Boaz, had never married which is surprising because he was wealthy and kind. Most women had quit thinking about Boaz for marriage as men were not known to live long lives and Boaz was now an older man. So, you can imagine the surprise that my daddy had when he began to think that Ruth liked him. On one special night of the harvest, my momma followed Naomi’s instruction to show, in a very bold way, that she wanted to be his wife, that is of course, if Daddy would redeem her. My momma was taking a big chance presuming that Daddy would not reject her. However, when she made her intentions known to him, he was elated.
There was only one other problem to deal with, Daddy had a cousin who was a closer relative to Naomi and so technically, he was next in line to redeem her. Daddy approached the cousin in front of the elders to see if the cousin wanted to become Ruth’s, the foreigner, husband. Being that my mom was so beautiful, he was quick to accept the opportunity to marry her. Then my daddy also said, “But you get the mother-in-law, Naomi also. You will have to take both women into your family.” At this, the cousin rejected the offer. Since the cousin did not want both women, my daddy, asked that they seal the deal for him to be the kinsman redeemer.
“Oh, this is the fun part,” said David. “Let me do it.”
Babed chuckled once again and took off his sandal, handing it to David.
Then, my daddy, Boaz, declared in front of all of the witnesses, “Today, I have redeemed Naomi and her daughter, Ruth”. Then he took his shoe and gave it away. At this, David threw grandpa Babed’s shoe into the darkness.
Then David ran around the circle taking shoes off of his brothers’ feet and started exchanging them with one another. “Now you own his land and you get his wife.” David would repeat himself to each of his brothers who were happy to take the others’ property.
David, “where is my sandal?” Babed asked.
“I’ll get it. Thanks grandpa Babed. I wish I could have met your momma, my great grandma Ruth.”
“You would have liked her very much. By the way, you have her eyes and her spirit. She loved to sing and worship. In fact, she is the one who taught me how to play the lyre, like I have taught you. May you grow up to be a great worshiper of Ya.”
“I will Babed. You tell the greatest stories. Maybe one day Ya will help me do something great so I can have a story to tell. of Ya’s love and faithfulness to our family”