Story of the Chosen People - Helene Guerber

Ruth and Naomi

We are told that not very long after the death of Sisera, an Israelite named Micah stole eleven hundred shekels of silver from his mother. She, little suspecting that the thief was her own son, cursed the robber, and solemnly vowed to make a molten and a graven image, should she ever recover her property.

Oppressed by remorse for his guilt, Micah finally confessed his theft. He gave back the silver, and helped his mother set up the images in his house, where one of his sons acted as priest.

Still, as the priesthood had been strictly confined to the family of Levi, Micah was not satisfied with this arrangement. He knew no rest until he had secured the services of a young Levite, who, for a certain hire, promised to serve as priest to the images, although he knew that it was against the law.

Five spies from the tribe of Dan paused at Micahís house, when on their way to Laish, and there consulted the Levite. As he predicted that they would be successful, the Danites rewarded him by taking him and the images with them to Laish. They soon became masters of that city, and changed its name to Dan; and then the Levite was established there as their priest.

Another episode belonging to this epoch, is the story of a Levite, who, deserted by his wife, followed her to her fatherís house, and prevailed upon her to return to him. They set out upon their homeward journey late in the day, and were forced to spend the night at Gibeah where an old man entertained them hospitably in his own house.

Now the people of Gibeah belonged to the tribe of Benjamin, but they had grown as wicked as the Sodomites of old. They no sooner heard that there were helpless strangers in the city, than they attacked the house and forced the old man to give up the woman. Then they ill-treated her so shamefully that, when morning came, the Levite found her dead on the doorstep.

This crime roused her husbandís wrath to such an extent that he cut her body into twelve pieces, and sent them to the twelve tribes of Israel, with a full account of the wrongs he had suffered at the hands of the Benjamites.

The result was a general uprising of the people, who sallied forth four hundred thousand strong, and killed nearly all the Benjamites. Only a few among them managed to escape to the mountains, whence they returned, in time, to their old homes.



Here they married the maidens taken from a city which was destroyed; but as these were not enough to supply wives for them all, they got two hundred more by kidnaping the maids of Shiloh when they came out of their city to dance at one of the great national festivals.

The story of Ruth, which is told at length in the book bearing her name, is one of the most beautiful episodes of this age. It seems that a certain man of Bethlehem was driven by famine into the land of Moab, with his wife, Naomi, and his two young sons.

While in the land of the Moabites, these young men married two native women, Orpah and Ruth, and here father and sons died, leaving three widows to mourn their early death. Naomi was very poor, and in her grief she prepared to return to her own country and people.

When her daughters-in-law heard of this plan, they both offered to go with her, so that she need not make the journey alone. They all three started out on foot, but they had not gone very far when Naomi urged both young widows to go back to their fatherís house, where they would, in time, forget their sorrow, and even marry again.

Orpah listened to this advice, and after taking a tearful leave of Naomi, she slowly went home. But Ruth clung to her mother-in-law, crying: "Thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God. Where thou diest will I die, and there will I be buried."

As Ruth would not leave her, Naomi now took her to Bethlehem, her old home; and the two widows came there at the time of the barley harvest. They had no money wherewith to buy food, so Ruth, who was young and strong, went out into the country to glean; that is to say, to pick up the stray ears of grain which fell from the full sheaves.

She soon came to the harvest fields of Boaz, a rich kinsman of her father-in-law; and when this man saw the poor young womanís efforts to secure some grain, he kindly bade the reapers drop a few handfuls, so that she might have something to eat.