From Pleasant To Bitter

Ruth : The Story of Choices

In Three Parts


Part One : From Pleasant to Bitter


The early rains did not come. The earth swallowed the seeds as they were planted, but nothing sprouted. The dry spell continued until it could be called only one thing: Drought.


The drought stretched on and on until the attending famine forced hard decisions onto the family.


Elimelek gathered his family. No discussion took place, only the sorrowful voice of the father, who briefly laid out the plan to avoid starvation. A few of their possessions were placed into an oxcart, and the night was spent in fitful sleep.


The early morning sun saw the family already making their way to Moab.

It was the only reasonable one of the two choices: starve at home or move to a place where a strong back could put food on the family table.


As was the custom between the Israelites and the Moabites, the family was welcomed into the community.


Time passed and Mahlon and Kilion came to the age when marriage was on their minds.


Across town Ruth and Orpah had turned 13. They were busy in their homes learning the skills required of a wife and mother. They had reached the age of eligibility to be noticed by the matchmaker. Soon husbands would be chosen for them.


As they busied themselves in the town marketplace taking care of their assigned chores, they each snuck peeks at the young men, wondering which one might be the one chosen for her.


The town matchmaker, once hired, eagerly began his duties. His list of the eligible women detailed every possible choice.


Then, one day, he returned to Elimelek’s home with news. Wives had been found for each of the brothers. The girls had agreed; the dowries paid.


A double wedding was arranged and the town became a whirl of festivities: banquets, dancing, singing, the friendly threats of bride abduction by the groomsmen, the joyous chatter and giggling among the unmarried girls.


A larger house had been found and the moving of the family possessions was quickly completed as everyone pitched in with carts and strong arms. Naomi welcomed her new daughters into the home and carried out the introduction to married life with such grace and love that Orpah and Ruth quickly grew to love her as she loved them.


A short time after the festivities ended, Elimelek struggled out to the living room one morning.


I don’t know what’s wrong,” he said. “Maybe you should get the doctor.”


The doctor slowly shook his head. He had been leaning over Elimelek for some time now, inspecting, probing, listening. “It’s nothing that I’ve ever seen before. He has pain from inside his body at places where I can feel lumps under the skin. I don’t know anything to do for him. I’m sorry.”


A few days later Elimelek died.


The funeral was a grand event. The whole town turned out, wailing and mourning over Naomi’s loss.


Orpah and Ruth showered their mother-in-law with love and affection, trying to take her mind off her loss.


Eventually a routine returned to the household. Mahlon and Kilion attended to their mother as only loving sons can do.


Then one morning, Mahlon struggled from his bed. “I don’t know what’s wrong,” he said. “Call the doctor.”


The son now complained of the same symptoms his father had died from.


Again the doctor shook his head, puzzled by the mysterious illness. “I better check Killion while I’m here. Where is he?”


The search found him still in bed, unable to move.


Fewer townspeople came to this double funeral.


Whispers of omens and bad spirits fed through the streets. No one could remember a time when all the men in a home had died so closely together.


Some even suggested that Naomi, which meant Pleasant, should be renamed Marah, meaning Bitter.