This film, “The Story of Ruth,” is a fictionalized version of the true story taken from the Bible about two brave women who lived in the years circa 1100 B.C. Hollywood has taken great privilege in surrounding this tale with additional scenarios to produce a spectacular production geared to increase its box office profits. Nevertheless, the film is highly entertaining and worthy of watching.
Elana Eden - Wikimedia
The story opens in Moab with the father of Ruth taking his daughter to be raised in the Temple since he is unable to care for her at home. Her beauty leads her soon to serve in the Royal household where she is in charge of a young child, Tebah, who will be sacrificed on the altar of the King. The Moabites worshiped the god of Stone, named Chemosh, and were unfamiliar with the Jewish faith. Ruth (Elana Eden) first met Mahlon, a metal worker, who had fashioned a crown to be worn by Tebah at her sacrificial ceremony. The officials were unhappy with the crown and asked that it be made more lavish and radiant. Ruth first became aware of Mahlon’s god, the God of Israel, when he told her that his God did not believe in killing young girls as a sacrifice to God. She was curious about the strange God who was known as Jehovah, Elohim, or Adonai.
Mahlon’s Family History
Mahlon (Tom Tryon) had come to Moab with his family many years ago when there was a famine in the land of Judah. His father Elimelech, his mother Naomi, and his brother Chilion had to live among their enemies, the Moabites, as they were Israelites. Mahlon was attracted to Ruth and was arrested for having secret meetings with a daughter of the Temple and teaching her about his God. He was sent to the quarries where he was forced to do hard labor. Ruth was able to enlist help to have Mahlon escape from the quarries. In the process, he was injured and was close to death. His brother Chilion was also killed at that time. Ruth and Mahlon declared their love for one another and were married on his death bed.
Peggy Wood - Wikimedia
The Bible Tells the True Story
All of the foregoing is fictional and is not recorded in the Bible. The Biblical version begins with the following.
Ruth’s mother-in-law Naomi (Peggy Wood) was left alone as her husband Elimelech had died, and now her two son were gone also. Chilion’s wife Orpah agreed to return with Naomi to Bethlehem in Judah, which had recovered from the famine. Ruth asked Naomi if she could also go to Bethlehem. Ruth’s famous plea has come down to us as:
“Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay.
Your people will be my people and your God my God.
Where you die I will die, and there I will be buried.
May the Lord deal with me, be it ever so severely,
if even death separates you and me.”
Stuart Whitman - Wikimedia
Naomi and Ruth Arrive in Bethlehem
Chilion’s wife, Orpah, was a Moabite and she feared going to Judah. She stayed behind, and Naomi and Ruth made the trip together. When they reached Bethlehem, Naomi learned that her old homestead had been abandoned. Her husband Elimelech had two kinsmen in town, Boaz and Tob. Naomi suggested that Ruth might glean in the fields of Boaz since widows and the poor had the right to glean. Boaz was unkind to Ruth at first and she did not want to go back to his fields. Boaz’s servant came to Naomi’s house to bring them food and provisions, and Ruth and Naomi refused them. Boaz visited them and apologized, and Ruth went back to the gleaning fields.
Their kinsman Tob (Jeff Morrow) came to see them and promised to send his workmen to repair the roof and to bring provisions, though he would not give Ruth water because she was an idolatress. Boaz came to her rescue and gave her some water. He told Ruth “If you and Naomi ever need help, come to me again.”
Ruth is Called an Idolatress
The women of the village were distrustful of Ruth, the Moabitess, whom they called an idolatress. They claimed that their cattle had all died because of her. They wanted to get rid of her. Ruth said that she would talk to Boaz who had promised to help them. But Boaz was a member of the Council of Elders, who would judge Ruth. They ruled against her.
Tom Tryon - Wikimedia
Naomi Meets a Holy Man
Naomi was distraught because her daughter had been defamed and humiliated. She met a Holy man at the well named Jehoam. He promised Naomi that a prophet would rise up from her house whom many would worship as the Messiah.
Ruth is Defamed by False Witnesses
When the rains came, the well was filled again. Their crops were spared. Boaz told the Council that Ruth was under the law in another land, but that she was now a daughter of Judah. Two witnesses who claimed to be Israelites spoke against her. When they were unable to name the twelve tribes of Israel nor the Ten Commandments, they were identified as Moabs. Ruth said that she knew all of the commandments, one of which was “Do not Bear False Witness.” It was agreed that Ruth would stay among the Judeans and all would ask for her forgiveness.
The Levirate Law
Tob had taken a fancy to Ruth and learned that the Levirate Law would obligate him, as Ruth’s next of kin, to marry her. He sent a servant to Ruth with a beautiful dress that he wanted her to wear at the harvest celebration on the morrow. Naomi sensed that Ruth preferred Boaz. Ruth told Naomi that she did not want to attend the harvest celebration. Naomi said that she must, and she had a plan. The owners slept in the field on the night of the celebration. If Naomi went to Boaz on that night and sat on his blanket, it would be a signal to him that she wanted to marry him. Ruth thought the plan was foolhardy but agreed to do it.
Jeff Morrow - Wikimedia
Tob was Drunk at the Harvest Celebration
Tob stated that he would announce to the Council of Elders on the next morning that he intended to make Ruth his bride. At the harvest celebration, Tob became drunk and fell down when he was dancing with Ruth. All of the women laughed at him. Ruth did as Naomi told her, and went to Boaz as he slept in the fields.
Boaz Tells Ruth of His Love
Boaz awoke when Ruth arrived, and told her he was dreaming of her. He said “I love you, Ruth. I loved you from the first day I met you in my field. I want you for my wife.” Ruth reminded him of the Levirate law which would oblige Tob to marry her, as her next of kin. Boaz told her not to worry. He would take care of Tob.
Naomi informed Ruth that she had been praying for her and that a Holy man had told her that her son’s widow would have a large family, from which would come the Messiah.
Tob Relinquishes His Claim
Boaz told Ruth that he had failed. Tob would not renounce his claim. The day came when Tob and Ruth were to be married. One of the women who had previously denounced Ruth brought her flowers. Ruth spoke up boldly to Tob and the guests, telling him that she did not love him. She admitted that she had sought out Boaz on the threshing floor on the night of the harvest celebration. Tob was infuriated and said “Woman of Moab, I will permit no wanton to come into my house and bear my name.”
Map of Israel, Judah, and Moab Wikimedia
Boaz and Ruth are Married
Boaz said to Tob “Take off your shoe and give it to me.” This was a sign that Tob’s claim would not be valid. Boaz said “As next of kin, I will marry her.” He swore that nothing occurred between them on the night of the harvest celebration. They were allowed to go in peace as man and wife.
Naomi noticed that the Holy man was present in the crowd. Ruth bore a son who was named Obed, the father of Jesse, who was the father of King David. The prediction of the Holy man came true.
Much of the Film Story is Fictional
As stated, much fiction has been interspersed in the film’s story of Ruth. In the Bible, Tob backed out of his promise to marry Ruth when he learned that he would be taking on all of Ruth’s estate and debts from her husband and all of their children would be declared the children of Mahlon. The Hollywood version was entirely different, but made for an interesting story.
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