BOAZ

EXCERPT FROM CHAPTER 23

Boaz and his oldest son Nathan are returned from inspecting their barley fields for harvest. The older man finds that yet again Marmne, Nathan's wife, had brought a woman for him to consider as a bride. Boaz is weary of this game.

“Father,” a voice came from behind him, “let me introduce our guests.” Nathan had arrived up the stairs with Ethan, Boaz’s youngest son, trailing behind him. The man bowed to Boaz and his sons.

Standing at the opposite end of the roof were a man and a woman richly dressed. The man was plump, Boaz could see that he did not work outside. Their robes were of blue silk and the color was matched by the painted coloring on the lids of the man's eyes. This was the custom from the north. From both of their wrists hung bracelets of twisted gold. The woman wore gold ear loops.

“Ah, we are honored to be your guests,” he said, “this is my principal wife,” he indicated the woman beside him. Boaz wondered how many other wives he had. “Here is my third daughter,” he said placing a hand on her back with a little push forward toward Boaz. “She is as valuable as the eyes of my head,” the man said. “I see you have a grand house and prosperous fields.”

Boaz looked at the girl. Her eyes we caste down her face blushing slightly. He found himself troubled, “she is fair,” he said to the father, “how many summers has she seen?”

Her father ignored the question whispering to the girl, “raise your eyes child, so your future husband may see their beauty.” She was richly dressed but this only served to make her seem very young, she lacked the confidence to match her magnificent cloak. “Are her eyes not delightful?” the man said. Her eyes did not fix on Boaz but looked past him. She looked scared to him.

Boaz and his wife had arranged marriages for both of their daughters when it was their time. Each had been excited at the prospect of becoming a bride and yes each was a little scared as is natural. But this girl was too young even to marry a boy as young as his son, Ethan.

Knowing that it would be cruel to marry this girl so young to a man his age he said, “see how she lights up our gathering, she is beautiful indeed. Her eyes are like rare stones,” he said kindly to the child. Then turning to the parents he said, “But perhaps far too beautiful for an old man like me.”

Glancing at his wife the man said, “you are too modest my friend.” He took the girl's hand and placed it on Boaz's arm. Boaz could feel it tremble. This man was beginning to irritate the older man.

“She will serve you well,” her father said, “she will bring forth many children for you, like the stars of the night.” Boaz daughters had been much older than this girl before they went to their husbands. The old man doubted she had made blood even ten times, she was still a child.

“This beauty will make some fine boy a bride, Boaz said, “but I will not take her, beautiful though she is, as my wife, I will not have this child to my bed.” He patted the girls hand saying, “when it is your time you will not need to be afraid.” Placing the girl's hand back in her father's hand, he said, “she is a lovely child, should you not cherish her for a few more years?”

The wife and her husband were somewhat insulted at his answer having expected to negotiate a bride price. But he had made it clear that he had no interest in their daughter.

Looking at Mariamne the wife said, “I was told that this man desired a wife, it may be that he is, as he says, too old to take a bride.”

“Our host,” her husband said sending his daughter away across the roof to sit, “no doubt fears his dried up manhood could not bring my daughter satisfaction.”

Boaz looked at directly into the man's eyes at the insult, but said nothing. The challenge was not answered, after a moment of silence Boaz gave a slight bow and turned his back. They collected the girl and their bondsman and left.

Seeing that her plan to bring a new wife to the house had failed again, Marimne came from the back of the roof by the stairs to stand beside her husband.

“So, the girl was young,” she said to Boaz, “what of it? Are we women not all young when we become brides.” While she followed all customs of modesty when speaking to the men, Marimne was never at all modest with her opinions. “That woman should be so honored as to become a wife in our house” she said.

Boaz sat on one of the chairs around the table indicating to Nathan and his wife to do as he had done. He plucked one of the cakes from the table along with some cheese tearing off a piece and popping it in his mouth. Ethan stood there and seemed unsure if he was invited to sit or leave.

“Stay son, you are old enough to hear the business of this family.” he said deciding for him. Nathan's and Marmne son and daughter were down playing in the courtyard so it was just the adults.

“Marmne,” he said choosing his words carefully, “you are kind to try to find a woman for me. She was just too young. If I were to take her as a wife she would still be strong in her,” he paused to choose his words, “in her desire, when I would be old and past these things.”

“You are strong and will be for years,” she answered, “and if you give her sons then she would have them to care for.”

Boaz knew that many men his age would have taken the girl as a wife and bedded her not caring what it would mean to her as she grew up. This was not uncommon among men who owned property. If they could provide for the children that was enough in many peoples eyes.

“I would have a woman, not a girl,” he answered her shaking his head. “That child needs to grow into herself for another summer or more and be wed to a boy who she can grow to hold in her heart. Was that not what your parents did for you? Was it not what my wife and I did for both you and Nathan?” He smiled to himself knowing that His daughter-in-law had chosen the girl because she was young and would not threaten her position as the one who ran the house.

“May the Lord provide such a woman for you,” she said arching one eyebrow, “for surly no one else can find one you want.”

THE MOABITESS

A novel by Neal W. Arnold

This is the only offical website for Neal W. Arnold, author of the biblical novel, THE MOABITESS.