Entreat Me Not to Leave You
A Readerís Theatre based on the book of Ruth
|Copyright © 2000, 2003 - All rights retained by author
|Written by: Jane E. Booth
Cast of Readers:
Naomi, an Israelite woman
Ruth, a Moabite, her daughter-in-law
Orpah, a Moabite, her daughter-in-law
Woman 1, a woman of Bethlehem
Woman 2: a woman of Bethlehem
Boaz, a relative of Naomi
Servant, a servant of Boaz
Elon, a closer relative of Naomi
NAOMI: Let me tell you a story, my child, before you go to sleep. No, you must listen, for this is very important. It is the story of your mother and father, and your grandmother, and your grandfather, and his two sonsÖone of whom might have been your father, my child, but it was not to be. No, you would not be you then, and I would not be myself--for I have changed, yes, I am like a new woman now that you are born. I have even changed my name again. Some days I feel almost as happy as when I was married to your grandfather. He was a good man, my Eli, but when the hard times came he was weak.
RUTH: Mother, where is the olive oil? Iíve looked everywhere! Iím making a cake for supper tonight; itís a special celebration.
NAOMI: On the shelf by the back door, daughter. (To the baby) My daughter, child. Though not of my blood, she is my daughter as surely as the sun will shine and the trees blossom in Judah. She chose to be my daughter, you know. Even though Mahlon chose her first, she had the chance to turn back. I suppose Iím getting ahead of myself. My husbandís name was Elimelech, and we were Ephrathites of Bethlehem in Judah. We had a good life, I knew everyone there, and they knew me. They called me Naomi, which means "my joy." I was truly pleasant then, for the Lord blessed me with two sons, Mahlon and Chilion. Yes, I know what their names mean, little one. Well, they were sickly and pining things when they were babes, both born small and early. But they lived, and we loved them. When the famine came, we had to leave Bethlehem. At least Eli said we had to go. We were starving, there was no work for husband, but in Moab there was work and food for all. Even when Eli left us, there was still work and food for my boys. But very little joy.
RUTH: Mother, are you well? The child is nearly asleep, and your voice sounds a little sad. Will you come help me set the table?
NAOMI: No, my daughter, not yet. My voice was sad a moment, but I was only remembering. I was telling the child about the time in Moab.
RUTH: When I first met you.
NAOMI: I resented you at first, my daughter! I thought Mahlon should have chosen a wife from a woman of his own kind.
RUTH: Iím sure he should have, but Mother, then I would never have known you.
NAOMI: The Lord brings good out of evil. You were a good daughter to me, you learned our customs quickly, and you kept the Sabbath and the holidaysÖyou did not turn back to your gods, not you. You changed my mind about foreigners. And you were a good wife to Mahlon.
RUTH: I wish we could have come back to Bethlehem before he died. He spoke of his childhood here, often.
NAOMI: The Lord didnít lift the famine until both my sons were in their graves.
RUTH: But you longed so much for Bethlehem we had to come back.
NAOMI: I longed for it, but you didnít have to come here with me.
RUTH: Of course I did! I couldnít let you go alone.
NAOMI: You left your own mother.
RUTH: I was no longer of her faith, or of her household. She told me to go. She couldnít believe I would leave the gods of Moab for the God of Israel. Youíve been a far better mother to me than my own, Naomi.
NAOMI: I remember. I told you to return to your motherís house. "May the LORD deal kindly with you as you have dealt with the dead and with me. May the LORD grant that you may find rest, each in the house of her husband." I kissed you both, and you both began to cry.
ORPAH: No, we will surely return with you to your people.
RUTH: We will stay with you, mother.
NAOMI: Return, my daughters. Why should you go with me? Have I yet sons in my womb, that they may be your husbands? Return, my daughters! Go, for I am too old to have a husband. If I said I have hope, if I should even have a husband tonight and also bear sons, would you therefore wait until they were grown? Would you therefore refrain from marrying? No, my daughters; for it is harder for me than for you, for the hand of the LORD has gone forth against me.
ORPAH: I will miss you, Naomi. I hope you do well in Bethlehem.
NAOMI: She kissed me good-bye, but you kept on clinging to me. Behold, I said, your sister-in-law has gone back to her people and her gods; return after your sister-in-law. But you said--
RUTH: Do not urge me to leave you, or turn back from following you. For where you go, I will go, and where you lodge, I will lodge. Your people shall be my people, and your God, my God. Where you die, I will die, and there I will be buried. Thus may the LORD do to me, and worse, if anything but death parts you and me.
NAOMI: I could say no more. I saw you were determined to go with me and be my friend as well as my daughter. The journey was hard.
RUTH: But when we came back, the women ran to meet you.
WOMAN 1: Is this Naomi?
WOMAN 2: Sheís so changed.
WOMAN 1: Is it you?
WOMAN 2: And who is that with you, Naomi? She looks like a foreigner.
NAOMI: Do not call me Naomi; my joy is gone. Call me Mara, for the Almighty has dealt very bitterly with me.
WOMAN 1: Where is your husband? And your two sons? Did they not return with you, Naomi?
NAOMI: I went out full, but the LORD has brought me back empty. Why do you call me Naomi, since the LORD has witnessed against me and the Almighty has afflicted me?
Call me Bitter. Call me Mara.
RUTH: They did call you Mara, but I always called you Naomi. You were only sad for a while, I knew you loved me still.
NAOMI: What shall we do now? We have no man to support us, and no money.
RUTH: PleaseóRemember what you told me in the land of Moab? That in Israel, the poor were allowed to glean among the ears of grain in a richer manís field.
NAOMI: I remember, but you do not know how to glean, my daughter, you are not practised in such work. And who knows how they will treat you, youíre not of our people.
RUTH: Let me go to glean among the ears of grain after one in whose sight I may find favor. Iíll be careful.
NAOMI: What could I say? We had to have food, and these fields were rich again.
RUTH: It was barley harvest. I found a field where the women were clean and friendly, and the servant in charge of the reapers was courteous. He even let me sit in the house for a little while. Thatís where I first saw the master.
BOAZ: May the Lord be with you.
SERVANT: May the Lord bless you.
BOAZ: Whose young woman is this?
SERVANT: She is the young Moabite woman who returned with Naomi from the land of Moab. She asked if she could glean, and sheís been working hard since morning.
BOAZ: Iíve heard of her. Listen carefully, my daughter. Do not go to glean in another field; furthermore, do not go on from this one, but stay here with my maids. Let your eyes be on the field which they reap, and go after them. Indeed, I have commanded the servants not to touch you. When you are thirsty, go to the water jars and drink from what the servants draw.
RUTH: Why have I found favor in your sight that you should take notice of me, since I am a foreigner?
BOAZ: All that you have done for your mother-in-law after the death of your husband has been fully reported to me, and how you left your father and your mother and the land of your birth, and came to a people that you did not previously know. May the LORD reward you r work, and your wages be full from the LORD, the God of Israel, under whose wings you have come to seek refuge.
RUTH: I have found favor in your sight, my lord, for you have comforted me and indeed have spoken kindly to your maidservant, though I am not like one of your maidservants.
BOAZ: Come here, that you may eat of the bread and dip your piece of bread in the vinegar. Servant.
BOAZ: Let her glean even among the sheaves, and do not insult her. And also, you shall purposely pull out for her some grain from the bundles and leave it that she may glean, and do not rebuke her.
NAOMI: Where did you glean today, and where did you work? May he who took notice of you be blessed!
RUTH: The name of the man with whom I worked today is Boaz.
NAOMI: May he be blessed of the LORD who has not withdrawn his kindness to the living and to the dead. The man is our relative! He is one of our closest relatives!
RUTH: He was so kind to me. He told me to stay close to his servants until they finished the entire harvest.
NAOMI: It is good, my daughter, that you go out with his maids, lest others fall upon you in another field.
RUTH: He protected me. All through the barley harvest, and the wheat harvest, too. We ate our fill of the grain and the Lord gave us everything we needed.
NAOMI: Yes, everything, although it took a little work on our part, too. Boaz might have gone on just protecting you for years if he hadnít been pushed.
RUTH: He only needed a little encouragement.
NAOMI: My daughter, shall I not seek security for you, that it may be well for you? And now is not Boaz our kinsman, with whose maids you were? Behold, he winnows barley at the threshing floor tonight.
RUTH: I know, but the gleaning work is over.
NAOMI: Thereís work enough to do now, child! Wash yourself, anoint yourself, and put on your best clothes.
NAOMI: It matters not if they are Moabite clothes. He hasnít minded that before. Go down to the threshing floor, but do not make yourself known to the man until he has finished eating and drinking, and his heart is merry.
RUTH: Why would I make myself known to him at alló
NAOMI: It shall be when he lies down, that you shall notice the place where he lies, and you shall go and uncover his feet and lie down; then he will tell you what you shall do.
RUTH: Is it a custom here?
NAOMI: Yes, he is our kinsman, and he will know what is required of him.
RUTH: All that you say I will do. I will go secretly, and lie down at his feet. He wonít know Iím there until morningÖor perhaps the middle of the nightÖ
BOAZ: Who are you? What are you doing there at my feet?
RUTH: I am Ruth, your maid.
RUTH: So spread your covering over your maid, for you are a close relative.
BOAZ: May you be blessed of the LORD, my daughter. You have shown your last kindness to be better than the first by not going after young men, whether poor or rich. And now, my daughter, do not fear. I will do for you whatever you ask, for all my people in the city know that you are a woman of excellence.
RUTH: Thank you, Boaz.
BOAZ: Wait. It is true, I am a close relative; however, there is a relative closer than I.
RUTH: Oh, no.
BOAZ: Itís all right. Remain this night, and when morning comes, if he will redeem you, good; let him redeem you.
BOAZ: If he does not wish to redeem you, then I will redeem you, as the LORD lives. Lie down until morning.
RUTH: I lay at his feet all night, but I couldnít sleep. I was afraid of the other man.
NAOMI: If he had meant to redeem you before, wouldnít he have already?
RUTH: I didnít know if Boaz wanted me or not. It seemed he did, but I know how the Israelites are about tradition.
NAOMI: Ah! Boaz had it all worked out, you can be sure.
BOAZ: Ruth. Donít tell anyone that you came to the threshing floor. Give me the cloak that is on you and hold it.
RUTH: It was his cloak. He gave it to me in the night. I held it, and he measured six measures of barley in it.
BOAZ: Do not go home to your mother-in-law empty-handed.
NAOMI: Ha! Indeed you didnít! I told you the man would not rest until he had settled it that day! I heard the story from the wife of one of the elders at the gate. Boaz went and sat there many hours until the other relative passed by.
BOAZ: Turn aside, friend, and sit down here.
ELON: What is it, Boaz? Have you something to settle with me? Have I offended you?
BOAZ: Sit here a moment. Elders! Please, come sit with us. I have a matter to discuss with you.
ELON: Iím waiting, Boaz.
BOAZ: Naomi, who has come back from the land of Moab, has to sell the piece of land which belonged to our brother Elimelech.
BOAZ: So I thought to inform you, saying, ĎBuy it before those who are sitting here, and before the elders of my people. If you will redeem it, redeem it; but if not, tell me that I may know; for there is no one but you to redeem it, and I am after you.í
ELON: Certainly. I know the field. I will redeem it. What is its value?
BOAZ: A moment, man. On the day that you buy the field from the hand of Naomi, you must also acquire Ruth the Moabitess, the widow of the deceased.
ELON: The Moabitess? Now, wait a momentó
BOAZ: In order to raise up the name of the deceased on his inheritance.
NAOMI: It wasnít that he didnít want you, I think. But he had his own sons and his own inheritance already. He turned white as a sheet.
ELON: I cannot redeem it for myself, lest I jeopardize my own inheritance! Redeem it for yourself; you may have my right of redemption, for I cannot redeem it. Here is my sandal to attest to the matter.
NAOMI: He whipped that sandal off so fast the dust flew into Boazí face. But he seemed not to mind. He held the sandal up high and called out to all the elders and the crowd that was standing around:
BOAZ: You are witnesses today that I have bought from the hand of Naomi all that belonged to Elimelech and all that belonged to Chilion and Mahlon.
NAOMI: The other man sank down on his seat again like a wet chicken. Look what he is missing, my daughter. He should have thought twice about that bargain!
RUTH: Iím glad he didnít.
BOAZ: Moreover, I have acquired Ruth the Moabitess, the widow of Mahlon, to be my wife in order to raise up the name of the deceased on his inheritance, so that the name of the deceased may not be cut off from his brothers or from the court of his birth place; you are witnesses today.
WOMAN 1 and WOMAN 2: We are witnesses.
WOMAN 1: May the LORD make the woman who is coming into your home like Rachel and Leah, both of whom built the house of Israel.
WOMAN 2: May you achieve wealth in Ephrathah and become famous in Bethlehem!
WOMAN 1: Moreover, may your house be like the house of Perez!
WOMAN 2: Whom Tamar bore to Judah!
WOMAN 1: Yes, through the offspring which the LORD shall give you by this young woman.
WOMAN 2: (Pause) Amen.
NAOMI: And that is the story, my son, how the LORD provided a husband for your mother, and a redeemer for his close kinswoman, and a child like the house of Perez whom Tamar bore to Judah, and like the child given to Abraham and Sarah when they were old and barrenÖa child for his old grandmother to lie in her lap and nurse and tell stories to, so the women could change her name from bitter to joy again.
WOMAN 1: Blessed is the LORD who has not left you without a redeemer today!
WOMAN 2: And may his name become famous in Israel!
WOMAN 1: May he also be to you a restorer of life and a sustainer of your old age; for your daughter-in-law, who loves you and is better to you than seven sons, has given birth to him!
WOMAN 2: A son has been born to Naomi!
WOMAN 1: We will call him Obed, because he is a worshipper of the true God, like his father Boaz, the kinsman redeemer; and his mother, true friend of Naomi, Ruth.
NAOMI: And that is what we called you, my son.
RUTH: Heís asleep, mother. Now come and help me with the cakes for the celebration. I cannot shape them as well as you.
NAOMI: Bless you, my daughter. I will come. And let our future sleep with the LORD God of Israel, blessed be His name forever.
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