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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Illustrate the meaning of “A Bird in the Hand is Worth Two in the Bush” (without using the actual phrase or literal example). (01/10/08)

TITLE: For a Time in the Country of Moab
By Karen Wilber


Naomi sat alone among the women who came to comfort her. Several of them were widows, yet none had experienced the devastation that was her sole inheritance. In a nearby tent, two widows wept as they prepared bodies for burial. I should be with them, thought Naomi, those are my sons. But Naomi, sunk deep in despair, couldn't lift herself from the ground.

Naomi had married well. Her husband, Elimelech, was a man of standing in Bethlehem. His clan traced their ancestry back to Judah through Nahshon, who led their tribe through the wilderness, and Amminadab, whose daughter married Aaron, the High Priest. Elimelech's position in one of Bethlehem's 'first families' brought him considerable admiration. When Naomi gave birth to their sons, Kilion and Mahlon, her future was secure.

Her arms was full.

Each morning, Elimelech joined the elders at the gate as they conducted the town's business. But Elimelech began to come home from these meetings distant and silent. Naomi knew that she shouldn't question him too closely about city affairs, but his countenance troubled her.

One evening, Naomi was discussing the household budget with their steward when Elimelech entered the family compound. His clenched jaw, visible even beneath his beard, told her that the day's negotiations had been particularly troubling. She dismissed the steward and approached Elimelech's side.

“We are leaving Bethlehem,” Elimelech declared.

“Our home? Why? When?” Naomi asked.

“As soon as we load up our possessions.”

“Where are we going? Where will we live?”


“Across the Jordan? Isn't it dangerous? Can't we at least stay within our tribe, within the boundaries of Israel, our promised land?”

“Ha! A land of empty promises. Famine is in the land and there will be no harvest again this year. The elders asked me to give up what I have to help others, but I do not wish to stay and feed those who have not saved up their own grain. I will not risk my sons' inheritance. There is no future here. We will start anew. I shall increase my fortune on the plains of Moab."

“But we would not starve here. Surely our family would survive the famine. Our grain and flocks will insulate us from Israel's troubles. We have enough ....”

“Quiet! I don't want enough. I want more. We are taking our flocks, our grain, our possessions, and our sons and leaving.”

As they departed Bethlehem, Naomi found herself in agreement with Elimelech. She too was restless for more. Perhaps, in Moab, they could make alliances that would ensure prosperity for generations. With their caravan of goods, Elimelech's family went to live for a time in the country of Moab.

The King of Moab shrewdly welcomed Elimelech into his tents and granted him a parcel of land. His plans began to bear fruit. The women envied Naomi her wealth, her prosperous husband, and her handsome sons.

Then things began to fall apart. A mysterious malady claimed many of their animals. Crops and trading agreements failed. Naomi quietly sold pieces of jewelry to maintain the illusion of wealth. Then Elimelech grew ill and died. His dying words chilled Naomi's soul. “We should never have left.”

Her sons lost their attachment to Judah and married Moabite women. Ten long years produced no children. They sold their flocks, their land, and their fine clothing to feed their diminished family. And yesterday came the final blow. Kilion and Mahlon were dead. Without children to carry the family name and line, Naomi, Elimelech and their sons were dead forever. Their branch, withered, would bear no fruit.

Her arms were empty.

Naomi's anguished cry tore through the muted voices of her comforters. “Yahweh. I have sinned. I ran away from my neighbors' need. I ran away from you. I forsook your blessings for the riches of the world and now I have nothing. I don't deserve your kindness. I place myself under your judgment. Deal with me however you wish.”

“Ima Naomi?” Strong arms embraced her. It was Ruth, her precious daughter-in-law. No. More than that; the daughter she'd always wanted back when anything seemed possible. “A caravan from Judah has just arrived with news. The harvesters are gathering in Bethlehem. Your God has provided food for your people once again.”

Elimelech, I will return empty handed, Naomi thought bitterly as she rose from the floor. Will the promised land ever offer me promise again?

“Ima” is a familiar form of “mother” in Hebrew.
Scripture references:
Exodus 6:23
Numbers ch. 2, 7, 10
Ruth ch. 1

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This article has been read 1155 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Dee Yoder 01/17/08
Beautiful re-telling of the story of Naomi. I like that you chose to high-light the part of the story BEFORE the most familiar section about Ruth showing her devotion to her mother-in-law. Love the characterizations; they bring this story to life.
Dorothy Purge01/17/08
I have always loved the story of Ruth and Naomi. Yours is beautiful.
Peter Stone01/19/08
Wonderful journey into Naomi's past, examining the causes of their later plight.
Verna Cole Mitchell 01/19/08
This was a great Bible story to illustrate the proverb, and you told it beautifully.
Joanne Sher 01/20/08
I was totally engrossed and engaged. This felt so true-to-life - you have added a new depth to one of my favorite Bible stories. Wonderful.
Paula Titus 01/21/08
Beautiful insights into how Naomi must have felt - an important charachter that often gets left out of 'Ruth' :)
LauraLee Shaw01/22/08
I could feel the emotion and passion throughout this piece. Excellent.
Holly Westefeld01/22/08
Interesting take on the topic with a biblical story.
Sheri Gordon01/22/08
I love this Bible story, and your retelling of it is masterful. You did a great job of showing the proverb through this story -- I have never thought of that part of the Ruth story before. Excellent job with the topic.
Sally Hanan01/22/08
There's nothing to red ink :) It's hard to get historical detail into short fiction, but you managed to pull it off with feeling.
Yvonne Blake 01/22/08
I love this story... and it shows this topic very well.
The short lines: "Her arms were full. Her arms were empty." were very effective.
Jan Ackerson 01/22/08
I loved how you took the less familiar part of the book of Ruth and illuminated it for us. Super!
Debbie Roome 01/22/08
I'll have to go and read Ruth again. Eye opening and well written.
Rita Garcia01/23/08
The story of Naomi is one of my favorites. I enjoyed the creative spin you gave this part of her story. Fantastic!
Beth LaBuff 01/24/08
Every year I would read the books of Esther and Ruth to my daughters. :) This is such a beautiful portrayal of Naomi's story. You've read between the lines of the Bible story and brought this to life. Wonderful writing!