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Joshua then made a covenant with them, took a large stone, and set it up as a witness of their promise to serve the Lord their God, and Him alone.
After this, Joshua, the servant of the Lord, died, being one hundred and ten years old.
About this time the people buried the bones of Joseph, which, you may remember, they brought up with them from the land of Egypt.
Although I have written several letters about this nation, my dear children, it is not my intention to give you their particular history: I have merely attempted to tell you some parts of it, in a way that I thought might interest, not without indulging a little hope that it might also instruct some of you. My wishes will be gratified, if any thing you may here meet with should induce you to search farther into that book which was written by Holy men of old, as it was put into their hearts by the spirit of God, and which should never be read in a careless or inattentive manner, or without praying to God that He will enable you to understand what you read.
Hoping that the stories which I have chosen may interest you, I remain
WHEN the children of Israel first returned to their native land they were not governed by kings; but the principal person, and the one possessing most power, was called judge over the land, to whom they looked up as they had done to Moses. These judges were also prophets,(9) and made known to the people the will of their God; they went with them to battle, and often through the might of Him in whom they trusted, led them safely back.
"Now it came to pass in those days, when the judges ruled, that there was a famine in the land:" and a man, named Elimelech, and Naomi, his wife, went into the country of Moab, hoping to find greater plenty. Whilst there, Elimelech died, and left his wife, with her two sons, alone, in a foreign land; still Naomi remained there, and when her children were grown up to be men, they married young women of the country. The wife of one was named Orpah, and the other Ruth;
after a few years, Naomi's two sons both died, and then she began to think of returning to her own people, for she had heard that the Lord had visited them, and given them bread.
Naomi must have felt very desolate (2) at the idea of going back to her own land alone, not knowing whether she would find any of her early friends alive; on the other hand, there was nothing to induce her to stop where she was, but the graves of those she had loved best. She would not ask her daughters-in-law to go with her, because she felt she could offer them nothing which could at all make up to them for leaving their people and their religion, for their worship was very different; she knew that, most probably, in a few years, she should die, and then they would be left alone and solitary, in a land of strangers.
We find that Orpah and Ruth both set out with her, but she entreated them to return, saying, "Go, return each to her mother's house; the Lord deal kindly with you, as ye have dealt with the dead, and with me;" then she kissed them, and they lifted up their voice and wept: they both loved her, and were loth to part, but Orpah could not make up her mind
to leave the home of her youth. We read that "Orpah kissed her mother-inlaw, but Ruth clave unto her." "Then said Naomi, behold, thy sister-in-law is gone back unto her people, and unto her gods: return thou after her."
But the gentle Ruth loved Naomi too well to do this, and her answer must indeed have given comfort to the heart of the desolate wanderer; for she said, "Intreat me not to leave thee, or to return from following after thee, for whither thou goest I will go; and where thou lodgest, I will lodge: thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God: where thou diest, will I die, and there will I be buried; the Lord do so to me also, if aught but death part thee and me."
When Naomi found that Ruth was fixed to go with her, she left off persuading her to return,-and it must have been very cheering to her to have had such a faithful companion to cheer her on her weary way.
They reached Bethlehem about the beginning of barley harvest, and Ruth went to glean in the fields, where she was seen by the rich man to whom the fields belonged, and who was distantly related to Naomi. This man's name was Boaz: he
asked who she was, and when his men had told him, he spoke kindly to her, and told her to keep in his fields and to glean after his servants, whom he had desired to treat her kindly; and when she was thirsty, he said, "Go unto the vessels and drink of that which the young men have drawn." Then she fell on her face, and bowed herself to the ground, and said unto him, "Why have I found grace in thine eyes, that thou shouldst take knowledge of me, seeing I am a stranger?" And Boaz answered and said unto her, "It hath fully been shewed me all that thou hast done unto thy mother-in-law since the death of thine husband, and how thou hast left thy father and thy mother, and the land of thy nativity, and art come unto a people which thou knewest not heretofore. The Lord recompense thy work, and a full reward be given thee of the Lord God of Israel, under whose wing thou art come to trust.'
Thus, you see, Ruth's dutiful conduct to her mother did not go unrewarded; and here I will take occasion to make one or two remarks, which are called forth by this interesting story. It is our duty to do what we can to comfort those that are unhappy; and this duty becomes more