A happy ending: Bible times woman sort of like Cinderella
Is there a Cinderella story in the Bible?
Most people know the fairy tale of the beautiful, young woman forced to stay home and work while her mean stepsisters go to a dance to meet a handsome prince.
Along comes her fairy godmother, who changes a pumpkin into a coach and mice into horses. She decks out Cinderella to look like a gorgeous princess-to-be and sends her to the dance.
Cinderella meets and delights the prince, but must leave by midnight. As she hurries away, she leaves a glass slipper. The prince takes the slipper and searches for her — until he finds her and the shoe fits.
They marry and live happily ever after.
Which Bible story compares?
Some might suggest the real-life story of Esther, who became queen of Persia.
But this was no Cinderella story.
After the Persian king dumped his first queen, he launched a search for a replacement.
Esther was rounded up along with many other beautiful women.
One by one, the women were sent to the king.
After a night with the king, a woman was shipped off to his harem of concubines. She wouldn’t see the king again unless he specifically asked for her. She could forget about having a normal life and marrying the boy next door.
Esther was chosen to be queen, but she must have had a lonely life.
At one point, Esther hadn’t heard from the king for an entire month when her cousin pleaded for her help. An evil official, named Haman, planned to kill all the Jewish people. Esther’s cousin wanted her to talk to the king.
Esther knew she was breaking the law — and risking execution — if she went to the king without an invitation.
But she did so anyway, saving her people.
Esther lived through that ordeal, but happily ever after?
I’m not so sure.
So my pick for the woman most likely to get the Cinderella Award would be one named Ruth.
Like Esther, she has a book in the Old Testament named just for her.
Ruth’s true-life story begins after Elimelech and Naomi move with their two sons from Bethlehem. They settle in the country of Moab, where Ruth lives.
Ruth marries one of the sons.
In time, Ruth’s father-in-law dies. So does her husband and brother-in-law.
Naomi plans to return to Bethlehem.
She tells her daughters-in-law to go back to their moms.
Maybe then, they can get remarried.
One daughter-in-law agrees.
But not Ruth.
She won’t leave Naomi. A Boy Scout would be hard-pressed to compete with such loyalty. She sticks like glue to her grieving, bitter mother-in-law.
Does Ruth know she’s probably giving up any chance she’d have of remarrying?
Israelite men aren’t supposed to marry foreigners, who could lead them away from their faith.
And what will happen after Naomi dies?
It’s not like Ruth can just go get a typing job.
Yet it doesn’t sound like Ruth is worried about herself.
So the two women set out.
They reach Bethlehem at the start of the barley harvest and Ruth goes to work in the field of a man named Boaz.
In those days, people were instructed to leave grain behind for the poor.
And Ruth works hard, getting that grain.
She also captures the attention of the field’s owner — Boaz, who tells her to stay in his field.
Ruth is amazed by his kindness, but Boaz says he’s heard about everything she’s done for her mother-in-law.
Clearly, he is impressed.
He even invites Ruth to lunch, giving her bread and roasted grain. When Ruth returns to work, Boaz tells his young men to leave some bundles for her to glean and to be nice to her.
Ruth goes home with a bunch of grain, amazing her mother-in-law.
Ruth stays in Boaz’s field, working until the end of the barley and wheat harvests.
Here’s where you might say Naomi became Ruth’s fairy godmother.
Naomi doesn’t turn a pumpkin into a coach or mice into horses. She doesn’t wave a wand — suddenly putting Ruth in a beautiful dress while bluebirds sing.
But she tells Ruth to wash up and put on her cloak.
Then Naomi tells Ruth what to do to let Boaz know that she’d like him to marry her — according the customs of that time.
Before long, Boaz starts working out the details for their marriage.
Boaz tells one of his kinsman that Naomi is selling a parcel of land — and Ruth comes with the deal — so her husband’s name can be carried on.
To those of us living in the 21st century that doesn’t sound too great, but Boaz knew what he was doing.
By the rules of that day, another kinsman had first rights to the land and the widow.
But after Boaz talks to this other kinsman, the guy decides he doesn’t want the land or Ruth.
And to confirm it, the guy takes off — not a glass slipper — but his sandal and gives it to Boaz.
I guess that was easier than signing a contract and having it notarized.
Anyway, Boaz marries Ruth and they have a son.
Boaz and Ruth’s son is named Obed, who will grow up and have a son named Jesse.
Ruth’s grandson, Jesse, grows up and has a son named David.
We know David as that shepherd kid who killed the mighty giant Goliath — and who later became King of Israel.
Guess who became a descendant of David?
We know him as Jesus.
Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ came from a long line of really interesting people — not the least of whom was a selfless woman who shelved her own dreams to do hard field work and take care of her mother-in-law.
Now that’s what I’d call a real princess.