How to read a long story – a little at a time

Gleaning by Arthur Hughes Pose this question at the family dinner table. (Or wherever your family is gathered together.) True or false: Dumpster-diving was practiced during Bible times.

Want to find out? Read our scripture together as a family. Since it’s a long story, use the following plan to read and talk about our story in stages, over the course of several days. Read a passage and then discuss the question(s) or do the activities. (Scroll down for suggestions on reviewing this story with preschoolers.)

 

Read in Ruth Readers notes Talk about or do…
Chp 1, verses 1-2 written as 1:1-2 Elimelek (or spelled, Elimeleck) is
pronounced: ee-LIM-eh-lek. Mahlon => MAH-luhn. Ephrathite => EF-ruh-tight.
What is a famine? Where have we heard of Bethlehem before? Find Bethlehem and Moab on a map (look here). How long do you suppose it took to travel there?
1:1-5 Orpah => OR-puh.
The Moabites and the Israelites were enemies! In fact the Israelites had strict laws forbidding these foreigners from participating in the Israelite community (Deuteronomy 23:3).
What is an “unusual” place you’d like to visit? Why does Moab seem like a strange choice as a place for an Israelite to go?

Naomi has bad news! What do you suppose life was like for women back in Bible times?

1:6-18 In a patriarchal society, where women did not have access to jobs, widows were completely dependent upon men – either a grown son, or another husband (if they were able to remarry).
Choices, choices! Which choice would you make: Go with Naomi or go back to “safety?” What could have made Ruth decide to follow Naomi’s God? Why do you suppose Ruth was so devoted to Naomi? Where do you suppose this loyalty come from? Who is someone to whom you are loyal?
1:16-18 Verse 16b, c is our key Bible verse for this Rotation. The “b, c” means the second and third portions of verse 16. Why does this seem like such an extreme promise for Ruth to make? What promises have you made lately? Any this radical?
1:19-21 Mara is pronounced: MAY-ruh.
The meaning of names was important in Bible times. Naomi meant “pleasant;” Mara meant “bitter.”
How is Naomi feeling? She is hurting! She is moaning about her situation! She is doing what is called “lamenting!” Read together the classic Psalm of lament: Psalm 13:1-2. When have you lamented? Do you suppose that a little bit of lamenting is okay every now and then?
1:22-2:13 Elimelek => ee-LIM-eh-lek. Boaz => BO-az.
For the laws which set up gleaning, read: Leviticus 19:10; 23:22
What does “gleaning” mean? (It was like welfare for the poor.) What sorts of programs do we have today to help people get food? Make a plan to attend FiSH Fri Service Night.
2:14-23 Israelite law required all farmers to leave dropped grain (or other crops) in the fields for the disadvantaged to glean, however it was the landowner who determined the generosity of the gleanings! In verse 20, what word is used to describe Boaz’s relationship to Naomi’s family? A close relative? Nearest kin? Guardian-redeemer? Who do you have in your family who takes care of you?
Is Naomi still lamenting? What has caused her attitude to change? Count all the ways Boaz showed kindness to Ruth.
3:1-18 According to Israelite laws, the nearest blood relative (a “kinsman redeemer”) was to marry a widow to continue the family line. Naomi is setting up a plan to implement this process. Which verses tell you that Boaz is an honorable man? How are things looking for Ruth and Naomi? Why do these demonstrations of loyalty seem counter to the Israelite-Moabite prejudice?
4:1-10 Is this a coincidence that Ruth finds her way to Boaz’s fields, or is it God’s grand plan to bless the life of Ruth and Naomi through Boaz? (Methodists say that God works inside of people, to transform them, and others around them.) What did you think of the handing over of the sandal? In what way do you seal promises?
Remember Ruth’s lavish pledge to Naomi? (1:16b, c) What do you suppose Ruth thinks of her promise now that Boaz is going to take care of her? Do you suppose that Ruth gave thanks to God? From this story, what does God teach us about caring for others?
4:13-22 You may wish to take care in how you read verse 13. What is the significance of the family tree? (King David was their descendant!) David had a great great great… (many greats)… grandson whom we talk about a lot, and who was born in Bethlehem just like Obed; who was it? (Jesus!) What would have happened with Jesus if Ruth hadn’t gone with Naomi?

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Reading and talking about the story for younger children:

Here are several versions of the story:

The cover of The Little One's Bible The Little One’s Bible

This Bible storybook has appropriate questions on each page.

 
The cover of The Beginner's Bible The Beginner’s Bible

Show a map and point out Judah. Identify Moab as the place where Ruth and Naomi were.
At the end of this story, add in the part about Obed being the grandfather of King David and about David being the ancestor of Jesus. Draw your family tree.

 
From a Jelly Telly video on Ruth A video by Jelly Telly (What’s in the Bible?): Ruth

 
What’s in the Bible: popsicle stick puppets – Ruth (If reading this in an email, you can watch this video on YouTube.)

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Photo credits:
Gleaning, a painting by Arthur Hughes is in the Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

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More family talk on Esther (part 2 of a reading plan)

Our current Rotation story covers several chapters in Esther. Start with part one of our reading plan (covering chapters 1 – 3 in Esther) breaking the story into manageable chunks so that you can review it a little bit over several days. And here is part two, covering Esther, chapters 4 – 10.

Start off your discussion time by asking family members to tell the story up to where you last left off. Why not use a fun way to do this! Watch the first part of our story in this video. (If you are reading this in an email click here to view the video.)

Or use one of these ways to retell the story:

  • Begin the story with one sentence such as “Our story starts off with King Xerxes having a big party.” Let each person add one line to the story until you are caught up on the story.
  • Pictionary style: Take turns drawing parts of the story (and guessing what is being drawn!) Then put the pictures in story order.
  • Tell the story with inaccuracies and let them correct you — especially fun for the younger ones!

Note: Some portions of our story are rather graphic, especially for younger kids. For example, people are hanged or impaled on poles, depending on which version of the Bible you are reading. To be on the safe side, ahead of your family reading time, plan to skim a passage to check out what you may need to adjust in your reading.

Read in Esther Talk about or do…
4:1-7 What is sackcloth? (A definition). Can you imagine sitting on a heap of ashes? What do you suppose the advantage is of such public display of sorrow? How do you show sadness? Discuss other outward signs of inward conditions? Adults: You’ve heard it said that we need to help our children name their emotions but what about naming our own emotions? Do you ever do that? I’ve learned it’s important to say to myself: Right now, I am doing _____ (frustration or depression or whatever), now what can I do?
4:8-11 Does your child’s classroom ever use “talking sticks?” Why does it appear to work?
Name an instance when you feel “unsafe” talking. For me it was speaking up in class as a child! Oh, if I could have imagined someone holding out a gold scepter as a sign of my acceptance! What “gold scepters” do we need to display to others?
4:8-14 What is Mordecai’s challenge to Esther? Esther was in a pickle. If she went to the king, she could be killed. If she did nothing, her people would be wiped out. Name a stuck sort of situation you once found yourself in, where no matter what you did seemed like trouble.
Focus on the later portion of verse 14: “And who knows but that you have come to your royal position for such a time as this?” Sometimes the stories of our lives don’t make much sense. Can you imagine a “such a time as this” situation as an opportunity to serve God? Has such a situation ever occurred? (Adults: This is important sharing time!) How can you remember to think of each “right where you are this minute” situation, as to how you can possibly be Jesus to someone else?
4:15-17 What is a “fast?” (Refraining from eating food.) Esther’s calling for a fast, was essentially asking all of the Jews to pray for her. Name some situations where prayer has helped you do something hard. How is it helpful to know that others are praying for you?
God used an ordinary woman named Esther to save his people (who happened to be Jesus’ ancestors!) Do you suppose that God could use you to do something special? How does it change your life to know that God has something special planned for you to do?
chapter 5 Whew! King Xerxes held out his scepter to Esther! Esther chose to have faith in God and to take her chance at approaching the King. Discuss the athletic shoe company’s campaign to: “Just Do It.” How does such a saying apply to this story? Are the happenings in this story, and in our lives, coincidences or the special workings of God? (Room for lots of debate!)?
chp 6 Ah, the book of records comes into play! Who did Haman think that the king was talking about when he asked, “What should I do…?” How did this make Haman feel to have to do all of these lavish things for Mordecai? (verse 12) How can thinking of ourselves as better than others, get us into trouble? What is one thing you can do to help you amend this sort of character trait in yourself?
chp 7 This is a good time to play a game or two of “Hangman” using names or phrases from the story. For older children: How can you seek justice in a situation where you currently see injustice? What can you do if justice is not served?
chp 8 God provides not only for Esther and Mordecai, but for all of the Jewish people. How do the people respond? (They rejoice!) In what ways can our response to God be rejoicing? Have you ever thought of going into worship with an attitude of rejoicing?
9:20-10:3 (Note to adults: skipping all of the killing!) What is something that your family can commemorate and celebrate (beyond the typical birthday and graduation)? How about the day you were baptized? Or is there something that God has done for you that you would like to remember? What are some ways you could celebrate it?

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