Where research leads
I've been knee deep in research these days, trying to figure out the backstory of the characters in my next book. My editor accepted the manuscript for The Prophetess, Deborah's Story, so now it's back to my work-in-progress, Ruth's story (working title). Somehow I thought Ruth's story would be easy. Ha! Why do I ever think these things? As one of my author friends told me today, sometimes the stories with the most in Scripture are the hardest to write because you have to stay within the parameters that are there and work around them. That's true. But that's not quite so hard for me as figuring out what isn't there.
Ruth's story is a challenge because it poses some interesting questions, like:
- When during the era of the Judges did her story take place?
- If I assume it happened sometime between Judge Ehud and Jephthah, then I want to know more about Moab's oppression of Israel during those times. So...how was it possible that the king of Moab conquered Jericho when Joshua had already burned it to the ground some years earlier?
- If Moab is located east of the Jordan near the Dead Sea and if it's capitol was Dibon, then why was the tribe of Reuben allotted some of their territory? Or am I confused about where the lines fall?
- Why did Elimelech take his family to Moab when he owned land in Bethlehem, despite the famine. Especially when no one else was leaving?
- Did Naomi support her husband's decision? How long were they there before her husband died?
These are just a few of the questions that have me hitting the books. I told Randy the other day that Jericho was driving me crazy because Joshua cursed it, and that curse came true many years after King David under another king of Israel - Ahab, when a man of the day took it upon himself to rebuild the walls. So that makes it seem like Jericho didn't exist until the time of King Ahab. But Judges tells us that the king of Moab captured the "City of Palms", which was another name for Jericho. And King David told his men to "stay at Jericho until your beards grow back" after the king of Ammon had humiliated his messengers.
So were there two locations for Jericho? Did they build upon the same mound but just didn't rebuild the walls? Archeology tells us that Jericho is one of the oldest cities on earth - dating back about 10,000 years. It still exists today, though in a location south of the ancient tel where the digging has given way to all sorts of clues, but nothing completely definitive. There are some pretty interesting discoveries though.
What does that have to do with Ruth? Isn't Jericho about Rahab's story? Yes, of course. But it pops up in later chapters of Judges, and it could be that Ruth happened somewhere before or after the Moabite oppression of Israel. We can't know for sure. Which is why it's good that I write fiction.
Still, I strive to understand. And sometimes my brain hurts in the study just trying to put the pieces together. But when I get stuck, research is where I turn. Research may not have the answers, but it does have clues. And clues lead to ideas, and ideas feed imagination, and that's where the stories begin.
Until next time~