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Famine in Judah

1 Long ago, during the time the judges* ruled, there was a bad time when there was not enough food to eat. A man named Elimelech left Bethlehem, Judah. He, his wife and his two sons moved to the hill country of Moab.* 2The man’s wife was named Naomi and his two sons were named Mahlon and Kilion. These people were from the Ephrathah family of Bethlehem, Judah. The family traveled to the hill country of Moab and stayed there. 3Later, Naomi’s husband, Elimelech, died. So only Naomi and her two sons were left. 4Her sons married women from the country of Moab. One wife’s name was Orpah, and the other wife’s name was Ruth. They lived in Moab about ten years, 5and Mahlon and Kilion also died. So Naomi was left alone without her husband or her two sons.

Naomi Goes Home

6While Naomi was in the hill country of Moab, she heard that the Lord had helped his people. He had given food to his people {in Judah}. So Naomi decided to leave the hill country of Moab and go back home. Her daughters-in-law also decided to go with her. 7Theyleft the place where they had been living and started walking back to the land of Judah. 8Then Naomi told her daughters-in-law, “Each of you should go back home to your mother. You have been very kind to me and my dead sons. So I pray the Lord will be just as kind to you. 9I pray that he helps each of you to find a husband and a nice home.” Naomi kissed her daughters-in-law, and they all started crying. 10Then the daughters said, “But we want to come with you and go to your family.” 11But Naomi said, “No, daughters, go back to your own homes. Why should you go with me? {I cannot help you.} I don’t have any more sons in me to be your husbands. 12Go back home! I am too old to have a new husband. Even if I thought I could be married again, I could not help you. If I became pregnant tonight and had two sons, {it would not help}. 13You would have to wait until they grew to become men before you could marry them. I can’t make you wait that long for husbands. That would make me very sad! {And I am already sad enough}—the Lord has done many things to me!” 14So the women cried very much again. Then Orpah kissed Naomi {and left}. But Ruth hugged her {and stayed}. 15Naomi said, “Look, your sister-in-law has gone back to her own people and her own gods. So you should do the same thing.” 16But Ruth said, “Don’t force me to leave you! Don’t force me to go back to my own people. Let me go with you. Wherever you go, I will go. Wherever you sleep, I will sleep. Your people will be my people. Your God will be my God. 17Where you die, I will die. And that is where I will be buried. I ask the Lord to punish me if I do not keep this promise: Only death will separate us.”*

The Homecoming

18Naomi saw that Ruth wanted very much to go with her. So Naomi stopped arguing with her. 19Naomi and Ruth traveled until they came to the town of Bethlehem. When the two women entered Bethlehem, all the people were very excited. They said, “Is this Naomi?” 20But Naomi told the people, “Don’t call me Naomi,* call me Marah.* Use this name because {God} All-Powerful has made my life very sad. 21I had everything I wanted when I left. But now, the Lord brings me home with nothing. The Lord has made me sad, so why should you call me ‘Happy’?* {God} All- Powerful has given much trouble to me.” 22So Naomi and her daughter-in-law Ruth (the woman from Moab) came back from the hill country of Moab. These two women came to Bethlehem, Judah at the beginning of the barley harvest.

judges Special leaders that God sent to help and protect the people of Israel. This was before there were kings in Israel. Moab A country east of Israel. I ask the Lord ... separate us Literally, “May the Lord do this to me, and even more, unless death separates us!” Naomi This name means “Happy” or “Pleasant.” Marah This name means “Bitter” or “Sad.” Happy This is the name Naomi.

Ruth Meets Boaz

2 There was a rich man living in Bethlehem. His name was Boaz. Boaz was one of Naomi’s close relatives* from Elimelech’s family. 2One day Ruth (the woman from Moab) said to Naomi, “I think I will go to the fields. Maybe I can find someone that would be kind to me and let me gather the grain he leaves in his field.” 3Naomi said, “Fine, daughter, go ahead.” So Ruth went to the fields. She followed the workers that were cutting the grain, and she gathered the grain that was left.* It happened that part of the field belonged to Boaz, the man from Elimelech’s family. 4Later, Boaz came to the field from Bethlehem. Boaz greeted his workers. He said, “The Lord be with you!” And the workers answered, “And may the Lord bless you!” 5Then Boaz spoke to his servant that was in charge of the workers. He asked, “Whose girl is that?” 6The servant answered, “She is that Moabite woman who came with Naomi from the hill country of Moab. 7She came early this morning and asked me if she could follow the workers and gather the grain that was left on the ground. And she has been working ever since. That is her house over there.”* 8Then Boaz said to Ruth, “Listen, child. Stay here in my field to gather grain for yourself. There is no need for you to go to any other person’s field. Continue following behind my women workers. 9Watch to see which fields they go to, and follow them. I have warned the young men not to bother you. When you are thirsty, go and drink from the same water jug my men drink from.” 10Then Ruth bowed very low to the ground. She said to Boaz, “I am surprised you even noticed me! I am a stranger, {but you have been very kind to me}.” 11Boaz answered her, “I know about all the help you have given to Naomi, your mother-in-law. I know you helped her even after your husband died. And I know that you left your father and mother and your own country and came here to this country. You did not know any people from this country, but you came here with Naomi. 12The Lord will reward you for all the good things you have done. You will be paid in full by the Lord, the God of Israel. You have come to him for safety,* {and he will protect you}.” 13Then Ruth said, “You are very kind to me, sir. I am only a servant. I am not even equal to one of your servants. But you have said kind words to me and comforted me.” 14At lunch time, Boaz told Ruth, “Come here! Eat some of our bread. Here, dip your bread in our vinegar.” So Ruth sat down with the workers. Boaz gave her some roasted grain. Ruth ate until she was full, and there was some food left. 15Then Ruth got up and went back to work. Then Boaz told his servants, “Let Ruth gather even around the piles of grain. Don’t stop her. 16And make her work easier by dropping some full heads of grain for her. Let her gather that grain. Don’t tell her to stop.”

Naomi Hears About Boaz

17Ruth worked in the fields until evening. Then she separated the grain from the chaff.* There was about 1/2 bushel* of barley. 18Ruth carried the grain into town to show her mother-in-law what she had gathered. She also gave her the food that was left from lunch. 19Her mother-in-law asked her, “Where did you gather all this grain? Where did you work? Bless the man who noticed you.” Then Ruth told her who she had worked with. She said, “The man I worked with today is a man named Boaz.” Naomi told her daughter-in-law, “Lord bless him! He has continued showing his kindness to the living as well as the dead.” 20Then Naomi told her daughter-in-law, “Boaz is one of our relatives. Boaz is one of our protectors.”* 21Then Ruth said, “Boaz also told me to come back and continue working. Boaz said that I should work closely with his servants until the harvest is finished.” 22Then Naomi said to her daughter-in-law Ruth, “It is good for you to continue working with his women servants. If you work in another field, some man might hurt you.” 23So Ruth continued working closely with the women servants of Boaz. She gathered grain until the barley harvest was finished. She also worked there through the end of the wheat harvest. Ruth continued living with Naomi, her mother-in-law.

close relative(s) In ancient Israel, if a man died without children, one of his close relatives would take the dead man’s wife so she could have children. He would care for this family, but this family and their property would not belong to him. It would all be in the dead man’s name. gathered the grain that was left There was a law that a farmer must leave some grain in his field during harvest. This grain was left so the poor people could find something to eat. See Lev. 19:9; 23:22. That is her house over there Or, “She only rested a short time in that shelter.” You have come to him for safety Literally, “You have come under his wings for safety.” chaff Parts of grain a farmer throws away. Farmers cracked the hulls from seeds and let the wind blow these hulls (chaff) away. 1/2 bushel Literally, “One Ephah.” protector(s) Or, “redeemer,” a person who cared for and protected the family of a dead relative. Often this person bought back (redeemed) the poor relatives from slavery, making them free again.

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