Naomi’s Life in Moab. 1 In the days of the judges,[b] a famine broke out in the land. A certain man from Bethlehem in Judah went to live in the land of Moab along with his wife and his two sons. 2 The man’s name was Elimelech and his wife was Naomi, and his two sons were Mahlon and Chilion. They were Ephrathites from Bethlehem in Judah. They traveled to the land of Moab and dwelt there.
3 Elimelech, Naomi’s husband, died, and she was left with her two sons. 4 They both married Moabite women. The name of one was Orpah, and the name of the other was Ruth. When they had lived there for about ten years,[c] 5 both Mahlon and Chilion died, leaving the woman bereft of her husband and two sons.
6 [d]She set out with her two daughters-in-law to return from the land of Moab, for in Moab she had heard how the Lord had come to the aid of his people, giving them food to eat. 7 She and her two daughters-in-law set out from the place where they had been living and took the road leading back to the land of Judah. 8 Naomi said to her two daughters-in-law, “Each of you should go back to your mother’s house. May the Lord show you as much kindness as you have shown to those who died and to me. 9 May the Lord grant each of you consolation in the home of a husband.” She then kissed them, and they wept aloud. 10 They said to her, “We will go with you back to your people.” 11 But Naomi replied, “Go back, my daughters. Why would you go with me? Do I still have any sons in my womb who might become your husbands? 12 Go back, my daughters. Go your way. I am too old even to have a husband. Even if I thought that there was still hope for me and I slept with a husband tonight and gave birth to sons, 13 would you wait for them to grow up? Would you stay unmarried for them? No, my daughters, for it greatly grieves me on your account that the hand of the Lord has been raised against me.”
14 Ruth Stays with Naomi. They cried out loud again, and Orpah kissed her mother-in-law goodbye, but Ruth clung to her. 15 Then she said, “Look, your sister-in-law has gone back to her people and her gods. Follow your sister-in-law.” 16 But Ruth answered, “Please do not insist on my leaving you or forsaking you. Wherever you go I will go, and wherever you live I will live. Your people will be my people and your God will be my God.[e] 17 Wherever you die, I will die and be buried there. May the Lord do this to me and even worse if anything other than death separates me from you.” 18 When she saw that she was determined to go with her, she said no more.
19 Life in Bethlehem. So they both traveled on until they came to Bethlehem. When they arrived in Bethlehem, there was a commotion among all of the inhabitants of the city on account of them. The women exclaimed, “Is this Naomi?” 20 She told them, “Do not call me Naomi, call me Mara. The Almighty has made my life so very bitter. 21 I went away full, but the Lord has brought me back empty. Why should you call me Naomi? The Lord has brought witness against me; the Almighty has afflicted me.”
22 So Naomi returned, and Ruth, the Moabite, her daughter-in-law, went with her. They left the land of Moab and they arrived in Bethlehem at the beginning of the barley harvest.
- Ruth 1:1 The names seem to have been chosen as descriptions of the individuals: Mahlon (weakness) and Chilion (consumption) were destined to die young. Ruth means “the friend” (the companion); Orpah means “she who turned her back.” The names thus sum up the destiny of the family. There is no reference here to the bad reputation of Moabite women (Num 25:1).
- Ruth 1:1 In the days of the judges: the author introduces the Book of Ruth by referring to a time in Israelite history that was marked by idolatry and sin. Naomi and Ruth’s story of selfless commitment to God and each other is a shining light in otherwise dark circumstances.
- Ruth 1:4 The blending of the Israelites and Moabites was not encouraged but marriage was not forbidden as it was with the Canaanites.
- Ruth 1:6 In the blows of fate Naomi recognizes the hand of the Lord; but her faith is not strong enough for her to believe that her life can have any further meaning: Naomi (my sweetness) is henceforth Mara (bitterness).
- Ruth 1:16 This familiar passage occurring in song and used in religious wedding ceremonies to mark the faithful love and commitment pledged by the bride and groom has even deeper roots. Throughout time, God has chosen the most unlikely people to increase his kingdom. Ruth, a Moabite, worships the true God and is recognized and blessed for her faithfulness. She became a great-grandmother to King David and an ancestor of Jesus.