1 In the days when the judges governed [Israel], there was a famine in the land [of Canaan]. And a certain man of Bethlehem in Judah went to live temporarily in the (a)country of Moab with his wife and his two sons. 2 The man’s name was Elimelech and his wife’s name was Naomi and his two sons were named Mahlon and Chilion. They were Ephrathites from Bethlehem in Judah. They went to the country of Moab and stayed there. 3 Then Elimelech, Naomi’s husband, died, and she was left [a widow] with her two sons. 4 They took wives from the Moabite women; the name of the one was Orpah, and the name of the other was Ruth. They lived there about ten years; 5 and then both Mahlon and Chilion also died, so the woman [Naomi] was left without her two sons and her husband.
6 Then she set out with her daughters-in-law to return from the country of Moab, for she had heard in Moab how the Lord had taken care of His people [of Judah] in giving them food. 7 So she left the place where she was living, her two daughters-in-law with her, and they started on the way back to the land of Judah. 8 But Naomi said to her two daughters-in-law, “Go back, each of you return to your mother’s house. May the Lord show kindness to you as you have shown kindness to the dead and to me. 9 May the Lord grant that you find rest, each one in the home of her husband.” Then she kissed them [goodbye], and they wept aloud. 10 And they said to her, “No, we will go with you to your people [in Judah].” 11 But Naomi said, “Go back, my daughters, why should you go with me? Do I still have sons in my womb that may become your husbands? 12 Go back, my daughters, go, for I am too old to have a husband. If I said I have hope, and if I actually had a husband tonight and even gave birth to sons, 13 would you wait until they were grown? Would you go without marrying? No, my daughters; for it is much more (b)difficult for me than for you, because the Lord’s hand has gone against me.”
14 Then they wept aloud again; and Orpah kissed her mother-in-law [goodbye], but Ruth clung to her.
15 Then Naomi said, “Look, your sister-in-law has gone back to her people and to her gods; turn back and follow your sister-in-law.” 16 But Ruth said, “Do not urge me to leave you or to turn back from following you; for where you go, I will go, and where you lodge, I will lodge. Your people will be my people, and your God, my God. 17 Where you die, I will die, and there I will be buried. May the Lord do the same to me [as He has done to you], and more also, if anything but death separates me from you.” 18 When Naomi saw that Ruth was determined to go with her, she said nothing more.
19 So the two of them went on until they came to Bethlehem. And when they arrived in Bethlehem, the whole city was (c)stirred because of them, and the women asked, “Is this Naomi?” 20 She said to them, “Do not call me Naomi (sweetness); call me Mara (bitter), for the Almighty has caused me great grief and bitterness. 21 I left full [with a husband and two sons], but the Lord has brought me back empty. Why call me Naomi, since the Lord has testified against me and the Almighty has afflicted me?”
a. Ruth 1:1: Moab was located on a high plateau on the eastern shore of the Salt (Dead) Sea. The Moabites were related to the Israelites through their common ancestor, Terah. Their primary god was Chemosh, but the Moabites also worshiped many other pagan gods and sometimes engaged in human sacrifice.
b. Ruth 1:13: Lit bitter.
c. Ruth 1:19: Bethlehem was a small city where everyone probably knew everyone else, and Naomi’s husband may have been a prominent man in the city.