During the days of the judges, there was once a famine in the land; and a certain man from Bethlehem in Judah took his wife and two sons to live in the territory of Moab. His name was Elimelech and his wife's Naomi, and his two sons were Mahlon and Chilion. After they had been living in Moab for some time, Elimelech died, and Naomi was left with her two sons. They married Moabite women, named Orpah and Ruth. After they had lived there about ten years, Mahlon and Chilion both died, and Naomi was left without husband or children.
So she set out with her daughters-in-law to return from the land of Moab, for she had heard that Jehovah had remembered his people and given them food. As they were setting out on the journey to Judah, Naomi said to her daughters-in-law, |Go, return each of you to the home of your mother. May Jehovah be kind to you, as you have been kind to the dead and to me. Jehovah grant that each of you may find peace and happiness in the house of a new husband.|
Then she kissed them; but they began to weep aloud and said to her, |No, we will return with you to your people.| But Naomi said, |Go back, my daughters; why should you go with me? Can I still have sons who might become your husbands? Go back, my daughters, go your own way, for I am too old to have a husband. Even if I should say, 'I have hope,' even if I should have a husband to-night and should have sons, would you wait for them until they were grown up? Would you remain single for them? No, my daughters! I am sorry for you, for Jehovah has afflicted me.| Then they again wept aloud, and Orpah kissed her mother-in-law good-by, but Ruth stayed with her.
Naomi said, |See, your sister-in-law is going back to her own people and to her own gods; go along with her!| But Ruth answered, |Do not urge me to leave you or to go back, for wherever you go I will go, and wherever you stay I will stay; your people shall be my people, and your God my God; I will die where you die and be buried there. May Jehovah bring a curse upon me, if anything but death separate you and me.| When Naomi saw that Ruth had made up her mind to go with her, she ceased urging her to return.
So they travelled on until they came to Bethlehem. When they arrived there, the whole town was interested, and the women said, |Is this Naomi?| But she said to them, |Do not call me Naomi which means Sweetness: call me Mara which means Bitterness, for the Almighty has given me a bitter lot. I had plenty when I left, but Jehovah has brought me back empty-handed. Why should you call me Naomi, now that Jehovah has turned against me, and the Almighty has afflicted me?| So Naomi and Ruth returned from Moab; and they came to Bethlehem at the beginning of the barley harvest.
Now Naomi was related through her husband to Boaz, a very wealthy man of the family of Elimelech. Ruth, the Moabitess, said to Naomi, |Let me now go into the fields and pick up the scattered heads of grain after him whose favor I should win.| Naomi said to her, |Go, my daughter.|
So she went to pick up grain in the field after the reapers; and it was her good fortune to pick up grain in that part of the field which belonged to Boaz, who was of the family of Elimelech. When Boaz come from Bethlehem and said to the reapers, |Jehovah be with you,| they answered him, |May Jehovah bless you.| Then Boaz said to his servant who had charge of the reapers, |Whose maiden is this?| The servant replied, |It is the Moabite maiden who came back with Naomi from the land of Moab; and she said, 'Let me pick up the scattered grain and gather sheaves after the reapers.' So she came and has worked all the time until now, and she has not rested a moment in the field.|
Then Boaz said to Ruth, |Listen, my daughter. Do not go to pick up grain in another field nor leave this place, but stay here with my maidens. I have told the young men not to trouble you. When you are thirsty, go to the jars and drink of that which the young men have drawn.|
Then she bowed low and said to him, |Why are you so kind to me, to take interest in me who am from another land?| Boaz replied, |I have heard what you have done for your mother-in-law since the death of your husband, and how you left your father and mother and your native land to come to a people that you did not know before. May Jehovah repay you for what you have done, and may you be fully rewarded by the God of Israel, under whose wings you have come to take refuge.| Then she said, |I trust I may please you, my lord, for you have comforted me and spoken kindly to your servant, although I am not really equal to one of your own servants.|
At noonday Boaz said to her, |Come here and eat some of the food and dip your piece of bread in the wine.| So she sat beside the reapers; and he passed her the roasted grain, and she ate until she had had enough and had some left. When she rose to gather grain, Boaz gave this order to his young men: |Let her gather grain even among the sheaves and do not disturb her. Also pull out some for her from the bundles and leave it for her to gather and do not find fault with her.|
So she gathered grain in the field until evening, then beat out that which she had gathered; and it was about a bushel of barley. Then she took it up and went into the city and showed her mother-in-law what she had gathered. She also brought out and gave her that which she had left from her meal after she had had enough.
Her mother-in-law said to her, |Where did you gather grain to-day and where did you work? A blessing on him who took interest in you!| Then she told her mother-in-law where she had worked, and said, |The name of the man with whom I worked to-day is Boaz.| Naomi said to her daughter-in-law, |May the blessing of Jehovah rest upon him who has not ceased to show his love to the living and to the dead.| Naomi also said to her, |The man is a near relative of ours.| Ruth the Moabitess added, |He said to me, 'You must keep near my young men until they have completed all my harvest.'| Naomi said to Ruth, |It is best, my daughter, that you should go out with his maidens and that no one should find you in another field.| So she gathered grain with the maidens of Boaz until the end of the barley and wheat harvest; but she lived with her mother-in-law.
[Illustration: (C) Photographische Gesellschaft, Berlin
Painted by Henry Ryland]
Then Naomi said to her, |My daughter, shall I not try to find a home for you where you will be happy and contented? Is not Boaz, with whose maidens you have been, a relative of ours? This very night he is going to winnow barley on the threshing-floor. So bathe and anoint yourself and put on your best clothes and go down to the threshing-floor; but do not make yourself known to the man until he is through eating and drinking. Then when he lies down, you mark the place where he lies. Go in, uncover his feet, lie down, and then he will tell you what to do.| Ruth said to her, |I will do as you say.|
So she went down to the threshing-floor and did just as her mother-in-law told her. When Boaz was through eating and drinking and was in a happy mood, he went to lie down at the end of the heap of grain. Then Ruth came softly and uncovered his feet and lay down. At midnight the man was startled and turned over, and there was a woman lying at his feet. He said, |Who are you?| She answered, |I am Ruth your servant; spread therefore your skirt over your servant, for you are a near relative.| He said, |May you be blest by Jehovah, my daughter; for you have shown me greater favor now than at first, for you have not followed young men, whether poor or rich. My daughter, have no fear; I will do for you all that you ask; for all my townsmen know that you are a good woman. Now it is true that I am a near relative; yet there is one nearer than I. Stay here to-night, and then in the morning, if he will marry you, well, let him do it. But if he, being your nearest relative, will not marry you, then as surely as Jehovah lives, I will do so. Lie down until morning.|
So she lay at his feet until morning, but rose before any one could tell who she was, for Boaz said, |Let it not be known that a woman came to the threshing-floor.| He also said, |Bring the cloak which you have on and hold it.| So she held it while he poured into it six measures of barley and laid it on her shoulders. Then he went into the city.
When Ruth came to her mother-in-law, Naomi said, |Is it you, my daughter?| Then Ruth told Naomi all that the man had done for her. She said, |He gave me these six measures of barley; for he said, 'Do not go to your mother-in-law empty-handed.'| Naomi said, |Wait quietly, my daughter, until you know how this will turn out, for the man will not rest unless he settles it all to-day.|
Then Boaz went up to the gate and sat down. Just then the near relative of whom Boaz had spoken came along. To him Boaz said, |Ho!| calling him by name, |come here and sit down.| So he stopped and sat down. Boaz also took ten of the town elders and said, |Sit down here.| So they sat down.
Then he said to the near relative, |Naomi, who has come back from the country of Moab, is offering for sale the piece of land which belonged to our relative Elimelech, and I thought that I would lay the matter before you, and ask you to buy it in the presence of these men who sit here and of the elders of my people. If you will buy it and so keep it in the family, do so; but if not, then tell me, that I may know; for no one but you has the right to buy it, and I am next to you.| He said, |I will buy it.|
Then Boaz said, |On the day you buy the field from Naomi, you must also marry Ruth the Moabitess, the widow of Mahlon, that a son may be born to bear his name and to receive this field.| The near relative said, |I cannot buy it for myself, for fear I should lose what already belongs to me. You take my right of buying it as a relative, for I cannot do so.|
Now in those days this was the custom in Israel: to make an agreement between two men the one drew off his shoe and gave it to the other. So when the near relative said to Boaz, |Buy it for yourself,| Boaz drew off the man's shoe.
Then Boaz said to the elders and to all the people, |You are witnesses at this time that I have bought all that was Elimelech's and all that was Chilion's and Mahlon's from Naomi. Moreover, I have secured Ruth, the Moabitess, the widow of Mahlon, to be my wife so that she may have a son who will receive this land and carry on Mahlon's name. You are witnesses this day.|
Then all the people who were at the gate and the elders said, |We are witnesses. May Jehovah make the woman who is coming into your house like Rachel and Leah, and make you also famous in Bethlehem.|
So Boaz married Ruth, and she became his wife; and Jehovah gave to her a son. Then the women said to Naomi, |Blessed be Jehovah who has not left you at this time without a near relative, and may his name be famous in Israel. This child will bring back your strength and take care of you in your old age; for your daughter-in-law who loves you, who is worth more to you than seven sons, has a son!|
So Naomi took the child in her arms and she became its nurse. Her neighbors also said, |Naomi has a son!| and they named him Obed; he became the father of Jesse, who was the father of David.