Old Testament Story List

Ruth

It came to pass in the days when the judges ruled, that there was a famine in the land of Canaan. Then Elimelech, of the tribe of Judah, left his home in Bethlehem, took his wife Naomi and his two sons Mahlon and Chilion, and went to dwell in the land of Moab, where there was no famine.

The two sons married

Moab women - one named Orpah and the other Ruth, and they dwelt there about ten years. Then great sorrow came to them, for first Elimelech and then his two sons died and Naomi was left alone with her two daughters-in-law.

Since the famine was now over in the own her own country, Naomi decided to return to Bethlehem, where she had relatives. Orpah and Ruth wept and grieved that Naomi was leaving, but Naomi felt it was better for them to remain with their families in their own land, where they might remarry. Orpah returned to her people, but Ruth said, "Ask me not to leave you. Where you go, I will go; and where you lodge, I will lodge. Your people shall be my people, and your God, my God." When Naomi saw that Ruth would be happier going with her, she no longer urged her to return to her people. So the two set forth and journeyed until they came to Bethlehem.

The women who had known Naomi in the old days came to greet her. When they saw her they said, "Is this Naomi?" for she looked so much older and sadder. And she said, "Call me not Naomi; call me Mara, for the Almighty has dealt very bitterly with me."

It was the beginning of the barley harvest in Bethlehem. Having no store of food or means of support, Ruth said to Naomi, "Let me go to the fields to gather up barley and ears of corn so that we may eat." And she went and gleaned after the reapers in the fields of Boaz - a wealthy man of the town.

No Boaz came from Bethlehem to see how the harvest was progressing. Boaz asked the overseer, "Who is this strange young woman?" The overseer answered, "It is Ruth, who came back from the land of Moab with Naomi. She has been working hard all morning."

Boaz went over to Ruth and addressed her kindly, for he had heard the people speak highly of her for her great loyalty to Naomi. "Stay and glean in these fields and eat and drink with the others," he said.

As she went back to her work, Boaz ordered the young men, "Let her glean among the sheaves and reproach her not. And let fall some extra handfuls on purpose that she may gather plenty."

When Ruth told Naomi where she had worked, Naomi said, "Blessed be he of the Lord who is kind to the living and to the dead. Boaz is a kinsman of Elimelech's - it is good that you should glean with his maidens and not in any other field."

There was one kinsman more closely related to Naomi than Boaz. According to Hebrew custom, the nearest of kin has first right to buy the property of a dead man and to marry his widow.

Now Boaz wished to marry Ruth, so he went up to the city gate with the elders of the city to advertise that he wished to buy the property of Elimelech and to marry Ruth. The nearer kinsman greed to give up his right. According to the way in Israel, he drew off his shoe before witnesses an gave it to Boaz to seal the bargain.

Knowing that Ruth had found favor in the eyes of Boaz and that she returned his affection, Naomi said one evening: "Anoint yourself, dress in your very best, and this night go where Boaz is sleeping on the threshing floor, and there lie at his feet."

Ruth did as her mother-in-law commanded. When Boaz awoke, he saw Ruth, and his heart was stirred. "You are blessed, Ruth, for you are virtuous and loyal, and have not sought after the young men."

So Ruth and Boaz were married - and all the people that were about were highly pleased that their neighbor had found such a good wife. And they compared Ruth to Rachel and Leah, who first built up the house of Israel.

Naomi was happy, for as her neighbors said, "Your daughter-in-law loves you and has been better to you than seven sons could be." But she was soon to be happier still, for Ruth bore a fine young son, and Naomi became his nurse.

The boy was named Obed, who when he grew up was the father of Jesse and the grandfather of David.


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