Famine in Judah

Long ago, during the time the judges ruled, there was a famine in the land, and a man named Elimelech left the town of Bethlehem in Judah. He, his wife, and his two sons moved to the country of Moab. The man’s wife was named Naomi, and his two sons were named Mahlon and Kilion. They were from the Ephrathah family of Bethlehem in Judah. The family traveled to the hill country of Moab and stayed there.

Later, Naomi’s husband, Elimelech, died, so only Naomi and her two sons were left. Her 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; then Mahlon and Kilion also died. So Naomi was left alone without her husband or her two sons.

Naomi Goes Home

While Naomi was in the 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. They left the place where they had been living and started walking back to the land of Judah.

Then 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 sons who are now dead. So I pray that the Lord will be just as kind to you. I pray that the Lord will help each of you find a husband and a good home.” Naomi kissed her daughters-in-law, and they all started crying.

10 Then the daughters said, “But we want to come with you and go to your family.”

11 But Naomi said, “No, daughters, go back to your own homes. Why should you go with me? I can’t have any more sons to be your husbands. 12 Go 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, 13 you would have to wait until they grew to become men before you could marry them. I cannot 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!”

14 So again they cried very much. Then Orpah kissed Naomi goodbye, but Ruth hugged her and stayed.

15 Naomi said, “Look, your sister-in-law has gone back to her own people and her own gods. You should do the same.”

16 But 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. 17 Where you die, I will die, and that is where I will be buried. I ask the Lord to punish me if I don’t keep this promise: Only death will separate us.”[a]

The Homecoming

18 Naomi saw that Ruth wanted very much to go with her. So Naomi stopped arguing with her. 19 Naomi 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?”

20 But Naomi told the people, “Don’t call me Naomi[b]; call me Marah.[c] Use this name because God All-Powerful has made my life very sad. 21 I 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’[d]? God All-Powerful has given much trouble to me.”

22 So Naomi and her daughter-in-law Ruth, the Moabite, came back from the hill country of Moab. These two women came to Bethlehem at the beginning of the barley harvest.


  1. Ruth 1:17 I ask … separate us Literally, “May the Lord do this to me, and even more, unless death separates us!”
  2. Ruth 1:20 Naomi This name means “Happy” or “Pleasant.”
  3. Ruth 1:20 Marah This name means “Bitter” or “Sad.”
  4. Ruth 1:21 Happy This is the meaning of the name Naomi.