In the days when the judges were ruling, there was a famine in the land. A man from Bethlehem in Judah went with his wife and two sons to live for a while in the country of Moab.
The man's name was Elimelech, his wife's name was Naomi, and the names of their two sons were Mahlon and Chilion. They were descendants of Ephrathah from Bethlehem in the territory of Judah. They went to the country of Moab and lived there.
Now, Naomi's husband Elimelech died, and she was left alone with her two sons.
Each son married a woman from Moab. One son married a woman named Orpah, and the other son married a woman named Ruth. They lived there for about ten years.
Then both Mahlon and Chilion died as well. So Naomi was left alone, without her two sons or her husband.
Naomi and her daughters-in-law started on the way back from the country of Moab. (While they were still in Moab she heard that the LORD had come to help his people and give them food.
So she left the place where she had been living, and her two daughters-in-law went with her.) They began to walk back along the road to the territory of Judah.
Then Naomi said to her two daughters-in-law, "Go back! Each of you should go back to your mother's home. May the LORD be as kind to you as you were to me and to our loved ones who have died.
May the LORD repay each of you so that you may find security in a home with a husband." When she kissed them goodbye, they began to cry loudly.
They said to her, "We are going back with you to your people."
But Naomi said, "Go back, my daughters. Why should you go with me? Do I have any more sons in my womb who could be your husbands?
Go back, my daughters. Go, because I am too old to get married again. If I said that I still have hope.... And if I had a husband tonight.... And even if I gave birth to sons,
would you wait until they grew up and stay single just for them? No, my daughters. My bitterness is much worse than yours because the LORD has sent me so much trouble."
They began to cry loudly again. Then Orpah kissed her mother-in-law goodbye, but Ruth held on to her tightly.
Naomi said, "Look, your sister-in-law has gone back to her people and to her gods. Go back with your sister-in-law."
But Ruth answered, "Don't force me to leave you. Don't make me turn back from following you. Wherever you go, I will go, and wherever you stay, I will stay. Your people will be my people, and your God will be my God.
Wherever you die, I will die, and I will be buried there with you. May the LORD strike me down if anything but death separates you and me!"
When Naomi saw that Ruth was determined to go with her, she ended the conversation.
So both of them went on until they came to Bethlehem. When they entered Bethlehem, the whole town was excited about them. "This can't be Naomi, can it?" the women asked.
She answered them, "Don't call me Naomi [Sweet]. Call me Mara [Bitter] because the Almighty has made my life very bitter.
I went away full, but the LORD has brought me back empty. Why do you call me Naomi when the LORD has tormented me and the Almighty has done evil to me?"
When Naomi came back from the country of Moab, Ruth, her Moabite daughter-in-law, came along with her. They happened to enter Bethlehem just when the barley harvest began.