Once upon a time - it was back in the days when judges led Israel - there was a famine in the land. A man from Bethlehem in Judah left home to live in the country of Moab, he and his wife and his two sons.
The man's name was Elimelech; his wife's name was Naomi; his sons were named Mahlon and Kilion - all Ephrathites from Bethlehem in Judah. They all went to the country of Moab and settled there.
Elimelech died and Naomi was left, she and her two sons.
The sons took Moabite wives; the name of the first was Orpah, the second Ruth. They lived there in Moab for the next ten years.
But then the two brothers, Mahlon and Kilion, died. Now the woman was left without either her young men or her husband.
One day she got herself together, she and her two daughters-in-law, to leave the country of Moab and set out for home; she had heard that God had been pleased to visit his people and give them food.
And so she started out from the place she had been living, she and her two daughters-in-law with her, on the road back to the land of Judah.
After a short while on the road, Naomi told her two daughters-in-law, "Go back. Go home and live with your mothers. And may God treat you as graciously as you treated your deceased husbands and me.
May God give each of you a new home and a new husband!" She kissed them and they cried openly.
They said, "No, we're going on with you to your people."
But Naomi was firm: "Go back, my dear daughters. Why would you come with me? Do you suppose I still have sons in my womb who can become your future husbands?
Go back, dear daughters - on your way, please! I'm too old to get a husband. Why, even if I said, 'There's still hope!' and this very night got a man and had sons,
can you imagine being satisfied to wait until they were grown? Would you wait that long to get married again? No, dear daughters; this is a bitter pill for me to swallow - more bitter for me than for you. God has dealt me a hard blow."
Again they cried openly. Orpah kissed her mother-in-law good-bye; but Ruth embraced her and held on.
Naomi said, "Look, your sister-in-law is going back home to live with her own people and gods; go with her."
But Ruth said, "Don't force me to leave you; don't make me go home. Where you go, I go; and where you live, I'll live. Your people are my people, your God is my god;
where you die, I'll die, and that's where I'll be buried, so help me God - not even death itself is going to come between us!"
When Naomi saw that Ruth had her heart set on going with her, she gave in.
And so the two of them traveled on together to Bethlehem. When they arrived in Bethlehem the whole town was soon buzzing: "Is this really our Naomi? And after all this time!"
But she said, "Don't call me Naomi; call me Bitter. The Strong One has dealt me a bitter blow.
I left here full of life, and God has brought me back with nothing but the clothes on my back. Why would you call me Naomi? God certainly doesn't. The Strong One ruined me."
And so Naomi was back, and Ruth the foreigner with her, back from the country of Moab. They arrived in Bethlehem at the beginning of the barley harvest.
Published by permission. Originally published by NavPress in English as THE MESSAGE: The Bible in Contemporary Language copyright 2002 by Eugene Peterson. All rights reserved. (The Message Bible Online)