In the days when the judges ruled over Israel, there was a great famine in the land. Day followed day and week followed week without enough food for the people.

Elimelech and his wife, Naomi, lived in Bethlehem. They grieved to see their two sons, Mahlon and Chilion, hungry.

One day Elimelech said, “In Moab there is food to eat. Let us journey there.”

So Elimelech, Naomi, and their sons made preparations to leave Bethlehem. Their friends were sad to see them go.

It was a long journey across the Jordan River and around the Dead Sea. But finally the little group turned south toward Moab. In the land of Moab the people worshiped many gods, but Naomi taught her sons to believe in the one God of Israel.

Elimelech and his sons worked hard in their new land. They were happy together and had plenty of food to eat.

When they had been in Moab only a short time, Elimelech died, leaving Naomi alone with her two sons in a strange land.

The years passed, and Naomi’s sons grew to manhood and married two beautiful girls from Moab. Mahlon married Ruth and Chilion married Orpah, and they dwelled in the land for about ten years.

Then sorrow came again to Naomi for her sons Mahlon and Chilion both died. Since the famine in Bethlehem was over, Naomi decided she would return to the land of her kinsfolk.

Naomi and her two daughters-in-law prepared to make the journey to Bethlehem. They had gone only a short distance when Naomi stopped. She turned to Ruth and Orpah and said, “Go, return each to your mother’s house: the Lord deal kindly with you, as ye have dealt with the dead, and with me.” Then she kissed them.

The two daughters wept and said to Naomi, “Surely we will return with thee unto thy people.”

Naomi thanked them for their love but said it would be better for them to return to their own people and their familiar ways.

Finally Orpah kissed Naomi goodbye and returned to Moab. But Ruth would not leave.

Then Naomi said, “Behold, thy sister-in-law is gone back to her people; return thou after thy sister-in-law.”

But Ruth replied, “Intreat me not to leave thee, or to return from following after thee: for whither thou goest, I will go; and where thou lodgest, I will lodge: thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God.”

Naomi was grateful to Ruth, and together they journeyed to Bethlehem. When they reached the gates of the city, many people came to greet them. Naomi’s sorrows had changed her so much that her friends and kinsfolk hardly recognized her.

“Call me not Naomi,” she answered sadly. “Call me Mara, for I went away from here full, but have come back empty.” And Naomi told her friends of the deaths of her husband, Elimelech, and their two sons.

The people of Bethlehem welcomed the two women, and Naomi and Ruth made their home in Bethlehem among Naomi’s kinsmen and friends.

Illustrated by Virginia Sargent