Ruth and Naomi - the Bible story

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Scroll of the Bible

Bible text for the story

Ruth shields Naomi

People in Ruth's story

Scene from 'Norma Rae'

Bible study ideas

Ruth in the fields, painting by Merle Hugues

Famous paintings of Ruth and Naomi

Young Middle Eastern woman with white head covering

Heroines of the Bible

Large Middle Eastern family group, all ages

in ancient Israel

Loose-fitting woman's garment, hand woven fabric, embroidered front piece

Bible Clothes
and Houses

 Map of Samaria, Judaea and Galilee  

Bible Maps: the distance these  women travelled

A newborn baby, photograph

The Levirate Law 

Two people holding each other's hands

Meditation on the story of Ruth & Naomi

Cartoon figures looking up at a sign-post

Meditation: Where is life taking you?

Painting of an elderly woman with a wise and loving face

Bible Women: Ruth and Naomi

Portrait of a young woman with thickly plaited hair

Young People 
in the Bible

Activities, step-by-step instructions

'Mrs Miniver': Greer Garson and Teresa Wright, both of whom won Oscars for this film

  • Women in films: list your favorite films about family relationships...

  • Debate: 'arranged marriages have a better chance of success'

  • Focus questions: What interests you most about Ruth? etc. 

       Read more





Ruth - a Love Story

Ruth and Obed, Leonardo da Vinci, Sistine Chapel, detail of muralPeople in the story
: a young foreign widow without family or prospects who became the great- grandmother of King David and the ancestor of Jesus.
Naomi, her shrewd mother-in-law who told her how to get a second husband... 
Boaz, the wealthy Israelite who married Ruth and became the father of Obed.
Orpah, the second daughter-in-law of Naomi. Her name means 'back of the head/neck': she turned her back on Naomi and left her to fend for herself
The women of Bethlehem  played an important part in the story of Ruth and Naomi. 

Read short profiles of each of these people

Ruth is one of the most famous women of the Bible - which is strange when you realize she was not an Israelite at all, but a Moabite woman, a foreigner, an outsider. 

Left alone when her husband died, she had one great asset: a shrewd old Jewish mother-in-law who loved her, and whom she loved. 

They stuck together through thick and thin - mostly thin at first, but things got better when Ruth met Boaz, a rich man who seemed to have fallen in love with her at first sight. Boy meets girl, boy loves girl. The question was, how to get him to propose...

The story of Ruth and Naomi      Book of Ruth 1-4

Ruth was a Moabite woman, from a country that was one of Israel's traditional enemies. She was an outsider. But she married an Israelite and joined his family while they were living in Moab.He Qi, Ruth and Naomi

Her husband died - how we don't know, as did her brother-in-law, also a Moabite, and her father-in-law. 

When this happened, her mother-in-law Naomi decided she had no alternative but to return to her homeland, and to the village her family came from - Bethlehem. 

Map 5 at Bible Maps shows how far Moab is from Bethlehem- a long journey for an older woman. 

Fond as she was of her two daughters-in-law, Naomi prepared to say good-bye to both of them.

But one of them, Ruth, showed unexpected loyalty and insisted on staying with her.

'Where you go, I will go. Where you lodge, I will lodge. Your people shall be my people and your God my God.
Where you die, I will die and there I will be buried.' 

Ruth and mother-in-law Naomi by painter Sandy Freckleton Gagon. Gagon says, “My desire is to serve the Lord through my paintings.” Courtesy of Sandy Freckleton Gagon. The two women returned to Bethlehem together. Naomi knew the people there, what they were like, who might help them.  

People of Nazareth describes life in a small town like Bethlehem.

Read Bible Text Chapter 1 

They must have been a sorry sight when they arrived - exhausted, in travel-stained widow's clothing. But they arrived at just the right moment, in time for the harvest.

They were more or less destitute, but resourceful. Ruth decided she would help glean the barley in the fields, to feed herself and Naomi and to get a store of grain for winter. 'Ruth in the Fields', Merle Hugues, 1876 Gleaning was a form of charity for the disadvantaged in ancient Israel. The poor could walk behind the harvesters, picking up what was left. This is what Ruth did.

Read Bible Text Chapter 2

Boaz falls in love with Ruth

Ruth went to the field of Boaz, a rich relative of Naomi’s. Boaz was, as it happens, an ideal match for any young woman. He was single, childless, well respected and rich. He was also a relative of Naomi’s through her husband’s family, so he had a legal obligation to help Naomi.  

It was not long before Boaz came to the field to see how the harvest was going, and met Ruth. It was love at first sight. He fell over himself to help her, going to elaborate lengths to get extra grain for Ruth, to protect her from young men who might hassle her, and to see that she was well fed. No doubt the workers noticed, and some of them reported back to Naomi.

Naomi devised a plan to prod Boaz into marrying Ruth. She knew men, and she gave Ruth specific instructions on everything she must do. Ruth had the good sense to listen. She perfumed herself, dressed in her most becoming clothes, and waited at the threshing floor until Boaz had eaten a good meal - she knew that a man with a full stomach was easier to handle. 

On the threshing floor

When Boaz finally lay down to sleep, Ruth approached him where he lay on the threshing floor - someone always slept there at night until the grain was removed, to guard against thieves. 

Lying beside Boaz, Ruth suggested that because he was  a relative of her dead husband, should ‘cover her with his blanket’, a euphemism for marriage.  This was a custom of the time, called the Levirate Law

Boaz happily agreed, but pointed out to her that there was another man who had that right, a closer relative even than himself. 

Ruth stayed beside Boaz until morning, stealing away before first light to return to Naomi, who pounced on her and demanded to know how things had gone. Was Ruth to be married or single? The two women waited impatiently to see how events would unfold.

Read Bible Text Chapter 3

But the outcome was never really in doubt. Ruth and Boaz were married, and she gave birth to a son, Obed - who was the grandfather of King David

Naomi, who had lost her husband and two sons, now had a grandson, whom she 'laid in her bosom', becoming his nurse. 

And they lived happily ever after.

Read Bible Text Chapter 4


Three panels showing the story of Ruth, Thomas Matthews Rooke

Three panels showing the story of Ruth, Thomas Matthews Rooke


'As Good As It Gets' film still

'As Good As It Gets' - modern films often tell a story like Ruth's: an over-burdened young woman who finds love with a wealthy older man. 
Bible study activities for other films on this theme.


Women harvesting ripened grain


 Bible Stories: People of the Old Testament - Bible Study Resource: Ruth, Naomi and Boaz
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