In the old days, when Israel was ruled by judges, there was a man of Bethlehem-Juda that took his wife and his two sons to live in the Moabite country, to escape from a famine. There, in Moab, these Ephrathites from Bethlehem-Juda continued to dwell, Elimelech, and his wife Noemi, and his two sons Mahalon and Chelion; there Elimelech died, and Noemi was left a widow. But still she would be with her sons, who had now married wives of Moabite race, one called Orpha and the other Ruth. So ten years passed, and then Mahalon and Chelion both died. And now, both widowed and childless, she bade farewell to Moab and set out, with her two daughters-in-law, on the journey home; the Lord had been merciful to his people, she was told, and there was food to be had once more.
Thus Noemi left her dwelling-place; and when she set foot on the road that led to the domain of Juda, she turned to her companions, and bade either go back to her own mother's house; May the Lord shew kindness to you, she said, as you have shewn kindness to the memory of the dead, and to me; may you live at ease with new husbands. And with that she gave them a parting kiss. But no, they wept aloud, and declared they would go on in her company, to the home of her own people. Come with me, my daughters? she answered. Nay, you must go back. I have no more sons in my womb to wed you; go back, daughters, and leave me; I am an old woman, past the age for marrying. Though I should conceive this very night, and bear sons, it would be weary waiting for you till they should be grown to manhood; you would be old women too, long before your wedding day. Enough of this, daughters; it is your hard lot that makes it weigh heavy on me, this burden the Lord has given me to bear. At this, they wept louder than ever; but Orpha kissed her mother-in-law and went back; Ruth would not leave her side.
Here is your sister-in-law gone back, Noemi said, back to her own people and the gods they worship; do you, too, go with her. Nay, said Ruth, do not press me to go back and leave you. I mean to go where you go, and dwell where you dwell; your people shall be my people, your God my God; whatever earth closes over you when you die shall be my place of death and burial. Due meed of punishment the Lord give me, and more than due, if aught but death part you and me.
When she found Ruth so resolved to bear her company, Noemi would cross her no longer, nor bid her return home; together they went on, and at last reached Bethlehem. They had scarce entered the city gate before the tale went round, and all the gossips were saying, Why, it is Noemi. Call me no longer, she said, by that name of delight; call me Mara, the unhappy one. Has not an almighty hand filled my cup with bitterness? Rich in blessings I left my home, and the Lord has brought me back destitute. So humbled by the Lord's hand, visited by the Almighty with such calamity, and will you call me Noemi still?
Thus it was that Noemi returned from the land of her adoption, with her daughter-in-law Ruth, that was Moabite born. They were just beginning to cut the barley in the fields, when she came back to her home at Bethlehem.
Elimelech had a kinsman called Booz, a man of great influence and wealth. And now Ruth, the Moabitess, asked leave of her mother-in-law to go out and glean after the reapers, by some rich man's favour. Go then, daughter, said she; and it so chanced that the field in which Ruth went to glean after the reapers belonged to no other than Booz, Elimelech's kinsman. After a while, he himself came out from Bethlehem, and when he had greeted the reapers, The Lord be with you, and they had wished him God's blessing in return, he asked the man in charge of them, a servant of his own, whose daughter this maid might be? It is Ruth, said he, the Moabitess, that came here from Moab with Noemi; she asked leave to glean after the reapers, and here she has been, ever since morning, without once going home to rest.
Listen, my daughter, Booz said to Ruth; do not look for any other field to glean in; stay here and keep my maidens company, following ever where they reap. My servants have orders not to interfere with you; if you are thirsty, go to the buckets yonder and share the water they drink. At this, Ruth bowed low, face to ground; How have I deserved any favour of yours? she asked. Why would you take notice of an alien woman such as I am? I have had word, he answered, of your goodness to your mother-in-law since your husband's death; how you did leave kindred and country, to dwell among strangers. May the Lord reward you for what you have done; may the Lord God of Israel, in whose shelter you have learned to trust, make you full return for it! Then she said, This is great kindness in you, my lord, so to comfort and encourage me, your poor servant that cannot compare with these handmaids of yours.
He bade her come back when it was time for a meal, to eat bread there and dip her crust in the vinegar. So there she sat with the reapers, and still at her side the heap of parched corn grew, till she had eaten her fill, and had more to carry away. By the time she had risen up to go on with her gleaning, Booz had given orders to his servants that they were to put no hindrance in her way, though she were to go reaping in their company; and of set purpose they were to drop some of the handfuls they gathered, and leave them there for her to glean, never shaming her by a rebuke. So it was that when she had worked till evening, and took her rod to beat out what she had gathered, she found it was a whole ephi, that is a bushel.
Such were the earnings she brought back with her to the city, and shewed to her mother-in-law; offering her besides some of the food that was left over when she had finished her meal. Why, said Noemi, where have you been gleaning to-day? Where did you find so much work to do? Blessed be the man that has so befriended you! And Ruth told her whose field it was she had worked in, It was a man called Booz, she said. May the Lord bless him, answered Noemi; here is a man that is generous to his own, living as well as dead. And she told Ruth that Booz was their near kinsman. This too, said Ruth, was his bidding, that I should keep close to his men till all the reaping is done. That is best, daughter, said her mother-in-law, that you should go out to glean with those maidens of his; in some other field they might say you nay. And with the maidservants of Booz she still kept company, till barley and wheat were both carried.
Now that she had come back home, her mother-in-law said to her, Daughter, I mean to win you an easy life, and bring you happiness. This Booz, whose maidens were your companions in harvest-time, Booz, our kinsman, will be at the threshing-floor to-night, winnowing his barley. Wash you, and anoint you, and put on your best array, and so go down to the threshing-floor. He will not have finished eating and drinking; do not let him see you, but wait till he goes to bed, and mark where it is that he is sleeping. Then come close, and turn back the end of his mantle where it covers his feet, and lie down there. After that, it is for him to counsel you.
So Ruth promised to do all her bidding; down to the threshing-floor she went, and carried out all her mother-in-law's plan. She waited till Booz came, his heart cheered with food and drink, to take his rest by a pile of sheaves that lay there; then she crept near, turned back the end of his mantle, and lay down. At midnight, Booz was startled from his sleep, and looked about him in bewilderment to find a woman lying there at his feet. Who are you? he asked. It is Ruth, she said, Ruth, your handmaid, that bids you cast your mantle over her, as one that is near of kin. The Lord bless you, daughter, he answered; now, more than ever, you have shewn the goodness of your heart; to have no eyes for younger men, rich or poor! Be comforted, you shall have all you will of me; all the city knows you for a bride worth the winning. True enough, we are near of kin, but you have another kinsman nearer yet. Wait till night is past; at daybreak, if he will claim you by right of kinship, well and good; if not, as the Lord is a living God, you shall be mine without more ado. Sleep, then, till day comes.
So there, at his feet, she slept till the night passed; and he rose while it was still too early for men to recognize one another. He warned her not to let anyone know that she had been there; then he said, Spread out the fold of that mantle you wear, and hold it with either hand. So she held it spread out, and he measured out two bushels of barley for her to carry. When she reached the city with her load, she found Noemi eager to know how she had fared; and she told the story of how Booz had treated her. Look, she said, he has given me two bushels of barley; he protested that he must not send me home to my mother-in-law empty-handed. Wait, then, daughter, said Noemi, till we see what will come of it. Here is a man that will not rest till he has made good his promise.
So Booz went up to the city gate, and sat waiting there. When the man he was looking for passed by, the kinsman of whom he had spoken, he called him by name, bidding him stay his journey and sit there for a little; and so he did. Then Booz chose out ten of the city elders, and would have these, too, sit beside him. When they were seated, he told the rival claimant, Here is Noemi, that lately came back out of Moab, offering to sell part of the land which belonged to our kinsman Elimelech. Of this, I thought it well to give you notice, and challenge you before the neighbours who are sitting by, and these, the elders of my people. Have you a mind to play a kinsman's part, and claim it for your own? Then you must buy it, and so enter into possession. If not, tell me, so that I may know what to do; your right comes first, and mine second; there is no other kinsman. Yes, said he, I will buy it. Why then, said Booz, if you do buy the land from Noemi, you must needs take with it a dead man's widow, Ruth the Moabitess, to perpetuate the name of the kinsman whose lands you do enjoy. Nay, then, said the other, I forgo my right of kinship; I would not disinherit the heirs of my own body. I yield you my rights, willing enough to forgo them.
It was the custom of Israel in old times that if one kinsman yielded his right to another, he must untie his shoe and hand it over to this kinsman of his, or else the gift was not valid; thus did the Israelites put the grant on record. So now Booz said to the rival claimant, Untie your shoe; and as soon as he had done so, made appeal to the elders and to all that were present. You are witnesses, he said, this day, that I have reclaimed all the possessions of Elimelech, Chelion and Mahalon by purchase from Noemi: and moreover, that I have taken Mahalon's widow, Ruth the Moabitess, to wife. I mean to hand on the dead man's property to heirs of his own, so that his name may never be lost to his family, his kindred and his people. Of all this, you are witnesses. So the elders made answer, and all that were present made answer, We bear witness of it. Take your bride home, and may the Lord make her as fruitful as Rachel and Lia, that gave a posterity to Israel. May Ephrata know her worth, and Bethlehem tell her praises; may your house be famous as the house of Phares, that Thamar bore to Juda, through the sons the Lord will give you by this wife of yours.
So Booz claimed Ruth, and wedded and bedded her, and the Lord made her conceive and give birth to a son. Blessed be the Lord, all the women said to Noemi, for not leaving your family without an heir, to perpetuate its name in Israel. Here is one that shall bring comfort to your heart, and support to your old age; such a mother is his, such a daughter-in-law is yours, whose love is worth more to you than seven sons of your own. And so Noemi took the child to her bosom, and still it must be she that nursed him, she that carried him, till the neighhours, congratulating her, said It is Noemi that has a son. And they called him Obed.
This Obed had a son called Jesse, that was father to David. Thus, then, runs the pedigree of Phares; Phares was the father of Esron, Esron of Aram, Aram of Aminaidab, Aminadab of Nahasson, Nahasson of Salmon, Salmon of Booz, Booz of Obed, Obed of Jesse, and Jesse of David.