Ruth Obeys God And Finds Love
An EasyEnglish Bible Version and Commentary (2800 word vocabulary) on the Book of Ruth
Hazel Rea and Chris Gladwell
The translated Bible text has been through Advanced Checking.
Words in boxes are from the Bible.
A word list at the end explains words with a *star by them.
The book of Ruth is a beautiful story. The events in it happened over 3000 years ago. Because it is about ordinary people, this story can help us today. This story is about an ordinary family whose members suffered many losses but God went on looking after them. Then he gave them new gifts to make them glad.
We do not know who wrote Ruth. Perhaps it was a familiar story that a *scribe wrote down after King David’s death. In chapter 4 verses 18-22, there is a list of people who were born into Ruth’s family. This includes King David. He was a very great king, an *ancestor of Jesus.
Verses 1-2 These verses introduce the story. The events happened in the time of the *judges, before there was a king ruling Israel’s people. Judah was an area in the south and west of Israel. Moab was on the opposite side of the Dead Sea and was a separate state.
Bethlehem was a large town. The local area usually produced plenty of food. Then there was a *famine (a time when crops did not grow well and so there was not enough food). Elimelech and his family wanted security. They left home to look for food elsewhere. They came to a country where the people did not *worship God.
Elimelech was from Ephrath. This probably meant that he belonged to one of the chief families in Bethlehem. (‘Ephrath’ is an old name for Bethlehem – see Micah 5:2.) He took his wife Naomi and his two sons Mahlon and Kilion. They planned to stay in Moab only for a short time.
The names in this story are important. Elimelech means ‘My God is king’. Naomi means ‘pleasant’. What had happened in Naomi’s life did not match her name. In Ruth 1:20, Naomi realised that. Mahlon and Kilion seem to come from two other words. Those words mean to be sick and to become weak and die. These names show the sad events to come.
Verse 3 Elimelech died. We do not know his age or the cause of his death. Naomi still had two sons who could provide for her.
Verses 4-5 The two sons married local girls, Orpah and Ruth. They were from Moab. (The name of their god was Chemosh – see 2 Kings 23:13.) After 10 years, the girls became widows too. They had been married but they had no sons. Naomi was now without any man from her family to look after her, and she was in a foreign country.
Verses 6-7 Naomi heard that God had helped his people. News came from Judah. God had provided food there. She still trusted that he looked after his people. She wanted to go back home. Orpah and Ruth started the journey with her. They loved her and they wanted to stay together.
Verses 8-9 But Orpah and Ruth were from Moab. They were young and they could marry again. Their people would look after them. Naomi was grateful for their kindness and she blessed them. This showed that she trusted God. And she spoke about him. She prayed to him to look after Ruth and Orpah too.
Verses 10-14 Both Ruth and Orpah still wanted to stay with Naomi. But Naomi wanted what was best for them. She could not give them new husbands. They needed to marry for security. So, Naomi tried to persuade them to go back to their families in Moab. At last, Orpah agreed, although it made her sad.
Verses 15-18 Ruth understood the practical wisdom of Naomi’s advice. However, her love for Naomi and her wish to obey God made her strong. She would be loyal to him and to Naomi. She was ready to give up everything else. ‘Where you go, I will go. And where you stay, I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God will be my God’, she said. Ruth chose to belong to Naomi’s people and to *worship Naomi’s God. The book now becomes Ruth’s story.
Verses 19-22 Ruth and Naomi travelled together. They arrived at Bethlehem when the men were beginning to harvest the *barley. The women from the town recognised Naomi. They were surprised at how she appeared. She explained her circumstances. She thought that her name should now be Mara. Mara means ‘bitter’. She was without a husband or sons. She had nothing. She thought that God was against her. Only Ruth, the young woman from Moab, remained with her. But in all that she had suffered, Naomi did not stop believing God. She did not understand why her life was sad. She only knew that God was in command.
Verse 1 This verse tells us about Boaz before he actually comes into the story. He was a relative of Naomi’s husband, Elimelech, and he was a rich and honourable man. It is important for us to know the family connection. In Israel, families owned the land. All the land was a gift from God, so each family cared very much about their part of it. Elimelech had no son to take his responsibilities, but his family tried to help Naomi and Ruth.
Verses 2-3 Ruth was younger than Naomi was. So she offered to gather grain that the men had left. It was usual to allow widows and foreigners to do this (see Leviticus 19:9-10). This was called *gleaning. God made this rule for his people. It was a way for them to share his gifts with poor people. Ruth seems to have chosen Boaz’s field by chance. However, we know that God makes good things happen. He does this when we trust him.
Verse 4 Now Ruth was working in the field. Boaz, the master, arrived. He said, ‘I pray that the *LORD will be with you.’ The workers replied, ‘We pray that the *LORD will do good things to you.’ His words to his workers show that he is a good master. He was using words that a priest would use to bless the people. The workers replied in the same way. God was there, at their place of work. His people can always be sure of this.
Verses 5-13 Verse 5 makes it clear that Boaz and Ruth had not met before. The chief worker told his master that Ruth had come to Bethlehem with Naomi. And he told Boaz that she was from Moab. She had asked him to allow her to join the other women. And he did. She worked hard. So Boaz’s chief worker had obeyed God’s law. The stranger had gathered food with the women from Bethlehem.
In verse 8, Boaz showed Ruth that he accepted her. He gave her protection. And he offered her drink from the water jugs that his young men had brought. This was more than the law demanded. Boaz was very helpful to Ruth. He was a generous master. And he was kind to those who depended on him.
Ruth had not expected so much kindness. She was very grateful and humble. She fell on the ground to show that she respected him. Her first question was, ‘Why are you so kind to me? I am a foreign woman.’ He had looked after her especially.
Boaz showed Ruth that he accepted her. Boaz’s God will accept her too. She has chosen to come and be one of God’s people, so God will surround her with his love. He will keep Ruth safe. He will be like a mother bird that provides shelter for her babies under her wings.
Verses 14-16 Boaz continued to offer Ruth more than God’s law told him to do. He was happy for Ruth to share food with him. And he allowed her to take grain from the whole field, not just the edges. It was a huge gift without limits. God is a generous God who loves us. And so he gives to us in the same way.
Verses 17-20a Ruth had gathered about 20 litres of grain. She was able to take this to Naomi, as well as what remained from her meal. First Naomi blessed the good man who had been kind to Ruth. Then she praised God for the meeting of Ruth and Boaz. God had remembered those who were dead, Elimelech and his sons. And he had remembered the widows who were still living. His kindness continues for all time. By Boaz, God will provide for them.
Verses 20b-23 Boaz was a member of Elimelech’s family (see verse 1). He would protect Ruth as she continued to find food in his fields. After the *barley harvest, it was the wheat harvest. All through the time of harvest, Ruth worked in the fields that belonged to Boaz.
The harvest was now over. Naomi made plans for the future. If a man from Israel died without children, his brother or another relative used to marry the widow. That was the custom. Then the first son that she had would carry on the dead man’s name. And he would own his land. (See Deuteronomy 25:5-6.)
There was another custom also. If someone had financial difficulties, a man from their family would buy their land. He would then look after the land, so that it still belonged to the same family. This also meant that the person with financial difficulties would not have to become somebody’s slave. People called a man who carried out these duties a ‘*redeemer’. Naomi hopes that Boaz will accept the *redeemer’s duties. So Naomi is not doing anything unusual.
Verses 1-5 After the men finished harvesting, the farmer had to *thresh the wheat and the *barley. He stayed at his place of work all day and all night. He would be very tired and hungry. Ruth had to wait until Boaz had finished eating and drinking. She had to be very quiet and prepare herself like a bride in her best clothes. Boaz would understand why she had come to him. Ruth showed that she trusted Naomi. And she obeyed her.
Verses 6-9 Ruth had chosen Naomi’s God and Naomi’s country. Here, she obeys the customs of Naomi’s country. She showed courage and trust when she offered herself to Boaz. He was surprised. But he was also grateful that this young woman was willing to become his wife. She asked him to spread his clothes over her. This was to show that she wanted him to marry her. Here ‘redeemer’ means one of her husband’s family.
Verses 10-18 We know already that Boaz was an honourable man. He was kind to Ruth. And he kept her visit secret so that nobody would think bad things about her. He also thought about how Ruth and Naomi would need food now. They would need food now because the fields were empty. He gave her another large quantity of grain. He was very generous. However, he could not marry Ruth yet. There was a man who was a closer relative to Elimelech’s family than Boaz. Boaz had to ask this man if he wanted to marry Ruth.
Verses 1-6 Boaz arranged a public meeting with this man. There were 10 witnesses. They met at the city’s gate. Men arranged matters there. And they decided what was fair there. It was necessary for men who were not in the same family to witness the arrangements. We do not know this other man’s name. Boaz said that Naomi had land to sell. Boaz had to offer the land to him first because he was a closer relative of Elimelech.
The man was glad to buy the land, so that it would still belong to Elimelech’s relatives. However, Boaz said that he must also marry Ruth. And he must make her son the owner of the land. He must be the one to give Elimelech an *heir. That *heir would have a right to Naomi’s land. This changed everything. The man could not risk his own family’s future. He would have to provide for Ruth’s child or children until they became adults. So, he would have less money to give to his other children. And perhaps, when he died, some of his own land would also belong to Ruth’s child. So again, there would be less land for his other children to own. For these reasons, this man gave Boaz his right to the land and to Ruth.
Verses 7-10 The man took off his shoe. This was the custom to show that he agreed to give up his rights to the property. He agreed to pass them to another man. Boaz took the shoe from him to make the arrangement final. Then Boaz said that he would take Ruth to be his wife.
Verses 11-12 The agreement was now legal. There were witnesses to it. The witnesses were happy with what had happened. They blessed Boaz. The witnesses prayed that Ruth would be like Rachel and Leah. And they prayed that she would be the mother of a great family. Rachel and Leah were the wives of Jacob, and they were important in the history of God’s people. The 12 family groups of Israel came from these two women. The witnesses also prayed that Boaz would do many good things. They prayed that he would be famous for all these good things.
Verse 13 Ruth and Boaz became husband and wife, and God gave them a son. All through this story, we see God giving good gifts to his people who are true to him.
Verses 14-17 Now Naomi had a child to make her happy, too. Her friends praised God for the baby. And they prayed that the baby would have a good life. Naomi had returned to Bethlehem feeling bitter and empty. Now she again had a child to look after. She was hopeful for the future. Everyone shared her joy. Her name was still Naomi. (They did not call her Mara!) The baby’s name was Obed, which means ‘servant’. Like Boaz and Ruth, he served God.
Verses 18-22 Perez was the son of Judah by his *daughter-in-law Tamar, who was also a widow. (See Genesis chapter 38.) Judah’s family gained God’s promise in Genesis 49:8-10. From this family came Boaz and, later, great King David. Jesus, the greatest of all kings, came from Bethlehem from the same family. Jesus was the son of Mary. Like Ruth, she obeyed God and always trusted him. There is no special book in the Bible about Mary, but God has given us this lovely book about Ruth. In this book, we read about ordinary people. They are living as members of God’s family because they respect and obey him. It gives us a pattern for our own lives.
ancestor ~ any person from the past from whom the families of your father or your mother have come.
barley ~ a type of grain.
daughter-in-law ~ son’s wife.
Ephrathites ~ people that lived in Bethlehem.
family tree ~ a list of your parents, grandparents and so on.
famine ~ time when food plants do not grow.
glean ~ get what other people leave.
grain ~ the seeds of *barley and wheat.
heir ~ the person who receives land or money after his father or family member dies.
judges ~ leaders of Israel who tried to govern as God directed them.
lord ~ one who rules or is a master.
LORD ~ a special name for God that his people use.
Mara ~ a word that means ‘bitter’.
New Testament ~ the second part of the Bible. The writers wrote it after Jesus had lived on the earth.
redeem ~ to pay another person’s debts and to protect them when they cannot help themselves. In the *New Testament, we learn that Jesus redeems his people (see Galatians 3:13-14 and 1 Peter 1:18). He pays the price for what they have done wrong.
scribe ~ a man who writes as his work. People pay him to write letters and records.
shawl ~ a square of cloth; women wear it over their shoulders.
sheaf/sheaves ~ some plants of wheat or *barley tied together.
sister-in-law ~ here it means the wife of your husband’s brother.
The Almighty ~ a name for God, someone more powerful than anyone else.
thresh ~ to beat the *barley and wheat so that the grains fall out.
vinegar ~ what wine becomes if we leave it open to the air.
winnow ~ after *threshing, you winnow to make the *grain separate from the rest of the plant.
worship ~ to love and thank someone (God) more than we love anyone else.
David Atkinson ~ The Wings of Refuge ~ Inter-Varsity Press
The following works are listed in David Atkinson’s book as sources:
G. A. Cooke ~ Ruth
W. Eichrodt ~ Theology of the O. T.
C. F. Keil and F. Delizch ~ Biblical Commentary on the O. T.
G. A. Knight ~ Ruth and Jonah
D. A. Leggett ~ The Levirate and Goel Institutions and the O. T.
A. E. Cundall and L. Morris ~ Judges and Ruth
H. H. Rowley ~ The Marriage of Ruth
Roland de Vaux ~ Ancient Israel
Bibles ~ AV, RV, RSV, NEB, The Jerusalem Bible
© 1997-2004, Wycliffe Associates (UK)
This publication is written in EasyEnglish Level B (2800 words).
Visit our website: