Chapter 1: Ruth and Naomi
The Book of Ruth opens up by introducing a woman named Naomi who lives in Bethlehem with her husband Elimelech and her sons Mahlon and Killion. During this time, there is a famine in Israel, so Elimelech and his family move to Moab. While they are there, Elimelech dies and his sons marry Moabite women, with the names of Orpah and Ruth. This family stays in Moab for about 10 years, but both Mahlon and Kilion die, leaving Naomi a widow and a mother without any living sons to care for her.
After the death of the husband and her sons, Naomi hears that the famine in Israel has ended and decides with her two daughter-in-laws to head back to Israel. A little bit later Naomi changes her mind and tells her daughter-in-laws to go back to the homes of their fathers and not to do with her. But they insist on going with Naomi to Israel. So Naomi tries to convince them one more time. Naomi tells them that if they stick with her that they will never be able to re-marry. This convinces Orpah to return home, but Ruth still decides to stay by the side of Naomi.
Naomi tries to convince Ruth to go to, but Ruth tells her that she will go where she goes, and eventually die where she dies. Ruth is serious and Naomi stops convincing her to return home. So both Ruth and Naomi head to Israel, where they cause quite the stir among the people, they wonder if it could be Naomi, and Naomi tells them to call her Mara, because the Lord had made her life “bitter”. Naomi means pleasant and Mara means bitter. So we can safely assume that Naomi went from pleasant to bitter. Naomi and Ruth return to Bethlehem, right as the harvest of Barley is beginning.
Chapter 2: Ruth Collects in the Field
With only Naomi and Ruth together, and no husbands this makes them very poor. They decide to go to the fields and pick up what was left behind in the harvest. This is part of Ancient Laws regarding harvest, where whoever is harvesting must not be super thorough, so that they leave behind some of the harvest for poor people to come and eat. (See Leviticus 19 and Deuteronomy 23:15-25:19).
Ruth ends up in a field that belongs to a man named Boaz, he goes to the field and sees Ruth and asks his men, who this woman was. His men tell him that she is from Moab and has been working all day without rest. Boaz approaches Ruth and tells her to continue gathering in his field and not go to any other field. He commands his men to not touch her and permits her to drink from their water jars.
Ruth bows down to Boaz and asks him why he has found favor in her. He tells her that he has heard that she has done a lot for Naomi and wants to reward her for her good will. Boaz even invites Ruth to eat with him at meal time and gives her so much food that she has plenty of leftover food. Boaz orders his men to go in front of Ruth while she is collecting and leave behind some stalks of barley to make her harvest even better. Ruth threshes the barley she collected and comes up with 22 liters of barley, which is quite a lot of barley. Ruth brings this barley and the leftover food back to Naomi, who is thrilled to see all the food. Naomi asks Ruth where she had gathered this food and tells her, we then find out that Boaz is actually a relative of Naomi.
Ruth and Naomi decide to take the advice of Boaz and only work in his field, where they will be protected. Ruth continues to live with Naomi.