Naomi (left) and Ruth (right), painting by Jan Victors (1653)

The Book of Ruth Simplified for Kids

The Book of Ruth is in the Hebrew Bible, which is part of the Judaic wisdom tradition. Ruth isn’t an Israelite, but as the great-grandmother of David, she plays an important role in the nation’s history. We’ve created a simple retelling of the book below. To see wisdom from other texts, see our wisdom library.

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Famine struck the land of Israel. A woman named Naomi and her family couldn’t grow crops there, so they moved to a foreign country named Moab. While there, Naomi’s husband died and her two sons married Moabite women — Orpah and Ruth. Shortly after, her sons also died, leaving all three women as widows.

Orpah and Ruth continued to look after Naomi until one day when Naomi learned that crops were growing again in Israel and decided to return. She told Orpah and Ruth that they should stay in Moab with their families, and she thanked them for being such good daughters-in-law. Orpah stayed, but Ruth told Naomi that she would go wherever Naomi went.

Naomi saw that Ruth had made up her mind, so they returned together to Israel. While there, Ruth took care of Naomi by gathering grain that had been left in the fields for the poor. Then Ruth met Boaz, a rich older man. Naomi encouraged Ruth to marry Boaz, who had plenty of money to take care of her, and she did. 

Eventually, Ruth had a boy named Obed. Obed grew up, got married, and had a boy named Jesse. And Jesse grew up, got married, and had a boy named David — a boy who eventually became King of Israel.

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Discuss:

  • Orpah and Ruth helped Naomi even after their husbands died. How can we help people who aren’t in our family? Does anyone come to mind?
  • In this story, Ruth is seen as kind and heroic, even though she is a foreigner (a Moabite, not an Israelite). How can we be kind to foreigners? How can we see their humanity as the same as ours, just as the characters in this story did?
  • Who do you feel loyalty to? How can you show your loyalty?
Use the printable PDF below to help memorize the most famous passage from the book of Ruth. The translation comes from the Jewish Publication Society (JPS) version of the Hebrew Bible, which is viewed as standard in many Jewish circles.
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