During a severe drought in Judea, Naomi and her husband, Elimelech, decided to leave Bethlehem in search of pasturage for their flocks. A large percentage of their food came from milk products, so saving their flock was of utmost importance. Across the Salt Sea (Which we now know as the Dead Sea), the grass was green and plenteous. Their destination was Moab, land of their enemies. On their way to Moab, after herding their sheep northward through the Judean Hills, Naomi and Elimelech turned east, crossed a small strip of desert, then forded the Jordan River. A few miles east of the Jordan River, they turned south onto The King’s Highway. The King’s Highway was an important trade route connecting Africa with Mesopotamia. It ran from Egypt across the Sinai Peninsula to Aqaba, then northward to Damascus and the Euphrates River. After traveling for three days along this highway, Naomi and her family and servants climbed into the mountains west of the highway to arrive at the valley they would inhabit during their stay in Moab.
On the return journey, Naomi, with Ruth, again traveled the King’s Highway. This time, after fording the Jordan, she and Ruth crossed over the Judean Hills into Canaan. Here, they followed the Way by the Sea. Also known as Via Maris, the Way by the Sea was an ancient trade route dating from the early Bronze Age. This route linked Egypt with Syria, Anatolia and Mesopotamia. At some point along the Way by the Sea, Naomi and Ruth turned east to follow a path that took them to Bethlehem.
(Larger map below)
(Map done by Nat Jones.)