Ruth 1:2
And the name of the man was Elimelech, and the name of his wife Naomi, and the name of his two sons Mahlon and Chilion, Ephrathites of Bethlehemjudah. And they came into the country of Moab, and continued there.
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(2) Naomi.—The name is derived from the Hebrew root meaning to be pleasant (see below, Ruth 1:20). Mahlon and Chilion mean sickness and wasting, it may be in reference to their premature death, the names being given by reason of their feeble health. It is not certain which was the elder: Mahlon is mentioned first in Ruth 1:2; Ruth 1:5, and Chilion in Ruth 4:9. It is probable, however, that Mahlon was the elder.

Ephrathites.—See note on Genesis 35:19. Ephrath was the old name of Bethlehem. Why, in the present passage, the town is called Bethlehem-judah, and the inhabitants Ephrathites, does not appear.

Ruth 1:2. Ephrathites of Beth-lehem-judah — Bethlehem was otherwise called Ephratha. Naomi signifies my amiable or pleasant one; Mahlon and Chilion signify sickness and consumption. Probably they were sickly children, and not likely to be long-lived. Such are the products of our pleasant things, weak and infirm, fading and dying. They came into the country of Moab, and continued there — Settled their habitation in that country, which it would not have been lawful for them to have done, unless it had been in a time of great public calamity, or great private necessity, as Maimonides observes.

1:1-5 Elimelech's care to provide for his family, was not to be blamed; but his removal into the country of Moab could not be justified. And the removal ended in the wasting of his family. It is folly to think of escaping that cross, which, being laid in our way, we ought to take up. Changing our place seldom is mending it. Those who bring young people into bad acquaintance, and take them out of the way of public ordinances, thought they may think them well-principled, and armed against temptation, know not what will be the end. It does not appear that the women the sons of Elimelech married, were proselyted to the Jewish religion. Earthly trials or enjoyments are of short continuance. Death continually removes those of every age and situation, and mars all our outward comforts: we cannot too strongly prefer those advantages which shall last for ever.In the days when the Judges ruled - "Judged." This note of time, like that in Ruth 4:7; Judges 18:1; Judges 17:6, indicates that this Book was written after the rule of the judges had ceased. The genealogy Ruth 4:17-22 points to the time of David as the earliest when the Book of Ruth could have been written.

A famine - Caused probably by one of the hostile invasions recorded in the Book of Judges. Most of the Jewish commentators, from the mention of Bethlehem, and the resemblance of the names Boaz and Ibzan, refer this history to the judge Ibzan Judges 12:8, but without probability.

The country of Moab - Here, and in Ruth 1:2, Ruth 1:22; Ruth 4:3, literally, "the field" or "fields." As the same word is elsewhere used of the territory of Moab, of the Amalekites, of Edom, and of the Philistines, it would seem to be a term pointedly used with reference to a foreign country, not the country of the speaker, or writer; and to have been specially applied to Moab.

2. Elimelech—signifies "My God is king."

Naomi—"fair or pleasant"; and their two sons, Mahlon and Chilion, are supposed to be the same as Joash and Saraph (1Ch 4:22).

Ephrathites—The ancient name of Beth-lehem was Ephrath (Ge 35:19; 48:7), which was continued after the occupation of the land by the Hebrews, even down to the time of the prophet Micah (Mic 5:2).

Beth-lehem-judah—so called to distinguish it from a town of the same name in Zebulun. The family, compelled to emigrate to Moab through pressure of a famine, settled for several years in that country. After the death of their father, the two sons married Moabite women. This was a violation of the Mosaic law (De 7:3; 23:3; Ezr 9:2; Ne 13:23); and Jewish writers say that the early deaths of both the young men were divine judgments inflicted on them for those unlawful connections.

Ephrathites; so called, because this Beth-lehem is otherwise called Ephrath or Ephratah, Genesis 35:19 Micah 5:2; either from Caleb’s wife of that name, 1 Chronicles 2:19 4:4, or from the fertility of the soil about it; which title may therefore be used here, to show the greatness of the famine, which affected even fertile parts.

Of Bethlehem-Judah: See Poole "Judges 17:7".

Continued there, to wit, during the famine.

And the name of the man was Elimelech,.... Which signifies "my God is King", as he was King over Israel. In the times of the judges, the government was a theocracy; the judges were raised up immediately by the Lord, and ruled under him; the Targum calls him a great man, and so Jarchi; and it is very likely he was, especially if it be true what is said the Jewish chronology (u), that he was the brother of Salmon, prince of the tribe of Judah; and it is certain that Boaz the son of Salmon was a kinsman of his, Ruth 2:1,

and the name of his wife Naomi; which signifies "sweet, pleasant", very likely a comely person, and of a sweet disposition; a name of the same signification with Naamah, the sister of Tubalcain, Genesis 4:22 and according to the Talmudists she was Elimelech's brother's daughter; for they say (w), that Elimelech, Salmon, and the kinsman (spoken of in this book), and the father of Naomi, were all of them the sons of Nahshon, prince of the tribe of Judah; the same Jarchi observes on Ruth 1:22.

and the name of his two sons Mahlon and Chilion; which seem to have their names from weakness and consumption, being perhaps weakly and consumptive persons; and it appears they both died young. It is a tradition of the Jews, mentioned by Aben Ezra, that these are the same with Joash and Saraph, who are said to have dominion in Moab, 1 Chronicles 4:22 which is not likely:

Ephrathites of Bethlehemjudah: Jarchi interprets Ephrathites by men of worth and esteem; and the Targum is,"Ephrathites, great men of Bethlehemjudah''but no doubt they were called so, because Ephratah was one of the names of Bethlehem, Genesis 35:19 so called from its fruitfulness; though Aben Ezra thinks it had its name from Ephratah the wife of Caleb; but it was so called in the time of Moses, as in the passage referred to:

and they came into the country of Moab, and continued there; unto their death; all excepting Naomi, who returned when she heard the famine was over.

(u) Seder Olam Rabba, c. 12. p. 34. Shalshalet Hakabala, fol. 8. 1.((w) T. Bab Bava Bathra, fol. 91. 1.

And the name of the man was Elimelech, and the name of his wife Naomi, and the name of his two sons Mahlon and Chilion, Ephrathites of Bethlehemjudah. And they came into the country of Moab, and continued there.
2. Elimelech] i. e. God, or my God, is king; an ancient name in S. Palestine, occurring in the Amarna tablets, Ilu-milki 179, 36; 151, 45, though the form Milk-ilu is commoner; in Phoenician we find the corresponding Baal-milk=‘Baal is king,’ NSI., p. 347. Naomi on the surface appears to mean my sweetness, a name like Hephzi-bah (2 Kings 21:1) expressive of the mother’s joy in the new-born child; more likely it is an Aram. fem. form of Naamân, i.e. sweet, pleasant one, which gives a clear parallel to Marah = bitter one in Ruth 1:20; Wellhausen compares the Aram, names Oḥorân and Oḥarî, and the Arab. Nu‘mân and Nu‘mâ, Composition d. Hex.2, p. 358 n. The meaning of Mahlon and Chilion is not quite certain; if it is weakening and pining the names may have been chosen for their significance.

Ephrathites] Apparently Ephrath was the name of the district round Beth-lehem; cf. 1 Samuel 17:12, and see Genesis 35:19, Micah 5:2, Psalm 132:6.

Verse 2. - And the name of the man was Elimelech. That is, "God is King," not, as the older critics were accustomed to interpret it, "My God is King." The intermediate i is not the possessive pronoun, but the vowel of union. The name would be originally significant of strong religious Sentiments, perhaps mingled with strong political principles. The imposition of it on a son would be something like a manifesto of the father's creed. And the name of his wife Naomi. Or rather "No-o-mi." The precise import of the word is not absolutely ascertained; but it is probable that it is somewhat abbreviated in its terraination, and means "God is sweet," or, very literally, "Jab is sweetness." It had been originally imposed as a name by some grateful and happy mother, who, by gracious providences, or by other gracious revelations, had been led to think that "sweet are the ways, sweet are the dealings, and sweet is the character of God." The word does not mean beautiful, as some suppose; nor gracious, as others suppose; nor my delight, as others still suppose. It was not intended to describe the character of the person who was to bear the name. It was intended to signalize, in the spirit of a manifesto, a much-prized feature in the Divine character - that feature, namely, that is displayed when "he deals sweetly with men." Gesenius is doubtless right when he makes sweetness the fundamental idea of the whole group of affiliated words (see his 'Thesaurus,' in voc.). The cognate Hebrew adjective is rendered sweet in 2 Samuel 23:1 and Proverbs 23:8 (comp. Proverbs 16:24 and the margin of 2 Samuel 1:23). In the light of this interpretation, and of it alone, can the full significance of what Naomi said on her return to Bethlehem be apprehended: "Call me not Naomi, call me Mara: for the Almighty hath dealt very bitterly with me" (ver. 20). And the name of his two sons. In our idiom we should say, "and the names of his two sons." The two sons, however, were for the moment regarded as a unity among the other units of the household. Mahlon, or rather "Machlon," and Chillon. We need not dip deeply into the etymological import of these names, or attach to them, as applied to Elimelech's children, any peculiar significance. The names, unlike those of the parents, are devoid of theological tinge, and, in these modern times at all events, their import is liable to endless debate. One would at the first blush of consideration suppose that the one meant sickliness, and the other consumptiveness, or consumption - rather uninteresting and melancholy ideas. But they are peculiarly confounding when we consider that the individuals, so named in our story, had apparently inherited a delicate constitution, which developed in both of them into premature sickliness and decay. The names have the aspect of being prophetic. And yet, even though we should assume that Elimelech, in virtue of some element of bodily delicacy, was afflicted with feelings of morbid despondency, it is hard to come to the conclusion that he would deliberately stereotype his most hypochondriacal anticipations in the names of his children. The probability is, that the names, as names, would originally have some other import, Dr. Cassel supposes that they meant, respectively, joy and ornament; but he trusts to impossible etymologies. Raabe, taking his cue from Sanskrit roots, interprets the one thus "He who brings gifts with him;" and the other thus - "He who conceals his wife in his house." Warner, taking his cue from Chaldea cognates, interprets the former of the two names as meaning ready to forgive, and the latter as holding forth the idea of hopeful. All of them unlikely derivations. And yet something quite distinct from the ideas of sickliness and consumption, but lying so far on parallel lines of thought, may be conceived. The primary import of מָחַל, the root of Machlon, is apparently to be tender. Thence the word came by one line of thought to mean to be physically tender, that is, to be sick; and by another that runs out in Chaldea it came to mean to be morally teenier, to be mild or forgiving. Machlon may mean mildness or tender-heartedness. Again, the primary idea of כָּלָה, the root of Chillon, is to complete. But, besides the completion that is realized in consuming, consumption, or ending, there is moral completeness, the completeness or finish that is realized in perfection (see Psalm 119:96: "I have seen an end of all perfection"). This idea of beautiful completeness, or perfection, is more likely to be the meaning of the name than the idea of consumptiveness, or consumption. Ephrathitas of Bethlehem Judah. It is not simply the two sons who are so designated. It is the whole group. They were Ephrathites, that is, Bethlehemites, for the old name of Bethlehem was Ephrath, or Ephratha. As, however, the word Ephrathite also meant Ephraimite (see Judges 12:5; 1 Samuel 1:1; and 1 Kings 11:26), it gave precision to the designation, although at the expense of a little redundancy, to say "Ephrathites of Bethlehem Judah." And they came into the country of Moab. The Hebrew emigrants reached the fields or pastoral terrgtory of Moab. And continued there. The phrase in the original is of primitive simplicity - "and were there." It has been asked by theological critics whether Elimelech was justifiable in removing to an "idolatrous country" to avoid the inconveniences of a famine in the land of his nativity. It is enough to say in reply that there is no hint in the text itself that the step taken was blamable or blamed. "No man ought," says Lawson, "to be condemned, whether dead or alive, without proofs of guilt; and no certain proofs of guilt appear in the present case." "The beam of Elimelech's judgment," says Dr. Thomas Fuller, "is justly weighed down to go from Bethlehem, Judah, into the land of Moab." Ruth 1:2אפרתים, the plural of אפרתי, an adjective formation, not from אפרים, as in Judges 12:5, but from אפרת (Genesis 48:7) or אפרתה (Ruth 4:11; Genesis 35:19), the old name for Bethlehem, Ephrathite, i.e., sprung from Bethlehem, as in 1 Samuel 17:12. The names - Elimelech, i.e., to whom God is King; Naomi (נעמי, a contraction of נעמית, lxx Νοομμείν, Vulg. Nomi), i.e., the gracious; Machlon, i.e., the weakly; and Chilion, pining - are genuine Hebrew names; whereas the names of the Moabitish women, Orpah and Ruth, who were married to Elimelech's sons, cannot be satisfactorily explained from the Hebrew, as the meaning given to Orpah, "turning the back," is very arbitrary, and the derivation of Ruth from רעוּת, a friend, is quite uncertain. According to Ruth 4:10, Ruth was the wife of the elder son Mahlon. Marriage with daughters of the Moabites was not forbidden in the law, like marriages with Canaanitish women (Deuteronomy 7:3); it was only the reception of Moabites into the congregation of the Lord that was forbidden (Deuteronomy 23:4).
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