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Ruth 1:3

ESV But Elimelech, the husband of Naomi, died, and she was left with her two sons.
NIV Now Elimelek, Naomi's husband, died, and she was left with her two sons.
NASB Then Elimelech, Naomi’s husband, died; and she was left with her two sons.
CSB Naomi's husband, Elimelech, died, and she was left with her two sons.
NLT Then Elimelech died, and Naomi was left with her two sons.
KJV And Elimelech Naomi's husband died; and she was left, and her two sons.

What does Ruth 1:3 mean?

An Israelite couple, Elimelech and Naomi, along with their two sons, have fled a famine in Bethlehem and settled in Moab (Ruth 1:1–2). At some point in their ten-year stay (Ruth 1:4), Elimelech dies. When, precisely, he passes away is not stated. The flow of the story suggests this happened soon after the move to Moab, likely before the two sons had married their wives. As is typical with ancient literature, the book of Ruth leaves out details Westerners would prefer to know. Also, among these mysteries are where in Moab they settle, what they do there, and how Naomi survives without her husband.

Scripture does tell us how, only a few generations before, the Israelites were traveling up the Jordan River toward the crossing by Jericho. There, the Moabites proved antagonistic toward their cousins. The Moabite king hired the prophet Balaam to curse the nation. When God prevented Balaam from uttering any word against the Israelites, Balaam suggested the Moabite women go down and seduce the Israelite men from their wives and their God (Numbers 22:1—25:5; 31:16).

The conditions of Elimelech's death are also a mystery. Bible scholars, of course, have theories, and they all seem to include divine judgment. One theory is that Elimelech disobeyed God by leaving the Promised Land and fleeing to the Israelites' enemy in Moab. Specifically, he sold his family inheritance, given by God, to live amongst idol-worshiping pagans.

A second is similar: that God condoned the family's move to Moab but that they should have returned sooner. Some think that God told Elimelech to return, but he refused. There's absolutely no evidence for this—in fact, the famine apparently won't be lifted until years after Elimelech's death (Ruth 1:6).

Scripture gives no reason for Elimelech's untimely demise. As far as the story of Ruth and Naomi is concerned, Elimelech is simply a character involved in the early plot, not a major character requiring detailed attention. The focus is on Naomi, his widow. Elimelech dies, leaving his wife alone with two sons, though not for long.
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