Ruth 1:5 Parallel Verses [⇓ See commentary ⇓]

Ruth 1:5, NIV: both Mahlon and Kilion also died, and Naomi was left without her two sons and her husband.

Ruth 1:5, ESV: and both Mahlon and Chilion died, so that the woman was left without her two sons and her husband.

Ruth 1:5, KJV: And Mahlon and Chilion died also both of them; and the woman was left of her two sons and her husband.

Ruth 1:5, NASB: Then both Mahlon and Chilion also died, and the woman was left without her two sons and her husband.

Ruth 1:5, NLT: both Mahlon and Kilion died. This left Naomi alone, without her two sons or her husband.

Ruth 1:5, CSB: both Mahlon and Chilion also died, and the woman was left without her two children and without her husband.

What does Ruth 1:5 mean? [⇑ See verse text ⇑]

Ten or more years before, Naomi fled a famine in Bethlehem with her husband and two sons. Although her homeland had no food, she felt full because she had her family. Now, no amount of food can fill the void left by her loss (Ruth 1:21). Her husband and sons have died. She is a foreign widow in an enemy nation. Her rights as a foreigner and a woman are already minimal; having no living male relative means she could not be more exposed.

Because of the vulnerability of widows, God makes extensive compensations for them in the Mosaic law. He promises that if someone oppresses a sojourner or a widow, He will hear the victims' cry and visit burning wrath on the abusers (Exodus 22:21–24). Every three years, the people are to store their tithes for Levites, the fatherless, widows, and sojourners (Deuteronomy 14:28–29). Farmers in Israel are forbidden to harvest all the way to the edges of their fields or go back over their fields and olive trees a second time; they are to leave some for the sojourner, fatherless, and widow (Deuteronomy 24:19–22). But Naomi isn't in Israel.

Commentators suggest Naomi is the Bible's female version of Job. Job lost more because he was richer and had more children, but because of his gender and the fact that he could own land, he could not sink as low as Naomi. For the same reasons, Job had reasons to think he could rise again—and he does (Job 42:12–13). Naomi is too old to even try to marry and have another son. There is nothing she can do to reclaim the status of her former life.

As with Naomi's husband, Elimelech, we aren't told why Mahlon and Chilion die. Their names might hold a clue, as possible interpretations of Machlon and Kilyown are "sickly" and "frail" (Ruth 1:2). This is not universally accepted, however. The Targum—a paraphrase of the Old Testament—blames their deaths on the fact that they married Moabite women. The Midrash and the Talmud, in instances such as Bava Batra 91a.8, claim God struck them because they left Israel in the first place. The Bible doesn't give those details. They aren't needed, since causes of the men's deaths have no bearing on the story. The story belongs to Naomi and Ruth.

Naomi will have to rely on only two things. First, she hears the famine is over in Bethlehem. If she goes home, she will still need charity to survive, but it will be the kindness of friends and family rather than some-time-enemies. The second blessing is the faithfulness of Mahlon's wife, Ruth (Ruth 1:16–18). By the end of the story, Naomi will find that Ruth is, indeed, more of a blessing than seven sons (Ruth 4:15).