What does Ruth 1:2 mean?
ESV: The name of the man was Elimelech and the name of his wife Naomi, and the names of his two sons were Mahlon and Chilion. They were Ephrathites from Bethlehem in Judah. They went into the country of Moab and remained there.
NIV: The man’s name was Elimelek, his wife’s name was Naomi, and the names of his two sons were Mahlon and Kilion. They were Ephrathites from Bethlehem, Judah. And they went to Moab and lived there.
NASB: The name of the man was Elimelech, and the name of his wife, Naomi; and the names of his two sons were Mahlon and Chilion, Ephrathites of Bethlehem in Judah. So they entered the land of Moab and remained there.
CSB: The man’s name was Elimelech, and his wife’s name was Naomi. The names of his two sons were Mahlon and Chilion. They were Ephrathites from Bethlehem in Judah. They entered the fields of Moab and settled there.
NLT: The man’s name was Elimelech, and his wife was Naomi. Their two sons were Mahlon and Kilion. They were Ephrathites from Bethlehem in the land of Judah. And when they reached Moab, they settled there.
KJV: 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 Bethlehem-judah. And they came into the country of Moab, and continued there.
NKJV: The name of the man was Elimelech, the name of his wife was Naomi, and the names of his two sons were Mahlon and Chilion— Ephrathites of Bethlehem, Judah. And they went to the country of Moab and remained there.
Verse Commentary:
This statement provides the names of the people mentioned at the start of the chapter (Ruth 1:1). An Israelite family—parents and two sons—flee the famine in Judah around Bethlehem. They settle in Moab, a nation regularly at war with Israel. In order to do this, Elimelech would have had to sell his land—the family inheritance that God provided. "Elimelech" means "God is my king." "Naomi" means "pleasant." "Bethlehem" means "house of bread."

Scholars debate the meaning of the sons' names. It's possible that "Mahlon" means "sickly," and "Chilion" means "frailty, mortal." Both sons will pass away while in Moab (Ruth 1:4), leading some interpreters to see those as placeholders simply noting the son's fate. Others suggest the names are derived from machol and kalal, meaning "dancing" and "perfected." As literal names, they would have been given long before the move to Moab and their untimely deaths. These are all possibilities, but none are the least important to the message of this book.

Bethlehem is, of course, well-known to the Bible story. Rachel, Jacob's favorite wife, was buried there after giving birth to Benjamin (Genesis 35:16–19). David is from there as is his descendent, Jesus the Messiah (1 Samuel 16:1; Luke 2:1–21).

The term "Ephrath" is less certain. It refers to the region surrounding Bethlehem and is sometimes used to refer to Bethlehem, itself. It also seems to be the name of a clan in Bethlehem. Judah's son Perez had two sons (Genesis 46:12). Boaz, and therefore David and Jesus, is descended from Perez's grandson, Ram (Ruth 4:18–19). Ram's brother Caleb, sometimes spelled Chelubai, married a woman named Ephrath (1 Chronicles 2:19). It's unlikely the clan and region are named after her; she would have lived in Egypt when the Israelites were enslaved there.

The phrase translated "country of Moab" most literally means "fields of Moab," referring to physical land, not the cultural or political nation. The term refers to a specific agricultural region, although we don't know where. Likewise, we don't know what the family did there, why they stayed so long, or why the sons took wives from Moab and didn't go back to Israel. That so many things are left unsaid implies those details aren't necessary to grasp the point of the story. This book is about a young Moabite widow showing lovingkindness to her widowed Israelite mother-in-law. She demonstrates so much love that she dedicates her life to make sure the mother is recompensed for her loss.

The larger lesson is about God's lovingkindness, even for widows. He not only cares for their needs, but He also places Ruth in the ancestral line of King David and the Messiah, Jesus.
Verse Context:
Ruth 1:1–5 opens Naomi's story with a short but devastating account of tragedy. The era of the judges was a period of lawlessness and idolatry in Israel (Judges 2:16–19). In one response to Israel's sin, at least around Bethlehem, God sends a famine in judgment. Elimelech and Naomi take their two sons to Moab where the sons marry Moabite wives. Sadly, within ten years all three men are dead, leaving a Jewish woman and two Moabite daughters-in-law forced to fend for themselves.
Chapter Summary:
Ruth 1 depicts how a person can feel "starved" for things other than food. Elimelech and his wife, Naomi, flee a famine in Bethlehem and settle in Moab where there is plenty of food and their sons find devoted wives. Within ten years, however, Naomi's husband and sons are dead. When she hears Judah has food again, she prepares to return as an old, bitter widow. One daughter-in-law, Ruth, insists on accompanying her. On the surface, a young Moabite widow in Israel would be the last person who could help, but God honors Ruth's lovingkindness and eventually uses her to restore Naomi's hope and future.
Chapter Context:
Ruth chapter 1 introduces the tumultuous life of a Jewish woman in the era of the judges (Judges 2:16–19). The Israelites have entered the Promised Land but have only half-heartedly pursued God's command to drive out the depraved Canaanites. Too often, they rejected God for foreign idols. God responds with war and famine. In the face of one such famine in Judah, Elimelech and Naomi take their two sons and flee to Moab. After ten years, when the famine is lifted, Naomi returns to Bethlehem with all that is left of her family: one daughter-in-law. They encounter Boaz, whose character is explained more in chapter 2.
Book Summary:
Though set in a time of violence and tragedy, the book of Ruth tells one of Scripture’s most uplifting stories. Naomi, an Israelite, leaves her home during a famine. While away, in Moab, her husband and sons die. Naomi convinces one of her Moabite daughters-in-law to leave her and seek a new life. The other, Ruth, refuses, declaring her love and loyalty to Naomi. When the pair return to Israel, they encounter Boaz. This man is both kind and moral; his treatment of Ruth secures Naomi’s future and becomes part of king David’s ancestry.
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