What does Ruth 1:4 mean?
ESV: These took Moabite wives; the name of the one was Orpah and the name of the other Ruth. They lived there about ten years,
NIV: They married Moabite women, one named Orpah and the other Ruth. After they had lived there about ten years,
NASB: And they took for themselves Moabite women as wives; the name of the one was Orpah, and the name of the other, Ruth. And they lived there about ten years.
CSB: Her sons took Moabite women as their wives: one was named Orpah and the second was named Ruth. After they lived in Moab about ten years,
NLT: The two sons married Moabite women. One married a woman named Orpah, and the other a woman named Ruth. But about ten years later,
KJV: And they took them wives of the women of Moab; the name of the one was Orpah, and the name of the other Ruth: and they dwelled there about ten years.
NKJV: Now they took wives of the women of Moab: the name of the one was Orpah, and the name of the other Ruth. And they dwelt there about ten years.
Verse Commentary:
Naomi is an Israelite who fled to Moab with her husband and two sons when Bethlehem was struck by a famine. Elimelech, Naomi's husband, has died, but she still has her two sons, Mahlon, which might mean "sickly," and Chilion, which may refer to something "frail" (Ruth 1:2).

This verse gives a glimpse of an underlying cultural theme of that era: children and grandchildren are essential for the safety and strength of the family. Naomi apparently feels this so acutely that she would rather the boys marry in Moab than wait until the family can return to Israel and find wives from their own people.

The relationship between the Moabites and Israelites has been strained ever since the Israelites passed by their cousins on their way to the Promised Land. Afraid of the Israelites' strength, the king of Moab hired the prophet Balaam to curse the fledgling nation. When that didn't work, Balaam suggested the Moabite women entice the Israelite men. Many of the men succumbed, having relations with the women, and worshiping their gods (Numbers 22:1—25:5; 31:16).

The propriety of Mahlon's and Chilion's marriages are debated. Because the Moabites refused to show the traveling Israelites hospitality, God banned Moabites from entering the "assembly of the Lord" to the tenth generation (Deuteronomy 23:3–4). Israelites are forbidden to marry women from the nations they dispossess in the Promised Land (Deuteronomy 7:1–4), and after the Babylonian exile, Jews are not allowed to marry foreign women (Ezra 9:1—10:44). But it's unclear if an Israelite man is banned from marrying a Moabite woman at this time—especially if she converted to Yahweh worship.

The timing is also uncertain. We aren't told if the "ten years" is the total amount of time Naomi and her sons live in Moab or the amount of time they live there after the sons married. If Ruth 1:3–4 are strictly chronological, which seems the case, the three stay ten years after Mahlon and Chilion are married. This would work to Naomi's advantage in that they have strong ties to two resident families, but even that convenience is shattered when the men die.
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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