What does Ruth 1:5 mean?
ESV: and both Mahlon and Chilion died, so that the woman was left without her two sons and her husband.
NIV: both Mahlon and Kilion also died, and Naomi was left without her two sons and her husband.
NASB: Then both Mahlon and Chilion also died, and the woman was left without her two sons and her husband.
CSB: both Mahlon and Chilion also died, and Naomi was left without her two children and without her husband.
NLT: both Mahlon and Kilion died. This left Naomi alone, without her two sons or her husband.
KJV: And Mahlon and Chilion died also both of them; and the woman was left of her two sons and her husband.
NKJV: Then both Mahlon and Chilion also died; so the woman survived her two sons and her husband.
Verse Commentary:
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).
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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