Ruth 1:2 “The man’s name was Elimelech, his wife’s name 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.”
In the ancient Hebrew society, names were of great significance. This is why the author includes them. Elimelech means, in Hebrew, “God is my King.” Ironic, isn’t it? A man whose very name reflected total trust, total allegiance to his God, didn’t trust God to provide for him and his family. He thought he could do a better job in a place that was known for its hostility and rebellion toward God. So, he packed up his wife and sons, and they left God’s country.
Ruth, it seems, was more aptly named. Her name means “pleasant, delightful, lovely.” As we will see in future verses, Ruth was indeed all of these things. The names Mahlon and Kilion mean, respectively, “sickly” and “puny.” So, maybe we should give Elimelech a break. His boys were sick, and there was famine in the land. Maybe he was just trying to take care of his family the best way he knew how. But still, he should have known better. We all should know better than to seek refuge in the arms of a pagan, God-forsaken world, when our Father is always so gracious and good. But we’ve all done it, so let’s not be too hard on old Eli.
They were Ephrathites, which probably refers to their clan. Imagine that – they had a clan. They left parents and aunts and uncles and cousins, who no doubt would have provided continued support, and went into a land where God was hated. And where God is hated, God’s people are hated. It was true then, and it is true today.
Now, Elimelech didn’t just make a quick trip to buy some groceries. He actually made his home in Moab! It really doesn’t matter whether or not he ever planned to return to Bethlehem. He belonged in Bethlehem – it was his home. And he chose to leave his home and make a new home in a place he had no business being. All because Mr. God is my King didn’t really make God his King.
Oh, it is easy for us to point the finger at Elimelech, to question his faith, his motives, his loyalty to God. But time and again in God’s Word, we are warned against judging others. God didn’t include this story in His Book so we could condemn Elimelech. He included it so we could learn from Elimelech.
The world wants to paint a picture of God as harsh and uncaring. But that is a lie. The world tries to beckon us, advertising itself as benevolent, glamorous, generous, exciting, loving . . . all lies. The world is the place we will suffer brutality and harsh blows, indifference, cruelty, and wickedness. But God, our loving, kind, benevolent Father, will always take care of us. And He will always welcome us home, after the world has beaten us up. Elimelech was a fool to ever leave Bethlehem. Let us learn from his mistakes, shall we?
Dear Father, Thank you for loving me, even when I make foolish mistakes. Please help me not to make them.