But Elimelech, the husband of Naomi, died, and she was left with her two sons. These took Moabite wives; the name of the one was Orpah and the name of the other Ruth. They lived there about ten years, and both Mahlon and Chilion died, so that the woman was left without her two sons and her husband. Ruth 1:3-5

While in Moab, Elimelech and his wife, Naomi, saw their sons marry Moabite women, which wasn’t technically forbidden in Scripture (Deuteronomy 7:1–4), but was frowned upon because followers of Chemosh were forbidden from joining God’s people in worship (Deuteronomy 23:3).

Furthermore, there was a long history of God’s men chasing after Moabite women because they were beautiful and immodest. Nonetheless, as perhaps the only family in Moab that worshiped Yahweh, the sons had few options. So Mahlon (meaning “sickness”) married the Moabite Ruth, and his brother, Chilion (meaning “failing” or “dying”), married the Moabite Orpah; the marriages lasted about 10 years before both husbands died. Tragically, the father and his two sons died in godless Moab—ironic, as the very thing they moved to Moab in an effort to escape was death.

Like much of life, the questions that arise from this story of why no children were born in 10 years and why further tragedy came is never answered. Perhaps God was withholding His blessing because of the men’s sin.

Nonetheless, the scene simply shifts to the widowed Naomi who was left standing alone amidst her devastated life with her two unbelieving and likewise widowed daughters-in-law. If you can picture three widows wearing black and sobbing in a circle as they face the reality of abject poverty and absolute misery, then the opening scene of Ruth is coming into focus.

  • Why is it so important to marry a believer?
    Statistically, the highest rate of divorce for any group are couples who practice different religions. Conversely, the highest rate of marital bliss are couples who are Christians and practice their faith together.