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Elimilech’s Costly Compromise

I just had this thought over lunch and needed to jot it down.  I was reading more about Chemosh, the god the Moabites worshiped, in a MacArthur commentary and he mentions that the people of Moab worshiped Chemosh through child sacrifice.  It made me think about the fact that neither Orpah or Ruth had children while they were in Moab.  And so I asked myself this question, ‘why?  Here are the thoughts that I went through while turning this question over in my head:

  • Maybe they had children but had sacrificed them to Chemosh (ugh.. I hope not and I don’t believe this was the case)
  • Maybe God had closed their wombs through infertility or miscarriage so that when Elimilech and his sons died there would be no recourse for Ruth, Orpah, and Naomi besides His providence (I like this line of thinking)
  • Maybe the young couples chose not to conceive while in Moab so that they would not have to fear the Chemosh requirement of child sacrifice (I like this one too – I will explain)

Here are my thoughts on why I like that third option.  I don’t believe Elimilech was completely rebellious towards God.  I believe that he and Naomi continued to educate and raise their children in the Jewish context and this can be surmised by Ruth’s knowledge of their God and His names (she uses both Jehovah and Elohim in context with her conversation with Naomi on the road back to Bethlehem).  Furthermore, I believe that Elimilech’s goal was to eventually return to Bethlehem once things improved there.  He had land there and family there and we know that when they departed from Bethlehem that they had only prepared for a short stay in Moab.  Unfortunately for him, the good news of God’s providence returning does not come to Moab until after his death and the death of his sons.

I think that the Elimilech family may have lived a life in Moab of waiting for the right time to return.  And that would have included asking the sons and their wives to wait to bear children until they returned home. All along, they were ignoring God’s direction because they were waiting on their own timing.  They were trying to stand on both sides of the fence.

How many of us are guilty of doing just that?

  • God, I will do that when this or that is taken care of
  • God, this can’t be your will because that path looks hard

What about the other part of that thought, you know, the one where we are only doing part of God’s will?

  • God, I am doing this much right now, don’t ask me to do that as well
  • Look, God, aren’t we doing this part really well?  I mean, that’s all you really want, right?  That I do the best with what I have? That I am sincere?

How many of us are living in Moab with full intention of someday going to Bethlehem when things are just right?

Categories: Commentary Tags: , , ,
  1. January 20, 2010 at 7:32 pm

    Tony: can I raise my hand and plead guilty to some of the questions? I remember how we used to say that a person “wanted the best of both worlds.” I think that is kinda sorta what you are writing about. We see life from both sides of the fence and from one side the other looks good. But then we rationalize and think “but if i was over there then…” Man, i am so guilty of this at times. How to stop it is another thing. Good thought-provoking thoughts.

    • January 20, 2010 at 7:36 pm

      Yeah.. that Bible has a way of asking some tough questions. I think there are many of us that can raise our hands on those questions and say, “hey, I am in that group.”

      I have an inkling that we may need to be seeking the Holy Spirit on how to go about answering these questions…. or more importantly, application.

  2. Ty
    February 17, 2012 at 4:10 am

    thanks for these thoughts! I had never considered why it was that Ruth and Orpah had never had children.

  3. February 27, 2012 at 4:53 pm

    Very thought provoking. Great post

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