Mahlon and Chilion

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MAHLON AND CHILION (Heb. מַחְלוֹן and כִּלְיוֹן), the two sons of Elimelech and Naomi (Ruth 1:2ff.; 4:9–10). They were Ephrathites of Bethlehem who migrated to Moab, together with their parents, during a drought in the time of the Judges. After their father's death, the two brothers married Moabite women, Chilion marrying Orpah, and Mahlon, *Ruth. Both died childless. Their names have been taken to mean "sickness" and "destruction" and have been explained as symbolic of their untimely death. But Mahlon could be connected with mahol, "dance," and Chilion with a word meaning "completion."

In the Aggadah

Mahlon and Chilion are identified with Joash and Saraph of I Chronicles 4:22, the different names indicating their characteristics and destiny. Joash was so called because he lost hope (from the root יאשׁ, "to give up hope") of the messianic era; Saraph because he was condemned to be burned (from the root שרף, "to burn"); Mahlon, because he committed acts of profanation (from the root חלל, "to profane"); and Chilion because he was condemned by God to destruction (כלה "to destroy"; bb 91b). They sinned in leaving Ereẓ Israel (bb 91a), and in that they neither proselytized their wives nor ensured that they performed ritual immersion (Ruth R. 2:9). Before they died, they were rendered penniless (Ruth R.2:10).


Noth, Personennamen, 54, 249; Ginzberg, Legends, 4 (1925), 31; 6 (1925), 189; Y. Ḥasida, Ishei ha-Tanakh (1964), 258–9.