🔼The name Elimelech: Summary
- God Is King
- From (1) the word אל ('el), God, and (2) the noun מלך (melek), king.
🔼The name Elimelech in the Bible
Elimelech of Bethlehem decides to flee from famine and take his wife Naomi and two sons Mahlon and Chilion to Moab. When he passes away, Mahlon marries Orpah and Chilion marries Ruth, both Moabite women. But after ten years, Mahlon and Chilion die as well.
Orpah decides to go back to her family but Ruth accompanies Naomi on her journey back to Bethlehem. Once there, Ruth meets and marries Boaz, and becomes an ancestor of king David, and later Jesus the Nazarene.
🔼Etymology of the name Elimelech
The name Elimelech consists of two elements. The first part is the word אל (El), either the prominent Canaanite deity whose name became applied to the God of Israel, or the common abbreviation of Elohim, the genus God:
In names אל ('el) usually refers to אלהים ('elohim), that is Elohim, or God, also known as אלה ('eloah). In English, the words 'God' and 'god' exclusively refer to the deity but in Hebrew the words אל ('l) and אלה ('lh) are far more common and may express approach and negation, acts of wailing and pointing, and may even mean oak or terebinth.
The second element of our name comes from the noun מלך (melek), meaning king:
The noun מלך (melek) means king, and a king is not merely a glorified tribal chief but the alpha of a complex, stratified society, implying a court and a complex government.
The Bible insists that a society must be governed by a triad of anointed sovereigns, namely prophets, priests and the king. A good king causes his people to be prosperous and peaceful whereas a bad one causes poverty and strife. The difference between the two is dictated by how close to the Law of Nature (a.k.a. the Word of God) the king operates. A kingdom that is wholly in tune with the Law consists of only sovereign individuals and is thus without a physical king.
An Aramaic cognate verb מלך (malak) means to consult, which confirms that the concept of royalty indeed evolved from wisdom and intellectual prowess rather than brute physical or political strength, as is commonly suggested.
From this noun derives the verb מלך (malak): to be or become king, the nouns מלכה (malka) and מלכת (meleket): queen or court-lady, the noun מלוכה (meluka): kingship or royalty, and the nouns מלכות (malkut), ממלכה (mamlaka) and ממלכות (mamlakut), meaning sovereignty or kinghood.
The letter י (yod) that sits in between the two elements may be a possessive yod, which would turn the el-part into my el or el of. But it may also belong to the second element and create an third person form of the verb מלך: he is (being) a king.
For a meaning of the name Elimelech, both NOBSE Study Bible Name List and BDB Theological Dictionary take the yod as part of the verb and translate our name as God Is King. Jones' Dictionary of Old Testament Proper Names sees the yod as possessive and reads God Of The King.
The name מלכיאל (Malchiel) is the reversal of Elimelech.