🔼The name Mahlon: Summary
- Man Of Sickness, Man Of Entreaty
- From the verb חלה (hala), to be sick or to entreat.
🔼The name Mahlon in the Bible
There's only one Mahlon in the Bible. He is the brother of Chilion, and they are the two sons of Elimelech and Naomi of Bethlehem (Ruth 1:2). A famine forces Elimelech to move his family to Moab, but it's not clear from the story if things are better over there. Elimelech dies, and the two sons marry Moabite women: Chilion marries Orpah and Mahlon marries Ruth. Ten years later, Mahlon and Chilion too die.
Orpah moves back to her people but Ruth travels with Naomi to Bethlehem. There she meets Boaz, who marries her evoking the levirate law, which stipulates that if a man dies childless, his brother or close relative should marry his widow and bring forth children in his name. Ruth and Boaz become the great-grandparents of king David and the ancestors of Jesus Christ, but according to the levirate law, the lineage should be traced through Mahlon and not Boaz.
🔼Etymology of the name Mahlon
The name Mahlon appears to be derived from the verb חלה (hala), meaning to be weak, sick or wounded:
The verb חלל (halal) means to pierce. Adjective חלל (halal) means (fatally) pierced. Noun חלה (halla) denotes a kind of donut. Noun חלון (hallon) describes a deliberate hole in a wall for ventilation and illumination. Noun חליל (halil) denotes a holed musical instrument like a flute or pipe, and the denominative verb חלל (halal) means to play the pipe. Noun מחלה (mehilla) appears to refer to a kind of geological depression or hollow comparable to a cave.
Special or fancy items were typically not damaged in any way, and piercing or otherwise compromising or altering items demonstrated their commonness or profaneness. Noun חל (hol) means profaneness or commonness. Adjective חלל (halal) and noun חלילה (halila) both mean profaned. The noun תחלה (tehilla) means beginning or first, which seems to argue that a whole new thing can only be brought about when an old way or old situation (no matter how highly regarded) is pierced and profaned.
Verb חלה (hala) means to be skewered in the sense of to be weak, sick or wounded. Noun חלי (holi) means wound or sickness. Noun מחלה (mahaleh) means disease.
Perhaps a whole other verb חלה (hala) means to appease or entreat, although entreating and piercing may be considered similar actions. Noun מחלת (mahalath) is a kind of song, perhaps a piercing, entreating affair, or perhaps some profane ditty, a song about common things, or perhaps even a song that was typically meant to be altered or build upon or expanded at any artist's discretion.
Perhaps a whole third verb חלה (hala) may have spoken of adorning, although most adorning was obviously achieved by piercing holes in things to hang them up. Prior to the invention of glue, items such as beads and brooches were attached by merit of strings and bores. Nouns חלי (hali) and חליה (helya) refers to ornaments and jewelry.
Similar to the first of the verbs חלה (hala), verb חלא (hala') means to be sick or diseased. Plural noun תחלאים (tahalu'im) means sickness(es) or disease(s).
Perhaps a whole other verb חלא (hala') may have meant to defile. It's not used in the Bible but it would explain the noun חלאה (hel'a), rust or filth.
Our name ends with the familiar waw-nun-extension, which creates a localized or personified manifestation of the verb. The name Mahlon literally means Man Of Weakness.
For a meaning of the name Mahlon, NOBSE Study Bible Name List reads Sickly. Alfred Jones (Dictionary of Old Testament Proper Names) takes the waw-nun-extension to be an "intensitive termination" and translates our name with Great Infirmity. BDB Theological Dictionary does not translate our name and also doesn't list it under the verb חלה. Whether that is because BDB disputes that Mahlon's root is חלה is unclear.