The rabbis speculate about Elimelekh. Why did he leave during the famine in Judah? Was he relatively poor and did he emigrate out of Judah to keep his family alive? There are a few hints in the text that Elimelekh’s family was not blessed in their journey to Moab for better fields. For one thing, the Moabite wive’s after ten years have no children. The text does not say why. The rabbis suggest that Elimelekh was wealthy and left Judah so he would not have to share with the poor all around him during the famine. Thus, his sons were “sickly” and “ceases to be.” And his daughters-in-law, Moabites who did not first convert to faith in Hashem, were barren. It will be the women, Naomi and the Moabitess Ruth, who act with loyal love toward each other and toward God to undo the wrong of the male head of family Elimelekh.
The JPS Commentary gives some extra insights into the feminine aspects of the book of Ruth, which predominates and of which even the Ephrathite clan itself is another example. The clan, apparently, is named for the wife of Caleb (1 Chron 2:19, 50). The place and even the clan, it seems, was named for her. Bethlehem is associated in many texts with the Ephrathites, a clan of Judah, including famous messianic prophecies such as Micah 5:1 (5:2 in Christian Bibles): “And you, O Bethlehem of Ephrath, Least among the clans of Judah, From you one shall come forth To rule Israel for Me — One whose origin is from of old, From ancient times” (JPS translation). Also, Rachel was buried near here (Gen 35:19). And King David was an Ephrathite (1 Sam 17:12).