Deut 23:3 and Ruth the Moabitess

Discussion in 'OT Historical Books' started by Jerusalem Blade, May 27, 2010.

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  1. Jerusalem Blade

    Jerusalem Blade Puritan Board Post-Graduate

    I am seeking to understand the inclusion of Ruth into the congregation of the LORD in light of Deut 23:3,

    An Ammonite or Moabite shall not enter into the congregation of the LORD; even to their tenth generation they shall not enter into the congregation of the LORD for ever​

    It is clear she was accepted into the house of Israel, for the Scripture so attests in the book of Ruth; she is even named in the genealogy of Christ (Matt 1:5). What I want to understand is the basis for her inclusion contrary to the prohibition.

    The best idea I have found so far is Matthew Poole's:

    Any more thoughts on this?
  2. Wannabee

    Wannabee Obi Wan Kenobi

    Grace. She was the only means by which her husband's family's line could continue. Though he had marred her contrary to God's law, she proved faithful upon his death and ministered to her mother-in-law as an Israelite at heart. If she were not redeemed by Boaz the line would then perish. It's interesting that Luke's genealogy follows Matthew's, for the most part, from David back to Abraham. One of Luke's themes is the inclusion of all people in the Gospel. The genealogy further verifies this and magnifies God's grace repeatedly.

    Just some thoughts.... for what they're worth. :)
  3. Elimelek

    Elimelek Puritan Board Freshman

    If Ruth was written in the exile or post-exile period, the book could be a reminder that God would bless Israel through all the nations. But the "if" is a big "IF."
  4. TimV

    TimV Puritanboard Botanist

    I used to think that although the marriage was entered into illegally, like a man who marries a woman who divorces her husband for no good reason. And like that marriage, while it was sinful to enter into that contract, it was like the foolish oath that one is obligated to keep. So, Mahlon and Chilion committed adultery by entering into marriages with Ruth and Orpha, the obligation was there, making Ruth and Orpha Israelites. So Boaz could legally marry Ruth.

    But the problem is that if Boaz had married his full sister, or a man, or a donkey then the marriage wouldn't have been a marriage, since it was illegally contracted and an illegal contract is no contract.

    So now I'm just stumped.
  5. Peairtach

    Peairtach Puritan Board Doctor

    Maybe this just referred to male Ammonites and Moabites because of the greater status and authority of the male in Israelite society and because males could - from an ecclesiastical and ceremonial point of view - approach the Lord more closely than females.

    Female Moabites and Ammonites were maybe deemed less of a threat, and more easily assimilated(?)
  6. JennyG

    JennyG Puritan Board Graduate

    I always thought that when Ruth made her great avowal, "whither thou goest, I will go...." then she became an Israelite by adoption - and that it was a picture of how we are adopted as children and grafted into the true vine although we were enemies of God (or spiritual Moabites) by nature
  7. Skyler

    Skyler Puritan Board Graduate

    If they were virgins, I think, they were allowed to be taken as spoils of war, weren't they?
  8. Semper Fidelis

    Semper Fidelis 2 Timothy 2:24-25 Staff Member

    This is the view that I would favor. She disavowed her Moabite status and identified Israel as her God. It's sort of a version of hating father, mother, brother, and sister for God's sake. Ruth's confession is pretty remarkable in a culture where being a widow meant certain poverty. She left every support structure to follow Naomi back to Israel.
  9. Christusregnat

    Christusregnat Puritan Board Professor


    I think that the "congregation of the LORD" was a political entity that included heads of households and independent males, but excluded children and women.

    That is one way to read the term, which helps to explain why there was no problem with Ruth being included. Likewise, the term can at times be read as the legislature/judicial branch in Israel, which would likewise exclude women and children.

    Not that the term always means this, but that there are instances in which I think it fits; this passage being a notable instance of such usage:

    Deuteronomy 23:1 - Passage

  10. Gesetveemet

    Gesetveemet Puritan Board Freshman

    John Gill

  11. Kevin

    Kevin Puritan Board Doctor

    I think that the solution is found in the fact the the appellation "woman of Moab" is a geographical, not an enthnic label. Ruth is of the tribe of Benjamin, cf I Chron 8:8. Thus Ruth is a symbol & a promise that all of the lost sheep of the house of Israel will be gathered.
  12. Wannabee

    Wannabee Obi Wan Kenobi

    Ruth 1:4 Now they took wives of the women of Moab: the name of the one was Orpah, and the name of the other Ruth. And they dwelt there about ten years.
    Ruth 1:15 And she said, “Look, your sister-in-law has gone back to her people and to her gods; return after your sister-in-law.”
    Ruth 1:22 So Naomi returned, and Ruth the Moabitess her daughter-in-law with her, who returned from the country of Moab. Now they came to Bethlehem at the beginning of barley harvest.
    Ruth 2:2 So Ruth the Moabitess said to Naomi, “Please let me go to the field, and glean heads of grain after him in whose sight I may find favor.” And she said to her, “Go, my daughter.”
    Ruth 2:6 So the servant who was in charge of the reapers answered and said, “It is the young Moabite woman who came back with Naomi from the country of Moab.
    Ruth 2:21 Ruth the Moabitess said, “He also said to me, ‘You shall stay close by my young men until they have finished all my harvest.’ ”
    Ruth 4:5 Then Boaz said, “On the day you buy the field from the hand of Naomi, you must also buy it from Ruth the Moabitess, the wife of the dead, to perpetuate the name of the dead through his inheritance.”
    Ruth 4:10 Moreover, Ruth the Moabitess, the widow of Mahlon, I have acquired as my wife, to perpetuate the name of the dead through his inheritance, that the name of the dead may not be cut off from among his brethren and from his position at the gate. You are witnesses this day.”
  13. Kevin

    Kevin Puritan Board Doctor

    Joe, all due respect, but that is begging the question.

    The scripture bans moabites from the congregation. That is the dilemma. We have two options, there is an exception to the ban, or Ruth does not fall under it.
  14. Wannabee

    Wannabee Obi Wan Kenobi

    Thanks Kevin. My point was the choice "B" is not valid. Ruth is a Moabite. That is part of the story and an illustration of God's grace. I propose that Naomi's son's sinned in marrying the Moabite women but that Ruth was converted, becoming a true Israelite by faith. Boaz is left with the opportunity to redeem her, which is lawful. Though I don't know, it could be that the redemption of the family overrides the Moabite marriage restriction due to the fact that she is already married into Israel and/or the fact that she is a proselyte already. Just a hunch. If she's not redeemed the line dies with her and Naomi. Regardless, we see a case where the sins of men were the means of God's glory. They meant it for evil, God meant it for good. And, as it is included in the Messianic line, I perceive that it illustrates God's grace for all men, Jew and Gentile alike; even those specifically singled out for their poor treatment of Israel.
  15. BradyC

    BradyC Puritan Board Freshman

    My understanding is that the purpose of the command was primarily theological rather than ethnological (and since the two were normally so closely related the terms could be used interchangeably). Like many laws, it was not an ironclad rule to be applied woodenly in all circumstances. I think there was an inherent understanding that if one were to forsake the nation and its gods, as Ruth did, and come under submission to the God of the covenant, they were to be accepted. There identity would no longer be wrapped up in the nation they were a part of. Interestingly, when you read the next chapter in Deuteronomy we see God instructing people how to treat the sojourners, widows and fatherless (three things that Ruth qualified for) with grace and mercy.

    In Christ,
  16. Jerusalem Blade

    Jerusalem Blade Puritan Board Post-Graduate

    Thank you all very much for your thoughts. I think I have resolved this; here are some thoughts on it:

    Keil and Delitzsch, in their commentary on Ruth 1:1-5, say, “Marriage with the daughters of the Moabites was not forbidden in the law, like marriages with Canaanitish women (Deut. 7:3); it was only the reception of Moabites into the congregation of the Lord that was forbidden (Deut. 23:4 [3 Eng.]).” In their commentary on Deut 23:1-8 they define the congregation of the Lord as “the covenant fellowship of Israel with the Lord”.

    As noted above, Jewish sources “explained that Deut. 23 permitted Israelite men to marry Ammonite or Moabite women but not the reverse.” (Robert L. Hubbard, The Book of Ruth (NICOT), p. 5)

    Hubbard remarks on the matter,

    “Further, Ruth was to emerge as an admirable character—indeed, a model of true devotion. This not only made her attractive to Boaz—not an unimportant point!—but also contributed to a major theme. By stressing her worthy character, he [the narrator –SMR] offered Ruth as a divinely given exception to the strict provisions of Deut. 23:4-7 (Eng. 3-6). He implied that Moabites who evidence both providential guidance and the exemplary traits of true Israelites merited welcome to the house of Israel. She was, in fact, worthy to be Boaz’s wife, with all the civil and religious rights that went with marriage.” (Ibid; p.152.)​

    This is as close as I can get to explaining her acceptance into the life of Israel, and her descendents, including great grandson David as well.

    As JennyG noted above, when Ruth made her great avowal to Naomi (and to the LORD) on the road to Bethlehem she at that moment sought shelter in His care, and by Him was accepted into His people. It became evident to the Bethlehemites that this was so as time passed, and her character and deeds became known. They then took her in as one of the LORD’s people, and the “founding mother of a royal dynasty” (Ibid; p. 215).

    Thank you again, all, for helping me think through this.
    Last edited: May 31, 2010
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