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|NASB||Deuteronomy 23:3 "No Ammonite or Moabite shall enter the assembly of the LORD; none of their descendants, even to the tenth generation, shall ever enter the assembly of the LORD,|
|Deuteronomy 23:3 "An Ammonite or Moabite shall not enter the assembly of the LORD; none of their descendants, even to the tenth generation, shall ever enter the assembly of the LORD,|
I'm missing something here, so I need some help.
Deut. 23:3 says that a Moabite will "never" enter into the assembly of God. Wasn't Ruth a Moabitess?
How do we reconcile a Moabitess joining Israel (and becoming a part of the lineage of Jesus) to Deut. 23:3? What am I missing?
Thanks in advance
Bible Answer: ... continued ...
So if Ruth wasn’t exempt because she was a woman then what?
We read in the book of Ruth that Boaz was exceedingly detailed in his observance and more than just observant; his heart is pure and right. Boaz is, as we say now, a part of the New Covenant “with the Torah written on the heart.” If this law forbade marriage to Ruth, certainly he of all people would have understood this. So why did he marry her?
The book of Ruth does an interesting thing. While Orpah returns to her gods and her people, Ruth says, “Your people will be my people, and your God will be my God.”
Here Ruth does two things. First she leaves her own people. In effect she cancels her citizenship. It may be this statement that is the key. While a Roman could be a member of the “Assembly of the LORD” (ie. church in the New Testament) yet remain a Roman citizen, the same is not true for the Moabite. Once Ruth abandoned her people and therefore was no longer a Moabite (at least in terms of citizenship) she was no longer bound by the Law of Deut 23.
The second thing she does is to enter the covenant as Abraham, by faith. “Your God will be my God.” She becomes a “ger.” I do not much care for the term Proselyte, because in the New Testament days, the term carried connotations that are not intended in the Torah. A “ger” was a non-Israelite that sojourned with Israel. There was one Law for the “ger” and for the native born. But a “neker” was a stranger who was “passing through” and a “zowr” was a stranger who was an Idolater. The Law had specific things to say about each, but in most English translations, the word stranger is used for all three. It is possible then that referring to a person as a Moabite was tantamount to referring to them in light of Balaam and their heinous sin at Peor. No such person even remotely connected to their form of Idolatry should be a part of the assembly of Israel. They were all “zowr” as long as they had any part of that nation. (No dual citizenship.)
When Ruth clearly says, your God will be my God, she joined the people of God and the covenant as well. But can Ruth join the covenant in this way?
Yes! She entered neither through marriage nor some other means, but in the same means that Abraham entered, through faith. She had not only abandoned her false gods, but her people as well. It was only after this that Boaz married her.
Finally, there is one other option, though remote: It was common, at least in the first century and beyond, to discuss what happens when two laws collide. If one law says, “A Moabite cannot enter the assembly of Israel.” And another law says, “If [your brother] dies and has no son, [you shall] perform the duty of a husband's brother to [his wife].” Then which of these laws must be broken, for surly one of them will? The most common easy answer was that a positive law trumped a negative law. That “rule” would apply favorably here as well. This is an extension of the “what is the greatest commandment” discussion Jesus entered into.
So there are four possibilities: 1) Ruth was a woman and therefore not bound by this law. 2) Ruth was not a leader in the assembly, and therefore did not violate this law. 3) Ruth abandoned her gods AND her people, making her no longer a citizen Moabite, and joined the people of God and their God fully by faith. Therefore the law didn’t apply because she no longer was technically a Moabite. 4) The positive command to fulfill the duty of a brother trumped the negative command to not let a Moabite enter the assembly.
I personally like #3, but I have yet to discuss it with others. This option has a difficulty in that the Text continues to have others refer to Ruth as a Moabite, but I believe this is for two reasons: 1) to keep the negative image of Moab in the readers mind connected to Ruth; 2) to help explain how great Boaz is to be willing to marry such a woman and why the nearest kinsman redeemer didn’t want anything to do with her.
In the end, Ruth and Boaz didn’t break the law of Deut. 23, of that we can be certain.
-sorry for the length.