Q. My question is concerning something in the book of Ruth. It became apparent when I was studying that Elimelech left the promised land for Moab which was not in good standing with Israel. Then, his two sons marry Moabites which was even worse. I know this is an obvious example of how when we fail to put our faith in the Lord and his promises we can end up in trouble. However, after Naomi and Ruth return to Bethlehem, we see Boaz end up marrying Ruth. Why would Boaz marry a Moabite? Was it still considered wrong for Boaz to do this?
That brings me to another issue about their children being allowed to enter into the assembly. Doesn’t Deuteronomy say that their decendants (Moabites) never enter in? I know it says to the tenth, but then it says never. Is this a translation issue? Because David is in the line of Ruth and we know he entered in. Any insight you might be able to lend would be greatly appreciated. Thanks for your efforts and God bless.
A. This is a complex legal issue. In Ruth 2:20 Naomi identifies Boaz as a kinsman redeemer. That means he was Elimelech’s brother. When Elimeleh died, his land was inherited by his oldest son Killion, who then died making his younger brother Mahlon the heir. When Mahlon, who was Ruth’s husband, also died he was childless. Now there was no one to inherit Naomi’s land, because a woman couldn’t inherit. To further complicate things, there was was a debt attached to the property as well.
In Leviticus 25:25 we read that when an Israelite lost his property because of debt, it was the responsibility of a close relative to pay off the debt and redeem the land so it wouldn’t pass out of the family. That relative was called the kinsman redeemer. In Naomi’s case this was Boaz.
And when a man died childless, his nearest relative was supposed to take the widow as his own wife and have a son with her so the son could inherit the dead husband’s land (Lev. 25:5-6). This was called the law of leverite marriage. Mahlon’s nearest relative was also Boaz. (Boaz had an older brother who should have done this but he backed out.)
So Boaz accepted a double duty to preserve the land. 1. Pay off the debt on Naomi’s behalf and redeem it, and 2. marry Ruth and produce a son to preserve the chain of inheritance for Ruth’s dead husband Mahlon. This is summarized in the declaration Boaz made in Ruth 4:9.
The story of Ruth also makes a fascinating model of our Kinsman Redeemer, Jesus. Let Naomi represent Israel, Ruth the Church, and Boaz the Lord. Having come to redeem Israel, the Lord took a gentile bride, the Church, and in the process saved the inheritance of both.
As to the issue of Moabites entering the temple, since inheritance was through the male side (sons of Jews were considered Jews) and since Ruth converted to Judaism (Ruth 1:16-17) the issue was moot, and Ruth became one of three named women in the Lord’s genealogy. (Bathsheba is also there but is not named.)