THE BOOK OF RUTH
In the Book of Ruth there are many dilemmas for the true believer of God's Word. We should all be aware of God's Laws concerning marriage between Israelites and members of other races. Yet here we read of Ruth, a Moabitess marrying an Israelite and becoming the great grandmother of King David, from whose line was descended the Redeemer and Saviour of Israel. How can this be? Did God make a mistake when He gave the Law, or did He at some stage change the Law? If so, we should all accept that God can make mistakes. This is not a fact that we can accept, therefore there must be another explanation.
It is unfortunate that many preachers, in their ignorance, teach so much false doctrine. One such false doctrine, believed by many professing Christians, is the statement that Jesus Christ was not of pure Israelite blood: they say that one of His ancestors Ruth, was a 'Moabitess'. From the use of this term, they believe that she was racially, not just geographically, a Moabitess. In this belief, they are greatly mistaken. Ruth was an Israelite who obeyed God's Laws to the letter. One consequence of this obedience was that her great grandson, David, was chosen by God to form the Royal House of David: from whence was descended Jesus Christ, the Redeemer of Israel.
Most people know well the story of Ruth and her loyalty to Naomi, her mother in law. This is stated in the moving words noted in Scripture, which most people can quite easily quote. Ruth 1:16: 'And Ruth said, Intreat me not to leave thee, or to return from following after thee: for whither thou goest, I will go. and where thou lodgest, I will lodge: thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God'. From this passage alone, many preachers tend to over-sentimentalise the story of Ruth and miss the wonder and truth of God's Word and His Law.
In this study of the Book of Ruth, if we first consider the geography of the Holy Land at the time the Israelites approached, after leaving Egypt, we can learn much about the inhabitants of the area - Israelites, Moabites, Ammonites and Amorites. The territory of the Moabites, was originally east and north east of the Dead Sea, extending from the River Arnon in the south to the River Jabbok in the north. From the Dead Sea and Jordan River on the west, Moab stretched across the plains and foothills into the mountains to the east. From the name of the people who lived in this area, it was called Moab, and it kept that name for many centuries after all the Moabites were gone from it.
When the Israelites entered the Promised Land, after their 40 years wandering in the Exodus, the land of Moab was the first territory they conquered. God had commanded them to totally exterminate the former occupants of the lands they were to settle: and in Moab, they did so. At that time Sihon, King of the Amorites, had conquered and occupied the kingdom of Moab, and was its ruler when the Israelites came in. Scripture confirms this, in Numbers 21:26-31, we read: 'For Heshbon was the city of Sihon, King of the Amorites, who had fought against the former King of Moab, and taken all his land out of his hand, even unto Arnon ... Woe unto thee, Moab! Thou art undone, 0 people of Chemosh: he hath given his sons that escaped, and his daughters, into captivity unto Sihon, King of the Amorites ... Thus Israel dwelt in the land of the Amorites'
It is quite plain therefore, that no racial Moabites were left in this area.
The Israelites then conquered the land of Moab, killing all the people they found therein. We read in Deuteronomy 2:32-34: 'Then Sihon came out against us, he and all his people, to fight at Jahaz. And the Lord our God delivered him before us; we smote him and his sons and all his people. And we took all his cities at that tirne, and utterly destroyed the men and the women and the little ones of every city, we left NONE to remain'.
It is also quite plain that the Israelites then drove out the Amorites who had previously occupied the area where the Moabites had once lived.
From here, the Israelites advanced northward into the land of Ammon. Numbers 21:33-35 describes it: 'And they turned and went up by the way of Bashan: and Og, the King of Bashan, went out against them, he and all his people, to the battle at Edrei. And the Lord said unto Moses, Fear him not: for 1 have delivered him into thy hand, and all his people and his land; and thou shalt do to him as thou didst unto Sihon, King of the Amorites, which dwelt at Heshbon. So they smote him, and his sons, and all his people, until there was NONE left alive: and they possessed his land'.
Therefore, within this entire area, east of the River Jordan, were settled the Tribes of Reuben, Gad and half of the Tribe of Manasseh, after all the original inhabitants, Moabites, Amorites and Ammonites, had been killed or driven out.
In Deuteronomy 3:12-16, Moses tells us: 'And this land which we possessed at that time, from Aroer which is by the River Arnon, and half Mount Gilead, and the cities thereof, gave I unto the Reubenites and to the Gadites. And the rest of Gilead, and all Bashan, being the kingdom of Og, gave I unto the half Tribe of Manasseh .... And unto the Reubenites and unto the Gadites I gave from Gilead even unto the River Arnon half the valley, and the border even unto the River Jabbok, which is the border of the Children of Ammon'.
All of this occupation was accomplished about 1450 BC. From that time on, this was purely Israelite territory - even more so than the land west of the River Jordan, because in the old lands of Moab and Ammon, NONE were left alive. Today, Anglo Saxon people who live in Australia for example are called Australians, but they are not Aborigines. Likewise, pure Israelites living in the old land of Moab were often called 'Moabites', just as those who lived in Galilee were called 'Galileans'.
In Judges 11: 12-26, three hundred years later, we find evidence that the Israelite occupation of the lands of Moab and Ammon was still unbroken. 'And Jephthah sent messengers unto the King of the children of Ammon, saying, What hast thou to do with me, that thou art come against me to fight in my land? And the King of the Children of Ammon answered unto the messengers of Jephthah, Because Israel took away my land when they came, up out of Egypt, from Arnon even unto Jabbok, and unto Jordan. While Israel dwelt in Heshbon and her towns, and in Aroer and her towns, and in all the cities that be along by the coasts of Arnon, three hundred years, why therefore did ye not recover them within that time?'
From these facts, confirmed by Scripture, it is obvious that the Israelites had held unbroken possession of the land of Moab and Ammon all that time. The area occupied by the Israelites can leave no one in any doubt as to which people lived in which area, frorn the tirne of the occupation of the Holy Land right up to the time of the Captivities.
Right in the middle of this period, or about 130 years after the Israelites of the Tribes of Reuben and Gad had occupied the land of Moab. Elimelech, a man of Judah, with his wife Naomi and his two sons was driven by famine from their home west of the Jordan. Ruth 1:1 says that: 'he went to sojourn in the country, of Moab'. Please note the accuracy of that expression: NOT AMONG the people of Moab, BUT IN the country of Moab, which was, as we have already shown, occupied by Israelites exclusively.
Elimelech and his family moved from Bethlehem to the 'country' or 'fields' of Moab at a time of famine in Judea. The area beyond Jordan, was inhabited as we have seen by Reubenites - all maps in popular bibles bare witness to this fact. The word used here for 'country' does not mean a 'foreign land' but rather the countryside as opposed to the town. I prefer the translation of the Hebrew word 'Isadeh' as 'field'. This is the correct translation as explained by Easton, Strong and many others. The same area is referred to as 'plains' in Numbers 33:49-50. It was actually a rich, fertile and cultivated area. This is why Elimelech journeyed there in a time of famine. He most certainly would not obtain a better living for his family in a foreign land, inhabited by his and his nation's enemies!! It is interesting to see that the Hebrew word 'sadeh', which in Ruth chapter 1:1 is translated as 'country', is translated as 'field' in Ruth chapter 2:2. How very strange!
A further proof that the place referred to was not the foreign country inhabited by the warlike Moabites is confirmed in I Chronicles 5, where we read: that the tribe of Reuben inhabited the country beyond Jordan, Mt. Nebo and Baal-meon (v.8) and concludes with the information that Reuben remained there until taken captive to Assyria (v. 26) HUNDREDS OF YEARS LATER. This is again confirmed in Numbers 32.
Elimelech's sons married women of that country - one of them being Ruth. Ruth could not have been of any race or nation but Israel, for no other nations lived there. Many preachers who have over-sentimentalised the Book of Ruth, have simply done so for the wrong reasons.
In conclusion, we can say that the evidence shows that Ruth was a young woman of Israel. Naomi, the only surviving member of her husband's family, decides to return to Bethlehem. Ruth decides to go with her to an unfamiliar neighbourhood, to a home among strangers, because of the affection she has for her mother-in-law. Ruth also knows that, as an Israelite, under God's laws, it is her duty to bear children to her dead husband and his parents, provided that her dead husband's kinsmen (and remember only her dead husband's kinsmen could carry out this duty), are willing to carry out their duties under the same laws. This is shown in Ruth 4:14-15.
This I believe is the true story of Ruth, a story that confirms that God in His dealings with His people maintains His laws to achieve His purposes that have always and will always come to pass, in His good time. To my mind, the most important aspect of the Book of Ruth is that it confirms the system of the KINSMAN REDEEMER, as given by God to His people. This system of God's Law enabled Boaz to carry out God's purposes with Ruth as Boaz's wife. This resulted in the formation, following God's choice, of the Royal House of David from which Israel's national Redeemer, Jesus Christ was born. He eventually, in God's good time redeemed His own kith and kin under the same LAW OF THE KINSMAN REDEEMER.
God's Law plainly states that ONLY THE KINSMAN REDEEMER IS ABLE TO REDEEM - that is, only within the Kinsman's own race. People may not like this aspect of God's Law but it is there for all to see in Scripture.
It is not surprising that old customs have been handed down, but is it not interesting that a Biblical custom, as explained in the Book of Ruth persists in the UK today? We are told a man 'plucked off his shoe and gave it to his neighbour'. This was done to Boaz at the time of his marriage to Ruth as her second husband. We often see a custom today in our own land, when shoes are tied to the newlywed's car.
So never, let anyone tell you that King David and more importantly, Jesus Christ, were mongrels, with the blood of other races flowing in their veins. God was so insistent that even the least among His people Israel must keep the race line pure, under penalty of being cut off from His people for violation of this law; and to confirm this, in Matthew 5: 17, Jesus Christ said: 'Think not that I am come to destroy the law or the prophets: I am come not to destroy, but to fulfil.'
In Scripture we have the clearest proof that, both as God the Father and as God the Son, He was consistently true to His own commandments.
Hence, Ruth was a pure Israelite, from the land of Moab, but not from the race of Moab. Just as Noah was: Ruth too, was perfect in her generations.
This article is taken from notes made for an address given by David Jones to Wigan BIWF in June 1995.