The Book of Ruth, part 6, Cleansing Ruth
May 11, 2019
The law of illegitimate birth in Deuteronomy 23:2, 3 was not meant to be a permanent ban on Moabites entering the kahal (assembly, church). Likewise, the meaning of “illegitimate birth” is defined to some extent by biblical examples.
One major example is seen in the story of David, who was the tenth generation from Judah, whose incest with his daughter-in-law brought forth Pharez (Genesis 38:29). Judah’s sin delayed the coming of the king for ten generations.
1. Pharez (illegitimate birth)
7. Boaz (who married Ruth)
10. David (King)
Boaz was the seventh generation from Pharez, and so even though he came short in no other way, he was still affected by the sin of his forefather. Three more generations would have to pass before the king could arise in Israel without legal encumbrance.
The same can be said of Ruth herself, who was encumbered by her own ancestor, Moab, who was born of illegitimate birth (incest). The difference is that Lot lived three generations before Judah, and hence, the law of ten generations ended with Ruth.
Lot was Abraham’s contemporary, and though he was Abraham’s nephew and thus of the next generation, Isaac himself was not born until Abraham was a hundred years old. The generations from Abraham are Isaac, Jacob, and Judah, who incurred the curse of illegitimate birth upon that ruling tribe. Hence, it was 13 generations from Abraham to David, or 14 generations, reckoned inclusively (Matthew 1:17), and it appears that roughly the same number of generations had passed since the days of Lot as well.
Ruth’s generation, being the seventh from Pharez, was most likely also the tenth from Lot’s illegitimate son, Moab. It is likely, then, that the limitations in the law of illegitimate birth had ended with Ruth herself, and that the kingly line did not incur further encumbrance when Boaz married her.
This too is an example of the proper application of the law, which we read in Numbers 15:15, 16,
15 As for the assembly, there shall be one statute for you and for the alien who sojourns with you, a perpetual statute throughout your generations; as you are, so shall the alien be before the Lord. 16 There is to be one law and one ordinance for you and for the alien who sojourns with you.
The law, then, applies equally to Israelites and “aliens.” The same judgment of the law upon Judah for his sin of incest applied equally to the Moabites since the days of Lot. Just because the law had not been revealed or written down until later (Moses) does not mean it was not in effect earlier. The law expresses the nature of God and reflects His standard of righteousness, and this is constant and timeless.
The Jews later discriminated against foreigners (non-Jews), making them unequal, thus violating the law of God and offending His nature itself. They built a “dividing wall” in the courtyard of the temple, which forbade Jewish converts and women from drawing near to God. This wall was abolished by Christ and His teachings (Ephesians 2:14, 15) in order to create “one new man,” a nation of all ethnic groups that was unified in Christ.
Judaism also discriminated against other ethnicities by setting forth the main law for Jews and “Noahide laws” for non-Jews. The idea was that the Noahide laws in Genesis 9:6, 7 were the only laws that “gentiles” were required to know and obey. Rabbinical writers considered non-Jews to be on the order of cattle who were incapable of morality and truth, even to the point where their testimony in court was not valid.
Such religious traditions are still an abomination to God to this day, for God’s law forbidding such attitudes still stand.
So we see that the law of illegitimate birth applied equally to the descendants of both Judah and Lot. For Judah, it ended with King David, and for Lot, it ended with Ruth.
Of course, under the New Covenant, whoever is begotten by the Spirit is given a new identity known as the new creation man. When we change our identity to this “new self” (NASB), we are no longer implicated by the curse passed down in various ways to the Adamic flesh man (or our identity as fleshly Israelites or Judahites). We have opportunity to be released from all such curses, even to the point of being released from the curse of mortality imposed upon Adam.
Those who retain the identity of their flesh must contend with the curses that their ancestors brought upon their lineage. Ultimately, there is no release for these curses, for the flesh will surely die, as the judgment of God says (Genesis 2:17). The serpent still tempts men to doubt this divine verdict (Genesis 3:1, 4, 5), but the judgment upon all flesh cannot be set aside. The path to immortality is not to preserve the flesh but to change one’s identity and become a new man, begotten by another Father who is Himself both immortal and incorruptible.
So also we find Ruth doing this in her statement of faith in Ruth 1:16. She could not have known the mechanics of sonship as we do today, for she did not have the understanding of the Apostle Paul, but she decided to follow Naomi’s God, who was later to be manifested as Jesus Christ. Her faith was evidence that our sovereign God had done a work in her by His Spirit. She was evidence that God had already begun to fulfill His New Covenant oath (Deuteronomy 29:12, 13, 14, 15). The final verses show us that the scope of this oath included Ruth, the Moabitess:
14 Now not with you alone [Israelites and aliens in the plains of Moab] am I making this covenant and this oath, 15 but with those who stand here with us today in the presence of the Lord our God and with those who are not with us here today.
This is part 6 of a series titled "Studies in the Book of Ruth" To view all parts, click the link below.