[CF Devotionals] 2008-05-04 - Ruth

Installment 3 ~ The People of Moab

  1. The People of Moab

    There are some interesting problems presented by Ruth being a Moabitess. There is also a problem created by Naomi and her family living in Moab. Different commentators see this problem in different ways, depending on, among other things, how they perceive the famine of Chapter One. Let's first look at Moah's history.

    1. The History

      The people of Moab are the descendants Moab, Lot's son. "Lot and his two daughters left Zoar and settled in the mountains, for he was afraid to stay in Zoar. He and his two daughters lived in a cave. One day, the older daughter said to the younger, "Our father is old, and there is no man around here to lie with us, as is the custom all over the Earth. Let's get our father to drink wine, and then lie with him and preserve our family line through our father." That night they got their father to drink wine, and the older daughter went in and lay with him. He was not aware of it, when she lay down or when she got up. The next day, the older daughter said to the younger, "Last night I lay with my father. Let's get him to drink wine again tonight, and you go in and lie with him so we can preserve our family line through our father." So they got their father to drink wine that night also, and the younger daughter went and lay with him. Again he was not aware of it, when she lay down or when she got up. So both of Lot's daughters became pregnant by their father. The older daughter had a son, and she named him Moab; he is the father of the Moabites of today. The younger daughter also had a son, and she named him Ben-ammi; he is the father of the Ammonites of today" (Genesis 19:30-38).

      From this incestuous relationship came the people of Moab. The NIV Dictionary describes the people as follows:

      "The nation or people descended from Moab. They settled first at Ar, just east of the southern part of the Dead Sea. The Lord commanded Moses not to vex them when Israel passed through their vicinity on their way to the Promised Land. However, their king Balak hired Balaam to come and curse Israel (Num 22-24). After God prevented him from cursing the Israelites, Balaam suggested other tactics. The Moabite girls entered the camp of Israel (Num 31:16) and seduced the men (25:1-9). As a result God sent a plague that killed 24,000 men. It was on Mt. Pisgah in the land of Moab that Moses died. Nearly a century after the conquest of Canaan, Israel was subject to Moab for 18 years (Judg 3:12-14). God raised up Ehud, who killed their king Eglon and so subdued Moab (3:30)." 1

    2. Israel & Moab

      I like what Dr. McGee says in his introductory comments in his commentary on Ruth:

      "There is something in the Word of God about Moab that's quite interesting. It is almost humorous. In Psalm 108:9 it says, "Moab is my washpot." Now that's what God says of Moab. You see, these were an outcast people. They had a very sordid and sorry beginning, and Moab just doesn't stand out very well in the Word of God. One way to paraphrase what God says about Moab might be to say, "Moab is my garbage can." 2

      "Marriages of Israelites with women of Ammon or Moab are nowhere in the Law expressly forbidden, as were marriages with the women of Canaan (Deuteronomy 7:1-3). In the days of Nehemiah the special law (Deuteronomy 23:3-6) was interpreted as forbidding them, and as excluding the children of such marriages from the congregation of Israel (Nehemiah 13:1-3)." 3

      "When the Lord your God brings you into the land you are entering to possess, and drives out before you many nations—the Hittites, Girgashites, Amorites, Canaanites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites, seven nations larger and stronger than you ... and when the Lord your God has delivered them over to you and you have defeated them, then you must destroy them totally. Make no treaty with them, and show them no mercy. Do not intermarry with them. Do not give your daughters to their sons or take their daughters for your sons" (Deuteronomy 7:1-3).
      "No Ammonite or Moabite or any of his descendants may enter the assembly of the Lord, even down to the tenth generation. For they did not come to meet you with bread and water on your way when you came out of Egypt, and they hired Balaam son of Beor from Pethor in Aram Naharaim to pronounce a curse on you. However, the Lord your God would not listen to Balaam, but turned the curse into a blessing for you, because the Lord your God loves you. Do not seek a treaty of friendship with them as long as you live" (Deuteronomy 23:3-6).
      "On that day, the Book of Moses was read aloud in the hearing of the people, and there it was found written that no Ammonite or Moabite should ever be admitted into the assembly of God, because they had not met the Israelites with food and water - but had hired Balaam to call a curse down on them. (Our God, however, turned the curse into a blessing.) When the people heard this law, they excluded from Israel all who were of foreign descent" (Nehemiah 13:1-3).

      Cundall and Morris in their comments on the dating of Ruth make the following comments about the interaction of Israel and Moab when they say:

      "There is also the fact that according to the Deuteronomic legislation Moabites were not permitted to enter the congregation. That the heroine was a Moabite points to a time like that of Judges when foreign wives were not so likely to be objected to." 4

Of course, if Cundall and Morris' assumption is correct, it continues to demonstrate how far Israel had drifted from where God desired them to be.

Comments or Questions?

[email geoff] GKragen@aol.com

Additional studies by Geoff
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  1. Douglas, J. D. and Merrill C. Tenney, editors, NIV Bible Dictionary, Zondervan Interactive Publishing House, Grand Rapids, MI, 1989.
  2. McGee, J. Vernon, Thru the Bible with J. Vernon McGee, Vol. 2, "Joshua - Psalms," Thomas Nelson Inc., Nashville, TN 1982, p. 90.
  3. Fuller, A., Barnes' Notes on the Bible, Vol. 2, "Exodus - Ruth," The Master Christian Library, AGES Software, Albany, OR, Version 8.0 © 2000
  4. Cundall, Arthur E. and Leon Morris, Judges & Ruth, Inter-Varsity Press, Downers Grove, IL, 1968, p. 237.