Why is Ruth, a book about breaking the Law, in the Canon?

“No Ammonite or Moabite or any of their descendants for ten generations may be admitted to the assembly of the LORD. These nations did not welcome you with food and water when you came out of Egypt. Instead, they hired Balaam son of Beor from Pethor in distant Aram-naharaim to curse you. But the LORD your God refused to listen to Balaam. He turned the intended curse into a blessing because the LORD your God loves you. As long as you live, you must never promote the welfare and prosperity of the Ammonites or Moabites. (Deu 23:3-6 NLT)

But Ruth was a Moabitess. But she was promoted by Naomi. But she was cared for by Boaz. Not only that, contrary to the Law of Moses, she was not only admitted to the Assembly of YHWH, but was admitted to the royal line of King David and then, to the royal line of Jesus Christ?

Why is a woman, who is not exactly an example of chastity, who is a daughter of Lot and his elder daughter’s incestuous relationship, and a daughter of those who didn’t help Israel’s march into Canaan, now one of the great examples of love and duty in the Scriptures and admitted into the royal line of the Son of God?

Joel L. Watts
Joel L. Watts holds a Masters of Arts from United Theological Seminary with a focus in literary and rhetorical criticism of the New Testament. He is currently a Ph.D. student at the University of the Free State, analyzing Paul’s model of atonement in Galatians. He is the author of Mimetic Criticism of the Gospel of Mark: Introduction and Commentary (Wipf and Stock, 2013), a co-editor and contributor to From Fear to Faith: Stories of Hitting Spiritual Walls (Energion, 2013), and Praying in God's Theater, Meditations on the Book of Revelation (Wipf and Stock, 2014).

3 thoughts on “Why is Ruth, a book about breaking the Law, in the Canon?

  1. Because it is not against the law, at least according to later rabbinic teachings. 😉 Deut 23 only applied to men.

    Regarding the canon, I think perhaps one of the most convincing arguments is that there was an historical memory that David had a Moabite predecessor and this fact had to be dealt with. Thus we have a story which places it in the best light possible.

    The fact that Ruth accepts YHWH as her god is crucial here as well. (I do not call it conversion since I think that term is problematic and anachronistic.) The Law can be understood then as NOT applying to those who agree to essentially become Israelites themselves. “Your people will be my people.” Thus Ruth is no longer a Moabite….

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