|RUTH AND NAOMI: A STORY OF REDEMPTION
By Peter Cohen
|The story of Ruth and Naomi is a beautiful picture of our redemption. It is the story of the grace and mercy of our Redeemer to both Ruth the Moabite, who was far off and to Naomi, the Jewess, who was near but who had strayed from under the wings of the protection of her G-D. It is the story of Jew and Gentile coming together in one family, through the blood relative, the Kinsman-Redeemer of Israel.
ANCIENT RACIAL TENSIONS:
The story must be seen against the backdrop of racial tension and hostility. Much of the racial tension in the world today has its roots in ancient hostilities. Ezekiel referred to "ancient hatred" of Mount Seir against Israel which can be traced all the way back to the rivalry between Jacob and Esau. When Israel took possession of the land of Canaan the nations living there were forcibly displaced, which was undeniably an act of G-D's judgment against them for their sin.
The Israelites were warned "Do not seek a treaty of friendship with them as long as you live." They were also warned that if they disobeyed the L-RD and defilled the land, "it will vomit you out as it vomitted out the nations that were before you" (Lev. 18:28).
The world has strived to achieve unity since the Tower of Babel, but the unity that the world desires is in rebellion to G-D. Never-theless, the L-RD does have His own plan by which He is able to bring peace and unity to all nations.
RUTH WAS A MOABITESS!
It is important to understand the implications of Ruth being a Moabitess. Racial differences and enmities are inherited. Ruth was born into a nation which had tried to put a curse on the Israelites.
The L-RD said that He would make Abraham into a great nation through which all nations would either be blessed or cursed, depending on whether they blessed or cursed Israel. Balak, King of Moab, was terrified by the Israelites so he summoned Balaam to come and curse them, but Balaam said: "How can I curse those whom G-D has not cursed? How can I denounce those whom the L-RD has not denounced?... I see a people who live apart and do not consider themselves one of the nations (i.e.gentiles)." Balaam was unable to curse the Israelites, but instead he taught Balak to entice them to sin by indulging in sexual immorality with Moabite women, who also invited them to the sacrifices to their gods.
As a result the Moabites were excluded from entering the assembly of the L-RD: No Ammonite or Moabite or any of his descen-dants may enter the assembly of the L-RD, 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 L-RD your G-D would not listen to Balaam but turned the curse into a blessing for you, because
the L-RD your G-D loves you. (Deut. 23:3-5)
We learned from the book of Ezra that after the return from the Babylonian exile the people of Israel were not keeping themselves separate from the other nations. (Ezra ch. 9) Then Ezra the priest stood up and said to them, "You have been unfaithful; you
have married foreign women, adding to Israel's guilt. Now make confession to the L-RD, the G-D of your fathers, and do His will. Separate yourselves from the peoples around you and from your foreign wives" (Ezra 10:10-11)
It is important to note that the Torah does not encourage racial pride, but rather faithfulness to the G-D of Israel. Boaz married a Moabite woman and Moses married a Cushite. The L-RD was opposed to the intermarriage in as much as it threatened to entice His people to follow the detestable practices of the nations and to worship their false gods. Those who were excluded from the assembly of Israel were excluded because of their pagan practices and idolatry.
The Torah makes provision for Israelites to take foreign women as their wives through a process of conversion. This process involved dying to their former life and effectively mourning their family and fully embracing the G-D of Israel and the people of Israel. "When you go to war against your enemies and the L-RD your G-D delivers them into your hands and you take captives,
if you notice among the captives a beautiful woman and are attracted to her, you may take her as your wife. Bring her into your home and have her shave her head, trim her nails and put aside the clothes she was wearing when captured. After she has lived
in your house and mourned her father and mother for a full month, then you may go to her and be her husband and she shall be your wife" (Deut. 21:10-13)
Those who come to faith in Yeshua are required to go through a similar process of putting off the old self which is being corrupt-ed by its deceitful desires and to put on the new self created to be like G-D in true righteousness and holiness (Eph. 4:23). They
are to count themselves dead to their former way of life.
SOJOURNERS IN THE WORLD:
The story of Ruth takes place during the period of the judges of which it is written "In those days Israel had no king; everyone did as he saw fit." (Judges 17:6) Some commentators have suggested that Elimelech, who was a man of wealth and standing in Judah, sinned by leaving the land of Israel in a time of difficulty in order to preserve his own family with-out considering the plight of others in the land. Elimelech, whose name means "the L-RD is my King," was a wealthy man from the tribe of Judah. There was a famine in the land of Israel and Elimelech, his wife Naomi and their two sons, Mahlon and Kilion, went to sojourn through the fields of Moab.
However, what was intended to be a temporary sojourn turned into permanent residence as they settled in Moab for a period of about 10 years and married Moabite women.
We are all sojourners in this world. This world is not our final destination or place of rest and we must not become too settled or too attracted to the things of this world. King David acknowledged this before the L-RD, "We are aliens and strangers (sojourners) in Your sight, as were all our forefathers. Our days on earth are like a shadow, without hope." (II Chronicles 29:15).
The writer to the Hebrews speaks in similar terms of the faithfulness of the patriarchs: "And they admitted that they were aliens and strangers on earth. . . Instead, they were longing for a better country -- a heavenly one. Therefore G-D is not ashamed to be called their G-D, for He has prepared a city for them." (Hebrews 11:13-16).