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Questions: Moab, Jesus’ Ancestry, & Ruth


Dear ______,

Thank you for your Questions:

1. Why were Moabites & Ammonites forever denied admission to the congregation of God?
2. Where in the Bible can you find the different names of King David’s sons in the Genealogy of Christ?
3. What Law did Elimelech’s two sons violate in marrying Moabite Women?

1) I presume your first question refers to Deuteronomy 23:3.

No Ammonite or Moabite shall enter the assembly of the LORD; even to the tenth generation none belonging to them shall enter the assembly of the LORD forever.

Many times, you can find answers to questions you have about a text simply by reading the surrounding context, or even reading the text itself carefully. A careful reading of Deuteronomy 23:3 will show that “forever” is not literal, for the verse says “until the tenth generation.” In the context, this is in contrast to “the third generation” prohibition on the Edomite and Egyptian (verses 7-8). The verses that follow give the reason for the prohibition:

…because they did not meet you with bread and with water on the way, when you came forth out of Egypt, and because they hired against you Balaam the son of Beor from Pethor of Mesopotamia, to curse you. Nevertheless the LORD your God would not hearken to Balaam; but the LORD your God turned the curse into a blessing for you, because the LORD your God loved you. You shall not seek their peace or their prosperity all your days for ever. (Deuteronomy 23:4-6)

The incidents mentioned in these verses occurred near the end of the wilderness wanderings. Moab and Ammon were sons of Lot, the nephew of Abraham (see Genesis 19). The Moabites and Ammonites (not to be confused with the Amorites, who were a different nation) were their descendants. Thus, they were related nations, but when Israel attempted to cross Moab to enter Canaan, the Moabites and Amorites attempted to have the prophet Balaam curse them. This is the Balaam whose donkey spoke to him (Numbers 22 -24). God turned those attempts to curse Israel into blessings. Moab, at Balaam’s suggestion (Deuteronomy 31:15-17; 25:1-3ff), enticed Israel to join them in worship to Baal at Peor. This is the reason behind the restriction.

2) The genealogy of Jesus is in Matthew 1:1-17 and Luke 3:23-37. These differ as far back as David, but converge there through two of his sons – Solomon and Nathan. Most Bible students believe Matthew gives the genealogy of Joseph, which established Jesus’ legal right to the throne of Israel as the King of the Jews and son of David. Luke gives instead his actual genealogy through Mary.

3) In Exodus 34:15-16 Moses warned Israel,

Be careful not to make a treaty with those who live in the land; for when they prostitute themselves to their gods and sacrifice to them, they will invite you and you will eat their sacrifices. And when you choose some of their daughters as wives for your sons and those daughters prostitute themselves to their gods, they will lead your sons to do the same.

Strictly speaking, this did not include Moab, which is where Elimelech’s sons got their wives. The land of Moab was not part of the promised land; it was adjacent to it.

Ruth, one of those wives, elected to go back to Israel with her mother-in-law. See her declaration in Ruth 1:16, one of the most beautiful statements of love and faith anywhere in literature. Many marriages include this as part of the ceremony, though Ruth said it, not to her husband, but to his mother after both of them became widows.

Ruth became an ancestress of King David (Ruth 4:16), and thus also of the Christ (see also Matthew 1:5).

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