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In Nehemiah 13:1–3 the Jews returning to Jerusalem separated themselves from people with mixed decent, including Ammonites and Moabites:

 On that day they read from the Book of Moses in the hearing of the people. And in it was found written that no Ammonite or Moabite should ever enter the assembly of God, 2 for they did not meet the people of Israel with bread and water, but hired Balaam against them to curse them—yet our God turned the curse into a blessing. 3 As soon as the people heard the law, they separated from Israel all those of foreign descent. (Nehemiah 13:1–3, ESV)

Yet, King David's great-grandmother, Ruth, was a Moabite:

13 So Boaz took Ruth, and she became his wife. And he went in to her, and the LORD gave her conception, and she bore a son. 14 Then the women said to Naomi, “Blessed be the LORD, who has not left you this day without a redeemer, and may his name be renowned in Israel! 15 He shall be to you a restorer of life and a nourisher of your old age, for your daughter-in-law who loves you, who is more to you than seven sons, has given birth to him.” 16 Then Naomi took the child and laid him on her lap and became his nurse. 17 And the women of the neighborhood gave him a name, saying, “A son has been born to Naomi.” They named him Obed. He was the father of Jesse, the father of David. (Ruth 4:13–17)

How did the Jews who separated themselves with those of mixed decent reconcile the fact that King David's great-grandmother was a Moabite?

  • 1
    David and Nehemiah were not contemporaries (not even by far), and they lived in very different social, religious, and cultural situations. In David's time, Jews held the upper hand against the nations around them; by Nehemiah's time, the status quo has changed drastically. Secondly, unlike other Moabites, far from opposing (let alone cursing) the chosen people, Ruth rather famously united herself to her Jewish mother-in-law, her nation, and her God. – Lucian Aug 6 '18 at 18:30
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Technically, it was his great-grandmother. (A very minor point; pardon my pedantry.) There are numerous examples of this sort of thing, not just confined to Moabites. For example, the Gittite Division of David's army (Philistines from Gath); Boaz's mother, Rahab; Uriah the Hittite; Tamar, Judah's second wife; etc.

I suspect that the only way to explain this is found in the famous and touching speech of Ruth to Naomi where she said, "... your God my God..." (Ruth 1:16, 17). This could be quite obviously interpreted as a conversion speech to Judaism. Thus, I would explain your discrepancy/contradiction this way: The prohibition in Neh 13:1-3 (alluding to Deut 23:3-5) is valid while ever a Moabite remained a Moabite; that is, if they converted, they became Israelites and ceased to be Moabites.

  • I think your answer is correct. How much evidence do we have to support this answer? – Perry Webb Aug 6 '18 at 0:25
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    In Exodus 12:48-49, God tells Moses: "A foreigner residing among you who wants to celebrate the Lord’s Passover must have all the males in his household circumcised; then he may take part like one born in the land. No uncircumcised male may eat it. The same law applies both to the native-born and to the foreigner residing among you." The instruction is specific to males, and to the Passover, but it still states a principle that a foreigner who converts is to enjoy the same "rights" as a native Israelite. This is echoed in Lev 19:34, Lev 24:16, Lev 24:22, Num 9:14, & Num 15:29-30. – JDM-GBG Aug 6 '18 at 0:37
  • @JDM-GBG thanks for this excellent reply. – user25930 Aug 6 '18 at 0:52
  • Shoshana in right in that the Deuteronomy 23:3 does not allow Moabites or Ammonites to enter the God's House. David went to God's house often. – Jack Sep 19 '18 at 17:10
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    A similar experience happened to Rahab, the Canaanite harlot, who believed, repented, and became a naturalized Israelite. She's the great, great, great grandmother of Jesus Christ. – Philip Dec 7 '18 at 6:10
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Ruth was a Moabite citizen*, same as Moses was an Egyptian citizen. Israel possessed the country or land of Moab for 299 years which included the period of Judges during which time the narrative of Ruth takes place.

When Moses died he was in the land or country of Moab (Deuteronomy 32), both Har Avarim and Har Nebo farther north are in what once was Moabite territory but was taken by the Amorites and then passed on to Israel. The regional names, however remained the same.

Deuteronomy 23:3 makes it clear that a Moabite or Ammonite is NEVER to enter the assembly of Israel, neither male nor female. As seen in both Nehemiah 13 and Ezra 9 later on this prohibition was enforced. This Torah prohibition precludes any conversion, nor do we see any taking place. What is seen though, is Ruth doing teshuva from the idolatry that most Israel practiced, and what seems to be a formal joining of her death husband's tribe.

There is no way Boaz could have done a levirate marriage had Ruth not been an Israelite ethnically, nor would the elders have given her the blessing given a daughter of Israel.


* Brown Driver Biggs Definition:

  1. a citizen of Moab

  2. an inhabitant of the land of Moab

  • The racial-purity argument is hard to justify when two of the tribal patriarchs -- Manasseh and Ephraim -- were born to Joseph and his Egyptian wife Asenath. (Genesis 41:50-52). – JDM-GBG Feb 28 at 23:54
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I taught a message on this subject at Bible study, here is some interesting points that support Ruth's Israelite- Benjamite possible ancestry.

Rth_1:1 Now it came to pass in the days when the judges ruled, that there was a famine in the land. And a certain man of Bethlehemjudah went to sojourn in the country of Moab, he, and his wife, and his two sons.

Rth 1:2 And the name of the man was Elimelech, and the name of his wife Naomi, and the name of his two sons Mahlon and Chilion, Ephrathites of Bethlehemjudah. And they came into the country of Moab, and continued there.

Some commonalities of these continued place names and peoples have been pointed out in the last few messages, I shall point this out again for clarification and remembrance:

  1. the book of Ruth is not it’s own book, it is the last 4 chapters of Judges. This is important because of the misconceptions and ignorant or arrogant suppositions made upon the woman Ruth and her offspring, that is mainly King David and David’s Lord Jesu(s) the Christ (which we shall further discuss).

  2. The fact that our subject characters are once again taken from the area we have so many times referenced Bethlehem Judah, the future home of King David, the King of Judah and Israel united. Bethlehem is the place in which the Levite of the prior chapter took his unfaithful concubine from, it is as well the original home to Johnathan the Levite, Micah’s idol priest Judges 17:7 another unfaithful character.

3.The people of Bethlehem Judah, here mentioned are said to go sojourning in the land of Moab, now if it may be recalled from

Jdg_3:1-31 the children of Israel did evil again in the sight of the LORD: and the LORD strengthened Eglon the king of Moab against Israel… eighteen years.

Jdg 3:15 But when the children of Israel cried unto the LORD, the LORD raised them up a deliverer, Ehud the son of Gera, a Benjamite, a man lefthanded: and by him the children of Israel sent a present unto Eglon the king of Moab.

Jdg 3:16 But Ehud made him a dagger which had two edges, and Eglon was a very fat man.

And Ehud said, I have a message from God unto thee. And he arose out of his seat.

Jdg 3:21 And Ehud put forth his left hand, and took the dagger from his right thigh, and thrust it into his belly:

Jdg 3:27 And it came to pass, when he was come, that he blew a trumpet in the mountain of Ephraim, and the children of Israel went down with him from the mount, and he before them.

Here is where the story starts to get interesting by examining the scriptural record, if we wish to know why Israelites where sojourning in pagan Moab: The back ground from Ch3, in Judges 21 is a war just had with Benjamin, a people who had gone after other god’s by serving them, a service which included homosexuality and rape, which was the cause of the war.

The Levite’s Concubine from Bethlehem was raped to death by the enemy which was from Benjamin; In our next chapter and story called Ruth or Judges chapter 22, the Bethlehemites are fleeing famine to Moab, in Judges chapter 3 Moab was the oppressor and Benjamin delivered Israel through Ehud, Ehud the Son of Gera blew the trumpet on Mt.Ephriam the home of the prior Levite, and of Micah the Idolator…a very interwoven story to say the least!

Why would the people of Bethlehem Judah sojourn in Moab?

Apparently Benjamites had a tenancy to sojourn there often, consider:

1Ch_8:1 Now Benjamin begat Bela his firstborn…

1Ch 8:3 And the sons of Bela were, Addar, and Gera…

1Ch_8:6 And these are the sons of Ehud: these are the heads of the fathers of the inhabitants of Geba, and they removed them to Manahath:

1Ch 8:7 And Naaman, and Ahiah, and Gera, he removed them, and begat Uzza, and Ahihud.

1Ch 8:8 And Shaharaim begat children in the country of Moab, after he had sent them away; Hushim and Baara were his wives.

It can not be said why Ehud and his Father moved some of his family to Manahath of Moab if that is a literal place, which the commentaries agree to, but another possibility in Jdg_3:15 exists: as the word “present” in the KJV is from the Hebrew מנחה / MeNHE (H4503) and the place said in 1Ch_8:6 that they were removed to is called מנחת׃ / MeNHaTh (H4506) , the word is identical in meaning, and the E/ ה replaced with the Th/ ת is a matter of tense, both are suffixes, in other words the verse could read ‘ they removed them with presents’, this is perhaps the time in which theses men left and dwelt in Moab, at the time described in Jdg_3:18, as the text shows that Israel went to Moab to present the present, some we are told did not return to there inhieritance, in any case of if Manahath is shown to be a literal place in Moab or if the reference is the time of the present-ation, these Benjamites did not endure the war of Judges 19-21, they were removed.

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Every quote is from Young's Literal Translation.

Deuteronomy 23:3 did not allow Ammonites or Moabites to enter God's House:

...

'An Ammonite and a Moabite doth not enter into the assembly of Jehovah; even a tenth generation of them doth not enter into the assembly of Jehovah -- to the age;

...

Yet 2Samuel 7:18 says David went before God:

...

And king David cometh in and sitteth before Jehovah, and saith, 'Who am I, Lord Jehovah? and what my house, that Thou hast brought me hitherto?

...

Numbers 21:21-35 shows how the Israelites took the land of the Moabites from the Amorites - who had taken it from the Moabites:

...

And Israel sendeth messengers unto Sihon king of the Amorite, saying,

'Let me pass through thy land, we do not turn aside into a field, or into a vineyard, we do not drink waters of a well; in the king's way we go, till that we pass over thy border.'

And Sihon hath not suffered Israel to pass through his border, and Sihon gathereth all his people, and cometh out to meet Israel into the wilderness, and cometh in to Jahaz, and fighteth against Israel.

And Israel smiteth him by the mouth of the sword, and possesseth his land from Arnon unto Jabbok -- unto the sons of Ammon; for the border of the sons of Ammon is strong.

And Israel taketh all these cities, and Israel dwelleth in all the cities of the Amorite, in Heshbon, and in all its villages;

for Heshbon is a city of Sihon king of the Amorite, and he hath fought against the former king of Moab, and taketh all his land out of his hand, unto Arnon;

therefore those using similes say -- 'Enter ye Heshbon, Let the city of Sihon be built and ready,

For fire hath gone out from Heshbon, A flame from the city of Sihon, It hath consumed Ar of Moab, Owners of the high places of Arnon.

Wo to thee, O Moab, Thou hast perished, O people of Chemosh, He hath given his sons who escape -- Also his daughters -- Into captivity, to a king of the Amorite -- Sihon!

And we shoot them, Perished hath Heshbon unto Dibon, And we make desolate unto Nophah, Which is unto Medeba.'

And Israel dwelleth in the land of the Amorite [formerly the land of the Moab],

and Moses sendeth to spy out Jaazer, and they capture its villages, and dispossess the Amorite who is there,

and turn and go up the way of Bashan, and Og king of Bashan cometh out to meet them, he and all his people, to battle, at Edrei.

And Jehovah saith unto Moses, 'Fear him not, for into thy hand I have given him, and all his people, and his land, and thou hast done to him as thou hast done to Sihon king of the Amorite, who is dwelling in Heshbon.'

And they smite him, and his sons, and all his people, until he hath not left to him a remnant, and they possess his land.

300ish years later, the Ammonites who bordered this land tried to claim that this land Israel had taken belong to them and they wanted it back.

Judges 11:16-27

...

And Jephthah sendeth messengers unto the king of the Bene-Ammon, saying, 'What -- to me and to thee, that thou hast come in unto me, to fight in my land.'

And the king of the Bene-Ammon saith unto the messengers of Jephthah, 'Because Israel took my land in his coming up out of Egypt, from Arnon, and unto the Jabbok, and unto the Jordan; and now, restore them in peace.'

And Jephthah addeth yet and sendeth messengers unto the king of the Bene-Ammon,

and saith to him, 'Thus said Jephthah, Israel took not the land of Moab [that is, they did not take it from Moab], and the land of the Bene-Ammon,

for in their coming up out of Egypt, Israel goeth in the wilderness unto the Red Sea, and cometh in to Kadesh,

and Israel sendeth messengers unto the king of Edom, saying, Let me pass over, I pray thee, through thy land, and the king of Edom hearkened not; and also unto the king of Moab hath Israel sent, and he hath not been willing; and Israel abideth in Kadesh [Israel did not engage Edom or Moab],

and he goeth through the wilderness, and compasseth the land of Edom and the land of Moab, and cometh in at the rising of the sun of the land of Moab, and they encamp beyond Arnon, and have not come into the border of Moab, for Arnon is the border of Moab. [Israel went around Edom and Moab]

'And Israel sendeth messengers unto Sihon, king of the Amorite, king of Heshbon, and Israel saith to him, Let us pass over, we pray thee, through thy land, unto my place,

and Sihon hath not trusted Israel to pass over through his border, and Sihon gathereth all his people, and they encamp in Jahaz, and fight with Israel;

and Jehovah, God of Israel, giveth Sihon and all his people into the hand of Israel, and they smite them, and Israel possesseth all the land of the Amorite [including the land that formerly belong to Moab], the inhabitant of that land,

and they possess all the border of the Amorite from Arnon, and unto the Jabbok, and from the wilderness, and unto the Jordan.

'And now, Jehovah, God of Israel, hath dispossessed the Amorite from the presence of His people Israel, and thou wouldst possess it!

That which Chemosh thy god causeth thee to possess -- dost thou not possess it? and all that which Jehovah our God hath dispossessed from our presence, -- it we do possess.

'And now, art thou at all better than Balak son of Zippor, king of Moab? did he at all strive with Israel? did he at all fight against them?

In Israel's dwelling in Heshbon and in its towns, and in Aroer and in its towns, and in all the cities which are by the sides of Arnon three hundred years -- and wherefore have ye not delivered them in that time?

And I -- I have not sinned against thee, and thou art doing with me evil -- to fight against me. Jehovah, the Judge, doth judge to-day between the sons of Israel and the sons of Ammon.'

...

This land changed owners twice, but it kept the name of the original owners - Moab. The people who lived in this "land of Moab" in Ruth's time were full-blooded Israelites. Ruth was a full-blooded Israelite. David's great-grandmother was a full-blooded Israelite.

Ruth 1:1-4

And it cometh to pass, in the days of the judging of the judges, that there is a famine in the land, and there goeth a man from Beth-Lehem-Judah to sojourn in the fields of Moab, he, and his wife, and his two sons.

And the name of the man is Elimelech, and the name of his wife Naomi, and the name of his two sons Mahlon and Chilion, Ephrathites from Beth-Lehem-Judah; and they come into the fields of Moab, and are there.

And Elimelech husband of Naomi dieth, and she is left, she and her two sons;

and they take to them wives, Moabitesses [from the land the was formerly Moab and now under Israelite control - not the people of Moab]: the name of the one is Orpah, and the name of the second Ruth; and they dwell there about ten years.

...

This will not seem so strange when we consider the how Israel was known as the land of Canaan even after Israel took it over. Israelites lived there - it was just still known by its old name.

  • Please consider the context of Nehemiah 13. – Perry Webb Sep 19 '18 at 20:04
  • I do not understand. You asked "How did the Jews who separated themselves with those of mixed decent reconcile the fact that King David's great-grandmother was a Moabite?" His great-grandmother was not racially Moabite. There is nothing to reconcile. – Jack Sep 19 '18 at 20:27
  • Moabites and Ammonites were decedents of Lot. Thus, the same race as the Jews. This isn't a matter of race. The people in Nehemiah 13 were also local to the Jews. The only answer that makes sense is Ruth converted to Judaism. The people in Nehemiah 13 were holding on to their pagan religions. – Perry Webb Sep 19 '18 at 21:44
  • I mean this in a sincere way and not to start an argument - how is "mixed decent" not a matter of race? – Jack Sep 19 '18 at 21:54
  • @Jack -- IMO the racial-purity concern is a "rabbit hole." Consider (as I noted in comments to other responses) that two of the tribal patriarchs -- Manasseh and Ephraim -- were born to Joseph and his Egyptian wife Asenath. (Genesis 41:50-52). – JDM-GBG Feb 28 at 23:58
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Ruth was NOT a racial Moabite. She was from the geographic region of Moab. She was one of the hundreds of thousands of dispersed Israelites. She was what Christ was referring to when he spoke of "nations" or "gentiles" - Israelites of different geographic locationsZ She was living in the land that was taken from the Moabites by Israel. She was a full blooded Israelite.

It is historically and theologically impossible for Ruth to have been a Moabitess by race, given the entire context of the Bible prohibiting and warning against racial mixing and Yahweh's literal commands to exterminate the Canaanite peoples. If Ruth was a Moabite by race, making king David a mamzer (Deut 23:2), and if Christ descended from Rahab the Canaanite instead of Rachab the Israelite (another widespread Judeo myth), making Christ himself a mamzer, then Yahweh God Himself is a liar and a hypocrite and the entire Bible is worthless.

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    That might be a possibility theoretically. I prefer the simple record of historical Scripture that says Ruth was a Moabitess. – user25930 Dec 7 '18 at 8:44
  • The racial-purity argument is hard to justify when two of the tribal patriarchs -- Manasseh and Ephraim -- were born to Joseph and his Egyptian wife Asenath. (Genesis 41:50-52). – JDM-GBG Feb 28 at 23:54

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