Deuteronomy 23:3 states that "No Ammonite or Moabite may enter the assembly of the LORD. Even to the tenth generation, none of them may enter the assembly of the LORD forever,"

Therefore, If Ruth was such a foreigner, why was her descendant, King David, allowed into the temple?


4 Answers 4


Note that while Israel was chosen as the instrument to tell and show the world of God’s saving grace, salvation was always available to all people. Indeed, the Old Testament contains many examples of foreigners becoming part of Israel, indicating that the Israelite Covenant was open to all and was never exclusive. For example:

  • Abraham’s own household must have consisted of perhaps 2000 people just to be able to raise an army of 318 men to liberate Lot, Gen 14:14. Indeed, Abraham’s chief servant (from Damascus) was clearly a believer and very devout as shown in Gen 24.
  • When Jacob entered Egypt, his family numbered 75 people (Acts 7:14, Ex 1:5). Some of these were not direct descendants of Abraham such as the wives of the 12 patriarchs, notably Joseph’s own wife. 215 years and four generations later at the exodus, Israel’s army had over 600,000 men (excluding women and children) suggesting a total population of several million people, requiring many additions. This included a significant mixed multitude (Ex 12:38) showing that Israel obviously consisted of many non-biological Jews had joined. (Note that it is biologically impossible for Israelite numbers to have grown from 75 to several million biologically without many outside additions.)
  • Moses married a Midianite (Ex 2:16-21).
  • Caleb, who represented and led the tribe of Judah was a Kennizite (Num 32:12).
  • Rahab was a Canaanite (Josh 2:1, 2, Matt 1:5)
  • Ruth was Moabite (Ruth 1:4 16, 17, Matt 1:5) – these last two make King David descended from foreigners (Ruth 4:13-16).
  • Uriah was a Hittite (2 Sam 11:3)
  • King David’s elite personal regiment was Gittite, Philistines (1 Chron 18:17)
  • The Rechabites were Kenites (Jer 35:1-19)
  • Many other foreigners lived in Israel (1 Chron 22:2, 17, 2 Chron 30:25)
  • In Esther’s time “many of the people of the land became Jews” (Esther 8:17, 9:27)
  • Even in NT times, many Jewish synagogues were attended by godly gentiles converted to Judaism (Acts 13:16, 26, 16:14, 17:17)
  • Many Jewish proselytes came to worship in Jerusalem (John 20:20, Acts 2:9-11)
  • Jesus quotes Isa 56:7, “My house shall be a house of prayer for all nations”, Mark 11:17.
  • Further, biological Israelites could opt out of the covenant and be cut-off (Ex 30:33, 38, 31:14, Lev 7:20, 21, 25, 27).

Thus, it is abundantly clear that membership of Israel was always open to all and voluntary.

This idea is stated more carefully several times in the Torah. To illustrate I quote from a comment made in How do you reconcile Nehemiah 13:1-3 with the fact that King David's great-grandmother was Moabite?

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


Foreigners were excluded from the sacred rites of Israel (Deut 23:3) but they could participate if they became Jews which was available to anyone. Ruth did this in her touching speech in Ruth 1:16, 17

Ruth replied: “Do not urge me to leave you or to turn from following you. For wherever you go, I will go, and wherever you live, I will live; your people will be my people, and your God will be my God. Where you die, I will die, and there I will be buried. May the LORD punish me, and ever so severely, if anything but death separates you and me.”

  • Thanks for the answer, Dottard! Is it also possible that the Israelites just did not obey this law? I hesitate to accept your interpretation only because conversion is not mentioned here, and verse seven where God tells the Israelites not to seek the well-being of these people also gives me pause. Commented Jun 24, 2022 at 17:00
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    @Gremosa - does not Ruth's speech in Ruth 1:16, 17 amount to a conversion?
    – Dottard
    Commented Jun 24, 2022 at 20:31
  • @Dottard. Yes. Ruth was/is considered a convert by her declaration denying her gods and affirming devotion to Israel’s God. Her story is read every year in the megilat of Ruth on Shavuot. Many Jewish sages and rabbis have written about her in this regard.
    – Rachel
    Commented Feb 25 at 16:02
  • and yet, in Ezra and Nehemiah there seem to be no exceptions for converts. Commented Feb 26 at 2:42
  • @DanFefferman - The people in Ezra and Nehemiah were different because they were clinging to their old pagan ways and would not even speak Hebrew. This there was no conversion. Indeed, we have the record in Esther that "many of the people of the land themselves became Jews, because the fear of the Jews had fallen upon them" (Est 8:17).
    – Dottard
    Commented Feb 26 at 3:18

The view in Mishnah Sota 7:8 supports that the sages felt a convert and their descendant, such as King Agrippa, could serve as king of Israel.

https://www.sefaria.org/Mishnah_Sotah.7.8?lang=bi >

Ruth Rabbah and other Midrashim affirm and declare that Ruth did convert.

As I said in a comment, Ruth was/is considered a convert by her declaration denying her gods and affirming devotion to Israel’s God. Her story is read every year in the megilat of Ruth on Shavuot. Many Jewish sages and rabbis have written about her in this regard.

The Talmud states that Samuel wrote the scroll of Ruth to prove the choice of anointing David as king was halakhah, valid.

The Gemara asks: But the book of Ruth, with which the Writings opens, is also about suffering, since it describes the tragedies that befell the family of Elimelech. The Gemara answers: This is suffering which has a future of hope and redemption. As Rabbi Yoḥanan says: Why was she named Ruth, spelled reish, vav, tav? Because there descended from her David who sated, a word with the root reish, vav, heh, the Holy One, Blessed be He, with songs and praises. (later) Samuel wrote his own book, the book of Judges, and the book of Ruth. Bava Batra 14b

Here is a beautiful article with many references to the tensions and resolutions regarding Ruth, and thereafter King David.

https://www.thetorah.com/article/megillat-ruth-when-kindness-conflicts-with-torah >

Rashi, Ibn Ezra, and other sages and rabbis affirm the validity of Ruth’s conversion to Judaism.

“May Hashem repay your action, and may your reward be complete from Hashem, G-d of Israel, under whose wings you have come to take shelter.” Ruth 2:12

(I will add quotes and links as I find them)

What truly matters is that God Himself commanded His prophet Samuel to anoint David as King of Israel. That alone answers to the question of David’s acceptance by God as truly a Jew and as Israel’s king.

And the Lord said to Samuel. . . Fill your horn with oil, and come, I will send you to Jesse the Bethlehemite, for I have seen for Myself a king among his sons. . . And you shall anoint for Me whom I tell you. . . And the Lord said Arise, anoint him, for this is he. . . And Samuel took the horn of oil and anointed him. . . And the Spirit of the Lord came mightily on David from that day forth. 1 Samuel 16:1, 3, 12, 13

Therefore David had every right to enter the tent of God’s presence (no temple was yet built, his son Solomon did that on God’s command), and to worship with the Lord’s assembly.

  • +1 @Rachel, Thank you for the wonderful, well-researched answer! There were several gentiles in the ancestry of Yeshua/Jesus. Throughout the Bible, there are numerous instances that transcend ethnic, racial and cultural divisions including the Cushite wife of Moses.
    – Dieter
    Commented Feb 25 at 21:01
  • @Dieter, much thanks for your compliment. Yes, Tamar and Rahab pop into mind, indeed.
    – Rachel
    Commented Feb 25 at 21:44

The commandment is not that a Ammonite or Moabite need to be intermingled to the 10th generation to enter the assembly but ❝none of their descendants, even to the tenth generation❞ from when they ❝did not meet the sons of Israel with bread and water, but hired Balaam against them to curse them❞ in 1407 BC.

No Ammonite or Moabite may enter the assembly of the LORD; none of their descendants, even to the tenth generation, may ever enter the assembly of the LORD, 4 because they did not meet you with food and water on the way when you came out of Egypt, and because they hired against you Balaam the son of Beor from Pethor of Mesopotamia, to curse you.


enter the assembly of the LORD

This does not mean physically enter the temple, but rather to marry into the Israelite nation. Ammonite and Moabite men were forbidden to marry into the people of Israel. The Talmud, quoted by Rashi, explains that this law did not apply to women marrying into Israel.

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