Foreign Women (4 February 2016, 24 Shevet, 5776)
2. Fall of the First Temple. Exile to Babylon.
3. Return to Judah
4. The Tribes who Returned
5. Foreign Women
6. Naamah the Righteous Ammonite Woman
7. Male or Female Converts
The Book of Ruth tells us how due to famine Elimelech and Naomi from Beth-Lehem in Judah moved to Moab. Their two sons, Mahlon, and Cilion married Moabite women and then along with their father passed away. Naomi being now a widow and hearing that the situation in Judah had improved decided to move back. Her daughter-in-laws Ruth and Oprah accompanied her part of the way. Naomi then exhorted them to turn back to their own people and their own gods. Oprah did so. Ruth insisted on staying with Naomi and accepting her God and her customs. They went to Beth-Lehem where Ruth married Boaz who was relative of Naomi and her deceased husband.
Ruth was a Moabitess. Ruth married Boaz and gave rise to King David and through him to the Future Messiah. It has been claimed however that Ruth was really an Israelite. Otherwise the authority of the Jewish Rabbinical Oral Law would have to be acknowledged. There was a prohibition against accepting Moabites and Ammonites into the community (Deuteronomy 23:3). The Sages explained that this referred to males but not females. This was the accepted tradition and how the relevant verses are understood. There was therefore no problem with Ruth having been of Moabite origin and having converted, as the Book of Ruth relates. Christian extremists however do not want to accept the validity of Rabbinical tradition so they reject the given solution. This is despite the fact that in other matters such as how to read the Biblical text, the very meaning of the words and sounding of the letters, etc., also relies on Rabbinical tradition.
One of the arguments against Ruth being from Moab is that the head of the Jewish community in early second Temple Times, Nehemiah, sent Moabite women, who were cohabiting with Jews, away. If Moabite women were acceptable why would he do this?
The following article discusses this matter and answers claims made. It also incidentally provides other background information of interest. The main aim of our movement, Brit-Am/Hebrew Nations, is to prove the Israelite origin of a major element within western peoples and to promote this knowledge.It may be protested that our present pre-occupation with Ruth etc., is an unnecessary diversion of energy and attention. Nevertheless, experience shows that studies such as the present one are pertinent and need to be undertaken from time to time. They also add to our overall appreciation of the Bible and of the issues involved.
Ruth according to Scripture came from Moab (Ruth 1:1, 2,6). It was forbidden to accept people from Moab or Ammon into the community of Israel.
Deuteronomy (NASB) 23:
3 No Ammonite or Moabite shall enter the assembly of the LORD; none of their descendants, even to the tenth generation, shall 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. 5 Nevertheless, the Lord your God was not willing to listen to Balaam, but the Lord your God turned the curse into a blessing for you because the Lord your God loves you. 6 You shall never seek their peace or their prosperity all your days.
The Sages understood this prohibition to apply to males from Ammon and Moab but NOT to the females. Women were acceptable.
This is why Ruth was able to be accepted into the Nation of Israel and marry Boaz. At the moment, we are considering the case of Nehemiah and the foreign women. It is claimed that Nehemiah banned and expelled Ammonite and Moabite women because he applied this prohibition to females.
Before directly addressing the case of Nehemiah let us consider a little of the relevant background.
2. Fall of the First Temple. Exile to Babylon.
The Israelite Tribes separated into different kingdoms. Ten Tribes were in the north and the rest (headed by 'Judah') in the south. The Assyrians conquered the northern Kingdom of Israel and exiled the Ten Tribes. Later, the Babylonians with the Medes and Scythians destroyed the Assyrian Empire with the Scythians playing the leading role. The Scythians were then demoted and gradually pushed out to the north where they already held a foothold. Part of the Scythian federation had been comprised of Exiles from the Ten Tribes. The Medes and Babylonians then divided the Assyrian Empire between them. The Babylonians became the predominant party and under Nebuchadnessar they conquered Judah, destroyed the First Temple, and exiled most of the Jews to Babylon. Meanwhile the Persians from being junior partners to the Medes overtook them and then conquered Babylon. Under Cyrus they allowed the Jews to return (Ezra 6:3-5).
3. Return to Judah
A small group led by Jeshua (Yehoshua, the high priest) the son of Yozadak and Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel (also a cohen, priest) and with Haggai the prophet returned.
"The date is generally thought to have been between 538 and 520 BC."
The prophets Malachi and Zechariah were also present during the early Second Temple Times. The first group laid the foundations for the Second Temple (Ezra 3:8-13). This is conventionally dated to ca. 515 BCE though it may in fact have been much later. Ezra (also a priest) brought more Jews back with him and instituted reforms. The Jews had refused to allow the Samaritans to participate in rebuilding the Temple. The Samaritans were non-Israelites who had adopted elements from the Torah and synthesized them with pagan beliefs (2-Kings 17:24-41). The Samaritans together with neighboring peoples such as remnants of the Philistines, Ammon, and Moab, etc., were antagonistic to Judah. Nehemiah (in ca. 445 BCE) led another body of Jews back to Judah and became the community leader. They completed, despite opposition from their neighbors, building the walls around the city of Jerusalem.
4. The Tribes who Returned
Census figures are given for the returnees. Most were from the Tribes of Judah, Benjamin, and Levi. Their names and numbers were given. There was also a group (accounting for ca. 20% of the total, see Midrash Seder Olam, see The Tribes) from the other tribes whose names and numbers were not given since (as explained by Nachmanides) their tribal expression was to be played out amongst the Ten Tribes in Exile. Nevertheless, representative elements from of all of the Tribes were present. Members of Ephraim and Manasseh were especially prominent within this minority group. The Great Assembly of 120 elders was established. From the Great Assembly emerged the Sanhedrin with 70 members. Prophets and Sages were present and overlapped with each other. The Sages continued where the prophets left off.
5. Foreign Women
The returnees included more males than females. Consequently there were liaisons with the local non-Jewish ladies. Ezra had exhorted the Jews to put the foreign women away (Ezra 10:19). By the time of Nehemiah the problem had exacerbated.
Nehemiah induced the wayward men to send the women and their children away.
This is related in Nehemiah 13. The first verse speaks of reading in Deuteronomy about the prohibition against accepting Moabites and Ammonites into the assembly of Israel (Deuteronomy 23:3).
1 On that day they read aloud from the book of Moses in the hearing of the people; and there was found written in it that no Ammonite or Moabite should ever enter the assembly of God, 2 because they did not meet the sons of Israel with bread and water, but hired Balaam against them to curse them. However, our God turned the curse into a blessing. 3 So when they heard the law, they excluded all foreigners from Israel.
Nehemiah chapter 13 then continues and tells us of reforms in the Temple service, in administration, in public Sabbath observance (Nehemiah 13:4-22). After all this Nehemiah dealt with the foreign women.
Nehemiah 13 (NASB):
23 In those days I also saw that the Jews had married women from Ashdod, Ammon and Moab. 24 As for their children, half spoke in the language of Ashdod, and none of them was able to speak the language of Judah, but the language of his own people. 25 So I contended with them and cursed them and struck some of them and pulled out their hair, and made them swear by God, You shall not give your daughters to their sons, nor take of their daughters for your sons or for yourselves. 26 Did not Solomon king of Israel sin regarding these things? Yet among the many nations there was no king like him, and he was loved by his God, and God made him king over all Israel; nevertheless the foreign women caused even him to sin. 27 Do we then hear about you that you have committed all this great evil by acting unfaithfully against our God by marrying foreign women? 28 Even one of the sons of Joiada, the son of Eliashib the high priest, was a son-in-law of Sanballat the Horonite, so I drove him away from me. 29 Remember them, O my God, because they have defiled the priesthood and the covenant of the priesthood and the Levites.
30 Thus I purified them from everything foreign and appointed duties for the priests and the Levites, each in his task, 31 and I arranged for the supply of wood at appointed times and for the first fruits. Remember me, O my God, for good.
It has been claimed that the account of Nehemiah proves that women form Ammon and Moab were not accepted and that no exception was ever made for females. It was all, the claim goes, an invention of the Rabbis. It may be replied firstly that the entrance of foreign women into the community required the females in question to accept belief in One God and obedience to the Torah. Without this it did not matter what Gentile nations they came from.
Secondly, let us see what the account of Nehemiah really does say: The account begins with Nehemiah reading the prohibition against accepting Ammonites and Moabites (Deuteronomy 23:3). Consequently "they excluded all foreigners from Israel" (Nehemiah 13:3). The word translated here as "foreigners" in Hebrew is "Arev" meaning "admixture." It is in the masculine tense and according to our understanding in this case refers mainly to males from Moab and Ammon. This is in accordance with the whole flow of the books of Ezra and Nehemiah, i.e. separation from foreign peoples who remain foreign.
The verse in question (Nehemiah 13:2) is used to explain why women from Moab and Ammon were acceptable (after conversion) whereas males were not. Nehemiah chapter 13 then deals at some length with other matters. He then comes to putting the foreign women away. Nehemiah quotes from Deuteronomy 7:3 "You shall not give your daughters to their sons, nor take of their daughters for your sons or for yourselves." This verse and the one following it (Deuteronomy 7:4) in the Hebrew original is the basis for explaining why the offspring of a Jewish mother is Jewish whereas from a foreign woman they are not.
The women involved that Nehemah sent away were from "Ashdod, Ammon and Moab" (Nehemiah 13:23). Ashdod probably meant remnants of the Philistines. The account in Nehemiah chapter 13 began with reading the prohibition against Ammonites and Moabites and consequently separating themselves from foreign admixture. The narrative then went on to list a number of other events and reforms before telling us how the women from "Ashdod, Ammon and Moab" (Nehemiah 13:23) were to be sent away. Deuteronomy 7:3 was quoted by Nehemiah. This deals with the non-acceptance of pagans in general. In this case Nehemiah DID NOT quote the prohibition against Ammonites and Moabites entering the community even though women from Ammon and Moab were present, are expressly mentioned, and may have been the majority. The passage may also therefore just as well be taken as proving that NO SPECIFIC PROHIBITION existed against Ammonite and Moabite women. The interdiction applied to ALL foreign women who did not undertake conversion or its accepted equivalent. If it were not so why did Nehemiah not repeat the verse in question when he was allegedly putting it into practice? He would need to have repeated it if he intended to apply it since attentions had already been diverted from it by the other isssues he had dealt with in the meantime.
6. Naamah the Righteous Ammonite Woman
The Book of Nehemiah 13:26 mentions King Solomon whose heart was turned away by foreign women. We know from elsewhere that one of the wives of Solomon was Naamah. She was the mother of King Rehoboam and as such also a probable ancestor of the future Messiah.
21 Now Rehoboam the son of Solomon reigned in Judah. Rehoboam was forty-one years old when he became king, and he reigned seventeen years in Jerusalem, the city which the LORD had chosen from all the tribes of Israel to put His name there. And his mother's name was Naamah the Ammonitess.
31 And Rehoboam slept with his fathers and was buried with his fathers in the city of David; and his mothers name was Naamah the Ammonitess. And Abijam his son became king in his place.
13 So King Rehoboam strengthened himself in Jerusalem and reigned. Now Rehoboam was forty-one years old when he began to reign, and he reigned seventeen years in Jerusalem, the city which the LORD had chosen from all the tribes of Israel, to put His name there. And his mothers name was Naamah the Ammonitess.
This shows that women from Moab and Ammon were acceptable but males were not. The females in question were expected to be genuine in their acceptance of Monortheism and an in Keeping the Law.
The name 'Naamah' in Hebrew connotes pleasantness, loveliness, and is cognate with the name 'Naomi.' Naamah is praised in the Talmud (Bava Kamma 38b) for her righteousness.
7. Male or Female Converts
It has been claimed that the presence and assumed legitimacy of Naamah the Ammonitess (2-Chronicles 12:13, 1-Kings 14: 21, 31) who was the mother of King Rehoboam indicates that male or female converts could be accepted.
A correspondent of ours, James Rodriguez, opined:
# There is no indication in the scriptures of any conversion exception among the nations from which God forbid Israel to intermarry. That is an unfortunate assumption made by the sages about Ruth. Additionally, it would be illogical and partial for God to allow a converted Moabite female to marry an Israelite male, but exclude a converted Moabite male from marrying an Israelite female. The logical choice is to exclude both, as Nehemiah indicates.
Neh 13:26 further implicates Solomon sinned by marrying Naamah the Ammonitess. Yet his son, Rehoboam, was still considered Jewish. This indicates Jewishness can be obtained by either parent.#
The last sentence is somewhat surprising from someone who has otherwise proved himself to be an intelligent and incisive debater. The fact that Naamah was accepted and was also traditionally very righteous helps confirm the validity of the Sages and their acceptance of females from Ammon and Moab who met the necessary requirement for conversion. It does not mean that males were also accepted!
If Biblical Law says that a female convert from Moab and Ammon should be accepted but not a male then we have to accept it. Parallels with biology and genetics exist. A cross between a male horse and a female donkey is a different beast from one between a male donkey and a female horse. Certain physical traits, and characteristics (both positive and negative) are transmitted or omitted ONLY through the female. There is logic for only females being allowed in a certain circumstance.
Let us see what Scripture says on the matter.
1 On that day they read aloud from the book of Moses in the hearing of the people; and there was found written in it that no Ammonite or Moabite should ever enter the assembly of God, 2 because they did not meet the sons of Israel with bread and water, but hired Balaam against them to curse them. However, our God turned the curse into a blessing. 3 So when they heard the law they excluded all foreigners from Israel.
3 No Ammonite or Moabite shall enter the assembly of theLord; none of their descendants, even to the tenth generation, shall 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.
The Sages in the Talmud (Yebamoth 76b) said that Ruth was a Moabitess and that the interdiction applied to males and not to females since the reason for prohibition is given (Deuteronomy 23:4) as not supplying food and water to the migrating Israelites. This was the task of the menfolk, not of the females. THEREFORE THE FEMALES WERE NOT PROHIBITED! What is wrong with this solution? It has parallels in Biological Genetics. - Apart from the fact that it is Jewish?
James Rodriguez, replied:
# Jewish commentary has value. But the scriptures indicate it was customary for women of the ancient near east to supply and distribute water (Exo 2:16; Gen 24:11-14). Food preparation and distribution was done by both men and women (Gen 19:3; 27:17). #
Exodus 2: 16 Now the priest of Midian had seven daughters; and they came to draw water and filled the troughs to water their fathers flock.
Genesis 24 (NASB): 10 Then the servant took ten camels from the camels of his master, and set out with a variety of good things of his masters in his hand; and he arose and went to Mesopotamia, to the city of Nahor. 11 He made the camels kneel down outside the city by the well of water at evening time, the time when women go out to draw water. 12 He said, O Lord, the God of my master Abraham, please grant me success today, and show lovingkindness to my master Abraham. 13 Behold, I am standing by the spring, and the daughters of the men of the city are coming out to draw water; 14 now may it be that the girl to whom I say, Please let down your jar so that I may drink, and who answers, Drink, and I will water your camels also may she be the one whom You have appointed for Your servant Isaac; and by this I will know that You have shown lovingkindness to my master.
The Sages related the prohibition against Ammonite and Moabite males to their not supplying the Israelites with food and water. The Bible itself said that this was the reason for the prohibition. The Sages understood the prohibition to be why males were excluded and females were not. As far as they were concerned the prohibition had existed from the beginning It was not an innovation of theirs. Their explanation fitted the reality of the time in question as they understood it.
It is claimed that the daughters of Jethro drawing water for their flock and Rebecca doing the same for Eliezer shows that the task was not restricted only to the males. Maybe. On the other hand supplying food and water for a traveling body of ca. 600,000 male warriors plus women and children might require formidable logistical organization. It is not the same as helping a passing traveller on his own. Also problems of public morality might be involved. We see elsewhere a case whereby a large body of foreign females encountered the Israelites with disastrous consequences:
1 While Israel remained at Shittim, the people began to play the harlot with the daughters of Moab. 2 For they invited the people to the sacrifices of their gods, and the people ate and bowed down to their gods. 3 So Israel joined themselves to Baal of Peor, and the Lord was angry against Israel. 4 The Lord said to Moses, Take all the leaders of the people and execute them ]in broad daylight before the Lord, so that the fierce anger of the Lord may turn away from Israel. 5 So Moses said to the judges of Israel, Each of you slay his men who have joined themselves to Baal of Peor. 6 Then behold, one of the sons of Israel came and brought to his relatives a Midianite woman, in the sight of Moses and in the sight of all the congregation of the sons of Israel, while they were weeping at the doorway of the tent of meeting. 7 When Phinehas the son of Eleazar, the son of Aaron the priest, saw it, he arose from the midst of the congregation and took a spear in his hand,8 and he went after the man of Israel into the [e]tent and pierced both of them through, the man of Israel and the woman, through the body. So the plague on the sons of Israel was checked. 9 Those who died by the plague were 24,000.
The use of females to seduce the Israelties en masse had been part of a deliberate plan.
1 Then the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, 2 Take full vengeance for the sons of Israel on the Midianites; afterward you will be gathered to your people.
We may therefore agree with the Sages that the use of women to service a large host of people headed by male warriors was not according to accepted the social norms of the time.
We see the Oral Law and Rabbinical Tradition as coeval with Written Scripture. There is no dichotomy between the two.
When the Lost Israelites return according to the Abarbanel they will bring with them their non-Israelite wives and children.
The Biblical Commentator Isaac Abarbanel (1435-1509) on Deuteronomy 30:9 (see also his work, "Mashmia Yeshua" 2:3). Abarbanel says that at the time of Future Redemption the returnees will come with their non-Israelite women and their children and will be accepted. It will not be as it was in the time of Ezra when the foreign women with their children were sent away.
Nevertheless, it should be noted that one of the reasons (re Talmud, Yebamot 17) why the Ten Tribes were disowned until the End Times was because they had begotten "Strange Children" (Hosea 5:7). This refers to children born from non-Israelite mothers. At present however, the Jews of Judah are OBLIGATED to keep the Law. The Ten Tribes are temporarily free from it though this may change. These matters are for the future.