The Righteous Convert from Moab (8 February 2016, 29 Shevet, 5776)
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Ruth was born a Gentile non-Israelite female from the people of Moab. She left her gods, parents, people, and homeland, and went to Bethlehem, in Judah, in the Land of Israel. She accepted the God of Israel and the Nation of Israel and became part of Israel. Boaz from Beth-Lehem in Judah married Ruth. King David descended from them. Certain types for ideological reasons deny that Ruth was of non-Israelite stock. We examine their arguments showing how they are mistaken. This discussion incidentally serves as a platform to teach us about the Book of Ruth, Ancient Israel, and the Bible in general.
Continued from Field of Moab,
1. The Sages Decide How Scripture Shall be Understood!
2, 3. Ruth was a Moabitess from the Country of Moab inhabited by her kinfolk, the Moabites
The First Chapter of Moab.
4. Ruth said that HENCEFORTH she would become like Naomi!
The Second Chapter of Moab
5. Ruth the Foreign Woman from Moab who came to cling to the GOD OF ISRAEL
The Third Chapter of Ruth
The Fourth Chapter of Ruth
6. Levirate Marriage and Ruth
7. The Book of Nehemiah tells how Nehemiah expelled women "from Moab, Ammon, and Ashdod" (Nehemiah 13:23-30).
(a) The Narrative
The Book of Ruth tells us how Elimelech and Naomi from Beth-Lehem in Judah moved to Moab due to famine in thier homeland. In Moab their sons, Machlon and Chilion, married Moabite women named Ruth and Orpah. The menfolk in the family all died leaving Naomi and her two daughters-in-law alone. Meanwhile Naomi heard that God had visited his people and that the situation in Judah had considerably improved. She resolved to return to Judah. Ruth and Orpah accomapanied her to the border. Naomi then exhorted them both to return to their own country to their gods and people. Orpah heeded Naomi and went back. Ruth insisted on saying declaring that henceforth the God of Israel would be her God, the people of Naomi her people, and the way of life of Naomi would also be hers. They returned to Beth-Lehem where Ruth meets Boaz and marries him from this union emerged King David. We shall give more details of what happened further down.
(b) The Disputation
The Bible expressly describes Ruth as a Moabite women (Ruth 1:4, 22 2:6 4:10). There are however hundreds of articles on the web claiming that Ruth was an Israelitess and not a Moabitess. The Bible however said that Ruth was a Moabite woman from Moab. It was forbidden to intermarry with Moabite or Ammonite (Deuteronomy 23:3). The Sages explained that this applied to males but not females. Moabite and Ammonite women, after religiously acceptable conversion, were permitted. This was the Oral Tradition as explained by the Sages. From such a union came King David. Certain non-Jewish and anti-Israelite renegades for a good number of years have been claiming that the Oral Tradition in this case is an invention and that Ruth was a native Israelitess. They also say that the Bible forbade intermarriage not only with the males of Moab and Ammon but also with the females. Offspring from the women in question, in the opinion of these antagonists, were therefore illegitimate. King David during his own lifetime had to face prejudice due to such opinions. The present-day Nay-sayers in our time are repeating this offence. Very strong ideological interests are behind their message. That partly explains the vehemence and persistence expended in the cause against Ruth.
We were interested in replying to these claims. James R wrote to us, sending an article of his, followed by more articles, and by counter-claims to our answers. What he wrote seemed coherent or at least as good as any other so we used it. James R personally may well be a very good person but the coterie usually associated with attacks on the traditional understanding of Ruth are not. Consciously or sub-consciously they are in effect attacking the legitimacy of King David who was a descendant of Ruth the Moabitess and of Boaz from Judah.
The Reprobates in their Argument basically claim:
1. It was forbidden to intermarry with Moab or Ammon. The simple meaning of Scripture reads as if Ruth was from Moab. Ruth married Boaz from Judah. From this union came David and the future Messiah and also, according to Christian belief, the one they adhere to. If Ruth was a Moabitess and intermarriage with Moabites was forbidden it might mean that her descendants could be considered illegitimate or at least of impaired lineage. This would never do.
The Rabbis provided a solution by explaining that the prohibition FROM THE BEGINNING applied to males and not females. Reprobate elements do not want to accept Rabbinical opinion. They therefore turn Scripture inside out claiming that Ruth had never been a Moabitess in the first place.
2. The place called Moab in the Book of Ruth really means, they say, a part of Israel.
3. When Ruth is called a Moabitess and a foreigner it means an Israelitess from another part of Israel called Moab.
4. When Ruth says she will accept the God of Noaomi and her customs she means she always had done so.
5. When Ruth is praised for leaving her people and her country and coming to dwell under the wings of the God of Israel it means she was being more religious.
6. Ruth was acquired by Boaz through what resembled a form of Levirate marriage and a process linked to Jubillee Redemption of Ancestral Land. This, they claim, could only apply to Israelites. Therefore Ruth was an Israelite.
7. The Book of Nehemiah tells how Nehemiah expeled women from Moab, Ammon, and Ashdod. This proves, say the reprobates, that the prohibition against Moabites applied to women as well as men.
There are other points but that just about covers it.
1. The Sages Decide How Scripture Shall be Understood!
The Sages, whom the Rabbis now represent, received from God Almighty the right to decide how the Law should be interpreted. Even if one disagreed with what they said their decisions still had to be abided by. This is what the Bible says (Deuteronomy 17:18). beyond this we should not have to write anything. It is superfluous to argue whether the prohibition against Moab or Ammonites applied to males and females or only to males. The Sages had authority to decide one way or the other. We have to accept their decision. Nevertheless we are all human. Learning Scripture is of value. Seeing how everything works out is part of Bible learning.
2, 3. Ruth was a Moabitess from the Country of Moab inhabited by her kinfolk, the Moabites.
The Lands of Moab and Ammon were east of the Jordan River. When the Israelites came out of Egypt they were forbidden to attack Moab or Ammon and commanded not to take their lands (Deuteronomy 2:9). The Canaanite Amorites however conquered portions of Ammon and Moab and replaced the inhabitants. The Moabites retreated to an area south of the Arnon River east of the Dead Sea (Numbers 21:13). This region is referred to as "Sedeh-Moab" or "Field (or "Country") of Moab" (Ruth 1:1,2,6). [This is also the opinion of Academic sources, see Wikipedia "Moab" and online Biblical Dictionaries.]
The Israelites were allowed to take the areas of Moab and Ammon conquered by the Amorites back for themselves (Judges 11:12-28). They did so. The conquered territories were promised to the Tribes of Gad, Reuben, and half-Manasseh but not given to them straight away. First they had to assist their brother tribes in liberating the areas west of the Jordan River (Numbers 32:20-32). The Land east of the Jordan WAS NOT to be given to them UNLESS they first helped their brother Israelites conquer the areas west of the Jordan. Moses repeats and emphasizes this condition (Numbers 32:30). The Israelites were camped east of the Jordan until Moses died in areas formally belonging to Moab. Moses was replaced by Joshua who led the Israelites in conquering the rest of Canaan. The regions east of the Jordan were then formally given to Gad, Reuben, and half-Manasseh (Joshua 22:7, 9). We find the terms Moab, Land of Moab (Deuteronomy 32:49), and Aravoth-Moab (Joshua 13:32), applied to areas Israelites controlled during the Lifetime of Moses and of Joshua before crossing the Jordan. After the death of Moses and conquest of the Land we NEVER find these terms applied to areas under Israelite control.
Apart from that,
In the Book of Ruth the place of Moab where Ruth came from is always called "Sedeh Moab" meaning "Field or Country" of Moab (Ruth 1:1, 2, 9). This term was applied to the region south of the Arnon River where the People of Moab lived.
This alone should be enough to prove that Ruth was a true-blue Moabite.
There is however one verse, Numbers 21:20, whose exact interpretation is uncertain.
20 And from Bamoth in the valley that is in the country [sadeh] of Moab to the top of Pisgah, which looketh toward Jeshimon (KJV).
In this verse Moses is listing the areas Israelites had reached unto. They had just reached the area of Moab and had camped to the north of it.
13 From there they journeyed and camped on the other side of the Arnon, which is in the wilderness that comes out of the border of the Amorites, for the Arnon is the border of Moab, between Moab and the Amorites.
We understand "the valley that is in the country [sadeh] of Moab" mentioned by Moses (Numbers 21:20) refers to an area by the Arnon River either in Moab itself or adjacent to Moab and leading into it. The question is if the term "Field of Moab" here, as well as meaning the area of Moab proper south of the Arnon ALSO refers to lands later pertaining to Israelites or not. We understand that it did not. Even if it did however, we never find the term "Moab"applied to Israelite lands after the Conquest and Division by Joshua.
It follows that where it says that Ruth came from the "Country of" (Sedeh) Moab it means just that.
The First Chapter of the Book of Ruth
In the first chapter of the Book of Moab Ruth is described as a Moabite woman (1:4) and as a Moabitess. She came from "Sedeh [country of] Moab" as mentioned 5 times in 22 verses. Rurth undertakes to leave her gods and her land and her people and cleave to the God, and people, and land, and customs of Naomi from Bethlehem in Judah (Ruth 1:15-18).
How more explicit could the Bible be? Ruth was a Moabitess from Moab.
1 Now it came about in the days when the judges governed, that there was a famine in the land. And a certain man of Bethlehem in Judah went to sojourn in the country of Moab with his wife and his two sons. 2 The name of the man was Elimelech, and the name of his wife, Naomi; and the names of his two sons were Mahlon and Chilion, Ephrathites of Bethlehem in Judah. Now they entered the country of Moab and remained there. 3 Then Elimelech, Naomi’s husband, died; and she was left with her two sons. 4 They took for themselves Moabite women as wives; the name of the one was Orpah and the name of the other Ruth. And they lived there about ten years. 5 Then both Mahlon and Chilion also died, and the woman was bereft of her two children and her husband.
6 Then she arose with her daughters-in-law that she might return from the country of Moab, for she had heard in the country of Moab that the LORD had visited His people in giving them food. 7 So she departed from the place where she was, and her two daughters-in-law with her; and they went on the way to return to the land of Judah. 8 And Naomi said to her two daughters-in-law, “Go, return each of you to her mother’s house. May the LORD deal kindly with you as you have dealt with the dead and with me. 9 May the LORD grant that you may find rest, each in the house of her husband.” Then she kissed them, and they lifted up their voices and wept. 10 And they said to her, “No, but we will surely return with you to your people.” 11 But Naomi said, “Return, my daughters. Why should you go with me? Have I yet sons in my womb, that they may be your husbands? 12 Return, my daughters! Go, for I am too old to have a husband. If I said I have hope, if I should even have a husband tonight and also bear sons, 13 would you therefore wait until they were grown? Would you therefore refrain from marrying? No, my daughters; for it is harder for me than for you, for the hand of the Lord has gone forth against me.”
14 And they lifted up their voices and wept again; and Orpah kissed her mother-in-law, but Ruth clung to her.
15 Then she said, “Behold, your sister-in-law has gone back to her people and her gods; return after your sister-in-law.” 16 But Ruth said, “Do not urge me to leave you or turn back from following you; for where you go, I go, and where you lodge, I lodge. Your people my people, and your God, my God. 17 Where you shall die, I will die, and there I will be buried. Thus may the LORD do to me, and worse, if anything but death parts you and me.” 18 When she saw that she was determined to go with her, she said no more to her.
19 So they both went until they came to Bethlehem. And when they had come to Bethlehem, all the city was stirred because of them, and the women said, “Is this Naomi?” 20 She said to them, “Do not call me Naomi; call me Mara, for the Almighty has dealt very bitterly with me. 21 I went out full, but the LORD has brought me back empty. Why do you call me Naomi, since the LORD has witnessed against me and the Almighty has afflicted me?”
22 So Naomi returned, and with her Ruth the Moabitess, her daughter-in-law, who returned from the country of Moab. And they came to Bethlehem at the beginning of barley harvest.
4. Ruth said that HENCEFORTH she would become like Naomi!
Naomi exhorted Ruth to return like her sister in law, Orpah, did. Ruth however refused.
15 Then she said, “Behold, your sister-in-law has gone back to her people and her gods; return after your sister-in-law.” 16 But Ruth said, “Do not urge me to leave you or turn back from following you; for where you go, I go, and where you lodge, I lodge. Your people my people, and your God, my God. 17 Where you shall die, I will die, and there I will be buried. Thus may the LORD do to me, and worse, if anything but death parts you and me.”
Ruth was saying that she was unlike her fellow Moabite sister-in-lawi.e. the other one, beside Ruth, of the "Moabite women" mentioned in Ruth 1:4. Ruth was determined to go with Naomi and accept her God, and her way of life. In this declaration both the future and present tense are employed but the meaning is the same.
Ruth was saying that by going with Naomi she would henceforth be acting in a certain way. If she had have turned back, like Orpah did, she would not have been acting in that manner.
" 16 .....for where you go, I go, and where you lodge, I lodge. Your people my people, and your God, my God. 17 Where you shall die, I will die, and there I will be buried. "
There are three points worth noting here:
a. Ruth was replying to a demand made of her for the future. She replied in the present ongoing tense implying "from now on" beginning with the immediate future. This was in negation of what Naomi had exhorted her to do (to turn back) and in negation of how she had evidently acted in the immediate past.
b. "Your people my people, and your God, my God": The LORD is the creator, the One and Only God BUT HE reveals HIMSELF to HIS creation through HIS people of Israel. God cannot be recognized except as HE presents HIMSELF in the Bible as the God of Israel. One cannot accept God and be against HIS people.
c. When accepting God there is no future tense. It must begin NOW!
In Chapter 2 of the Book of Ruth we are told how "Ruth the Moabitess" (Ruth 2:2, 21) returned with Naomi. She went to work together with other poor people following the harvesters and gleaning the left-overs in the field of Boaz who was a close relative of Naomi. We learn that Ruth was working to support both herself and Naomi. Boaz notices her and asks who she is. He is told that she is, "the young Moabite woman who returned with Naomi from the country of Moab." In fact every time the name Ruth is mentioned her Moabite origin is emphasized. Ruth describes herself to Boaz as a "foreigner."
Ruth 2 (NASB version with perhaps some mnior modifications of our own)
1 Now Naomi had a kinsman of her husband, a man of great wealth, of the family of Elimelech, whose name was Boaz. 2 And Ruth the Moabitess said to Naomi, “Please let me go to the field and glean among the ears of grain after one in whose sight I may find favor.” And she said to her, “Go, my daughter.”3 So she departed and went and gleaned in the field after the reapers; and she happened to come to the portion of the field belonging to Boaz, who was of the family of Elimelech. 4 Now behold, Boaz came from Bethlehem and said to the reapers, “May the LORD be with you.” And they said to him, “May the LORD bless you.” 5 Then Boaz said to his servant who was in charge of the reapers, “Whose young woman is this?” 6 The servant in charge of the reapers replied, “She is the young Moabite woman who returned with Naomi from the country of Moab. 7 And she said, ‘Please let me glean and gather after the reapers among the sheaves.’ Thus she came and has remained from the morning until now; she has been sitting in the house for a little while.”
8 Then Boaz said to Ruth, “Listen carefully, my daughter. Do not go to glean in another field; furthermore, do not go on from this one, but stay here with my maids. 9 Let your eyes be on the field which they reap, and go after them. Indeed, I have commanded the servants not to touch you. When you are thirsty, go to the water jars and drink from what the servants draw.” 10 Then she fell on her face, bowing to the ground and said to him, “Why have I found favor in your sight that you should take notice of me, since I am a foreigner?”11 Boaz replied to her, “All that you have done for your mother-in-law after the death of your husband has been fully reported to me, and how you left your father and your mother and the land of your birth, and came to a people that you did not previously know. 12 May the LORD reward your work, and your wages be full from the LORD, the God of Israel, under whose wings you have come to seek refuge.” 13 Then she said, “I have found favor in your sight, my lord, for you have comforted me and indeed have spoken kindly to your maidservant, though I am not like one of your maidservants.”
14 At mealtime Boaz said to her, “Come here, that you may eat of the bread and dip your piece of bread in the vinegar.” So she sat beside the reapers; and he served her roasted grain, and she ate and was satisfied and had some left.15 When she rose to glean, Boaz commanded his servants, saying, “Let her glean even among the sheaves, and do not insult her. 16 Also you shall purposely pull out for her some grain from the bundles and leave it that she may glean, and do not rebuke her.”
17 So she gleaned in the field until evening. Then she beat out what she had gleaned, and it was about an ephah of barley. 18 She took it up and went into the city, and her mother-in-law saw what she had gleaned. She also took it out and gave Naomi what she had left after she was satisfied. 19 Her mother-in-law then said to her, “Where did you glean today and where did you work? May he who took notice of you be blessed.” So she told her mother-in-law with whom she had worked and said, “The name of the man with whom I worked today is Boaz.” 20 Naomi said to her daughter-in-law, “May he be blessed of the LORD who has not withdrawn his kindness to the living and to the dead.” Again Naomi said to her, “The man is our relative, he is one of our closest relatives.” 21 Then Ruth the Moabitess said, “Furthermore, he said to me, ‘You should stay close to my servants until they have finished all my harvest.’”22 Naomi said to Ruth her daughter-in-law, “It is good, my daughter, that you go out with his maids, so that others do not fall upon you in another field.”23 So she stayed close by the maids of Boaz in order to glean until the end of the barley harvest and the wheat harvest. And she lived with her mother-in-law.
5. Ruth the Foreign Woman from Moab who came to cling to the GOD OF ISRAEL
In the second chapter of the Book of Ruth, we hear of "Ruth the Moabitess" (Ruth 2:2, 21) and Ruth "young Moabite woman" (Ruth 2:6), who had come from the "country of Moab" (Ruth 2:6). Boaz the owner of the field Ruth was gleaning in shows favor towards Ruth who describes herself to him as a "foreigner"
Boaz tells Ruth that he has heard how she had helped her mother-in-law after the death of her husband and,
"...how you left your father and your mother and the land of your birth, and came to a people that you did not previously know. 12 May the LORD reward your work, and your wages be full from the LORD, the God of Israel, under whose wings you have come to seek refuge” (Ruth 2:11-12).
Brit-Am states: Ruth was a Moabitess (Ruth 2:6), and a foreign woman (Ruth 2:10), who had come shelter under wings of the God of Israel (Ruth 2:11).
JR replies: David, the Israelite, also took refuge under the wings of the God of Israel (Ps 57:1).
1 Be gracious to me, O God, be gracious to me,
For my soul takes refuge in You;
And in the shadow of Your wings I will take refuge
Until destruction passes by.
What is the diffference between Ruth and David her descendant? They both sought refuge "under the wings" of the Almighty. The answer is that:
Boaz (Ruth 2:11-12) describes Ruth as a newcomer who will be rewarded for her self-sacrifice and who has come to a people she had not previously known. This fits the description of a foreign woman from foreign parts and NOT someone of the same people but a different section that geographically was not so distant. Ruth should not be described (as the Reprobates claim) as an Israelitess who dwelt in the territory of Reuben that was called the "country of Moab" because Moabites had once lived there. First of all there is no proof that any part of the Territory of Reuben or any other Israelite Land was ever called "Moab" after a Israelite Tribe had received it. Apart from that describing Ruth as an Israelitess does not fit the description given in Scripture. Ruth is described as having left her Moabite parents in the country of Moab and had come to join herself to the people of Judah and to cling to the GOD OF ISRAEL! For Ruth this was as reatively new experience. David, on the other hand, was describing something that for him was an on-going process, emanating from his soul "taking refuge" in the Almighty, as the verse says. Let us accept the literal truth of the Bible.
The Third Chapter of Ruth
1 Then Naomi her mother-in-law said to her, 'My daughter, shall I not seek security for you, that it may be well with you? 2 Now is not Boaz our kinsman, with whose maids you were? Behold, he winnows barley at the threshing floor tonight. 3 Wash yourself therefore, and anoint yourself and put on your best clothes, and go down to the threshing floor; but do not make yourself known to the man until he has finished eating and drinking. 4 It shall be when he lies down, that you shall notice the place where he lies, and you shall go and uncover his feet and lie down; then he will tell you what you shall do.' 5 She said to her, 'All that you say I will do.'
6 So she went down to the threshing floor and did according to all that her mother-in-law had commanded her. 7 When Boaz had eaten and drunk and his heart was merry, he went to lie down at the end of the heap of grain; and she came secretly, and uncovered his feet and lay down. 8 It happened in the middle of the night that the man was startled and bent forward; and behold, a woman was lying at his feet. 9 He said, 'Who are you?' And she answered, 'I am Ruth your maid. So spread your covering over your maid, for you are a close relative.' 10 Then he said, 'May you be blessed of the Lord, my daughter. You have shown your last kindness to be better than the first by not going after young men, whether poor or rich. 11 Now, my daughter, do not fear. I will do for you whatever you ask, for all my people in the city know that you are a woman of excellence. 12 Now it is true I am a close relative; however, there is a relative closer than I. 13 Remain this night, and when morning comes, if he wil redeem you, good; let him redeem you. But if he does not wish to redeem you, then I will redeem you, as the Lord lives. Lie down until morning.'
14 So she lay at his feet until morning and rose before one could recognize another; and he said, 'Let it not be known that the woman came to the threshing floor.' 15 Again he said, 'Give me the cloak that is on you and hold it.' So she held it, and he measured six measures of barley and laid it on her. Then she went into the city. 16 When she came to her mother-in-law, she said, 'How did it go, my daughter?' And she told her all that the man had done for her. 17 She said, 'These six measures of barley he gave to me, for he said, 'Do not go to your mother-in-law empty-handed.'' 18 Then she said, 'Wait, my daughter, until you know how the matter turns out; for the man will not rest until he has settled it today.'
The Fourth Chapter of Ruth
Ruth 4 (NASB):
1 Now Boaz went up to the gate and sat down there, and behold, the close relative of whom Boaz spoke was passing by, so he said, 'Turn aside, [b]friend, sit down here.' And he turned aside and sat down. 2 He took ten men of theelders of the city and said, 'Sit down here.' So they sat down. 3 Then he said to the closest relative, 'Naomi, who has come back from the land of Moab, has to sell the piece of land which belonged to our brother Elimelech. 4 So I thought to [d]inform you, saying, 'Buy it before those who are sitting here, and before the elders of my people. If you will redeem it, redeem it; but if not, tell me that I may know; for there is no one but you to redeem it, and I am after you.'' And he said, 'I will redeem it.' 5 Then Boaz said, 'On the day you buy the field from the hand of Naomi, you must also acquire Ruth the Moabitess, the widow of the deceased, in order to raise up the name of the deceased on his inheritance.' 6 The closest relative said, 'I cannot redeem it for myself, because I would [g]jeopardize my own inheritance. Redeem it for yourself; youmay have my right of redemption, for I cannot redeem it.'
7 Now this was the custom in former times in Israel concerning the redemption and the exchange of land to confirm any matter: a man removed his sandal and gave it to another; and this was the manner of attestation in Israel. 8 So the closest relative said to Boaz, 'Buy it for yourself.' And he removed his sandal. 9 Then Boaz said to the elders and all the people, 'You are witnesses today that I have bought from the hand of Naomi all that belonged to Elimelech and all that belonged to Chilion and Mahlon. 10 Moreover, I have acquired Ruth the Moabitess, the widow of Mahlon, to be my wife in order to raise up the name of the deceased on his inheritance, so that the name of the deceased will not be cut off from his brothers or from the court of his birth place; you are witnesses today.' 11 All the people who were in the court, and the elders, said, 'We are witnesses. May the Lord make the woman who is coming into your home like Rachel and Leah, both of whom built the house of Israel; and may you achieve wealth in Ephrathah and become famous in Bethlehem.12 Moreover, may your house be like the house of Perez whom Tamar bore to Judah, through the offspring which the Lord will give you by this young woman.'
13 So Boaz took Ruth, and she became his wife, and he went in to her. And the Lord enabled her to conceive, and she gave birth to a son. 14 Then the women said to Naomi, 'Blessed is the Lord who has not left you without a redeemer today, and may his name become famous in Israel. 15 May he also be to you a restorer of life and a sustainer of your old age; for your daughter-in-law, who loves you and is better to you than seven sons, has given birth to him.'
16 Then Naomi took the child and laid him in her lap, and became his nurse.17 The neighbor women gave him a name, saying, 'A son has been born to Naomi!' So they named him Obed. He is the father of Jesse, the father of David.
18 Now these are the generations of Perez: to Perez was born Hezron, 19 and to Hezron was born Ram, and to Ram, Amminadab, 20 and to Amminadab was born Nahshon, and to Nahshon, Salmon, 21 and to Salmon was born Boaz, and to Boaz, Obed, 22 and to Obed was born Jesse, and to Jesse, David.
6. Levirate Marriage and Ruth
Ruth was acquired by Boaz through what resembled a form of Levirate marriage and a process linked to Jubillee Redemption of Ancestral Land. This, it is claimed, could only apply to Israelites. Therefore they say Ruth was an Israelite.
Levirate Marriage? Ruth and Popular Custom in Ancient Israel
The answer in short is that,
Ruth was not married in a Levirate marriage. Ruth was married to Boaz according to local custom that had existed prior to the Giving of the Torah (Genesis 38:1-11). This had parallels elsewhere in the Ancient Middle East.
See: The Ancient Oriental Background of Hebrew Levirate Marriage. Author: Millar Burrows ; Source: Bulletin of the American Schools of Oriental Research, No. 77 (Feb., 1940), pp. 2-15.
The whole process had superficial parallels to Levirate Marriage as promulgated by the Torah. The Laws of Levirate Marriage however only applied to brothers from the same father (Deuteronomy 25:5-10).
The marriage of Boaz to Ruth was also linked to the Jubilee Redemption of Ancestral land as stipulated by the Torah (Leviticus 25: 13-17).
Boaz had to undergo a process of Ancestral Land Redemption and also take Ruth to wife due to her being the widow of one of his kinfolk. Naomi the mother-in-law of Ruth needed to be looked after as the widow of Elimelech who would have been one of the rightful inheritors of the land. Ruth and Naomi went together. By becoming an Israelite and assuming responsibility for Naomi Ruth had atoned for her dead husband who thus deserved to have seed attributed to his credit by his kinsman marrying Ruth.
This duty accrued to whosoever of his kinsmen should inherit the land that otherwise should have been his. Before Boaz could marry Ruth the prior claims of someone who was a closer next-of-kin needed to be waived. This was done. The Kinsman in question had been reluctant to marry Ruth because he did not want to disturb his inheritance possibly indicating a worry over the status of offspring from Ruth. This shows that there was something to worry about.
[The above description is a reconstruction based on different sources. Perhaps it is not exact but it may be as close as anyone will get.]
7. The Book of Nehemiah tells how Nehemiah expelled women "from Moab, Ammon, and Ashdod" (Nehemiah 13:23-30). This proves, say the reprobates, that the prohibition against Moabites (Deuteronomy 23:3) applied to women as well as men.
Deuteronomy 23:3 (NASB):
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 answer is that,
The Sages understood this prohibition to apply to males from Ammon and Moab but NOT to the females. Women were acceptable.
Nehemiah was the leader of the Jewish Community in Judah shortly after the Jews had begun to return from Babylon. They found a few Jews who had not been exiled still in the land. They also came across a motley of neighboring foreign peoples who had been squatting in lands formerly belonging to Judah and with whom some Jews intermarried and intermixed.
Nehemiah 13:1 tells how Nehemiah publicly read out the prohibition of mixing with Ammonites and Moabites. After this the people distanced themselves from the foreigners who are referred to in Hebrew "as "the Mixture" ["Ha-arev"] in the masculine tense.
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 [Hebrew "Ha-arev" i.e. "the mixture"] from Israel.
Nehemiah 13 continues to tell us how Eliashib the priest was appointed to oversee matters concerning the Priests (Cohens) and Levites (Nehemiah 13:4-5).
Nehemiah goes back to Babylon and then returns to Judah. He demotes corrupt officials and appoints better ones (Nehemiah 13:6-8).
Nehemiah re-organizes the distribution of offerings to the Priests and Levites and temple functionaries (Nehemiah 13:9-14).
Nehemiah reforms the observance of the Shabbat in the public domain (Nehemiah 13:15-22).
After all this Nehemiah dealt with foreign non-Israelite females from "Ashdod, Ammon and Moab" who had married Jews (Nehemiah 13:23-27).
It is obvious that some time had elapsed and several other issues had come up since Nehemiah read out the prohibition against Moabites and Ammonites entering the community (Nehemiah 13:1).
The women Nehemiah now takes steps against are "from Ashdod, Ammon and Moab" (Nehemiah 13:23).
24 Half of their children spoke the language of Ashdod or the language of one of the other peoples, and did not know how to speak the language of Judah. 25 I rebuked them and called curses down on them. I beat some of the men and pulled out their hair. I made them take an oath in God's name and said: 'You are not to give your daughters in marriage to their sons, nor are you to take their daughters in marriage for your sons or for yourselves. 26 Was it not because of marriages like these that Solomon king of Israel sinned? Among the many nations there was no king like him. He was loved by his God, and God made him king over all Israel, but even he was led into sin by foreign women. 27 Must we hear now that you too are doing all this terrible wickedness and are being unfaithful to our God by marrying foreign women?'