Themes of Ruth, Part 5: A Genealogy of Foreigners

The book of Ruth ends in a similar way that the books of Matthew...

Themes of Ruth, Part 5: A Genealogy of Foreigners

Originally published in Issue #18 on July 31, 2021

In a recent group Bible study, we have been working through the book of Ruth. As we go, I’ve been using Judges, Ruth: Revised Edition (The NIV Application Commentary) | K. Lawson Younger 📚 for extra personal study. I’d like to share some thoughts and reflections with you as I’ve been traveling through Ruth. If you have not read the book recently, these reflections will make more sense if you spend 10 minutes and read the book first.

The book of Ruth ends in a similar way that the books of Matthew and Luke begin: with a genealogy. We learn that Obed, Ruth and Boaz’s firstborn son, is the paternal grandfather of the famous King David. David, of course, is the king after God’s own heart (1 Samuel 13:14), and the one through whom the Messiah will come (Jeremiah 23:5-6).

This means that the book of Ruth was written long after the events of Ruth. Somebody knew the importance of that genealogy, and the story of Ruth was probably passed down as an oral tradition through the family of David.

The Purpose of the Book of Ruth

But who else is in the genealogy? Boaz’s father is named Salmon, whom we learn from Matthew 1:5 was the husband of Rahab the Canaanite. This means that David, and by extension Jesus, have multiple foreigners in their bloodlines.

This stresses the importance of living in loving faithfulness to God. God is not a “respecter of persons,” he cares about loving faithfulness to himself and to our neighbors much more than he cares about the external marks of being an Israelite. He desires mercy over sacrifice (Hosea 6:6). It is not the food that goes into a man that defiles a man, but what comes out of a man (Matthew 15:17-18), for from the what we have placed into our hearts, the mouth speaks (Luke 6:45).

Ruth was a woman of character who placed her faith in the God of Israel. This was given much more weight than that she was a Moabitess, despite God’s provisions that Moabites should not enter the sanctuary of God (Deuteronomy 23:3).

This may point to the purpose of the book as an argument against those who sought to exclude foreigners in the time of Ezra (Nehemiah 13:1-3, Ezra 6-7).

What God seeks is people who will do his will. The character that Ruth and Boaz display is remarkable, as I have tried to show in these 5 reflections on Ruth. They don’t begrudgingly follow the law of God, they love it. They take the spirit of it and go above and beyond in their service of others. As a result, God rewards them greatly.

Let us do the same. Let us not begrudgingly follow the commandments of God. Let us love God, love his commands, and love our neighbors as ourselves.