In Deut 23:3 God gives the command that no descendants of the Moabites even to the tenth generation may enter the assembly of the Lord. I was wondering if Ruth and her future descendants, including King David, are examples of God's graciousness—or whether perhaps she was not considered a Moabite, but rather an Israelite, since she pledged loyalty to Naomi and Naomi’s God. —K.E.
Interesting! David indeed had Moabite blood (one eighth part, if Ruth was pure Moabite).
Let's look at the passage in question:
No Ammonite or Moabite or any of their descendants may enter the assembly of the Lord, not even in the tenth generation. For they did not come to meet you with bread and water on your way when you came out of Egypt, and they hired Balaam son of Beor from Pethor in Aram Naharaim to pronounce a curse on you. However, the Lord your God would not listen to Balaam but turned the curse into a blessing for you, because the Lord your God loves you. Do not seek a treaty of friendship with them as long as you live (Deut 23:3-6).
The time span between the ungracious action of the Moabites (c.1250 BC) and Ruth (c.1100 BC?) is less than 10 generations. (In biblical times, I believe a generation was a little shorter than 20 years, since most women had their first child in their teens.) But is this a really a problem?
- Ruth came into the community of Israel, but did she enter the assembly of the Lord? Yes, if that is synonymous with the people of God. No, if this refers to the tabernacle. (The temple was not built until the time of Solomon, c.1003 BC.)
- Ruth's heart was opposite that of the Moabites (Ruth 1:16)!—who might have undermined the people of God had they been incorporated too quickly into Israel. So was David's (1 Sam 13:22; Acts 13:22). So the prohibition may not have applied to them; they were exceptions.
- Obed, the grandfather of David, was the son of Boaz and Ruth’s (biologically). Yet the Scriptures tell us that Obed was reckoned as the son of Naomi (Ruth 4:16). That means that God considered him as an Israelite—not a Moabite.
Those are my thoughts at this time (June 2019). I welcome further ideas. If you would like to share them with me, please write concisely and briefly. Thanks.