Ezra's Drastic Divorces In the book of Ezra (ch. 9 and 10) we learn of Ezra being extremely agitated at the intermarriage of Jews with...Moabites.

When I heard this thing, I rent my garment and my mantle, and plucked off the hair of my head and of my beard, and sat down astonished. And at evening sacrifice I arose from my heaviness, and having rent my garment and my mantle, I fell up my knees, and spread out my hands unto the Lord my God...(Ezra 9:3,5)

And later, Nehemiah suffered the same agony at learning of the same conduct. (Nehemiah 13:2,3)

Moabitess Ruth And yet the great-grandfather of King David, Boaz, married a Moabitess, Ruth, with seemingly no reservation nor adverse consequence.

So Boaz took Ruth and she was his wife, and when he went in unto her, she bare a son...And the women her neighbors gave it a name, saying, There is a son born to Naomi, and they called his name Obed. He is the father of Jesse, the father of David. (Ruth 4:13,17)

This Moabitess is even listed by name in the genealogy of Matthew: Boaz begat Obed of Ruth (Matthew 1:5) But if Israelites were forbidden to marry this type of foreigner, why is there no reaction to it by the Levites or the prophets or elders of Bethlehem? Such as was evident in the expulsion of such women by Ezra later? The family of Naomi lived in Moab, so the sons married there such women "out of availability" (?), and by some stretch be excused. But Boaz is in Israel (Bethlehem) where there were plenty of Jewish women available!

1 Answer 1


The Moabites were under a curse because of how cruelly they treated the Jews and because of their idolatry. The Moabite wives in Ezra’s day were a snare, bringing unrepentant idolatry in their homes.

Ruth epitomizes the opposite character:

And she said, “See, your sister-in-law has gone back to her people and to her gods; return after your sister-in-law.” But Ruth said, “Do not urge me to leave you or to return from following you. For where you go I will go, and where you lodge I will lodge. Your people shall be my people, and your God my God. Where you die I will die, and there will I be buried. May the Lord do so to me and more also if anything but death parts me from you.” (Ruth 1:15-17, ESV)

Ruth showed kindness to a Jewish widow, adopted the Jewish God, and swore loyalty to the Jewish nation. God looks at the heart, not the outward appearance.

One defining aspect of a person’s maturity and identity is the strength and objects of their loyalty. Ruth’s loyalty was pure. The loyalty of the Moabite wives in Ezra’s time was not.

  • 2
    Good answer. May I add that Ruth (and several other non-Israelites) were included in the prized genealogy of Jesus to show God's seriousness in the New Covenant inclusion of all nations whom God already promised to Abraham (Father of many nations, Gen 17:1-3-8). Commented Mar 6 at 5:52
  • That is a nice detail that I forgot about. Commented Mar 6 at 15:57

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