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The Begging Foreigner

by Tim O'Hearn

The highlight of the holiday of Shavuos (Pentecost, which is June 13 in 2005), at least since there is no Temple to which to bring the first fruit offering, is the reading of the scroll of Ruth. There are several reasons for this. Perhaps the primary reason is that Ruth was allowed the gleanings of the field of Boaz, and the law that allowed that was directly associated with the law of Shavuos (Lev 23:17-22).

Rabbi Yehuda Prero gives another reason the book is read on Shavuos. The Law of Moses was given on that day. Among the laws was a restriction on men of certain nations entering into the assembly of the Israelites. “An Ammonite or Moabite shall not enter into the congregation of the LORD; even to their tenth generation shall they not enter into the congregation of the LORD for ever: Because they met you not with bread and with water in the way, when ye came forth out of Egypt; and because they hired against thee Balaam the son of Beor of Pethor of Mesopotamia, to curse thee.” (Deut 23:3-4) Ruth was a Moabitess. Tradition says she was a princess of Moab. Rabbi Prero proposes that Samuel (who is commonly credited as the author of the book) wrote it to show that King David was legitimately entitled to the throne. The passage about Moabites not being allowed into Israel, the book points out, was prohibitive of Moavi (masculine) and not Moavis (feminine). By the strict interpretation of the Oral Law, David was legitimate because Ruth was allowed to marry into the nation.

By now many of my readers are probably saying, “That’s nice, but what does that have to do with me?” Perhaps it is just an obscure point, some ephemera I picked up along the way. Perhaps, though, it says something about Pentecost for Christians.

I have previously written about how Ruth was a picture of Israel and their acceptance of the Law. (May, 2001) Perhaps she is also a picture of those of us who are not Jewish and of our acceptance as people of God.

It doesn’t matter to God that Ruth was a Moabitess and a woman. She showed the desire to follow him and the traits he desired in his followers. “Where there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcision nor uncircumcision, Barbarian, Scythian, bond nor free: but Christ is all, and in all.” (Col 3:11) Ruth shows us that God can make whatever he wants of us, regardless of our circumstances. One year she was a Moabitish princess begging grain. Shortly thereafter she was the “Mother of Royalty.” God is less concerned with our past than with our future. “Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? … And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God.” (1 Cor 6:9,11)

It is probably significant that the church of Christ was first preached on Shavuos. Just as the first covenant was confirmed on that day, so was the greater covenant also. Although Cornelius, the first non-Jewish Christian, didn’t come in for about ten years, and we don’t know what date Peter preached to him, he represents the completion of that first Shavuos after Jesus died. His eligibility was reflected in the same gift given to the apostles on Pentecost. That gift signified the new covenant with the Jews and now with non-Jews. “But ye are a chosen generation, … Which in time past were not a people, but are now the people of God: which had not obtained mercy, but now have obtained mercy.” (1 Pet 2:9-10)