When in the 4th century B.C. voices in ancient Israel were calling for racial purity, even to the extreme of abandoning “foreign wives and their children” (Ezra 10), the small book of Ruth was written. It described an earlier time of famine when Naomi and her husband and sons migrated to the land of the Moabites (present-day Jordan). Their two sons married Moabite women. In time, Noami planned to return to Israel and she encouraged both her daughters-in-law to remain in Moab. Yet Ruth persisted, stating:
“Where you go, I will go;…
Your people shall be my people,
and your God, my God (Ruth I)”
So together they returned to Israel and Ruth remarried to Boaz and Obed, a son was born.
So, in the midst of controversy over foreign-born wives and children appeared this ancient story of Boaz, an Israelite, marrying Ruth, a Moabite.
The key to this story is that Obed was the father of Jesse and Jesse was the father of David, the greatest king of Israel. So the story of Ruth was a counterweight to the politics of racial purity.
As the Moabites welcomed the Israelites in time of famine, so the Israelites welcomed the Moabites in time of famine and Boaz married Ruth. This is a story of welcome and love that sweeps away racial and cultural boundaries; it is a story whose message continues to shape our faith today.