ENDURING BLESSING Interactions between Israelites and Moabites illustrate that earned blessing will endure and be fulfilled at God’s choosing irrespective of other events that may occur in its path. Moabites incurred God’s anger by showing themselves to be a source of temptation to alternative worship and presenting enmity when prior relationships called on them to be friendly. God frowned on their behavior and prohibited Israelites from intermingling with them. Yet he granted them protected territory and selected Moabite daughter Ruth to become a grandmother along the lineage of the Messiah, which fulfills blessing that the ancestral father of the Moabites earned by following Abraham on a mission to establish homeland for Christ’s ancestry.
We continue our study series on Ruth by looking back at interactions between Moabites and Israelites prior to her time. The interactions illustrate that earned blessing will endure and be fulfilled at God’s choosing irrespective of other events that may occur in its path. Moabites incurred God’s anger at various times. They were a source of temptation because they worshiped other gods and lured their friends into their form of worship. Furthermore, they failed to honor friendship that they owed to Israelites on account of relationships between their ancestors. Instead, they sought war against Israelites: invoking a diviner to weaken them with a curse or taking up arms against them when they could. Despite all these, God granted Moabites a protected territory and, several generations later, chose a Moabite daughter Ruth to become grandmother along the lineage of Christ.
These interactions help our understanding that earned blessing and incurred punishment are parallel promises from God that may coexist for a person and be fulfilled separately at God’s choosing. Furthermore, they do not off-set or trade off against each other.
Descendants of Lot
Lot and his two daughters lived in a cave in a mountain region within the proximity but far enough from the valley plains of Sodom and Gomorrah after destruction of the twin city. They believed they were the only remaining people in the world. The daughters were concerned about survival of their ancestral lineage and hatched a scheme to drug their father with alcohol so he would sleep with them without full awareness [Genesis 19:31–32]: “Now the firstborn said to the younger, ‘Our father is old, and there is no man on the earth to come in to us as is the custom of all the earth. Come, let us make our father drink wine, and we will lie with him, that we may preserve the lineage of our father.’”
They did as planned and both daughters were impregnated by their father. The older daughter named her son Moab, the father of the Moabites. The younger named hers Ben-Ammi, father of the Ammonites.
It is not up to us to judge or determine how God judged the unusual sexual encounter between Lot and his daughters. That type of encounter is an abomination as God instructed the Israelites [Leviticus 18:6]: “No one is to approach any close relative to have sexual relations. I am the Lord.” We don’t, and need not, know whether he judged them strictly according to this command or allowed mitigation because they believed they were alone in the world. What we know is any punishment that Lot and his daughters incurred as a result did not prevent fulfillment of blessing that he earned by following and assisting Abraham on his Canaan mission.
As we discuss in a previous bible study under Saved from Sodom—Faithful Follower and Compassionate Host, Lot shared in God’s promise to Abraham by following and assisting him faithfully on his mission to establish homeland for Christ’s ancestry. God granted protected territory to Lot’s descendants alongside Abraham’s descendants and from his offspring chose Ruth as a grandparent along the lineage of Christ.
Protected Territory for Moabites
God granted territory to the descendants of Lot (Moabites and Ammonites) and directed Israelites to accept them as neighbors and honor their territorial rights: “Do not harass Moab, nor contend with them in battle, for I will not give you any of their land as a possession, because I have given Ar to the descendants of Lot as a possession” [Deuteronomy 2:9]. He gave similar instructions regarding the Ammonites [Deuteronomy 2:19] and the descendants of Esau [Deuteronomy 2:4–5]. He reminded Israelites that the descendants of Esau were there close relatives, children of the senior brother of their ancestral father Jacob: “You are about to pass through the territory of your relatives the descendants of Esau, who live in Seir” [Deuteronomy 2:4].
While a protected territory for descendants of Esau follows from blessing conferred on him by father Isaac [Genesis 27:39], the protected territories for Lot’s descendants fulfill blessing he earned by following and working with Abraham.
Israelites and Moabites lived in contiguous territories but were different peoples. Whereas Israelites are bound by covenant to worship God and paid a high price when they strayed, Moabites were not bound by such covenant and practiced other forms of worship. The differences between them manifested in their interactions as we discuss in the following.
Balak Requests Curse Against Kindred
When Israelites arrived in the Jordan Valley to the north and west of Moab, king of Moab Balak invited a diviner Balaam to put a curse on them as part of his preparation to wage war against them: “A people has come out of Egypt; they cover the face of the land and have settled next to me. Now come and put a curse on these people, because they are too powerful for me. Perhaps then I will be able to defeat them and drive them out of the land” [Numbers 22:5–6]. This was a serious infraction: Moabites owed a friendly welcome to Israelites because they are related through their ancestors. The ancestral father of Moabites, Lot, was a nephew to the ancestral father of Israelites, Abraham. Instead of welcoming their kindred Israelites with friendship, king of Moab Balak felt a threat and took steps to prepare for war and by that action drove a wedge between Moabites and Israelites.
Corrupted in Worship
Friendly interactions among Israelites and Moabites at times resulted in undesirable outcome because of the difference in worship. In one example, Israelites that were friendly with Moabites began sharing their worship of the Baal of Peor. The practice displeased God and he struck the Israelites with a plague and directed Moses to eliminate the offenders. Moses ordered Israel’s judges to “…put to death those of your people who have yoked themselves to the Baal of Peor” [Numbers 25:5].
Barred from Israeli Assembly
God prohibited Israelites from intermingling with descendants of Lot (Moabites and Ammonites) because they denied them due friendship but instead met them with enmity when they returned from Egypt: “An Ammonite or Moabite shall not enter the assembly of the Lord; even to the tenth generation none of his descendants shall enter the assembly of the Lord forever, because they did not meet you with bread and water on the road when you came out of Egypt, and because they hired against you Balaam the son of Beor from Pethor of Mesopotamia, to curse you” [Deuteronomy 23:3–4]. They denied friendship that they owed to Israelites on account of their related ancestry but instead rejected and sought to destroy them.
KINDRED RESPONSIBILITIES An additional lesson from this interaction is that God expects us to honor kindred responsibilities and is not pleased when we fail. Moabites and Ammonites displeased God by failing to honor kindred responsibilities to Israelites. We expect to discuss this in more detail in a future bible study.
The foregoing examples indicate behavior of Moabites that did not please God. They showed themselves to be a source of temptation to alternative worship and presented enmity when prior relationships called on them to be friendly. God frowned on their behavior and prohibited Israelites from intermingling with them. Yet he chose Ruth, a Moabite daughter, to become a link parent in the lineage of the Messiah.
As we discuss in a previous bible study under All Are Invited—Part 2 of 2—Lessons from Genealogy of Jesus (also in a study under David and Bathsheba—Birth of Solomon), earned blessing and incurred punishment are parallel promises from God. Both may coexist for a person and be fulfilled separately when God chooses. They do not trade-off against or offset each other. A person that previously earned blessing could incur punishment. Also, a person can earn blessing even with a promise of punishment hanging on him/her. Therefore, although the Moabites likely incurred a promise of punishment by their actions that did not please God, the blessing that their ancestral father Lot earned remained in force to be fulfilled at God’s choosing.
Summary of What We Learned
This study of interactions between Israelites and Moabites provide additional illustration that earned blessing and incurred punishment are parallel promises from God. The promises may coexist for a person and be fulfilled separately at God’s choosing. A promise of blessing does not off-set or trade off against a promise of punishment. Moabites likely incurred God’s anger by showing themselves to be a source of temptation to alternative worship and presenting enmity when prior relationships called on them to be friendly. God frowned on their behavior and prohibited Israelites from intermingling with them. Yet he granted them protected territory and chose Moabite daughter Ruth to become a grandmother along the lineage of the Messiah, which fulfills blessing that the ancestral father of the Moabites earned by following Abraham on a mission to establish a homeland for Christ’s ancestry.