4.37 Ruth -- Finding Refuge Among Moabites
Elimelech and his wife Naomi were from Bethlehem. During a famine, they took their two sons and went beyond the Dead Sea to Moab to live. The two sons grew up and married Moabite wives, Ruth and Orpah. From a "Moses" perspective, two sins have already been committed in just the first 4 verses of the book! -- first, leaving the Holy Land to live among non-Israelites, and second, intermarrying with them.
The Moabites were not Canaanites, they were "distant cousins" of the Israelites, being the descendants of the incestuous relationship of Lot and one of his daughters (Gen 19:36-38). Yet they were in disfavor with God because Moab did not help Israel when Moses led them out of Egypt, and in fact conspired against Israel by hiring Balaam to curse them:
"No Ammonite or Moabite or any of his descendants may enter the assembly of the Lord, even down to the tenth generation (Deut 23:3).
And Israelites were forbidden to make treaties with Moabites -- no doubt this prohibition extended to marriage (Deut 23:6). Thus there was a strong tradition of divine disapproval against people of this nationality.
Yet the casual way in which cross-tribal migration and marriage are mentioned in Ruth support what was evident to us in the Book of Judges -- that there was plenty of cultural borrowing once Israel had settled down in the Promised Land. Judges reflects the violent clashes that occurred between the different people groups, but Ruth reflects the other aspects of life that must have been more common than acts of war -- co-existence, trade, some migration, and intermarriage. We already saw both trends in the life of Samson -- when he wasn't killing Philistines, he was wooing their women.
And this coexistence, even cohabitation, was not a problem in the Book of Ruth! Poor Moses - turning over in his lonely grave on Mt Nebo.