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How did Naomi's sons marry non-Jewish Moabite women?

How did Naomi's sons marry non-Jewish Moabite women?



How was it that Naomi's two sons married non-Jewish Moabite women? From what I've read, it seems that Ruth only converted to Judaism after her husband died.


The biblical commentaries discuss the question that you ask, and they suggest different answers. Some are of the opinion that Ruth and her Moabite sister-in-law Orpah did not convert before marrying Naomi's two sons. According to this interpretation, these two men were guilty of intermarrying.

The Zohar Chadash maintains that Ruth and Orpah did convert before marrying. However, if this is the case, why did Naomi try to convince them both to return to their idolatrous families after the deaths of their husbands?

A conversion to Judaism is dependant on the sincerity of the one converting. During their husbands' lifetime, it was uncertain whether they observed Judaism out of a sincere desire to be part of the Jewish nation, or only to please their husbands. Naomi urged them to remain in Moab to test their sincerity. Orpah indeed remained, while Ruth, who always truly desired to be a Jew, insisted on traveling along to the land of Israel with her mother-in-law to live a Jewish life. Ruth abandoned the luxuries she had as a Moabite princess, readily prepared to become a pauper, out of a sincere love for G‑d.

And for this she was richly rewarded...

Click here to read more about Ruth.

All the best,

Rochel Chein for

Mrs. Rochel Chein is a member of the Ask the Rabbi team.
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Shoshana GA August 20, 2017

Ruth was not an ethnic Moabite, she was an Israelite. For over 200 years Ruben, Gad and half of Manasseh occupied all the territory north of the Arnon to MT Hermon. Part of that territory was once Moab’s but the Amorites under King Sihon took it. Moab tried to take it back and for about 18 years succeeded, at least in that area. Israel fought back and it’s during this time that Naomi’s sons died. Boaz, a righteous Jew, followed Torah steps of redemption. As per the Deu 23:3 prohibition, Boaz could not have redeemed Ruth had she been a true Moabite. One can be an American, a Cuban, a Frenchman, etc and still be a Jew. Ruth was a Moabite Israelite, which like many had done in Israel, may have worshiped the local deities but after her husband died chose to do teshuva returning to Judah’s territory with Naomi. Reply

Anonymous UK December 4, 2013

Interracial marriage What is the Jewish current view on interracial marriage. Moses and Rurh were good examples and great people in the bible. Reply

Anonymous oto August 26, 2009

Ruth a Moabite Princess Ok so scholarly writings and interpretations about the actual book of Ruth declare it to be so - hmm no actual archaelogical records though, and no other biblical texts / writings in the Torah to declare it so or even circumstantially so. That is an awful difficult leap don't you think? According to the translations I have for the word Ephrathites - it means Fruitful, and it is also an ancient term for Bethlehemjudah , considering that biblically it states they were ephrathites OF bethlemhamjudah one might as easily interpret it to be a sub section of Bethlehamjudah, much like we have different neighbourhoods of a city. Reply

Menachem Posner for August 25, 2009

RE: Ruth a Moabite Princess ? The tradition that Ruth was from the Royal Moabite family is found in the Midrash, Talmud, Zohar, as well as many other places in rabbinic literature. Based on the teaching of Rashi, one can say that this implicit in Ruth 1:2 where we read that the Hebrew family who to whom Ruth married was called “ephrathim”—a word translated as “nobles” or “palace dwellers.” It would only make sense for the children of a noble family to marry the children of a family of similar status. Reply

ken Orlando August 25, 2009

Ruth a Moabite Princess ? Where do you read this in the Bible? Reply

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