Sinners and Outsiders
Sinners and Outsiders
Have you ever met a person who is so in love with a particular topic that they talk about all the time? They find a way to bring it up in conversation all the time. Everyone else in the conversation begins to sigh as they know it would take a house fire to end this conversation. They talk about their love of a particular TV show, or particular cars, or interest. Sometimes it can feel like this when reading the bible, another genealogy. Here we go again, another ‘begetting’ section. Often, we glance over these sections of the bible because we do not know why they are there. However, 2 Timothy 3:16 says that “All Scripture is breathed out by God…” Not just some of it, or even most of it, but ALL. Even the greetings and genealogies. Not only are they breathed out by God, but it is also “…profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and training in righteousness.” In this study, we will look at some helpful things to consider when looking at genealogies in the bible.
I. Why genealogies?
Firstly, the bible is written within history. The bible speaks of real men and women who lived in real locations across the earth. They are not mythical tales created in the imaginations of men to prove moral points but are written by men inspired by the Holy Spirit as they record actual events in history. Genealogies show the historical place and connections to people in the bible.
Secondly, we need to be able to understand them. Each genealogy not only teaches us historical facts but also theological truths. Often the genealogy has a major purpose of showing how the first person on the list is connected to the last person on the list. Matthew wants to show how Jesus is related to David and Abraham (Matt 1:1); Luke wants to show the family tree from Jesus to Adam (Luke 3:23-38). Luke wants to emphasize Christ as the redeemer of all mankind, including Jews and Gentiles; Matthew wants to emphasize how Christ was the promised Messiah told to Abraham and David. We can see this by who they start with and end with.
Next, genealogies can teach us through their repetition. The genealogy in Genesis chapter 5 ends each branch of the tree with the words, “and he died.” The man lived, had children, and then died. Not only does this genealogy shows the first and the last men, Adam to Noah, but the effects of Adam’s sin upon all of mankind, death. The genealogy states, “and he died.” As Paul writes as death reigned from Adam (Rom 5:14). We can learn theological truths through the similarities but also the differences. During the genealogy, we see a striking difference with Enoch (Gen 5:21-24), Enoch did not die like the rest of the men, but God took him. We see here the theological truth of the resurrection.
II. Why This Genealogy?
This genealogy begins the same way that the genealogies start in Genesis, “These are the Generations of…” However, you would think that you would want to make a connection between David (the last person in this Genealogy) and another person, Maybe one that points to the Royal linage of the line of David—maybe going towards the trunk of the tree more. David to Judah, as Judah was told that “the scepter would not depart from Judah” (Gen 49:10). Maybe from David to Jacob, who was told that “kings would come from his own body” (Gen 35:11). Or even back further to Abraham, who God promised, “Kings shall come from you” (Gen 17:6). Even following the line of Boaz instead of the line of Elimelech, which means “My God is King.” This genealogy aims not to show the connection between David and the royal line through Judah, Jacob, or Abraham. But the purpose of this genealogy is to prove that God’s kingdom is made up of sinners and outsiders.
When the people and elders pronounced a blessing upon the union of Boaz and Ruth, they said, “May your house be like the house of Perez, whom Tamar bore to Judah” (Ruth 4:12). We noted this is a strange connection. To understand this reference, we need to turn back to Genesis 38, which places Judah among the story of Joseph. Joseph is a godly man who serves God in the places God puts him in. However, chapter 38 shows great unfaithfulness to God in Judah’s household. In short, Judah meets a Canaanite woman who is the daughter of Shua, and they have three sons, Er, Onan and Shelah. Judah arranges a marriage between Er and Tamar, either an Adullamite or Canaanite. Er was wicked in the sight of the Lord, and the Lord puts him to death. Judah tells Onan to fulfill his duties of the Levirate marriage (Deut 25:5-10), which perpetuates the first brother’s name. However, Onan refuses to fulfill his duty, which again was wicked in the sight of the Lord, and the Lord puts him to death also. Judah explains to Tamar that she should be a widow until Shelah grows up. However, he has no intention of giving Shelah to Tamar because he feared he would die, like his two other sons. He thought the issue was with Tamar and not his sons.
After Shua’s daughter dies, Judah goes to Timnah and thinks Tamar was a prostitute. Judah slept with her, and she conceived. Judah again thought Tamar immoral and conceived from immorality. Judah explains that she should be burned. However, Tamar reveals objects that Judah had given her, his signet, and his staff. This moment is like that of the prophet Nathan who said to David, “You are the man.” Judah’s hypocrisy hit him in the face, and he explained that “She is more righteous than I since I did not give her to my son Shelah” (Gen 38:26). Tamar gives birth to twins (a very interesting birth story), Perez and Zerah.
Judah is the one which the royal line will pass, and it passes through Perez, the offspring of a foreign woman whose husband passed away and was conceived out of Levirate law. The book of Ruth connects with the people and elders at the gate and writing a genealogy beginning with Perez.
Throughout this book, the question is in the back of your mind why is Boaz so kind to Ruth? Boaz shows great kindness to her and compassion. Boaz’s mother was Rahab (Matt 1:5). Rahab was a prostitute from the land of Canaan who lived in the city of Jericho (Josh 2:1-14). She heard and believed that the Lord had given them the promised land. She heard about the mighty works of God. She asks that they deal kindly with her as she has done so to them (Josh 2:12). Rahab uses the word, ‘hesed.’ It is the only reference (Josh 2:12; 2:14), to this word in the book of Joshua. Naomi uses the same word to speak of Ruth’s kindness to the dead (Ruth 2:20) and used by Boaz to explain Ruth’s kindness. Boaz’s grew up in a household which showed kindness to others, Boaz’s mother was a foreign woman who became a true worshipper of Yahweh, the covenant-keeping God of Israel, who shows ‘hesed,’ loving-kindness to his people. Boaz’s upbringing shows that Israel was never about being a holy nation of Abraham’s physical descendants. Still, he grew up in a household with people from other nations, mainly his mother, whose occupation was a prostitute.
We have pointed out the birthplace for Ruth serval times, as Moab. We have noted that in the Judges period, Moab was one of the nations that came in to oppress the Israelites. However, we have not looked at where the Moabite nation came from. The Moabite nation comes from the inter-generational relationship between Lot and his two daughters. Following Sodom and Gomorrah (Lot lived in Sodom), and on their way of leaving Sodom before it was destroyed, they were told not to look back. However, Lot’s wife looked back and turned into a pillar of salt. Lot then moved into a cave near Zoar with his two daughters. His two daughters seeking to perpetuate Lot’s family name got him drunk and slept with him, and they became pregnant. Lot’s first-born daughter bore a son and called him Moab, which means ‘from Father.’ It is from this inter-generational relationship that the nation of the Moabite come (Gen 19:37). Ruth comes from this family tree.
III. Bringing it all together
The family tree found at the end of the book of Ruth is the union of complicated lines of sinners and outsiders. However, twisted the branches found in this tree, they continue the line of promise. Each has the death of two sons who then cannot carry on the family; Judah Er and Onan (Gen 38:6-10), Lot’s two sons in Laws (Gen 19:14), and Elimelech’s two sons, Mahlon and Chilon (Ruth 1:2-5). God’s judgment is poured out on their households resulting in death. Rahab is a prostitute, and Tamar pretends to be a prostitute. Although we do not know Boaz’s age, he mentioned to Ruth that she did not go after young men (Ruth 3:10). Judah, Lot, and Boaz were all older (a generation) than their children’s mother.
The bible is not a collection of heroes that we should emulate, but men and women who are rebellious sinners who need a savior. We look up to men and women in the bible not because of their actions but because of their faith. The message of the gospel is always God-given grace to outsiders and sinners. The Old Testament’s message was the God-given promise of the savior to come to save his people from their sins. To redeem the sheep who hear his voice. The genealogy in Ruth shows Perez’s connection to David, filled with sinners and outsiders. Yet if we only look to David, we miss the point because he too was a sinner who needed a savior. After God’s own heart, he was a man but unable to save God’s people from sin because he was a sinner who needed a savior. David was a polygamist, adultery, and murderer.
We find one last genealogy in the bible that does not stop at David but stops at Jesus Christ. In this genealogy, we find Perez, Tamar, Judah, Ruth the Moabite, Rahab the Prostitute, and Boaz (Mat 1:3-5). The family tree’s gnarled branches led to the promised Messiah who comes for sinners and outsiders. As Jesus said, “The Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost” (Luke 19:10). The church is like this family tree open to sinners and outsiders. The only person who needs a savior is one who knows they are a sinner. The only person who needs a home is one who is outside. The book of Ruth shows God’s love to sinners and outsiders, That they might return home, that they might have faith, not a perfect family tree. Paul writes that the Church in Corinthians is made up of people who were “unrighteous, sexually immoral, idolaters, adulterers, homosexuals, thieves, the greedy, drunkards, revilers, and swindlers’ (1 Cor 6:9-10). However, they were washed, sanctified, and justified in the Lord Jesus Christ (1 Cor 6:11). Let our church be filled with such people, sinners and outsiders for the glory of God.