All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work. (2 Timothy 3:16-17 ESV)
The book of Ruth ends with a genealogy. The closing verses contain the word "generations" which in Hebrew is 'toledot'. A genealogy is a record of generations, and though we often gloss over them these words too, are breathed out by God and have been given to us for teaching, correction, training in righteousness to equip men and women of God for good works. We have been called to love the Lord our God with all our hearts, souls, strength and minds, and this study on the last 5 verses of Ruth invites us to do just that in its context; in them, we behold our loving God who includes and invites us to Himself through Jesus Christ.
(A) The Significance of the Genealogy
For many of us, it may appear that the book of Ruth resolves neatly with the mention of the great king David’s birth in Ruth 4:17, in response to the recurring cry we hear at the end of the book of Judges. However, the 'toledot' of Perez immediately follows in verses 18 to 22.
Why? It might be helpful to know that other genealogies in the book of Genesis follow a similar pattern, highlighting how from father to son, the family of faith goes on and on (c.f. Gen 2:9, 5:1, 6:9). The ten genealogies in Genesis emphasize the utter sovereignty of God in the flow of events from the beginning of the earth to the beginning of the nation of Israel as the line of faith, the seed of the woman (Gen 3:15) gets passed on and on in the hope that one day through it, the Savior will come. This family of faith, the seed of the woman, is the family of the Savior. These are the ten toledots in Genesis - of the heavens and the earth (Gen 2:4), Adam (5:1), Noah (6:9), the sons of Noah (10:1), Shem (11:10), Terah who is the father of Abraham (11:27), Ishmael (25:12), Isaac (25:19), Esau (36:1) and Jacob (37:2).This same 'toledot' structure now reappears in verse 18, clearly communicating the same theme of the Gen 3:15 seed of the woman through the nation of Israel. From the line of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the family runs through Judah and then Perez, whose family we see here. The Bible's genealogies, as in here, tell us about the line of the Savior, and how He comes to us.
So as we look at these names mentioned in Ruth 4:18-22 and remember the overall narrative of Ruth -- a story of personal, domestic, and national redemption -- we see that like the accounts in Genesis, the writer is emphasising God's greater sovereignty over all things to save sinners from Genesis all the way to Ruth. The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob was still at work here in the book of Ruth, even though it may not be immediately obvious.
The significance of this genealogy? It's the fact that it tells us about the grace of God in saving sinners from generation to generation - the gospel story extending through the Bible, and cutting through the book of Ruth. But that's not all.
(B) The Sinners of the Genealogy (plus Ruth)
The genealogy becomes even more exciting when we ask, who are the people God has included to highlight in this genealogy? After all, if the point of the genealogy is tell us about David, then we don't need verses 18-22, do we? No, verses 18-22 tell us not so much about David, but where David comes from - from the family of Perez. The writer makes an obvious effort to present the broken people who God used, in spite of their fallen lives, to father David.
Perez, the son of Judah and Tamar
Genesis 38 tells of how Perez is born of Judah, who unjustly denied his twice-widowed daughter-in-law Tamar the Law-instituted levirate marriage to his third son (Deut. 25:5). Tamar then deceives him, playing the part of a cult prostitute and Perez is therefore a son born of incest, deceit and falsehood (Gen 38:24). Tamar was pregnant by immorality, Perez was an illegitimate son and it was scandalous in their time, as much as it is in ours.
- Salmon (and Rahab)
Salmon fathers Boaz by Rahab the prostitute, who showed living faith when she received the spies of Israel (Josh 2:9-11, James 2:21-26, Heb 11:31). Rahab was a Gentile and a prostitute, yet she was later mentioned with Abraham in the book of James as a model of faith.
- Boaz (and Ruth)
Boaz fathers Obed by Ruth, the heroine of the book, who reflects the steadfast lovingkindness of LORD in the way she clings to the embittered Naomi, in the few but beautiful words that she speaks in love, as well as the way she lives with such faith. Ruth the Moabite widow is, by God’s momentarily invisible grace, redeemed by Boaz who points to the True Redeemer, Jesus Christ.
So David, the sweet psalmist and man after God’s own heart, is born of these imperfect people. These last four verses in the book of Ruth tell of the family tree which David springs from. And David later shows his own fallenness in his murder of Uriah and his adultery with Uriah’s wife(2 Sam 12:9).
This was not a perfect family! Far from it.
(C) The Sweetness of the Genealogy
The Gospel according to Matthew begins with another genealogy, the genealogy of Jesus Christ and includes these 3 women- Tamar the immoral, Rahab the prostitute and Ruth the foreigner. Solomon, the child born to David and the widowed adulteress Bathsheeba, is also included.
Jesus Christ was born of this line of broken people, yet He did not sin. He is Immanuel who receives sinners and eats with them (Luke 15:1-2), the King of Kings who is not ashamed to call redeemed sinners his brothers (Heb 2:11). In fact, how would this amazing Davidic Savior, the son of Ruth, receive adulterous women like Bathsheeba, a prostitute like Rahab and an incestrous adulterous woman like Tamar?
In Luke 7:36-50, we are shown exactly how He would receive them. Here, we see Jesus responding to exactly a "woman of the city", an adulterous woman. He receives her worship with open arms, and warmly accepts her. You and I are not really any different, for all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God(Rom 3:23). We are the sinful, immoral, deceitful, adulterous, foreigners who have prostituted ourselves to idols. Yet Jesus has forgiven us. Should that not cause us to love Him more?
We must never forget the depths of our sin and the hell that we deserve, for it is then that we who are saved by faith born of the grace of God, can worship at the nail-pierced feet of Jesus and love Him. He lived the sinless, holy life we ought to have lived and died the death we ought to have died. He took on the sin of man and the wrath of God, and gives us grace to battle the sin that dwells in the flesh each day, till we behold His face and are made perfect in Him.
So let us faithfully walk the straight and narrow path, holding fast to the word of life till the day when every knee is bowed at the name of Jesus and every tongue confesses that Jesus Christ alone is Lord, to the glory of God the Father, knowing that it is God who works in us and that He who began a good work in us will bring it to completion in His grace, mercy and steadfast love.