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Plowing through History from the Aleph to the Tav

Topics Definition of Hebrew Names


By Jeff A. Benner

This name is pronounced mo-ahv in Hebrew. The base word is ahv meaning "father." The prefix mo means "from". Combined these mean "from father." Mo'av was the son of Lot's oldest daughter and Lot himself (Genesis 19:35), the product of an incest relationship.

According to the Torah, no descendent of Mo'av is allowed in the assembly of Israel (Deuteronomy 23:3). Why does God not allow this? Character traits are passed down from generation to generation and the Moabites had passed down the character trait of incest, strictly forbidden in Torah, through its generations.

If no Moabite is allowed into the assembly, why was Ruth, a Moabitess, allowed in the assembly of Israel?

An Ancient Hebraic understanding of what a "descendent" is, is important for understanding this apparent contradiction. While a descendent is one who is physically descended from a group of people it can also be used for one who holds the character of a group of people. In Jeremiah 23:14, God saw Israel as Sodom and Gomorrah, not because they were physically descended from the inhabitants of Sodom and Gomorrah, but because their actions were the same as those in Sodom and Gomorrah.

Ruth was a Moabitess but was allowed in the assembly of Israel because she was no longer considered a Moabitess. Her character had been changed to become like Israel when she said "your God will be my God and your people will be my people." Ruth had become an Israelite through her actions leaving behind the character of the Moabites.

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