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Ruth 4:18-22: The Lineage of David Print E-mail
Sunday, 11 December 2011

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Nothing gets us ready for Christmas like back to back sermons on genealogy. We just love reading and talking about all those difficult names. Name after unpronounceable name just builds excitement during this season as we focus on the birth of our Lord. Can you think of anything better than genealogy?

Well, I am assuming that are you picking up on my gentle sarcasm by now.  Truth is we are not usually excited about genealogy.  As we read through our Bibles we normally just wade through these lists and move on to something else.  None of us spend that much time thinking about genealogies.  Yet, since we believe that all of the Scriptures are God-breathed and useful in our instruction as Christians (see 2 Timothy 3:16-17), then we must do something with the genealogies.  After all, there are numerous places in the text where they are included (like our passage this morning at the end of the book of Ruth).  So then, what can we say about them generally?  First, they show us the importance of family lines in the history of Israel.  As we have noted in weeks past, family was important to Israel, and the genealogies further reveal that.  Second, as we will be considering over the next couple of weeks, the genealogies play a major role in God’s promise to send us a Savior who will be the Son of Abraham and the Son of David.  Although much more could be said about the importance of genealogies, just those two points alone should give us a better appreciation for them.

So then, what about the genealogy that concludes the book of Ruth?  Before we look at some of the particulars, let me note a couple of things that will help us in interpreting this passage.  First, like many of the genealogies in the Bible, the list is compressed and does not include every generation.  This should not alarm us or cause us to question the truthfulness of the Bible.  Rather, we simply need to recognize that such a practice was normal for genealogies.  The goal is not necessarily to list every single name, but rather to make the connection between the various names listed.  Second, in a genealogy that contains ten names, the seventh is normally of special significance or honor. 1  Thus, Boaz is listed seventh in this genealogy, which makes sense in light of his role in the book of Ruth.  Keeping this in mind, let’s consider three questions about some of the particulars in this genealogy.

First, what is the significance of starting with Perez?

The genealogy begins with Perez.  Look at verse 18.  Why would the writer begin here?  First, we should remember that Perez was the son of Judah by Tamar.  Although Judah had other sons which would have seemed to be more prominent, it seems that the line of Perez was the most important.  Second, and probably more significant in the present context, is the connection between the descendents of Perez and Bethlehem.  Earlier in the book the people blessed Boaz by saying: …may your house be like the house of Perez, whom Tamar bore to Judah, because of the offspring that the Lord will give you by this young woman (4:12).  As we noted, the very next verse tells of God giving offspring to Boaz and Ruth, partially fulfilling this blessing. 
Through the genealogy we see the greater fulfillment of this blessing, namely the fact that through Boaz and Ruth would eventually come royalty.  If Perez’s family was known for producing leaders in Israel, then that fact was only going to increase with the coming of King David.  One final reason for beginning with Perez is the book’s parallels with Genesis 38, which contains the story of Tamar and Judah.  We see connections between that chapter and the book throughout.  Thus, it makes sense for the author to begin the genealogy with Perez. 

Second, what is the significance of Salmon?

Another person of note in the genealogy is Salmon.  Look at verses 19-21.  Why is it significant that the author mentions Salmon?  In actuality, the significance is not so much in Salmon himself, but in the woman that he married.  Does anyone remember who Salmon married?  We are told in other genealogies (see Matthew 1:5) that Salmon’s wife was Rahab.  Why is that significant you ask? 

Well, we must be reminded of her story to see the significance.  The book of Joshua tells us about Rahab.  When Joshua sent out the spies to Jericho we are told that it was Rahab who hid the spies and provided for them.  In return, they promised to deliver her and her family when they invaded the city, which they did (see Joshua 6:22-23).  From that point on, Rahab and her family lived with the Israelites (see Joshua 6:25).  This is significant because Rahab was not only a prostitute, but she was a foreigner from Jericho.  Yet, because of her faithfulness in protecting the spies she was welcomed in Israel, eventually marrying an Israelite (Salmon).  Even though some argue that Salmon and Rahab were not necessarily Boaz’s parents, it seems from Matthew’s genealogy that they were.

We should not miss these connections.  It is abundantly clear in the Old Testament that God loves His people Israel.  Yet, it is also clear that He has a heart for the nations.  We see that in the inclusion of Rahab into God’s people.  Likewise, we see that in the story of Ruth as well.  Ruth, the foreigner married Boaz the son of a foreigner and from them came Israel’s greatest king (not to mention the future King who would come in their line).  When we read these stories in the Old Testament we should not be surprised by the inclusion of the gentiles into the people of God through belief in the gospel.  God has always had a heart for the nations.

Third, what is the significance of this genealogy for David?

Obviously, the author is pointing to the fact that King David was born in this line.  Look at verse 22.  He says the same thing in 4:17.  He wants his readers to know that this is not just a good story about a humble family in Bethlehem.  No, one of the main themes of the book is that King David was born in the line of Ruth and Boaz.  The greatest king in the history of Israel owes his existence to events that take place in this book. 

Yet, why does the author want the reader to see that?  Let me answer that with a couple of reasons.  First, the smaller story of Ruth and Boaz demonstrates the ‘hesed’ that David’s ancestors possessed.  As we saw in the book, both Ruth and Boaz were faithful in their ‘kindness’ toward one another (and toward Naomi and others).  They were good ancestors to have because of their great faith and character.  The author wants us to make this connection between David and his great, great grandparents.

Second, the larger story of David being born in the line of Perez and Judah demonstrates that he was born in the kingly line.  Jacob’s blessing on Judah pointed to a royal line: The scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet, until tribute comes to him; and to him shall be the obedience of the peoples (Genesis 49:10).  The humble story of Ruth and Naomi gives way to royalty.  These two poor widows would bring Israel her most revered leader.  Judah was the leading clan among the other Israelites.  Perez (as we pointed out above) and Nahshon were leading families within that clan.  By pointing out David’s lineage, the author is making clear the significance of David’s pedigree.  His line was the line of Kings.  This is important for David’s kingship. 

One of my commentator’s note: “This verse (4:17) is, of course, a clue to the book’s purpose: to show that the reign of David resulted from neither his shrewd politics nor his clever tactics but from the divine preservation of his worthy family line.  Therefore, Israel was to accept David’s kingship as the gift of divine guidance.” 2  It is very difficult to question the validity of David being the King of Israel when you consider God’s sovereign protection of his lineage.  For these reasons, the genealogy at the end of the book is significant for David.

So then, we turn to the question that we posed earlier, namely what can we learn from this genealogy?  I mean, is our only take away a better understanding of David’s royal line?  From what we have seen, let me close with three important lessons that we can learn from this genealogy in particular (and others as well, as we will see next week when we consider the genealogy of Jesus in Matthew 1).

First, God is sovereign over the lives of individuals.  We do not believe in the God of the deists.  They believed that God created everything and then left the world to function on its own without His interruption.  No, we believe that God is not just sovereign over everything in some impersonal way, but that He is sovereign over individual lives.  Genealogies in general should teach us that.  One commentator writes: “A genealogy is a striking way of bringing before us the continuity of God’s purpose through the ages.  The process of history is not haphazard.  There is purpose in it all.  And the purpose is the purpose of God.” 3  Everything that happened to you this past year and everything that is going to happen to you in 2012 is part of God’s purpose for your life, which if you are a believer is to make you more like Christ.  What a comforting thought!

Second, God is compassionate towards the nations.  As we saw with Rahab and Ruth, God has a heart for the nations.  This will become even more clear in the New Testament when Jesus tells us to take the gospel, the glorious good news of His death and resurrection, to the nations.

Third, this genealogy teaches us that God is sending us a king.  Yes, the point of the original author was to point us to David, but as believers in Jesus Christ who was born in the line of David, we know that it is pointing us to so much more.  God is not just sending us a king, He is sending us the King.  He is sending us the One who would come and die on the cross for our sins so that we could repent, believe in Him, and have eternal life.  The book of Ruth is a great story of love and provision and preservation.  But it is more than that.  It is ultimately a book about God redeeming a people through the sending of His Son.  All praise to Him!  Amen.

1 Robert L. Hubbard Jr., The Book of Ruth NICOT (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans Publishing, 1988), p. 283.
2 Ibid., p. 278.
3 Leon Morris, Judges & Ruth TOTC (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1968), p. 318.

~ William Marshall ~

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