Something struck me in this chapter, which has the usual spiel about how they can’t intermarry with any of the remaining non-Israelites. Well, at least this chapter now acknowledges that these people exist, and seems to be all right with them existing, which is something.
But why is it assumed that, if they intermarry, they will be the ones who go over to other gods? Why isn’t it allowed as a possibility that maybe the people they marry will come to worship YHWH? That’s basically the message of Ruth, really – a Moabite woman marries an Israelite and winds up choosing to join their people over her own.
Some of this advice is, I suppose, based on the past experience of the writers. Too much friendliness (to use the term in the NCT) with other nations is part of what they see as causing the Exile. The Israelites made a lot of bad choices in terms of allegiances and were weak and disunited as a people. So the idea of cutting themselves off from everyone else might sound appealing. In fact, verse 13 lays that out. If they assimilate and start worshiping other gods, the LORD will stop protecting them and let the natural consequences of their actions progress. They will be trapped, ensnared, and defeated by the larger, stronger nations around them, unless they stand firm and unified against the rest of the world.
But for all the logic politically, it does speak to a bad theology. There’s this whole notion that purity, holiness, goodness, faithfulness, has to be defended from outside threats by strong walls and barriers, that even the slightest influence from the outside will befoul it, profane it, cheapen it, seduce it. Why can’t it work in the opposite direction? Why can’t the outside be purified, sanctified, improved, made true? Why does good need to be so closely guarded?
Why is bad so much stronger than good?
The Japanese: shirizokeru “to sweep aside, to depose” (v 1), fukumu “to include, to comprise” (v 2), miseifuku “not yet conquered” (v 4), oshinokeru “to push aside, to thrust aside” (v 5), tonaeru “to recite, to say,” ogamu “to pray to, to worship” (v 7), kokoro o komete “with one’s whole heart” (v 11), shitashii “familiar, friendly, intimate,” kon’in “marriage” (v 12), kakugo suru “to prepare,” wakihara “side, flank,” muchi “whip, stick” (v 13), tadoru “to follow,” wakimaeru “to discern, to know right from wrong” (v 14).