This year for the Blogging from A to Z in April Challenge I have chosen a single word for each letter of the alphabet. Each of these words is important in the Bible. I am including a story in each post. Links from biblical references go to Bible Gateway.
Xenophobia means the fear of strangers. The word does not appear in the Bible. Letter X is always tricky!
However the Bible has plenty to say about strangers, aliens, foreigners, sojourners and Gentiles (non-Jews). The Law given to Moses has rules for the treatment of these people, who may not be worshippers of the Lord. They were to be treated with justice. Exodus 22:21;23:9; Leviticus 19:33,34; Deuteronomy 1:16;10:19;24:1 (Bible Gateway topical)
Ruth and Naomi
The well-known story of Joseph is set in a time when there was a famine. A later story from the time when Judges ruled begins with a famine.
Naomi and her husband Elimelech lived in Bethlehem with their two sons, Mahlon and Kilion.
Because of the famine, Elimelech and his family went to a country the other side of the Dead Sea – Moab. They settled there, but Elimelech died leaving Naomi with her two sons. Life was very hard for widows in those days. Naomi’s sons married local girls, Orpah and Ruth. After about ten years of living abroad, Mahlon and Kilion also died.
Naomi received word that the Lord had provided food for the people in her original home. She and her daughters-in-law prepared to go to Bethlehem. They all set off together, but Naomi began to wonder what would be in store for her daughters-in-law as foreigners in a place they did not know.
She told them to return to their own mothers and prayed that they would find new husbands. Both Orpah and Ruth declared that they would stay with Naomi, but she argued with them, spelling out the difficulties they would face. Orpah was convinced and returned home, but Ruth promised to stay with Naomi. ‘Where you go I will go. Your God will be my God.’
They continued on their journey until they arrived at Bethlehem as the barley harvest was beginning. Some of the people in Bethlehem recognised Naomi after all this time. She told them not to call her Naomi (which means pleasant), but Mara (bitter). She blamed God for the change in her circumstances. (Letter N mentions the meaning of names.)
Ruth as a foreigner had the right to glean in the fields, picking up the grain the harvesters had missed. She went out to a field and began to glean. It was a field belonging to one of the relatives of her late father-in-law – a well-to-do man named Boaz. He protected and helped her while she was working in his field even leaving sheaves for her to collect.
Another part of the Law set out that a widow should be married to a close kinsman of her husband and any children would be considered to be from her first marriage.
Boaz was not the closest relative, but acted according to the custom of the time to ascertain that the closer relative did not wish to carry out his duty as a redeemer-kinsman.
Ruth and Boaz were married and Naomi was blessed with a grandson, Obed. Obed grew up and became the father of Jesse, whose youngest son became King David.
Boaz, Obed, Jesse and David all were ancestors of Joseph, the earthly father of Jesus. Thus Jesus was from the House of David. Interestingly Boaz’s mother was Rahab from Jericho. She had helped Joshua’s spies.
Joseph’s story is in Genesis 37-50.