The Daughters of Ammon and Moav

In parshat Matot God commands bnei Yisrael to wage war against the nation of Midian. Rashi immediately asks the astute question: Why a war of revenge against Midian and not Moav? After all it was Moav who hired Balaam to curse bnei Yisrael, and seduced and provoked bnei Yisrael.

One reason given by Rashi, is because of the virtuous women who will descend in the future from the nations of Moav and Ammon, namely Ruth from Moav and Na’amah from Ammon. (Rashi, Bamidbar 31:1)

 

Two entire nations are spared for the sake of two special women: Ruth, the Moabite who becomes the great grandmother of King David and Na’amah the Ammonite, who like Ruth, becomes “a mother of royalty” when she marries King Solomon and gives birth to Rehoboam, the next King of Judah (I Kings 14).

 

Rashi mentions Ammon alongside Moav even though there is no mention of Ammon in this narrative because these two nations share common origins and a common destiny. The Torah commands bnei Yisrael explicitly  not to wage war with Moav and Ammon because their land was promised to them as the children of Lot (Devarim 2:9 and 2:19). These two nations are born to the daughters of Lot who had incestuous relations with their father. One midrash says that it was through this unnatural union that the melech hamashiach will eventually be descended (Bereshit Rabbah 51:8).

 

Both Ruth and Na’amah are the archetypal foreigners who enter into the royal lineage of Israel from which the mashiach is destined to come. These two women are models of good coming from unexpected places. On some level they make up for the past inappropriate actions of the daughters of Lot and the recent narrative about b’not Moav. Perhaps this is why Rashi highlights the characters of Ruth and Na’amah here.