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Change of domicile to Bethlehem

But Ruth said, “Do not urge me to leave you or return from following you. For where you go I will go and where you lodge I will lodge. Your people shall be my people and your God my God. Where you die I will die and there will I be buried.”                                                               Ruth 1: 16, 17


In 2009 the words of Ruth above (assuming she lived in the UK and was addressing the words to a Jersey resident) might well have been carefully written down in a letter or such like and then shown in due course (when she took up permanent residence in Jersey as a 1(1)(k)) to HM Revenue and Customs in the UK. That would be done so as to provide evidence of a permanent change of domicile on the part of “Ruth”.


If the UK tax authorities were convinced that a permanent change of domicile had taken place “Ruth” would no longer be subject to UK taxes – and would have become subject to Jersey taxes.


But the words above indicate much more than a desire to save taxes.


Ruth’s life story (love story, really) has been carefully preserved in the Jewish national archives. Those archives were often referred to by Jesus Christ of Nazareth (born Bethlehem AD 0) as “the Scriptures”. “The Scriptures” are now titled “The Old Testament” in the Bible.


Ruth was a Moabite living in part of present day Jordan. The year is approximately 1150 BC. A family (husband, wife and two sons) has come to live in her area of Moab. One of the sons is keen on her and they marry. The other son marries another Moabite girl. But both sons die. And so does their father. The mother (Naomi) and the two daughters-in-law (Ruth and Orpah) are all widows – and destitute.


Naomi decides to return to her home town of Bethlehem, to her “domicile” and the “domicile” of her late husband. Amazingly, Ruth the (still young) Moabite decides to change her domicile to Bethlehem – the same Bethlehem where (unknown to her of course) Jesus would be born in AD 0.


Ruth’s recorded decision (bold above) is really a considered resolve. She has seen enough, heard enough, known enough about her mother-in-law, her mother-in law’s people and her mother-in-law’s God to resolve to go to Bethlehem – and to have the God of Israel as her God - forever.


The rest is history. She goes with Naomi to Bethlehem. She is so poor that she makes a start at providing for herself and Naomi by gleaning the free grains of corn not taken by harvesters. She is so attractive that she is in peril from the harvesters. She “happens” to glean in the fields of a relative of Naomi’s late husband. The man is Boaz. He protects her.


Naomi has to deal with an asset of her late husband – a field. The law in Israel at that time provided that the field must be “redeemed” back to the family of Naomi’s husband. And the law provided that the “redeemer” must marry and redeem also any childless widow and that any children of the marriage must inherit along with the “redeemer’s” children.


Boaz of Bethlehem “redeems” the field and marries Ruth the Moabite. They have a child, a boy. The great grandchild of Ruth and Boaz is David – King David. King David of Bethlehem.


Matthew, the former tax comptroller who wrote a biography of Jesus Christ, records Ruth’s name in the genealogy of Jesus, “...Boaz the father of Obed by Ruth, and Obed the father of Jesse, and Jesse the father of David the king.”  


Ruth had decided, as an outsider from God’s people and God’s land, as an alien and a penniless widow, to change her domicile and her God forever. It wasn’t to save taxes or to get rich. In fact the decision was a decision of trust in an unknown God completely outside herself. She found she was loved – by God’s people (then Israel), in God’s land (then Israel), by a forerunner of God’s Son (Jesus).


“Bethlehem” means “house of bread”. Wonderful bread to meet all the hunger of this Moabite.  Even Jersey folk, this Christmas, need a change of domicile.

‘Seeking to perpetuate one’s name on earth is like writing on the sea shore.’ (D L Moody,  American evangelist, 1837-1899)
‘The purpose and work of redemption in Christ Jesus is to raise man as much above the level of Adam as Christ himself is above the level of Adam.’’ (A W Tozer, American pastor, 1897-1963)
Richard Syvret

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