Deuteronomy 23
Pulpit Commentary
He that is wounded in the stones, or hath his privy member cut off, shall not enter into the congregation of the LORD.
Verse 1. - Mutilation was performed by the two methods here specified - crushing and excision. The exclusion of persons who had suffered this from the congregation, i.e. from the covenant fellowship of Israel, the πολιτεία τοῦ Ισραὴλ (Ephesians 2:12), was due to the priestly character of the nation. Israel was a kingdom of priests (Exodus 19:6), and the admission into it of one in whom the nature of man, as made by God, had been degraded and marred, would have been unfitting; just as all bodily blemish unfitted a man for being a priest, though otherwise qualified (Leviticus 21:16-24). This law, however, was one of the ordinances intended for the period of nonage; it had reference to the outward typical aspect of the Israelitish constitution; and it ceased to have any significance when the spiritual kingdom of God came to be established. Even under the theocracy, eunuchs were not excluded from religious privileges; they could keep God's Sabbaths, and take hold of his covenant, and choose the things pleasing to him, and so be part of the spiritual Israel, though shut out from the fellowship of that which was outward and national (cf. Isaiah 56:4).
A bastard shall not enter into the congregation of the LORD; even to his tenth generation shall he not enter into the congregation of the LORD.
Verse 2. - A bastard; one born of a harlot; so the Hebrew word (מָמְזֶר), which occurs only here and in Zechariah 9:6, is said to mean; LXX., ἐκ πόρνης: Vulgate, de scorto natus; the Talmud and the rabbins represent the word as denoting one begotten in adultery or incest (Maimon., 'Issure Biah.,' c. 15. §§ 1, 2, 7, 9); so also the Syriac bar game, "son of adultery." To his tenth generation; i.e. forever, ten being the number of indefiniteness (cf. Genesis 31:7; Numbers 14:22; Job 19:3; Psalm 3:6, etc.).
An Ammonite or Moabite shall not enter into the congregation of the LORD; even to their tenth generation shall they not enter into the congregation of the LORD for ever:
Verse 3. - As Ammon and Moab had met the Israelites with hostility, and had brought Balaam to curse them, a curse had thereby been brought upon themselves, and they also were to be forever excluded from the congregation of Israel.
Because they met you not with bread and with water in the way, when ye came forth out of Egypt; and because they hired against thee Balaam the son of Beor of Pethor of Mesopotamia, to curse thee.
Nevertheless the LORD thy God would not hearken unto Balaam; but the LORD thy God turned the curse into a blessing unto thee, because the LORD thy God loved thee.
Thou shalt not seek their peace nor their prosperity all thy days for ever.
Verse 6. - Israel was not to seek, i.e. care for and use means to promote, the welfare of these nations. Individuals, however, of these nations might be naturalized in Israel, and as proselytes enter the congregation, as the case of Ruth proves. It was against the nations, as such, that this ban was directed, and this they had brought on themselves by choosing to be enemies of Israel when they might have been friends and allies.
Thou shalt not abhor an Edomite; for he is thy brother: thou shalt not abhor an Egyptian; because thou wast a stranger in his land.
Verse 7. - It was to be otherwise with the Edomite and the Egyptian; though the former had refused permission to the Israelites to pass through their land, and the latter had oppressed and wronged the nation, yet as the former were connected with Israel by a bond of kindred - for he is thy brother - and the latter had received Israel to sojourn in their land, where, notwithstanding the oppression which clouded the later times of their sojourn, they had reaped many benefits, they were not to abhor these nations or place them under a ban of perpetual exclusion; descendants in the third generation of an Edomite or Egyptian might be naturalized in Israel. Vers. 9-11 - When the people went forth to war, all impurity and defilement was to be kept out of their camp. When the host goeth forth; literally, when thou goest forth as a camp or host. As in the wilderness the camp was to be kept pure (Numbers 5:2, etc.), so also in the future, when they went out to war, all defilement was to be removed from their host. Every wicked thing; rather, every evil thing, evil in the sense of blemish or uncleanness (cf. Deuteronomy 17:1).
The children that are begotten of them shall enter into the congregation of the LORD in their third generation.
When the host goeth forth against thine enemies, then keep thee from every wicked thing.
If there be among you any man, that is not clean by reason of uncleanness that chanceth him by night, then shall he go abroad out of the camp, he shall not come within the camp:
But it shall be, when evening cometh on, he shall wash himself with water: and when the sun is down, he shall come into the camp again.
Thou shalt have a place also without the camp, whither thou shalt go forth abroad:
And thou shalt have a paddle upon thy weapon; and it shall be, when thou wilt ease thyself abroad, thou shalt dig therewith, and shalt turn back and cover that which cometh from thee:
Verse 13. - A paddle upon thy weapon; rather, a small spade (the word properly means a pin or nail) among thy furniture, or, according to another reading among thy implements or accoutrements; they were to carry with them along with their implements of war a tool for digging in the earth.
For the LORD thy God walketh in the midst of thy camp, to deliver thee, and to give up thine enemies before thee; therefore shall thy camp be holy: that he see no unclean thing in thee, and turn away from thee.
Verse 14. - The camp was to be kept holy, because God went forth with their armies, and in his presence there must be nothing that defileth or is unclean. That he see no unclean thing in thee; literally, nakedness, shamefulness of a thing, i.e. anything that one would be ashamed of.
Thou shalt not deliver unto his master the servant which is escaped from his master unto thee:
Verses 15, 16. - A slave that had escaped from his master was not to be given up, but allowed to dwell in the land, in whatever part he might choose. The reference is to a foreign slave who had fled from the harsh treatment of his master to seek refuge in Israel, as is evident from the expression, בְאַחַד שְׁעָרֵיך, "in one of thy gates," i.e. in any part of thy land. Onkelos, עֲבִד עַמְמִין, "a slave of the Gentiles." His master; the word used is the plural adonim, masters. The use of this for a human master or lord is peculiar to the Pentateuch (cf. Genesis 24:9, 51; Genesis 39:2; Genesis 40:1; Exodus 21:4, 6, 32, etc.). In this use of the term there is no reference to severity of rule, as if this were a plural intensive.
He shall dwell with thee, even among you, in that place which he shall choose in one of thy gates, where it liketh him best: thou shalt not oppress him.
There shall be no whore of the daughters of Israel, nor a sodomite of the sons of Israel.
Verses 17, 18. - Amongst idolatrous nations prostitution was in certain cases regarded as an act of religious service (cf. Herod, 1:199), and both males and females prostituted themselves especially in the worship of Astarte. All such abominations were to be unknown in Israel (cf. Micah 1:7). Whore; kedeshah (קְדֵשָׁה), a female who prostituted herself in the worship of an idol. The price of a dog; not money obtained from the sale of a dog, but the gains of the kadesh, or male prostitute, here called a dog, as the type of all uncleanness (cf. Revelation 22:15).
Thou shalt not bring the hire of a whore, or the price of a dog, into the house of the LORD thy God for any vow: for even both these are abomination unto the LORD thy God.
Thou shalt not lend upon usury to thy brother; usury of money, usury of victuals, usury of any thing that is lent upon usury:
Verses 19-25. - Certain civil rights and duties are here prescribed. Verses 19, 20. - An Israelite might lend on interest money, or victuals, or other property, to a foreigner, but of one of his own people he was not to take interest for a loan (cf. Exodus 22:24; Leviticus 25:36, 37).
Unto a stranger thou mayest lend upon usury; but unto thy brother thou shalt not lend upon usury: that the LORD thy God may bless thee in all that thou settest thine hand to in the land whither thou goest to possess it.
When thou shalt vow a vow unto the LORD thy God, thou shalt not slack to pay it: for the LORD thy God will surely require it of thee; and it would be sin in thee.
Verses 21-23. - A vow to the Lord, once made, was to be religiously kept; the Lord would require it, and to refuse or neglect to pay it would be held a sin. No one, however, was under any obligation to vow - that was to be a purely voluntary act. That which is gone out of thy lips thou shalt keep and perform... according as thou hast vowed unto the Lord thy God of free-will (נְדָבָה, spontaneously). (For the law concerning vows in general, see Leviticus 27, and Numbers 30.)
But if thou shalt forbear to vow, it shall be no sin in thee.
That which is gone out of thy lips thou shalt keep and perform; even a freewill offering, according as thou hast vowed unto the LORD thy God, which thou hast promised with thy mouth.
When thou comest into thy neighbour's vineyard, then thou mayest eat grapes thy fill at thine own pleasure; but thou shalt not put any in thy vessel.
Verses 24, 25. - In the vineyard or cornfield of a neighbor they might eat to appease hunger, but no store of grapes or of grain might be carried away. At thine own pleasure; literally, according to thy soul, i.e. desire or appetite (cf. Deuteronomy 14:26). Pluck the ears with thine hand (cf. Matthew 12:1; Luke 6:1). Among the Arabs of the present day the right of a hungry person to pluck ears of corn in a field and eat the grains is still recognized (Robinson, 'Bib. Res.,' 2:192; Thomson, 'Land and the Book,' 2:510).

When thou comest into the standing corn of thy neighbour, then thou mayest pluck the ears with thine hand; but thou shalt not move a sickle unto thy neighbour's standing corn.
The Pulpit Commentary, Electronic Database. Copyright © 2001, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2010 by BibleSoft, inc., Used by permission

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