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Bible Commentaries
Deuteronomy 23

Haydock's Catholic Bible CommentaryHaydock's Catholic Commentary

Verse 1

Eunuch. By these are meant, in the spiritual sense, such as are barren in good works. (Challoner) (Theodoret, q. 25.) (Worthington) --- The Hebrew also specifies three sorts of eunuchs, though the Septuagint and Chaldean have only two. No mention is made of natural eunuchs, who are not excluded from the church of the Lord. (Calmet) --- This outrage of castration was first offered to nature by Semiramis. (Am. Marcellin. 14.) --- Church. That is, into the assembly or congregation of Israel, so as to have the privilege of an Israelite, or to be capable of any place or office among the people of God. (Challoner) --- Philo says, they were not to enter the court of the temple. See Lamentations i. 10. Others think they could not embrace the Jewish religion, Exodus xii. 48. But this privilege could not be refused. Most probably the custom of making eunuchs is forbidden, and if any were found among the Jews, they should not be admitted to any place of authority. Isaias (lvi. 5,) speaks of some faithful eunuchs, to whom God will give a place in his house; but he alludes to those of the new law, who embrace the state of celibacy, Matthew xix. 12. Eunuchs were rejected from the magistracy among the Romans; and when some were at last received, it was deemed unnatural, as their disposition is generally cruel and selfish. Omnia cesserunt Eunucho Consule monstra. (Claud. in Eutrop. i.) (Calmet) --- Those who had the misfortune among the Jews to be eunuchs, did not perhaps (Haydock) lose the right of citizenship. (Tirinus)

Verse 2

Mamzer, &c. The author of the Vulgate adds the explication of mamzer, which only occurs again, Zacharias ix. 6. It may in both places denote a stranger, or one of a different religion from the Jews, as Jephte was the son of a prostitute, (Judges xi. 1,) and yet became a judge of Israel. But strangers, as long as they professed a false religion, could not be entitled to the privilege of Jewish citizens; and even after they had relinquished their false worship, they were bound to wait ten whole generations, or a long time, before they could fill the posts of honour and command. (Calmet) --- This, however, seems to be contrary to the disposition made in favour of the Idumeans and Egyptians, who were admitted in the third generation. A mamzer may, therefore, be (Haydock) a bastard of a different nation from the Jews, (Menochius) which was not the case of Jephte. (Haydock) --- The Rabbins specify three sorts of mamzers: 1. those born of parents who, by the law, are forbidden to marry, being to near akin; 2. those who are the fruit of adultery, or some criminal commerce, which is punished with death; and 3. those whose birth subjects the parents to be cut off or retrenched from the people. (Selden, Jur. v. 16.) --- the Septuagint, &c., exclude the children "of a harlot," which is the sense of mamzer in the canon law. The Christian Church rejects such from holy orders, and the Athenians would not suffer bastards to offer sacrifice in the city, but only in the cynosarge, dedicated to Hercules, whose birth any doubts might be entertained. (Calmet) --- It is observable, that such often imitate the wicked conduct of their parents; in which case, they are unfit for the magistracy; and though they may lead a very exemplary life, the law is intended to discourage such practices in parents, which may entail dishonour and loss upon their children; that, if they be not sufficiently restrained by their own personal disgrace, they may at least by the love for their innocent offspring. (Haydock) --- Tenth. In the 11th generation, when the stain was obliterated, the descendant might become a magistrate. (Menochius) --- Some understand that they were excluded for ever, as when the judges of the Areopagus ordered a man to appear again before them in 100 years’ time, they meant that his cause was entirely rejected. (Vatable; Casaub. in Atheneus vi.)

Verse 3

Ever. This shews that the former verse only excludes bastards for a time. But why are these nations treated with more severity than the Edomite and Egyptian? Because their enmity seemed to proceed from pure malice, and they attempted to ruin the souls of the Hebrews by lust and by idolatry, without any prospect of interest to themselves. Their parents were also of very base origin, and Abraham had rescued their father, Lot, from destruction; so that for his children to oppose with such virulence the descendants of Abraham, manifested a degree of ingratitude and perversity. (Calmet) --- They had found their attempts to hurt Israel abortive, and yet ceased not to persecute their near relations, (Haydock) by drawing them into carnal sins. Those who are obstinate in their evil ways can never be rightly received into the Church of God. (Worthington) --- Achior and Ruth embraced the Jewish religion, but it does not appear they were admitted to places of trust, Judith xiv. 6. (Haydock) --- These regulations were observed till the Babylonian captivity, while the genealogies might be ascertained. (Calmet) --- In cases of extraordinary merit, as in that of Achior, the Ammonite, (Judith xiv.,) a dispensation might be granted. (Tirinus)

Verse 4

Water: the necessaries of life. This inhumanity is highly resented. --- Son. Hebrew, "of Beor, of Pethor, a city of Mesopotamia, to curse thee." (Haydock) (Numbers xxii. 5.)

Verse 6

Peace. Hebrew, "ask or seek not their peace nor their advantage" as a nation; keep at a proper distance; have no familiarity with them. (Haydock) --- Their vices, not their persons, are to be hated. David behaved in a friendly manner with the king of Ammon, 2 Kings x. 2. He was afterwards forced to make war upon the people, though, without such extraordinary provocations, war was not to be declared against them. (Calmet) --- Prosperity. Have no intercourse with them. (Menochius) --- Septuagint, "Salute them not, wishing them what may tend to their peace and advantage."

Verse 7

Brother. Esau and Jacob were twins. --- Land. The Egyptians had for some time afforded the Hebrews an asylum in their country, and though the kings of late had persecuted them, the people seem not to have entered into the views of their rulers, and spared the male children notwithstanding their cruel edicts. They gave them also very rich presents before their departure, Exodus xii. 35. Gratitude required that these things should be considered, (Haydock) and God orders his people generously to pass over the subsequent ill treatment of these two nations.

Verse 8

Lord. The Rabbins explain this of the permission to marry the grand-children of such as had embraced the Jewish religion, though some of them suppose that an Idumean or an Egyptian woman might be taken to wife, as Solomon took the daughter of Pharao; but the Israelites could not give their children in marriage to the men of those nations. The grand-children of converts are rather hereby entitled to the privileges of other Jewish citizens. (Calmet)

Verse 9

Thing, rapine, libertinage, &c., which are but too common among soldiers. (Calmet) --- We know what instructions St. John the baptist gave to those who followed that lawful profession, Luke iii. 14. (Haydock)

Verse 10

Camp of the Levites, according to the Rabbins. (Calmet) --- Bonfrere explains this of priests. (Menochius) --- But it rather refers to all who dwelt in the camp, where the ark seems to have been generally present, along with the armies, ver. 14., and Numbers xxxi. 6. (Calmet) --- It is not clear, however, that the law alludes to any other camp, but that in the midst of which the tabernacle was fixed; and Calmet elsewhere, denies that the ark commonly followed the army. (Haydock)

Verse 11

Water of the fountain. (Menochius)

Verse 13

Girdle. Hebrew azon, means "a balance," as the Hebrews generally carried weights, &c., about them, chap. xxv. 13. Moderns translate, "a paddle upon thy weapon," But the Septuagint seem to have read ezor, "a girdle," (Calmet) which is more intelligible, as the Jews were accustomed to carry the necessary utensils, money, &c., not in their pockets, as we do, but in a bag, which they fixed to their girdles, or belts. All the Jews who dwelt in the camp, were bound to have a paddle, for the purpose here mentioned. (Haydock) --- Josephus (Jewish Wars ii. 7,) observes, that the Essenians always made use of one, with which they made a hole a foot deep, and covered it with their robes, that nothing indecent might be exposed to view. (Haydock) --- The Turks still follow the same custom, when they are encamped. (Busbec, ep. iii.) (Calmet)

Verse 14

No uncleanness. This caution against suffering any filth in the camp was to teach them to fly the filth of sin, which driveth God away from the soul. (Challoner) Those who have had the misfortune to fall into the sink of iniquity, must not fail to use the sharp instrument of compunction, with which they may hide the enormity of their crimes. (Haydock) --- Incessanter terram mentis nostræ pœnitentiæ dolore confodiat &....abscondat. (St. Gregory, Mor. iii. 13.) --- In a camp where three million people were collected, if some such regulation had not been made, great and serious inconveniences would have ensued. The lawgiver, therefore, descends to several particulars which to us might appear minute; but besides the obvious meaning, which is very rational, the words convey other mystical instructions of the highest importance. --- God was pleased to assume to character of a powerful monarch, residing among his people, and hence every appearance of indecency must be removed. (Haydock)

Verse 15

To thee, from among the Gentiles. The promised land was thus declared a land of liberty, (Calmet) to encourage poor slaves to embrace the service of the true God, and to flee from the slavery of the devil, and from the society of those who adored him in their idols. The whole earth belongs to the Lord, and He was thus pleased to punish those who might claim a right to these slaves. (Haydock) --- Some believe that the price was given to the owner, at the public expense. The Rabbins allow this privilege of an asylum, only to those who fled from a foreign country, or from an infidel master, to embrace the true religion. Circumcision was given to them as an inviolable mark of liberty. (Chaldean) Those who had been sold for their crimes, or for debt, by the sentence of the judge, could not claim this exemption. (Grotius, Jur. iii. 7.) --- Philo (de humanit.) says, it would be unjust to give up a slave who has sought refuge with us. We ought either to reconcile him to his master, or sell him to another, and give the price to the former owner. Some translate the Hebrew in a contrary sense, "Thou shalt not shut up the slave who has fled to thee from his master," as if it were unjust to refuse to deliver him up. But the law points out some cases where it is lawful for a slave to flee away, and consequently people must be allowed to receive him. The following verse is decisive in favour this explanation.

Verse 17

Israel. Some hence very erroneously infer, that before this prohibition the thing was not criminal. (Selden, Jur. v. 4.) Notwithstanding the law, such lewd practices continued to be very common. The original expresses that both the women and men were consecrated, "kadash," in all probability to some idol, whom they intended to honour by abominable prostitutions, a thing very common in all the East, as we learn both from profane and sacred authors. (Aten. xiii. 5.) (4 Kings xxiii. 7.) The men were called the effeminate, 3 Kings xiv. 24. (Calmet) --- Some copies of the Septuagint have a double translation of this verse, and add, "None of the daughters of Israel shall bear the mysteries, nor shall any of the sons of Israel be initiated (in these mysteries of idols) to make every vow." Telesphoros denotes a strumpet for hire, ver. 18; or, according to Vossius, one who is initiated or performs the pagan mysteries, as fornication and idolatry, commonly go together in the sacred writers. Hesychius seems to understand, that it refers to "the house where a person has been delivered of a child." But Tertullian (pudic. ix.) explains it thus, "No one....shall pay tribute;" as telos means tribute, (Haydock) and the Jews are supposed to have refused to pay any to the Romans on the authority of this verse. See Casaub. in Baruch ii. 19. (Grotius) (Calmet) --- But it seems far more probable, that it is a farther elucidation of the text, and prohibits that scandalous impiety by which may were not ashamed publicly, like dogs, to commit the most obscene actions, and to present the hire of their bodies to the idols, Micheas i. 7. (Clement of Alexandria, Exhort.; Villalpand in Ezechiel xliii.) We could hardly give credit to those who have attested such things, did not God here find it necessary to caution his people not to fall into such blindness and delusion. That the poor ignorant idolater should think by these means to appease those gods who, while here on earth, had been infamous for the like excesses, needs not so much to excite our surprise. But that the Gnostics, Manichees, and other heretics, almost of all ages since the light of the gospel shone forth, should have thought that they could honour the true God by abusing the flesh, is truly astonishing. Yet they gave into this delusion, by first persuading themselves that the flesh was the creature of an evil principle, fighting against the author of the spirit and of all good, with whom they intended to take part. The way of a fool is right in his own eyes. Yea, there is a way that seemeth to a man right, and the ends thereof lead to death, Proverbs xii. 15., and xvi. 25. These wretches grounded their opinion on the authority of their gods, or of the Scripture. Will this excuse be admitted by the Sovereign Judge? But these delusions are perhaps now at an end. --- A principle, however, is still maintained of a far more pernicious tendency, inasmuch as it strikes at the root of every law, divine and human. This horrible doctrine was inculcated by J. Wesley for above thirty years, as we have already observed, chap. xvi. 22. "O natural man," says he, (Serm. on Orig. Sin,) "thou canst do [no] good. Thy natural actions are sin; thy civil actions are sin; thy religious actions are sin. As many thoughts, words, and actions, so many sins; for nothing but sin comes from thee. Thy duties are sins. Can an evil tree bring forth good fruit?" Thus Scripture teaches him that to work for one’s family, to pay taxes, to pray, read the Scriptures, or even to believe, will be a sin! "Knowest thou not that thou canst do nothing but sin, till thou art reconciled to God." (Sermon on the Righteousness of Faith.) Hence arose the Still-Methodists, Jour. iv. p. 92.. Even after this celebrated reformer had begun, when almost 70 years of age, to discover "the subtle poison which," he says, (Jour. viii. p. 90,) "has infected, more or less, almost all, from the highest to the lowest among us," it is astonishing that he still acknowledges those who were infected with it, as "the real children of God by faith." Many of these, he says, (serm. on the law) lay it down as an unquestionable truth, that when we are come to Christ, we have done with the law; and that in this sense, Christ is the end of the law to every one that believeth. We need, therefore, no longer wonder that the pagans should think they honoured their idols by prostitution, (which on other occasions they condemned as "a great disgrace," oneidos mega, as Musonias calls it,) since in this enlightened age, a man of no mean abilities, and far advanced in years, a man who requires that all the preachers in his connexion shall conform to his Sermons and Notes on the New Testament, or be superceded, (Jour. xx. p. 34,) could decide that those who maintain this principle, and make it a branch of their religion to bread the law of God on purpose, are the "real children of God by faith;" people, "whom God has taken out of the world." As well might he say that a man may live on subtle poison, and please God, by following a doctrine than which "nothing can be more false," as he styles this very principle of Antinomianism, to which he and his preachers had "leaned" for such a length of time. "If, says a great admirer of his, Mr. Fletcher, (1 Check, 4th letter,) the three first propositions of the minutes are scriptural, Mr. Wesley may well begin the remaining part, by desiring the preachers in his connexion to emerge along with him from under the noisy billows of prejudice, and to struggle quite out of the muddy streams of Antinomian delusions which have so long gone over our heads, and carried so many souls down the channels of vice into the lake that burneth with fire and brimstone." This is then to be the abode of those whom "God has taken out of the world, and who are real children of God by faith!" This is the heaven, of which they may boast in dying that they are infallibly sure of! At least, the man whom they have so eagerly followed as their judge, has passed this woeful sentence upon them, as if he had a mind to laugh at their credulity. If he join us also in the same condemnation, and say, "I have the same assurance that Jesus is the Christ, and that no Romanist can expect to be saved, according to the terms of his covenant;" (Jour. iii. p. 94) we are not solicitous about his good opinion; we have not chosen him for our judge, nor have his writings given us reason to think that he knew the nature of our covenant. If he did, so much the more dreadful must have been his reckoning with that unerring Judge, before whom he has appeared 20 years ago. It is the glory and happiness of the Catholic Church, that no one attempts to assail her, but he presently betrays the spirit by which he is inspired, the spirit of calumny, and of the perverse application of Scripture. It was thus that our divine head was treated by the father of lies, who alleged Scripture to encourage suicide, or presumption, Matthew iv. 6. So in the various points of faith which Mr. Wesley attacks, he shamefully misrepresents our doctrine, that he may have something to oppose. We have seen how unjustly he accuses us of idolatry, chap. xvi. 22. But in order, perhaps, to comfort us with the reflection, that we have many partners in guilt, he represents the Protestants as equally criminal. "They set up their idols in their churches; you set up yours in your heart....Oh how little is the difference before God! How small pre-eminence has the money worshipper at London over the image worshipper at Rome; or the idolizer of a living sinner over him that prays to a dead saint." (Word to a Protestant.) How much soever the Protestants may be entangled in this species of idolatry, they do not at least pretend to authorize it by the principles of religion, as some of the Methodists have done. Witness the man with whom J. Wesley conversed at Birmingham. "Do you believe that you have nothing to do with the law of God? He answered, I have not, I am not under the law....Have you also a right to all the women in the world? Yes, if they consent. And is this not a sin? Yes, to him who thinks it is a sin; but not to those whose hearts are free. The same thing that wretch, Roger Ball, affirmed in Dublin. Surely these are the first-born children of Satan." (Journal vi. p. 133.) Witness Mr. Fletcher, a celebrated clergyman in the Methodist connexion, who has informed us that Antinomian principles and practices had spread like wild fire among the Methodists. "Nor need I go far, says he, for a proof of this sad assertion. In one of his (Wesley’s) societies, not many miles from my parish, a married man, who professed being in a state of justification and sanctification, growing wise above what is written, despised his brethren as legalists, and his preachers as persons not clear in the gospel. He instilled his principles into a serious young woman; and what was the consequence? Why they talked about finished salvation in Christ, and the absurdity of perfection in the flesh, till a perfect child was conceived and born; and, to save appearances, the mother swore it to be a travelling man that cannot be heard of. Thus, to avoid legality, they plunged into hypocrisy, fornication, adultery, perjury, and the depth of ranterism, &c." (Check i. Let. 2.) But enough of such absurdity. We may now easily believe to what lengths the dissolute examples and maxims of the heathenish mythology would lead their unhappy votaries, when we behold the purest lessons of the gospel so strangely perverted. (Haydock) --- Whoremonger. It is very probable that the Scripture here means such as were guilty of unnatural impurities, "consecrated," as it were, to some idol of lust, as these crimes were common under several faithless kings of Israel and of Juda, 3 Kings xv. 12., and xxii. 47. Simple prostitutes are styled zona. (Calmet) --- God will not allow these to be publicly tolerated, though they contrived but too often in private to ensnare the hearts of God’s people, 3 Kings iii. 16. (Tirinus) --- Onkelos translates, "No Israelite shall give his daughter in marriage to a slave, nor take one for his son’s wife," as the contract would be null, according to the Rabbins, for want of liberty. (Calmet) --- He may, perhaps, have given this singular turn to this verse, because the preceding one speaks of fugitive slaves.

Verse 18

Dog. Many explain this in a figurative sense, as we have done in the last verse, to denote the public impudence by which some thought to honour their gods. (Haydock) --- Such impiety the Lord abhors, though practiced by all the surrounding nations, as ancient records unanimously attest. How incredible soever it might otherwise appear, that a false notion of religion, joined to a natural depravity, could prompt people to such excesses, we cannot call in question the veracity of so many historians. See Herodotus i, and ii.; Just.[Justinian?], xviii. 6.; Eusebius, præp. iv. 6.; St. Augustine, City of God iv. 10; and the sacred writers, Baruch vi. 42., and Proverbs xix. 13. The Rabbins explain dog literally, and observe that a prostitute, or one who has had any commerce with a man with whom it was not lawful for her to marry, could not offer what she had thus gained to the Lord, nor what had been received in exchange for a dog. Josephus ([Antiquities?] iv. 8,) understands it of such hunting or shepherds’ dogs as had been lent for hire to propagate the breed. Maimonides thinks that what the strumpet had received in kind, could not be presented, but with the price of it she might buy suitable victims. But Josephus and Philo admit of no such exceptions. They reject all sorts of presents made by strumpets, in detestation of their crimes; and it was probably from the same motive that the Jews concluded it was unlawful to put the price of blood into the treasury of the temple, Matthew xxvii. 6. In the Christian Church, the offerings of public sinners were not received, even to be distributed among the poor. These would not even take an alms from the hands of St. Afra, while she remained a courtesan of Augsbourg. Even the pagan emperor, Severus, refused to admit into the sacred treasury the tribute arising from such unworthy means. (Lamprid.) --- Some believe that Moses forbids the price of a dog to be presented, as the Egyptians had a sovereign respect for dogs; and many nations offered them in sacrifice, particularly for expiation. All the Greeks purified themselves, by making a dog be carried round them. (Bochart, p. 1, B. ii. 56.) Isaias (lxvi. 3,) seems to insinuate that dogs were sometimes immolated. St. Augustine, (q. 38,) and others, believe that dogs are not to be redeemed, as the first-born of other things are, probably because they were too mean, and the price to insignificant to purchase another victim. But we may adhere to the explication which was first proposed. (Calmet) --- Both. The dog was an unclean animal, and strumpets defiled their own bodies, and draw down the indignation of that God, who is a pure Spirit, and loves chaste souls. Without are dogs and sorcerers, and unchaste, and murderers, and servers of idols. (Apocalypse xxii. 15.) (Haydock)

Verse 20

To the stranger. This was a dispensation granted by God to his people, who, being the Lord of all things, can give a right and title to one upon the goods of another. Otherwise the Scripture every where condemns usury as contrary to the law of God, and a crying sin. See Exodus xxii. 25., Leviticus xxv. 36, 37., 2 Esdras v. 7., Psalm xiv. 5., and Ezechiel xviii. 8, 13, &c. (Challoner) --- The stranger means the devoted nations of Chanaan, &c., whom God authorized his people to destroy. "Exact usury of him whom thou mayst kill without a crime," says St. Ambrose., (de Tob. c. 15,) though this principle will not always excuse usury. This practice was always considered as unjustifiable, except when God gave permission to his people to get by this means the possession of the property of the stranger, the right to which he had already given to them; unless we may consider, that he only tolerates this practice towards the stranger, on account of the hard-heartedness of the Jews. Christ has now expressly declared it unlawful for any one. See Exodus xxii. 25. (Calmet)

Verse 21

Delay, beyond the time appointed. (Menochius) --- If no time was specified, the vow must be fulfilled without any unnecessary procrastination. See Numbers xxx. 2. (Haydock) --- Vows induce an obligation which before did not exist. (Worthington)

Verse 24

Thee. Hebrew, "thou shalt not put into thy vessel," or basket. This privilege is restrained by the Chaldean, &c., to vintagers. But Josephus ([Antiquities?] iv. 8) extends it to all; and he says that those who did not even invite travellers to partake of their grapes, and other fruit, were to be punished with 39 lashes.

Verse 30


Bibliographical Information
Haydock, George Leo. "Commentary on Deuteronomy 23". "Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/hcc/deuteronomy-23.html. 1859.
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