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Thursday, June 20th, 2024
the Week of Proper 6 / Ordinary 11
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Bible Commentaries
Deuteronomy 23

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - UnabridgedCommentary Critical Unabridged

Verse 1

He that is wounded in the stones, or hath his privy member cut off, shall not enter into the congregation of the LORD.

He that is wounded ... shall not enter into the congregation of the Lord. To "enter into the congregation of the Lord" means either admission to public honours and offices in the Church and State of Israel, or, in the case of foreigners, incorporation with that nation by circumcision or by marriage. The rule was, that strangers and foreigners, for fear of friendship or marriage connections with them leading the people into idolatry, were not admissible until their conversion to the Jewish faith.

But this passage describes certain limitations of the general rule. The following parties were excluded from the full rights and privileges of citizenship:

1st. Eunuchs. It was a very ancient practice for the priests of many pagan deities, particularly those of the Syrian goddess, to be eunuchs, and for parents in the East, by various arts, to mutilate their children, with a view of training them for service in the houses of the great. Since no animal but one entirely free from defect or blemish was fit for sacrifice, so no individual was qualified for associating with the people of God in whom the divine image was willfully mutilated. And hence, this law was the means of interdicting among the Jews that practice of eunuchism, of old so extensively prevalent in the East.

2nd. Bastards, mamzeer (H4464) - a word of uncertain etymology [Gesenius derives it from the root maazar, to be corrupt], and found only in one other passage (Zechariah 9:6) - is supposed by some to denote a stranger [as composed, according to Lee, of min (H4480), also `am (H5971), people, and zaar (H2114), a foreigner; one from a foreign nation. The Septuagint has in this passage: ek pornees; Vulgate, de scorto natus-one born of fornication; but in that of Zechariah referred to, the Greek version has: allogenees-a stranger or foreigner, one of a different nation, which, as being pagan, is frequently called by the Hebrew bards a harlot (Isaiah 23:17-18).] It is evident that it cannot mean one born of parents before being united in lawful wedlock, for such a case is remedied by the statute recorded, Deuteronomy 22:29; and therefore, in the opinion of Jewish writers generally, it must denote one whose father, from the mother's loose conduct, was unknown.

A stigma being attached to a person of such a disreputable origin, Selden, following the Jewish rabbis, thinks that this law was designed solely to prohibit "a bastard" from forming a matrimonial connection with a Hebrew woman; for it would seem an act of the greatest cruelty to prevent an individual who professed his faith in the Jewish religion from 'entering into the congregation of the Lord.'

The other signification of the word, namely, a stranger or foreigner, is preferred by many eminent scholars, not only because it suits both the passages in which the term occurs, but because, if that interpretation be rejected, there is really no express rule prescribed by Moses respecting the admission of foreigners to the community of Israel; and by this restrictive law they were declared generally excluded, as incapable, from the special tenor of the divine covenant, of fully participating, by naturalization, in the privileges of Israelites.

Verse 2

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.

Even to his tenth generation [ dowr (H1755) `ªsiyriy (H6224)] The one term rendered "generation " Even to his tenth generation, [ dowr (H1755) `ªsiyriy (H6224)]. The one term, rendered "generation," denotes the collective body of contemporaries (see the notes at Genesis 15:16; Exodus 1:6); the other term, "tenth," a complete number, used often in a wide sense; and here it signifies an indefinite period. These two prohibitions, whether viewed literally or symbolically, were suited only for the early state of the Church; and accordingly the two classes mentioned (Deuteronomy 23:1-2) are selected as samples of the admission of the whole Gentile world into the Church of Christ. Such an indelible stigma, in both these instances, was designed as a discouragement to practices that were disgraceful, but too common from contact with foreigners.

3rd. Ammonites and Moabites were excluded; for without provocation they combined to engage a soothsayer to curse the Israelites, and further endeavoured, by ensnaring them into the guilt and licentious abominations of idolatry, to seduce them from their allegiance to God, and thereby make them forfeit the privileges of their national covenant. Previous to this outrage the Israelites were taught to cherish friendly regards to both (Deuteronomy 2:9; Deuteronomy 2:19). But the offence of the Ammonites and Moabites was an aggravated one. It was not only a denial of common hospitality and kindness to strangers and pilgrims, but it was a scheme of premeditated villany, indicating deep malice and inextinguishable hatred. Their exclusion, therefore, as avowed public enemies was perpetual and immutable.

Verse 3

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:

Even to their tenth generation shall they not enter. Many eminent writers think that this law of exclusion was applicable only to males; at all events, that a definite is used for an indefinite number (Nehemiah 13:1). Since God cannot do evil, the declaration must be considered not to foster enmity against the people (Ruth 4:10; 2 Kings 10:2), but against their crime; and it was the more necessary to make it at this time, as many of the Israelites being established on the east side of Jordan, in the immediate neighbourhood of those people; God raised this partition wall between them, to prevent the consequences of evil communications.

But it must not be supposed that in this case, anymore than in the former, an Ammonite or Moabite proselyte was debarred from the enjoyment of religious privileges. All that the interdict amounts to is, that an individual belonging to either of these two nations was incapable, by marriage, adoption, or purchase, of passing the barriers of Hebrew clanship-of acquiring a status, so as to entitle him to the rights and privileges of a citizen, or have his name registered in the genealogical roll of any tribe in Israel; and these civil disabilities were not removable.

Verse 4

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. No JFB commentary on this verse.

Verse 5

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.

The Lord thy God would not hearken unto Balaam. The obvious import of this statement is, that God would not permit Balaam to utter any imprecations against Israel, however harmless they might prove, but constrained him, by an overpowering influence, to utter, in presence of Balak and his courtiers, the highest eulogies and blessings. But Hengstenberg founds upon these words a hypothesis that Balaam, on being dismissed by the king of Moab, went directly to the Israelite camp, where being received coldly by Moses, he departed for Midian. (But see the note at Numbers 24:25.)

4th. More favour was to be shown to Edomites and Egyptians-to the former from their near relationship to Israel, and to the latter, from their early hospitalities to the family of Jacob, as well as the many acts of kindness rendered them by private Egyptians at the exodus (Exodus 12:36). The grandchildren of Edomite or Egyptian proselytes were declared admissible to the full rights of citizenship as native Israelites; and by this remarkable provision God taught His people a practical lesson of generosity and gratitude for special deeds of kindness, to the forgetfulness of all the persecution and ill services sustained from these two nations.

Verses 6-8

Thou shalt not seek their peace nor their prosperity all thy days for ever.

No JFB commentary on these verses.

Verse 9

When the host goeth forth against thine enemies, then keep thee from every wicked thing.

When the host goeth forth against thine enemies, then keep thee from every wicked thing - from theft, violence, licentiousness, and all the excesses incident to life in a camp (Luke 3:14). Cleanliness being indispensably necessary, the strictest sanitary regulations are always enforced by those who have charge of a large body of men-the first appearance of disease is watched, and precautions are taken to prevent the spread of infection. But in warm climates something more is required, and constant care must be taken in the removal of foul, putrescent, or fetid matter.

Verses 10-12

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:

No JFB commentary on these verses.

Verse 13

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:

Thou shalt have a paddle upon thy weapon, [ wªyaateed (H3489) tihªyeh (H1961) lªkaa (H3807a) `al (H5921) 'azeenekaa (H240)] - and a little spade shall be to thee (thou shalt have a little spade) among thy furniture [where many MSS. read 'al 'ªzineeykaa, among thy utensils, which is preferable (Gesenius). The Septuagint has: kai passalos estai soi epi tees xoonees-and a peg (stake) shall be on thy girdle.] Turkish soldiers are said to carry an implement similar to that with which every Israelite was enjoined to furnish himself; and the 'Punjaub Sanitary Report,' issued for 1862 by the English Commissioner, declares that the sanitary arrangement commanded by Moses is that which is still adopted in the East. 'In our jails,' says he,`all our refuse is buried in the garden, and being rapidly decomposed, no inconvenience is experienced.' He closes the 'Report' with a direct allusion, in elucidation of this habit, to the similar enactment in Israel ('The Pentateuch, and its Authority:' a Review, reprinted from the Record newspaper).

The directions here given, it will be observed, relate not to the Israelite encampment in the wilderness, or in the Arboth Moab, where, it may be presumed, though no details are given, that places convenient for relieving the necessities of nature would be accessible, adequate to the requirements of the population. These instructions point to a special occasion-to some future war after the Israelite settlement in Canaan, and to small detachments of soldiers composing the camp, as is evident from Deuteronomy 23:9-12 of the context.

Viewed in this light, how ridiculously misplaced are the witticisms thrown out by Colenso on this passage, as compelling every individual of the 2,000,000 of Israelites to go more than six miles daily for natural purposes! And how simple, as well as proper, do those instructions appear when it is considered that they were intended for military parties, who are apt during a campaign to become negligent or sordid in their personal habits. In the case of the Israelites, cleanliness was the more imperative, that their heavenly King was present in the camp (Deuteronomy 23:14); whence some think that the ark was carried with them in all their wars. Moreover, cleanliness was symbolical of the moral purity to which God was training them; and the promotion of piety, which undoubtedly was contemplated as an ulterior object in the stringent prohibition of all nuisances in the camp, is a sufficient answer to the contemptuous cavils of infidels, who sneer at this representation of the Divine Being as the grossest anthropomorphism, walking about in the camp, incurring the risk of 'seeing an unclean thing,' and, with the disgusted feelings of a sentient creature, 'turning away' from Israel.

Verse 14

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.

No JFB commentary on this verse.

Verses 15-16

Thou shalt not deliver unto his master the servant which is escaped from his master unto thee:

Thou shalt not deliver unto his master the servant which is escaped - evidently a servant of the Canaanites, or of some of the neighbouring people, who was driven by tyrannical oppression, or induced with a view of embracing the true religion, to take refuge in Israel. Such a one was not to be surrendered by the inhabitants of the place where he had fled for protection.

Among the Greeks and Romans slaves were not allowed the privilege of any sanctuary: their master might pursue them any or everywhere; and when he caught the runaway, he branded him with a red-hot iron (Xenophon, 'Mem.,' 2: 10, secs. 1, 21; Florus, 2:, p. 19). But in ancient Palestine, and under the law of Moses, a refugee, the moment he set foot upon the soil, found a secure asylum, and was allowed to settle at pleasure in any part of the land, as in Britain now (Michaelis).

Verse 17

There shall be no whore of the daughters of Israel, nor a sodomite of the sons of Israel. There shall be no whore of the daughters of Israel, [ qªdeeshaah (H6948)] - a female devoted to the service of Astarte or Ashtaroth (Venus), and the profits of whose prostitution were applied to the treasury of her temples.

Nor a sodomite, [ qaadeesh (H6945)] - a male prostitute, consecrated to the worship of the same goddess. These wretched creatures, dressed in female habiliments, frequented the streets of cities, or wandered into country villages as mendicants, exhibiting small shrines of Astarte, and enticing the populace to unnatural crime. Both of these were attaches to the temple of the Syrian goddess (Lucian, 'De Dea Syra,' secs. 27, 51; Spencer, 'De Leg.,' rit. 2:, 35).

Verse 18

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.

A dog, [ keleb (H3611) = qaadeesh (H6945)] (Deuteronomy 23:17) - a term of infamy applied to a male prostitute. The prohibition in this verse was necessary, for such classes of priests and temple servants multiplied in Israel in the times when the Phoenician idolatry prevailed (Numbers 25:1-18; 1 Kings 14:24; 1 Kings 15:12; 1 Kings 22:46).

Verses 19-20

Thou shalt not lend upon usury to thy brother; usury of money, usury of victuals, usury of any thing that is lent upon usury:

Thou shalt not lend upon usury to thy brother ... unto a stranger. The Israelites, being employed chiefly in the culture of the soil and the rearing of cattle, would have little occasion to borrow except for personal use through temporary want and poverty. They lived in a simple state of society, and hence, they were encouraged to lend to each other in a friendly way, without any hope of gain. But the case was different with foreigners, who engaged in trade and commerce-borrowed to enlarge their capital, and might reasonably be expected to pay interest on their loans, the more especially as the risk of lending them was greater, and the bond of consanguinity did not exist. Besides, the distinction was admirably conducive to keeping the Israelites separate from the rest of the world.

Verses 21-22

When thou shalt vow a vow unto the LORD thy God, thou shalt not slack to pay it: for the LORD thy God 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.

When thou shalt vow a vow - (see the note at Numbers 30:2.)

Verse 23

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.

No JFB commentary on this verse.

Verse 24

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.

When thou comest into thy neighbour's vineyard. Vineyards, like grainfields, mentioned in the next verse, were often unenclosed. In vine-growing countries grapes are amazingly cheap; and we need not wonder, therefore, that all within reach of a passenger's arm was free. The quantity plucked was a loss never felt by the proprietor, and it was a kindly privilege afforded to the poor and wayfaring man.

Bibliographical Information
Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Deuteronomy 23". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/jfu/deuteronomy-23.html. 1871-8.
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