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Bible Commentaries

Kingcomments on the Whole Bible

Deuteronomy 23

Verses 1-2

Introduction

The spirit of all the precepts given here and in the previous chapter is instructive. God deigns to take note of all these things. He also teaches His people sensitivity, courtesy, respect for others, tenderness. They are feelings that repel the roughness and drive the hardness out of the hearts.

The Emasculated and the Illegitimate Child

In Deuteronomy 23:1-2 Chronicles : we see two names for the people of God:
1. the assembly of the LORD (Deuteronomy 23:1-Ruth :, six times) and
2. the camp (Deuteronomy 23:9-2 Chronicles :, six times).

With the “assembly of the LORD” is meant the meetings of God’s people; the “camp” is about fighting and being able to do so. Both are connected with God’s presence in the midst of His people. It is about the assembly of God, not of us. If we understand this properly, it will save us from looking for ourselves. We will therefore guard the holiness of that place.

Not ”enter the assembly of the LORD” seems to refer to the meetings of God’s people to honor Him. Four categories are excluded from participation in the religious meetings of Israel. This exclusion should prevent any member of the people from entering into a connection with any of the persons mentioned.

In the case of an emasculated person, external intervention was made in the God-created nature of the reproduction of life. These are those whom the Lord Jesus speaks of, when He speaks of “eunuchs who were made eunuchs by men” (Matthew 19:12). Such an act is contrary to the character of God’s people. Therefore, such a person may not be accepted as a member of God’s people.

[NB This prohibition also gives food for thought when it comes to modern means and techniques to prevent conceiving children without any medical necessity.]

The eunuch mentioned in Acts 8 is an example of the grace that goes beyond the law (Acts 8:26-Malachi :). The word “eunuch” (Acts 8:27) is literally “emasculated”, which is a castrated. Yet he is introduced into the blessing of God. Grace gives that way because grace in the work of Christ destroys the previous state (cf. Isaiah 56:3-Deuteronomy :).

The holiness of God never disables the grace of God, by which obstacles can be removed. Without the commandment being invalidated, people can be brought into the church of God. Grace never destroys God’s holiness, but maintains it completely. Grace unlocks a way in which God’s holiness is fulfilled. That way was opened by the Lord Jesus on the cross.

The emasculated can also be seen as someone who confesses with his lips that he is a Christian, but his life does not show it. There can be no fruit in ‘an emasculated’. He has no connection with the vine (John 15:4). It is often difficult to determine whether someone is an ‘emasculated’.

An illegitimate child or mongrel is someone who has been conceived in fornication. The word is found one other time in the Old Testament in Zechariah 9: “And a mongrel race will dwell in Ashdod” (Zechariah 9:6). The time period “the tenth generation” does not mean that the eleventh generation can be part of it. This expression should be understood as an always enduring matter. Thus the Lord Jesus says that forgiveness must be done up to “seventy times seven” (Matthew 18:22). That is also in the sense of always.

In a spiritual sense, illegitimate children are people who do not participate in the discipline of God, because God does not know them as sons (Hebrews 12:8). They seem to belong to God’s people, but that is only to the eye. Inwardly there is no life from God.

Verses 3-8

Who May Not Enter the Assembly

Apart from certain persons, certain peoples are also not allowed to join God’s people. The Moabites and Ammonites have a certain connection with God’s people, but in the course of their history they have proven their aversion to God’s people. On the one hand they refused the people of God the food they had asked for, and on the other they sought to curse the people of God.

As in the previous verses, there is a prohibition on the entering into the people of God of members of these peoples up to the tenth generation. That this is a prohibition forever is evident from the application of this law by Nehemiah (Nehemiah 13:1). In the time of Nehemiah, we are more than ten generations later.

God not only reminds His people of the evil treatment of these peoples. He also reminds them that He has turned the curse into a blessing. The reason for this is that He loves them. So they have not missed anything by what they have been refused and the hateful approach they have experienced. On the contrary, it gave God the opportunity to assure them of His love.

In the same way, we may also look at the conduct that some so-called brother people sometimes show with regard to the believers. Those who truly belong to the Lord will face the rejection and hatred of the nominal Christians. Moab and Ammon are family of the Israelites. There is a connection with God’s people. We can think of people who grew up in a religious family, but then turned away and even tried to bring curse upon God’s people.

But also in these peoples there are persons who, despite the prohibition, are introduced into God’s people. Ruth, the Moabitess, is a good example of this. She is an object of grace, who changes her state, without compromising holiness.

Edom and Egypt have never been part of the blessing of God’s people. Edom is about close natural relatives. With Ammon and Moab this relationship is further away. They are children of Lot, the nephew of Abraham and therefore family of Jacob, the ancestor of God’s people. Edom is a brother to the flesh. “Esau (that is Edom)” (Genesis 36:1), is Jacob’s twin brother.

Edom is always the irreconcilable enemy of Israel. This can clearly be seen in the book Obadiah (Obadiah 1:1-Ecclesiastes :), which is entirely devoted to Edom and his attitude towards Israel. The prophet leaves no doubt that Edom will be fully judged. But that is only after Edom has shown his perseverance in hatred towards his brother throughout his history. God will not seal the fate of a man or a people until He has tried all means to convert a people or a person. When there is no hope of conversion, He exercises His righteous judgment. Here it is not so far and the door of grace is still open for Edom.

Egypt represents the people of the world, in the midst of whom we are. Egyptians can enter, not because of the former connection or friendly act, but because of the sacrifice of Christ, His death and resurrection. The harsh treatment that the people have had to endure in Egypt is not mentioned here. Only the good things they experienced there are remembered here. We can think of the early days, when Joseph was viceroy of Egypt (Genesis 42-50).

Grandchildren are allowed to enter the people of God. The third generation does not mean the third generation after the promulgation of this law. It is counted from the time that someone from these nations starts to attach the true religion and serve the true God. Their sons are the second generation and their grandchildren are the third generation. The grandchildren are given part in the religious and social privileges of God’s people. They can take up positions and marriages.

Verses 9-14

Cleanness of the Camp

This is about struggle, not the struggle itself, but the equipment. Every admission of evil, even the slightest, reduces the power to fight. The power to fight lies in the presence of the LORD in their midst. When the army goes out, He goes out with them along. That is a powerful consolation, but also a matter of great seriousness. We see here that God cares about everyday things that have a negative impact on our spiritual strength, for it are “the little foxes that are ruining the vineyards” (Song of Solomon 2:15).

Moses mentions two forms by which a warrior can become unclean: by a nocturnal emission, the so-called ‘wet dream’, and by a fecal matter. The warrior can’t help these two things. No blame is on him. He is not responsible for it, because they belong to the natural existence of man.

These are indeed things that make someone unclean, but they are not forms of uncleanness that arise from the will of man. We can regard them as everyday matters. It’s about what we call little things, about which you don’t worry. Yet they are forms of impurity. In order that we may remain aware that God cannot tolerate any form of impurity in His presence, Moses gives his instructions for this.

Verses 15-16

Mercy Towards an Escaped Slave

It is about a slave from a foreign land, not a countryman. The land of God is a place of refuge for such persons. David deals in this way with the Egyptian young man who fell into his hands. This boy is the slave of an Amalekite man whom David takes care of (1 Samuel 30:11-Ezra :).

The assembly should be a place of warm welcome, safety and freedom of movement for people who have escaped from their hard master. The Israelites know out of experience what the service means under a hard master and what it means to be freed from it.

It must not be a flight to avoid a just sentence. Paul does send Onesimus back (Philemon 1:10-2 Kings :) and the Angel of the LORD commands Hagar to go back to Sarah (Genesis 16:9). The reasons for this are different. In any case, they are not be sent back to merciless masters.

Verses 17-18

Against Cult Prostitution

The prohibition of cult temple prostitution should not be necessary. That Moses mentions it, indicates that he knows the people, that they are capable of such abominations. This commandment has proved necessary, for it was later shamefully transgressed (Hosea 4:14; 2 Kings 23:7; Micah 1:7). This concerns both male and female prostitutes. The word for male prostitute is ‘dog’ and is used figuratively here in the expression “wages of a dog” (cf. Revelation 22:15).

God absolutely does not want any sacrifice from such people. It is “an abomination” to Him (cf. Proverbs 15:8). Such persons even dare paying certain vows with money obtained in this shameful way. In their own eyes it also gives them some kind of approval to continue their sinful business (Proverbs 7:14-Ezra :). But God cannot accept anything that puts penance and repentance aside.

We can only honor God with sacrifices that we have obtained in an honest and honorable way. So it’s not only about what we give, but to God it also is important how we acquired it.

Verses 19-20

Not Charge Interest to a Countryman

Moses forbids taking interest of a countryman. The brother who has to borrow money has become poor and is in great need. He does not lend money to afford more luxury, but to stay alive. Requiring such a person to pay interest only makes his situation worse. Whoever does so, reveals a greed for money. A stranger may be charged interest. Such a person borrows for business purposes, not to stay alive.

Verses 21-23

A Vow Must Be Performed

Making vows is taken seriously. We should be careful not to make reckless statements (Proverbs 20:25; Ecclesiastes 5:4-Deuteronomy :). It is also good to think when singing songs of dedication, in which we promise to live completely for the Lord. We should not sing such a thing thoughtlessly, but consciously. At the same time there will be a prayer for the Lord’s help in making it happen. A vow must be performed.

Verses 24-25

Taking the Fruit of One’s Neighbor

This law indicates that there will be an abundance of wine and grain in Canaan. The little bit taken and enjoyed by someone, will not be missed by the owner at that abundance. This law provides help and support, for example, for poor travelers who can be strengthened and refreshed by it. The disciples of the Lord Jesus make use of this ordinance (Matthew 12:1). They are not reprimanded by the Pharisees because they do it, but because they do it on a sabbath. According to their homemade laws, this is forbidden, but not by God’s law.

God wants His people to be a giving people. He wants them to learn not to stand on the right of possession, but to grant others of the abundance. It is a proof of hospitality. It teaches us to be sharing. What we give away is not lost, but will increase gratitude. At the same time, care is taken to ensure that this sharing is not abused. When giving a finger, not the whole hand should be taken.

The vineyard speaks of the joy in the heavenly land. The grain speaks of the Lord Jesus as the food of the land. Everyone has his own joy in the fellowship with God and receives personal strength by being engaged with the Lord Jesus.

We may also enjoy each other and build each other up in what the Lord has given to another. However, this must be done with due caution. We may enjoy and be built upon what others have written, but it should not just be repeated by us when we pass it on to others. It must first be processed by ourselves and put into practice. If we only repeat what others have discovered in the Word of God, we have been busy with the basket and sickle on the field of the other.

We may use what someone else has written, but we must do it in the right way. For example, when preparing for a ministry, we should not quickly go through a commentary and then pass on what we quickly read. It must first become a fruit of our own vineyard by processing it in our own heart with the Lord. Then it has become our property and we can pass on what we enjoyed ourselves and by which we are built up.

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Kingcomments on the Whole Bible © 2021 Author: G. de Koning. All rights reserved. Used with the permission of the author
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Bibliographical Information
de Koning, Ger. Commentaar op Deuteronomy 23". "Kingcomments on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/kng/deuteronomy-23.html. 'Stichting Titus' / 'Stichting Uitgeverij Daniƫl', Zwolle, Nederland. 2021.