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A man who was emasculated in any way could not be recognized as one of Israel's congregation (v.1). Such mutilation deprives one of his proper masculinity. The Lord makes a clear distinction between men and women, and in the present day each has distinct functions in the assembly of God. So that the spiritual lesson for us is that we fully assume the responsibilities of our God-given place. Of course in the Church of God today one's physical deformities make no difference to his spiritual blessings.
One of illegitimate birth was to be excluded from the congregation of Israel, and this would extend to the tenth generation of his descendants (v.2). Again, this cannot be literally applied today, but the case is typical of one who is not actually born of God, but born of corruption. "That which is born of the flesh is flesh" (John 3:6), and has no place in the Church of God.
Ammonites and Moabites were placed in the same category, with no reception of them even to the tenth generation (v.3). They had been opposers of Israel from the time Israel came out of Egypt, Moab even hiring Balaam to curse Israel (v.4). Ammon (meaning "peoplish"), whose king was called "Nahash" (meaning "serpent") is a picture of satanically inspired religion and its cunning false doctrines, such as Mormonism, Jehovah's Witnesses, Christian Science, etc. As to Moab: "Moab had been at ease from his youth; he has settled on his dregs, and had not been emptied from vessel to vessel, nor has he gone into captivity. Therefore his taste remained in him and his scent has not changed" (Jeremiah 48:2). Thus, Moab pictures the lazy, self-pleasing religion that has no spiritual exercise whatever, but indulges every selfish desire of the flesh. Neither of these have any place in the Christian testimony, and must be refused.
But God was above the opposition of Ammon and Moab, turning their curses into blessing for Israel (v.5), just as today He blesses His Church in spite of the opposition of false religion. Yet Israel was not to seek the peace or prosperity of these two nations forever (v.6). So believers today must refuse to encourage in any way the evils of such religious deception as is seen in many denominations.
There was a difference in regard to an Edomite, and also an Egyptian (vs.7-8). They were to be treated with more consideration, and after the third generation could be assimilated into Israel, the number three speaking of the judgment of the flesh in death and resurrection. For Edom pictures man in the flesh, not the false deception of Satan as is seen in Ammon and Moab, but simply man without God. How much easier are these to deal with than those who have embraced false religion! Egypt is similar to Edom in this, that it is typical of the world in its independence of God, and Israel had once been in captivity to them, as we all have been at one time suffering bondage in a world away from God.
MAINTAINING A CLEAN CAMP
Israel's camp was to be kept clean. Even if some occurrence took place in the night by which a person became unclean, he was to go outside the camp until he was cleansed by the washing of water in the evening (vs.10-11). Also, having no plumbing facilities, a place was to be provided outside the camp where people could go to dispose of their body wastes. They must bring with them some implement with which to cover the waste with earth afterwards (vs.12-13). Thus we are reminded that whatever spiritual good there may be in our lives, there are excesses that must be disposed of. See Philippians 3:8. for God was in the camp, and in His presence there is no place for uncleanness.
While the law did not forbid slavery, and even in Christianity slaves are told to obey their masters (Ephesians 6:5), yet it was not God's plan that people should be in bondage to one another; and if a slave escaped from his master, coming to an Israelite town, he was not to be delivered back to his master, but allowed to remain within the shelter of the town to which he had come, and given liberty to chose the place he desired to live within their gates (vs.15-16).
Women in Israel were forbidden to be prostitutes and men also forbidden to practice sodomy or prostitution (v.17). Such things were practice in the religious rituals of the nations God was judging in Canaan, for people like to justify their evil practices by making them appear religious. But this made the practice more abominable to God, for it is attaching His name to evil.
Any gains a woman made through prostitution she must not dare to bring as an offering to God (v.18). It would be a gross insult. The same was true as to the price of a dog. Dogs, as unclean animals, are typical of Gentiles in an unclean state of unbelief. What is connected with uncleanness is offensive to God. It was reported not long ago that an owner of a dog racing track gave one million dollars to a so-called television evangelist. Gains gotten by such gambling practices should be absolutely refused by one who does the Lord's work, for God can certainly not accept such things.
In lending money or goods to a brother Israelite, the Jews were not allowed to charge interest (v.19). Christians too should consider it wise not to charge interest to another Christian or to a close relative if lending to them because of an occasion of need. Business practices such as mortgages are of a different character, of course, but the Lord takes account of the unselfish treatment we show toward others, and will repay this in His own way (v.20).
If one made a vow to the Lord he must pay it all at the appointed time (v.21), for negligence in this was sin. How much better not to vow at all than to make a promise and not keep it! This law should have by itself kept Israel from making questionable vows. However, the Lord Jesus, in speaking of this law, says, "But I say to you, do not swear at all" (Matthew 5:33-34). Man in the flesh is proven by Old Testament history to be untrustworthy, and therefore in the New Testament we are warned against making promises or even announcing what we are going to do in the future, which includes the very near future (James 4:13-16). For even though we intend to act on our promise, we may find ourselves unable to. What a contrast is seen in God's promises, He who not only promised but "confirmed it by an oath" (Hebrews 6:17), for His promise and His oath are absolute: they cannot be broken.
Last in this section the grace of God and the government of God are seen in beautiful balance (vs.24-25). If passing through another person's vineyard, Israelites were permitted to eat all the grapes they desired. Thus God showed compassion in regard to man's present hunger. But His righteous government firmly forbid carrying any away in a container. The same was true in a field of grain. They could pick heads of grain to eat, but could not cut the grain down, which would of course indicate their intention of taking it away.
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Grant, L. M. "Commentary on Deuteronomy 23". L.M. Grant's Commentary on the Bible. https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 25 / Ordinary 30