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Bible Commentaries

Bell's Commentary on the Bible

Deuteronomy 23

Verses 1-25

  1. Intro:
    1. These laws are expression of the divine wisdom for God’s people in a learning stage of their development.
      1. Certainly, some of the laws were temporary and have been superseded by the coming of the gospel: witness our Lord’s dealings with the woman taken in adultery (Jn 8). He didn’t deal with her in judgment but mercy and warned against a condemnatory spirit on the part of persons who were themselves sinners, which includes us all.
    2. Title: details details
      1. God is interested in the details of your life.
      2. Lk.19:17 Parable of the Ten Minas, Well done, good servant; because you were faithful in a very little, have authority over ten cities.’
        1. Great principle of Christian living...Faithfulness in ordinary life brings about infinitely great results by the grace of God.
      3. You have opportunities every day in the little things to show yourself faithful.
      4. In the days before modern harbors, a ship had to wait for the flood tide before it Slide#5 could make it to port. The term for this situation in Latin was ob portu, that is, a ship standing over off a port, waiting for the moment when it could ride the turn of the tide to harbor. The English word opportunity is derived from this original meaning. The captain and the crew were ready and waiting for that one moment for they knew that if they missed it, they would have to wait for another tide to come in. Shakespeare turned this background of the exact meaning of opportunity into one Slide#6 of his most famous passages. It’s from Julius Caesar, Act 4, Scene 3: There is a tide in the affairs of men, Which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune; Omitted, all the voyage of their life is bound in shallows and in miseries. On such a full sea are we now afloat; And we must take the current when it serves, Or lose our ventures.
        1. Do you take those “little opportunities” to show yourself faithful to Him?
    3. Outline: Purity of the Religious Assembly; Purity of the War Camp; 5 Misc Laws.
  2. PURITY OF THE RELIGIOUS ASSEMBLY (1-8)
    1. ​​​​​​​Persons to be excluded from the religious congregation of Israel are listed.
      1. Sexual mutilation, birth from unnatural unions, and membership of certain enemy nations were disqualifications from sharing the worship of Israel.
      2. On the other hand, Edomites and Egyptians (7,8) were to be admitted, the former as kinsmen, the latter as a gesture of kindness to former oppressors.
      3. This mixture of exclusion and concession would eventually give place to a gospel which says, Whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely. Rev. 22:17
        1. Mt.5:19 but whoever does and teaches them (keeps His commandments), he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.
        2. Lk.7:24 Therefore whoever hears these sayings of Mine, and does them, I will liken him to a wise man who built his house on the rock:
        3. 1Cor.10:32 Therefore whoever confesses Me before men, him I will also confess before My Father who is in heaven.
    2. Exclusion from the worship service did not prevent an individual from believing in the Lord and receiving the gift of eternal life.
      1. Israel’s history demonstrates that these laws were never meant to be applied legalistically without regard for the circumstances of each individual who may have wished to worship with Israel.
      2. Excluding an emasculated male may refer to a person who intentionally had himself castrated for pagan religious purposes.
        1. At any rate this regulation was probably never meant to exclude a eunuch committed to obeying the Lord (Isa. 56:3-5).
    3. (2) One of illegitimate birth - Possibly, the term refers to the child of an incestuous relationship, the child of a cult prostitute, or the child of a mixed marriage (i.e., an Israelite married to an Ammonite, Moabite, Philistine, or others).
      1. Again the stringent punishment inflicted on such a person would help deter Israelites from entering this kind of marriage.
    4. (3-6) Ammonite and Moabite people were not allowed to attend Israel’s religious gatherings because of their treatment of Israel during the wilderness period. The had refused bread and water to Israel and through Balak the Moabites hired Balaam to curse Israel (Num. 22).
      1. Also the Moabites and Ammonites were descended from the incestuous unions of Lot and his 2 daughters (Gen.19:30-38).
      2. The treatment of Ruth, however, by Boaz along with other Israelites of Bethlehem demonstrates that this law was never meant to exclude one who said, Your people will be my people and your God my God.
    5. (7,8) The treatment of the Edomite people was more lenient since they were descended from Esau, Jacob’s brother.
    6. The harsh treatment of Israel by the Egyptian people was overlooked because of Israel’s long sojourn there and perhaps also because of the initial positive treatment given to Joseph and his family when they first entered Egypt (Gen. 37-50).
  3. PURITY OF THE WAR CAMP (9-14)
    1. ​​​​​​​These verses are concerned w/sanitation in a military camp.
    2. Unclean by some occurrence in the night - The nocturnal emission of a man, though not in itself morally wrong, rendered him ceremonially unclean for all the next day.
    3. Likewise the command to bury one’s excrement did not deal with a moral area.
      1. By regularly observing these regulations Israelite soldiers were reminded of the Lord’s holiness and omnipresence.
      2. Even in a person’s most private moments the holy God was with him, observing his behavior.
    4. (14) Why was the camp to be kept clean? For hygiene purposes? No, it definitely helps in that, but it was because, the Lord your God walks in the midst of your camp.
      1. ​​​​​​​Today Christ walks amongst the churches (see Rev.1:13; 2:1) and wants to see a holy people.
    5. Truth for today: God made high demands on Israel because they were His people.
      1. But what about us today? Is it different? Aren’t we delivered from the bondage of law and inducted into a relationship of grace?
      2. It seems the present tendency in the church is to discard all moral standards.
      3. Is there a linkage between belief and behavior?
      4. Oh yes, it still behooves the Christian to heed the exhortation, Let every one that names the name of Christ depart from iniquity. 2 Tim. 2:19
  4. 5 MISC LAWS (15-25)
    1. ​​​​​​​Protecting Human Rights - These laws are concerned with the protection of individual rights.
    2. Escaped slaves (15,16)
    3. The humane treatment of slaves in ancient Israel included runaways, who were to be granted asylum.
    4. A prohibition against surrendering an escaped slave to his former master presupposes that he has been the victim of harsh treatment.
      1. The slaves in view here were not Israelites. They were people from other countries who came to seek sanctuary (refuge) in Israel.
      2. The command not to hand him over to his master went against the normal practice in the ancient Near East. In fact treaties in the ancient Near East included the provision that escaped slaves and other fugitives be returned.
        1. Therefore this law may have served to remind Israel that their treaty was with the Lord and they did not need any political alliance with another nation.
    5. Prostitution (17,18)
    6. Cult prostitution was widespread in the ancient Near Eastern fertility religions.
      1. These male & female priests/prostitutes were involved in these perverted activities in order to ensure that the land would be fertile for the upcoming year.
      2. Proceeds of immoral living were not to be offered as gifts to God.
        1. The source of our $ is God’s concern.
      3. A dog seems to be a contemptuous reference to a homosexual.
    7. Truth for today: An alarming increase in illicit sexual relationships is a sad feature of our times.
      1. When Christians embrace tolerance in these areas, it is well for us to recognize that in both Testaments the Bible states God’s disapproval of all types of sexual indulgence and perversion, both hetero/homosexual.
      2. Paul gives a detailed list in 1 Cor.6:9.
        1. Fornicators (pornos, most general term for all sexual immorality), idolaters (i.e. a guy who likes his electronics more than God; or a gal who likes her shoes more than God), adulterers (at least 1 party is married), homosexuals (catamite, a male who submits to homosexuals), sodomites (a male homosexual) [graphic, but the detail here refers to both the “giver” & the “taker”], thieves (don’t perform the work you promised), covetous (greedy people), drunkards (intoxication), revilers (abusive), extortioners (swindle, cheat people).
        2. Gal.5:21 those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.
    8. Some might ask, why is God so uptight with sex outside of marriage? Paul answered that clearly, I’ll read from the Message Bible 1 Cor.6:16-20.
      1. There’s more to sex than mere skin on skin. Sex is as much spiritual mystery as physical fact. As written in Scripture, “The two become one.” Since we want to become spiritually one with the Master, we must not pursue the kind of sex that avoids commitment and intimacy, leaving us more lonely than ever—the kind of sex that can never “become one.” There is a sense in which sexual sins are different from all others. In sexual sin we violate the sacredness of our own bodies, these bodies that were made for God-given and God-modeled love, for “becoming one” with another. Or didn’t you realize that your body is a sacred place, the place of the Holy Spirit? Don’t you see that you can’t live however you please, squandering what God paid such a high price for? The physical part of you is not some piece of property belonging to the spiritual part of you. God owns the whole works. So let people see God in and through your body.
    9. Lending and charging interest (19,20)
    10. Hebrews were forbidden to lend money for interest to fellow Hebrews, although they might do so to persons of other races.
      1. Probably to preserve economic stability in the nation.
      2. To charge a poor brother interest would only worsen his condition and would also feed the greed of the one wealthy enough to lend. [we can help w/micro-loans/micro-credits in under developed countries, to help loans go from 30%, down to 3%] debt-bondage
    11. Moses sought to instill in God’s people a spirit of honesty, generosity, & good will. He recognized that stealing involves much more than the overt act of taking someone else's property.
    12. Vows (21-23)
    13. This law stressed the need for the Israelites to be completely honest before their God and to be careful in their verbal commitments to Him.
      1. The vow in view was one that was made freely by a worshiper.
      2. Once made it had to be kept (Prov.20:25; Ecc.5:4,5) as the Lord kept His promises to Israel
    14. Eating in a neighbor’s fields (24,25)
    15. This law gave a concrete expression to the principle of loving one’s neighbor as oneself.
      1. ​​​​​​​A traveler was given the right to refresh himself from a vineyard or grainfield, but not the right to carry grapes away with him or to harvest in the field.
      2. Since the Lord had been gracious in providing for the farmer, he in turn should be gracious to a stranger traveling through his land.
    16. These miscellaneous regulations remind us that God is interested in the details of our lives.
      1. There is a tide in the affairs of men, Which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune; Omitted, all the voyage of their life is bound in shallows and in miseries. On such a full sea are we now afloat; And we must take the current when it serves, Or lose our ventures.
Copyright Statement
These files are the property of Brian Bell.
Text Courtesy of Calvary Chapel of Murrieta. Used by Permission.
Bibliographical Information
Bell, Brian. "Commentary on Deuteronomy 23". "Bell's Commentary". https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/cbb/deuteronomy-23.html. 2017.