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DEUTERONOMY - CHAPTER TWENTY-THREE
"Congregation," gahal, also translated "assembly, and multitude."
Bible scholars are disagreed as to the meaning of "the congregation of the Lord." Some say it refers to the entire nation of Israel; others say it refers to the religious assembly of those gathered for sacred or worship purposes. The latter view appears to be more in harmony with this text.
The text lists four classes of persons who were to be excluded from the "congregation of the Lord." These were to be excluded "unto the tenth generation," or indefinitely:
(1) One who was mutilated, either by the crushing of his testicles, or by excision of his penis. Such mutilation was often a religious rite among the heathen.
(2) A "bastard," mamzer, "spurious," the son of an harlot. The Talmud defines the term as one begotten in adultery or incest.
(3) An Ammonite.
(4) A Moabite.
Two reasons are given for the exclusion of the latter two:
(1) Their inhospitable attitude toward Israel in their wilderness journey;
12) Their hiring of Balaam to curse Israel, Numbers 22:23-24.
In addition, Israel was forbidden to promote the welfare of these two nations.
This was a national curse, and applied to the nations as such. It did not apply to individuals in those nations. For example, Ruth the Moabitess was accepted into Israel, and became a link in the ancestral chain of David, Solomon, and of Jesus Himself, Ruth 4:13; Ruth 4:18-22; Matthew 1:5; Matthew 1:16.
Verses 7, 8:
Sanctions against the Edomites were not nearly so severe as against the Ammonites and Moabites. The Edomites had refused passage through their territory, Numbers 20:14-21, but did not otherwise mistreat Israel nor seek to lead them into idolatry.
Family ties were closer between Israel and Edom, than between Israel and Moab and Ammon.
Descendants of Edom might be naturalized after the "third generation." This may denote the third generation after Israel’s settlement in the Land.
The Egyptians had oppressed and mistreated Israel during their sojourn there. But it was Egypt which gave Israel sanctuary and provided life-giving food and shelter during the terrible drought that devastated that region, Genesis 47:1-12. Egyptians were eligible for naturalization into Israel after the "third generation," in the same manner as the Edomites.
When going forth to war, Israel must be cleansed from moral pollution.
"Host," machaneh, also translated "company, band, army."
When Israel went forth to war, all impurity was to be kept from the camp, compare Numbers 5:2.
"Every wicked thing," literally, "every evil thing," evil in the sense of uncleanness, blemish, flaw.
Verses 10, 11:
When going forth to war, Israel must be cleansed from ceremonial pollution.
Compare this text with Leviticus 15:16-17, q.v.
When going forth to war, Israel must be cleansed from natural pollution.
Israel was to maintain a place outside the camp as a Comfort station, likely as normal procedure, verse 12.
In addition, the men were required to make provision for sanitary measures as they went forth to war.
"Paddle," yathed, "a pin, nail, stake."
"Weapon," azen, "a pointed weapon, or staff," the text being the only occurrence of this term in the Old Testament.
Some suggest that this "paddle" was an instrument in addition to the weapon, and not necessarily attached to it.
Each Israeli soldier must have an instrument for digging in the ground. When he went outside the encampment to relieve himself, he was to dig a hole for this purpose, and then cover the hole when relieved.
This requirement was for both natural and spiritual reasons: to provide a sanitary camp site; and to provide a place ceremonially clean for the Presence of Jehovah God to be among them.
Verses 15, 16:
The text refers to the case of a slave who had fled from a foreign master to escape his harsh treatment. Such an one who came to Israel for sanctuary must not be surrendered to his master. He was to be allowed to choose a place anywhere in Israel’s land that he might desire, and dwell there in safety.
This illustrates the safety and refuge which the oppressed may find in the sanctuary and among the people of God, Psalms 84:1-4.
Verses 17, 18:
Prostitution was regarded among many ancient heathen nations as an act of religious worship. Both males and females prostituted themselves in the service of the goddess Astarte. All such practices were abomination in Israel, Micah 1:7.
"Whore," verse 17, qedeshah, "one separated or consecrated to an idol," like the "sacred prostitutes" consecrated to Astarte.
"Whore," verse 18, zanah, the general term for one who commits fornication.
"Price," mechir, "hire," the wages received. In this text, it refers to the wages received for the act of prostitution and sodomy.
"Dog" does not refer to the literal, four-legged canine, but it is a figure denoting the male prostitute, the sodomite, and is a type of all such uncleanness.
This text does not forbid the buying or selling of dogs, canines.
Verses 19, 20:
"Usury," nashak, "to exact, to cause to bite." The term denotes interest charged on a loan.
"Brother," a fellow Israelite.
An Israelite was not to charge interest on the loan of money, food, or anthing else, to a fellow Israelite, see Exodus 22:25-27; Leviticus 25:35-37. No such prohibition applied to a loan to a foreigner.
Compare this text with Lev. chapter 27; Num. chapter 30. See also Ecclesiastes 5:1-7; Psalms 15:4; Psalms 76:11; Proverbs 20:25.
Verses 24, 25:
The text authorizes one to eat from his neighbor’s vineyard and grain crop, to appease his hunger. But he was not allowed to store for himself any fruit or grain from his neighbor’s fields. This principle still applies among Arab lands today. Jesus and His disciples utilized the provisions of this law, see Matthew 12:1; Luke 6:1.
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of Blessed Hope Foundation and the Baptist Training Center.
Garner, Albert & Howes, J.C. "Commentary on Deuteronomy 23". Garner-Howes Baptist Commentary. https://studylight.org/
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