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Biblical Commentary on the Old Testament, by Carl Friedrich Keil and Franz Delitzsh, [1857-78], at

Deuteronomy Chapter 23


deu 23:0

Regulations as to the Right of Citizenship in the Congregation of the Lord - Deuteronomy 23

From the sanctification of the house and the domestic relation, to which the laws of marriage and chastity in the previous chapter pointed, Moses proceeds to instructions concerning the sanctification of their union as a congregation: he gives directions as to the exclusion of certain persons from the congregation of the Lord, and the reception of others into it (Deu 23:1-8); as to the preservation of the purity of the camp in time of war (Deu 23:9-14); as to the reception of foreign slaves into the land, and the removal of licentious persons out of it (Deu 23:15-18); and lastly, as to certain duties of citizenship (Deu 23:19-25).

Deuteronomy 23:1

deu 23:1

The Right of Citizenship in the Congregation of the Lord. - Deu 23:1. Into the congregation of the Lord there was not to come, i.e., not to be received, any person who was mutilated in his sexual member. פּצוּע־דּכּה, literally wounded by crushing, i.e., mutilated in this way; Vulg. eunuchus attritis vel amputatis testiculis. Not only animals (see at Lev 22:24), but men also, were castrated in this way. שׁפכה כּרוּת was one whose sexual member was cut off; Vulg. abscisso veretro. According to Mishnah Jebam. vi. 2, "contusus דּכּה est omnis, cujus testiculi vulnerati sunt, vel certe unus eorum; exsectus (כּרוּת), cujus membrum virile praecisum est." In the modern East, emasculation is generally performed in this way (see Tournefort, Reise. ii. p. 259, and Burckhardt, Nubien, pp. 450, 451). The reason for the exclusion of emasculated persons from the congregation of Jehovah, i.e., not merely from office (officio et publico magistratu, Luth.) and from marriage with an Israelitish woman (Fag., C. a Lap., and others), but from admission into the covenant fellowship of Israel with the Lord, is to be found in the mutilation of the nature of man as created by God, which was irreconcilable with the character of the people of God. Nature is not destroyed by grace, but sanctified and transformed. This law, however, was one of the ordinances intended for the period of infancy, and has lost its significance with the spread of the kingdom of God over all the nations of the earth (Isa 56:4).

Deu 23:2

So also with the ממזר, i.e., not persons begotten out of wedlock, illegitimate children generally (lxx, Vulg.), but, according to the Talmud and the Rabbins, those who were begotten in incest or adultery (cf. Ges. thes. p. 781). The etymology of the word is obscure. The only other place in which it occurs is Zac 9:6; and it is neither contracted from מוּם and זר (according to the Talmud, and Hitzig on Zac 9:6), nor from זר מעם (Geiger Urschr. p. 52), but in all probability is to be derived from a root מזר, synonymous with the Arabic word "to be corrupt, or foul." The additional clause, "not even in the tenth generation," precludes all possibility of their ever being received. Ten is the number of complete exclusion. In Deu 23:3, therefore, "for ever" is added. The reason is the same as in the case of mutilated persons, namely, their springing from a connection opposed to the divine order of the creation.

Deu 23:3-8

Also no Ammonite or Moabite was to be received, not even in the tenth generation; not, however, because their forefathers were begotten in incest (Gen 19:30.), as Knobel supposes, but on account of the hostility they had manifested to the establishment of the kingdom of God. Not only had they failed to give Israel a hospitable reception on its journey (see at Deu 2:29), but they (viz., the king of the Moabites) had even hired Balaam to curse Israel. In this way they had brought upon themselves the curse which falls upon all those who curse Israel, according to the infallible word of God (Gen 12:3), the truth of which even Balaam was obliged to attest in the presence of Balak (Num 24:9); although out of love to Israel the Lord turned the curse of Balaam into a blessing (cf. Num 22-24). For this reason Israel was never to seek their welfare and prosperity, i.e., to make this an object of its care ("to seek," as in Jer 29:7); not indeed from personal hatred, for the purpose of repaying evil with evil, since this neither induced Moses to publish the prohibition, nor instigated Ezra when he put the law in force, by compelling the separation of all Ammonitish, Moabitish, and Canaanitish wives from the newly established congregation in Jerusalem (Ezr 9:12). How far Moses was from being influenced by such motives of personal or national revenge is evident, apart from the prohibition in Deu 2:9 and Deu 2:19 against making war upon the Moabites and Ammonites, from the command which follows in Deu 23:8 and Deu 23:9 with reference to the Edomites and Egyptians. These nations had also manifested hostility to the Israelites. Edom had come against them when they desired to march peaceably through his land (Num 20:18.), and the Pharaohs of Egypt had heavily oppressed them. Nevertheless, Israel as to keep the bond of kindred sacred ("he is thy brother"), and not to forget in the case of the Egyptians the benefits derived from their sojourn in their land. Their children might come into the congregation of the Lord in the third generation, i.e., the great-grandchildren of Edomites of Egyptians, who had lived as strangers in Israel (see at Exo 20:5). Such persons might be incorporated into the covenant nation by circumcision.

Deuteronomy 23:9

deu 23:9

Preservation of the Purity of the Camp in Time of War. - The bodily appearance of the people was also to correspond to the sacredness of Israel as the congregation of the Lord, especially when they gathered in hosts around their God. "When thou marchest out as a camp against thine enemies, beware of every evil thing." What is meant by an "evil thing" is stated in Deu 23:10-13, viz., uncleanness, and uncleanliness of the body.

Deu 23:10-11

The person who had become unclean through a nightly occurrence, was to go out of the camp and remain there till he had cleansed himself in the evening. On the journey through the desert, none but those who were affected with uncleanness of a longer duration were to be removed from the camp (Num 5:2) but when they were encamped, this law was to apply to even lighter defilements.

Deu 23:12-13

The camp of war was also not to be defiled with the dirt of excrements. Outside the camp there was to be a space or place (יד, as in Num 2:17) for the necessities of nature, and among their implements they were to have a spade, with which they were to dig when they sat down, and then cover it up again. יתד, generally a plug, here a tool for sticking in, i.e., for digging into the ground.

Deu 23:14

For the camp was to be (to be kept) holy, because Jehovah walked in the midst of it, in order that He might not see "nakedness of a thing," i.e., anything to be ashamed of (see at Deu 24:1) in the people, "and turn away from thee." There was nothing shameful in the excrement itself; but the want of reverence, which the people would display through not removing it, would offend the Lord and drive Him out of the camp of Israel.

Deuteronomy 23:15

deu 23:15

Toleration and Non-Toleration in the Congregation of the Lord. - Deu 23:15, Deu 23:16. A slave who had escaped from his master to Israel was not to be given up, but to be allowed to dwell in the land, wherever he might choose, and not to be oppressed. The reference is to a slave who had fled to them from a foreign country, on account of the harsh treatment which he had received from his heathen master. The plural `adoniym denotes the rule.

Deuteronomy 23:17

deu 23:17

On the other hand, male and female prostitutes of Israelitish descent were not to be tolerated; i.e., it was not to be allowed, that either a male or female among the Israelites should give himself up to prostitution as an act of religious worship. The exclusion of foreign prostitutes was involved in the command to root out the Canaanites. קדּשׁ and קדשׁה were persons who prostituted themselves in the worship of the Canaanitish Astarte (see at Gen 38:21). - "The wages of a prostitute and the money of dogs shall not come into the house of the Lord on account of (ל, for the more remote cause, Ewald, 217) any vow; for even both these (viz., even the prostitute and dog, not merely their dishonourable gains) are abomination unto the Lord thy God." "The hire of a whore" is what the kedeshah was paid for giving herself up. "The price of a dog" is not the price paid for the sale of a dog (Bochart, Spencer, Iken, Baumgarten, etc.), but is a figurative expression used to denote the gains of the kadesh, who was called κίναιδος by the Greeks, and received his name from the dog-like manner in which the male kadesh debased himself (see Rev 22:15, where the unclean are distinctly called "dogs").

Deuteronomy 23:19

deu 23:19

Different Theocratic Rights of Citizenship. - Deu 23:19, Deu 23:20. Of his brother (i.e., his countryman), the Israelite was not to take interest for money, food, or anything else that he lent to him; but only of strangers (non-Israelites: cf. Exo 22:24 and Lev 25:36-37).

Deuteronomy 23:21

deu 23:21

Vows vowed to the Lord were to be fulfilled without delay; but omitting to vow was not a sin. (On vows themselves, see at Lev and Num 30:2.) נדבה is an accusative defining the meaning more fully: in free will, spontaneously.

Deuteronomy 23:24

deu 23:24

In the vineyard and cornfield of a neighbour they might eat at pleasure to still their hunger, but they were not to put anything into a vessel, or swing a sickle upon another's corn, that is to say, carry away any store of grapes or ears of corn. כּנפשׁך, according to thy desire, or appetite (cf. Deu 14:26). "Pluck the ears:" cf. Mat 12:1; Luk 6:1. - The right of hungry persons, when passing through a field, to pluck ears of corn, and rub out the grains and eat, is still recognised among the Arabs (vid., Rob. Pal. ii. 192).

Next: Deuteronomy Chapter 24