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Calvin's Commentaries, Vol. 4: Harmony of the Law, Part II, tr. by John King, [1847-50], at

Deuteronomy 23

Deuteronomy 23:3-8

3. An Ammonite or Moabite shall not enter into the congregation of the LORD; even to their tenth generation shall they not enter into the congregation of the LORD for ever:

3. Non ingredietur Ammonita et Moabita congregationem Jehovae: etiam generatione decima non ingredietur congregationem Jehovae usque in saeculum.

4. Because they met you not with bread and with water in the way, when ye came forth out of Egypt; and because they hired against thee Balaam the son of Beor of Pethor of Mesopotamia, to curse thee.

4. Eo quod non exceperint vos cum pane et aqua in via, posteaquam egressi estis ex Aegypto, et quod mercede conduxerit adversum te Bileam filium Beor de Pethor e Mesopotamia Syriae, ut malediceret tibi.

5. Nevertheless the LORD thy God would not hearken unto Balaam; but the LORD thy God turned the curse into a blessing unto thee, because the LORD thy God loved thee.

5. Sed noluit Jehova Deus tuus audire Bileam, et convertit Jehova Deus tuus tibi maledictionem in benedictionem, quod diligeret to Jehova Deus tuus.

6. Thou shalt not seek their peace nor their prosperity all thy days for ever.

6. Non quaeres pacem eorum et bonum eorum cunctis diebus tuis, in saeculum.

7. Thou shalt not abhor an Edomite; for he is thy brother: thou shalt not abhor an Egyptian; because thou wast a stranger in his land.

7. Non abominaberis Edoaemum, quia frater tuus est: non abominaberis Aegyptium, quia peregrinus fuisti in terra ejus.

8. The children that are begotten of them shall enter into the congregation of the LORD in their third generation.

8. filii qui nascentur eis generatione tertia ingredientur congregationem Jehovae.


3. An Ammonite or Moabite shall not enter. As God has lately prohibited His people from all connection and alliance with the Canaanitish nations, so He now distinguishes between the aliens, and shews upon what conditions, and whom they might admit (into the Church.  305 ) The Moabites and Ammonites He altogether rejects; because they not only refused the common rites of humanity to the people, but also took arms against them, and even hired Balaam to curse them. They were the descendants of Lot, and ought to have embraced the children of Abraham as brethren. It was, then, inexcusable barbarity in them to make a violent attack upon those who had voluntarily offered them peace; who had promised by their messengers that they would make their way without injury or wrong; and who finally had besought that a passage might be granted them, provided they honestly paid the price of bread and water; although doubtless God took vengeance rather on their impiety than their cruelty, since they had not only endeavored to make His goodness of none effect, but also to annihilate His faithfulness. Since, therefore, it was not their fault that the Church did not perish, and the effect of His promise fail, whereon the salvation of man was based, and this they had done knowingly and wilfully, no wonder that they were excluded from the Church.

4. And because he hired.  306 Although there was a common reason why both nations should not be admitted, yet the number of the verb seems to be changed designedly, because Balac king of Moab hired Balaam; yet, inasmuch as they conspired together, the same crime is justly imputed to the Ammonites. Herein indeed their detestable impiety especially betrayed itself, that by hiring a mercenary man, to launch the thunders of his curse against the people, they sought to overwhelm God by magical incantations. Nor did they err through ignorance, since they obstinately persevered in their madness until Balaam was confounded from heaven. And on this ground it is expressly stated that he was not “hearkend unto,” but that rather his curses and prayers were “turned into a blessing.” Hence it appears how awful is the vengeance which awaits all who of deliberate malice oppose God’s grace and the welfare of the Church. Thus now-a-days no stone is left unturned by the defenders of the Papacy, whereby they may disturb the course of heavenly doctrine, nay, whereby they may altogether silence the Gospel if they could.

Since another reason for this rejection is plainly signified, it is foolish in some to attribute this sentence upon them to their origin, as if the Ammonites and Moabites were excluded from the Church because they sprang from an incestuous connection.

7. Thou shalt not abhor an Edomite. In order that the punishment denounced against the Moabites and Ammonites should be more strongly marked, he commands the Edomites and Egyptians to be admitted in the third generation; the former, because they derived their origin from the same ancestor, Isaac, since they were the descendants of Esau; the latter, because they had been their hosts. For hence it was manifest that the Ammonites and Moabites had been dis-honored on account of their guilt, when not even aliens were thus dealt with. Now, although Esau had cut himself off from the prerogative of believers, yet the door was again opened to his children, provided they returned to their source and origin, and in the humility of faith admitted the primogeniture of Jacob, who had been chosen when their father was passed by or degraded. But what is meant by this inequality of punishment, when the crime was identical? for Edom appeared in arms against Israel before Moab, and compelled them to take their journey by another way. It did not contend with hired imprecations for Israel’s destruction, but since, when humbly entreated on the score of their old relationship, it had not only refused them a passage, but had advanced against them with a great army, it should have been dealt with no less severity than Amalek or Ammon. Besides, being connected to them by a closer of blood, the Edomites were less excusable in their hostility. I find, then, no reason why God shewed greater clemency to them than the others whom He treated more severely; except that He wished to shew that it depends on His own will to chastise more lightly in some the same sins on which He takes more severe vengeance in others; and, inasmuch as all are deserving of utter destruction, He justly retains in His own hand the free right of sparing whom He will. We must here adore His judgments, into the depths of which we cannot penetrate. Nor is this inequality a ground for the noisy cavils of the ungodly, as if He were inconsistent with Himself, and acted in contradiction to the rules of His Law; since in so doing He does not judge in diverse ways, but, condemning all alike, indulges whom He pleases, or remits a part of their punishment. A question may also arise as to the Egyptians, why God lays His people under an obligation to them, because they sojourned in their land. For it was barbarous and inhospitable cruelty in them to oppress the wretched fugitives who had trusted to their good faith. But God here refers to their first reception; as in Isa 52:4, where, comparing the Egyptians with the Assyrians, He says that the latter oppressed them like robbers, whilst the former had ruled over them not without a cause, because the people had gone down thither of their own accord. Although, therefore, the Israelites had been unworthily oppressed by their fierce tyranny, still God would have their old kindness acknowledged; since their dearth and famine had been relieved, and the refugees were kindly received, when the inhabitants of Canaan were perishing of hunger.



Added from Fr.


A. V. “They hired.” Malvenda in Poole’s Syn. “Hebrews et conduxit, nempe Moabita.” Ainsworth’s translation is, “because that they met you, etc., — and he hired, etc."

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