DEUTERONOMY CHAPTER 23.
Membership in Israel and Some of Its Duties.
SOME RULES CONCERNING MEMBERSHIP. — V.1. He that is wounded in the stones, a man whose testicles are crushed, or hath his privy member cut off, the urethra severed, thus being castrated, shall not enter into the congregation of the Lord. Because the children of Israel were consecrated to Him, the Lord wanted them to possess also bodily perfection. For that reason, men that were thus injured or were eunuchs were not admitted to the full privileges of the congregation of Jehovah, though they were received as proselytes, Acts 8, 27. V.2. A bastard, one born as the result of adultery or incest, one upon whom rests this evil stain of his conception and birth, shall not enter into the congregation of the Lord; even to his tenth generation shall he not enter into the congregation of the Lord. This rule cut him and all his descendants off forever, since the stain resting upon him would be transmitted to the entire congregation, whom the Lord, above all, desired to be holy. V.3. An Ammonite or Moabite, who, as the descendants of Lot, were related to Israel, shall not enter into the congregation of the Lord; even to their tenth generation shall they not enter into the congregation of the Lord forever, v.4. because they met you not with bread and time water in the way when ye came forth out of Egypt, thus violating every custom of hospitality, as it was practiced even by savage tribes, chap. 2, 19. 20, not to speak of the natural affection of kindred, and because they hired against thee Balaam, the son of Beor, of Pethor of Mesopotamia, to curse thee, Num. 22, 5. 6. V.5. Nevertheless the Lord, thy God, would not hearken unto Balaam, would not permit him to carry out his intention of cursing Israel; but the Lord, thy God, turned the curse into a blessing unto thee, because the Lord, thy God, loved thee, as Balaam himself was obliged to admit to Balak, Num. 24, 9. V.6. Thou shalt not seek their peace nor their prosperity, not be concerned about advancing their good fortune, their welfare, all thy days forever. Their treatment of Israel had cut them off from all considerations of kindness, all this being done without the slightest motives of personal revenge, as the following section shows. V.7. Thou shalt not abhor an Edomite, for he is thy brother, and the obligations of brotherhood had not been ignored by them to the extent practiced by the Ammonites and Moabites, chap. 2, 6; thou shalt not abhor an Egyptian because thou wast a stranger in his land; they had received hospitality in Egypt, though they had been oppressed by Pharaoh. V.8. The children that are begotten of them shall enter into the congregation of the Lord in their third generation, that is, the great-grandsons of those who had become proselytes to the religion of Israel. In all these cases, the Lord Himself permitted individual exceptions, as in that of Ruth, Ruth 1, 4, who became an ancestress of Jesus. Cp. also 2 Sam. 10.
PERSONAL CLEANLINESS DURING CAMPAIGNS OF WAR — V.9. When the host, the army of Israel as represented by its camp of soldiers, goeth forth against thine enemies, then keep thee from every wicked thing, namely, from defilement and uncleanness of the body. V.10. If there be among you any man that is not clean by reason of uncleanness that chanceth him by night, Lev. 15, 16, then shall he go abroad out of the camp, he shall not come within the camp, go out and stay out; v.11. but it shall be when evening cometh on, when the day turns toward evening, he shall wash himself with water; and when the sun is down, he shall come into the camp again. V.12. Thou shalt have a place also without the camp whither thou shalt go forth abroad; v.13. and thou shalt have a paddle, a small spade, upon thy weapon, among the accoutrements or instruments of war which belonged to the outfit of every soldier; and it shall be when thou wilt ease thyself abroad, at the designated place, thou shalt dig therewith, and shalt turn back and cover that which cometh from thee, as a measure of sanitary precaution; v.14. for the Lord, thy God, walketh in the midst of thy camp to deliver thee and to give up thine enemies before thee; therefore shall thy camp be holy; that he see no unclean thing in thee and turn away from thee, not as though the easement in itself and the excrement were shameful, but its open presence could not be tolerated without destroying or injuring the reverence for Jehovah. Propriety and decency also in the matters here broached should be observed as a requirement of nature.
VARIOUS DUTIES WITHIN THE CONGREGATION. V.15. Thou shalt not deliver unto his master the servant, the slave, which is escaped from his master unto thee. This rule concerned the case of a slave from one of the heathen nations, who had fled from his master on account of inhuman treatment. V.16. He shall dwell with thee, even among you, in that place which he shall choose in one of thy gates, in any of the cities of Israel, where it liketh him best, he was at liberty to make such changes frequently, until he found a place which suited him in every respect; thou shalt not oppress him, he should be treated as a fellow-dweller in the good land of Jehovah, and there was always chance of his becoming a member of God’s people. V.17. There shall be no whore, a so-called consecrated prostitute, of the daughters of Israel, nor a Sodomite of the sons of Israel, both of whom prostituted their bodies in the service of the Phenician goddess Astarte, a most shameful practice. V.18. Thou shalt not bring the hire of a whore, namely, one engaged in such unnatural excesses, or the price of a dog, what was usually paid to a Sodomite for one service, into the house of the Lord, thy God, for any vow, for the heathen even went to the extent of paying such money, the fruits of their lewdness, to their idols; for even both these are an abomination unto the Lord, thy God, both the gift and the giver. V.19. Thou shalt not lend upon usury to thy brother, take any interest for a necessary loan; usury of money, usury of victuals, usury of anything that is lent upon usury, since this would not agree with the demands of unselfish love. V.20. Unto a stranger thou mayest lend upon usury, perhaps one passing through Israel for purposes of trade; but unto thy brother, a member of the children of Israel, thou shalt not lend upon usury, the peculiar circumstances of the chosen people of God demanding the strictest insistence upon the law of love; that the Lord, thy God, may bless thee in all that thou settest thine hand to in the land whither thou goest to possess it. V.21. When thou shalt vow a vow unto the Lord, thy God, Num. 30, 2, thou shalt not slack to pay it, Lev. 27, 1-13; for the Lord, thy God, will surely require it of thee; and it would be sin in thee, for it was a sacred obligation and demanded payment. V.22. But if thou shalt forbear to vow, it shall be no sin in thee, for it is better not to make a vow than to vow and then not to pay, Eccl. 5, 3. 4. V.23. That which is gone out of thy lips, in the form of a sacred promise to the Lord, thou shalt keep and perform; even a free-will offering, according as thou hast vowed unto the Lord, thy God, which thou hast promised with thy mouth. V.24. When thou comest into thy neighbor’s vineyard, then thou mayest eat grapes thy fill, enough to satisfy the demands of hunger, at thine own pleasure, according to the appetite and desire; but thou shalt not put any in thy vessel, to carry away a supply. V.25. When thou comest into the standing corn of thy neighbor, into the maturing grain, then thou mayest pluck the ears with thine hand, Matt. 12, l; Luke 6, l; but thou shalt not move a sickle, in the act of reaping, unto thy neighbor’s standing corn. It was a privilege granted to the traveler, to the passer-by, who might feel hunger, but it was not to be abused by avaricious neighbors. With Christians the law of love regulates all the affairs of their lives, and they gladly submit to its guidance.