Deuteronomy 23 has a collection of instructions. Let’s review after you read the chapter. Read through, you may be surprised by how much is relevant today to our lives.
Persons Excluded from the Assembly
1“No one who is emasculated or has his male organ cut off shall enter the assembly of the LORD. 2“No one of illegitimate birth shall enter the assembly of the LORD; none of his descendants, even to the tenth generation, shall enter the assembly of the LORD. 3“No Ammonite or Moabite shall enter the assembly of the LORD; none of their descendants, even to the tenth generation, shall ever enter the assembly of the LORD, 4because they did not meet you with food and water on the way when you came out of Egypt, and because they hired against you Balaam the son of Beor from Pethor of Mesopotamia, to curse you. 5“Nevertheless, the LORD your God was not willing to listen to Balaam, but the LORD your God turned the curse into a blessing for you because the LORD your God loves you. 6“You shall never seek their peace or their prosperity all your days.
7“You shall not detest an Edomite, for he is your brother; you shall not detest an Egyptian, because you were an alien in his land. 8“The sons of the third generation who are born to them may enter the assembly of the LORD.
9“When you go out as an army against your enemies, you shall keep yourself from every evil thing.
10“If there is among you any man who is unclean because of a nocturnal emission, then he must go outside the camp; he may not reenter the camp. 11“But it shall be when evening approaches, he shall bathe himself with water, and at sundown he may reenter the camp.
12“You shall also have a place outside the camp and go out there, 13and you shall have a spade among your tools, and it shall be when you sit down outside, you shall dig with it and shall turn to cover up your excrement. 14“Since the LORD your God walks in the midst of your camp to deliver you and to defeat your enemies before you, therefore your camp must be holy; and He must not see anything indecent among you or He will turn away from you.
15“You shall not hand over to his master a slave who has escaped from his master to you. 16“He shall live with you in your midst, in the place which he shall choose in one of your towns where it pleases him; you shall not mistreat him.
17“None of the daughters of Israel shall be a cult prostitute, nor shall any of the sons of Israel be a cult prostitute. 18“You shall not bring the hire of a harlot or the wages of a dog into the house of the LORD your God for any votive offering, for both of these are an abomination to the LORD your God.
19“You shall not charge interest to your countrymen: interest on money, food, or anything that may be loaned at interest. 20“You may charge interest to a foreigner, but to your countrymen you shall not charge interest, so that the LORD your God may bless you in all that you undertake in the land which you are about to enter to possess.
21“When you make a vow to the LORD your God, you shall not delay to pay it, for it would be sin in you, and the LORD your God will surely require it of you. 22“However, if you refrain from vowing, it would not be sin in you. 23“You shall be careful to perform what goes out from your lips, just as you have voluntarily vowed to the LORD your God, what you have promised.
24“When you enter your neighbor’s vineyard, then you may eat grapes until you are fully satisfied, but you shall not put any in your basket.
25“When you enter your neighbor’s standing grain, then you may pluck the heads with your hand, but you shall not wield a sickle in your neighbor’s standing grain.
Doubtless, this is another passage which seems strange to us in our culture and time today. It may stir up some questions for those who wish to dig below the surface meaning. If we at first do not understand, remember who YHWH is and that He is holy and just. Start with that and we realize that if parts of this are troubling, we should study more to fully understand the context of the times when it was written. I am not an expert in these matters to be sure. My surface thoughts are as follows:
- First, I ask myself what it means to be excluded from the assembly of the Lord. There are different views and I am not sure which is right. Does it mean excluded from the worship gathering? excluded from marriage? excluded from temple service? excluded from leadership? I am not sure which is right. Worthy of study for those who want to find out more.
- Other nations would at times make eunuchs to serve in a palace or temple. Such a disfigurement is not pleasing to the Lord. I do not believe this was intended to punish victims but rather to prevent doing this to God’s people.
- It may seem harsh to exclude illegitimate children. However, this puts more emphasis on families following YHWH’s instructions and being holy. I believe the intent is to deter people from having illegitimate children, rather than intending to punish the children. It was not something to be normalized and accepted. Depending on the meaning of forbidden from the assembly of the Lord, this could also simply mean that they were not to be working in the temple, which is set apart and holy.
- Amonites and Moabites were held accountable in memory of the sins of their people against Israel. We as a nation may face similar consequences for rebellion against the Lord. Though not all of us may rebel or reject Him, we may all face certain consequences together as one people.
- The people were then specifically told not to hate the Edomites and Egyptians. Interesting to note that YHWH never makes an equivalence of all people groups as equally righteous and valued. Those who rebel and fight against YHWH and His people are not to be accepted. Others, are specifically called out to not be hated. Our culture today must surely think this odd as many try to say that “all cultures and all nations” are to be respected and accepted as they are equally, with none better than the rest. YHWH seems to indicate differently.
- There are certain behaviors that make us unclean. Rather than trying to excuse it and reject it, try to understand what and why and try to avoid them. If we become unclean, take time to seek to be cleansed. Spend that time with the Lord in prayer. Seek forgiveness.
- YHWH takes the term “walking among us” seriously. He intends for us to keep our “camp” (or our home) clean with no indecent thing among us. Think about your home today. Are there indecent things among you? It may be idols. It may be pornography. It may be inappropriate clothing. It may simply even be television programs and music that is indecent. Cleanse your home and let nothing indecent be among you so that the Lord may walk among you.
- Be kind to an escaped slave. Do not return them to their owner. Let them live among you. This is very gracious, in particular in a time when it was written when slavery was more common. I could also derive perhaps that we are to help those escaping difficult circumstances and not treat them badly. Rather help them to get free, even if it is from abuse or addiction. Note it does not say let entire nations and tribes of foreigners come into your midst (e.g. open borders). Rather it is focused on helping individuals, which could be assimilated and helped more effectively in smaller numbers.
- Prostitution is wrong. YHWH does not even want money from such objectionable and offensive behavior. He wants no part of it. I hypothesize also that He does not want any part of many other objectionable behaviors even if they bring profit… perhaps drugs, human slavery, abortion, and many more.
- As a follower of YHWH, we are not to loan to other believers for interest. If we loan it is to help them, not make money off them by increasing the cost burden to them by adding interest.
- You are not required to make vows to YHWH, but if you do… take it seriously and do not delay in fulfilling it. Better not to make a vow than to make one and not fulfill it. Further, you can ask YHWH to help you without making a vow.
- We also see more guidance in reference to grain and grapes. We can share from our neighbors hospitality, but do not become greedy and become a burden by taking more than you should.
I for one am always surprised when I try to reflect on passages like this one. My first reaction is that none of it applies and I can “skip” it or read quickly. After prayer and a serious attempt to understand, even without lengthy, detailed study, I am amazed how relevant this guidance still remains for our lives.
May the grace and peace of our Lord, Yeshua, be with you.
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