Deuteronomy 23






      (vs. 1-8)


   Five Classes of Persons Excluded from the Congregation of the Lord


1 “He that is wounded in the stones, or hath his privy member cut off,

shall not enter into the congregation of the LORD.”  Mutilation was performed

by the two methods here specified — crushing and excision. The exclusion

of persons who had suffered this from the congregation, i.e. from the covenant

fellowship of Israel, the πολιτεία τοῦ Ισραὴλpoliteia tou Israel

commonwealth of Israel - (Ephesians 2:12), was due to the priestly character of

the nation. Israel was a kingdom of priests (Exodus 19:6), and the

admission into it of one in whom the nature of man, as made by God, had

been degraded and marred, would have been unfitting; just as all bodily

blemish unfitted a man for being a priest, though otherwise qualified

(Leviticus 21:16-24). This law, however, was one of the ordinances

intended for the period of nonage; it had reference to the outward typical

aspect of the Israelitish constitution; and it ceased to have any significance

when the spiritual kingdom of God came to be established. Even under the

theocracy, eunuchs were not excluded from religious privileges; they could

keep God’s Sabbaths, and take hold of His covenant, and choose the things

pleasing to Him, and so be part of the spiritual Israel, though shut out from

the fellowship of that which was outward and national (compare Isaiah 56:4-5).


2 “A bastard” -  one born of a harlot; so the Hebrew word (מָמְזֶר),

which occurs only here and in Zechariah 9:6, is said to mean; Septuagint,

ἐκ πόρνης - ek pornaesharlot; whore - Vulgate, de scorto natus; the

Talmud and the rabbins represent the word as denoting one begotten in

adultery or incest (Maimon., ‘Issure Biah.,’ c. 15. §§ 1, 2, 7, 9); so also the

Syriac bar game, “son of adultery” - “shall not enter into the congregation

of the LORD; even to his tenth generation” –  i.e. forever, ten being the

number of indefiniteness (compare Genesis 31:7; Numbers 14:22; Job 19:3;

Psalm 3:6) - “shall he not enter into the congregation of the LORD.”


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:  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. 

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.’  As Ammon and Moab had met the Israelites with hostility,

and had brought Balaam to curse them, a curse had thereby been brought upon

themselves, and they also were to be forever excluded from the congregation of



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

ever.”  Israel was not to seek, i.e. care for and use means to promote, the welfare

of these nations. Individuals, however, of these nations might be naturalized in

Israel, and as proselytes enter the congregation, as the case of Ruth proves. It was

against the nations, as such, that this ban was directed, and this ban they had

brought on themselves by choosing to be enemies of Israel when they might

have been friends and allies.


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.

8  The children that are begotten of them shall enter into the

congregation of the LORD in their third generation.”  It was to be otherwise

with the Edomite and the Egyptian; though the former had refused permission

to the Israelites to pass through their land, and the latter had oppressed and

wronged the nation, yet as the former were connected with Israel by a bond

of kindred — for he is thy brother — and the latter had received Israel to

sojourn in their land, where, notwithstanding the oppression which clouded

the later times of their sojourn, they had reaped many benefits, they were not

to abhor these nations or place them under a ban of perpetual exclusion;

descendants in the third generation of an Edomite or Egyptian might be

naturalized in Israel.



Stern Safeguards Sometimes Needed (vs. 1-8)


It was no small part of the education of the Hebrew people at once to stamp as

disreputable the practices of bodily mutilation which were common enough among

heathen nations. The honor of the congregation of the Lord was bound up in its

freedom from complicity therewith. Eunuchs and illegitimate offspring were

excluded from the congregation of the Lord, lest the moral virus connected with

the associations of their life should be as POISON IN THE CAMP!  Hence this

shield against its poisonous influence is to be preserved down “to the tenth

generation,” both as a brand on former sin and as a guard against future evil.

Sentence of exclusion is also passed on the Ammonites and Moabites (see Genesis

19:36-38). The stain on the origin of these races is grievous. And the new

generations had, by their hostility to the people of God, and because of

their superstitious arts, shown that naught but peril could attend their

admission, for a long time to come. To seek “their peace and prosperity”

would have been an increase of peril, as well as a connivance at wrong.

Hence it was forbidden (v. 6). That this, and not the cultivation of

needless hostility or revenge, was intended by these prohibitions is clear

from vs. 7-8. Two extremes are to be avoided. No rancor or grudge is to

be cherished over past ills inflicted, and yet kindliness of feeling is not to be

allowed to degenerate into even apparent friendship with ungodliness and






When the people went forth to war, all impurity and defilement was to be kept

out of their camp.


9  When the host goeth forth” – literally, when thou goest forth as a camp or

host. As in the wilderness the camp was to be kept pure (Numbers 5:2), so also in

the future, when they went out to war, all defilement was to be removed from

their host.against thine enemies, then keep thee from every wicked thing.”

rather, every evil thing, evil in the sense of blemish or uncleanness (compare ch. 17:1).


10 If there be among you any man, that is not clean by reason of uncleanness

that chanceth him by night, then shall he go abroad out of the camp, he shall

not come within the camp:  11 But it shall be, when evening cometh on, he

shall wash himself with water: and when the sun is down, he shall come into

the camp again.  12 Thou shalt have a place also without the camp, whither

thou shalt go forth abroad:”


13  And thou shalt have a paddle upon thy weapon;” - rather, a small spade

(the word properly means a pin or nail) among thy furniture, or, according to

another reading among thy implements or accoutrements; they were to carry with

them along with their implements of war a tool for digging in the earth - “and it

shall be, when thou wilt ease thyself abroad, thou shalt dig therewith, and

shalt turn back and cover that which cometh from thee:”


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:”

The camp was to be kept holy, because God went forth with their armies, and in

His presence there must be nothing that defileth or is unclean - “that He see no

unclean thing in thee,” -  literally, nakedness, shamefulness of a thing, i.e.

anything that one would be ashamed of -  “and turn away from thee.”


J. Vernon McGee in his comments on this passage in his Walk Thru the Bible



“God is interested in sanitation. Wherever Christianity has gone, there has been an improvement

in sanitary conditions.  We hear so much about pollution today. Who polluted this universe?

Certainly, it was not God who did it. He gave us clean streams, clean air, clean water. It is sin,

sinful man, who pollutes this earth today. If men would follow the rules which God has given,

this earth would be a sanitary place.  God is interested in cleanliness. I think it was Webster who

said that cleanliness is next to godliness. I think it is even closer than that—I would classify

cleanliness as a part of godliness. God wants us clean in body, clean in environment, clean in

thought, clean in action. We are to be a holy people in this world today. Say, this book is very

practical, is it not?”



Cleanliness a Religious Duty (vs. 9-14)


The Law of Moses may be regarded as fourfold — moral, ritual, civil, and

sanitary. The precepts in this paragraph are an example of the last-named

part thereof. They refer to the inculcation of cleanliness, both in camp and

in person. And not only so, but to the observance thereof in time of war.

While, perhaps, at such times special evils would result from the neglect of

such regulations, yet, on the other hand, it would be precisely when

movements were irregular, uncertain, and attended with much excitement,

that there would be the strongest tendency to fail in their observance. But

no amount of war-pressure would be any excuse for uncleanliness. We get

here, moreover, an illustration of that which so often occurs in the Law of

Moses, viz. that duties of the lowest, humblest, and most common order

are urged on the people by the highest and noblest sanctions; and many a

teacher may find reason for urging to cleanliness of habit from such a text

as v. 14, “The Lord thy God walketh in the midst of thy camp... therefore

shall thy camp be holy.” The precise application of the text must, of course,

vary with locality and circumstance; but the principle of it includes the



  • The presence of the Lord God is EVERYWHERE!
  • He is in the “camp” of His people as a special light and guard.
  • Hence every such home may be regarded as a temple of God, the palace

of the Great King.

  • In such homes the most menial acts may be acts of service done for God;

common work may be dignified by great motives.

  • It will be regarded by a wise Christian man as a part of his duty which is

by no means to be neglected, to maintain order and unsullied cleanliness in

person and home. This will be part of his life-worship — the living

translation of “laborare est orare – to work is to pray.” This duty needs

special enforcement in some quarters. Many a humble Christian cottager

elevates his home and all therein, by having it so beautifully clean that,

on every piece of furniture, on every wall, on every floor, it seems as if

the words were graven, “HOLINESS TO THE LORD!”



A Pure Camp for a Pure King (vs. 9-14)


After insisting on purity giving power in war (v. 9), and giving direction to men

about putting away uncleanness which may be due to natural causes, Moses urges

the precaution, because the All-seeing One walketh through the camp, the

Inspector of all their ways (v. 14). The directions here given might have been urged

on sanitary grounds, but Moses puts them deliberately upon religious. For the

experience among Orientals and Occidentals is that something more than sanitary

reasons is needed to overcome man’s indolence and keep him clean.



GODLINESS. In the proverb it is said to be next to godliness; but here

Moses makes it a part of godliness. Religion comes to the aid of science,

and helps by its sanctions the wise regulations suggested by science.

Witness how painfully slow remedial and sanitary measures are in getting

adopted. It would be well if religion could aid the civil power in making

sanitation a sacred thing in the eyes of the people.  The religion of Christ

lays hold of body as well as soul, and urges amens sana in corpore sago -

(a sound mind in a healthy body), and promises the perfection of its idea

in a bodily resurrection. There is, consequently, a physical side to our

religion, which should find expression in the consecration of cleanliness,

and divers washings, and food and drink; all that religion may be a more

manly and efficient thing. We believe thoroughly in the religious duty of

denouncing dirt.



GOD. “Thou God seest me” (Genesis 16:13) is the watchword of religion.

When all our life is brought under His eye, when we believe that the

commonest and most trivial things are not beneath His notice, when we

desire to hide nothing from Him by night or by day, — then the light of

His pure being illumines and regulates all, and the highest purity is reached.

“Muscular Christianity” is a good idea, if by it we mean that Christianity

has a physical as well ,as spiritual sphere. No efforts of our own, muscular

or otherwise, will ever save us; but, being saved by Divine grace, our whole

being, muscles and all, is at God’s service. Religion in everything is the sense

of God all through, and this should be our aim.


  • GOD IS THE CAPTAIN ONLY OF THE PURE. A holy camp is the

preliminary to God leading Israel successfully against the enemy (v. 14).

The pure in heart see God and follow Him to victory. It is the state of the

camp of Israel, not the state of their enemies, that is all important. If Israel

is impure, it will soon prove impotent. The pure are, in the long run, the

powerful. God is on the side, not of the heaviest, but of the purest

battalions. Really religious men are ultimately, under God, victorious.





15 “Thou shalt not deliver unto his master the servant which is escaped

from his master unto thee:  16  He shall dwell with thee, even among you,

in that place which he shall choose in one of thy gates, where it liketh him

best: thou shalt not oppress him.”  A slave that had escaped from his master

was not to be given up, but allowed to dwell in the land, in whatever part he

might choose. The reference is to a foreign slave who had fled from the harsh

treatment of his master to seek refuge in Israel, as is evident from the

expression, בְאַחַד שְׁעָרֵיך, “in one of thy gates,” i.e. in any part of thy

land. Onkelos, עֲבִד עַמְמִין,a slave of the Gentiles.” His master; the

word used is the plural adonim, masters. The use of this for a human

master or lord is peculiar to the Pentateuch (compare Genesis 24:9, 51; 39:2;

40:1; Exodus 21:4, 6, 32). In this use of the term there is no reference to severity

of rule, as if this were a plural intensive.








17 “There shall be no whore of the daughters of Israel, nor a sodomite of the

sons of Israel.  18 Thou shalt not bring the hire of a whore, or the price of a

dog, into the house of the LORD thy God for any vow: for even both these

are abomination unto the LORD thy God.” Amongst idolatrous nations

prostitution was in certain cases regarded as an act of religious service (Herodotus,

1:199), and both males and females prostituted themselves especially in the worship

of Astarte. All such abominations were to be unknown in Israel (Micah 1:7).

Whore; kedeshah (קְדֵשָׁה), a female who prostituted herself in the worship of an

idol. The price of a dog; not money obtained from the sale of a dog, but the gains

of the kadesh, or male prostitute, here called a dog, as the type of all uncleanness

(compare Revelation 22:15).  (THIS PASSAGE HAS GREAT IMPORTANCE


CY – 2012)





19 “Thou shalt not lend upon usury to thy brother; usury of money,

usury of victuals, usury of any thing that is lent upon usury:

20 Unto a stranger thou mayest lend upon usury; but unto thy brother

thou shalt not lend upon usury: 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.”  An Israelite might lend on interest money, or victuals, or

other property, to a foreigner, but of one of his own people he was not to

take interest for a loan (compare Exodus 22:25; Leviticus 25:36-37).



VOWS (vs. 21-23)



21 “When thou shalt vow a vow unto the LORD thy God, thou shalt

not slack to pay it: for the LORD thy God will surely require it of thee;

and it would be sin in thee.  22 But if thou shalt forbear to vow, it shall

be no sin in thee.”  A vow to the Lord, once made, was to be religiously kept;

the Lord would require it, and to refuse or neglect to pay it would be held

a sin. No one, however, was under any obligation to vow — that was to be

a purely voluntary act.  23 “That which is gone out of thy lips thou shalt

keep and perform; even a freewill  (נְדָבָה, spontaneously) - offering,

according as thou hast vowed unto the LORD thy God, which thou hast

promised with thy mouth.”  (For the law concerning vows in general,

see Leviticus 27, and Numbers 30.)





24 “When thou comest into thy neighbor’s vineyard, then thou mayest

eat grapes thy fill at thine own pleasure but thou shalt not put any

in thy vessel.  25  When thou comest into the standing corn of thy neighbor,

then thou mayest pluck the ears with thine hand; but thou shalt not

move a sickle unto thy neighbor’s standing corn.”  In the vineyard or

cornfield of a neighbor they might eat to appease hunger, but no store of

grapes or of grain might be carried away. At thine own pleasure; literally,

according to thy soul, i.e. desire or appetite (compare ch. 14:26). Pluck the

ears with thine hand (compare Matthew 12:1; Luke 6:1). Among the Arabs

of the present day the right of a hungry person to pluck ears of corn in a

field and eat the grains is still recognized.



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