New European Commentary


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Deeper Commentary

Deu 23:1

He who is wounded in the testicles, or has his privy member cut off, must not enter into the assembly of Yahweh-
Perhaps the point is that all those who are the Lord’s people must recognize their ability to procreate for Him, in the bringing forth of yet others in their Lord’s image. Males who could not procreate were barred from the congregation, possibly in prototype of how spiritual procreation was to be a vital characteristic of the future Israel. To bring forth spiritual children in the course of our life before God is expected of us. Israel were seen by the Lord as the tree by the roadside (Mt. 21:19), whose fruit should have been for all that passed by (Dt. 23:24). But because there was not even the glimmer of this kind of giving of fruit, they were condemned by the Lord.

Deu 23:2

An illegitimate person must not enter into the assembly of Yahweh; even to the tenth generation shall none of his enter into the assembly of Yahweh-

Deu 23:3

An Ammonite or a Moabite must not enter into the assembly of Yahweh; even to the tenth generation shall none belonging to them enter into the assembly of Yahweh forever-

Deu 23:4

This is because they didn’t meet you with bread and water in the way, when you came forth out of Egypt, and because they hired against you Balaam the son of Beor from Pethor of Mesopotamia, to curse you-

Deu 23:5

Nevertheless Yahweh your God wouldn’t listen to Balaam, but Yahweh your God turned the curse into a blessing to you, because Yahweh your God loved you-

Deu 23:6

You shall not seek their peace or their prosperity all your days forever-

Deu 23:7

You must not abhor an Edomite, for he is your brother. You must not abhor an Egyptian, because you lived as a foreigner in his land-

Deu 23:8

The children of the third generation who are born to them may enter into the assembly of Yahweh-

Deu 23:9

When you go forth to camp against your enemies, you must keep yourselves from every evil thing-

Deu 23:10

If there is among you any man who is not clean by reason of that which happens to him by night, he must go outside the camp. He shall not come within the camp-
We must be aware that starting in :9, we have here commands specifically relevant to Israel's military; "the camp" is the "camp against your enemies" of :9, referring to "camp" in a specifically military sense. The idea could appear to be that if a man needed to defecate, then he was to do so outside of the camp of soldiers. Having latrines outside the camp would have ensured hygiene within the "camp". But it seems that defecating is what is in view in :12. Therefore this specifically night time reason for uncleanness must refer to an involuntary emission of semen. Hence the reference to what "happens to him at night". Nobody apart from the soldier knew what had happened. Many of the Mosaic commands invited obedience from men on a very personal and intimate level; for nobody else apart from the soldier would have known whether or not this had happened. This was all designed to inculcate very personal obedience to and relationship with God. See on Ps. 119:55,56.

Deu 23:11

but when evening comes on he must bathe in water, and when the sun is down he shall come within the camp-
To have soldiers needing to remain ritually unclean outside the main camp of soldiers was not perhaps seen as the most effective use of soldiers in a conflict situation, where every man was required. But they were taught thereby that victory was not going to come in their own strength, but through obedience to God's ways. We likewise are tempted to think that careful obedience to God's commands will hinder our material progress in life. But the opposite is in fact true, and this commandment taught that.  

Deu 23:12

You must have a place also outside the camp where you shall go to relieve yourself-
This unclean place "outside the camp" is alluded to in Heb. 13:12,13: "Jesus also, that he might sanctify the people through his own blood, suffered outside of the gate. Let us therefore go to him outside the camp, bearing his reproach". The place of crucifixion is likened to the place of "reproach", outside the camp, just as Jesus died outside the city walls of Jerusalem in an unclean place, Golgotha. His death was the climax of a life lived in careful attention to the most intimate requirements of God's laws, as discussed on :10. And we are to unashamedly "go forth" to Him there.

Deu 23:13

and you must have a trowel among your weapons, and when you relieve yourself you must dig with it and turn back and cover that which comes from you-

A theme of Deuteronomy is the way in which Moses visualizes commonplace daily incidents which he could foresee occurring in Israel's daily life: the man cutting down the tree and the axe head flying off and hitting someone; finding a dead body in a lonely field; coming across a stray animal on the way home from work; a man with two wives treating one as his favourite; seeing your neighbour struggling to lift up his sick animal; coming across a bird's nest and being tempted to take the mature bird as well as the chicks home for supper; being tempted not to bother building a battlement around the flat roof of your  new house; the temptation to take a bag with you and fill it up with your neighbour's grapes; the need to have weapons which could be used for covering excrement (Dt. 19:5; 21:1,15; 22:1,2,4,6,8; 23:13,24,25; 24:5,6,10,15,19; 25:11,13). The sensitivity of Moses was just fantastic! His eager imagination of His people in daily life, his understanding of their everyday temptations so superbly typifies that of our Lord! 


Deu 23:14

for Yahweh your God walks in the midst of your camp to deliver you and to give up your enemies before you, therefore your camp must be holy so that He may not see an unclean thing in you and turn away from you-
In prospect all Israel's battles with the inhabitants of Canaan had been won by the Angels, and it was for them to live in a suitable way and to display enough faith to enable them to make use of these victories. "The LORD thy God (the Angel) walketh in the midst of thy camp (a phrase used by the Angel earlier and then repented of- "I will not go up in the midst of thee") 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" (Deut 23:14).

Heb. "from following after you". This recalls how the Angel [who was perhaps dwelling over the ark in the shekinah glory] "went behind" [s.w. "followed"] at the exodus (Ex. 14:19), and "followed them" at the crossing of Jordan and conquest of Jericho (Josh. 6:8 s.w.). The word is also used in Dt. 23:14, where Israel are warned that if they are unclean, then Yahweh will no longer follow them. They of course were bidden follow Him, but He is also presented as following them. And thus God's people hear His voice behind them, urging them to choose the right path (s.w. Is. 30:21); for He is not only their vanguard, but also their rear guard following them (Is. 52:12; 58:8). This indicates not only the mutuality between God and His people; but the sense that we are both following and being followed by Him, as it were sandwiched by His presence.      
Deu 23:15

You must not deliver to his master a servant who has escaped from his master to you-
This was to remind them how they were escaped slaves. God wanted them to continually remember the way He had saved them (see too :7), and His law was designed to repeatedly prod their conscience about this in daily life. He wants us to live today in constant awareness of our salvation.

Deu 23:16

He shall dwell with you, in the midst of you in the place which he shall choose within one of your gates, where it pleases him best. You must not oppress him-

Deu 23:17

There must be no prostitute of the daughters of Israel. Neither should there be a sodomite of the sons of Israel-

Deu 23:18

You must not bring the hire of a prostitute or of a male prostitute into the house of Yahweh your God for any vow, for both of these are an abomination to Yahweh your God-
Prostitution was forbidden under the Law (:17), but this is another tacit recognition made by Moses that such failure would still occur. We see here how Moses forbad something and then went on to give legislation recognizing that it would still occur.

Deu 23:19

You must not lend on interest to your brother, interest of money, of food or of anything that is lent-
Israel were not to lend to their poor brother upon usury (Ex. 22:25; Lev. 25:37); but now in the ‘second law’ [Deuteronomy] Moses forbids them to do this to any Israelite (Dt. 23:19). 

Deu 23:20

To a foreigner you may lend on interest, but to your brother you shall not lend on interest, so that Yahweh your God may bless you in all that you put your hand to in the land where you go in to possess it-
Christ in His parable told the rejected man that he should at least have given His money to others on usury (Mt. 25:27). He may have meant that the man should at least have done something even if he broke the letter of the law; or He may have meant that if the man had at least shared the Gospel with the Gentiles and got some fruit for Christ, all his other lack of achievement would’ve been overlooked.

"Drive out" is s.w. "possess". We must note the difference between the  Canaanite peoples and their kings being "struck" and their land "taken" by Joshua-Jesus; and the people of Israel permanently taking possession. This is the difference between the Lord's victory on the cross, and our taking possession of the Kingdom. Even though that possession has been "given" to us. The word used for "possession" is literally 'an inheritance'. The allusion is to the people, like us, being the seed of Abraham. The Kingdom was and is our possession, our inheritance- if we walk in the steps of Abraham. But it is one thing to be the seed of Abraham, another to take possession of the inheritance; and Israel generally did not take possession of all the land (Josh. 11:23 13:1; 16:10; 18:3; 23:4). The language of inheritance / possession is applied to us in the New Testament (Eph. 1:11,14; Col. 3:24; Acts 20:32; 26:18; 1 Pet. 1:4 etc.). Israel were promised: "You shall possess it" (Dt. 30:5; 33:23). This was more of a command than a prophecy, for sadly they were "given" the land but did not "possess" it. They were constantly encouraged in the wilderness that they were on the path to possessing the land (Dt. 30:16,18; 31:3,13; 32:47), but when they got there they didn't possess it fully.

Deu 23:21

When you make a vow to Yahweh your God you must not be slack to pay it, for Yahweh your God will surely require it of you and it would be sin upon you-

Deu 23:22

But if you forbear to vow, that will be no sin upon you-

Deu 23:23 That which has gone out of your lips you must observe and do, according as you have vowed to Yahweh your God, as a freewill offering which you have promised with your mouth-

Deu 23:24 When you come into your neighbour’s vineyard you may eat your fill of grapes at your own pleasure, but you must not put any in your vessel-
Israel were seen by the Lord as the tree by the roadside (Mt. 21:19), whose fruit should have been for all that passed by (Dt. 23:24). But because there was not even the glimmer of this kind of giving of fruit, they were condemned by the Lord.

Deu 23:25 When you come into your neighbour’s standing grain you may pluck the ears with your hand, but you shall not move a sickle to your neighbour’s standing grain