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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-
According to Talmudic writings like Yebamot 78b, Dt. 23:2 was interpreted as meaning that a fatherless man wasn’t allowed to enter the temple or marry a true Israelite. The reference to Jesus as  “son of Mary” (Mk. 6:3) rather than “son of Joseph” is, apparently, very unusual. It reflects the Lord’s lack of social identity in first century Israel; He had no father’s house to belong to. In passing, the jibe in Mt. 27:64 “the last deception shall be worse than the first” is likely a reference to Mary and Jesus claiming that He was the result of a virgin birth- this, as far as the Jews were concerned, was the “first deception”.

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-
This would have applied to Ruth, but so many of these laws of Moses had exceptions to them. It was as if God gave these laws, intending purposefully that the way of grace was to be beyond them. See on Dt. 22:19.

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-
Dt. 2:29 says that the Edomites and Moabites sold Israel food and water as they passed through. But Dt. 23:3,4 says that the Moabites didn't do this and were cursed because of it. Perhaps a few Moabites did do so, but Moab generally didn't. But see note on Dt. 2:29.

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-
Yahweh did not behold iniquity in His people at this time (Num. 23:21). His love was shown in imputing righteousness to them; and as Paul explains in Rom. 1-8, the love of God is articulated through doing this to us too. Dt. 23:5 LXX speaks of Balaam's plural curses being turned into plural blessings, because God refused to listen to Balaam. We learn from this that Balaam wanted to curse Israel [for he so loved the money being offered for doing so], indeed be perhaps began to utter curses, but the Spirit of God overpowered him and made him utter blessings instead. We learn from this that the Spirit of God working upon a person is no guarantee of their personal acceptance with Him. And we marvel at how the love of money drove Balaam to attempt to do what he was clearly not intended to, i.e. to curse Israel. Maybe his unexpressed desires were read by God as a prayer, and to that prayer "Yahweh your God wouldn't listen" (Dt. 23:5). Prayer is therefore not just in the form of spoken words; for then the more verbally articulate would be, as it were, better at prayer. God reads situations and unspoken desires as prayers. For this is what prayer "in the spirit" is all about.  

Deu 23:6 You shall not seek their peace or their prosperity all your days forever-
And yet we read of how Boaz sought the peace and prosperity of Ruth, whom the record seven times stresses was a Moabitess. Clearly the value and meaning of the individual person was so great to God that exceptions could be made to such blanket policy positions. The simple take away is that God values the individual human person to a very great extent.

Deu 23:7 You must not abhor an Edomite, for he is your brother-
The brotherhood between Jacob and Esau [who is Edom] is so often recalled in the later Biblical records.  This may be to remind Israel that they were no better than Edom; or to remind them of the need for reconciliation to be attempted.

You must not abhor an Egyptian, because you lived as a foreigner in his land-
The Egyptians later abused the Israelites, but initially they were their saviours, in human terms, and were extremely generous to them. This commandment was therefore asking them to look back in history and see the past as a glass half full rather than half empty. This is a lesson which needs to be learned. For so many look back in their personal history and see only the abuse and the bad years, rather than appreciating the wider sweep of that history. 

Deu 23:8 The children of the third generation who are born to them may enter into the assembly of Yahweh-
This may have been a form of God punishing people to the third generation (Ex. 20:5). This command is presumably time limited, referring to a specific starting point. Perhaps in view are members of the "mixed multitude" which went with Israel out of Egypt, and which would have been addressed at this point.

Deu 23:9 When you go forth to camp against your enemies, you must keep yourselves from every evil thing-
The word so often used for "keeping" / "diligently observing" Yahweh's commandments is from the word meaning a thorn hedge; the idea originally was to hedge in. Taking this too literally led Judaism to all their endless fences around the law, i.e. forbidding this or that because it might lead to doing that or this, which in turn would then lead to breaking an actual commandment. And those various fences become elevated to the level of commandments. But this is not the idea. We are indeed to hedge ourselves in ("take heed to yourself", Dt. 11:16; 12:13,19,30,32 s.w.), so that we may keep / hedge ourselves in to keep the commandments of God (Lev. 18:4,5,26,30; 19:19,37; 20:8,22; 22:9,31; 25:18; 26:3; Num. 28:2;   Dt. 7:11,12; 8:1,11 [s.w. "beware"]; 10:13; 11:1,8,22,32; 12:1; 13:4,18; 15:5,9 ["beware"]; 17:19; 19:9; 23:9 ["keep yourself"]; 24:8; 26:16-18; 27:1; 28:1,9,13; 29:9; 30:10,16; 31:12; 32:46). And without falling into the legalism of Judaism, self discipline does require a degree of fencing ourselves in to the one way. Thus the man struggling with alcoholism avoids the supermarket where alcohol is pushed in front of the eyes of the shoppers; the married woman struggling with attraction to another man makes little laws for herself about avoiding his company. And if we do this, then the Lord will "keep" us, will hedge us in to keeping His way (s.w. Num. 6:24).

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! 

There is a clear similarity with a dog coverings its own excrement. The idea may be that in going to war, Israel were to remember that they were but unclean dogs, accepted by grace. Humility, rather than psyching up of soldiers in bravado, was what was required for victory.

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. For it was Yahweh through the Angel who walked in the midst of the camp. They were warned that if the camp were impure, Yahweh would turn (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-
There was no mechanism, therefore, for the master to regain a slave who ran away. Unlike most legal codes, the law was on the side of the slave and not of the owner. The master therefore needed to treat slaves well, so that they didn't want to run away. And if they did, he had no legal mechanism to get them back.

Deu 23:17 There must be no prostitute of the daughters of Israel. Neither should there be a sodomite of the sons of Israel-
The implication is that the "Sodomite" refers here to a male prostitute, and the "prostitute" of the first half of the verse refers to a female prostitute. This is confirmed in :18.

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-
Lending was therefore to be seen as an opportunity to help your brother rather than to benefit from him; indeed to lend without interest meant that effectively you were giving your brother something in his time of need.  

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-
The Lord Jesus 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. The judgment is for the education of those judged. He will shew them how they should have given their talent, the basic Gospel, to others, and therefore gained some interest.

"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-
This was to guard against the temptation to make a vow which was publically impressive before men, but then not to pay it. Any attempt to garner kudos for our spiritual devotion is absolutely wrong; such spiritual pride is the worst. God would therefore "require it" and severely judge those who did this (Dt. 23:21). Not being slack to pay a vow (Dt. 23:21) fits in with a wider Biblical theme of being quick in responding to God. It comes to full term in the New Testament accounts of immediate baptisms straight after people had grasped the basic message of the Gospel. "Yes straight away" is what God really seeks from His children. Israel were not to delay in offering their firstfruits to God (Ex. 22:29), lest their intentions weren't translated into practice. The disciples immediately left the ship, simply put their nets down and followed (Mt. 4:20,22); Matthew left his opened books and queue of clients in the tax office and walked out never to return (Lk. 5:17,18 implies).  

Deu 23:22 But if you forbear to vow, that will be no sin upon you-
"Sin" is often used to effectively mean "punishment for sin", as here. And this is another great Biblical theme, that sin is of itself its own punishment. This is why those condemned at the last day are effectively self condemned, and indeed judgment day is in this sense right now. For as sin is committed, so is the judgment for that sin, in God's eyes. But repentance and Divine grace can change that judgment.

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-
See on :21. The Hebrew word here for "freewill" carries the idea of spontaneity. This is the clear implication of its usage in places like Ex. 35:27; 36:3; Jud. 5:2,9; 1 Chron. 29:5,9; 2 Chron. 35:8; Ps. 54:6. There is a strong sense of immediate emotion attached to the word (Hos. 14:4). And there was a major emphasis in the law of Moses upon freewill offerings (Lev. 7:16; 22:18,21,23; 23:38; Num. 15:3; 29:39; Dt. 12:6,17; 16:10; 23:23). The other legal codes of the nations around Israel were all about rituals; whereas Yahweh's law encouraged spontaneous giving as part of the way of Yahweh. For He is not a God of rituals, but of relationship. The way of the Spirit is the same today; spontaneous, emotional, personal response to God's grace, responding to Him on our own initiative and in our own way, in addition to obeying His specific requirements.        

The fact that God’s word is true means that we also ought to be truthful- for we should speak “as oracles of God”. Moses surely intended a connection between his words recorded in Dt. 8:3 and Dt. 23:23- for they are the only times he uses a particular Hebrew word translated “proceed” or ‘go out’, within the same speech uttered the same day: “By every word that proceeds out of the mouth of the Lord does man live… that which goes forth [s.w. “proceeds”] out of your lips / mouth you shall keep and perform”. The influence of continually hearing God’s word should be that our words are likewise truthful and trustworthy. The fact that the Bible as God’s word is true has implications for our own truthfulness. Pistos is listed as a fruit of the spirit in Gal. 5; but the idea it can carry is not so much of faith in the sense of belief, but of faithfulness, loyalty, reliability, utter dependability. If this is how God’s words are to us, then this is how we and our words should be to others.

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. The command here and in :25 follows straight on from the command to honour the vows we make. Perhaps the sense is that we are not to fulfil our vows by taking grapes or grain from our brother. The abiding principle is that we are not to sacrifice that which costs us nothing (2 Sam. 24:24). Sacrifice means being left "minus" in absolute terms, and not seeking to do so at the effective expense of others.

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-
Boaz allowed foreigners to glean immediately behind his reapers, and then was personally generous in giving Ruth sacks of barley. He understood this law as a springboard into a culture of far more extensive grace, rather than a chain which limits human behaviour, to be tolerated and obeyed with reluctance. See on Dt. 25:7.