Scripture reading – Deuteronomy 23
We continue our study of Moses’ challenge to Israel, as he prepared that nation to go forward without him as its leader. Some of the principles in today’s Scripture may seem mundane; however, such was not the case for a nation that had suffered the humiliation of bondage for four centuries. Moses was teaching the children of Israel how they were to conduct themselves in the sight of the LORD, and preserve their sanctity as His people. We will consider the right of citizenship in ancient Israel, and the exclusion of some from “the congregation of the LORD” (23:1).
The Feminization, and Castration of Men Was Forbidden (23:1)
The topic of mutilation, or castration is one in which we shall use discretion; however, the LORD was clear in His instruction concerning honoring one’s vessel. There was to be no mutualization of a man’s private parts, for such was unnatural, and against God’s created order.
Illegitimate Sons (23:2)
Sons born of adultery, or incest, were to be excluded in Israel, unto the “tenth generation” (23:2). Sons borne of extra-marital relationships were excluded, for their conception was contrary to the will, and design of God’s order.
Ammonites and Moabites Were Not Permitted in Israel (23:3-6)
These nations were the offspring of Lot’s incestuous relationship with his daughters (Genesis 19:30-38). The Ammonites, and Moabites had made themselves adversaries of Israel, and hired Balaam to curse the people (23:4-6).
Edomites and Egyptians (23:7-8)
Though not friends of Israel, the Edomites and Egyptians had a history that prevented their being excluded entirely. The Edomites were of the lineage of Esau, and therefore distant kin of Israel through the lineage of Jacob, Esau’s brother (23:7). Egypt had been the host of Israel during their sojourn in that land.
Cleanness and Purity in Times of War (23:9-11)
Remembering the presence of the LORD was represented by the Tabernacle in the midst of the encampment, the people were reminded to keep themselves clean (23:9-10). A man who was not clean, was to remain outside the camp until the evening, and “wash himself with water” before entering the camp (23:11).
A Lesson in Sanitation (23:12-14)
The sanitation guidelines given by Moses to Israel placed that nation centuries ahead of other nations. The people were to practice cleanliness, and basic sanitation. They were not to answer nature’s call (i.e. to relieve themselves), within the camp. They were instructed to go outside the borders of the camp and “have a paddle” (a spade or shovel), and cover over their excrement.
We understand much about sanitation, and disease today; however, only in the past two centuries has the need for sanitation been fully appreciated. The sanitation commanded by the LORD was not only because He dwelt in the midst of His people, but also because it was proper, and good for the health of the people (23:14).
Compassion for a Fleeing Slave (23:15-16)
A slave that had fled from his master seeking refuge with another, was not to be returned to the former (23:15). Instead, he was to be given shelter in the land, and allowed to dwell where he chose (23:16).
Prostitution and Sodomy Condemned (23:17-18)
All manner of gross immorality accompanied the worship of idols in ancient times. Whoredom, and sodomy were ever present among the heathen nations. No daughter of Israel was to fall into whoredom, and no son was to be a homosexual (described as “the price of a dog,” thus graphically describing the debasement of sodomy, 23:18).
Usury: Charging Interest on Debts (23:19-20)
Israelite men were not to charge their fellow man (“thy brother”) interest for borrowing money (23:19). A “stranger;” however, a non-Hebrew, was charged interest on debts (23:20).
To Vow, Or Not to Vow (23:21-23)
Swearing an oath, or vowing a vow, was a serious matter with the LORD, and was not to be taken lightly (23:21). No man was to “vow a vow unto the LORD,” and fail to fulfil it without delay (23:21b). Indeed, it would be better to not have committed oneself to a vow, than to do so and fail to fulfill it (23:22-23).
To Eat, or Not to Eat (23:24-25)
Suppose a man is hungry, and lacks the means to feed himself. Should that man be permitted to take from another’s field or vineyard, and satisfy his hunger?
The answer is found in Deuteronomy 23:24-25, and reminds us again that the God of Israel was compassionate and merciful.
A hungry man was allowed to eat grapes from his neighbor’s vineyard, and take kernels of wheat into his hand from his neighbor’s field. He could not, however, go into his neighbor’s field with a vessel, and fill it. He was allowed take only what he needed to quench his hunger.
I close, trusting you are developing an appreciation for the judiciousness of the LORD, and the evidence of His grace and compassion in His Law and Commandments.
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With the heart of a shepherd,
Travis D. Smith
Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith