Deuteronomy 23

 

לֹא־יִקַּח אִישׁ אֶת־אֵשֶׁת אָבִיו וְלֹא יְגַלֶּה כְּנַף אָבִיו   23:1

Deut. 23:1 “A man shall not take the wife of his father and shall not uncover the skirt of his father.”

לֹא־יָבֹא פְצוּעַ־דַּכָּא וּכְרוּת שָׁפְכָה בִּקְהַל יְהוָה   23:2

Deut. 23:2 “One having crushed testicles or private member cut off shall not enter into the assembly of the Lord.”

I have three difficulties with this verse.  Firstly, what if the individual referred to here was born a Jew and had children before he became handicapped?   Can his children enter into the assembly of the Lord?  More than likely!  Pretty weird, if you ask me!   A man’s children could be Jewish but he could no longer be?

Secondly, what is meant by the assembly of the Lord?  Other than in this chapter, in which the phrase appears six times in four verses without clarifying its meaning, it is found in only two other verses in the Torah, Numb. 16:3 and Numb. 20:4.  In both those verses it appears to refer to the “elite” of Israel, the priests and Levites.  I have to assume that such is its meaning here.

Thirdly, what is meant by “shall not enter into the assembly?”  In general this phrase can have a variety of possible meanings. One, the individual described is not a Jew and cannot convert.  Two, he may or may not be a Jew but is excluded from marriage with a Jew.  Three, he may or may not be a Jew and must remain outside of the camp while the assembly is in the wilderness.  Four, he may or may not be a Jew but may not participate in Jewish ritual, rites, or observances; he may not even be obligated to fulfill commandments.  Five, he is a Jew -- in fact, he may or may not be a son of Levi -- but cannot perform the duties of the Levites or priests or marry a Levitess.  Are all of these included in the meaning?  I believe only four and five are.

לֹא־יָבֹא מַמְזֵר בִּקְהַל יְהוָה גַּם דֹּור עֲשִׂירִי לֹא־יָבֹא לֹו בִּקְהַל יְהוָה   23:3

Deut. 23:3 “A  bastard shall not enter into the assembly of the Lord; even the tenth generation of his shall not enter into the assembly of the Lord.”

Wow!  Even the tenth generation!  But what about the eleventh generation?   How was one to keep track of this handicap over a period of at least two hundred years?  All the generations could not be Jewish (if “shall not enter into the assembly” means not being able to convert or marry a Jew).  So who would keep the records?  Because of the uncertainty of the answers to these questions -- and the wording of the next verse, I have a strong feeling that the expression of this verse is meant to be a euphemism for “never.”  Yet how could this be?  Again, who would keep  the records?  So as I see it, this verse makes little sense.

לֹא־יָבֹא עַמֹּונִי וּמֹואָבִי בִּקְהַל יְהוָה גַּם דֹּור עֲשִׂירִי לֹא־יָבֹא לָהֶם בִּקְהַל יְהוָה עַד־עֹולָם   23:4

Deut. 23:4 “An  Ammonite or a Moabite shall never enter into the assembly of the Lord,  even the tenth generation; none of them shall ever enter into the assembly of the Lord,

I see the same problems with this verse as with the previous one.  Even more!  If it is indeed a commandment, it is not followed in other parts of the bible.  For one, Ruth, who married a son of Elimelech, an Ephrathite (a son of Ephraim) from Bethlehem in Judah, was a Moabitess  (Ruth 1:1 to 1:4).  And she was the great grandmother of King David.  Could this prohibition refer only to men?  Probably.

עַל־דְּבַר אֲשֶׁר לֹא־קִדְּמוּ אֶתְכֶם בַּלֶּחֶם וּבַמַּיִם בַּדֶּרֶךְ בְּצֵאתְכֶם מִמִּצְרָיִם וַאֲשֶׁר שָׂכַר עָלֶיךָ אֶת־   23:5

בִּלְעָם בֶּן־בְּעֹור מִפְּתֹור אֲרַם נַהֲרַיִם לְקַלְלֶךָּ

Deut. 23:5 for the reason that they did not meet you with food and with water on the way of your coming out of Egypt, and that he hired Balaam, the son of Beor from Pethor of Aram-naharaim against you to curse you.”                                                               [Return to Nehe. 13:2]

וְלֹא־אָבָה יְהוָה אֱלֹהֶיךָ לִשְׁמֹעַ אֶל־בִּלְעָם וַיַּהֲפֹךְ יְהוָה אֱלֹהֶיךָ לְּךָ אֶת־הַקְּלָלָה לִבְרָכָה כִּי אֲהֵבְךָ   23:6

יְהוָה אֱלֹהֶיךָ

Deut. 23:6 “But the Lord, your God, did not consent to listen to Balaam, but the Lord, your God, turned the curse to a blessing for you, because the Lord, your God, loves you.”

לֹא־תִדְרֹשׁ שְׁלֹםָם וְטֹבָתָם כָּל־יָמֶיךָ לְעֹולָם   23:7

Deut. 23:7 “You  shall never seek their peace or their favor all your days.”

לֹא־תְתַעֵב אֲדֹמִי כִּי אָחִיךָ הוּא ס  לֹא־תְתַעֵב מִצְרִי כִּי־גֵר הָיִיתָ בְאַרְצֹו   23:8

Deut. 23:8 “You  shall not detest an Edomite, for he is your kinsman; you shall not detest an Egyptian, for you were a stranger in his land.”

בָּנִים אֲשֶׁר־יִוָּלְדוּ לָהֶם דֹּור  שְׁלִישִׁי יָבֹא לָהֶם בִּקְהַל יְהוָה   23:9

Deut. 23:9  “Children who will be born to them of their third generation may enter into the assembly of the Lord.”

I have serious problems with this verse also.  Who are those of the third generation?  Are they not still Edomites or Egyptians?  When will a child be allowed to enter into the assembly if each member of a generation is still an Edomite or Egyptian?  The only way that this verse can make any sense is if an Edomite or Egyptian were to marry one from a different people.  Then it’s possible -- but not plausible -- that their children might not be considered Edomites or Egyptians.  And with the third generation their descendants could enter into the assembly.  Quite far fetched in my view!  The sages interpret the meaning as applying to the third generation descendant of one who converted.  How can this  be?  Once an Edomite or Egyptian converted, wouldn’t he have entered into the assembly?

כִּי־תֵצֵא מַחֲנֶה עַל־אֹיְבֶיךָ וְנִשְׁמַרְתָּ מִכֹּל דָּבָר רָע   23:10

Deut. 23:10 “When you, an armed camp, will go forth against your enemies, then you shall keep yourself from every unpleasant thing:”

Most, if not all other translations, have for the last three Hebrew words  “from every evil thing (emphasis mine).”  As I see it, this common translation makes this verse independent of the next few, which describe unpleasant things.  I prefer to acknowledge that it is most likely introductory to them.  As a result I translated the three words as I have to indicate this.

כִּי־יִהְיֶה בְךָ אִישׁ אֲשֶׁר לֹא־יִהְיֶה טָהֹור מִקְּרֵה־לָיְלָה וְיָצָא אֶל־מִחוּץ לַמַּחֲנֶה לֹא יָבֹא אֶל־תֹּוךְ   23:11

הַמַּחֲנֶה

Deut. 23:11 “When there will be a man among you who will not be clean because of a night  occurrence, then he shall go out to the outskirts of the camp; he shall not come in to the interior of the camp.”

As mentioned above, my translation of v. 23:10 makes it an introduction to this verse and the next two.  These verses seem to relate to that verse in that they mention a camp.  Once the Israelites have settled in Canaan they will not be in camps, except when going forth to battle.  So I presume the verses refer to camps in the wilderness as well as to battle camps once the Israelites’ enter Canaan and to subsequent battle camps thereafter.

On another point, the night occurrence mentioned here has been thought by many of the sages to refer to having to urinate.  I see two other possible interpretations of the phrase:  First, it could be an instance of someone having already soiled his sleeping place, not having to urinate.  If one awoke having to urinate, he’d probably never make it to the outskirts of the camp in time.  Second, it could also refer to a wet dream.  In truth, II believe it refers to a wet dream and interpret it so.

On still another point, if we are dealing with an armed camp, there better be, at the very least, armed sentries at the location outside the camp.  Otherwise the man referred to here would be at the mercy of nearby enemies.

On yet one more point, if the man has to go to the outskirts of the camp because of a night occurrence, is he to leave during the night if he discovers it then, or can he wait until morning?  In either case, there should be provision for him to eat at the outskirts of the camp, as he will have to remain there until that evening (see next verse).

וְהָיָה לִפְנֹות־עֶרֶב יִרְחַץ בַּמָּיִם וּכְבֹא הַשֶּׁמֶשׁ יָבֹא אֶל־תֹּוךְ הַמַּחֲנֶה   23:12

Deut. 23:12 “When it will be the approach of evening, he shall wash himself in water; then at the setting of the sun, he may go in to the interior of the camp.”

וְיָד תִּהְיֶה לְךָ מִחוּץ לַמַּחֲנֶה וְיָצָאתָ שָׁמָּה חוּץ   23:13

Deut. 23:13 “And a place outside of the camp shall be yours that you may go out there.”

Apparently, this place is for eliminating solid waste.  See the next two verses.

וְיָתֵד תִּהְיֶה לְךָ עַל־אֲזֵנֶךָ וְהָיָה  בְּשִׁבְתְּךָ חוּץ וְחָפַרְתָּה בָהּ וְשַׁבְתָּ וְכִסִּיתָ אֶת־צֵאָתֶךָ   23:14

Deut. 23:14 “And a paddle shall be yours with your weapon, and it shall be in your sitting down outside that you shall dig with it, then turn back and cover what comes out of you.”

כִּי יְהוָה אֱלֹהֶיךָ מִתְהַלֵּךְ בְּקֶרֶב מַחֲנֶךָ לְהַצִּילְךָ וְלָתֵת אֹיְבֶיךָ לְפָנֶיךָ וְהָיָה מַחֲנֶיךָ קָדֹושׁ וְלֹא־יִרְאֶה   23:15

בְךָ עֶרְוַת דָּבָר וְשָׁב מֵאַחֲרֶיךָ

Deut. 23:15 “For the Lord, your God, will be walking in the midst of your camp to preserve you and to deliver up your enemies before you, so your camp must be holy that He will not see the shame of some uncleanness with you and turn away from following you.”

I find it difficult to picture the Lord abandoning the camp and its occupants because He “sees the shame of some uncleanness.”  I can’t reconcile this verse with the fact that some of the Israelites would have to trek up to over a mile to get to the outskirts of their camp.  The only conceivable understanding of this verse is that Moses was referring only to armed camps about to go into battle or to emphasize the holiness that the Lord requires.  In the former case, the armed camps would probably be smaller than the three-mile extent of the Israelite wilderness camp.  But then, what of the wilderness camp?   Didn’t the same condition exist there?  Wasn’t the Lord also among the children of Israel during their wandering to preserve them and deliver their enemies up to them?  I find little leeway to understand this verse any more so than some of the previous verses. 

However, there is one word in this verse that is not only understandable but highly revealing.   The scribe reports the words of Moses as “… the Lord, your God, will be ‘walking’ ….”  But we know that the Lord showed Himself to the children of Israel only in the pillar of smoke and the pillar of fire, and did not “walk” in the camp, and probably only His presence was felt there by Moses and perhaps the judges he’d appointed.  Then may we also assume that the Lord did not “walk” in the garden of Eden in Gene. 3:8?  I believe it is highly likely.

לֹא־תַסְגִּיר עֶבֶד אֶל־אֲדֹנָיו  אֲשֶׁר־יִנָּצֵל אֵלֶיךָ מֵעִם אֲדֹנָיו   23:16

Deut. 23:16 “A servant who will have escaped from his master to you, you shall not surrender to his master.”

עִמְּךָ יֵשֵׁב בְּקִרְבְּךָ בַּמָּקֹום  אֲשֶׁר־יִבְחַר בְּאַחַד שְׁעָרֶיךָ בַּטֹּוב לֹו לֹא תֹּונֶנּוּ   23:17

Deut. 23:17 “He shall dwell with you in your midst in a place that he will choose in one of your cities.  In goodness to him, you shall not mistreat him.”

There are several different interpretations of these two verses, 23:16 and  23:17.  One is that the servant referred to  is a Hebrew in the servitude of a heathen master, and should be treated as a member of the congregation.  As these verses are among others describing preparation for battle, another assumption is that the man referred to will have  escaped from a Hebrew master in another land and comes to the Holy Land.  Similarly, another understanding is that in time of war a servant or slave might flee his master to an enemy’s camp.  This one is a bit less likely to me than the first two, in that the servant is to be treated as a free and equal individual, since I see the possibility that he  could be a spy.  As with other verses in this chapter, I will record the commandment as written here without interpretation.

On the other hand, as the verse refers to cities, it probably applies primarily to circumstances that would occur in the Holy Land.

As an aside, though relatively important, this verse provides more (rather strong) support for my contention that the singular second-person pronoun refers to the people as a single entity.  All four of them in this verse are singular.

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לֹא־תִהְיֶה קְדֵשָׁה  מִבְּנֹות יִשְׂרָאֵל וְלֹא־יִהְיֶה קָדֵשׁ מִבְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל   23:18

Deut. 23:18 “There  shall be no harlot from the daughters of Israel, and there shall be no sodomite from the sons of Israel.”

In this verse, the root of the words used to signify harlot and sodomite is the same root that means holy.  This leads me to believe that Moses is implying that these coincide with pagan rituals and therefore shall not be practiced by the Israelites.  The first of these statements regarding harlots has already been identified as a commandment and in fact is subsumed by commandment 264 (Levi. 19:29).

לֹא־תָבִיא אֶתְנַן זֹונָה וּמְחִיר כֶּלֶב בֵּית יְהוָה אֱלֹהֶיךָ לְכָל־נֶדֶר כִּי תֹועֲבַת יְהוָה אֱלֹהֶיךָ גַּם־שְׁנֵיהֶם   23:19

Deut. 23:19 “You shall not bring the wage of harlotry or the gain of male prostitution in the house of the Lord, your God, for any vow, for both of them are an abomination of the Lord, your God.”

In this verse I offer another uncommon translation for the fifth and sixth words, bl,K, ryxim.W, which is and the gain of male prostitution.  The more common translation, and the price of a dog, rests on a more direct derivation based on the belief that in those days dogs were bred for fierceness and were not to be offered for religious purposes in ransom of a soul.  Because the previous verse deals with harlotry and sodomy, I prefer my translation as it provides a close connection between the two verses.  In line with what I have suggested before, it also seems to imply that Moses understood that v. 23:18 would not deter the rebellious Israelites.

In addition, if my translation of this verse is reasonable, it seems to cast doubt on two of the three possible  interpretations of Gene. 19:5.                                                  [Return to Gene. 19:5]

לֹא־תַשִּׁיךְ לְאָחִיךָ נֶשֶׁךְ כֶּסֶף  נֶשֶׁךְ אֹכֶל נֶשֶׁךְ כָּל־דָּבָר אֲשֶׁר יִשָּׁךְ   23:20

Deut. 23:20 “You shall not lend with interest to your kinsman -- interest of money, interest of victuals, interest of any thing that could provide interest.”

לַנָּכְרִי תַשִּׁיךְ וּלְאָחִיךָ לֹא תַשִּׁיךְ לְמַעַן יְבָרֶךְךָ יְהוָה אֱלֹהֶיךָ בְּכֹל מִשְׁלַח יָדֶךָ עַל־הָאָרֶץ אֲשֶׁר־אַתָּה   23:21

בָא־שָׁמָּה לְרִשְׁתָּהּ

Deut. 23:21 “To a foreigner you may lend with interest, but to your brother you must not lend with interest, so that the Lord, your God, may bless you in every undertaking of your hand on the land where you will be going to possess  it.”

כִּי־תִדֹּר נֶדֶר לַיהוָה אֱלֹהֶיךָ לֹא תְאַחֵר לְשַׁלְּמֹו כִּי־דָּרֹשׁ יִדְרְשֶׁנּוּ יְהוָה אֱלֹהֶיךָ מֵעִמָּךְ וְהָיָה בְךָ   23:22

חֵטְא

Deut. 23:22 “When you will make a vow to the Lord, your God, you shall not delay to make it good – for the Lord, your God, shall surely seek it from you – and it would be a sin on you.”

וְכִי תֶחְדַּל לִנְדֹּר לֹא־יִהְיֶה בְךָ חֵטְא   23:23

Deut. 23:23 “But if you would avoid vowing, it shall not be a sin on you.”

מֹוצָא שְׂפָתֶיךָ תִּשְׁמֹר וְעָשִׂיתָ כַּאֲשֶׁר נָדַרְתָּ לַיהוָה אֱלֹהֶיךָ נְדָבָה אֲשֶׁר דִּבַּרְתָּ בְּפִיךָ   23:24

Deut. 23:24 “You shall guard what goes out of your lips, and you shall do freely as you have vowed to the Lord, your God, what you have promised with your mouth.”

כִּי תָבֹא בְּכֶרֶם רֵעֶךָ וְאָכַלְתָּ  עֲנָבִים כְּנַפְשְׁךָ שָׂבְעֶךָ וְאֶל־כֶּלְיְךָ לֹא תִתֵּן   23:25

Deut. 23:25 “Should you come into the vineyard of your neighbor, then you may eat grapes  according to your personal satisfaction, but you shall not deliver to your vessel.”

כִּי תָבֹא בְּקָמַת רֵעֶךָ וְקָטַפְתָּ מְלִילֹת בְּיָדֶךָ וְחֶרְמֵשׁ לֹא תָנִיף עַל קָמַת רֵעֶךָ   23:26

Deut. 23:26 “Should you come into the standing corn of your neighbor, then you may strip off ears with your hand, but you shall not wield a sickle against the standing corn of your neighbor.”

Torah Commandments in this Chapter

513  A man shall not uncover the skirt of his father.    V. 23:1

514. One with crushed testicles or maimed private parts shall not enter

         into the assembly of the Lord.    V. 23:2

515. A bastard shall not enter into the assembly of the Lord.    V. 23:3

516. Even the tenth generation of a bastard shall not enter into the

        assembly of the Lord.    V. 23:3

517. An Ammonite or a Moabite shall never enter into the assembly of the Lord.    V.  23:4

518. You shall never seek the peace or favor of the Ammonite or Moabite.    V. 23:7

519. You shall not detest an Edomite.    V. 23:8

520. You shall not detest an Egyptian.    V. 23:8

521. The children of the third generation of an Edomite or Egyptian shall

         not be prevented from entering into the assembly of the Lord.    V. 23:9

522. The statutes regarding a man’s night occurrence in camp shall be

         followed.    V. 23:11 - 23:14

523. You shall follow the statutes regarding an escaped servant.    V. 23:16, 23:17

524. There shall be no sodomite from the sons of Israel.    V. 23:18

525  You shall not bring the wage of harlotry or the gain of male

         prostitution in the house of the Lord.    V. 23:19

526. You shall not lend with interest to your kinsman.    V. 23:20

527. You shall not delay making good a vow to the Lord.    V. 23:22

528. You shall do freely what you have promised aloud to the Lord.    V. 23:24

529. You may reasonably eat grapes in your neighbor's vineyard.    V. 23:25

530. You may not take away grapes from your neighbor's vineyard.    V. 23:25

531. You may strip off ears of standing corn from your neighbor's field.    V. 23:26

532. You may not wield a sickle against the standing corn of your

        neighbor's field.    V.  23:26

 

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