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Deuteronomy 23:9-14

Purity in Personal Hygiene

23:9 When you go out as an army against your enemies, guard yourselves against anything impure. 1  23:10 If there is someone among you who is impure because of some nocturnal emission, 2  he must leave the camp; he may not reenter it immediately. 23:11 When evening arrives he must wash himself with water and then at sunset he may reenter the camp.

23:12 You are to have a place outside the camp to serve as a latrine. 3  23:13 You must have a spade among your other equipment and when you relieve yourself 4  outside you must dig a hole with the spade 5  and then turn and cover your excrement. 6  23:14 For the Lord your God walks about in the middle of your camp to deliver you and defeat 7  your enemies for you. Therefore your camp should be holy, so that he does not see anything indecent 8  among you and turn away from you.

1 tn Heb “evil.” The context makes clear that this is a matter of ritual impurity, not moral impurity, so it is “evil” in the sense that it disbars one from certain religious activity.

2 tn Heb “nocturnal happening.” The Hebrew term קָרֶה (qareh) merely means “to happen” so the phrase here is euphemistic (a “night happening”) for some kind of bodily emission such as excrement or semen. Such otherwise normal physical functions rendered one ritually unclean whether accidental or not. See Lev 15:16-18; 22:4.

3 tn Heb “so that one may go outside there.” This expression is euphemistic.

4 tn Heb “sit.” This expression is euphemistic.

5 tn Heb “with it”; the referent (the spade mentioned at the beginning of the verse) has been specified in the translation for clarity.

6 tn Heb “what comes from you,” a euphemism.

7 tn Heb “give [over] your enemies.”

8 tn Heb “nakedness of a thing”; NLT “any shameful thing.” The expression עֶרְוַת דָּבָר (’ervat davar) refers specifically to sexual organs and, by extension, to any function associated with them. There are some aspects of human life that are so personal and private that they ought not be publicly paraded. Cultically speaking, even God is offended by such impropriety (cf. Gen 9:22-23; Lev 18:6-12, 16-19; 20:11, 17-21). See B. Seevers, NIDOTTE 3:528-30.

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