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Deuteronomy 23:1-8

Context
Purity in Public Worship

23:1 A man with crushed 1  or severed genitals 2  may not enter the assembly of the Lord. 3  23:2 A person of illegitimate birth 4  may not enter the assembly of the Lord; to the tenth generation no one related to him may do so. 5 

23:3 An Ammonite or Moabite 6  may not enter the assembly of the Lord; to the tenth generation none of their descendants shall ever 7  do so, 8  23:4 for they did not meet you with food and water on the way as you came from Egypt, and furthermore, they hired 9  Balaam son of Beor of Pethor in Aram Naharaim to curse you. 23:5 But the Lord your God refused to listen to Balaam and changed 10  the curse to a blessing, for the Lord your God loves 11  you. 23:6 You must not seek peace and prosperity for them through all the ages to come. 23:7 You must not hate an Edomite, for he is your relative; 12  you must not hate an Egyptian, for you lived as a foreigner 13  in his land. 23:8 Children of the third generation born to them 14  may enter the assembly of the Lord.

1 tn Heb “bruised by crushing,” which many English versions take to refer to crushed testicles (NAB, NRSV, NLT); TEV “who has been castrated.”

2 tn Heb “cut off with respect to the penis”; KJV, ASV “hath his privy member cut off”; English versions vary in their degree of euphemism here; cf. NAB, NRSV, TEV, NLT “penis”; NASB “male organ”; NCV “sex organ”; CEV “private parts”; NIV “emasculated by crushing or cutting.”

3 sn The Hebrew term translated “assembly” (קָהָל, qahal) does not refer here to the nation as such but to the formal services of the tabernacle or temple. Since emasculated or other sexually abnormal persons were commonly associated with pagan temple personnel, the thrust here may be primarily polemical in intent. One should not read into this anything having to do with the mentally and physically handicapped as fit to participate in the life and ministry of the church.

4 tn Or “a person born of an illegitimate marriage.”

5 tn Heb “enter the assembly of the Lord.” The phrase “do so” has been used in the translation for stylistic reasons to avoid redundancy.

6 sn An Ammonite or Moabite. These descendants of Lot by his two daughters (cf. Gen 19:30-38) were thereby the products of incest and therefore excluded from the worshiping community. However, these two nations also failed to show proper hospitality to Israel on their way to Canaan (v. 4).

7 tn The Hebrew term translated “ever” (עַד־עוֹלָם, ’ad-olam) suggests that “tenth generation” (vv. 2, 3) also means “forever.” However, in the OT sense “forever” means not “for eternity” but for an indeterminate future time. See A. Tomasino, NIDOTTE 3:346.

8 tn Heb “enter the assembly of the Lord.” The phrase “do so” has been used in the translation for stylistic reasons to avoid redundancy.

9 tn Heb “hired against you.”

10 tn Heb “the Lord your God changed.” The phrase “the Lord your God” has not been included in the translation here for stylistic reasons to avoid redundancy. Moreover, use of the pronoun “he” could create confusion regarding the referent (the Lord or Balaam).

11 tn The verb אָהַב (’ahav, “love”) here and commonly elsewhere in the Book of Deuteronomy speaks of God’s elective grace toward Israel. See note on the word “loved” in Deut 4:37.

12 tn Heb “brother.”

13 tn Heb “sojourner.”

14 sn Concessions were made to the Edomites and Egyptians (as compared to the others listed in vv. 1-6) because the Edomites (i.e., Esauites) were full “brothers” of Israel and the Egyptians had provided security and sustenance for Israel for more than four centuries.



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