Deuteronomy 23

Exclusion From the Assembly (23:1–8)

12–14 The second example of ceremonial uncleanness concerns the improper disposal of human excrement: all human feces were to be buried. The reason behind this law was twofold. First, to dispose of feces in a safe place was a sound public health measure (as everyone acknowledges today). Second, and more important, bodily discharges symbolized uncleanness, indecency, sinfulness; they defiled the Israelites’ encampment, which God said had to be holy (verse 14), befitting a people who were themselves required to be holy (see Leviticus 11:44–45 and comment).

Miscellaneous Laws (23:15–25)

15–16 These verses deal with a foreign slave taking refuge in Israel. Such a slave was not to be sent back, but was to be given sanctuary in Israel. The Israelites were to treat slaves and all other dispossessed people with kindness, because the Israelites themselves had once been slaves in Egypt (Exodus 22:21; Leviticus 19:33–34).

17–18 No Israelite was to take any part in pagan worship; above all, Israelite women were not to become prostitutes in pagan shrines (see Exodus 34:15–16 and comment).

One reason for becoming a shrine prostitute was to earn money. Here Moses says that their earnings were never to be offered to the Lord because the Lord detested such prostitutes (verse 18).

Verse 18 raises two questions. Some Christians believe that it is wrong to accept charitable donations from ungodly people. Other Christians, however, believe that money is morally neutral and that it all belongs to God anyway—so why not give it to Him. One Christian leader has said he would take money from the devil himself and then wash it in the blood of Christ and use it for God’s glory.

The second question concerns Moses’ statement that God detests them both (both male and female shrine prostitutes). What God detests are those people who deliberately and continually violate His laws. But Jesus emphasized God’s mercy toward sinners who repent, and He reached out to them—even to prostitutes (Matthew 21:31–32; Mark 2:13–17; Luke 7:36–50). We must always hold in balance these two aspects of God’s character: one, His hatred of sin; and two, His mercy toward repentant sinners (see Exodus 34:4–7 and comment).

19–20 See Exodus 22:25–27; Leviticus 25:35–38 and comments.

21–23 See Leviticus 27:1; Numbers 30:12 and comments.

24–25 See Leviticus 19:9–10 and comment.

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