Deuteronomy 23 Study Notes

23:1-8 Entry to the Lord’s assembly refers to participation in public worship, not membership in the covenant people (see Lv 21:20). Verse 1 probably refers to participation in pagan rituals of self-mutilation. One of illegitimate birth refers not to one born out of wedlock but to the offspring of a forbidden, perhaps incestuous, relationship (Lv 18:6-20; 20:10-21). Isaiah 56:3-8 indicates that these exclusions were not absolute. Even David’s ancestor, Ruth, was a converted Moabite.

23:9-14 Anything offensive refers to ritual impurity, not immorality (see 1Sm 21:5). These verses lend some credence to the saying “cleanliness is next to godliness.”

23:15-16 In the context of holy war and Israel’s uniqueness, the slave here must have escaped from a foreign master. Contrary to the ordinary practice of repatriating such persons, Israel must show a superior moral code by letting such a slave live among you wherever he wants.

23:17-18 A cult prostitute was a man or woman engaged in fertility temple rites. This Canaanite practice was taboo to Israel as was the payment of even an ordinary prostitute’s wages to fulfill a vow made to God. He is not honored by illegitimate expressions of worship but only by obedience (1Sm 15:22-23).

23:19-20 Similar laws forbidding charging interest on loans to fellow Israelites may be found in Ex 22:25 and Lv 25:35-37. Such laws were unheard of in the surrounding nations. See also Ps 15:5; Pr 28:8; Ezk 18:8,13,17.

23:21-23 A person could make a vow to the Lord in the form of a service to be rendered to him (Nm 6:2,5,21) or a sacrifice to be offered as an act of worship (Nm 15:8; Dt 12:6; Ps 66:13-14). Though the vow was entered into voluntarily, refusing to pay it once it was made was to steal from the Lord what was rightfully his.

23:24-25 A person who crossed through a neighbor’s vineyard or grain field could harvest as much as he could gather and hold in his hand. To exceed that would be to take advantage of the neighbor’s generosity, and it would be a form of theft. Jesus and his disciples practiced this limited gathering on the Sabbath with no criticism from the Pharisees except that they were violating the Sabbath (Mk 2:23-28).

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