Series: Thru the Bible
Message – Civic & Domestic Life – Deut. 23-24
Civic & Domestic Life
“(1) He who is emasculated by crushing or mutilation shall not enter the assembly of the LORD. (2) “One of illegitimate birth shall not enter the assembly of the LORD; even to the tenth generation none of his descendants shall enter the assembly of the LORD. (3) “An Ammonite or Moabite shall not enter the assembly of the LORD; even to the tenth generation none of his descendants shall enter the assembly of the LORD forever, (4) because they did not meet you with bread and water on the road when you came out of Egypt, and because they hired against you Balaam the son of Beor from Pethor of Mesopotamia, to curse you. (5) Nevertheless the LORD your God would not listen to Balaam, but the LORD your God turned the curse into a blessing for you, because the LORD your God loves you. (6) You shall not seek their peace nor their prosperity all your days forever. (7) “You shall not abhor an Edomite, for he is your brother. You shall not abhor an Egyptian, because you were an alien in his land. (8) The children of the third generation born to them may enter the assembly of the LORD.”
Entering the assembly of the Lord –
It is a matter of some uncertainty as to what this means. It may mean times of public worship (though this is questionable), it may mean positions of voluntary service (like a Nazarite – though such is not mentioned in the description of the vow), it may mean some form of public office representing the Lord – like an elder or judge.
People who could not enter:
- Any man whose sexual organ is whole either by birth defect or man.
- Anyone born outside of parental wedlock – 10th generation
- A sojourner of the Ammonites or Moabites – OFFSPRING OF LOT – 10th generation
- Do not abhor an Edomite (Esau’s descendants) or Egyptian. – 3rd generation
Isa. 56:1-8, “(1) This is what the LORD says: Preserve justice and do what is right, for My salvation is coming soon, and My righteousness will be revealed. (2) Happy is the man who does this, anyone who maintains this, who keeps the Sabbath without desecrating it, and keeps his hand from doing any evil. (3) No foreigner who has converted to the LORD should say, “The LORD will exclude me from His people”; and the eunuch should not say, “Look, I am a dried-up tree.” (4) For the LORD says this: “For the eunuchs who keep My Sabbaths, and choose what pleases Me, and hold firmly to My covenant, (5) I will give them, in My house and within My walls, a memorial and a name better than sons and daughters. I will give each of them an everlasting name that will never be cut off. (6) And the foreigners who convert to the LORD, minister to Him, love the LORD’s name, and are His servants, all who keep the Sabbath without desecrating it, and who hold firmly to My covenant– (7) I will bring them to My holy mountain and let them rejoice in My house of prayer. Their burnt offerings and sacrifices will be acceptable on My altar, for My house will be called a house of prayer for all nations.” (8) This is the declaration of the Lord GOD, who gathers the dispersed of Israel: “I will gather to them still others besides those already gathered.”
Some take 10th generation to mean FOREVER, and while this “could” be possible depending on what is meant by “Assembly of the Lord” or if by Ammonite or Moabite it was only referring to the men, clearly this did not disqualify them from being proselytes is proven through Ruth, who was a Moabitess, was married to Boaz, and she became one of the progenitors of Jesus Himself.
“(9) “When the army goes out against your enemies, then keep yourself from every wicked thing. (10) If there is any man among you who becomes unclean by some occurrence in the night, then he shall go outside the camp; he shall not come inside the camp. (11) But it shall be, when evening comes, that he shall wash with water; and when the sun sets, he may come into the camp. (12) “Also you shall have a place outside the camp, where you may go out; (13) and you shall have an implement among your equipment, and when you sit down outside, you shall dig with it and turn and cover your refuse. (14) For the LORD your God walks in the midst of your camp, to deliver you and give your enemies over to you; therefore your camp shall be holy, that He may see no unclean thing among you, and turn away from you.
Treatment of slaves
(15) “You shall not give back to his master the slave who has escaped from his master to you. (16) He may dwell with you in your midst, in the place which he chooses within one of your gates, where it seems best to him; you shall not oppress him.
1Cor. 7:20-24, “(20) Each person should remain in the life situation in which he was called. (21) Were you called while a slave? It should not be a concern to you. But if you can become free, by all means take the opportunity. (22) For he who is called by the Lord as a slave is the Lord’s freedman. Likewise he who is called as a free man is Christ’s slave. (23) You were bought at a price; do not become slaves of men. (24) Brothers, each person should remain with God in whatever situation he was called.”
Prostitutes (Male and female)
(17) “There shall be no ritual harlot of the daughters of Israel, or a perverted one of the sons of Israel. (18) You shall not bring the wages of a harlot or the price of a dog to the house of the LORD your God for any vowed offering, for both of these are an abomination to the LORD your God.”
(19) “You shall not charge interest to your brother—interest on money or food or anything that is lent out at interest. (20) To a foreigner you may charge interest, but to your brother you shall not charge interest, that the LORD your God may bless you in all to which you set your hand in the land which you are entering to possess.
Honor your vows
“(21) “When you make a vow to the LORD your God, you shall not delay to pay it; for the LORD your God will surely require it of you, and it would be sin to you. (22) But if you abstain from vowing, it shall not be sin to you. (23) That which has gone from your lips you shall keep and perform, for you voluntarily vowed to the LORD your God what you have promised with your mouth.
Lev. 5:4-6, “(4) Or if someone swears rashly to do what is good or evil–concerning anything a person may speak rashly in an oath–without being aware of it, but later recognizes it, he incurs guilt in such an instance. (5) If someone incurs guilt in one of these cases, he is to confess he has committed that sin. (6) He must bring his restitution for the sin he has committed to the LORD: a female lamb or goat from the flock as a sin offering. In this way the priest will make atonement on his behalf for his sin.”
What is and is not stealing
(24) “When you come into your neighbor’s vineyard, you may eat your fill of grapes at your pleasure, but you shall not put any in your container. (25) When you come into your neighbor’s standing grain, you may pluck the heads with your hand, but you shall not use a sickle on your neighbor’s standing grain.”
“(1) If a man marries a woman, but she becomes displeasing to him because he finds something improper about her, he may write her a divorce certificate, hand it to her, and send her away from his house. (2) If after leaving his house she goes and becomes another man’s wife, (3) and the second man hates her, writes her a divorce certificate, hands it to her, and sends her away from his house or if he dies, (4) the first husband who sent her away may not marry her again after she has been defiled, because that would be detestable to the LORD. You must not bring guilt on the land the LORD your God is giving you as an inheritance.”
This was a very grievous law, which is hard to understand how or why it was included in scripture, yet it was – even by Jesus’ Own admission.
History of this law
We need to remember that Moses is here recounting to the second generation all God had done and said to Israel since their departure from Egypt – yet, here Moses is saying something GOD never declared during that time. Yet, God did not stop him either.
The word “uncleaness” is rather ambiguous. Like many words in many languages, this one has MANY meanings based upon context and proximity to other words.
Overwhelmingly uncleanness means nakedness – but such would make no sense here – one does not find “some nakedness IN his wife”. Naked is something should could BE – but not something you could find IN her.
Both in this verse and in the previous chapter verse 14, this word is used immediately with the word “some” which means “a matter”. So taken together it was an idiom for indecent or improper behavior.
In the last chapter Deut. 23:14, the verse reads, “For the LORD your God walks throughout your camp to protect you and deliver your enemies to you; so your encampments must be holy. He must not see anything improper among you or He will turn away from you.”
So when it is used here in reference to the conduct of a wife, it means something improper.
Now, knowing that this was an allowance given by Moses in addition to God’s law is clear by the way Jesus addressed the passage when confronted by the Pharisees. This also gives us a window into a possible interpretation as well as a clear defining of what it did NOT mean.
Matt. 19:3-12, “(3) Some Pharisees approached Him to test Him. They asked, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife on any grounds?”
This question alone shows that the meaning of the word “unclean” was uncertain even to them. It just meant an impropriety – which if defined ONLY by the husband could mean ANYTHING.
Jesus responded by saying,
(4) “Haven’t you read,” He replied, “that He who created them in the beginning made them male and female, (5) and He also said: For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two will become one flesh? (6) So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, man must not separate.” (7) “Why then,” they asked Him, “did Moses command us to give divorce papers and to send her away?” (8) He told them, “Moses permitted you to divorce your wives because of the hardness of your hearts. But it was not like that from the beginning. (9) And I tell you, whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another, commits adultery.” (10) His disciples said to Him, “If the relationship of a man with his wife is like this, it’s better not to marry!” (11) But He told them, “Not everyone can accept this saying, but only those it has been given to. (12) For there are eunuchs who were born that way from their mother’s womb, there are eunuchs who were made by men, and there are eunuchs who have made themselves that way because of the kingdom of heaven. Let anyone accept this who can.”
So it would seem that this “allowance” was very likely for some form of improper behavior that was sexual in nature – but was not the physical act of adultery itself, since such where to be stoned to death, One does not divorce a dead wife. (More on this in a moment)
There is room to interpret this law in accordance with Jesus’ Own words regarding adultery, Who said, that adultery is NOT just the physical act but the lust of the heart.
So why did Moses give it?
Moses was the friend of God, he loved God and would not seek to undermine God’s words. So, I imagine the purpose of the law was to allow for divorce if a woman were to have a wandering heart or eye, but not a wandering body.
As such, by a strict interpretation of the law, she was free of the charge and guilt of adultery and therefore would not be stoned. In her heart and in reality however, she would be guilty.
The woman in question was most likely not fulfilling her purpose of sexual satisfaction in that her heart and longings were elsewhere – though she did not act on them.
Many women can understand this possibility. Many wives have been married to husbands who, over the process of time, drift away in their emotional and social pursuit of their wives. They grow accustomed to them and are not solicitous of their affections anymore. They may go out on dates and vacations and even engage in sexual activities, but she knows deep within her that he is not fully engaged and sometimes is actually miles away. However, this does not happen to women alone! However, in most cases men experience this more in the bedroom than anywhere else.
A wife may engage in sex with her husband but she is not seeking to enjoy herself, does not pursue or show desire for him and does not take delight in sex with her husband and in some cases is only allow him to use her body – she is not proactively attempting to allure him or cause delight.
In such cases, a man picks up on this and though his sexual appetites might be quelled, he is never truly satisfied. Her heart is not fully present.
That this may be what Moses was addressing has at least SOME merit. Since in the marriage relationship the woman was made for the man – just like humans were made for God. As humans we are to love the Lord our God with all our Nephesh – our whole being – everything that we are – body – soul – spirit!
God knows the human heart – that it will be dedicated and devoted to something… so if not Him, then it will be an idol. Likewise, if a wife does not love her husband with all her heart – then that dedication is being placed elsewhere and he will never know satisfaction until she is completely his.
So that’s all well and good but what of the woman? Why not allow a woman to divorce a man on similar grounds?
Well, it goes back to creation and original intent. God did not make the man for the woman. Polygamy was allowed. So, while in the natural this is unfair – it still serves the greatest purpose of any creation which is to reveal the Creator.
It is also seen even in the words used when Jews were sometimes Hellenize by other cultures and their Holy Laws corrupted by outside influences. In such cases a young woman – betrothed to be married by back out declaring she did not want to marry this man or that she refuses the one her parents chose for her (if that were the case), however once the marriage had been consummated – she could not leave.
In other cases, men were allowed to “put away” their wives with a certificate of dismissal and a woman might do the same by a “certificate of dereliction”.
Either she was being dismissed by him or she was declaring a dereliction of duty. BOTH focused on the husband not the wife.
It is interesting though, that under the New Covenant two allowances are given to Christian women which are NOT permitted under the old covenant.
- A Christian woman is allowed to divorce her husband IF he is a non-believer and if he initiates the divorce.
- A Christian woman is allowed to separate from her Christian husband – and may even return to him but is NOT free to marry someone else since she is technically still married.
Such is NOT permitted for the husband.
1Cor. 7:10-11, “(10) I command the married–not I, but the Lord–a wife is not to leave her husband. (11) But if she does leave, she must remain unmarried or be reconciled to her husband–and a husband is not to leave his wife.”
It is questionable to me if divorce for ANY reason is permissible as a Christian, except for repeated and unrepentant PHYSICAL adultery. In such cases a mate is declaring clearly that they no longer follow Jesus and that they no longer please to dwell with their mate. It seems likely that such are free – not only to divorce but to remarry, but I would be VERY careful!
So, returning to the question posed to Jesus – can a man divorce his wife for just any reason. Jesus said, No!
Now, here is where things get tricky.
Jesus was almost without question NOT referring to physical adultery since that was punishable by death.
Now, Virginia and I had a discussion about this on Sunday and though I did not intend to study it out, this passage presented the need to investigate it further and I believe I have an answer.
[story of her question and my answer and inner reservation]
It is assumed by most Christians that Jews did not have the right to exact capital punishment because of what was said in the discussion between Pilate and the Jews leaders who were accusing Jesus.
Pilate told them to take Jesus and judge Him according to their law. This alone probably gave them all the authority they needed even if there were a law forbidding it, never the less they claimed that it was not lawful.
More than likely the “law” they were referring to was the Levitial law which would have rendered them “unclean” during the week of Passover should they stone Jesus to death.
It is not even historically disputed that many Jews were judicially killed by other Jews in many parts of Rome between A.D. 6-70. Stephen being a prime biblical example of it.
So, it is likely that Jews were still stoning people for adultery even under Roman rule. This being likely, Jesus would not have said that divorce was ok for adultery since that would be to go against the Law. Like I said, no one needs to divorce a dead person.
The word translated as adultery in Jesus’ answer to the Pharisees is actually lewdness or sexual sin. So, while I admit this is potentially a stretch – Jesus may have meant that divorce was acceptable only if a wife were guilty of continual sexual misconduct – meaning flirtatiousness or withholding sex from her husband, or having a wandering eye and adulterous heart.
Again, Jesus was addressing this issue to Jews under the law in compliance with both the law given and God’s intentions. This may NOT apply to New Covenant believers.
Laws for the new married
“(5) When a man takes a bride, he must not go out with the army or be liable for any duty. He is free to stay at home for one year, so that he can bring joy to the wife he has married.”
Do not take ones livelihood as collateral
“(6) Do not take a pair of millstones or an upper millstone as security for a debt, because that is like taking a life as security.”
“(7) If a man is discovered kidnapping one of his Israelite brothers, whether he treats him as a slave or sells him, the kidnapper must die. You must purge the evil from you.”
“(8) Be careful in a case of infectious skin disease, following carefully everything the Levitical priests instruct you to do. Be careful to do as I have commanded them. (9) Remember what the LORD your God did to Miriam on the journey after you left Egypt.”
Respect the sanctity of your brother’s house
“(10) When you make a loan of any kind to your neighbor, do not enter his house to collect what he offers as security. (11) You must stand outside while the man you are making the loan to brings the security out to you. (12) If he is a poor man, you must not sleep in the garment he has given as security. (13) Be sure to return it to him at sunset. Then he will sleep in it and bless you, and this will be counted as righteousness to you before the LORD your God.”
“(14) Do not oppress a hired hand who is poor and needy, whether one of your brothers or one of the foreigners residing within a town in your land. (15) You are to pay him his wages each day before the sun sets, because he is poor and depends on them. Otherwise he will cry out to the LORD against you, and you will be held guilty.”
“(16) Fathers are not to be put to death for their children or children for their fathers; each person will be put to death for his own sin. (17) Do not deny justice to a foreign resident or fatherless child, and do not take a widow’s garment as security. (18) Remember that you were a slave in Egypt, and the LORD your God redeemed you from there. Therefore I am commanding you to do this.”
Generosity of heart
“(19) When you reap the harvest in your field, and you forget a sheaf in the field, do not go back to get it. It is to be left for the foreign resident, the fatherless, and the widow, so that the LORD your God may bless you in all the work of your hands. (20) When you knock down the fruit from your olive tree, you must not go over the branches again. What remains will be for the foreign resident, the fatherless, and the widow. (21) When you gather the grapes of your vineyard, you must not glean what is left. What remains will be for the foreign resident, the fatherless, and the widow. (22) Remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt. Therefore I am commanding you to do this.”
I hope this message will bless you richly…not because I taught it, but because it reveals Christ. He alone is our blessing and if in any way – whether big or small, 100% accurate or even just partially so – I have revealed our great God and Savior to you in a relationally knowable way, then this was time well spent on both our parts.
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