Neither eunuchs, bastards, Ammonites, nor Moabites, shall be incorporated with the genuine Israelites, 1-3. The reason why the Ammonites and Moabites were excluded, 4-6. Edomites and Egyptians to be respected, 7. Their descendants in the third generation may be incorporated with the Israelites, 8. Cautions against wickedness when they go forth against their enemies, 9. To keep the camp free from every defilement, and the reason why, 10-14. The slave who had taken refuge among them is not to be delivered up to his former master, 15,16. There shall be no prostitutes nor sodomites in the land, 17. The hire of a prostitute or the price of a dog is not to be brought into the house of God, 18. The Israelites shall not lend on usury to each other, 19; but they may take usury from strangers, 20. Vows must be diligently paid, 21-23. In passing through a vine yard or field a man may eat of the grapes or corn, but must carry away none with him, 24,25.
Notes on Chapter 23
Shall not enter into the congregation,
If by entering the congregation be meant the bearing a civil office among the people, such as magistrate, judge, of the law is very plain; no man with any such personal defect as might render him contemptible in the sight of others should bear rule among the people, lest the contempt felt for his personal defects might be transferred to his important office, and thus his authority be disregarded. The general meaning of these words is, simply, that the persons here designated should not be so incorporated with the Jews as to partake of their civil privileges.
A bastard shall not enter
mamzer, which is here rendered bastard, should be understood as implying the offspring of an illegitimate or incestuous mixture.
An Ammonite or Moabite
These nations were subjected for their impiety and wickedness, (see Deuteronomy 23:4,5,) to peculiar disgrace, and on this account were not permitted to hold any office among the Israelites. But this did not disqualify them from being proselytes: Ruth, who was a Moabitess, was married to Boaz, and she became one of the progenitors of our Lord.
Even to their tenth generation
That is, for ever, as the next clause explains; see Nehemiah 13:1.
These directions may appear trifling to some, but they were essentially necessary to this people in their present circumstances. Decency and cleanliness promote health, and prevent many diseases.
Thou shalt not deliver-the servant which is escaped-unto thee
That is, a servant who left an idolatrous master that he might join himself to God and to his people. In any other case, it would have been injustice to have harboured the runaway.
There shall be no whore
See on Genesis 38:15-21.
The hire of a whore, or the price of a dog
Many public prostitutes dedicated to their gods a part of their impure earnings; and some of these prostitutes were publicly kept in the temple of Venus Melytta, whose gains were applied to the support of her abominable worship.
See Clarke on Leviticus 25:36.
When thou shalt vow,
See Clarke on Numbers 30:2.
Thou shalt not put any in thy vessel.
Thou shalt carry none away with thee. The old English proverb, Eat thy fill but pocket none, seems to have been founded on this law.
Thou mayest pluck the ears with thine hand
It was on the permission granted by this law that the disciples plucked the ears of corn, as related Matthew 12:1. This was both a considerate and humane law, and is no dishonour to the Jewish code.