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Verse-by-Verse Bible Commentary

Deuteronomy 23:1

 

 

"No one who is emasculated or has his male organ cut off shall enter the assembly of the LORD.

Adam Clarke Commentary

Shall not enter into the congregation, etc. - If by entering the congregation be meant the bearing a civil office among the people, such as magistrate, judge, etc., then the reason 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.


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Clarke, Adam. "Commentary on Deuteronomy 23:1". "The Adam Clarke Commentary". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/acc/deuteronomy-23.html. 1832.

Albert Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible

Compare Leviticus 21:17-24. Such persons, exhibiting a mutilation of that human nature which was made in God‘s image, were rejected from the covenant entirely. However, they could be proselytes (compare Acts 8:27). The Old Testament itself foretells Isaiah 56:3-5 the removal of this ban when under the kingdom of Messiah the outward and emblematic perfection and sanctity of Israel should be fulfilled in their inner meaning by the covenanted presence and work of the Holy Spirit in the Church.


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Barnes, Albert. "Commentary on Deuteronomy 23:1". "Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/bnb/deuteronomy-23.html. 1870.

John Gill's Exposition of the Whole Bible

He that is wounded in the stones,.... In any of them, not accidentally, but purposely; which are crushed and bruised by the hands of men, with a design to make him unfit for generation, or to make an eunuch of him:

or that hath his privy member cut by himself or another, and is a thorough eunuch by the hands of men; for of such eunuchs that are made by men, and not born so, the law speaks; so Maimonides interprets itF6Hilchot lssure Biah, c. 16. sect. 8. ; See Gill on Matthew 19:12.

shall not enter into the congregation of the Lord; which is to be understood not of the sanctuary of the Lord, or of being refused admittance into the church of God, and to join in religious rites, and partake of sacred ordinances, which all Israelites, and strangers that were proselytes, had a right unto; such might bring their offerings, keep the passover, &c. Exodus 12:48 nor of the commonwealth of Israel, as if unfit to be members of civil society; it cannot be thought that such defects should abridge them of their civil rights and privileges: but by the congregation is to be understood the elders, judges, and representatives of the people, that met together in some one place to execute judgment; see Numbers 35:12, into which such persons were not to be admitted; either because disgraceful and dishonourable, or because of the influence such defects have on their minds, they thereby becoming effeminate, irresolute, and wanting courage, as well as in opposition to the customs and usages of the Heathens, with whom it was common to admit such persons to civil offices; hence the word eunuch is sometimes used for an officer, Genesis 37:36 and elsewhere; the JewsF7Targum Jon. in loc. Misn. Yebamot, c. 8. sect. 2, 4, 5, 6. Maimon. Moreh Nevochim, par. 3. c. 49. restrain this law to marriage, but unnecessarily.


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Bibliography
Gill, John. "Commentary on Deuteronomy 23:1". "The New John Gill Exposition of the Entire Bible". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/geb/deuteronomy-23.html. 1999.

Geneva Study Bible

He that is wounded in the stones, or hath his privy member cut off, a shall not enter into the congregation of the LORD.

(a) Either to bear office, or to marry a wife.

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Beza, Theodore. "Commentary on Deuteronomy 23:1". "The 1599 Geneva Study Bible". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/gsb/deuteronomy-23.html. 1599-1645.

Hawker's Poor Man's Commentary

CONTENTS

This chapter is but a continuation of the same subject as in the former. Here are certain laws for the preservation of Israel, as an holy people to the LORD, without blemish and without imperfection; laws, also, for the keeping in purity the camp, and the persons of LORD'S people; against whoredom, usury, the breach of vows, and encroachments on another's property.


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Hawker, Robert, D.D. "Commentary on Deuteronomy 23:1". "Hawker's Poor Man's Commentary". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/pmc/deuteronomy-23.html. 1828.

Wesley's Explanatory Notes

He that is wounded in the stones, or hath his privy member cut off, shall not enter into the congregation of the LORD.

He that is wounded — A phrase denoting an eunuch.

Shall not enter into the congregation of the Lord — Shall not be admitted to honours and offices either in the church or commonwealth of Israel; and so the congregation of the Lord doth not here signify, the body of the people, but the society of the elders or rulers of the people. Add to this, that the Hebrew word, Kahal, generally signifies a congregation or company of men met together; and therefore this cannot so conveniently be meant of all the body of the people, which could never meet in one place, but of the chief rulers, which frequently did so. Nor is it strange that eunuchs are excluded from government, both because such persons are commonly observed to want that courage which is necessary for a governor, because as such persons ordinarily were despicable, so the authority in their hands was likely to be exposed to the same contempt.


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Bibliography
Wesley, John. "Commentary on Deuteronomy 23:1". "John Wesley's Explanatory Notes on the Whole Bible". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/wen/deuteronomy-23.html. 1765.

Calvin's Commentary on the Bible

1He that is wounded. What is here delivered respecting those who are mutilated, and who are bastards, has a similar object; lest the Church of God should be onctaminate by foul stains, and thus religion should lose its honor. Moses rejects from the congregation of the faithful two sorts of men, viz, eunuchs and bastards. But, before we treat of the subject itself, the definition of the words is to be considered. The first question is, that it is to enter into the congregation; the second, what it is to be wounded in the stones; the third, who are the ממזרים, mamzerim, which we have translated bastards, (spurios ). Many understand that both are rejected from the church, lest they should undertake any public office in it; others, lest they should marry wives of the seed of Abraham; because it would not be fair that women should be thrown away upon bastards, (Lat, mamzeris ;) and it would be absurd that those who were created to multiply God’s people, should marry impotent persons, (effoeminatis ). But both these opinions appear to me to be tame. For what is afterwards added respecting certain foreign nations cannot be so taken, that no government or dignity should be entrusted to them; besides, by “the congregation of the Lord,” the purity and holiness of religion is sufficiently expressed. I do not doubt, then, but that Moses prohibits those who are defiled by these two stains from communicating in the sacrifices. For although they were circumcised as well as the rest of the chosen people, still God would have them bear this mark of their disgrace, that they might be an example to others, and that the people might be more diligent in preserving themselves from all pollution. This, then, is to be concluded that the privilege which was peculiar to the legitimate Israelites, was to be denied them of being participators and associates (19) in the sacrifices. As to the wounded testicles, the Jews dispute more curiously, in my opinion, that the subject warrants, and after all miss the right meaning. For God intended nothing else than to exclude from the congregation of His people, wherever holy assemblies were held, those who were mutilated or defective in the genital organs; although by synecdoche, He comprehends more than are specified. Finally, by condemning this external bodily defect He commends the excellency of His people that they may remember themselves to be His chosen property, not that they should pride themselves upon it (20) but that the holiness of their life may correspond with such high nobility.


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Calvin, John. "Commentary on Deuteronomy 23:1". "Calvin's Commentary on the Bible". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/cal/deuteronomy-23.html. 1840-57.

John Trapp Complete Commentary

Deuteronomy 23:1 He that is wounded in the stones, or hath his privy member cut off, shall not enter into the congregation of the LORD.

Ver. 1. Or hath his privy member cut off.] As it is a barbarous custom at this day among the Turks, to deprive various Christian children of their privities, supplying the uses of nature with a silver quill. This was first brought in among them by Selymus II, out of jealousy lest his eunuchs were not so chaste as they should have been, in keeping their ladies’ beds. (a) Such are usually effeminate, and unfit to bear office.

Shall not enter into the congregation,] i.e., Shall not go in and out before the people as a public officer. Since such should be drained from the dregs, and sifted from the brans of the vulgar: they should be eminent and eximious persons, higher than the rest, as Saul, by the head and shoulders.


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Trapp, John. "Commentary on Deuteronomy 23:1". John Trapp Complete Commentary. http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/jtc/deuteronomy-23.html. 1865-1868.

Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible

Ver. 1. Shall not enter into the congregation This law is directed against the infamous practice of making eunuchs: such persons were not to be deemed Israelites, nor have their names entered in the public register, and consequently were not to be accounted members of the Jewish community. See Selden de Jure N. & G. lib. 5: cap. 14 and Nehemiah 13:1-3, compared with 23, 24, 25. Eunuchs were so much abhorred by some of the pagans, that Lucian, in Eunucho, tells us, they were not only excluded from the schools of the philosophers, but from their lustrations, their holy offices, and all common meetings. It should, however, be observed, that paganism, in some places, recommended this practice; the priests of Cybele, the mother of the gods in particular, were all of this class. Casaubon observes upon Athenaeus, that some heathens anciently put such a mark of infamy upon bastards, mentioned in the next verse, as to prohibit both males and females from coming to their sacred offices.


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Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on Deuteronomy 23:1". Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible. http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/tcc/deuteronomy-23.html. 1801-1803.

Matthew Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible

DEUTERONOMY CHAPTER 23

Who are to be excluded from the congregation, Deuteronomy 23:1-6. An Edomite and Egyptian not to be abhorred, and why, Deuteronomy 23:7,8. No uncleanness to be in the camp, Deuteronomy 23:9-14. No filthiness, Deuteronomy 23:17. No abominable sacrifice must be, Deuteronomy 23:18. No usury, but to strangers, Deuteronomy 23:19,20. Vows must be kept, Deuteronomy 23:21-23. The liberty that was lawful in their neighbour’s field or vineyard, Deuteronomy 23:24,25.

Heb. wounded by compression, or attrition, or contusion, to wit, of the stones, which was the course the Gentiles took with infants to make them eunuchs. And these eunuchs and bastards, Deuteronomy 23:2, seem to be not only those of other nations, as some understand it, without any foundation for such restriction, but also of the Israelites; the reason of this law being the same in all, to wit, that God would bring into disgrace those heathenish practices of making eunuchs, and getting bastards, which doubtless he would especially do among his own people. Shall not enter into the congregation of the Lord; which phrase cannot be understood so that they might not come into the church, or holy assemblies, to worship God, to pray, or hear, &c., because proselytes of any nation, being admitted to common church privileges, no less than the Jews, (as is evident from Exodus 12:48 Leviticus 22:18 Numbers 9:14 15:15) it were absurd to think that any of the Israelites, for such a natural or involuntary defect, should be shut out from all God’s ordinances; nor so that they were to be put out of the muster-roll of God’s people, or to lose the privileges common to all Israelites, to wit, the benefit of the year of release or jubilee, which it is not probable the Israelites were to forfeit merely for this unculpable imperfection; but either,

1. That they should not be incorporated into the body of Israel by marriage; for so this phrase may seem to have been understood by the whole congregation of Israel, Nehemiah 13:1-3 23-25; although at that time the government was in part in the hands of such persons as are here mentioned, Deuteronomy 23:3, or of their children, seeing it is apparent from Ezr 10 that many priests and Levites and other officers and rulers of Israel were married to strange women, whose issue are by this law excluded from all share in the government, and for that, among other reasons, Nehemiah separated them from Israel by virtue of the law here following. Or,

2. That they should not be admitted to honours and offices either in the church or commonwealth of Israel; and so

the congregation of the Lord doth not here signify, as commonly it doth, the body of the people, but the society of the elders or rulers of the people, who, as they represent the whole congregation, and act in their name, and for their service and good, so they are sometimes called by the name of the congregation, as Numbers 35:12 24 25 Jos 20:6,9 1 Kings 8:5, compared with Deuteronomy 23:1-3; and 1 Chronicles 13:1,2,4 29:1,10,20, compared with 1 Chronicles 28:1 29:6; and of the congregation of God, as it is in the Hebrew of Psalms 82:1. Howsoever, seeing they are oft called the congregation, they may very well be called in a special manner the congregation of the Lord, because they were appointed by God, and act in his name and stead, and for his work and service, and did also oft assemble near the tabernacle, where God was eminently present. Add to this, that the Hebrew word kahal generally signifies a congregation or company of men met together; and therefore this cannot so conveniently be meant of all the body of the people, which could never meet in one place, but of the chief rulers, which frequently did so. Nor is it strange that eunuchs are excluded from government, partly because such persons are commonly observed to want that courage which is necessary for a governor, Exodus 18:21; and partly because as such persons ordinarily were despicable, so the office and authority in their hands was likely to be exposed to the same contempt.


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Bibliography
Poole, Matthew, "Commentary on Deuteronomy 23:1". Matthew Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible. http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/mpc/deuteronomy-23.html. 1685.

Whedon's Commentary on the Bible

PERSONS WHO ARE NOT TO BE RECEIVED INTO THE CONGREGATION, Deuteronomy 23:1-8.

1. Cut off — No doubt Moses aimed to keep the people of God free from those pernicious customs so prevalent among the Eastern nations. At an early date eunuchs were employed at the courts of the Egyptian and Assyrian kings. On the exclusion of these classes from the priesthood compare Leviticus 21:17-24.


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Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on Deuteronomy 23:1". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/whe/deuteronomy-23.html. 1874-1909.

George Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary

Eunuch. By these are meant, in the spiritual sense, such as are barren in good works. (Challoner) (Theodoret, q. 25.) (Worthington) --- The Hebrew also specifies three sorts of eunuchs, though the Septuagint and Chaldean have only two. No mention is made of natural eunuchs, who are not excluded from the church of the Lord. (Calmet) --- This outrage of castration was first offered to nature by Semiramis. (Am. Marcellin. 14.) --- Church. That is, into the assembly or congregation of Israel, so as to have the privilege of an Israelite, or to be capable of any place or office among the people of God. (Challoner) --- Philo says, they were not to enter the court of the temple. See Lamentations i. 10. Others think they could not embrace the Jewish religion, Exodus xii. 48. But this privilege could not be refused. Most probably the custom of making eunuchs is forbidden, and if any were found among the Jews, they should not be admitted to any place of authority. Isaias (lvi. 5,) speaks of some faithful eunuchs, to whom God will give a place in his house; but he alludes to those of the new law, who embrace the state of celibacy, Matthew xix. 12. Eunuchs were rejected from the magistracy among the Romans; and when some were at last received, it was deemed unnatural, as their disposition is generally cruel and selfish. Omnia cesserunt Eunucho Consule monstra. (Claud. in Eutrop. i.) (Calmet) --- Those who had the misfortune among the Jews to be eunuchs, did not perhaps (Haydock) lose the right of citizenship. (Tirinus)


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Haydock, George Leo. "Commentary on Deuteronomy 23:1". "George Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/hcc/deuteronomy-23.html. 1859.

E.W. Bullinger's Companion Bible Notes

congregation = assembly.


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Bullinger, Ethelbert William. "Commentary on Deuteronomy 23:1". "E.W. Bullinger's Companion bible Notes". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/bul/deuteronomy-23.html. 1909-1922.

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged

He that is wounded in the stones, or hath his privy member cut off, shall not enter into the congregation of the LORD.

He that is wounded ... shall not enter into the congregation of the Lord. To "enter into the congregation of the Lord" means either admission to public honours and offices in the Church and State of Israel, or, in the case of foreigners, incorporation with that nation by circumcision or by marriage. The rule was, that strangers and foreigners, for fear of friendship or marriage connections with them leading the people into idolatry, were not admissible until their conversion to the Jewish faith.

But this passage describes certain limitations of the general rule. The following parties were excluded from the full rights and privileges of citizenship:

1st. Eunuchs. It was a very ancient practice for the priests of many pagan deities, particularly those of the Syrian goddess, to be eunuchs, and for parents in the East, by various arts, to mutilate their children, with a view of training them for service in the houses of the great. Since no animal but one entirely free from defect or blemish was fit for sacrifice, so no individual was qualified for associating with the people of God in whom the divine image was willfully mutilated. And hence, this law was the means of interdicting among the Jews that practice of eunuchism, of old so extensively prevalent in the East.

2nd. Bastards, mamzeer (Hebrew #4464) - a word of uncertain etymology [Gesenius derives it from the root maazar, to be corrupt], and found only in one other passage (Zechariah 9:6) - is supposed by some to denote a stranger [as composed, according to Lee, of min (Hebrew #4480), also `am (Hebrew #5971), people, and zaar (Hebrew #2114), a foreigner; one from a foreign nation. The Septuagint has in this passage: ek pornees; Vulgate, de scorto natus-one born of fornication; but in that of Zechariah referred to, the Greek version has: allogenees-a stranger or foreigner, one of a different nation, which, as being pagan, is frequently called by the Hebrew bards a harlot (Isaiah 23:17-18).] It is evident that it cannot mean one born of parents before being united in lawful wedlock, for such a case is remedied by the statute recorded, Deuteronomy 22:29; and therefore, in the opinion of Jewish writers generally, it must denote one whose father, from the mother's loose conduct, was unknown.

A stigma being attached to a person of such a disreputable origin, Selden, following the Jewish rabbis, thinks that this law was designed solely to prohibit "a bastard" from forming a matrimonial connection with a Hebrew woman; for it would seem an act of the greatest cruelty to prevent an individual who professed his faith in the Jewish religion from 'entering into the congregation of the Lord.'

The other signification of the word, namely, a stranger or foreigner, is preferred by many eminent scholars, not only because it suits both the passages in which the term occurs, but because, if that interpretation be rejected, there is really no express rule prescribed by Moses respecting the admission of foreigners to the community of Israel; and by this restrictive law they were declared generally excluded, as incapable, from the special tenor of the divine covenant, of fully participating, by naturalization, in the privileges of Israelites.


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Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Deuteronomy 23:1". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/jfu/deuteronomy-23.html. 1871-8.

Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers

(1) The rule that a eunuch should not enter into the congregation was doubtless intended to prevent the Israelitish rulers from making eunuchs of their brethren the children of Israel. As a set off to this apparent harshness towards the man who had been thus treated, we must read Isaiah 56:3-4, in which a special promise is given to the eunuchs that keep God’s Sabbaths and take hold of His covenant. God will give to them within His house and within His walls “a place and a name better than of sons and of daughters—an everlasting name that shall not be cut off.” As a special calamity it was foretold to Hezekiah that some of his descendants should be eunuchs in the palace of the King of Babylon. But Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, in whom this prophecy was fulfilled, have ennobled the “children that are of their sort” for evermore.

We have no means of knowing whether the eunuchs that were in the service of the kings of Israel or Judah (1 Samuel 8:15; 1 Kings 22:9; 2 Kings 8:6; 2 Kings 9:32, &c.) were Israelites by birth or not. Ebedmelech, the Ethiopian, who received a special blessing from Jeremiah (Jeremiah 39:15-18), was a foreigner, and so very possibly were most, if not all, of his kind in Israel.

As to the second clause of this verse, it must be remembered that circumcision was the sign of the covenant of Jehovah; mutilation a form of heathen self-devotion. (See Gal. 5, 12, Revised New Testament, Margin, and Bishop Lightfoot’s comment on that place.) St. Paul’s words in Galatians receive a double meaning from this law. By doing what he refers to, they would cut themselves off from the congregation of the Lord. Rashi also gives another meaning, which would connect the precept with Leviticus 15:2.


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Ellicott, Charles John. "Commentary on Deuteronomy 23:1". "Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/ebc/deuteronomy-23.html. 1905.

Treasury of Scripture Knowledge

He that is wounded in the stones, or hath his privy member cut off, shall not enter into the congregation of the LORD.
wounded
Leviticus 21:17-21; 22:22-24; Galatians 3:28
shall not enter
It is evident that his law was not meant to exclude such Israelites either from the common benefits of civil society, or any essential religious advantages; but merely to lay them under a disgraceful distinction. This would tend to discourage parents from thus treating their children; a practice which was exceedingly common in those ages and countries. To this they were induced by the custom which prevailed, of employing such in the houses of the great and the courts of princes; so that they often rose to the highest posts of honour and authority. Some expositors therefore consider the phrase, "shall not enter into the congregation of the Lord," as meaning, that they should be incapable of bearing any office in that government which was placed over the people of God, who must thus enter a protest against this custom, and deliver selfish parents from this temptation.
2,3,8; Nehemiah 13:1-3; Isaiah 56:3,4; Lamentations 1:10

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Torrey, R. A. "Commentary on Deuteronomy 23:1". "The Treasury of Scripture Knowledge". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/tsk/deuteronomy-23.html.

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