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.
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(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 (1Samuel 8:15; 1Kings 22:9; 2Kings 8:6; 2Kings 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.

Deuteronomy 23:1-2. He that is wounded — It is generally agreed that Moses is here speaking of eunuchs. Shall not enter into the congregation of the Lord — The meaning is, not that they should be debarred from the public worship of the true God, as the phrase sometimes signifies, for that privilege was granted to all nations indiscriminately, provided they renounced idolatry, Exodus 12:48; Leviticus 22:18; Numbers 9:14. But the sense seems to be, that such a one should not be deemed an Israelite, nor have his name entered in the public register; and especially that he should not be admitted to honours or offices, either in the church or commonwealth of Israel, or be allowed to be one of the society of elders, or rulers of the people, or to sit in council with them. The same privilege was denied to those here termed bastards, under which name the Jews comprehended not only those begotten in simple fornication, but also the offspring of all such incestuous marriages, as are prohibited Leviticus 18. One chief reason of this law, no doubt, was, to deter people from such unlawful connections as would both offend God, and leave an indelible blot upon their posterity.

23:1-8 We ought to value the privileges of God's people, both for ourselves and for our children, above all other advantages. No personal blemishes, no crimes of our forefathers, no difference of nation, shuts us out under the Christian dispensation. But an unsound heart will deprive us of blessings; and a bad example, or an unsuitable marriage, may shut our children from them.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. CHAPTER 23

De 23:1-25. Who May and Who May Not Enter into the Congregation.

1-3. 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 honors and offices in the Church and State of Israel, or, in the case of foreigners, incorporation with that nation 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 till 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: (1) Eunuchs—It was a very ancient practice for parents in the East by various arts to mutilate their children, with a view to training them for service in the houses of the great. (2) Bastards—Such an indelible stigma in both these instances was designed as a discouragement to practices that were disgraceful, but too common from intercourse with foreigners. (3) Ammonites and Moabites—Without provocation they had combined to engage a soothsayer to curse the Israelites; and had further endeavored, by ensnaring them into the guilt and licentious abominations of idolatry, to seduce them from their allegiance to God.Who are to be excluded from the congregation, Deu 23:1-6. An Edomite and Egyptian not to be abhorred, and why, Deu 23:7,8. No uncleanness to be in the camp, Deu 23:9-14. No filthiness, Deu 23:17. No abominable sacrifice must be, Deu 23:18. No usury, but to strangers, Deu 23:19,20. Vows must be kept, Deu 23:21-23. The liberty that was lawful in their neighbour’s field or vineyard, Deu 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, Deu 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, Deu 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 Deu 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 Psalm 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.

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 it (f); 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 Jews (g) restrain this law to marriage, but unnecessarily.

(f) Hilchot lssure Biah, c. 16. sect. 8. (g) Targum Jon. in loc. Misn. Yebamot, c. 8. sect. 2, 4, 5, 6. Maimon. Moreh Nevochim, par. 3. c. 49.

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.

Verse 1. - Mutilation was performed by the two methods here specified - crushing and excision. The exclusion of persons who had suffered this from the congregation, i.e. from the covenant fellowship of Israel, the πολιτεία τοῦ Ισραὴλ (Ephesians 2:12), was due to the priestly character of the nation. Israel was a kingdom of priests (Exodus 19:6), and the admission into it of one in whom the nature of man, as made by God, had been degraded and marred, would have been unfitting; just as all bodily blemish unfitted a man for being a priest, though otherwise qualified (Leviticus 21:16-24). This law, however, was one of the ordinances intended for the period of nonage; it had reference to the outward typical aspect of the Israelitish constitution; and it ceased to have any significance when the spiritual kingdom of God came to be established. Even under the theocracy, eunuchs were not excluded from religious privileges; they could keep God's Sabbaths, and take hold of his covenant, and choose the things pleasing to him, and so be part of the spiritual Israel, though shut out from the fellowship of that which was outward and national (cf. Isaiah 56:4). Deuteronomy 23:1The Right of Citizenship in the Congregation of the Lord. - Deuteronomy 23:1. Into the congregation of the Lord there was not to come, i.e., not to be received, any person who was mutilated in his sexual member. פּצוּע־דּכּה, literally wounded by crushing, i.e., mutilated in this way; Vulg. eunuchus attritis vel amputatis testiculis. Not only animals (see at Leviticus 22:24), but men also, were castrated in this way. שׁפכה כּרוּת was one whose sexual member was cut off; Vulg. abscisso veretro. According to Mishnah Jebam. vi. 2, "contusus דּכּה est omnis, cujus testiculi vulnerati sunt, vel certe unus eorum; exsectus (כּרוּת), cujus membrum virile praecisum est." In the modern East, emasculation is generally performed in this way (see Tournefort, Reise. ii. p. 259, and Burckhardt, Nubien, pp. 450, 451). The reason for the exclusion of emasculated persons from the congregation of Jehovah, i.e., not merely from office (officio et publico magistratu, Luth.) and from marriage with an Israelitish woman (Fag., C. a Lap., and others), but from admission into the covenant fellowship of Israel with the Lord, is to be found in the mutilation of the nature of man as created by God, which was irreconcilable with the character of the people of God. Nature is not destroyed by grace, but sanctified and transformed. This law, however, was one of the ordinances intended for the period of infancy, and has lost its significance with the spread of the kingdom of God over all the nations of the earth (Isaiah 56:4).
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