Deuteronomy 23:2
A bastard shall not enter into the congregation of the LORD; even to his tenth generation shall he not enter into the congregation of the LORD.
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(2) A bastard shall not enter.—Such a person would not, even now, be circumcised by the Jews, or permitted to marry an Israelitish woman, or be buried with his people; therefore he was excluded from the covenant. It is manifest how efficacious would be the enforcement of this law also in preserving the purity of family life.

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.A bastard - Probably, a child born of incest or adultery.

Even to his tenth generation - i. e. (see the next verse and Nehemiah 13:1), forever. Ten is the number of perfection and completeness.


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.

A bastard; so the word is commonly rendered, and so it notes a person base-born, or born in fornication or adultery, or by incestuous or any prohibited mixtures of man and woman.


1. This law seems harsh, and too severe for the innocent bastard.

Answ. 1. It was only an exclusion from government, which was a tolerable burden.

2. It was a necessary caution to prevent and brand the sin of uncleanness, to which the Jews were more than ordinarily prone.

Object. 2. Pharez and Jephthah were both bastards, yet advanced to great honour and authority.

Answ. God gives laws to us, and not to himself; and, therefore he might, when he saw fit, confer what favour or power he pleased upon any such person, as he did to these. But some add, that the Hebrew word mamzer signifies not every bastard, but a bastard born of any strange woman, as the word may seem to intimate, and as such persons generally seem to have been, because of that special provision, that there should be no whore of the daughters of Israel, as it is here below, Deu 23:17.

To his tenth generation; or, his tenth generation, as it is in the Hebrew, and so in the following verses.

A bastard shall not enter into the congregation of the Lord,.... That is born of whoredom, as the Targum of Jonathan; and for the sake of avoiding whoredom and deterring from it was this law made, according to Maimonides (h), that adulterers might see, as he observes, that they affect their whole family with an irreparable stain, should they commit such an infamous action; though the Jews commonly interpret it of one that is born of any of those incestuous copulations forbidden in Leviticus 18:1 which they gather from this following upon, and being near unto one of those incests mentioned in the last verse of the preceding chapter (i); and it is a rule with them (k), that persons born of such copulations were reckoned bastards; now such an one, according to Jarchi, might not marry an Israelitish woman, or rather might not be admitted into the assembly of elders, or bear any public office. Jephthah may seem to be an objection to this, who was the son of an harlot, Judges 11:1 which might be owing to the badness of the times, the laws of God being neglected, or to the providence of God so ordering it, who is not bound by his own laws, though men are; nor was he the son of a common harlot, nor of an incestuous person, but of his father's concubine; besides some think such only are intended who were born of strangers and not Israelites:

even unto his tenth generation shall he not enter into the congregation of the Lord; which seems as if he might at the eleventh; but it is generally interpreted never, as is gathered from the following verse, and from the tenth number being an absolute and perfect one; yet according to the Jewish writers there were ways and means by which their posterity became legitimate; so they say, bastards may be purified (or legitimated), how? if one marries a servant maid, the child is a servant, who if he becomes free, (his) son is a free man (l).

(h) Targum Jon. in loc. Misn. Yebamot, c. 8. sect. 2, 4, 5, 6. Maimon. Moreh Nevochim, par. 3. c. 49. (i) Bartenora in Misn. Kiddushin, c. 3. sect. 12. (k) Misn. Kiddushin, c. 3. sect. 12. & Misn. Yebamot, c. 4. sect. 13. Jarchi & Aben Ezra in loc. (l) Misn. Kiddushin, c. 3. sect. 13.

{b} A bastard shall not enter into the congregation of the LORD; even to his tenth generation shall he not enter into the congregation of the LORD.

(b) This was to cause them to live chastely, that their posterity might not be rejected.

Verse 2. - A bastard; one born of a harlot; so the Hebrew word (מָמְזֶר), which occurs only here and in Zechariah 9:6, is said to mean; LXX., ἐκ πόρνης: Vulgate, de scorto natus; the Talmud and the rabbins represent the word as denoting one begotten in adultery or incest (Maimon., 'Issure Biah.,' c. 15. §§ 1, 2, 7, 9); so also the Syriac bar game, "son of adultery." To his tenth generation; i.e. forever, ten being the number of indefiniteness (cf. Genesis 31:7; Numbers 14:22; Job 19:3; Psalm 3:6, etc.). Deuteronomy 23:2So also with the ממזר, i.e., not persons begotten out of wedlock, illegitimate children generally (lxx, Vulg.), but, according to the Talmud and the Rabbins, those who were begotten in incest or adultery (cf. Ges. thes. p. 781). The etymology of the word is obscure. The only other place in which it occurs is Zechariah 9:6; and it is neither contracted from מוּם and זר (according to the Talmud, and Hitzig on Zechariah 9:6), nor from זר מעם (Geiger Urschr. p. 52), but in all probability is to be derived from a root מזר, synonymous with the Arabic word "to be corrupt, or foul." The additional clause, "not even in the tenth generation," precludes all possibility of their ever being received. Ten is the number of complete exclusion. In Deuteronomy 23:3, therefore, "for ever" is added. The reason is the same as in the case of mutilated persons, namely, their springing from a connection opposed to the divine order of the creation.
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