Deuteronomy 23

The Word Made Fresh

1“Do not allow a man whose genitals have been damaged or severed to attend official gatherings of the people, 2nor anyone who was born of an unlawful sexual union, nor even their children for ten generations. 3Do not admit Ammonites or Moabites or any of their offspring for ten generations at your official meetings 4because they did not so much as offer you food and water when you came out of Egypt, and they even hired Balaam son of Beor from Pethor in Mesopotamia to curse you. 5(But, of course, the LORD your God loved you and refused to listen to him, and instead turned his curse into a blessing.) 6Don’t ever do anything to help them.

7“On the other hand, do not hold grudges against the Edomites because you are related to them, 8or to the Egyptians because you were once foreigners living in their land. 8The third generation of children born to them may attend your official meetings.

9“When you are encamped against your enemies make sure you keep away from anything impure. 10Anyone who has a nocturnal genital emission must stay outside the camp. 11They may return the next evening after bathing themselves. 12Always designate a latrine area outside your camp, 13and make sure the men carry scoops to use for digging and covering holes when you go outside the camp to relieve yourselves. 14Remember that the LORD your God travels with you to help you be victorious over your enemies, so keep your camp clean. 15You would not want the LORD to leave you because of your filth.

15“If slaves that belonged to your enemy come to you for refuge, don’t send them back. 16Let them stay in your land and settle wherever they choose and don’t treat them badly.

17“Never allow your daughters or sons to serve as prostitutes in pagan temples, 18and do not accept their wages in the LORD’s house as payment of a vow. The LORD abhors such behavior.

19“If you lend anything to a fellow Israelite, do not charge interest. 20You may charge interest on loans to foreigners, but never to another Israelite. This is one of the ways the LORD your God will bless you when you enter the land.

21“Be certain you promptly keep any vow you make to the LORD, or you will be guilty of withholding what belongs to the LORD. 22If you don’t make vows you won’t be held guilty of breaking them. 23You must do whatever you say you will do; the LORD will hold you responsible.

24“If you enter your neighbor’s vineyard you may eat all the grapes you wish, but don’t put them in a basket and take them with you. 25The same goes with your neighbor’s grain; you may pick some with your hands, but don’t use a sickle.”


1: This seems an odd rule, but since the original covenant promised many descendants, no one incapable of producing offspring was to be admitted to the “assembly.” The assembly is a reference to national or important regional gatherings of the people for worship or warfare or festivals.

2-6: Others to be excluded: persons born out of wedlock, in order to discourage illicit sexual unions; and those with Moabite and Ammonite lineage because of the historical enmity between those nations and Israel.

7-8: Edomites and Egyptians, however, are given special treatment because of their historical connections with Israel.

9-14: These verses give rules for sanitary conditions in the military camps.

15-16: Slaves in Israel were to be treated with much more humanity than in other ancient civilizations, perhaps because of the memory of their past as slaves in Egypt.

17-18: Temple prostitution was a popular practice among the Canaanites; Israel was not to participate in such.

19-20: No-interest loans; what a wonderful idea!

21-23: You don’t have to make God any promises (aside from keeping the covenant), but if you do, you’d better take them seriously!

24-25: The casual availing of oneself to a neighbor’s produce was to be overlooked, but don’t overdo it!


You have to marvel at the thoroughness of the laws given to the people as they prepare to become a nation. Deuteronomy is essentially Israel’s declaration of independence and their constitution.