Deuteronomy 23:1-8 lists some people that are forbidden to "enter the assembly of the LORD".

Deuteronomy 23:1-8 (NKJ)

Those Excluded from the Congregation

1 “He who is emasculated by crushing or mutilation shall not enter the assembly of the LORD. 2 “One of illegitimate birth shall not enter the assembly of the LORD; even to the tenth generation none of his descendants shall enter the assembly of the LORD. 3 “An Ammonite or Moabite shall not enter the assembly of the LORD; even to the tenth generation none of his descendants shall enter the assembly of the LORD forever, 4 because they did not meet you with bread and water on the road when you came out of Egypt, and because they hired against you Balaam the son of Beor from Pethor of Mesopotamia, to curse you. 5 Nevertheless the LORD your God would not listen to Balaam, but the LORD your God turned the curse into a blessing for you, because the LORD your God loves you. 6 You shall not seek their peace nor their prosperity all your days forever. 7 “You shall not abhor an Edomite, for he is your brother. You shall not abhor an Egyptian, because you were an alien in his land. 8 The children of the third generation born to them may enter the assembly of the LORD.

What is the meaning of this? How should it be interpreted? Should this be applied today? If so, how?

  • 1
    Should it be applied today according to whom? See this post for more information, but I'm basically asking you to pick a doctrine or denomination. (Calvanism, Orthodoxy, Mormonism, etc.)
    – Richard
    Nov 3 '11 at 14:53
  • @Richard: I don't believe there's a lot of difference in how the various Christian sects view the Old Testament. If I'm wrong, someone will post something. Most people want to know about verse 1. As far as I know, it's desert justice by women standing up for themselves. Nov 3 '11 at 15:09
  • No, there's not a lot of difference (which is why I didn't close the question). However, some denominations may choose to apply this passage whereas others may choose to ignore it. For example, I believe that Mormonism in particular has guidelines on who can enter the temple. Therefore, they will probably view this passage differently than Quakers, for example.
    – Richard
    Nov 3 '11 at 15:14
  • 1
    @Richard: Yes, Mormons have guidelines on who enters their temples. However, they do not have guidelines on who enters their churches. If there's any Christian sect that has guidelines on who enters their churches, I'd like to know who. Because I can't think of any. Nov 3 '11 at 15:19
  • 1
    I just posted a question on Biblical Hermeneutics referring to the same passage, asking about the meaning of "the assembly of the LORD".
    – Shathur
    Nov 3 '11 at 16:35

You have to go all the way back to Deuteronomy 12 to get to the beginning of the "statutes and judgments" given by God to the Israelites.

Deuteronomy 12:1-7(NKJ)

A Prescribed Place of Worship

1 “These are the statutes and judgments which you shall be careful to observe in the land which the LORD God of your fathers is giving you to possess, all the days that you live on the earth. 2 You shall utterly destroy all the places where the nations which you shall dispossess served their gods, on the high mountains and on the hills and under every green tree. 3 And you shall destroy their altars, break their sacred pillars, and burn their wooden images with fire; you shall cut down the carved images of their gods and destroy their names from that place. 4 You shall not worship the LORD your God with such things. 5 “But you shall seek the place where the LORD your God chooses, out of all your tribes, to put His name for His dwelling place; and there you shall go. 6 There you shall take your burnt offerings, your sacrifices, your tithes, the heave offerings of your hand, your vowed offerings, your freewill offerings, and the firstborn of your herds and flocks. 7 And there you shall eat before the LORD your God, and you shall rejoice in all to which you have put your hand, you and your households, in which the LORD your God has blessed you.

Emphasis mine.

God is giving instruction appropriate for the time and the place. Not everything in Deuteronomy is appropriate for our time and our place.

As J. Daniel Hays writes in his Applying the Old Testament Law Today:

The narrative setting for the Book of Deuteronomy is the eleventh month of the fortieth year of the Exodus (Deut. 1:3), just before Israel entered Canaan. The place is specified—just east of the Jordan River (1:1, 5). Israel had completed the forty years of wandering as a punishment for refusing to enter the land. Now a new generation had grown up and God gave them a restatement of the covenant that He had made with their parents forty years earlier. Most of Deuteronomy consists of a series of speeches that Moses delivered to the Israelites on God’s behalf. These speeches are connected to the narrative because they refer to the same time, place, and main characters as the narrative does. Also the end of the book contains some nonlegal, narrative material: the appointment of Joshua as leader (31:1–8), the song of Moses (32:1–47), a blessing of Moses on the tribes (33:1–29), and the death of Moses (34:1–12). Furthermore the events of Deuteronomy flow into the Book of Joshua, where the story continues without interruption.

  • As you say, the commandments that God gave in Deuteronomy was meant for a specific context. That's why I think that i's especially important to understand the meaning and purpose of the commandments so that we can find some applicable general principle (if any). Therefore, I'm asking if there is any general principle in this one and if we can apply that particular principle in our own lives and congregations today. Perhaps I should extend my question.
    – Shathur
    Nov 3 '11 at 16:24
  • @Shathur: In Deuteronomy 23:1-8, in my opinion, the only universal principle is "because the LORD your God loves you". Nov 3 '11 at 17:13
  • "all the days that you live on the earth" seems to explicitly NOT restrict this to a particular time and place. unless "you" is the individual hearing the command. but that wouldn't make sense either...
    – zipquincy
    Nov 3 '11 at 18:59
  • @zipquincy: "You" is the people hearing the statutes and judgments. The Israelites. Nov 3 '11 at 19:34
  • OK. but surely not just the exact people physically present? the Isrealites today -- should they be following this since they still live on this earth?
    – zipquincy
    Nov 3 '11 at 21:38

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