The Right of Citizenship in the Congregation of the Lord. - Deu 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. פְּצוּעַ־דַּכָּה, literally wounded by crushing, i.e., mutilated in this way; Vulg. eunuchus attritis vel amputatis testiculis. Not only animals (see at Lev 22:24), but men also, were castrated in this way. שָׁפְכָה כְּרוּת was one whose sexual member was cut off; Vulg. abscisso veretro. According to Mishnah Jebam. vi. 2, “contusus דַּכָּה est omnis, cujus testiculi vulnerati sunt, vel certe unus eorum; exsectus (כְּרוּת), 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 (Isa 56:4).
So also with the מַמְזֵר, 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 Zec 9:6; and it is neither contracted from מוּם and זָר (according to the Talmud, and Hitzig on Zec 9:6), nor from זָר מֵעַם (Geiger Urschr. p. 52), but in all probability is to be derived from a root מָזַר, 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 Deu 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.
Also no Ammonite or Moabite was to be received, not even in the tenth generation; not, however, because their forefathers were begotten in incest (Gen 19:30.), as Knobel supposes, but on account of the hostility they had manifested to the establishment of the kingdom of God. Not only had they failed to give Israel a hospitable reception on its journey (see at Deu 2:29), but they (viz., the king of the Moabites) had even hired Balaam to curse Israel. In this way they had brought upon themselves the curse which falls upon all those who curse Israel, according to the infallible word of God (Gen 12:3), the truth of which even Balaam was obliged to attest in the presence of Balak (Num 24:9); although out of love to Israel the Lord turned the curse of Balaam into a blessing (cf. Num 22-24). For this reason Israel was never to seek their welfare and prosperity, i.e., to make this an object of its care (“to seek,” as in Jer 29:7); not indeed from personal hatred, for the purpose of repaying evil with evil, since this neither induced Moses to publish the prohibition, nor instigated Ezra when he put the law in force, by compelling the separation of all Ammonitish, Moabitish, and Canaanitish wives from the newly established congregation in Jerusalem (Ezr 9:12). How far Moses was from being influenced by such motives of personal or national revenge is evident, apart from the prohibition in Deu 2:9 and Deu 2:19 against making war upon the Moabites and Ammonites, from the command which follows in Deu 23:8 and Deu 23:9 with reference to the Edomites and Egyptians. These nations had also manifested hostility to the Israelites. Edom had come against them when they desired to march peaceably through his land (Num 20:18.), and the Pharaohs of Egypt had heavily oppressed them. Nevertheless, Israel as to keep the bond of kindred sacred (“he is thy brother”), and not to forget in the case of the Egyptians the benefits derived from their sojourn in their land. Their children might come into the congregation of the Lord in the third generation, i.e., the great-grandchildren of Edomites of Egyptians, who had lived as strangers in Israel (see at Exo 20:5). Such persons might be incorporated into the covenant nation by circumcision.