The Congregation of the Lord Jealously Guarded
Deuteronomy 23:1-8
He that is wounded in the stones, or has his privy member cut off, shall not enter into the congregation of the LORD.…

There has been considerable controversy about what the term" entering into the congregation of the Lord signifies. It cannot be the Old Testament equivalent for our "communicants," or "Church members;" for it would seem from Exodus 12:48, 49, that Jewish privileges were open to strangers on condition of their circumcision. Nor need we interpret it as merely indicating the marriage connections which Israelites were to avoid. We are satisfied with the interpretation, received by many, that the congregation (קָהַל) does not always signify the sum total of the people, but the great assembly of elders. The prohibitions in this passage would, therefore, mean prohibitions from holding office in the theocracy; in fact, they show those who were ineligible to the Jewish eldership. The ineligible parties are -

1. Eunuchs. For physical perfection was indispensable in a kingdom typically and ideally to be perfect. Besides, it has been said that this excluded class are deficient in courage, which the elders required.

2. Those whose family had the "bar sinister within ten generations. This was a great penalty against concubinage, and must have made the Jews most particular about the legality of their marriages.

3. Amorites and Moabites. They are treated like those with the bar sinister," as a judgment on their inhuman treatment of Israel. So that there was caution to be exercised in the admission of outsiders to the honors of the Jewish commonwealth.

4. Edomites and Egyptians. They could not enter themselves, but their grandchildren were eligible. They were not kept waiting so long at the door as those previously mentioned. This jealous guarding of the gate is surely instructive.

I. IT SHOWS US THE DUTY OF LAYING HANDS SUDDENLY UPON NO MAN. This was Paul's direction to Timothy regarding the ordination of elders (1 Timothy 5:22). Their selection was so important, that it should not be hastily or carelessly done. They should get time to prove themselves as worthy. And our ideal of Church officers should be so high as to allow of the introduction of no ill-qualified person through our haste or careless selection.

II. A CHURCH SHOULD MAINLY PRODUCE ITS OWN OFFICERS. Just as breeding is so important physically, so is Church training spiritually. It is the children in the tenth generation of the bastard who are, so to speak, by their ecclesiastical development through nine previous generations in ecclesiastical connection, to wipe out the ill effects of the "bar sinister." The grandchildren of the Edomite and Egyptian are to be eligible, because for three generations connected with the Church. That Church will be strong who can train up from among her own children the officers she needs.

III. OFFICE IN GOD'S CHURCH SHOULD BE THE HIGHEST AMBITION. For people are not in a wholesome state when they place offices in the world before those in the Church. God's service is highest service, whatever current opinion may be. Let the thought of holding office in the Church of God be held before Church members as the very noblest ambition for themselves or their children, and then shall the Church he placed upon the pinnacle it deserves. - R.M.E.

Parallel Verses
KJV: He that is wounded in the stones, or hath his privy member cut off, shall not enter into the congregation of the LORD.

WEB: He who is wounded in the stones, or has his privy member cut off, shall not enter into the assembly of Yahweh.

Loss of Sacred Privilege a Grievous Penalty
Top of Page
Top of Page