Question 24: Does Deuteronomy 23 encourage eugenics, segregation and deportation?

***DISCLAIMER***The following is far from an exhaustive answer to the question. It is simply an answer nonetheless.

Recently, someone (essentially) asked me if Deuteronomy 23 encourages eugenics, segregation and deportation. What follows is his/her questions followed by my response to it. I then show his/her followup response to my original response. What follows that is my response to his/her followup. I then give some concluding final thoughts on the matter.

THE QUESTION

I’m not trying to sound mean, but I find it ironic reading Deuteronomy 23 because

1) it tells about men’s sex organs crushed or cut, since the men of Israel had to circumcise themselves so they were following God’s requirements.

2) when the Leviticus 19:33 encouraging foreigners to join with Israelites, but in Deuteronomy it excludes certain foreigners?

3) when Deuteronomy 23 says that children born out of forbidden marriage should be deported or excluded from Israel, but when Psalms 139: 13-18 tells that children are blessings and even Jesus admits this, but Deuteronomy 23, like whaat???

4) the worst thing I’m concluding here is that I think the Bible might be encouraging eugenics, segregation, and deportation because of 1), 2), and 3). This is as almost frightening to me. Can you debunk these?

THE RESPONSE

Greetings,

One can debunk the aforementioned phrases by remembering an important thing:

The Bible is not about you.

In John 5:39-45, Jesus Christ states that the Bible is about Him, not us (NASB):

You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; it is these that testify about Me; 40 and you are unwilling to come to Me so that you may have life. 41 I do not receive glory from men; 42 but I know you, that you do not have the love of God in yourselves. 43 I have come in My Father’s name, and you do not receive Me; if another comes in his own name, you will receive him. 44 How can you believe, when you receive glory from one another and you do not seek the glory that is from the one and only God? 45 Do not think that I will accuse you before the Father; the one who accuses you is Moses, in whom you have set your hope.

Jesus Christ Himself is stating the Scriptures testify about Him (verse 39). One must understand that He is the only way by which mankind may be saved (Acts 4:12; John 14:6; Isaiah 43:11). Furthermore, He neither lies nor changes (Numbers 23:19; Malachi 3:6; Titus 1:2; see also 2 Timothy 3:16-17, Psalm 12:6 and 2 Peter 1:16-21). Basically, we can trust everything Jesus says. If He says Himself that the Scriptures testify about Him, then that is the case.

The difference between a prescriptive text and a descriptive text represents another important thing to remember. When reading Deuteronomy 23, one must consider whether it is a descriptive text (a text telling about something that happened) or a prescriptive text (a text telling about something that should happen). This chapter falls within the larger context of a speech given by Moses to Israel (4:44-28:68). In this speech, Moses explains how the Law affects Israel’s relationship with the LORD. Chapter 23 shows a bit about this relationship (NASB):

“No one who is emasculated or has his male organ cut off shall enter the assembly of the Lord. No one of illegitimate birth shall enter the assembly of the Lord; none of his descendants, even to the tenth generation, shall enter the assembly of the Lord. No Ammonite or Moabite shall enter the assembly of the Lord; none of their descendants, even to the tenth generation, shall ever enter the assembly of the Lord, because they did not meet you with food and water on the way when you came out of Egypt, and because they hired against you Balaam the son of Beor from Pethor of Mesopotamia, to curse you. Nevertheless, the Lord your God was not willing to listen to Balaam, but the Lord your God turned the curse into a blessing for you because the Lord your God loves you. You shall never seek their peace or their prosperity all your days. “You shall not detest an Edomite, for he is your brother; you shall not detest an Egyptian, because you were an alien in his land. The sons of the third generation who are born to them may enter the assembly of the Lord.

“When you go out as an army against your enemies, you shall keep yourself from every evil thing.

10 “If there is among you any man who is unclean because of a nocturnal emission, then he must go outside the camp; he may not reenter the camp. 11 But it shall be when evening approaches, he shall bathe himself with water, and at sundown he may reenter the camp.

12 “You shall also have a place outside the camp and go out there, 13 and you shall have a spade among your tools, and it shall be when you sit down outside, you shall dig with it and shall turn to cover up your excrement. 14 Since the Lord your God walks in the midst of your camp to deliver you and to defeat your enemies before you, therefore your camp must be holy; and He must not see anything indecent among you or He will turn away from you.

15 “You shall not hand over to his master a slave who has escaped from his master to you. 16 He shall live with you in your midst, in the place which he shall choose in one of your towns where it pleases him; you shall not mistreat him.

17 “None of the daughters of Israel shall be a cult prostitute, nor shall any of the sons of Israel be a cult prostitute. 18 You shall not bring the hire of a harlot or the wages of a dog into the house of the Lord your God for any votive offering, for both of these are an abomination to the Lord your God.

19 “You shall not charge interest to your countrymen: interest on money, food, oranything that may be loaned at interest. 20 You may charge interest to a foreigner, but to your countrymen you shall not charge interest, so that the Lord your God may bless you in all that you undertake in the land which you are about to enter to [r]possess.

21 “When you make a vow to the Lord your God, you shall not delay to pay it, for it would be sin in you, and the Lord your God will surely require it of you.22 However, if you refrain from vowing, it would not be sin in you. 23 You shall be careful to perform what goes out from your lips, just as you have voluntarily vowed to the Lord your God, what you have promised.

24 “When you enter your neighbor’s vineyard, then you may eat grapes until you are fully satisfied, but you shall not put any in your basket.

25 “When you enter your neighbor’s standing grain, then you may pluck the heads with your hand, but you shall not wield a sickle in your neighbor’s standing grain.

You will notice that this text is very prescriptive in nature. However, this is in the Old Testament. While it is true that understanding the difference between a descriptive and prescriptive text when reading the Old Testament is important (case in point, the story of David and Goliath), it is also important to understand that the Old Testament Law was given to Israel, not Christians. Jesus Christ put an end to the Old Testament law when He died on the cross for our sins (Romans 10:4; Galatians 3:23-25; Ephesians 2:15). This text is in no way, shape or form encouraging eugenics, segregation, and deportation for present-day believers.

Leviticus 19:33 falls within the context of the chapter itself. Verse 1 of chapter 19 clearly shows that the LORD is instructing Moses to speak to the sons of Israel regarding some moral laws. The passage reads as follows (NASB):

19 Then the Lord spoke to Moses, saying:

“Speak to all the congregation of the sons of Israel and say to them, ‘You shall be holy, for I the Lord your God am holy. Every one of you shall reverence his mother and his father, and you shall keep My sabbaths; I am the Lord your God. Do not turn to idols or make for yourselves molten gods; I am the Lord your God.

‘Now when you offer a sacrifice of peace offerings to the Lord, you shall offer it so that you may be accepted. It shall be eaten the same day you offer it, and the next day; but what remains until the third day shall be burned with fire. So if it is eaten at all on the third day, it is an offense; it will not be accepted. Everyone who eats it will bear his iniquity, for he has profaned the holy thing of the Lord; and that person shall be cut off from his people.

Sundry Laws

‘Now when you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not reap to the very corners of your field, nor shall you gather the gleanings of your harvest. 10 Nor shall you glean your vineyard, nor shall you gather the fallen fruit of your vineyard; you shall leave them for the needy and for the stranger. I am the Lord your God.

11 ‘You shall not steal, nor deal falsely, nor lie to one another. 12 You shall not swear falsely by My name, so as to profane the name of your God; I am the Lord.

13 ‘You shall not oppress your neighbor, nor rob him. The wages of a hired man are not to remain with you all night until morning. 14 You shall not curse a deaf man, nor place a stumbling block before the blind, but you shall revere your God; I am the Lord.

15 ‘You shall do no injustice in judgment; you shall not be partial to the poor nor defer to the great, but you are to judge your neighbor fairly. 16 You shall not go about as a slanderer among your people, and you are not to act against the life of your neighbor; I am the Lord.

17 ‘You shall not hate your fellow countryman in your heart; you may surely reprove your neighbor, but shall not incur sin because of him. 18 You shall not take vengeance, nor bear any grudge against the sons of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself; I am the Lord.

19 ‘You are to keep My statutes. You shall not breed together two kinds of your cattle; you shall not sow your field with two kinds of seed, nor wear a garment upon you of two kinds of material mixed together.

20 ‘Now if a man lies carnally with a woman who is a slave acquired for another man, but who has in no way been redeemed nor given her freedom, there shall be punishment; they shall not, however, be put to death, because she was not free.21 He shall bring his guilt offering to the Lord to the doorway of the tent of meeting, a ram for a guilt offering. 22 The priest shall also make atonement for him with the ram of the guilt offering before the Lord for his sin which he has committed, and the sin which he has committed will be forgiven him.

23 ‘When you enter the land and plant all kinds of trees for food, then you shall count their fruit as forbidden. Three years it shall be forbidden to you; it shall not be eaten. 24 But in the fourth year all its fruit shall be holy, an offering of praise to the Lord. 25 In the fifth year you are to eat of its fruit, that its yield may increase for you; I am the Lord your God.

26 ‘You shall not eat anything with the blood, nor practice divination or soothsaying. 27 You shall not round off the side-growth of your heads nor harm the edges of your beard. 28 You shall not make any cuts in your body for the dead nor make any tattoo marks on yourselves: I am the Lord.

29 ‘Do not profane your daughter by making her a harlot, so that the land will not fall to harlotry and the land become full of lewdness. 30 You shall keep My sabbaths and revere My sanctuary; I am the Lord.

31 ‘Do not turn to mediums or spiritists; do not seek them out to be defiled by them. I am the Lord your God.

32 ‘You shall rise up before the grayheaded and honor the aged, and you shall revere your God; I am the Lord.

33 ‘When a stranger resides with you in your land, you shall not do him wrong.34 The stranger who resides with you shall be to you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt; I am the Lord your God.

35 ‘You shall do no wrong in judgment, in measurement of weight, or capacity.36 You shall have just balances, just weights, a just ephah, and a just hin; I am the Lord your God, who brought you out from the land of Egypt. 37 You shall thus observe all My statutes and all My ordinances and do them; I am the Lord.’”

As you can see, this passage was written to a particular people at a particular time. As a result, it is not encouraging eugenics, segregation, and deportation for present-day believers.

As far as Psalms 139:13-18 is concerned, I did not find that that passage discussed children being blessings verbatim. Did you mean a different passage?

I hope you find this response helpful.

HIS RESPONSE TO MY RESPONSE

I don’t think there might be passages about the thing you mentioned at the very last sentence. In regards to Deuteronomy 23:2, just why does God not let children who were born out of wedlock or sinful prostitution to be with Israel? What made the children their fault for this? Were they not worth being with God’s people? Why was it? I’m just curious about this, I’d like to know more about this.

THE RESPONSE TO THE FOLLOWUP

Greetings,

One finds the reason for God’s not letting children born out of wedlock/sinful prostitution to be with Israel in the verses that follow Deuteronomy 23:2

“No one who is emasculated or has his male organ cut off shall enter the assembly of the Lord. No one of illegitimate birth shall enter the assembly of the Lord; none of his descendants, even to the tenth generation, shall enter the assembly of the Lord. No Ammonite or Moabite shall enter the assembly of the Lord; none of their descendants, even to the tenth generation, shall ever enter the assembly of the Lord, because they did not meet you with food and water on the way when you came out of Egypt, and because they hired against you Balaam the son of Beor from Pethor of Mesopotamia, to curse you.

As verse four plainly states, those listed in verses 1-3 (the ones emasculated, the ones who had their male organs cut off, the Ammonites, the Moabites and all the descendants of the aforementioned individuals) could not be with Israel because they (the living ones, not necessarily the descendants) both failed to provide needed supplies en route to Canaan and tried to curse Israel. This denial expanded to the descendants (or children) of the aforementioned individuals.

I hope you find this information helpful.

A FINAL WORD

You will notice the questioner never responded to my questions on the Psalm passage. Perhaps this individual realized that that text did not mean what he/she originally thought. However, at this point, that is unknown.

What is known, however, is the fact many a question on the Bible can be resolved simply by reading the biblical text. When one knows the author, audience, purpose and context of the text at hand (to name a few necessary things), he/she can often find the answers to any questions he/she has. It is also important to realize both the difference between a prescriptive and a descriptive text and the fact the Bible is not about us. By knowing those things, one can answer questions like the ones given to me regarding Deuteronomy 23.

 

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One thought on “Question 24: Does Deuteronomy 23 encourage eugenics, segregation and deportation?

  1. The Jesus destroyed the written law but the spirit of the law is still very much alive. People forget that the Israelites rejected the Holy Spirit and wanted Moses to mediate for them. As such the law to live by was very specific and unyielding. In the New Testiment Jesus shows that the spirit of the law is even more demanding as even anger is murder. At the same time their is grace and mercy with the Holy Spirit as a guide rather then just the text. These laws were written to show how seperated and Holy God’s people are to be and that still applies to us. As for the specifics, they are specific to those people at that time. The Holy Spirit is our guide in how this will look in our specific lives.

    Liked by 1 person

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