Brief Takeaways from Deuteronomy 23

There are a wide variety of memorable messages in this portion of the law. Not everyone was allowed to enter the assembly of Jehovah (23:1-8) – For His own reasons, God said that certain people or groups of people were forbidden from entering the assembly of the Lord. If that is what He commanded, was it not in Israel’s best interest that they submit willingly to what He said, even though He did not always give detailed explanations about why He allowed or forbade certain actions?

“. . . your camp shall be holy” (23:14) – The Lord held the Israelites up to a high standard of cleanliness. Those who became unclean were commanded to remain outside the camp until the God-designated period of time passed (23:9-11). God wanted His people to see and accept the clear distinction between what He counted as clean and unclean. Furthermore, as a matter of sanitation, He gave instructions about the proper covering of human waste (23:12,13). What if Israel failed to maintain the standard of cleanliness and holiness that Jehovah expected? He would turn away from them (23:14). So, if they valued their fellowship with Him, they would comply willingly with His instructions, whatever they might be.

“You shall not charge interest to your brother” (23:19,20) – Whether it was loaning money or other material things, the Israelites were allowed to charge interest on loans to foreigners, but not to their fellow Israelites. About 1000 years after this law was given, it was disregarded by some among the Jews when they worked to rebuild Jerusalem’s wall (Nehemiah 5).

The seriousness of making a vow (23:21-23) – It was not sinful if a person chose not to make a vow (23:22). On the other hand, if an Israelite voluntarily vowed to Jehovah, then: (1) The vow was a promise (23:23), (2) a vow was to be kept/performed, (3) a vow was to be carried out without delay (23:21), and (4) a failure to keep the vow was counted as “sin” (23:21). As God’s people, when we open our mouths to make a promise, let us always show ourselves to be people of integrity who keep their word.

Eating a neighbor’s crops without actually harvesting them (23:24,25) – Israelites were allowed to eat of a neighbor’s vineyard or standing grain, but all were forbidden to take another person’s crops by placing them in a container and carrying them off. This was a built-in form of generosity and hospitality; one would want to remember that his neighbors also had the right to turn around and eat from his field or vineyard as well. Recall how the apostles once were accused falsely of breaking this law (Mark 2:23,24).

— Roger D. Campbell

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