We now finish the Mosaic exposition of the seventh commandment. But as we do, there are several things which we must keep in mind about the nature of sovereign grace. The first is that it is sovereign. The second is that it is grace. He that is wounded in the stones, or hath his privy member cut off, shall not enter into the congregation of the Lord . . . (Deuteronomy 23:1-14)
The worship of the God of Israel was not to be conducted by the emasculated (v. 1). The same restriction was applied to the bastard up until the tenth generation (v. 2). The word translated bastard here is only used twice in the Old Testament, and may indicate more than what our word "illegitimate" denotes. It may refer to one who is born as a result of incest, for example. The next restriction may bear this out. The Ammonites and Moabites (two nations descended from incest) are also restricted to the tenth generation, forever (vv. 3-6). Edomites and Egyptians do not get the same treatment, but are accepted by the third generation (vv. 7-8). When Israel goes to war, the camp is to be kept holy (v. 9). If a man had an emission during the night, he is quarantined for a day and has to cleanse himself (vv. 10-11). God also required the establishment of a latrine system (vv. 12-13). This is to keep God from being offended by the unclean state of the camp (v. 14).
Men who had been emasculated were excluded from gathering before the Lord in formal worship, the reading of the law, or for festivals. It is probable that pagan self-castration or mutilation is primarily in view. The principle involved here is not abrogated in the new covenant. Paul’s fierce words to the Galatians evokes just this principle. Physical masculinity in a state of nature was no good; it had to be brought under the terms of grace in the covenant by means of circumcision. But the point was to understand circumcision. At Galatia, the Judaizers were approaching circumcision in such a mind that their action amounted to pagan self-mutilation that resulted in being excluded from the temple, that is, from Christ. "I would they were even cut off which trouble you" (Gal. 5:12). Those who are cut off are cut off in another sense. But the ultimate point is not a physical one. The godly eunuch is given great promises (Is. 56:3-5). And it is part of God’s glorious sense of humor that Phillip baptized a foreigner, who was also a eunuch, who had also been reading that portion of Isaiah (Acts 8:26-40).
The nations of Moab and Ammon were formed as a result of an incestuous union between Lot and his two daughters after the destruction of Sodom (Gen. 19:30-38). Israel was charged with the awful consequences of letting this kind of thing happen in her midst (v. 2). And this kind of sin breeds more of the same—Ammon and Moab are accused of hiring Balaam to curse Israel, and it is significant what happened after this (Num. 25:1). To seek peace for the immoral on their terms is enmity with God (v. 6). Edom and Egypt are not to be treated with as great a severity. They may come into Israel at the third generation (vv. 7-8).
And also, as it turns out, cleanliness is next to godliness. Men in the army are to keep themselves from every foul thing (v. 9). This of course would include immorality—no camp followers—but the great concern here appears to be one of ritual holiness in what might be thought of as "smaller" things. And ritual holiness involved becoming physically clean (vv. 10-11; Num. 19:1-10; Heb. 9:13). Related to this, God required them to dispose of their sewage properly (vv. 12-13).
We may make our applications in reverse order. It is far too easy for single men to think that life without women is supposed to be gross -- that the ideal is to be rude, crude, and unattractive. But this betrays a wrong view of the holiness of God. Would God desert the camp of Israel if He found your bathroom in it? Secondly, we submit to the teaching of Scripture when it says that a man reaps what he sows. But we also acknowledge what the Bible says about full, complete, and sovereign forgiveness—but we accept it on His terms. This includes complete forgiveness for sexual sin. And third, we need to learn from Scripture how to deal with the crisis caused by the vanishing man — because paganism mutilates the male. Self-righteousness emasculates the masculine. This is not said in any chauvinistic sense—biblical masculinity is a woman’s only friend in this sorry world. Therefore rise up, O men of God.