Deuteronomy 23: Rules for who can join the cult


The first part of this chapter is about who can join the cult and be a member of the congregation. Next come the rules for cleanliness in the camp and then we get rules for ethical usury.

People excluded:

  • People with damaged testes
  • People without penises
  • Bastard and their offspring for 10 generations
  • Ammonites and Boabites for 10 generations.
  • Balaamites – never 
  • Edomites and Egyptians for 3 generations (they were nice to us – so they get in earlier)
  • Sons of whores and dogs aren’t allowed in the congregation ever

Cleanliness rules:

  • Have a place outside the camp for unclean people to hang out.
  • Make sure to bury your poop and pee. (God apparently likes to walk around camp and doesn't’t want to step in your shit)

Social rules:

  • If a slave escapes to your house, don’t return him to his master. 
  • Daughters of Israel must never be prostitutes
  • Sons of Israel must never be sodomites
  • If you make a vow – keep it.
  • If you travel in a vineyard, feel free to eat of the fruit, but don’t pick it and put it in a basket – that’s stealing. 
  • Don’t cut down your neighbor’s corn

Ethical usury rules

  • Don’t charge usury to a brother in the congregation
  • You can charge usury to a stranger

In other words:

Only certain people are allowed in the congregation and those within the congregation support one another. Those outside of the congregation don’t have to be treated ethically.

Favorite bit:

Deuteronomy 23:13 – bury your shit.

2nd favorite bit:

Deuteronomy 23:1 – no penis – no service.

Most interesting part of this chapter:

It’s clear that brethren in this congregation are to be given special treatment. Everyone else it’s ok to exploit. As a Humanist, this doesn't sit well with me. I don’t think you can expect people to be good only half the time. If you give them permission to be unethical, you have to expect that to spill over. On the other hand, maybe that’s the most that could be expected from them.

Unexpected bit:

Did they even have corn in Israel? Isn't corn a new world crop?

Moral Lesson Learned:

Clean up your shit. Don’t leave it for other people to step in (Deuteronomy 23:13)