In light of some of the comments on our previous articles on Edom, we would like to elaborate in more detail on how “the nations” and Israel fit into the writings of Deuteronomy 23. More specifically, how does Deuteronomy 23 fit into the greater end time prophetic fulfillment of events?
As to the conclusions we will be making, there are many foundational elements which need to have been addressed at length in order to support them. Therefore, we must state that in this short essay, we will be relying heavily on the arguments propounded in these recent essays:
- Will You Be Destroyed For The Lack Of Knowledge
- Will All Israel Be Saved Or Just A Remnant
- Ruth Was a Moabite — But Does it Even Matter?
- Edom In The Old And New Testaments
- Edom In The Prophecy Of Malachi
Before proceeding to that fulfillment, there are some contentions about Deuteronomy 23 we would like to address.
CONTENTION 1: THE GENERATIONAL ASPECT OF DEUTERONOMY 23
Deuteronomy 23:2-3, 7-8 says,
3 No Ammonite or Moabite may enter the assembly of the Lord; none of their descendants, even to the tenth generation, may ever enter the assembly of the Lord… 7 “You shall not loathe an Edomite, for he is your brother; you shall not loathe an Egyptian, because you were a stranger in his land. 8 The sons of the third generation who are born to them may enter the assembly of the Lord.
Verse 8 clearly states that the third generation of children born to the parents who are the union of an Israelite and non-Israelite may enter the assembly of the Lord. Conversely, children of these unions who are of the first and second generation may not enter the assembly of the Lord. The law stands against them — and according to the law of Moses, there is no recourse to bypass the law.
However, verse 3 states, “none of their descendants, even to the tenth generation.” Compare this with verse 8, which is written as a positive command: When the children have reached the third generation, they may enter the assembly of the Lord.
Verse 8 is written as a negative command, saying — Even when the children have reached the tenth generation, they may still not enter the assembly of the Lord. This language is very evident in the source texts as well.
In other words, if the children of the tenth generation still may not enter the assembly of the Lord, then it is reasonable to assume that the wording and intention indicates a hyperbole emphasizing that the children of such a union can never, ever produce children which will ever be able to enter the assembly of the Lord.
This interpretation is made more sure by considering Nehemiah 13:1,
On that day the Book of Moses was read aloud as the people listened; and there was found written in it that no Ammonite or Moabite was ever to enter the assembly of God
Why would a child not be allowed into the assembly of the Lord in earlier generations in the first place? As we’ve stated previously, it was to ensure that those who were present in the assembly were culturally and spiritually acclimated to the ideal and holy life required according to the laws of Moses.
On this contention, we conclude the following:
- “None… even to the tenth generation” means “not ever, no matter how many generations.”
- Generational laws were instated to ensure that those in the assembly of the Lord knew what was required of them to be allowed into that assembly.
CONTENTION 2: HOW THESE LAWS APPLY TO THE PATRILINEAL AND MATRILINEAL HERITAGE OF THE CHILDREN
We can learn more on this from the Israelite’s application of the laws. See Ezra 9:1-2,
1 Now when these things had been completed, the officials approached me, saying, “The people of Israel and the priests and the Levites have not separated themselves from the peoples of the lands, as to their abominations, those of the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Jebusites, the Ammonites, the Moabites, the Egyptians, and the Amorites. 2 For they have taken some of their daughters as wives for themselves and for their sons, so that the holy race has intermingled with the peoples of the lands; indeed, the hands of the officials and the leaders have taken the lead in this unfaithfulness.”
There is no law standing against marriage with Ammonites and Moabites except Deuteronomy 23:3 — and there is no law standing against marriage with Egyptians except Deuteronomy 23:7-8. Therefore, we conclude that these Israelites are referring to those laws specifically, given that Ammonites and Moabites were never allowed to enter the assembly, and Egyptians were allowed to enter the assembly only in the third generation.
However, Ezra 9:2 is referring specifically to Israelites having taken women from these nations. This is a powerful precedent — as it shows us that the laws of Deuteronomy 23 do not discriminate between men or women as parents. In other words, for a child to be welcome into the assembly of the Lord in the first generation, they must have an Israelite father and an Israelite mother.
This is confirmed in Nehemiah 13:23, 26,
23 In those days I also saw that the Judahites had married women from Ashdod, Ammon, and Moab… 26 Did Solomon the king of Israel not sin regarding these things?
We would conclude that as it pertained to entering the assembly of the Lord, it did not matter whether or not the mother was an Israelite — or whether or not the father was an Israelite.
However, we would still uphold that in order to be considered a physical descendant of genetic Israel — a “kinsman according to the flesh” as Paul would put it in Romans 9:3, one must always — at a bare minimum — have an Israelite father.
CONTENTION 3: DEUTERONOMY 23:2 AND WHAT IT MEANS
Given that this law is given separate attention, it shows that all of the other laws of Deuteronomy 23 must also conform to this law. Deuteronomy 23:2 says,
No one of illegitimate birth may enter the assembly of the Lord; none of his descendants, even to the tenth generation, may enter the assembly of the Lord.
The Hebrew word for “illegitimate birth” in the Hebrew is “mamzer” (Strong’s H4464), which basically means “bastard” — something which has become debased from its pure, original form. As we have shown before, this word is used to describe the denizens of Ashdod in Zechariah 9:6, which is exactly where the Sons of Anak — a hybrid mix between Adamic men and Rephaim/giants — were driven to, according to Joshua 11:22.
By the meaning of the root word — combined with the context of Joshua 11:22 — we can assume that a mamzer is the product of a pure descendant of Adam and Eve, and some other kind which is not a pure descendant of Adam and Eve — as it is not possible for Rephaim to be the natural products of the loins of Adam and Eve.
Instead of mamzer, the Septuagint uses the word “porné” (Strongs G4204), indicating that this is referring to one born of the union with a prostitute. Unfortunately we don’t have further witness to add to this contention between the Masoretic text and the Septuagint — because the Dead Sea Scrolls do not have a scroll covering Deuteronomy 23:2 or Zechariah 9:6.
Therefore, we must turn to the rest of Scripture to prove which definition is the truth. With that in mind, we would simply contend that banning the children of a prostitute from Israel makes no sense in the context of Scripture.
As witness, we have the story of Tamar, who hired herself as a prostitute to Judah in order to bear children for him. Genesis 38:24 proves this,
Now it was about three months later that Judah was informed, “Your daughter-in-law Tamar has prostituted herself, and behold, she is also pregnant by prostitution.” Then Judah said, “Bring her out and have her burned!”
Yet no mention is made of their sons — Perez and Zerah — being unwelcome given that they were the product of prostitution.
As second witness, we have Jephthah — in Judges 11 — who was the son of a prostitute. His brothers did not want him to be a part of their inheritance as they say in Judges 11:2,
You shall not have an inheritance in our father’s house, for you are the son of another woman.
There is no mention of prostitution, but rather they have an issue with the fact that Jephthah had another mother. This was something which mattered to Israelites of that time — as it was the very basis of Abimelech’s rhetoric to his mother’s family in Judges 9:1-6. He wanted the inheritance of his father to fall on himself, as he was the only son that his own mother had with Gideon.
As with Perez, Zerah and Jephthah, there is no special mention made of their harlot mothers — therefore, we can justly conclude that Deuteronomy 23:2 cannot be referring to children of prostitutes.
In the Septuagint version of Zechariah 9:6 — instead of the Hebrew “mamzer” — it uses the word “allogenés” (Strong’s G241), which means “foreigner” or “stranger.” This doesn’t make sense either — given that foreigners dwelt in Ashdod by very definition, given that Ashdod was inhabited by Philistines who fundamentally were foreigners to begin with.
Therefore, there is no corroboration between Deuteronomy 23:2 and Zechariah 9:6 in the Septuagint itself — and so it provides us with no special insight or witness in that regard.
We conclude then that the Masoretic rendering of the text must be upheld given the following:
- The meaning between Deuteronomy 23:2 and Zechariah 9:6 in the Masoretic text is consistent with itself.
- The meaning of Zechariah 9:6 in the Masoretic text is consistent with the context (Judges 11:22).
- The meaning of Deuteronomy 23:2 and Zechariah 9:6 in the Septuagint are not consistent with Scripture.
With the conclusions of contentions 1 and 2 in mind, we would like to make the following stipulation clear — according to Deuteronomy 23:2, someone who is not a pure white, Adamic may never enter the assembly of the Lord, regardless of whether the mother or the father were not of pure, Adamic origin.
CONTENTION 4: WHAT DID DEUTERONOMY 23 MEAN BY “ENTER THE ASSEMBLY OF THE LORD”?
This is probably no more obvious than in the application of the law in Ezra 10:3,
So now let’s make a covenant with our God to send away all the wives and their children, following the counsel of my lord and of those who fear the commandment of our God; and let it be done according to the Law.
Clearly then, they were not allowed to even dwell with the people of Israel.
Isaiah 56 is also very important to understanding the answer to this question, especially given that Isaiah 56 is a direct reference to Deuteronomy 23:1, 3 and 7-8. This also ties into the greater prophetic fulfillment on what the “assembly of the Lord” actually is.
Isaiah 56:3 sets the scene by saying,
Let not the foreigner who has joined himself to the Lord say, ‘The Lord will certainly separate me from His people.’ Nor let the eunuch say, ‘Behold, I am a dry tree.’
Here Isaiah 56:3 specifically mentions the laws which stood against them in Deuteronomy 23 — and it clarifies what it means to not be allowed into the assembly of the Lord by saying, “The Lord will certainly separate me from His people“. Therefore, we can see already that not being allowed into the assembly of the Lord is to be separate from His people — Israel — entirely.
Isaiah 56 then elaborates on their exoneration by specifying the promises to them in being welcomed into the assembly of the Lord in verses 5 and 7-8,
5 To them I will give in My house and within My walls a memorial, and a name better than that of sons and daughters; I will give them an everlasting name which will not be eliminated….7 Even those I will bring to My holy mountain, and make them joyful in My house of prayer. Their burnt offerings and their sacrifices will be acceptable on My altar; for My house will be called a house of prayer for all the peoples.” 8 The Lord God, who gathers the dispersed of Israel, declares,“I will yet gather others to them, to those already gathered.”
Therefore, those who have been exonerated from the law are promised the following:
- A memorial within the Lord’s house and walls
- A name better than that of sons and daughters
- An everlasting name which will not be eliminated
- Joy in the Lord’s house of prayer
- Acceptance of their offerings
- Part of a gathering which is a gathering over and above the gathering of the dispersions of Israel
With the above points in mind, on this contention we conclude the following:
- Reflecting this back onto the more immediate meaning of Deuteronomy 23, it was a reference to being a part of the people of Israel at all.
- Reflecting this forward to the greater fulfillment, being a part of the assembly of the Lord means inheriting eternal life with Israel.
- Adamic Genesis 10 Nations inheriting eternal life with Israel necessarily means being a part of Israel and no longer being a part of their previous nations.
THE PROPHETIC FULFILLMENT OF THE ASSEMBLY OF THE LORD
With the above conclusions to the contentions in mind, we would further state that Deuteronomy 23 is about three things which are not necessarily mutually exclusive:
- One must have an Israelite father and mother in order to be welcome into the assembly of the Lord immediately.
- One must have an Israelite father in order to be considered an Israelite at all. This is seen in genealogical records such as that of our Messiah, the kings of Judah, sons of Aaron, etc. There is something undeniably patrilineal about being an Israelite and “kinsman according to the flesh,” according to the words of Paul.
- One must act like an Israelite in order to be welcomed into the assembly of the Lord. This is where the book of Ruth, Isaiah 56 and many other prophecies come in, as we have lain out in our previous essays.
For an Israelite according to the flesh and for a non-Israelite — by patrilineal descent — assuming Deuteronomy 23:2 has not been broken — the third point must always be true. In other words, in the greater fulfillment of prophecy and eternal salvation, even if we have an Israelite child with an Israelite father and mother to satisfy point 1 — if they do not satisfy point 3 — acting like an Israelite should — they will not be allowed in the assembly of the Lord.
This is confirmed by many laws where the consequence is clearly stated as being cut off from Israel. Just one example is Leviticus 18:29,
For whoever does any of these abominations, those persons who do so shall be cut off from among their people.
Merely being an Israelite “according to the flesh” does not automatically allow anyone into the assembly of the Lord — nor does it guarantee eternal salvation — as we established in Will All Israel Be Saved Or Just A Remnant?
In this way, the gospel of the Lord Jesus and choosing of God is what brings forth the adherence to point 3 — acting like an Israelite — in our lives. Merely being born a child of Israelite flesh does not guarantee being a child of the promise according to Romans 9.
For a non-Israelite according to the flesh, it is okay for them not to satisfy points 1 or 2 — but so long as they satisfy point 3. If they satisfy point 3, they will be allowed into the assembly of the Lord, even though they would technically not be born Israelite themselves.
This is the point of the story of Ruth: Prophetic and practical precedent for the power that the Lord Jesus gives pure Adamic non-Israelites to become a part of the congregation of Israel — and thus overcoming the generational requirements through faith and righteousness in Him.
In other words, if one has truly believed in the Lord Jesus according to true knowledge, then the Lord will have done a work in them to ensure they are righteous enough to enter. As Paul says in Romans 9:30,
That nations, who did not pursue righteousness, attained righteousness, but the righteousness that is by faith
In a similar way, through faith and righteousness David overcame the law of death which stood against him in Numbers 35:16 which says,
But if he struck him with an iron object, so that he died, he is a murderer; the murderer must be put to death.
Nathan the prophet says to David in 2 Samuel 12:9,
Why have you despised the word of the Lord, by doing evil in His sight? You have struck and killed Uriah the Hittite with the sword, you have taken his wife as your wife, and you have slaughtered him with the sword of the sons of Ammon.
Through faith and righteousness eunuchs may overcome Deuteronomy 23:1 which stood against them. It is worth noting that according to the law of Moses alone, there is no way to overcome Numbers 35:16 or Deuteronomy 23:1 — and so David’s actions and Psalm 51 stand as quite an amazing precedent.
In this way, through faith and righteousness by the power of the Lord Jesus and His gospel, non-Israelite nations overcome the law which is against them. They are allowed to leave their own nations and become a part of the congregation of Israel, which is the assembly of the Lord.
This is a great prophetic fulfillment concerning the nations as is shown in the essays on Edom. It was prophesied that this very thing would happen. Paul calls it a “mystery” in Colossians 1:26-28,
26 that is, the mystery which had been hidden from the past ages and generations, but now has been revealed to His saints, 27 to whom God willed to make known what the wealth of the glory of this mystery among the nations is, the mystery that is Christ in you, the hope of glory. 28 We proclaim Him, admonishing every person and teaching every person with all wisdom, so that we may present every person complete in Christ.
However — referring back to the most recent numbered list above, those who have satisfied point 3 — acting as an Israelite is expected — but are still not Israelites by patrilineal descent — point 1 and 2, are prophetically still somehow distinct from the genetic Israelites — even though they have come to be a part of the congregation of Israel and the assembly of the Lord. The essays on Edom make this very clear.
For example, in Revelation 7 the remnant of Israel — the 144,000 who are Israelites by patrilineal heritage by virtue of their tribes being given — are still somehow distinct from the multitude from the nations in the same passage. The 144,000 still have a special and distinct place, in spite of the multitude of those nations joining the congregation of Israel.
Revelation 21:24-26 — which refers to the great heavenly city and bride of the Lamb — also makes it clear:
24 The nations will walk by its light, and the kings of the earth will bring their glory into it. 25 In the daytime (for there will be no night there) its gates will never be closed; 26 and they will bring the glory and the honor of the nations into it;
Despite the fact that the nations are allowed access to the holy city — and form a part of it — their status as nations is retained even when in the congregation, holy city and assembly of the Lord. Even so, the kings from those nations will bring their glory into the city in verse 24. They are described as bringing the “glory and the honor” of the nations in verse 26. They are described as “Israel’s children” as our prior essays have shown as well. Isaiah 29:22-23 says,
22 Therefore this is what the Lord, who redeemed Abraham, says concerning the house of Jacob: “Jacob will not be ashamed now, nor will his face turn pale now; 23 But when he sees his children, the work of My hands, in his midst, they will sanctify My name; indeed, they will sanctify the Holy One of Jacob, and will stand in awe of the God of Israel.
There is great beauty in this prophecy, which speaks to Israel’s joy at these children of the nations. Israel will stand in awe of the God of Israel when they see the magnificence of these children and fellow inhabitants of the heavenly city.
Why is that? Because the best that the nations had to give — that is, their “glory and honor” — is now a part of Israel and subject to Israel through the Lord Jesus. Isn’t that wonderful? Is not our God and Father generous in His lovingkindness and doting affection towards Israel and those nations who are to inherit a place with Israel?
Revelation 21:24 and 26 seems to be fulfilling the following passages from Isaiah:
Kings will be your guardians, and their princesses your nurses. They will bow down to you with their faces to the ground and lick the dust from your feet; and you will know that I am the Lord; those who hopefully wait for Me will not be put to shame.
Then you will see and be radiant, and your heart will thrill and rejoice; because the abundance of the sea will be turned to you, the wealth of the nations will come to you.
You will also suck the milk of nations, and suck the breast of kings; then you will know that I, the Lord, am your Savior and your Redeemer, the Mighty One of Jacob.
But you will be called the priests of the Lord; you will be spoken of as ministers of our God. You will eat the wealth of nations, and you will boast in their riches.
12 For this is what the Lord says: “Behold, I extend peace to her like a river, and the glory of the nations like an overflowing stream; and you will be nursed, you will be carried on the hip and rocked back and forth on the knees.”
We would say that Revelation 21:24 and 26 is fulfilled by all of those passages simultaneously. Although interestingly, there was a more immediate and prior fulfillment of these prophecies. Isaiah 45:1-4 says,
1 This is what the Lord says to Cyrus His anointed, whom I have taken by the right hand, to subdue nations before him and to undo the weapons belt on the waist of kings; to open doors before him so that gates will not be shut: 2 “I will go before you and make the rough places smooth; I will shatter the doors of bronze and cut through their iron bars. 3 I will give you the treasures of darkness and hidden wealth of secret places, so that you may know that it is I, the Lord, the God of Israel, who calls you by your name. 4 For the sake of Jacob My servant, and Israel My chosen one, I have also called you by your name; I have given you a title of honor though you have not known Me.”
It was Cyrus the Great, king of Persia, who was the first to personally commission the building of the second temple — paying for it at his own expense while restoring and protecting Israel, as Ezra 1:2 says,
2 This is what Cyrus king of Persia says: ‘The Lord, the God of heaven, has given me all the kingdoms of the earth, and He has appointed me to rebuild for Him a house in Jerusalem, which is in Judah.’
Imagine for a moment being a pagan king like Cyrus and having Isaiah 45 presented before him — a prophet from a distant nation had written of him by name hundreds of years ago. That nation’s God personally called him into service of that God’s people — to act on behalf of Israel — in spite of him never having known that God — promising “the treasures of darkness and hidden wealth of secret places.”
The lofty words of that promise are surely alluring for a pagan king who already has everything he could think of. We would contend, however, that being a part of the holy city and assembly of the Lord easily delivers that and more.
We are aware, of course, that the references to Cyrus in Isaiah 44 and 45 may also have Messianic implications — however, we are choosing here to focus only on how Cyrus fulfilled the prophecies of Isaiah 49, 60, 61 and 66. It is clear through the books of Ezra and Nehemiah that it was not only Cyrus, but Artaxerxes I, Darius and possibly Artaxerxes II as well who fulfilled these prophecies — hence them referring to “kings” and not just one “king.”
These mighty men are the shadows and examples we have of the fulfillment of Revelation 21. If they are the immediate fulfillment, then Revelation 21:24 and 26 is telling us that each and every person from the nations who has a place in the heavenly city will be like one of the great kings of old.
It is revealing that each person is the likes of Cyrus, Darius or Artaxerxes — and that the quality of each respective individual will be in no way diminished by the sheer numerousness of their peers. Isaiah 60:22 confirms,
The smallest one will become a thousand, and the least one a mighty nation. I, the Lord, will bring it about quickly in its time.
Consider, then, that these great men from the nations — each of them a king — will be like Israel’s children in the assembly of the Lord. What does that say of the place which has been given to Israel? Clearly there are no positions for peasants in the kingdom of God.
Note also how Revelation 21:27 directly afterward gives a powerful stipulation — it is a re-affirmation of point 3 above and the position we have taken on salvation in our previous essays:
…and nothing unclean, and no one who practices abomination and lying, shall ever come into it, but only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life.
This describes the resplendent power of the gospel of Christ to bring about a clean and holy people to be together in eternity. Isaiah 56 — which we quoted earlier — gives the same stipulation in verses 1-2, 4 and 6,
1 This is what the Lord says: “Guard justice and do righteousness, for My salvation is about to come and My righteousness to be revealed. 2 Blessed is a man who does this, and a son of man who takes hold of it; who keeps from profaning the Sabbath, and keeps his hand from doing any evil….” 4 For this is what the Lord says: “To the eunuchs who keep My Sabbaths, and choose what pleases Me, and hold firmly to My covenant…6 “Also the foreigners who join themselves to the Lord, to attend to His service and to love the name of the Lord, to be His servants, every one who keeps the Sabbath so as not to profane it, and holds firmly to My covenant;”
If we are to inherit the glorious promises of “the assembly of the Lord,” we must attain to the life which the gospel and power of the Lord Jesus ought to bring about in us. Just like the Israelites and nations of old, we must be spiritually acclimated to the holy and pure life required of one who lives in Israel’s midst.
In relation to the utter glory and magnificence of these promises, Paul quotes Isaiah 64:4 in 1 Corinthians 2:6-10,
6 Yet we do speak wisdom among those who are mature; a wisdom, however, not of this age nor of the rulers of this age, who are passing away; 7 but we speak God’s wisdom in a mystery, the hidden wisdom which God predestined before the ages to our glory; 8 the wisdom which none of the rulers of this age has understood; for if they had understood it, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory; 9 but just as it is written:
“Things which eye has not seen and ear has not heard, and which have not entered the human heart, all that God has prepared for those who love Him.”
10 For to us God revealed them through the Spirit; for the Spirit searches all things, even the depths of God.
We hope that the Scriptural understanding of these laws we have proposed here will bring about the same excitement we have at our glorious prospects in the next life — and the wondrous gifts which our magnanimous God has purposed to bestow on His righteous chosen.
We will end by quoting Psalm 72 — which is also fulfilled by Revelation 21:4 and 6. Whereas the prophecies in Isaiah are given from Israel’s perspective, Psalm 72 is given from the perspective of the Lord Jesus — our King of kings and Lord of lords. We would encourage a close and thoughtful reading of this Psalm given everything we have proposed so far:
1 Give the king Your judgments, God, and Your righteousness to the king’s son. 2 May he judge Your people with righteousness and Your afflicted with justice. 3 May the mountains bring peace to the people, and the hills, in righteousness. 4 May he vindicate the afflicted of the people, save the children of the needy, and crush the oppressor.
5 May they fear You while the sun shines, and as long as the moon shines, throughout all generations. 6 May he come down like rain upon the mown grass, like showers that water the earth. 7 May the righteous flourish in his days, as well as an abundance of peace, until the moon is no more.
8 May he also rule from sea to sea, and from the Euphrates River to the ends of the earth.9 May the nomads of the desert bow before him, and his enemies lick the dust.10 May the kings of Tarshish and of the islands bring gifts; may the kings of Sheba and Seba offer tributes.11 And may all kings bow down before him, all nations serve him.
12 For he will save the needy when he cries for help, the afflicted also, and him who has no helper.13 He will have compassion on the poor and needy, And he will save the lives of the needy. 14 He will rescue their life from oppression and violence, and their blood will be precious in his sight; 15 So may he live, and may the gold of Sheba be given to him; and they are to pray for him continually; they are to bless him all day long.
16 May there be abundance of grain on the earth on top of the mountains; its fruit will wave like the cedars of Lebanon; and may those from the city flourish like the vegetation of the earth.17 May his name endure forever; may his name produce descendants as long as the sun shines; and may people wish blessings on themselves by him; may all nations call him blessed.
18 Blessed be the Lord God, the God of Israel, who alone works wonders.19 And blessed be His glorious name forever; and may the whole earth be filled with His glory. Amen and Amen. 20 The prayers of David the son of Jesse are ended.