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One of illegitimate birth shall not enter the assembly of the Lord; even to the tenth generation none of his descendants shall enter the assembly of the Lord. (Deuteronomy 23:2)

At first glance, this would seem to say that no child born out of wedlock could be considered as a citizen of Israel, nor could their descendants until the tenth generation. If that were the case, I have no doubt that there would have been many innocent children, as well as their descendants, disqualified at no fault of their own. However, the Hebrew word mamzer, translated here as “illegitimate,” doesn’t necessarily mean a child born out of wedlock but a child born of an adulterous or incestuous union, that is to say, unions that would never have been considered legal according to Leviticus 18 & 20.

The next verse, in fact, makes this clear by stating that no “Ammonite or a Moabite shall not enter into the assembly of the LORD.” You will recall that the children of Ammon and Moab were the result of an incestuous relationship between Lot and two of his daughters. Furthermore, Moses reminds us that these nations were antagonistic toward Israel as they prepared to enter Canaan — one would not share bread and water; the other hired a prophet to curse them. As a result, Israel was to keep their distance from these people, not seeking their demise or their prosperity – but to be entirely indifferent to them. This is fascinating for many reasons but the most notable is the fact that King David — and by extension, the Messiah — was descended from Lot through Ruth the Moabite woman.

There are those who make the argument that Ruth was of the tenth generation and there are those who say she was exempt from this prohibition altogether because she was a woman. The real point — at least as far as I’m concerned — is that this situation demonstrates, once again, that God alone is able to “bring a clean thing out of an unclean” (Job 14:4). Only He can legitimize what was illegitimate. Only He can take an  unattractive oyster and bring forth a precious pearl. Case in point: if Moab is the oyster shell, then David (better, the Son of David, the Messiah) is the pearl. And we, having recognized that He is the pearl of great price, can also be transformed from this corruptible man into the image of the Son of God. Happily, there is no one beyond His reach, no matter their ancestry or history. He can make us clean!

Blessings and Shalom,  




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