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A bastard shall not enter into the congregation of the LORD; even to his tenth generation shall he not enter into the congregation of the LORD. — Deuteronomy 23:2

What does "even to his tenth generation" mean? Many commentators say that the phrase means, "forever", or, in other words, as long as he lives. Is there any textual support for this?

What is the Congregation of the Lord? Some commentators say that this is a political group, although the phrase itself suggests that it is a religious one. Is there any textual evidence to support either position?

Thank you.

  • @AbuMunirIbnIbrahim Thank you. This answers my question. – CMK Mar 30 '19 at 20:02
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As far as the concept of bastards (i.e., those born out of wedlock and immorality) is concerned, it would be preferable to start by first making the following two observations, so as to set things into proper perspective :

In 1 Timothy 3:6, Saint Paul argues that it is unwise for a fresh convert to enter the ranks of the clergy, which makes perfect sense, since a man's personal conversion is a long process, taking years, if not decades. But if this is true even for a single individual, what about entire groups of people, such as the Ammonites, Moabites, Edomites, and Egyptians mentioned in the larger context of your quoted passage, namely Deuteronomy 23:1-8 ? It stands to reason that the reception process should take even longer; in this case, generations. (Indeed, the historical process of converting various pagan European nations to Christianity, for instance, took whole centuries to complete). Hope this helps.

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  • Your reasoning makes sense, but the term "bastard" isn't used in the Old Testament to describe those weak in the faith, and the concept of being weak in the faith doesn't really appear in the Old Testament, like it does in the New Testament. And, concerning pagan peoples coming into Israel, it should take one generation for them to become worshippers of Yahweh, if they convert and then teach their children to, because children are a "blank slate". Converting entire nations to a certain religion would take much longer, though, like you said. – CMK Apr 1 '19 at 16:55
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    @CMK: I was referring to pagans, not to those weak in the faith. The passage seems primarily concerned with the mass assimilation of various pagan tribes inhabiting the Promised Land prior to Israel's arrival, rather than with individual conversions of lone migrants, or relatively small groups of foreign settlers. – Lucian Apr 1 '19 at 19:08
  • I see. Sorry for my misunderstanding. But the word "bastard" still isn't used in the Old Testament to refer to pagans, as far as I am aware, and so it seems too speculative to say that the word is referring to pagans, on the basis that paganism is called adultery in the Old Testament. – CMK Apr 1 '19 at 19:17
  • @CMK: I wasn't exactly arguing that either. What I said was that, at face value, the passage seems to speak about two categories, bastards and pagans, mentioning Moab, who happens to embody both characteristics. The observation that monotheism is compared to marital fidelity then allows me to lump these two apparently distinct groups into one. And if one were to prefer a somewhat less metaphoric connection, one might remember the status of the offspring of mixed marriages within the books of Ezra and Nehemiah. Given the specific context, I doubt that the passage has random individuals in mind. – Lucian Apr 2 '19 at 13:19

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