Deuteronomy 23:2
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.

What kind of love of God is this? Did Jesus change this?

  • 1
    That word is only used in 2 verses neither of which makes its meaning clear
    – R. Emery
    Sep 17 '20 at 12:01
  • Probably derived from zuwr: blueletterbible.org/lang/lexicon/…
    – R. Emery
    Sep 17 '20 at 12:04
  • Num 16:40 To be a memorial unto the children of Israel, that no stranger, H2114 which is not of the seed of Aaron, come near to offer incense before the LORD; that he be not as Korah, and as his company: as the LORD said to him by the hand of Moses
    – R. Emery
    Sep 17 '20 at 12:09
  • Deuteronomy 23:2 is translated from Devarim 23:3 [MT]. - What kind of love of God is this [Devarim 23:3]? - In context to Mamzer descendants worshipping other gods / idols, the prohibition of such behavior is supported by Yeshua (Jesus) of Nazareth. Sep 17 '20 at 13:57
  • It basically means: “Don’t let hooligans into you meetings, because they will wreck them”. Sep 20 '20 at 22:47

Deuteronomy 7:1 When the Lord your God brings you into the land you are entering to possess and drives out before you many nations—the Hittites, Girgashites, Amorites, Canaanites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites, seven nations larger and stronger than you— 2and when the Lord your God has delivered them over to you and you have defeated them, then you must destroy them totally. a Make no treaty with them, and show them no mercy. 3 Do not intermarry with them. Do not give your daughters to their sons or take their daughters for your sons, 4for they will turn your children away from following me to serve other gods, and the Lord’s anger will burn against you and will quickly destroy you.

Deuteronomy 23:2 No one born of a forbidden marriage nor any of their descendants may enter the assembly of the LORD, not even in the tenth generation.

Joshua 2:1 Then Joshua son of Nun secretly sent two spies from Shittim. "Go, look over the land," he said, "especially Jericho." So they went and entered the house of a prostitute named Rahab and stayed there.

Matthew 1:5 Salmon the father of Boaz, whose mother was Rahab, Boaz the father of Obed, whose mother was Ruth, Obed the father of Jesse, 6and Jesse the father of King David. ... 16and Jacob the father of Joseph, the husband of Mary, and Mary was the mother of Jesus who is called the Messiah.

Regardless how one interprets Deuteronomy 23:2, Salmon married a Canaanite prostitute named Rahab whose descendants included King David and Jesus the Messiah. The love of God overcomes all obstacles. By the sacrifice of Jesus, the Gentiles are eligible to become sons of Abraham.

Galatians 3:14 He redeemed us in order that the blessing given to Abraham might come to the Gentiles through Christ Jesus, so that by faith we might receive the promise of the Spirit.

The laws were only a shadow of the good news that was to come. That's the love of God and the overcoming power of the Cross.


The first thing to notice is that the word (mamzer) is only used (2x) in the OT. Here in Deut. 23:2 and Zechariah 9:6. This fact makes the interpretation and translation into English difficult.

Notice the variations across different translations:

"forbidden marriage" (NIV), "forbidden union" (ESV), "illegitimate birth" (NKJV).

There are two questions in this passage:

  1. How do you define what a "forbidden union" is?
  1. How do you define "shall not enter the congregation?"

How to define what mamzer is a topic of the Rabbis. They don't all agree. Some say from incest. Some say from adultery. You can find the discussion in Mishnah Yevamot 4:13

The second question is how to define "shall not enter the congregation." Are they out of the community? or are they allowed in the synagogue but not allowed to marry a Jew.

It is open to wide interpretation. My suspicion is - like any faith community - some are strict while others are not. There was not such thing as monolithic Judaism in the centuries surrounding Jesus. Just as there are many variations of Christianity around the world.

Some scholars - Bruce Chilton - see Jesus as a mamzer because of the suspicious nature of his birth (Matt. 1:18).

Being that in the 1st century we don't have an codified definition of mamzer, Timothy may have been considered one because of the union between a Jewish mother and a Greek father (especially in a small town like Lystra) - see Acts 16:1. Also, Timothy was not circumcised on the 8th day which may (we don't know) be a clue about his status there in Lystra.

It does not seem that the punishment was banishment from the community. There is an additional saying - Babylonian Talmud - that “A Torah scholar of illegitimate birth (mamzer) precedes an ignorant High Priest.” This would indicate that if a mamzer became a Torah scholar that would rais their status.

  • The Rabbis (the Pharisees) are not relevant to this discussion as text in question predates the Rabbis by 300 years or more and was written during the deuteronomic reformation by people whose theological outlook was very different from the later Pharisees. The question is what ממזר meant up to the time the text was written and what the word meant to the deuteronomic editors. Sep 18 '20 at 5:27
  • @AbuMunirIbnIbrahim Thank you for your comment. There are (3) questions asked which are all determined by how a community interprets the word mamzer. The final question concerns Jesus and his interpretation. As you are aware Judaism does not demonstrate monolithic interpretation for all commands. The schools of Hillel and Shammai are good examples of diverging opinions. My point in referencing the Rabbis is that we find that they cannot agree on the definition which is vital to how we are going to proceed as a community.
    – S. Broberg
    Sep 18 '20 at 17:29
  • The OP question is not about later interpretation by one community or another. The question is hermeneutical: what did ממזר mean to the Deuteronomic writer who wrote the verse hundreds of years before the earliest opinion that you cite? To that writer there was no interpretation because the meaning was crystal clear. What did it mean to him? Sep 20 '20 at 20:19

Why were Mamzer children not allowed in the Assembly of YHVH?

Mamzer / Mametser (מַמְזֵ֖ר) refers to a mongrel child from a divided household : Descendant of Ivri (Hebrew) & non-Ivri (Gentile) parents. [Source: https://biblehub.com/hebrew/4464.htm]

Moshe delivers a speech recorded in the scroll of Devarim (דְּבָרִ֗ים) to inspire the Children of Yisrael to have a fully devoted heart to YHVH. - The warning in Devarim (Deuteronomy) 23:3 is for the nation of Yisrael to defend its faith in YHVH.

Interracial Marriage (Boaz & Ruth) could only be allowed if both Husband & Wife had joined Yisrael by professing their covenant with YHVH. Otherwise, a "mongrel" (Mametser, מַמְזֵ֖ר) would tempt Yisraelites to believe in foreign idols of their non-Ivri parent.

Devarim 23:3 [MT] "A mongrel shall not enter the assembly of the Lord; even the tenth generation shall not enter the assembly of YHVH" (לֹֽא־יָבֹ֥א מַמְזֵ֖ר בִּקְהַ֣ל יְהֹוָ֑ה גַּ֚ם דּ֣וֹר עֲשִׂירִ֔י לֹֽא־יָבֹ֥א ל֖וֹ בִּקְהַ֥ל יְהֹוָֽה )

Is Devarim (Deuteronomy) 23:3 an example of Godly love?

  • A fully devoted family whose Father & Mother both honor our God YHVH as the Father brings more glory to the Creator than a divided family which leads others to doubt YHVH.

Did Yeshua (Jesus) of Nazareth make "mongrel" (Mametser, מַמְזֵ֖ר) behavior or idolatrous cultures acceptable to the Father? - No.

By reaffirming Deuteronomy 6:4-5 from the Torah, Yeshua (Jesus) Ha-Meshiach (the Messiah) states the greatest commandment in Mark 12:29-30 : “The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one." - "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength."

Although Yeshua (Jesus) of Nazareth taught forgiveness of Yisrael's Mametser (מַמְזֵ֖ר) descendants, Yeshua came to divide Mamzer households [Luke 12:50-53] in order to fully restore Yisrael's covenant with The Father YHVH our God.


Ruth changes this and David changes this.

Or rather Ruth and David fulfill this, with David being the tenth generation from Tamar, whose offspring Phares was illegitimate and all are in the genealogy of Jesus in Matthew 1.

Ruth and David form beautiful tales of redemption and show us God's plan is to graft even the most unfavored branches back in to the vine, with great mercy and grace.

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