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Since we know (from the Bible) God is not partial, and that He does not charge a son with the sin of his father, how this is in harmony with the exclusion of people born from an illegitimate (sexual) union? Could we suppose mmzr (ממזר) was derived from another concept?

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When trying to understand scripture it is important to grasp the "biblical context" in which the scripture is written before searching for possible application in "today's content."

I am using Strong's Concordance, Brown-Driver-Briggs, ESword, and https://www.studylight.org/lexicons as reference tools. Unless otherwise noted KJV is the translation I have used.

Deu 23:1 He that is wounded in the stones, H6481 H1795 or hath his privy member H8212 cut off, H3772 shall not H3808 enter H935 into the congregation H6951 of the LORD. H3068

Deu 23:2 A bastard H4464 shall not H3808 enter H935 into the congregation H6951 of the LORD; H3068 even H1571 to his tenth H6224 generation H1755 shall he not H3808 enter H935 into the congregation H6951 of the LORD. H3068

מַמְזֵר H4464 – Strong’s

mamzer (561c); from an unused word; a bastard, child of incest: — illegitimate birth (1), mongrel race (1), one of illegitimate birth (1).

Brown-Driver-Briggs

mmzr - hebrew in origin bastard, child of incest, illegitimate child 1b) mixed population (figuratively) 1c) born of a Jewish father and a heathen (pagan) mother or visa versa

The word “bastard” is used only twice in the bible. Deu 23:2 and Zec 9:6 In both references the word seems to be referring to a mixing of a people. We must continue to read further down in scripture to determine if this is the correct interpretation of the word “bastard”

Deu 23:3 An Ammonite H5984 or Moabite H4125 shall not H3808 enter H935 into the congregation H6951 of the LORD; H3068 even H1571 to their tenth H6224 generation H1755 shall they not H3808 enter H935 into the congregation H6951 of the LORD H3068 for ever: H5704 H5769

Ammonite and Moabite – who were they and why are they “excluded” from the “congregation”? The answer to the question of “who and why" they are can be found in 1 Kings 11:7 – they are also pagans who worship Molech. It seems so far that biblically the words bastard and illegitimate are interchangeable. Keeping this definition in mind I have determined that yes, indeed mmzr (ממזר) is derived from a different context.

Due 23:1 – 8 discusses who is cut off from the “congregation” or “assembly.”

  1. The Eunice
  2. The descendants of anyone who has been born from "a mixture of Almighty God worship and Pagan worship"

Other questions that came up were… Why 3 generations for some and NEVER for others? What is the biblical Hebrew meaning of congregation and assembly?

Such a small passage with such a BIG meaning! Enjoy the journey of discovery.

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    Cathleen - Thanks for sharing your research! - It is interesting that Obed / Oved ( עֹבֵד֙ ) the grandfather of King David (דָּוִֽד ) would qualify as a Mamzer / Mametser (מַמְזֵ֖ר). Oct 5 '20 at 13:20
  • Welcome to BH. Please see the Tour and the Help (below, bottom right) as to the purpose and the functioning of the site. (Up-voted +1.)
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    Oct 5 '20 at 16:23
  • I know right! So that shows us that there still must be more to this than is written on paper. Oct 6 '20 at 9:21
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First of all, let us take a glance to the Hebrew text of Deu 23:1-3.

1 לא Not

יבא (one) shall introduce

פצוע (an) injured (one)

דכה (by) crushing

וכרות and one being cut (off)

שפכה penis and/or testicles

בקהל into (the) assembly

יהוה (of) Jehovah

2 לא Not

יבא (one) shall introduce

ממזר a [the term at issue]

בקהל into (the) assembly

יהוה (of) Jehovah

גם even

דור generation

עשירי tenth

לא not

יבא (one) shall introduce

לו to him

בקהל into (the) assembly

יהוה (of) Jehovah

3a לא Not

יבא (one) shall introduce

עמוני Ammonite

ומואבי and Moabite

בקהל into (the) assembly

יהוה (of) Jehovah

גם even

דור generation

עשירי tenth

3b לא Not

יבא (one) shall introduce

להם belonging [-ל as “equivalent to the genitive”, Davidson] to them

בקהל into (the) assembly

יהוה (of) Jehovah

עד until

עולם time indefinite/unsighted


What say the lexicographers about the pivotal term mmzr (ממזר)? Though they hazard some meanings, they have no option but to admit that the meanings they offered are simply assumptions, or - otherwise – they leave the question unresolved, often not offering neither a conceptual root from which mmzr (ממזר) was derived.

If you feel like doing a search among a lot of references books you will find that the suggested meanings – when they exists - around the mmzr (ממזר) right derivation, as well as the meaning of it, are - to put it mildly – variegated.

Some examples?


UNCERTAIN ORIGIN/DERIVATION

ִ“מַמְזִר. A word of uncertain origin” (Lange’s Commentary, on Zac 9:6)

“מַמְזִר. Etymo. Uncertain” (Davidson’s Analytical Hebrew and Chaldee Lexicon)


RELATED TO A ‘FOREIGNER’ CONCEPT

“[…] Blayney, who reads, a stranger, observes, that the Hebrew word, ממזר here used, does not imply an illegitimate offspring (on Zec 9:6). In proof of which he quotes Psa_69:8, where מוזר, a word from which the above is derived, is translated a stranger, so that he supposes the sense of this clause to be, that the city of Ashdod should be peopled with strangers, not descended from its present possessors. The LXX. and Chaldee understand the expression in the same sense.” (Joseph Benson’s Commentary, on Zec 9:6)

“[This] opinion is probable, who derive ממזר, memezar, from זור, zur, which means to peregrinate; and they quote other instances, in which the double ממ, mem, is used in the formations of a noun; and it is easy to prove, from many passages of scripture, that ממזר, memezar, means a stranger [That this is its meaning is generally admitted, as given by the Septuagint, the Targum, and the Syriac version, and adopted by Grotius, Newcome, Blayney, and Henderson. Lee accounts for the double [מ ] by deriving the word from [מן ], from, [עם ], people, and [זר ], a foreigner, or stranger. The poetical singular is used for the plural, as is the case in the following verse. The whole passage may be thus rendered ‘6. And dwell shall a stranger in Ashdod; (For I will cut off the pride of the Philistines.’].” (Calvin’s Commentary, on Zec 9:6)

“The word [mmzr] signifies a stranger” (Adam Clarke’s Commentary on Zec 9:6)


RELATED TO AN ILLEGITIMATE (SEXUAL) UNION CONCEPT

The idea that seems to be trendy in, mainly based on rabbinical ideas, is that the related mmzr with a concept of an ‘illegitimate (sexual) union’.

Some samples (from Bible commentaries and Bibles’ footnotes):

1 - “born of whoredom” = Targum of Jonathan, apud John Gill’s Exposition of the Bible, and LXX.

2 - “born of any of […] incestuous copulation forbidden in Lev 18:1” = a Jewish common idea (see also John Gill, Matthew Henry, Keil, Wogue, Robert Alter, NAB, et caetera)

3 - “[born from an] intercourse with foreigners” = Jamieson-Fausset-Brown, New Jerusalem Bible (ft.)

4 - “those who were begotten in incest or adultery” = Keil&Delitzsch, Albert Barnes, Adam Clarke.

5 - “who is born of an uncertain father [whose mother] have brought it [through] gross licentiousness”, Calvin’s Commentary

6 - “a person born of an illegitimate marriage”, NET Bible.


What about the Cathleen Dell’s conclusion? She said, “the word ‘bastard’ is used only twice in the bible: Deu 23:2 and Zec 9:6. In both references the word seems to be referring to a mixing of a people.”

Sorry, but this conclusion seems to me out of track, anyway (by the way, her conclusion does not dispel the doubt of a partiality from God’s part…).

(1) It is not the word ‘bastard’ to be mentioned in the above mentioned passages , but it is the Hebrew term mmzr (ממזר), which meaning we are searching to define.

(2) She says well that (bold is mine) ‘the word seems to be referring to a mixing of a people’, because in Zec 9:6 the meaning of ‘bastard’ does not suit – at all – to the man the prophecy points. In fact, as far as we know through the convergence between Bible account and history, that prophecy was fulfilled by Jonathan Maccabean when he conquered Ashdod (Azotus), even setting to fire the Dagon’s temple of this town (1 Mac 10:83-84). Historically speaking, Jonathan was not a ‘bastard’, but was really a mmzr (ממזר), a term that contain a peculiar quality we discover later.

John Gill: “[…] others think Jonathan the Maccabee is intended, who took this place and burnt it with fire, and the temple of Dagon in it, ‘The horsemen also, being scattered in the field, fled to Azotus, and went into Bethdagon, their idol's temple, for safety. But Jonathan set fire on Azotus, and the cities round about it, and took their spoils; and the temple of Dagon, with them that were fled into it, he burned with fire.'' (1 Maccabees 10[:83-84]).” (Commentary)

Another references book: “In the postexilic period Ashdod was still a focal point of opposition to the Israelites (Ne 4:7), and Nehemiah severely reprimanded those Jews who had married Ashdodite wives, resulting in sons who were “speaking Ashdodite, and there were none of them knowing how to speak Jewish.” (Ne 13:23, 24) During the Maccabean period idolatrous Ashdod (called Azotus) came under attack by Judas Maccabaeus about 163 B.C.E. and later by Judas’ brother Jonathan about 148 B.C.E., the temple of Dagon being burned down in this second attack.—1 Maccabees 5:68 [‘So Judas turned to Azotus in the land of the Philistines, and when he had pulled down their altars, and burned their carved images with fire, and spoiled their cities, he returned into the land of Judea.’]; 10:84 [‘But Jonathan set fire on Azotus, and the cities round about it, and took their spoils; and the temple of Dagon, with them that were fled into it, he burned with fire.’]. It is noteworthy that the prophecy of Zechariah pointed to the time when Ashdod would be overtaken by foreigners. Evidently because the native Philistine population and rulership would be no more, the prophetic word was: “An illegitimate son will actually seat himself in Ashdod.”—Zec 9:6. [Insight on the Scriptures, I:190 (‘Ashdod’)]

So, it seems to me that all these conclusions/hypothesis (Uncertain Derivation, ‘Bastard’-related, ‘Foreigner’-related) are getting nowhere.

We have to find the right track.

There are a number of factors can be useful to get some light into the dark.


Factor One

Everyone of us is responsible – before God - for his own actions. God clearly said that “the son shall not bear the iniquity of the father, neither shall the father bear the iniquity of the son; the righteousness of the righteous shall be upon him, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon him.” (Eze 18:20, ASV)

Granted, the consequences of the transgression of a father can will affect upon sons (as in the case of the squandering life of a compulsory gambler householder), but the charge of the transgression is only on the father. This is in harmony with another God’s statement: “[…] never let the upright or him who has done no wrong be put to death: for I will make the evil-doer responsible for his sin.” (Exo 23:7, Bible in Basic English [bold is mine]).


Factor Two

God accepts everyone wants to love and obey Him, irrespective of all other factors. “Then Peter opened his mouth and said, ‘Now I really see that God shows no partiality, but in every nation the man who reveres God and practices doing right is acceptable to Him’.” (Act 10:34-35, Williams [bold is mine]). The examples of Raab of Jericho, and Ruth the Moabite confirm this argument, once and for all. Even to the God-condemned Canaanites (review – please – the following passages: Num 21:1-3, 34-35; Jos 6:20-21; 8:21-27; 10:26-40; 11:10-14) was offered the possibility to become part of the people of God (as a proselytes; they cannot access only to special positions, as the priestly service, and alike, obviously).

In fact, we read in Deu 20:10-11: “When thou comest nigh unto a city to fight against it, then proclaim peace unto it. And it shall be, if it make thee answer of peace, and open unto thee, then it shall be, that all the people that is found therein shall be tributaries (lms) unto thee, and they shall serve (obd) thee.” (KJV [bold is mine])

Dissertating on the meaning of the term lms, The Cambridge Bible sustains: “Heb. la-mas. Mas means a body of forced labourers, e.g. of Israelites in Egypt, Exo 1:11, or of Solomon’s levies for work in Lebanon and upon his buildings, 1Ki 5:13 (27), Deu 9:15; but frequently of the Canaanite peoples surviving among Israel […], Jos 16:10; Jos 17:13, Jdg 1:30; Jdg 1:33; Jdg 1:35 […].”

Linguistically speaking, the meaning of the conceptual root here used (MSS > lms) is linked with the idea of ‘to melt’, then, ‘to dissolve’ > ‘to disband’.

In this specific case, a previous comunity (a town) would be disbanded, and its population would be subjugated to the needs of the Israelite people, serving (obd) as compulsory laborers (as happened to the Gibeonites). Moreover these subjugated peoples were to obey the Law God gave in the Torah, too.

So, in brief, how these two factors help us to understand correctly the meaning of mmzr (ממזר)?

Furthermore, can the rabbinical ideas listed above be correct?

Ask ourselves, can an ancient man/woman born from an illegitimate (sexual) union be charged of the error of his parents? As we have seen, the answer is ‘certainly not’ (from the God’s viewpoint). He did can be a part of the people of God (remember: “the man who reveres God and practices doing right is acceptable to Him”).

Thus, the meaning of mmzr (ממזר) must not be searched among some not-legitimate (sexual) unions, if we do not intend to tax God of partiality!


So, what would be the right track to understand the right meaning of mmzr (ממזר)?

Yes, it exists. An ancient hypothesis did show that existed an ancient root MZR (מזר).

Parkhurst (A Hebrew and English Lexicon […]) sustained: “מזר [mzr]. It occurs not as a verb in Heb[rew], but in Arabic […] it signifies be corrupt or rotten as an egg […] and in the fourth conjugation is applied to a hen sitting on an addle egg […].”

Keil & Delitzsch (Commentary on the Old Testament): “in all probability is to be derived from a root מָזַר, synonymous with the Arabic word ‘to be corrupt, or foul’.”

The medieval MT subsequently utilized a number of graphical variants of it (‘allomorphic roots’, technically speaking), as בוז [BUZ] (Son 8:1), בזה [BZE] (Gen 25:34), וזר [UZR] (Pro 21:8), זהם [ZEM] (Job 33:20), זור [ZUR] (Exo 29:33), and others. All of these have the common meaning of ‘to be rotten, corrupt [in every sense, not only physical]’, then, ‘to hate (what one considers to be corrupt)’.

Today – a datum not available in the Parkhurst’s epoch – we also know that the Akkadian language, a cognate semitic language to Hebrew, utilized the verb ZERU/ZE’ARU, ‘to dislike, to hate’ > ‘to avoid’ [(in ancient Assyrian), CAD XXI:97-99], as well as the noun MUZZIRRU/MUNZIRRU, ‘enemies (lit. ‘who hate each other’ [so, ‘a mutual hatred’])’ [(in ancient Babylonian), CAD X:2:323]. These last instances (MUZZIRRU/MUNZIRRU) can easily explain the derivation MZR > mmzr (ממזר).

So, the original meaning of the root – plainly - revolves itself around a concept of (mutual) hatred. You see how this derivation cannot make some contradictions (linked to the partiality/impartiality of God) to be raised.

Last two remarks.


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Someone could ask: ‘All right, but it seems to me that real haters of Israelites, along with their ‘Mosaic’ Law, had no interest to ask to be part of the people/community of Israel, at all!

In actual fact, there were - instead - a couple a factors which could persuade some Israel’s haters to ask to be (formal) part of their community, namely, some economic, power/influence factors.

For an example, in the book of Nehemiah wee clearly see how the Israel’s ‘enemies’ (Neh 6:1), namely, Tobiah, Sanballat, and Geshem expecially, they all made show of similarity of Israel’s people ideas. Do not speak of Shemaiah, and Noadiah, and their pose as real, God-inspired, prophets…

The answer Nehemiah gave to those ‘enemies’ (Neh 2:20) implies that they - in fact - laid some claims to Nehemiah. The Cambridge Bible comments in this regard (bold is mine): “These words closely resemble the declaration in Ezr 4:3, and imply some sort of claim on the part of these adversaries to a share in the fortunes of Jerusalem. If so, the adversaries must be regarded as mainly consisting of the Samaritan community. Nehemiah renouncing connection with the Samaritans, affirms that they have no share in the present community, no ground for claiming it in the future, no memorial or justification of such claim in the past.”


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Someone could sustain – on the basis of the Hebrew text I have show above – that the here presented ‘hatred’ hypothesis does not stand before the fact that that exclusion lasted only for 10 generations (math period). As a consequence, the eleventh generation (and those following…) of mmzr was exempted from the exclusion. First of all, it seems to be out of logic to think that the hatred of a supposed out-of-exclusion’s eleventh generation, was not enough to exclude them to be part of Israel’s people.

Moreover, what the expression “tenth generation” means in the context of Deu 23:1-3?

Note that this lenght of the exclusion is applied both the mmzr and the Ammonite/Moabite.

Was “tenth generation” a math time (period)?

No, because the second part of the verse 3 specifies in what sense we have to mean the expression “tenth generation”. In fact, we read (interlinear translation), “Not (one) shall introduce (some people) belonging to them (mmzr and the Ammonite/Moabite) into (the) assembly (of) Jehovah until time indefinite/unsighted [many other Bible translations: ‘for ever’]”.

So, since the concept around ‘time indefinite/for ever’ goes against a mensurable math time (period), we must to conclude that the expression “tenth generation”, in this context, is used here in a symbolic way, indicating fullness of time, an entire period of time (since this site is named Biblical Hermeneutics it is apt to compare some Bible examples as the Ten Plagues, The Ten ‘Commandments’, as well as the Jesus’ usage of ‘ten’ in his teaching – Mat 25:1; Luk 15:8; 19:13, 16-17 – along with the Revelation to John - Rev 2:10; 12:3).


Conclusion

The term mmzr (ממזר), which indicate one of the reasons to be excluded to be part of the Israel’s people are not related with an ‘illegitimate (sexual) union’, but with the concept of ‘to hate (a mutual hatred)’. In other words, it cannot be accepted that some real enemies of Israel (along with their God, יהוה) were part of the community, any claims they could laid to.

The convergence of linguistic factors (also from cognate languages), confirms this conclusion.

The most important thing, this explanation makes the shadow of certain amount of partiality from God’s part to vanish, to His Glory. Amen.

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