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King David's ninth father, Phares the son of Judas, according to the Old Testament, was a bastard. Does this mean that David the king, a great and pious messenger and the ancestor of Jesus (according to Matthew 1:1) shall not enter the congregation of the Lord?

Deuteronomy 23:2 - 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.

Matthew 1:1-6 - The book of the generation of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham: 2 Abraham begot Isaac. And Isaac begot Jacob. And Jacob begot Judas and his brethren. 3 And Judas begot Phares and Zara of Thamar. And Phares begot Esron. And Esron begot Aram. 4 And Aram begot Aminadab. And Aminadab begot Naasson. And Naasson begot Salmon. 5 And Salmon begot Booz of Rahab. And Booz begot Obed of Ruth. And Obed begot Jesse. 6 And Jesse begot David the king.

Genesis 38:24-28

24 And behold, after three months, they told Juda, saying: Thamar, thy daughter-in-law, hath played the harlot, and she appeareth to have a big belly. And Juda said: Bring her out that she may be burnt. 25 But when she was led to execution, she sent to her father in law, saying: By the man, to whom these things belong, I am with child. See whose ring, and bracelet, and staff this is. 26 But he acknowledging the gifts, said: She is juster than I: because I did not give her to Sela, my son. However he knew her no more. 27 And when she was ready to be brought to bed, there appeared twins in her womb: and in the very delivery of the infants, one put forth a hand, whereon the midwife tied a scarlet thread, saying: 28 This shall come forth the first. 29 But he drawing back his hand, the other came forth: and the woman said: Why is the partition divided for thee? and therefore called his name Phares.

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  • What definition of the term מַמְזֵ֖ר, mamzer are you using, may I ask ? It seems that scripture does not agree with your conclusion regarding King David.
    – Nigel J
    Commented Mar 18, 2021 at 15:19
  • This question, marriage - Can a mamzer, Ammonite, or Moabite enter the temple after ten generations? - Mi Yodeya, implies that the "congregation of the Lord" was a reference to the temple. I haven't looked further into it though. Commented Mar 20, 2021 at 1:08
  • The new testament synthesis of the verses you quoted can be summed up in one word: "Conversion" Commented Mar 20, 2021 at 11:04
  • A bastard is a child of a married woman, who cheated. Tamar was a widow, not a married woman. This is according to jewish law.
    – Kapandaria
    Commented Oct 1, 2022 at 21:01

5 Answers 5

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The Law

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, KJV)

The law most certainly was applicable to times before it was declared in the Israelites' hearing. It applied, for example, to Ruth, the Moabitess, who was a descendant of a bastard and in the generation to again be eligible to enter the congregation.

Tamar's Case

But Tamar's situation was unique. In the custom of that time, later ratified by God's own law, it was her right to be impregnated by a brother of her deceased husband, seeing as he had left her childless, so that her husband would have an heir to receive his inheritance.

If brethren dwell together, and one of them die, and have no child, the wife of the dead shall not marry without unto a stranger: her husband's brother shall go in unto her, and take her to him to wife, and perform the duty of an husband's brother unto her. (Deuteronomy 25:5, KJV)

And it shall be, that the firstborn which she beareth shall succeed in the name of his brother which is dead, that his name be not put out of Israel. (Deuteronomy 25:6, KJV)

Judah had given her one of his sons who had not properly fulfilled his duty, cheating her out of having a child, and God, being displeased, had taken his life. Judah, then, feared to give his next son when he was old enough, and Tamar had taken the matter into her own hands with catching Judah himself. Judah later acknowledges her righteousness in having done so.

And Judah acknowledged them, and said, She hath been more righteous than I; because that I gave her not to Shelah my son. And he knew her again no more. (Genesis 38:26, KJV)

Because what Tamar had done, and had essentially been tried in the family court and acquitted for it, was not an unrighteous act, her sons became the lawful heirs of her deceased husband, and were not bastards. In fact, had she not been acquitted, she would have been burned before even giving birth--and David would not have existed.

Conclusion

David, therefore, has no need of counting generations at all with respect to Tamar, because Tamar's children were considered legitimate.

NOTE: There is some ambiguity here because of the unique situation. I say "heirs" and "children" because Tamar had had twins by Judah. God's law stated that the firstborn would be heir to the deceased husband, implying that additional children would have inherited from their actual father. In this case, Judah was the father of the deceased, and not a brother, so there is no husband's brother with whom to split the inheritance. If Tamar's sons did not divide the inheritance between them, the second-born son would have had no inheritance at all.

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This is not the only "problem" with King David's lineage.

  • David was descended from Ruth a Moabitess (book of Ruth 4 generations previous) whose fellowship was excluded until the 10th generation, Deut 23:3
  • The same is true of Pharez, Deut 23:2
  • David was also descended from a prostitute, Rahab of Jericho (Matt 1:5, 6)

Given this "unfortunate" lineage, we notice several more things:

  • Acts 13:22 - After removing Saul, he made David their king. God testified concerning him: 'I have found David son of Jesse, a man after my own heart; he will do everything I want him to do.'
  • Acts 7:45, 46 - ... David, who found favor in the sight of God and asked to provide a dwelling place for the God of Jacob.
  • Messiah, Jesus is (humanly speaking) descended from David, Matt 1.

God is very merciful, gracious and forgiving!!

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  • @Nigel J I have made no conclusion this question was put to me in a debate and refers to text, not that I agree. However, either the text is wrong or David will not enter in congregation with God, cannot have it both ways unless there is text evidence to support that this does not / no longer applies to David. Dottard very helpful and yes God is merciful and forgiving and David is very frequently mentioned in high esteem no doubt. Its more about the conflicting verses. Not sure why downvotes, please explain? Commented Mar 19, 2021 at 10:24
  • A father betrothing a woman to his son, and the son denying would make her liable how? Baseless proposition.
    – user21676
    Commented Mar 20, 2021 at 6:32
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As @TonyChan stated the Mosaic Law of [ דְּבָרִ֗ים Devarim 23:3 | "Deuteronomy" 23:2 ] cannot be a retroactive law against Perez. - The issue of David as מַמְזֵ֖ר Mamzer (Moabite descendant) would start with Boaz.

We learn about the biological father of דָוִד David in [1 Samuel 17:12] : "David was the son of this [Ephrathite] man from Bethlehem of Yehudah, whose name was [Yishay]" ( וְדָוִד בֶּן־אִ֨ישׁ אֶפְרָתִ֜י הַזֶּ֗ה מִבֵּ֥ית לֶ֙חֶם֙ יְהוּדָ֔ה וּשְׁמ֣וֹ יִשַׁ֔י )

Although a MT scribal error in [1 Chronicles 2:15] writes the name "David" דָּוִ֖יד (with an additional yod), we are reminded King David was "The-Seventh [son]" הַשְּׁבִעִֽי of יִשָֽׁי Yishay.

We then learn Yishay is descended from a Moabite! - Ruth. In [Ruth 4:22], David appears to be the only son from Yishay. Showing the reader how important David was to Ruth. (No offense to Ruth's other great-grandsons.)

[Ruth 4:22] only states : "And Oved begot Yishay, and Yishay begot David." ( וְעֹבֵד֙ הוֹלִ֣יד אֶת־יִשָׁ֔י וְיִשַׁ֖י הוֹלִ֥יד אֶת־דָּוִֽד )

What's interesting in [Ruth 4:13-17] is that we are reminded David (Yishay's son) was the descendant of a Moabite.

David's ancestry to Ruth the Moabite appears to be the iniquity referred to in [Psalm 15:7] in context to the Torah, specifically [Deuteronomy 23:3-4].

We learn David's great-grandfather Boaz would have broken the Mosaic law of [Deuteronomy 23:4] which stated : "An Ammonite or [Moabite] shall not enter the assembly of YHVH; even the tenth generation shall never enter the assembly of YHVH." ( לֹֽא־יָבֹ֧א עַמּוֹנִ֛י וּמֽוֹאָבִ֖י בִּקְהַ֣ל יְהֹוָ֑ה גַּ֚ם דּ֣וֹר עֲשִׂירִ֔י לֹֽא־יָבֹ֥א לָהֶ֛ם בִּקְהַ֥ל יְהֹוָ֖ה עַד־עוֹלָֽם )

Yishay as 2nd generation of Ruth the Moabite would have also sinned when conceiving his seventh son David. - Making David a third generation of a Moabite [Ruth 4:13-17] in the assembly of YHVH.

As King, David was required to make for himself a two copies of the scroll of Deuteronomy as stated in [Deuteronomy 17:18] to become familiar with Torah.

David would become aware of terms like "Mamzer" based on [Deuteronomy 23:3] "A Mamzer shall not enter the assembly of YHVH; even the tenth generation shall not enter the assembly of the YHVH." ( לֹֽא־יָבֹ֥א מַמְזֵ֖ר בִּקְהַ֣ל יְהֹוָ֑ה גַּ֚ם דּ֣וֹר עֲשִׂירִ֔י לֹֽא־יָבֹ֥א ל֖וֹ בִּקְהַ֥ל יְהֹוָֽה )

As a Moabite descendant, David may have regarded himself as a "Mamzer" based on [Deuteronomy 23:3-4]. This sin in David's conception would have come through the ancestry of his father Yishay.

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    Are you aware of a rabbinical tradition that David was falsely accused by his family of being a bastard himself? Just like Jesus has been by some Jews. David is described differently than his brothers in the 1st Book of Samuel, after all. It could explain why Jesse didn't introduce David to Samuel. Commented Sep 11, 2021 at 12:47
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Here's the full passage of the Scripture your referring to....

23 “He who is emasculated by crushing or mutilation shall not enter the assembly of the Lord.

2 “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.

3 “An Ammonite or Moabite shall not enter the assembly of the Lord; even to the tenth generation none of his descendants shall enter the assembly of the Lord forever, 4 because they did not meet you with bread and water on the road when you came out of Egypt, and because they hired against you Balaam the son of Beor from Pethor of [a]Mesopotamia, to curse you. 5 Nevertheless the Lord your God would not listen to Balaam, but the Lord your God turned the curse into a blessing for you, because the Lord your God loves you. 6 You shall not seek their peace nor their prosperity all your days forever.

7 “You shall not abhor an Edomite, for he is your brother. You shall not abhor an Egyptian, because you were an alien in his land. 8 The children of the third generation born to them may enter the assembly of the Lord.

Obvious to me is that this is not referring to heaven or having a relationship with God, so I object to your inference.

What is the "congregation of the Lord"? Again the context is referring to an actual physical congregation, not a spiritual one. But I leave to others to define that in more detail.

EDIT:

I wonder if this rejection of Egyptians, Moabite, bastard descendants, etc, was in reference to the beginning of the Isreal congregational worship, as in the first 3, or 9 generations of Isreals existence as a congregation. Note particularly the reference to nationalities. It makes since that the Lord is trying to protect this burgeoning congregation from rebels. Note, I don't see a preventing of anyone from priestly services like sacrifice, etc.

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  • Thank you for your comments / answers - with respect the obvious reading would be congregation with God can only be being with / in the presence of God in heaven or not. I have read a lot of Commentaries regarding tribes or temples or congregational worship etc... provide no evidence only assumptions / attempts to explain a difficult problem in the scriptures, which appear straight forward. My opinion is the scriptures are wrong as David will certainly be in Heaven with God. Commented Mar 22, 2021 at 11:56
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That is not the only problem!! Look at Deut 23:1-3 -

1 No man with crushed or severed genitals may enter the assembly of the LORD.

2 No one of illegitimate birth may enter the assembly of the LORD, nor may any of his descendants, even to the tenth generation.

3 No Ammonite or Moabite or any of their descendants may enter the assembly of the LORD, even to the tenth generation.

Treating these in a different order, Ruth was both a Moabite and great grandmother of David - much less than 10 generations. But that is the point: Ruther effectively converts and becomes a Jewess is here much celebrated speech of Ruth 1:16, 17. Her husband, Boaz, was the son of a prostitute, Rahab (Matt 1) but he was still an Israelite.

The "eunuch" mentioned in Deut 23:1 above is also able to become an Israelite according to Isa 56:5, 5. Even foreigners were permitted to Join themselves to the LORD" in Isa 56:6, 7.

There may have been a similar situation with Tamar in Gen 38, although we are not told. In any case, that "problem" was before the Torah was written and so the laws did not apply then.

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  • Ruth, the Moabitess, was ten generations away from the bastard-producing incest that had brought this restriction against entering the congregation of Jehovah. Therefore, there is no issue at all with David; no need to count generations from Ruth. The ten-generation restriction has already expired. Ruth could have been David's own mother and he would still be allowed in the congregation, and there seems to be no restriction nor exception made for whether or not she or anyone in a bastard's lineage had "converted."
    – Polyhat
    Commented Sep 11, 2021 at 1:04

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