What’s forbidden and what’s not
People not allowed to worship1You can’t go into the worship center if you’re a man without a penis. And you need testicles. Not crushed. 2If you were born to parents who broke God’s law by getting married, you were an illegitimate baby. You can never go into the worship center. In fact, your descendants can’t go in for 10 generations. 3Citizens of Ammon and Moab aren’t allowed in the worship center. Neither are their descendants for 10 generations.
4I’ll tell you why. When you arrived on their doorstep as refugees from Egypt, they didn’t show you any hospitality. They didn’t offer you food and water. Instead, they hired someone to jinx you with a curse: Balaam, son of Beor from Pethor in the land Between Two Rivers. 5But the LORD didn’t let Balaam put a curse on you. The LORD your God loves you. So, he had Balaam bless you. 6Don’t ever try to make peace with the people of Ammon and Moab or help them in any way.
Don’t hate Egypt7But don’t treat the people of Edom that way. They’re your family. Don’t hate them. And don’t hate the Egyptians, either. You lived with them as immigrants. 8They’re not allowed in the worship center for the time being. But in three generations their great-grandchildren may worship there with you.
Keep your war camp up to code9When you go to war, be careful to follow the law even under those circumstances. 10If you become ritually unclean by having a wet dream, move outside the camp and don’t go back. 11In the evening, take a bath. Then at sundown, you can move back into the camp. 12Wherever you camp, set up a latrine outside the camp. Relieve yourself there. 13Your camping gear should include a stake for digging a latrine hole. After you squat and poop, dig a hole and bury what you left behind. 14The LORD your God is with you in that camp. So, keep your camp up to code. Don’t let the LORD find any violations. If your camp isn’t holy, the LORD won’t stay there. He’ll leave you.
Runaway slaves are okay15If a runaway slave comes to you, don’t send that slave back to the slave master. 16Give that slave a safe haven in whatever town the slave wants to call home. Don’t ever mistreat that person.
Prostitutes are not okay17No Israelite woman or man is allowed to become a temple prostitute. 18Don’t think it’s okay to pay your pledge to the LORD with money you earned as a temple prostitute. And certainly not with money from a dirty dog male temple prostitute. God would hate that.
Don’t charge interest19Don’t charge your fellow Israelites interest on anything you loan them: money, food, or anything else. 20You can charge interest to everyone else: immigrants and other foreigners. But don’t charge interest to Israelites—not if you want the LORD your God to bless your life here in this land you’re about to take.
Keep your promise to God21If you make a vow to the LORD, a promise to donate money for something, pay it on time. The LORD expects you to do that. If you don’t, it’s a sin. 22Not everyone has to make vows to the LORD. It’s not a sin to skip those kinds of promises. 23But if you make a promise to the LORD your God, you need to bring your words to life. Do what you said.
Eating your neighbor’s crops24It’s okay to go into your neighbor’s vineyard and pick all the grapes you can eat while you’re there. But you can’t pick extra for later by loading up a carryout basket. 25You’re also allowed to pick heads of grain from your neighbor’s field. But don’t take a sickle with you to harvest a stack of stalks.
That sounds like harsh punishment for someone who did nothing wrong. The child was a victim. But the background to this statement is unclear. One Hebrew word describes the illegal marriage: mamzer. It can mean “bastard,” or an incestuous marriage of close relatives, or a child born to a temple prostitute after sex with a worshiper. Some rituals of Canaanite religions reportedly involved sex. A priestess and a worshiper would have sex to entertain the gods with what amounts to eye candy, to supplement the sacrifices of meat and grain as food for the gods. The idea of a child born under those circumstances and walking into God’s sacred worship center doesn’t sound compatible with the laws Moses delivered to his people as they began forming a nation devoted to God. The teachings of Jesus began to expand the range of tolerance and forgiveness among people of faith.
Balaam’s story begins in Numbers 22. His name also showed up on an ancient inscription found in what is now Jordan’s city of Deir Alla. The inscription is a fragment of a collection of visions by “a divine seer” called “Balaam, son of Beor”—just as the Bible writers identified him. The Deir Alla Inscription said, “the gods came to him at night.” The inscription, painted in ink on a plastered wall, dates to roughly 800 BC, several centuries after Balaam and Moses.
Many scholars say Pethor was likely an ancient city also called Pitru, a name that shows up in Egyptian and Assyrian documents. Pitru is less than a mile from the Euphrates River, about a kilometer. It was also about 400 miles (about 640 km) north of Moab’s capital city of Dibon. At 20 miles (32 km) a day, that’s a 40-day roundtrip.
Literally Mesopotamia, land between and around the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, in what is now Iraq, and parts of Iran, Syria, Turkey, and Kuwait.
“If a man ejaculates semen, he will remain ritually unclean until evening. He needs to bathe his entire body in water” (Leviticus 15:16). One unclean person can make another person unclean by simply touching that person.
People of Israel sometimes made vows to the LORD to do something good for someone or to donate money for some purpose—a “vow of dedication” (Leviticus 27:8; Numbers 6:2).
The Hebrew word is keleb. It means “dead dog,” “dog,” or a person with no status or not worthy of respect. In this context, it seems to work as a demeaning nickname for a male temple prostitute. There was not generally a high regard for dogs in that part of the world at that time. Knife scars on dog bones in Philistine ruins suggest some Philistines ate dogs. Israelites considered dogs unfit to eat: “Don’t touch any animal that walks on four paws. If you do, you’re unclean until evening” (Leviticus 11:27).
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