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(Deut 21:10-25:19)

D'varim/Deuteronomy 23:8   You shall not abhor an Edomite, for he is your brother


The verb , here a Pi'el prefix 2ms form, comes from the root , to abhor, to render abominable. This is the same root from which the noun , an abomination or an abominable act or practice, used by the Torah to describe homosexuality and offering child sacrifices, is derived. While the text has just instructed the Israelites never to accept an Ammonite or a Moabite into the congregation of The Name ...

Adonai: either the Hebrew word meaning 'My Master' or - more frequently - an allusion used to avoid pronouncing the Tetragrammaton, the so-called 'ineffable' name of G-d
Adonai, because they caused Israel to sin (vv. 4-5), this clause and the one that follows it permit Edomites and Egyptians to marry into or join the congregation of Adonai after the third generation. This means that if an Edomite should become a sojourner among the Israelites, and his son after him, the grandson may convert and marry into Israel. Note that these restrictions apply to men only; since the Bible assumes that women become a part of their husband's family and take on their husband's religion, they are permitted to marry Israelite men immediately, for example Tamar, Rahab and Ruth who all had Jewish children and produced the line of David.

Who Is ...

Hirsch: Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch (1808-1888 CE), German rabbi, author and educator; staunch opponent of the Reform movement in Germany and one of the fathers of Orthodox Judaism
Hirsch makes two important points in summary to this block of instructions concerning marriage with other nations. The first is that "the Jewish Nation is to build itself up by keeping the physical and spiritual integrity of its sexual life." That is to say that Israel's existence and growth depend on protecting the purity of marriage both against immorality and against intermarriage. A strong moral society cannot exist in the face of promiscuity, fornication, adultery and other forms of sexual sin; likewise it will be impossible to bring up future generations of Jewish children and families, with a strong Jewish identity and calling, if intermarriage is encouraged between Jews and non-Jews.

Hirsch's second point, then, relates to marriage with the nations. He observes that since the Assyrians and Babylonians had policies of moving the peoples they conquered to different parts of their empire, it is no longer possible to observe these regulations since we don't know who is an Edomite! Now, anyone who becomes a convert is allowed to marry other converts and Jewish people (except priests of course) immediately in the current generation. However, notice that this still only applies to those who become converts - intermarriage with those who are not Jewish by birth or conversion is still prohibited.

The question of marriage between believers and non-believers was obviously a serious issue for the early church, so Rav Sha'ul writes to the Corinthian church to answer their questions. Starting with those who were already married before one partner became a believer, he says: "if any brother has a wife who is not a believer, and she is satisfied to go on living with him, he should not leave her ... but if the unbelieving spouse separates himself, let him be separated" (1 Corinthians 7:12,15, CJB). A marriage should not be broken up just because one partner becomes a believer - "How do you know, wife, whether you will save your husband?" (v. 16, CJB). The marriage forms a natural bridge for the gospel that both partners may come to faith. At the end of the chapter, Sha'ul moves on: "A wife is bound to her husband as long as he lives, but if the husband dies she is free to marry anyone she wishes, provided he is a believer in the L-rd" (v. 39, CJB). This has now become more specific - once someone is free to re-marry because their spouse has died, they may only marry a believer. There is clearly an implicit assumption that a first-time marriage could only be between two believers.

By the time Rav Sha'ul writes to the Corinthians again, his advice has become more generic: "Do not yoke yourselves together in a team with unbelievers. For how can righteousness and lawlessness be partners?" (2 Corinthians 6:14, CJB). Not only should believers not marry unbelievers, but all relationships should be subject to this ban on mixtures. Does that mean that we should never mix with unbelievers? Certainly not, for how else could the gospel be shared and spread; but we should not be entering into close relationships - be they marriage or business partnerships - with unbelievers.

Further Study: Vayikra 19:19; D'varim 7:3-4; Proverbs 11:30

Application: Are you contemplating a new or strengthened relationship with someone outside the household of faith, personal or business? Seek counsel from those who are older than you in the L-rd as to whether this is an appropriate move and be sure that you have correctly heard from Him.

© Jonathan Allen, 2007

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