We are continuing though Deuteronomy, through a section where Moses is giving God's Law to the Israelites. In the previous chapter, we saw how God misunderstands female anatomy (perhaps proof that God is a man after all), and how God requires rapists to marry their victims. The following chapter changes from bitter justice to arbitrary justice in an implicit exploration of fate versus free will.
There is a common, but errant, mantra of Christianity that Free Will is the soul means and justification for damnation or salvation; that each individual must choose to accept God's salvation through Jesus or face the consequences. The fact is that the Bible says that God first chooses those of whom are eligible for salvation, the Elect, and that is surely not everybody. With God making the first qualifying choice, a choice not based on an individual's merits, it comes down to a question of fate. Fatalism is a consistent message in the Old Testament.
Consider Deuteronomy 23:1-8. (Note that in the Torah this may be Deuteronomy 23:2-9 due to different chapter parsing.) These verses primarily discuss who is or is not allowed to join the “assembly of the Lord.” For clarification, the “assembly of the Lord” probably means the group of elders and priests who serve in leadership roles for a community, similar to the usage of “assembly” in Leviticus 4:13-15.
Like the restriction for priests in Leviticus 21:16-23, in Deuteronomy 23:1 we see:
“No one who has been emasculated by crushing or cutting may enter the assembly of the Lord.” NIVWhy? Is this to prevent people with defects from being close to God? No, sin would have to be worse than physical defects to God, and we know that all have sinned (Romans 3:23). Is it that God thinks that testosterone is critical to leadership? Maybe. Or, it could be that God wants a little more collateral for His leaders, like progeny; generations to punish or bless based on your actions. The latter idea is somewhat supported in the verses that follow.
In Deuteronomy 23:2, we find:
“No one born of a forbidden marriage nor any of his descendants may enter the assembly of the LORD, even down to the tenth generation.” NIVThe “one born of a forbidden marriage” is more often translated as “one of illegitimate birth,”also known as a bastard. The exact meaning is less significant than is the fact that neither the bastard nor any of his progeny can enter the assembly of the Lord. The poor bastard did nothing wrong, and neither did his progeny, yet God is punishing them with a fate they cannot escape. The phrase “even down to the tenth generation” does not mean that at the eleventh generation they can join the assembly. Instead, this is essentially saying that the bastard's entire lineage can never enter the assembly of the Lord.
Deuteronomy 23:3-6 goes on to say that no Ammonite or Moabite can ever enter the assembly of the Lord because of how they treated the Israelites while they were wondering the desert. Deuteronomy 23:6 goes a step further saying:
“Do not seek a treaty of friendship with them as long as you live.” NIVThis is even more significant, because it drives a barrier between the Ammonites and Moabites and the one true God. Without friendly interaction, these peoples would never get to learn about and worship God. This is dramatically in contradiction to Jesus' words in Matthew 5:43-48 about loving your enemies. The actions of these peoples' ancestors has fated them to eternal damnation... that is if the concept of eternal damnation existed at the time of the original writing of these verses.
In contrast, Deuteronomy 23:7-8 states that the Edomites and Egyptians could join the assembly of the Lord, but they would have to wait until after three generations had passed as a form of more mild punishment.
These types of judgements make sense only if there is no afterlife, only if an individual's actions could determine the blessings or the cursing of himself and all of his progeny. Thus, your eternal judgement would be made obvious by the living legacy you left behind. Your actions control the fate of your entire lineage.
Going back to the first verse, if a man's testicles were damaged, he was not going to have any children. No children, no progeny. No progeny, no lasting judgement. A man without balls has nothing to loose, which ironically could be very, very dangerous to the faith.