Deuteronomy 23:2 (CSB)
2 No one of illegitimate birth may enter the Lord’s assembly; none of his descendants, even to the tenth generation, may enter the Lord’s assembly.
At first read we might, as I did at first, think this passage is barring large swaths of people from being part of Israel in the sense of God’s people, whom he has entered a covenant relationship with. But, that is not what is said here, this passage appears to be specifically addressing attendance of the “assembly”: the gatherings for festivals and special worship. This certainly seems clear because it makes no sense to exclude an innocent child of an act of incest, for example, from being a part of the covenant community of Israel. Further, we eventually have the example of Ruth, a Moabite (Ruth 4:10), who becomes a part of the Israelite community.
So, instead, it would seem these restrictions are specifically concerning these special festivals and worship events. Why? It would seem that this is important to reinforce the difference between being a child of God versus the rest of the world. Deut. 23:1-2 address behavior that resembled pagan practices, and were thus prohibited from the assembly lest anyone think those pagan practices are somehow acceptable and pleasing to God. The bans on the enemies of Israel are easy to understand. One slight problem might stem from why the Egyptian later generations are treated differently, but it is addressed right in the passage by noting the different relationship. In the end, we must understand that being a member of the God’s covenant community does not automatically ensure participation in the assembly, nor does exclusion from the assembly necessitate an exclusion from the covenant community. Instead, these commands, it would seem, are about ensuring the assembly be representative of God and his people, and convey no sense of the pagan practices, nor perpetuate the attitudes of those who stood against God and/or his people.
Lord, thank you for always being the perfect standard! We might have a hard time understanding exclusions, but we easily understand our propensity to sin and fall away from you and your ways. I pray that we would represent you, as fully as possible, in an untainted way, without all our pagan tendencies, to the world. Help us to do just that. Amen.