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Chapter 23:9-14 (ESV)

Posted on March 28, 2024  - By Chris LaBelle  

Chapter 23:9-14 (ESV) - “When you are encamped against your enemies, then you shall keep yourself from every evil thing.

“If any man among you becomes unclean because of a nocturnal emission, then he shall go outside the camp. He shall not come inside the camp, but when evening comes, he shall bathe himself in water, and as the sun sets, he may come inside the camp.

“You shall have a place outside the camp, and you shall go out to it. And you shall have a trowel with your tools, and when you sit down outside, you shall dig a hole with it and turn back and cover up your excrement. Because the LORD your God walks in the midst of your camp, to deliver you and to give up your enemies before you, therefore your camp must be holy, so that he may not see anything indecent among you and turn away from you.

Question to consider: Why did the LORD require the camp of the Israelite soldiers to be kept undefiled?

Many seem to think that these laws concerning the camp of soldiers were meant to maintain proper hygiene. However, the reason given was that “the LORD your God walks in the midst of your camp” and “therefore your camp must be holy.” As I mentioned in yesterday’s study, the presence of the LORD was denoted by the ark of the covenant being brought through the encampment (or in yesterday’s case, the assembly). These decrees remind me of when the Governor of California cleaned up the streets of San Francisco when the emperor of China paid a visit. If the world would do this for a foreign emperor, Israel should be overjoyed to keep the camp undefiled for their God.

The LORD turning away would be a reference to Israel not having the LORD delivering to them a victory in battle. An example of this can be found in 1 Samuel 4:1-4, “Now Israel went out to battle against the Philistines. They encamped at Ebenezer, and the Philistines encamped at Aphek. The Philistines drew up in line against Israel, and when the battle spread, Israel was defeated before the Philistines, who killed about four thousand men on the field of battle. And when the people came to the camp, the elders of Israel said, ‘Why has the LORD defeated us today before the Philistines? Let us bring the ark of the covenant of the LORD here from Shiloh, that it may come among us and save us from the power of our enemies.’ So the people sent to Shiloh and brought from there the ark of the covenant of the LORD of hosts, who is enthroned on the cherubim. And the two sons of Eli, Hophni and Phinehas, were there with the ark of the covenant of God.”

In this case, the LORD turned away from Israel, they lost thirty-thousand soldiers, and the ark was captured by the Philistines. While the camp had not been defiled according to these laws given by Moses in today’s passage, what was indecent among them was the presence of the worthless sons of Eli: Hophni and Phinehas. They were faithless men who profaned the sacrifice and defiled the tabernacle, and the LORD told their father, Eli, that they would die on the same day.

When the LORD eventually judged Israel by the Babylonians, He said through Ezekiel, “Son of man, when the house of Israel lived in their own land, they defiled it by their ways and their deeds. Their ways before me were like the uncleanness of a woman in her menstrual impurity. So I poured out my wrath upon them for the blood that they had shed in the land, for the idols with which they had defiled it. I scattered them among the nations, and they were dispersed through the countries. In accordance with their ways and their deeds I judged them.” (Ezekiel 36:17-18) Whether a camp was defiled by human waste or by the pollution of idols, it was a demonstration of faithlessness which profaned the name of God to the other nations.

It has always been the LORD’s desire for all people to repent and turn to Him for salvation. Israel was set apart as His people to deliver this message, purge sin from the land, and ultimately bring about the Anointed One who would reconcile people from every tribe and nation to God. 


Dear heavenly Father, thank You for delivering us from the judgment of the Law and making us a new creation in Christ. As Your new creation, help us to do the good works that You have prepared for us to do so that Your name would be praised among the nations. Amen.