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Deuteronomy: The Second Law - Speech 6

A commentary on the sixth speech of Moses in Deuteronomy 21-23. The book of Deuteronomy is a series of 12 speeches that Moses gave just before his death at the end of Israel's wilderness journey.

Category - Bible Commentaries

Chapter 20

Unlawful Fundraising

Moses says in Deuteronomy 23:17 and 18,

17 None of the daughters of Israel shall be a cult prostitute, nor shall any of the sons of Israel be a cult prostitute. 18 You shall not bring the hire of a harlot or the wages of a dog into the house of the Lord your God for any votive offering, for both of these are an abomination to the Lord your God.

In those days the Canaanite centers of worship (Asheroth) included temple prostitutes. For homosexuals, they provided the services of male priests and young boys. Moses calls them “dogs,” as this was the common metaphor for a homosexual. John uses the same metaphor in Rev. 22:15, where outside the walls of the New Jerusalem are “the dogs and the sorcerers and the immoral persons,” etc.

It should also be said that in other cases dogs represented a positive metaphor as well. Because dogs were seen as “man’s best friend,” a dog was also a metaphor for faithfulness. Thus, Joshua’s fellow overcomer was Caleb, whose name means “dog,” and who was a type of a man of faith.

Yet in the majority of cases the word picture was meant as a euphemism for a practicing homosexual. The footnote in the NASB explains “dog” in Deut. 23:18 as “male prostitute, sodomite.” The Wycliffe Bible Commentary’s notes on this verse tell us,

18. The price of a dog. On dog, another name for a male prostitute, see Rev. 22:14. One could not satisfy the holy demands of God’s covenant by hiding sin under religious hypocrisy.

The Canaanites had religious reasons for this practice, of course, but they were also motivated by the monetary gain that came from these services. Fundraising was as important in those days as it is today with many religious groups. Because Canaanite worship promoted homosexual relations and even sanctified it as a religious act before God, the Jews extended the metaphor to include all Canaanites and ultimately to all non-Jews.

God’s law does not allow Israelites to engage in illicit fundraising. One cannot do evil and then pronounce it clean if it funds church projects. The principle extends far beyond funds generated by prostitution and homosexuality. For instance, if a mafia hit man goes to confession and is told to pay $25,000 atonement money to the church to receive forgiveness for an act of murder, the church has indirectly set up a system whereby it profits from sin. This is the problem with the practice of “indulgences” that were set up to support the church through a tax on sin.

This is what the law of God sought to prevent. In ancient times the problem was most visible in temple prostitution, which God outlawed. But by this law the mind of God is revealed. God was concerned about His church profiting from sin and thereby using it as a fundraising technique. Worse yet is when the church has a vested interest in sin, for then it is only a matter of time before church officials lose interest in promoting a righteous life style among its constituents. They learn to manage sin through indulgences, rather than promote righteousness.

It is the same with governments in general. Some countries have legalized prostitution in order to tax it as a source of revenue. Politicians have talked about the “sin tax” for a long time in relation to tobacco, alcohol, gambling, and now marijuana. It is argued that in order to reduce smoking and alcohol consumption, they ought to raise taxes upon those products. The effect is that government soon becomes dependent upon the income from those sources, making it virtually impossible to ban them. The tax legitimizes sin.

“Sin tax” can indeed put sin out of reach for the poorest people, but at the same time it makes sin profitable for government. It is not hard to see that both church and state can easily compromise their morals when sin becomes profitable as a source of revenue.

The law of God in Deut. 23:17, 18 expresses the mind of God in this matter, teaching us how to avoid sin’s money trap that entices both church and state.

Legalists might take this law and limit the sin to its commercial-ization. This is, in fact, what our own laws in America have done in recent decades. It is no longer a sin, they say, for people to engage in “consensual sexual relations.” It is only wrong if money changes hands. Hence, the term “prostitution” today is defined commercially, whereas Scripture defines it morally. But God’s law makes no such distinction. Sin is sin, whether men commercialize it or not.