The exclusion of foreigners (Neh 13:1-13:3)

“On that day they read from the book of Moses in the hearing of the people. It was found written that no Ammonite or Moabite should ever enter the assembly of God. They had not met the Israelites with bread and water, but hired Balaam to curse against them. Yet our God turned the curse into a blessing. When the people heard the law, they separated from Israel all those of foreign descent.”

They then read from the book of Moses. This passage comes from Deuteronomy, chapter 23, almost word for word. The Ammonites and Moabites could not be part of the assembly of Yahweh. Yahweh wanted the Israelites to be very harsh with these people because they refused food and water when the Israelites were about to enter the Promise Land in their Exodus from Egypt. In fact, the Moabite king tried to hire a prophet Balaam to curse them. Numbers, chapters 21-25, has more information about these groups. Although this admonition was only against the Ammonite and Moabites, the people at the time of Nehemiah decided to be more universal against all foreigners. They separated themselves from all people of foreign descent. It must be remembered that some of these Jewish people were born in Persia. However, the blood line of the father determined who was a Jew in Jerusalem and Judah. Perhaps this passage should have been earlier in this work.

The origins of the Ammonites and Moabites (Gen 19:30-19:38)

“Now Lot went up out of Zoar, and settled in the hills with his two daughters, for he was afraid to dwell in Zoar.  So he lived in a cave with his two daughters. The first-born said to the younger, ‘Our father is old, and there is not a man on earth to come in to us after the manner of all the earth. Come, let us make our father drink wine, and we will lie with him, so that we may preserve offspring through our father.’  So they made their father drink wine that night.  The first-born went in, and lay with her father.  He did not know when she lay down or when she arose.  On the next day, the first-born said to the younger, ‘Look, I lay last night with my father.  Let us make him drink wine tonight also.  Then you go in and lie with him, so that we may preserve offspring through our father.’   So they made their father drink wine that night also.  The younger rose, and lay with him.  He did not know when she lay down or when she rose.  Thus both the daughters of Lot became pregnant by their father.  The first-born bore a son, and named him Moab.  He is the ancestor father of the Moabites to this day.  The younger also bore a son, and named him Benammi.  He is the ancestor father of the Ammonites to this day.”

Lot left Zoar and went into the hills to live in a cave with his two daughters because he was afraid.  He apparently lost all his possessions in the fire in Sodom.  The oldest daughter said to the younger daughter, our father is old and no man will come to us here.  Let us make our father drunk with wine so that we can have offspring, which is what they did.  The first night the older daughter and then the second night the younger sister went in and lay with their father, although Lot did not know what happened.

Here we have a case of incest, but the man is never at fault, since the devious daughters are to blame.  Also drink and drunkenness is used as an excuse.. The son of the oldest daughter was named Moab, who became the ancestor of the Moabites.  The son of the youngest daughter was named Benammi, the ancestor of the Ammonites.  Now we know why the biblical authors disliked those people.  Once again we have an attempt to explain why people dislike each other.