Nehemiah 13:1, No Ammonites forever

On that day they read in the book of Moses in the audience of the people; and therein was found written, that the Ammonite and the Moabite should not come into the congregation of God for ever.

//Today’s verse was written about a time of ethnic purging. The Jews were returning in waves from their captivity in Babylon, back to Jerusalem, and trying to reestablish its holiness. They decreed that all gentiles must be banished from the city of Jerusalem, and today’s verse provided scriptural backing.

But if today’s verse quotes from Deuteronomy, it’s a misquote. There, in verse 23:3, the wording is: No Ammonite or Moabite or any of his descendants may enter the assembly of the LORD, even down to the tenth generation. (NIV) Not “forever,” but only “ten generations.”

So, which is God’s command? Forever excluded, even down to the 6th century B.C. and the ethnic purge of Jerusalem, or just ten generations? Maybe neither. Consider this verse:

1 Kings 14:31, And Rehoboam slept with his fathers, and was buried with his fathers in the city of David. And his mother’s name was Naamah an Ammonitess.

Who was this man Rehoboam, son of an Ammonitess woman, buried in Jerusalem? Turns out his father was king Solomon. We’re back in the tenth century, 400 years before Nehemiah, when a second-generation Ammonite is welcome in Jerusalem.


  1. Be careful about terms such as “ethnic purging.” This is a modern notion. What the people of Israel (assuming the story is accurate; you;’ve pointed out some of the difficulties) thought they were doing was “religious purging,” getting rid of all which would tempt them to worship any God but God. One (of many) resolution of the “problem of Naahah” is that she forsook the “God of the Ammonites” for the “God of Israel.”

  2. Not sure I’m with you on this one, John. You may be correct and “religious purging” may be more precise, recognizing that national lines typically delineated the believers in the various gods, yet (as I think you agree) “ethnic purging” is a term more people can relate to, and it’s not far off the mark.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>