The law of Moses barred those of illegitimate birth from entering into the assembly of God: "A bastard shall not enter into the assembly of Yahweh; even to the tenth generation shall none of his enter into the assembly of Yahweh" (Dt. 23:2). Despite the clarity of this statement, it was apparently not enforced when the descendants of "bastards" had achieved important social status. Biblical genealogies show, for example, that David was a ninth-generation descendant of Perez, the bastard son of Judah and Tamar (Gen. 38:24-30 ; Ruth 4:18 ; 1 Chron. 2:5-14 ). Obviously, though, David was not denied entry into the assembly despite his descent from one who had been illegitimately born.
Bibliolaters will argue that David was exempted from the restriction, because, if Perez is considered the first generation, then David was the tenth and was therefore eligible to enter the assembly. The inerrantist argument is that the restriction extended even to the tenth generation but did not include the tenth, so the fundamentalists think that they have scored another victory in their never-ending quest to explain away biblical inconsistencies that we pesty skeptics continue to point out.
Their explanation, however, is just another grasping for straws, because the expression in the original Hebrew did not mean even to, as the following literal translation will show:
A bastard doth not enter into the assembly of Jehovah; even a tenth generation of him doth not enter into the assembly of Jehovah (Young's Literal Translation of the Holy Bible).
The idea of to or until was not in the original. The expression, then, did not mean that descendants of bastards were to be banished from the assembly up until but not including the tenth generation. Its obvious intention was to denote a permanent, everlasting banishment. Descendants of bastards were simply personae nongratae in Yahweh's sacred assembly, no matter how long ago the indiscretion had occurred--except, as we have noted, in cases of important social status.
We can expect bibliolaters to insist that the intention of the restriction on bastards was to ban them only until the tenth generation, which would have allowed David to sneak in just under the wire. For the sake of argument, we will concede them the quibble and then ask them to explain why the descendants of Aaron, the first high priest of Israel, were not banned from the assembly "up until" the tenth generation.
According to Exodus 6:23 , Aaron married a woman named Elisheba, who was "the daughter of Amminadab, the sister of Nahshon." The significance of this can be seen when the genealogy of the bastard Perez is examined. Amminadab was a fourth-generation descendant of Perez (Ruth 4:18 ; 1 Chron. 2:5-9 ), so Aaron's wife was the fifth. Aaron's sons born to Elisheba (Nadab, Abihu, Eleazar, and Ithamar, Ex. 6:23 ) were therefore sixth-generation descendants of the bastard Perez, and they were all consecrated to serve as priests in the assembly of Yahweh (Num. 3:3 ). This sounds very much as if they "entered into the assembly of Yahweh."
Nadab and Abihu disgraced themselves and, in typical Yahwistic fashion, were killed (Lev. 10:1-2), but Eleazar figured prominently in priestly activities all through the 40 years of wilderness wanderings. Bibliolaters cannot argue that the banishing of bastards from the assembly occurred after the sons of Aaron were consecrated, because Eleazar served as priest long after the events recorded in Deuteronomy, where the restriction on bastards was stipulated. Eleazar is mentioned in priestly services all through Joshua and didn't die until the very end of the book (24:33). At this point, Eleazar's son Phinehas (only a seventh-generation descendant of Perez) assumed Eleazar's office and was serving in it as late as Judges 20:29. In fact, Yahweh had conferred on Phinehas and his descendants "the covenant of an everlasting priesthood" after Phinehas had thrust a spear through an Israelite man and a Midianite woman whom he had caught in the act of adultery (Num. 25:6-13). On that occasion, Yahweh seemed unconcerned about Phinehas's direct descent from the bastard Perez.
Maybe some inerrantist reader would like to explain to us why
there is no inconsistency in any of this.