Deuteronomy 21 - Various Laws
A. The law of an unsolved murders.
1. (1) The presence of an unsolved murder.
If anyone is found slain, lying in the field in the land which the LORD your God is giving you to possess, and it is not known who killed him,
a. If anyone is found slain: Presumably, death from natural causes had been ruled out and it was evident that the deceased had been murdered; yet, it was not known who killed him.
b. It is not know who killed him: This was important based on a principle stated in Numbers 35:33-34. This passage shows that the blood of unsolved, unavenged murder defiles and pollutes the land. Therefore, if there is a murder unavenged, some kind of cleansing is necessary, so the land will not be defiled.
2. (2-6) The procedure for atoning for murder-polluted land.
Then your elders and your judges shall go out and measure the distance from the slain man to the surrounding cities. And it shall be that the elders of the city nearest to the slain man will take a heifer which has not been worked and which has not pulled with a yoke. The elders of that city shall bring the heifer down to a valley with flowing water, which is neither plowed nor sown, and they shall break the heifer’s neck there in the valley. Then the priests, the sons of Levi, shall come near, for the LORD your God has chosen them to minister to Him and to bless in the name of the LORD; by their word every controversy and every assault shall be settled. And all the elders of that city nearest to the slain man shall wash their hands over the heifer whose neck was broken in the valley.
a. The elders of the city nearest to the slain man: First, the matter of jurisdiction had to be settled. These elders were responsible to make the sacrifice to atone for and cleanse the murder-polluted land.
b. A heifer which has not been worked: Then, appropriate sacrifice had to be made. This heifer was sacrificed by the sons of Levi in the presence of the city elders, who washed their hands over the sacrificed animal.
i. This washing of the hands, done in the presence of the sons of Levi, who by their word every controversy and every assault shall be settled, was a powerful proclamation by the elders: “We have done all we could to settle this case, but cannot. We are clean from all guilt in the matter of this slain man.”
ii. Of course, this ceremony of washing the hands over the sacrificed animal meant nothing if the elders had in fact not done what they could to avenge the murder; apart from that, this washing of the hands was just as much an empty gesture as Pilate’s washing of his hands at the trial of Jesus (Matthew 27:24).
3. (7-9) The prayer said by the elders as they washed their hands.
Then they shall answer and say, “Our hands have not shed this blood, nor have our eyes seen it. Provide atonement, O LORD, for Your people Israel, whom You have redeemed, and do not lay innocent blood to the charge of Your people Israel.” And atonement shall be provided on their behalf for the blood. So you shall put away the guilt of innocent blood from among you when you do what is right in the sight of the LORD.
a. Provide atonement, O LORD: Again, Numbers 35:33-34 makes the principle clear, that unavenged murders defile and pollute the land and atonement must be made for the land itself.
b. So you shall put away the guilt of innocent blood: When Israel followed God’s instructions for atonement, He honored His word by taking away their guilt. But the removal of guilt was always based on blood sacrifice, on a substitutionary atonement - looking forward to the work of Jesus on the cross for the entire world.
B. Laws relevant to family and home situations.
1. (10-14) Laws regarding the taking of a wife from conquered peoples.
When you go out to war against your enemies, and the LORD your God delivers them into your hand, and you take them captive, and you see among the captives a beautiful woman, and desire her and would take her for your wife, then you shall bring her home to your house, and she shall shave her head and trim her nails. She shall put off the clothes of her captivity, remain in your house, and mourn her father and her mother a full month; after that you may go in to her and be her husband, and she shall be your wife. And it shall be, if you have no delight in her, then you shall set her free, but you certainly shall not sell her for money; you shall not treat her brutally, because you have humbled her.
a. And you see among the captives a beautiful woman, and desire her: In the ancient world, it was not uncommon for a man to take a wife from among the captives, especially if she was a beautiful woman. Yet obviously, this was open to great abuse, so God give specific guidelines to govern this practice in Israel.
b. Shave her head and trim her nails: First, the captive woman had to be purified and humbled. This denoted a complete break with her past, and the willingness to start anew, humbly as a child.
c. Put off the clothes of her captivity, remain in your house: Second, the captive woman had to show a change of allegiance. This showed that the captive woman no longer regarded her former nation and her former family; now she was a citizen of Israel.
d. Mourn her father and mother a full month: Third, the captive woman had to mourn her past associations. This would be time when she could resolve issues in her heart regarding her family, and when her husband-to-be could live with her a month without intimate relations - so he could see if he really wanted to take this woman as a wife, and to make sure he was not making a decision based only of physical appearance or attractiveness.
e. You certainly shall not sell her for money; you shall not treat her brutally: After the month of mourning, the potential husband was free to marry the captive woman - yet, he did not have to. But if he decided not to, he had to set her free with dignity. This was a remarkable protection of the rights of a captive woman.
2. (15-17) The protection of inheritance rights.
If a man has two wives, one loved and the other unloved, and they have borne him children, both the loved and the unloved, and if the firstborn son is of her who is unloved, then it shall be, on the day he bequeaths his possessions to his sons, that he must not bestow firstborn status on the son of the loved wife in preference to the son of the unloved, the true firstborn. But he shall acknowledge the son of the unloved wife as the firstborn by giving him a double portion of all that he has, for he is the beginning of his strength; the right of the firstborn is his.
a. If a man has two wives: Obviously, there are going to be problems in a home like this, especially if there is one loved and the other unloved. Yet, God commanded that the inheritance rights of the firstborn son be respected, even if he were the son of the unloved wife.
b. A double portion of all that he has: This was the right of the firstborn in ancient Israel; the firstborn son was to receive twice as much inheritance as any other son. For example, if there were three sons, the inheritance would be divided into four parts, with the firstborn receiving two parts, and the other three sons each receiving one part.
3. (18-21) The penalty for a rebellious son.
If a man has a stubborn and rebellious son who will not obey the voice of his father or the voice of his mother, and who, when they have chastened him, will not heed them, then his father and his mother shall take hold of him and bring him out to the elders of his city, to the gate of his city. And they shall say to the elders of his city, “This son of ours is stubborn and rebellious; he will not obey our voice; he is a glutton and a drunkard.” Then all the men of his city shall stone him to death with stones; so you shall put away the evil from among you, and all Israel shall hear and fear.
a. A stubborn and rebellious son: This does not mean a small child, or even a young teen - but a son past the age of accountability, who sets himself in determined rebellion against his father and mother.
b. Who, when they have chastened him, will not heed them: The parents must have done a good job raising the son, calling him to obedience, and chastening him as appropriate before the LORD.
c. Bring him out to the elders of his city: Such a stubborn and rebellious son was to be put on trial before the elders of the city. If they determine him to be chronically rebellious, then the son was to be stoned to death.
i. It is important to note that the parents could not, by themselves, execute this penalty. They had to bring the son on trial before impartial judges. This is in contrast to ancient Greek and Roman law, which gave fathers the absolute right of life or death over their children. This was a control of parental authority more than it was an exercise of it.
ii. The parents had to take the boy to the elders of the community; not only because the decision of life or death should be taken out of their direct hands, but because the guilt of the stubborn and rebellious son was not only against his parents, but against the whole community. He sowed the seeds for cultural suicide in Israel.
d. And all Israel shall hear and fear: This law was clearly intended to protect the social order of ancient Israel. No society can endure when the young are allowed to make war against the old.
i. Perhaps just the presence of this law was deterrent enough; we never have a Scriptural example of a son being stoned to death because he was a stubborn and rebellious son.
ii. “Yet the Jews say this law was never put into practice, and therefore it might be made for terror and prevention, and to render the authority of parents more sacred and powerful.” (Poole)
iii. “Stoning was the punishment appointed for blasphemers and idolaters; which if it seem severe, it is to be considered that parents are in God’s stead, and intrusted in good measure with his authority over their children; and that families are the matter and foundation of the church and commonwealth, and they who are naughty members and rebellious children in them, do commonly prove the bane and plague of these, and therefore no wonder if they are nipped in the bud.” (Poole)
iv. “If such a law were in force now, and duly executed, how many deaths of disobedient and prolifigate children would there be in all corners of the land!” (Clarke)
4. (22-23) The curse upon one who hangs on a tree.
If a man has committed a sin deserving of death, and he is put to death, and you hang him on a tree, his body shall not remain overnight on the tree, but you shall surely bury him that day, so that you do not defile the land which the LORD your God is giving you as an inheritance; for he who is hanged is accursed of God.
a. And you hang him on a tree: In the thinking of ancient Israel there was something worse than being put to death. Worse than that was to be put to death and to have your corpse left exposed to shame, humiliation, and scavenging animals and birds.
i. Hang him on a tree does not have the idea of being executed by strangulation; but of having the corpse mounted on a tree or other prominent place, to expose the executed one to disgrace and the elements.
b. His body shall not remain overnight on the tree, but you shall surely bury him that day: Therefore, if anyone was executed and deemed worthy of such disgrace (and you hang him on a tree), the humiliation to his memory and his family must not be excessive. This was a way of tempering even the most severe judgment with mercy.
i. “It is worthy of remark that in the infliction of punishment prescribed by the Mosaic law, we ever find that Mercy walks hand in hand with Judgment.” (Clarke)
c. For he who is hanged is accursed of God: The punishment of being hanged on a tree, and left to open exposure, was thought to be so severe, that it was reserved only for those for which is was to be declared: “this one is accursed of God.”
i. Paul expounds on Deuteronomy 21:23 in Galatians 3:13-14: Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law, having become a curse for us (for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree”), that the blessing of Abraham might come upon the Gentiles in Christ Jesus, that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith. Jesus not only died in our place; but He also took the place as the accursed of God, being hung on a “tree” in open shame and degradation. He received this curse, which we deserved and He did not, so that we could receive the blessing of Abraham, which He deserved and we did not.
ii. We are redeemed from the curse of the law by the work of Jesus on the cross for us. We no longer have to fear that God wants to curse us; He wants to bless us, not because of who we are, or what we have done, but because of what Jesus Christ has done on our behalf.
Deuteronomy 22 - Various Laws
A. Laws to demonstrate kindness and purity.
1. (1-4) Kindness to your brother regarding his animals.
You shall not see your brother’s ox or his sheep going astray, and hide yourself from them; you shall certainly bring them back to your brother. And if your brother is not near you, or if you do not know him, then you shall bring it to your own house, and it shall remain with you until your brother seeks it; then you shall restore it to him. You shall do the same with his donkey, and so shall you do with his garment; with any lost thing of your brother’s, which he has lost and you have found, you shall do likewise; you must not hide yourself. You shall not see your brother’s donkey or his ox fall down along the road, and hide yourself from them; you shall surely help him lift them up again.
a. You shall not see . . . and hide yourself: God here condemned the sin of doing nothing. To see your brother in need, and to do nothing, is to do evil. When one has the opportunity to good, you must not hide yourself.
b. Until your brother seeks it; then you shall restore it to him: Simply put, when something is lost, a finder cannot claim it as theirs without taking all due diligence to restore it to the owner. If the owner seeks the missing object, it must be restored to him.
i. Exodus 23:4-5 commands Israel to also help stray animals, but extends the obligation to the stray animals of an enemy, not just a brother.
c. You shall surely help him left them up again: Also, if someone’s donkey falls down, and you can help them, then you must. To pass by your brother in need and to hide yourself from them is to sin against your brother and against God.
2. (5) A command to keep distinction between the sexes in clothing.
A woman shall not wear anything that pertains to a man, nor shall a man put on a woman’s garment, for all who do so are an abomination to the LORD your God.
a. Anything that pertains to a man: In Old Testament times, men and women wore clothing that was superficially similar - long robes and wrapping garments were common for both sexes. Yet, the specific types of garments and the way in which they were worn made a clear distinction between the sexes, and this command instructs God’s people to respect those distinctions.
i. Some have taken this command to be the “proof-text” against women wearing pants and some Christian groups command that women wear only dresses. Yet, this is not a command against women wearing a garment that in some ways might be common between men and women; it is a command against dressing in a manner which deliberately blurs the lines between the sexes.
b. Nor shall a man put on a woman’s garment: This does not prohibit a man from wearing a kilt; yet it clearly prohibits a man dressing like a woman, as is all too common - and all too accepted - in our modern culture.
i. The dramatic rise in cross-dressing, transvestitism, androgynous behavior, and “gender-bender” behavior in our culture is a shocking trampling of this command, and will reap a bitter harvest in more perversion and more gender confusion in our culture.
c. All who do so are an abomination to the LORD your God: This command to observe the distinction between the sexes is so important, those who fail to observe it are called an abomination to the LORD. This was not only because cross-dressing was a feature of pagan, idolatrous worship in the ancient world, but also because of the terrible cultural price that is paid when it is pretended that there is no difference between men and women.
i. “Later writers, such as Lucian of Samosata and Eusebius, speak of the practice of masquerading in the worship of Astarte. Apparently women appeared in men’s garments and men in women’s garments.” (Thompson)
3. (6-7) A command to show kindness to animals.
If a bird’s nest happens to be before you along the way, in any tree or on the ground, with young ones or eggs, with the mother sitting on the young or on the eggs, you shall not take the mother with the young; you shall surely let the mother go, and take the young for yourself, that it may be well with you and that you may prolong your days.
a. If a bird’s nest happens to be before you along the way: God simply and plainly commanded kindness to animals. Even a bird’s nest was to be given special consideration and care.
i. Some Jewish commentators say that this is the smallest, or least of all the commandments; yet even it has a promise of blessing for the obedient attached to it: That it may be well with you and that you may prolong your days.
b. You shall surely let the mother go: Puritan commentator Matthew Poole wrote on this, “Partly for the bird’s sake, which suffered enough by the loss of its young; for God would not have cruelty exercised towards the brute creatures; and partly for men’s sake, to restrain their greediness and covetousness, that they should not monopolize all to themselves, but might leave the hopes of a future seed for others.”
c. That it may be well with you and that you may prolong your days. If Israel would obey this commandment, they would find blessing and long life, both as individuals and as a nation. What possible connection can there be between showing kindness to bird’s nests and eggs and little baby birds and national survival?
i. First, because obedience to the smallest of God’s commands brings blessing. It puts us into a properly submissive relationship to Him, that this always brings blessing to us.
ii. Second, because kindness and gentleness in the small things often (but not always) speaks to our ability to be kind and gentle in weightier matters. If someone is cruel to animals, not only is that sin in itself, but they are also much more likely to be cruel to people. If Israel allowed such cruelty to flourish, it would harm the nation.
4. (8) Liability and building codes.
When you build a new house, then you shall make a parapet for your roof, that you may not bring guilt of bloodshed on your household if anyone falls from it.
a. You shall make a parapet for your roof: God commanded that a railing be made for the rooftop, so someone were protected against falling.
b. That you may not bring bloodguiltiness on your house: Failure to build in a safe way would bring guilt (liability) on the owner or builder of the home. They were responsible for the safety of those who would use the home.
i. In his sermon on Deuteronomy 22:8, titled “Battlements,” Charles Spurgeon shows how just as there was to be a railing for the protection of people on the roofs of Israel’s homes, there are also spiritual railings for our protection. Many people, in regard to sin, get too close to the edge and fall off. Then it’s too late! We need to have “railings” protecting us from the edge. Such railings will not only protect us, but others also.
5. (9-12) Four laws of separation.
You shall not sow your vineyard with different kinds of seed, lest the yield of the seed which you have sown and the fruit of your vineyard be defiled. You shall not plow with an ox and a donkey together. You shall not wear a garment of different sorts, such as wool and linen mixed together. You shall make tassels on the four corners of the clothing with which you cover yourself.
a. You shall not sow your vineyard with different kinds of seed: Each of these laws was meant to separate Israel from her pagan neighbors, who would commonly combine unlike things to achieve what was thought to be a “magical” combination.
b. You shall not plow with an ox and a donkey together: So, in pagan cultures it was common to combine different kinds of seed in a vineyard; or to plow with an ox and a donkey together; or to wear a garment of wool and linen mixed together. When God commands Israel to not do these things, it isn’t so much for the sake of the combinations themselves, but so Israel would not imitate the pagan, occultic customs of their neighbors.
i. There is a spiritual application of this principle; the commands forbidding unholy combinations, “though in themselves small and trivial, are given . . . to forbid all mixture of their inventions with God’s institutions, in doctrine or worship.” (Poole)
ii. As Paul says, Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers. For what fellowship has righteousness with lawlessness? And what communion has light with darkness? (2 Corinthians 6:14)
iii. One commentator believes that these laws were also given, in part, to protect other animals from the bad breath of donkeys: “Besides, the donkey, from feeding on coarse and poisonous weed, has a fetid breath, which its yoke-fellow seeks to avoid, not only as poisonous and offensive, but producing leanness, or, if long continued, death.” (Jameison-Fauset-Brown, page 673)
c. You shall make tassels on the four corners of the clothing: This command was also to distinguish Israel from their pagan neighbors; in this way, an Israelite man was immediately known by the clothes he wore.
i. i. “A symbolic meaning is given to these tassels in Numbers 15:37-41, namely that they are a reminder to Israel to keep God’s law.” (Thompson)
ii. Like most good commands of God, men have the capability to twist and corrupt this command. In Jesus’ day, He had to condemn the Pharisees in Matthew 23:5, saying they enlarge the borders of their garments. In other words, they made the tasseled portion of their garments larger and more prominent to show how spiritual they were.
B. Laws of sexual morality.
1. (13-21) Resolving an accusation of marital deception.
If any man takes a wife, and goes in to her, and detests her, and charges her with shameful conduct, and brings a bad name on her, and says, “I took this woman, and when I came to her I found she was not a virgin,” then the father and mother of the young woman shall take and bring out the evidence of the young woman’s virginity to the elders of the city at the gate. And the young woman’s father shall say to the elders, “I gave my daughter to this man as wife, and he detests her. Now he has charged her with shameful conduct, saying, ‘I found your daughter was not a virgin,’ and yet these are the evidences of my daughter’s virginity.” And they shall spread the cloth before the elders of the city. Then the elders of that city shall take that man and punish him; and they shall fine him one hundred shekels of silver and give them to the father of the young woman, because he has brought a bad name on a virgin of Israel. And she shall be his wife; he cannot divorce her all his days. But if the thing is true, and evidences of virginity are not found for the young woman, then they shall bring out the young woman to the door of her father’s house, and the men of her city shall stone her to death with stones, because she has done a disgraceful thing in Israel, to play the harlot in her father’s house. So you shall put away the evil from among you.
a. Charges her with shameful conduct: The idea is that the man accused his wife of not being a virgin when they were married. Apparently, this was discovered on their wedding night, when they first had intimate relations (when I came into her I found she was not a virgin).
i. It is important to understand that in ancient Israel virginity was valued. It was seen as a great loss to give up one’s virginity before marriage, and if a woman was known to have lost her virginity, it greatly reduced her chances of getting married.
ii. By the same principle, if a husband believed that his wife had lied about her virginity, he felt cheated. What follows is an attempt to resolve the issue.
b. Then the father and mother . . . bring out the evidence of the young woman’s virginity . . . they shall spread the cloth before the elders of the city: according to custom, a Jewish woman would first be intimate with her husband upon a special cloth, which would collect the small drops of blood which were accepted as evidence of the young woman’s virginity. This blood-stained cloth would then become the property of the married woman’s parents, who kept it as the evidence of the young woman’s virginity.
i. Many people argue that this custom of proving a woman’s virginity is absurd, because it doesn’t always work. Some have answered by saying it does “work” when ladies are given in marriage at twelve or thirteen years of age, as was the custom in Old Testament times.
ii. Nonetheless, for whatever reasons, the custom did “work” - and is still practiced in some parts of the world. “The proofs of virginity, the blood-spotted bedclothes or garments, which, though not infallible, were widely accepted in the ancient Near East as indications of prior virginity, are still accepted among some peoples today” (Kalland). Clarke also adds: “A custom similar to that above is observed among the Mohamedans to the present day.”
iii. Clarke on they shall spread the cloth: “A usage of this kind argues a roughness of manners which would ill comport with the refinement of European ideas on so delicate a subject.”
c. The elders of the city shall take that man and punish him: If the parents could produce the evidence, then the man was found to have made false accusation against his wife and it was commanded that with a fine to be paid to the father of his bride.
i. Additionally, the man had forfeited his future right to divorce this wife: he cannot divorce her all his days.
ii. The strong penalty against a man who made a false accusation (one hundred shekels of silver was a significant fine), and the loss of his right to divorce his wife in the future was an effective deterrent against wild, false accusations by a husband against his wife.
d. But if the thing is true, and evidences of virginity are not found for the young woman: If this were the case, the woman was to be executed by stoning. This was not only for her sexual promiscuity (to play the harlot), but for her attempt to deceive her husband.
i. This law must be seen in connection with the command in Exodus 22:16-17, which commands that a man who entices a virgin must surely pay the bride-price for her to be his wife. This law in Deuteronomy is directed against the truly wanton woman, who has given up her virginity, yet not claimed her rights under Exodus 22:16-17. She did not value her virginity at the time she gave it up, yet she wanted to claim the benefits of it by deceiving her husband.
ii. All this simply reinforces the principle that virginity was valued, highly valued, in Israel. Today, far too many people - especially women - sell themselves cheaply by easily giving away their virginity. A man illustrated this with a true story about a friend who owned an antique store and had a table for sale. The table was worth $600, but was marked down to $300. A man tried to bargain her down to $200, and not only did she refuse, but she realized the true value of the table, and upped the price to its true worth - even when offered $300. The man finally bought the table for $600, and certainly treated it like a $600 table - because its worth had been fought for. Many women who know they are being treated shabbily by men have contributed to the problem by selling themselves cheaply.
2. (22) The penalty for adultery.
If a man is found lying with a woman married to a husband, then both of them shall die; the man that lay with the woman, and the woman; so you shall put away the evil from Israel.
a. Both of them shall die: God commanded the death penalty for adultery. This was primarily because of the exceedingly great social consequences of this sin. Therefore, God commanded the ultimate penalty against it.
i. God also specifically instructs: both the man that lay with the woman, and the woman. Adultery was not to be condemned with a double-standard; if it was wrong for the woman, it was wrong for the man, and vice-versa.
b. Then both of them shall die: As a practical matter, this death penalty was rarely carried out, as is the case in most of these situation where capital punishment is commanded. This is because any capital crime required two or three witnesses, and the witnesses had to be so sure of what they saw that they were willing to “cast the first stone” - that is, initiate the execution (Deuteronomy 17:6-7).
i. So, particularly in a case of adultery (or other sexual sins) there would rarely be two eyewitnesses willing to initiate the execution - and so capital punishment would not be carried out.
ii. This also helps us to understand what Jesus was doing when confronting the crowd who brought to Him the woman taken in adultery. By their presence and words, they claimed to have caught the woman in the act - but why then did they not bring the guilty man as well? And who was willing to cast the first stone - that is, initiate the execution? (John 8:1-12)
c. So you shall put away the evil from Israel: Though the death penalty for adultery was carried out rarely, it still had value. It communicated loudly and clearly an ideal that Israel was to live up to, and it made people regard their sin much more seriously. Today, we have done away with this ideal, and people don’t care much about adultery - and society suffers greatly as a result.
3. (23-29) Laws concerning rape.
If a young woman who is a virgin is betrothed to a husband, and a man finds her in the city and lies with her, then you shall bring them both out to the gate of that city, and you shall stone them to death with stones, the young woman because she did not cry out in the city, and the man because he humbled his neighbor’s wife; so you shall put away the evil from among you. But if a man finds a betrothed young woman in the countryside, and the man forces her and lies with her, then only the man who lay with her shall die. But you shall do nothing to the young woman; there is in the young woman no sin deserving of death, for just as when a man rises against his neighbor and kills him, even so is this matter. For he found her in the countryside, and the betrothed young woman cried out, but there was no one to save her. If a man finds a young woman who is a virgin, who is not betrothed, and he seizes her and lies with her, and they are found out, then the man who lay with her shall give to the young woman’s father fifty shekels of silver, and she shall be his wife because he has humbled her; he shall not be permitted to divorce her all his days.
a. If a young woman who is a virgin is betrothed to a husband: If a man had intimate relations with a virgin who was betrothed to a husband, and it happened in the city (and no one immediately hears the woman cry out in an attempt to stop the man), then both were to be executed.
i. The woman was to be executed for disgracing her virginity; the man was to be executed because he humbled his neighbor’s wife. Interestingly, the woman was considered the wife of another man, even though she was only betrothed, and was still a virgin, having not yet consummated the marriage.
b. But if a man finds a betrothed young woman in the countryside: If a man had intimate relations with a virgin who was betrothed, and it happened in the countryside (where no one could hear the woman, even if she should cry out), then only the man was to be executed, because the woman was presumed to be the victim of rape.
i. Significantly, the woman was not blamed for the rape, and it was presumed that she was innocent in this circumstance.
c. If a man finds a young woman who is a virgin, who is not betrothed: If a man had intimate relations with a virgin who is not betrothed, then he must pay a fine and was obligated to marry the woman (presumably, if she will have him), and he forfeited his right to divorce her in the future.
i. Some Jewish commentators note that the fifty shekels of silver were to be paid in addition to the dowry.
4. (30) A law concerning incest.
A man shall not take his father’s wife, nor uncover his father’s bed.
a. A man shall not take his father’s wife: This probably described the case of a son marrying his stepmother after his father had died. This was considered incest, even though there was not a blood relation, because he was considered to have had uncovered his father’s bed.
b. Nor uncover his father’s bed: Significantly, this was exactly the same kind of immoral relationship that the Corinthian church accepted, and Paul had to rebuke them about - that a man has his father’s wife! (1 Corinthians 5:1-2)
Deuteronomy 23 - Instructions to the Assembly, Various Laws
A. Those excluded from the congregation of Israel.
1. (1) Eunuchs are excluded from the congregation of Israel.
He who is emasculated by crushing or mutilation shall not enter the assembly of the LORD.
a. By crushing or mutilation: This refers to those emasculated by either birth defect, accident, or by deliberate emasculation.
b. Shall not enter the assembly of the LORD: When we read this term, it usually refers to the nation gathered before the LORD in worship, such as when they were gathered at Mount Sinai (Deuteronomy 5:22, 9:10, 10:4, and 18:16). But it doesn’t always have this sense.
i. Deuteronomy 31:30 refers to all the congregation of Israel, while Deuteronomy 31:28 makes it clear that “all the congregation” was gathered through all the elders of your tribes, and your officers. So, in some contexts, the congregation can refer to elders and officers. It may very well be that these exclusions from the assembly of the LORD are exclusions not from the religious life of Israel, but from the political life of the nation.
ii. Poole suggests that the idea of the assembly of the LORD is the leadership, or the rulers of Israel. These people were barred not from the religious life of Israel, but from the political life of the nation. Trapp agrees, saying on shall not enter the assembly of the LORD: “Shall not go in and out before the people as a public officer.” Clarke adds, “If by entering into the congregation be meant the bearing a civil office among the people, such as magistrate, judge, &c., then the reason of the law is very plain.”
iii. Isaiah 56:3-5 shows that even eunuchs and foreigners could be accepted before the LORD if they would obey Him, and they would be accepted before the “normal” people who disobeyed God.
c. Shall not enter the assembly of the LORD: Eunuchs were excluded because God’s covenant with Israel was vitally connected with the idea of the seed, and emasculation is a “crime” against the seed of man. Additionally, most eunuchs were made to be so in pagan ceremonies where they were dedicated to pagan gods.
2. (2) Those of unknown parentage are excluded from the assembly of Israel (civil leadership in Israel).
One of illegitimate birth shall not enter the assembly of the LORD; even to the tenth generation none of his descendants shall enter the assembly of the LORD.
a. One of illegitimate birth: It is difficult to define exactly what is meant by the term of illegitimate birth. Some later Jewish writers defined this as someone who was born of an incestuous relationship between Jews; others said it refers to those born of mixed marriages between the people of Israel and their pagan neighbors (as in Nehemiah 13:23).
3. (3-6) Ammonites and Moabites are excluded from the congregation of Israel (civil leadership in Israel).
An Ammonite or Moabite shall not enter the assembly of the LORD; even to the tenth generation none of his descendants shall enter the assembly of the LORD forever, because they did not meet you with bread and water on the road when you came out of Egypt, and because they hired against you Balaam the son of Beor from Pethor of Mesopotamia, to curse you. Nevertheless the LORD your God would not listen to Balaam, but the LORD your God turned the curse into a blessing for you, because the LORD your God loves you. You shall not seek their peace nor their prosperity all your days forever.
a. An Ammonite or Moabite shall not enter the assembly of the LORD: The Moabites and the Ammonites not only treated Israel cruelly on their way to the Promised Land, but they also were a people with a disgraceful beginning. Moab and Ammon were the two sons born to the daughters of Lot through their incest with their father (Genesis 19:30-38).
4. (7-8) Edomites and Egyptians (of the third generation) are permitted to be among the congregation of Israel (civil leadership in Israel).
You shall not abhor an Edomite, for he is your brother. You shall not abhor an Egyptian, because you were an alien in his land. The children of the third generation born to them may enter the assembly of the LORD.
a. You shall not abhor an Edomite: The Edomites were ethnically related to Israel, because Israel’s brother Esau was the father of the Edomite peoples. Therefore, Israel was commanded to not abhor an Edomite.
i. Interestingly, one of the most famous Edomites in history was abhorred by Israel - Herod the Great. Many of his spectacular building projects in Judea were intended to not only glorify his own name, but to win the favor of the Jews who despised him as an Edomite.
b. You shall not abhor an Egyptian: The Egyptians were also to receive more favor than the Moabites or Ammonites, because Israel was a guest in Egypt for almost 400 years. Though the years Israel spent in Egypt were hard, God had a great purpose for them. Egypt was like a mother’s womb for Israel; they went in as a large family, and came out as a distinct nation.
B. Miscellaneous laws.
1. (9-14) Cleanliness in the camp.
When the army goes out against your enemies, then keep yourself from every wicked thing. If there is any man among you who becomes unclean by some occurrence in the night, then he shall go outside the camp; he shall not come inside the camp. But it shall be, when evening comes, that he shall wash with water; and when the sun sets, he may come into the camp. Also you shall have a place outside the camp, where you may go out; and you shall have an implement among your equipment, and when you sit down outside, you shall dig with it and turn and cover your refuse. For the LORD your God walks in the midst of your camp, to deliver you and give your enemies over to you; therefore your camp shall be holy, that He may see no unclean thing among you, and turn away from you.
a. When the army goes out against your enemies, then keep yourself from every wicked thing: God commanded ceremonial cleanliness among the army of Israel. Some occurrence in the night probably refers to nocturnal emissions, and the cleansing ceremony for this is described in Leviticus 15:16-18. After observing the ceremonial washing, he may come into the camp again.
b. And you shall have an implement among your equipment: God commanded sanitary cleanliness among the army of Israel; each soldier was to carry some type of shovel, with which he could cover [his] refuse.
i. This command was given, “Partly, to prevent the annoyance of ourselves or others; partly, to preserve and exercise modesty and natural honesty; and principally, that by such outward rites they might be inured to the greater reverence of the Divine Majesty, and the greater caution to avoid all real and moral uncleanness.” (Poole)
ii. Some ancient rabbis taught that the holy city of Jerusalem should be considered “the camp of the LORD.” Under this reasoning, one had to go outside the camp to relieve one’s self. However, for many people, the trip outside the large “camp” of Israel (the city of Jerusalem) was longer than what would be permitted on the Sabbath. Therefore, as a practical matter, the rabbis prohibited a Jew from relieving themselves on the Sabbath day.
2. (15-16) Israel to provide asylum for the foreign escaped slave.
You shall not give back to his master the slave who has escaped from his master to you. He may dwell with you in your midst, in the place which he chooses within one of your gates, where it seems best to him; you shall not oppress him.
a. You shall not give back to his master the slave who has escaped from his master to you: “The refugee slave referred to had evidently come from a foreign land. Otherwise there would have been legal complications, since slaves were a valued possession.” (Thompson)
3. (17-18) Sacred prostitution banned.
There shall be no ritual harlot of the daughters of Israel, or a perverted one of the sons of Israel. You shall not bring the wages of a harlot or the price of a dog to the house of the LORD your God for any vowed offering, for both of these are an abomination to the LORD your God.
a. Ritual harlot: This refers to a female prostitute. The term perverted one refers to a male prostitute, both of which were common among the pagan religions of the Canaanites and others in the ancient world.
i. Later, in the reigns of Asa (1 Kings 15:12) and Josiah (2 Kings 23:7) we are told that the perverted persons (male prostitutes) were expelled from Israel. This means that for some period of time before they were expelled, they were allowed to practice their “holy prostitution,” which was an abomination to the LORD your God.
b. You shall not bring the wages of a harlot or the price of a dog to the house of the LORD your God: The pay of a female prostitute (the hire of a harlot) and the pay of a male prostitute (the price of a dog) were never to be offered to the LORD. This was a common practice among the sacred prostitution cults that abounded in the ancient world.
i. A reminder of the principle that the work of the LORD does not need money from immoral or ill-gotten gains.
ii. Even in its most gross forms, this kind of practice has been allowed in the institutional church. “And what a stinking shame is that, that stews and brothel-houses are licensed by the Pope, who reaps no small profit by them?” (Trapp, writing in 1659)
4. (19-20) No interest to be charged to the family of Israel.
You shall not charge interest to your brother; interest on money or food or anything that is lent out at interest. To a foreigner you may charge interest, but to your brother you shall not charge interest, that the LORD your God may bless you in all to which you set your hand in the land which you are entering to possess.
a. You shall not charge interest to your brother; interest on money or food: The mention of food, and the similar command in Exodus 22:25, leads most to understand that interest was prohibited on loans made to the poor for their basic needs, and did not prohibit the taking of interest on loans that were not for relief of the poor.
b. To a foreigner you may charge interest: “But since merchants from other nations might come for business reasons to Israel, or make loans on interest to Israelites, foreigners could be charged interest.” (Kalland)
5. (21-23) The importance of keeping our vows.
When you make a vow to the LORD your God, you shall not delay to pay it; for the LORD your God will surely require it of you, and it would be sin to you. But if you abstain from vowing, it shall not be sin to you. That which has gone from your lips you shall keep and perform, for you voluntarily vowed to the LORD your God what you have promised with your mouth.
a. You shall not delay to pay it: A vow before God is no small thing. God expressly commanded that Israel should be careful to keep its vows and to fulfill every oath made, for the LORD your God will surely require it of you, and it would be sin to.
i. In many circles today, the breaking of an oath is just standard business practice - but before God, it is simply sin.
b. If you abstain from vowing: Many wonder if vows or oaths are permitted for a Christian today.
i. Some think not, because of what Jesus said in Matthew 5:34-37: But I say to you, do not swear at all: neither by heaven, for it is God’s throne; nor by the earth, for it is His footstool; nor by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. Nor shall you swear by your head, because you cannot make one hair white or black. But let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No,’ ‘No.’ For whatever is more than these is from the evil one. (See also James 5:12)
ii. But, in context of the rest of Scripture, we see that Jesus was not forbidding oaths, as much as telling us that we should be so filled with integrity in our words that an oath is unnecessary.
iii. Jesus answered under oath in a court (Matthew 26:63-64), and God Himself swears oaths (Luke 1:73, Acts 2:30, Hebrews 3:18, 6:13, 17).
c. But if you abstain from vowing, it shall not be sin to you: Vows are never required by God; many times it is better not to make a vow.
d. That which has gone from your lips you shall keep and perform: This shows how important it is to keep a vow once made. As it says in Ecclesiastes 5:4-5, When you make a vow to God, do not delay to pay it; for He has no pleasure in fools. Pay what you have vowed. It is better not to vow than to vow and not pay.
i. Many vows are just plain foolish - “I’ll never do that again” is a foolish vow, and it is foolish and unwise to demand such a vow from someone else.
ii. Of course, there is a vow we all can and should make - a vow to praise God: Vows made to You are binding upon me, O God; I will render praises unto You (Psalm 56:12). So I will sing praise to Your name forever, that I may daily perform my vows (Psalm 61:8).
6. (24-25) The right to glean is given to travelers.
When you come into your neighbor’s vineyard, you may eat your fill of grapes at your pleasure, but you shall not put any in your container. When you come into your neighbor’s standing grain, you may pluck the heads with your hand, but you shall not use a sickle on your neighbor’s standing grain.
a. When you come into your neighbor’s vineyard: The idea is that, as one traveled they had the right to pick off a few grapes or heads of grain to eat along the way. It wasn’t the right to harvest from your neighbor’s fields, but to provide for your own immediate needs.
b. You may pluck the heads with your hand: This is the law Jesus and His disciples were operating under when they plucked heads of grain and ate them, rubbing them in their hands (Luke 6:1-5). They were accused by the Pharisees of breaking the Sabbath, but not of stealing grain, because the Pharisees knew this law in the book of Deuteronomy.
Deuteronomy 24 - The Law of Divorce and Other Various Laws
A. Divorce, remarriage and marriage.
1. (1) The law of divorce in ancient Israel.
When a man takes a wife and marries her, and it happens that she finds no favor in his eyes because he has found some uncleanness in her, and he writes her a certificate of divorce, puts it in her hand, and sends her out of his house,
a. A certificate of divorce: According to these laws, divorce was allowed in Israel, but carefully regulated. Under God’s law, the marriage contract cannot be simply dissolved as soon as one partner wants out; there must be cause for a certificate of divorce.
i. Even with cause, divorce was never to be seen as a preferred or easy option. The Hebrew word translated divorce has as its root the idea of “a hewing off, a cutting apart” - it is the amputation of that which is one flesh.
ii. “(Christians) all regard divorce as something like cutting up a living body, as a kind of surgical operation. Some think that the operation is so violent that it cannot be done at all; others admit that it is a desperate remedy in extreme cases. They are all agreed that it is more like having your legs cut off than it is like dissolving a business partnership or even deserting a regiment.” (C.S. Lewis)
b. He writes her a certificate of divorce: God commands here that any divorce be sealed with a certificate of divorce. In other words, it was not enough for a man to just declare “we’re divorced” to his wife. The divorce had to be recognized legally just as the marriage had been, so a certificate of divorce - a legal document - must be issued, and properly served (puts it in her hand).
c. She finds no favor in his eyes because he has found some uncleanness in her: This describes the grounds of divorce and indicates that a certificate of divorce could not be written for just any reason. It had to be founded on these two important clauses.
i. There has to be some uncleanness in her. Some later Rabbis defined uncleanness as anything in the wife which might displease the husband. At the time of Jesus, some Rabbis taught that if a wife burned her husband’s breakfast, he could divorce her.
ii. But Jesus carefully and properly defined what uncleanness is in Deuteronomy 24:1. He said, whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another, commits adultery (Matthew 19:9). Jesus rightly understood that uncleanness refers to sexual immorality, a broad term referring to sexual sin, which includes, but is not restricted to, sexual intercourse with someone who is not your spouse. The Hebrew word translated uncleanness in itself implies the meaning of sexual immorality; it is literally, “nakedness of a thing.”
iii. So, if a husband finds some uncleanness in her, he has the right to give his wife a certificate of divorce. But he is not obligated to do so. It must also be that she finds no favor in his eyes because he has found some uncleanness in her. In other words, it must be that the husband is so troubled at his wife’s sexual immorality that he simply cannot look upon her with favor in his eyes any more. The lack of favor in his eyes must be because of her uncleanness.
iv. This helps us understand what Jesus said in Matthew 19:8: Moses, because of the hardness of your hearts, permitted you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so. If a woman did not have a hard heart, she would never commit sexual immorality against her husband, and there would be no need for divorce. If a husband did not have any hardness in his heart, he could forgive and still look upon his wife with favor in his eyes, even though she was guilty of sexual immorality. But because God knows there is hardness in our hearts - both in the offending and offended parties - He grants permission for divorce.
v. In the days of Jesus, Rabbis taught that it was the duty of a godly man to divorce his wife if she displeased him. Both Moses and Jesus make it clear that God permits divorce in certain circumstances, but never commands it.
vi. Yet, if someone has Biblical grounds of divorce (which, according to 1 Corinthians 7:15, includes abandonment by an unbelieving spouse), they certainly do have permission to divorce, and God does not “hold it against them,” unless of course, He has specifically told them to not divorce and they are disobeying His specific word to their lives.
d. He writes her a certificate of divorce: Most people think that in ancient Israel, only husbands had the right to divorce their wives, and wives did not have the right of divorce. But what is said here may be intended to be applied to both husband and wife. Jesus, in Mark 10:12 says and if a woman divorces her husband and marries another, clearly saying that in His day, a wife had the right to divorce.
2. (2-4) The law of remarriage in ancient Israel.
When she has departed from his house, and goes and becomes another man’s wife, if the latter husband detests her and writes her a certificate of divorce, puts it in her hand, and sends her out of his house, or if the latter husband dies who took her as his wife, then her former husband who divorced her must not take her back to be his wife after she has been defiled; for that is an abomination before the LORD, and you shall not bring sin on the land which the LORD your God is giving you as an inheritance.
a. Her former husband who divorced her must not take her back: This is a strong law, saying that if a divorced woman marries again, she could not return to her first husband, should her second marriage end through divorce or death. To break this law was an abomination before the LORD.
b. An abomination before the LORD: It seems that it might be a good thing for the first husband and wife to get back together. But this command is made because God wanted both marriage and divorce to be seen as serious, permanent things. One couldn’t be married or divorced casually; it had to be carefully thought out because it was permanent.
i. This law would also strengthen the second marriage; it would discourage a spouse from thinking they might as well just leave their second marriage and go back to their first partner.
3. (5) The law honoring marriage.
When a man has taken a new wife, he shall not go out to war or be charged with any business; he shall be free at home one year, and bring happiness to his wife whom he has taken.
a. He shall be free at home one year: This was God’s way of honoring and blessing the marriage covenant. He allowed men who were newly married to be exempt from military or other state service for one year.
b. Bring happiness to his wife: This is an important job for every husband. Even as before the LORD, we find our lives by losing them (Matthew 10:39), so a husband will find the most happiness if he will bring happiness to his wife.
i. As the role of the husband in Ephesians 5 is described, we see that God emphasizes the essential oneness between husband and wife. The husband cannot make his wife happy without also bringing happiness into his own life. Conversely, he cannot bring misery into the life of his spouse without also bringing misery into his own life.
ii. A happy wife is the foundation for a happy home; a bitter or contentious wife makes for a miserable home. A continual dripping on a very rainy day and a contentious woman are alike (Proverbs 27:15). Better to dwell in a corner of a housetop, than in a house shared with a contentious woman. (Proverbs 21:9). Better to dwell in the wilderness, than with a contentious and angry woman (Proverbs 21:19).
B. Other various laws.
1. (6) Do not take someone’s livelihood as a pledge.
No man shall take the lower or the upper millstone in pledge, for he takes one’s living in pledge.
a. No man shall take the lower or the upper millstone in pledge: A millstone was something essential to a family’s livelihood, therefore it was forbidden to take it as a guarantee for a loan.
i. This warns Israel against taking advantage of each other in times of great need. We must take care that we never unfairly profit from the poverty or difficulty of others.
b. For he takes one’s living in pledge: Non-essential items could be taken as a pledge. Although interest could not be charged on a loan to an Israelite in need, a pledge could be taken - collateral to guarantee the repayment of the loan. This command forbids the taking of collateral that would take away a man’s ability to provide for his family, and get himself out of debt.
2. (7) The punishment for kidnapping.
If a man is found kidnapping any of his brethren of the children of Israel, and mistreats him or sells him, then that kidnapper shall die; and you shall put away the evil from among you.
a. If a man is found kidnapping any of his brethren of the children of Israel: Kidnapping was usually done in the ancient world not so much for return and ransom, but so that one could sell the one abducted to slavery, just as was done to Joseph by his brothers (Genesis 37:28).
b. That kidnapper shall die: This crime was serious enough before God, so as to command the death penalty.
3. (8-9) The command to act swiftly when leprosy breaks out.
Take heed in an outbreak of leprosy, that you carefully observe and do according to all that the priests, the Levites, shall teach you; just as I commanded them, so you shall be careful to do. Remember what the LORD your God did to Miriam on the way when you came out of Egypt.
a. Take heed in an outbreak of leprosy: Leviticus 13 and 14 describe in great detail how God wanted lepers examined and quarantined. Because leprosy was such a dreaded disease, God commands here that they take heed in an outbreak of leprosy, so it would not become a plague throughout Israel.
b. Remember what the LORD your God did to Miriam: In Numbers 12, Miriam led her brother Aaron in a rebellion against Moses, and for it, God struck her with leprosy. Though Moses prayed for her to be healed, God let her be a leper for seven days before healing her, and she was shut out of the camp seven days (Numbers 12:14). If someone as prominent as Miriam was quarantined as a leper, it showed that every other leper in Israel should also be quarantined.
4. (10-13) Handling a pledge rightly.
When you lend your brother anything, you shall not go into his house to get his pledge. You shall stand outside, and the man to whom you lend shall bring the pledge out to you. And if the man is poor, you shall not keep his pledge overnight. You shall in any case return the pledge to him again when the sun goes down, that he may sleep in his own garment and bless you; and it shall be righteousness to you before the LORD your God.
a. You shall not go into his house to get his pledge: When a pledge was taken for a loan, it had to be received in a way that kept the poor man’s dignity.
i. God does not condemn the principle of taking a pledge, only commanding that it be received humanely. The idea of taking collateral for a loan is valid, because it encourages personal responsibility in the one receiving the loan.
b. You shall not keep his pledge overnight: Assuming the pledge was something to keep the man warm (such as a garment or a blanket, which would often be the only pledge a poor man could make), the pledge had to be returned so the man could use it to keep warm overnight.
i. “The Jews in several cases did act contrary to this rule, and we find them cuttingly reproved for it by the Prophet Amos, chap. ii. 8.” (Clarke)
5. (14-15) The command to pay your workers.
You shall not oppress a hired servant who is poor and needy, whether one of your brethren or one of the aliens who is in your land within your gates. Each day you shall give him his wages, and not let the sun go down on it, for he is poor and has set his heart on it; lest he cry out against you to the LORD, and it be sin to you.
a. You shall not oppress a hired servant: A servant might be oppressed by not being paid, or by brutal or unsafe working conditions. God commanded employers to treat their employees fairly and kindly.
b. Lest he cry out against you to the LORD: The LORD hears the cry of the oppressed. James 5:4 warns the rich man who oppresses his workers: Indeed the wages of the laborers who mowed your fields, which you kept back by fraud, cry out; and the cries of the reapers have reached the ears of the Lord of Saboath.
6. (16) Each shall bear his own sin.
Fathers shall not be put to death for their children, nor shall the children be put to death for their fathers; a person shall be put to death for his own sin.
a. A person shall be put to death for his own sin: God commanded that each individual be responsible for their own sin. A father cannot be blamed and responsible for the sin of their (grown) children, and the children cannot be blamed and responsible for the sin of their parents.
i. It is wrong for a parent to automatically blame themselves for their wayward children; though they may have a part in the problem, it isn’t always the case.
b. For his own sin: There are instances when God commands that a whole family be punished for sin, such as with the family of Achan in Joshua 7:16-26. When God deals with a whole family, it shows that there must have been some conspiracy between family members, for each is responsible for his own sin.
7. (17-18) A command to be compassionate and fair.
You shall not pervert justice due the stranger or the fatherless, nor take a widow’s garment as a pledge. But you shall remember that you were a slave in Egypt, and the LORD your God redeemed you from there; therefore I command you to do this thing.
a. You shall remember: If Israel kept remembering how much God had done for them, it would make them more compassionate and fair in dealing with others. We must always deal with others remembering how much God has blessed and forgiven us.
8. (19-22) Leave behind some of the harvest for the poor.
When you reap your harvest in your field, and forget a sheaf in the field, you shall not go back to get it; it shall be for the stranger, the fatherless, and the widow, that the LORD your God may bless you in all the work of your hands. When you beat your olive trees, you shall not go over the boughs again; it shall be for the stranger, the fatherless, and the widow. When you gather the grapes of your vineyard, you shall not glean it afterward; it shall be for the stranger, the fatherless, and the widow. And you shall remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt; therefore I command you to do this thing.
a. It shall be for the stranger, the fatherless, and the widow: This was one of God’s welfare programs for Israel, establishing the right of the gleaner. Farmers were instructed to not completely harvest their fields, so that some would be left behind for the hard-working poor to gather for themselves.
b. Therefore I command you to do this thing: This was a wonderful way of helping the poor. It commanded farmers to have a generous heart, and it made the poor to be active and work for their food. It made a way for them to provide for their own needs with dignity.
Deuteronomy 25 - More Laws on Various Subjects
A. Two laws to protect criminals and animals.
1. (1-3) A limit on corporal punishment.
If there is a dispute between men, and they come to court, that the judges may judge them, and they justify the righteous and condemn the wicked, then it shall be, if the wicked man deserves to be beaten, that the judge will cause him to lie down and be beaten in his presence, according to his guilt, with a certain number of blows. Forty blows he may give him and no more, lest he should exceed this and beat him with many blows above these, and your brother be humiliated in your sight.
a. They justify the righteous and condemn the guilty: This is the simple responsibility of all government and courts. As Paul described the role of government in Romans 13:4: For he is God’s minister to you for good. But if you do evil, be afraid; for he does not bear the sword in vain; for he is God’s minister, an avenger to execute wrath on him who practices evil.
b. If the wicked man deserves to be beaten: Apparently, God considers that some criminals are wicked and deserve to be beaten. We seem to have a justice system today that considers itself more compassionate and kind than God Himself, yet we can’t say that we live in a more just or safe society.
i. “Among the Mohammedans there are very few law-suits, and the reason is given . . . because they that sue others without just cause are to be whipped publicly.” (Trapp)
c. Forty blows may he give him and no more: Though sometimes a beating was the appropriate punishment, God also agrees with the idea that there is a such thing as excessive punishment, and this was intended to prevent excessive punishment. Additionally, the beating was to be administered in the presence of the judge (and be beaten in his presence), so he could make sure the punishment was not excessive.
i. In 2 Corinthians 11:24, Paul listed this among his “apostolic credentials”: From the Jews five times I received forty stripes minus one. The forty stripes minus one means Paul was beaten by the Jewish authorities with thirty-nine blows on five different occasions. Paul did not receive 40 blows, as according to Deuteronomy 25:3 because as a common practice, the Jews only allowed 39 blows to be administered. This was to both show mercy and to scrupulously keep the law - one blow was left off to protect against a miscount.
2. (4) The command to not muzzle the ox.
You shall not muzzle an ox while it treads out the grain.
a. You shall not muzzle an ox: This law simply commanded the humane treatment of a working animal. In those
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