Chapter 22


Caring for Your Brother’s Property

        • If you see your neighbor’s sheep, ox, or donkey (livestock) wandering away it is your responsibility to take it back to him. If the owner of the wandering livestock lives far away from you or you don’t know who owns it, then you are to bring the animal home with you and keep it until the owner comes looking for it. Then you must give it back to him. The same rule applies if you find a lost piece of clothing or anything else your neighbor might lose. Don’t ignore your responsibility.

        • Also, if you see that your neighbor’s donkey or ox has fallen down in the road, you must stop and help him get it to its feet. Don’t pass by pretending you didn’t see.

          • Guzik writes, “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. 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. 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.”

          • HCSB notes, “This is in line with James’ injunction that ‘for the person who knows to do good and doesn’t do it, it is a sin’ (James 4:17).”

Preserving Natural Distinctions

        • A woman is not to wear male clothing and a man is not to wear women’s clothing. The Lord your God considers those who do this detestable.

        • HCSB notes, “Cross dressing, considered by some of little consequence today, was strictly forbidden in Israel because it obliterated lines of distinction inherent in God’s creation of man and woman.”

        • The NIV Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible adds more clarity by describing the cultural context, “In Mesopotamian literature the goddess Ishtar is androgynous (both psychologically and physiologically), marginal, and ambiguous. She shatters the boundaries of male/female, war/love, divine/human and more. Known also as Inanna-Ishtar, she breaks all gender and socioeconomic distinctions. Some scholars suggest that Israel’s reaction to this type of description/perversion was to prohibit its occurrence in Israel. Hittite texts also report the use of gender-related clothes and objects (mirror and distaff for women, weapons for men) in magical rituals used to influence one’s sexual status or to alter the gender status of an adversary. Most instances that mention cross-dressing are religious or legal in nature.”

        • Guzik adds, “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.”

        • If you come across a mother bird sitting on a nest (either in a tree or on the ground) with babies or eggs, you may take the babies or the eggs for yourself, but don’t take the mother. You must let her go free so that you’ll prosper and have a long life.

        • Guzik writes, “…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.”

        • HCSB includes a great article by Steve Lemke titled, Does the Bible Affirm That Animals Have Rights? I’ve included some excerpts below:

          • No, Scripture never specifically grants rights to animals. The Bible doesn’t assume that animals have intrinsic rights, even the right to life. Unlike humans, animals were not created in the image of God…He appointed humans to subdue and rule over all animals (Genesis 1:20-31). God specifically approved the use of animals as food for humans (Genesis 9:1-3; Leviticus 11:2-3).”

          • Yes, the Bible affirms that humans have a moral obligation to treat animals humanely…Scripture uses the same word to describe the animating force that God gave animals (nephesh, Genesis 1:20-21, 24, 30) as it does in describing how He breathed a living soul into persons (Genesis 2:7)… Animal sacrifices presuppose that animals have value (Leviticus 4-6; Hebrews 9:11-28). Animal pain is a matter for moral concern because God cares for animals (Genesis 7:2-4; Psalm 104:10-30, 147:7-9, 148:7-10; Matthew 6:26; Luke 12:6-7,24).”

          • Although God gave people permission to eat animals after the flood (Genesis 9:1-3), this may have been a concession to human sinfulness. Vegetarianism practiced in the Garden of Eden (Genesis 1:29-30; 2:16), and the prophecy that natural predators will live together peacefully in the future (Isaiah 11:6-8), suggest that the eating of animal flesh isn’t God’s ideal.”

Four Laws of Separation

        • If you build a new house, you must install a railing around your roof so you won’t bring the guilt of bloodshed on your house if someone accidentally falls of it and dies.

        • Don’t plant two types of seed in your vineyard. If you do, this will result in the entire harvest (both the crop you planted and the produce of the vineyard) being considered defiled.

        • Don’t plow with a donkey and an ox harnessed together.

        • Don’t wear clothes made of wool and linen woven together.

        • You must wear tassels on each of the four corners of the outer cloak you wear.

        • After reading this section, many Christians find themselves puzzled. Guzik writes, “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. 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, occult customs of their neighbors.”

        • HCSB adds, “The purpose of this passage as a whole is to establish the principle of separation, in light of the possibility that Israel might permit a mixture of Canaanite religious and cultural practice to assimilate with the faith of Yahweh. Subsequent biblical history records that Israel failed to keep itself from such corruption, and so came under judgment. Paul cites this text in his argument against a Christian’s marriage with unbelievers (2 Corinthians 6:14).”

        • Regarding the tassels, NLT Illustrated Study Bible writes, “Placing four tassels on the hem of a garment probably reminded the wearer to be loyal to the covenant, similar to tying a string around one’s finger (see Numbers 15:37-41).”

Regulations for Sexual Purity

        • If a man marries a woman, but after having sexual relations with her turns against her and publicly accuses her of shameful conduct and gives her a bad reputation saying, “I married this woman, but after I was intimate with her I didn’t find evidence that she was a virgin,” then the woman’s parents must bring proof of her virginity to the elders at the city gate. The parents must say to the elders, “I gave my daughter to this man as a wife, but he has turned against her and accused her of shameful conduct claiming that he didn’t find evidence that she was a virgin. However, here is the evidence of my daughter’s virginity.” The parents must then present the cloth to the elders. The elders must punish the man, fine him 100 silver shekels to be paid to the woman’s father, because he gave an Israelite virgin a bad reputation. He will not be allowed to divorce her for his entire life. However, if the man’s accusation is true and no evidence can be provided of the woman’s virginity, she will be brought to the door of her father’s house and stoned by the men of the city because she is guilty of an outrageous act in Israel by being promiscuous while living in her parent’s home. You must purge the evil from among you.

          • There are several elements to this passage that are offensive to the modern reader. First, is the arcane sounding method of determining if a woman was a virgin. On this particular topic, Guzik provides the following:

          • …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 bloodstained cloth would then become the property of the married woman’s parents, who kept it as the evidence of the young woman’s virginity. 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. Nonetheless, for whatever reasons, the custom did ‘work’ – and is still practiced in some parts of the world.” Guzik cites Kalland: “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.” He then cites Clarke: “A custom similar to that above is observed among the Mohamedans to the present day.”

          • Another difficult element for us today is that we generally (tragically) have no concept or concern for the value of virginity. This could not be further from the ancient Near Eastern cultural context. Guzik and the HCSB provide the following:

            • Guzik writes, “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. 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.”

            • HCSB adds, “Loss of virginity was tantamount to adultery in the case of betrothal, implied here.”

          • Finally, the penalty for promiscuity is frankly shocking to us. Guzik and the HCSB provide the following:

          • Guzik writes, “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. 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.”

          • HCSB notes, “Physical whoredom was analogous to spiritual unfaithfulness to the Lord, and was therefore deemed deserving of death (Hosea 4:1-19)- as severe as this sanction may appear by today’s ‘standards.’”

          • I’ll add my own personal perspective to this. Many modern day Christians seem to simply not have an appropriate view of the seriousness of sin. Additionally, we tend to minimize the importance of particular sins that we personally struggle with while magnifying the importance of sins we don’t struggle with in the lives of others. Scripture teaches us that all sin is detestable to the Lord and separates us from Him. We are no longer under the Mosaic Law and not subject to the punishments it mandated its leaders to impose under their theocratic government system. However, we would do well to remember that we will one day stand before the Lord and give account for all we have done.

        • If a man is discovered committing adultery, both the woman and the man must be put to death. You must purge the evil from Israel.

        • Guzik adds, “As a practical matter, this death penalty was rarely carried out, as is the case in most of the situations where capital punishment was 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). 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. 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)”

        • If a man encounters a young virgin in a town and has sexual intercourse with her, the two must be taken to the gate of the city and stoned to death. The woman is being stoned because she didn’t yell for help, and the man is being stoned because he violated another man’s fiance. You must purge the evil from among you.

        • However, if a man encounters a young virgin out in the country, grabs her, and rapes her, only the man must die. Do nothing to the young woman because she is innocent. This case is similar to the case of a man attacking his neighbor and murdering him. Since the man found the engaged woman out in the country, it is assumed that she cried out for help, but there was no one to rescue her.

        • On the passages above, the NLT Illustrated Study Bible writes, “… betrothal was tantamount to marriage in the OT…”

        • Many readers take immediate offense to difference between the presumed innocence of a woman out in the country versus the condemnation for a woman in a city who didn’t cry out for help. However, one commentator makes some game changing points when he writes:

          • This law exists to protect everyone involved, and it actually demonstrates a rather impressive knowledge of human behavior and human nature. The key words are ‘because she did not cry out for help though she was in the city,’ under the assumption that if she went along with it willingly, it wasn’t actually rape. First, it protects the man from false accusations– if a malicious woman makes an accusation like that, she’s on the hook too. And second, it protects the woman. If she knows that if she plays along, she’s guilty under the law, then he can’t use the best-known of intimidation tactics employed by rapists, ‘play along or I’ll kill you!’ It gives her strong incentive to struggle, fight him off, and scream for help, which makes it less likely that she will actually end up being raped. All in all, this demonstrates the brilliance of God’s law, not the cruelty or immorality of it.”

        • HCSB notes, “This situation well illustrates the common-sense approach of biblical law. A woman raped outside a settlement is presumed innocent of consensual sex, as presumably she had protested the assault but was too far away for her cries to be heard. Of course, she could have gone voluntarily to the field to effect a liaison; but in Israelite culture the penalty for such a prearranged encounter, if found out, would normally deter such a plan (v. 21).”

        • If a man rapes a young virgin who isn’t engaged and they are discovered, the man must marry her and pay her father 50 shekels because he violated her. He may never divorce her as long as he lives.

        • This is another passage that can easily spark outrage if we apply a modern day societal context rather than the ancient Near Eastern context in which it belongs. Many skeptics point to this claiming that the Bible requires that a woman marry her rapist. I fully address this topic in my article Does the Bible Command a Rape Victim to Marry Her Rapist. Here are a couple of excerpts:

          • The first describes the appropriate ancient context. “A woman who had lost her virginity was deemed undesirable for marriage. In those days, a woman without a father or husband to care for her, was doomed to a life of poverty. She would be destitute and shunned by society. Such a woman would be reduced in most cases to begging or prostitution to support herself. Her child would also be branded ‘second class’ for life.”

          • In light of the ancient culture, this law provided a woman who had been raped a means of protection and provision for herself and the child if she became pregnant as a result of the rape. This law made the rapist legally responsible for providing for the rape victim for his entire life without the option of divorcing her. (According to ancient culture, men could divorce a woman for any reason, whereas women could not initiate divorce- so this law required a rapist to care for his victim for his entire life regardless of how she performed in her marital capacity.) In addition to making sure that a rape victim was cared for, holding the rapist responsible for the victim for life also served the purpose of deterring would-be rapists by levying life long consequences.”

        • Furthermore, Exodus 22:16-17 lays out that the rape victim’s father could determine not to allow her to marry her rapist. This means that Mosaic law actually left the decision regarding what will be best for his daughter up the victim’s father. This was the best case scenario, according to ancient culture, since the victim’s father should have her best interest at heart. If he was capable of caring for her and her child he could do so, or if he knew of another man who still wished to marry his daughter despite what had happened to her, he could act accordingly.”

        • A man must not marry his father’s former wife because this would dishonor his father.

          • HCSB writes, “The father’s wife, in this case, would be the subject’s foster mother and not his own, considering that incest is covered elsewhere in the Law (Leviticus 18:7). The stated reason for the prohibition is that, in committing this act, the man is ‘uncovering his father’s skirt.’ That is, he is intruding into an area reserved for his father alone. The law thus protects the authority of the father and teaches filial respect for him.”

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