Chapter 24


Marriage and Divorce Laws

        • If a man marries a woman, but becomes unhappy with her because he discovers something indecent about her, he may write her a divorce certificate and send her away.

        • Guzik writes, “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. 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.”

        • What qualifies as “something indecent”(some translations render “some uncleanness”)? NLT Illustrated Study Bible notes, “This phrase indicates sexual impurity or some other impropriety. It does not pertain to adultery, which would have required the death penalty (Deuteronomy 22:22).”

        • Guzik adds, “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.” Additionally, “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.”

          • Guzik notes that the situation above is what prompted Jesus to make His important clarification on divorce:

          • 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.’ 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.”

          • 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.”

        • Some additional notes that Guzik makes about divorce:

          • 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.”

          • 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.”

        • If the woman remarries, but her second husband also turns against her and writes her a divorce certificate, or if her second husband dies, the woman cannot remarry her first husband. This would be detestable to the Lord because she has been defiled. Don’t bring guilt on the land that the Lord your God is giving to you as your inheritance.

        • Guzik writes, “…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.”

        • HCSB notes, “As so often in the OT law, the practice of divorce was to be strictly regulated, and remarriage- the real issue here- even more so. To take back a former wife who had married another in the interim would, in effect, make her an adulteress.”

          • NLT Illustrated Study Bible adds, “The concept of community was so strong in ancient Israel that the individual’s identity almost merged with that of the community. The sin of one individual had collective, corporate consequences.”

        • A man who is newly married must not go to war with the army or be given any other responsibilities. He is free to stay home with his wife for one year so that he can bring her happiness.

Safeguarding Life

        • Don’t take a pair of millstones, or even just the upper millstone as collateral for a debt. That is how the owner makes a living, so it is like taking their livelihood as collateral.

        • HCSB writes, “To take and keep a millstone as collateral on a loan was to deprive the borrower of what he needed in the preparation of his meals- in other words, for his day-to-day survival.”

        • If anyone kidnaps a fellow Israelite and treats him like a slave or sells him, the kidnapper must die. In this way, you will purge the evil from among you.

        • In the cases of infectious skin disease, be sure to carefully follow the Levitical priest’s instructions. Remember what the Lord your God did to Miriam after you left Egypt.

        • Some Bible translations render “infectious skin disease” as “leprosy.” Guzik notes, “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…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.”

          • On God inflicting Miriam with leprosy, the HCSB notes, “The harsh treatment of Miriam was a reminder to her, and others, that rebellion against divinely authorized spiritual leadership is, in effect, rebellion against God Himself.”

Consideration for People in Need

        • When you make a loan to your neighbor, don’t go into his house to get the item he is putting up for collateral. Wait outside while he goes in and brings it out to you.

          • NLT Illustrated Study Bible says, “Even debtors were to be allowed their dignity and spared unnecessary embarrassment. A creditor was not to invade the debtor’s privacy when collecting from him.”

        • If your neighbor is poor and he gives you his cloak as collateral for a loan, don’t keep it overnight. Give it back to him at sunset so he can stay warm through the night. God will regard this as an act of righteousness.

        • Don’t take advantage of any of your hired workers who are poor, regardless of if they are a fellow Israelite or a foreigner who lives in your town. You must pay them the wages they have earned at the end every day because they depend on it. If you don’t, they will cry out to the Lord and He will count you guilty of sin.

        • Parents must not be put to death for their children’s sin, and children must not be put to death for their parent’s sin. A person must only receive the death penalty for their own sin.

        • Guzik adds, “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.”

        • HCSB includes this very helpful note, “This verse teaches personal responsibility for one’s own sin and its consequences. This seems to contradict passages elsewhere that suggest that the sins of parents have repercussions for many generations to come (cp. Deuteronomy 2:34; 5:9). There is a difference, however, between the transmission of guilt and accountability on the one hand, and the aftereffects of sin on the other. For example, David’s children were not held responsible for his adultery and murder, but they paid the price as members of the dysfunctional family sin produced (2 Samuel 12:10).”

        • Do not deny justice to a foreigner who is living among you or an orphan. Also, don’t accept a widow’s clothing as collateral for a loan. I am giving you this command because you are always to remember that you were slaves in Egypt and that the Lord you God redeemed you.

        • NLT Illustrated Study Bible notes “The people of Israel were to vigorously resist discrimination against the weakest and most vulnerable people in society. Israel had been redeemed from such a status in Egypt, and their experience should help them realize how to treat others in similar circumstances.”

        • When you harvest your crops, if you realize that you have forgotten to bring in a bundle of grain from the field, don’t go back to get it. Instead, leave it there for the foreigners who are living among you, the orphans, and the widows. If you do this, the Lord your God will bless you in everything you do.

        • When you beat the olives out of your olive trees, don’t go over the branches twice. Instead, leave the olives that remain on the branches after the first beating for the foreigners who live among you, the orphans, and the widows.

        • When you gather the grapes from your vineyards, don’t go back to collect what remains after the first picking. Leave the remaining grapes for the foreigners who live among you, the orphans, and the widows. I am commanding you to do this so that you will remember that you were once slaves in Egypt.

        • HCSB makes an important point, “These examples of the care and generosity to be extended to the poor illustrate the elevated ethic of the OT as compared to that of surrounding nations. Those who try to make a case for a ‘sub-Christian’ social attitude in the Law are ignoring texts such as these.”

        • Driving home the point above, the NIV Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible writes, “The powerful injunction of social justice is widespread and found in documents at Ugarit, in Akkadian texts and in texts from Nuzi. A common social and legal concern was persons in these situations was part of the ancient Near Eastern culture, but nowhere as it was in Israel. Four classes of persons outside the normal safety nets of these ancient societies are highlighted: widow, orphan, foreigner (Hebrew ger) and the poor.”

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