Chapter 25

DEUTERONOMY CHAPTER 25

Fairness and Mercy

        • If a dispute arises between two people, they are to go to court where judges will hear their case and decide who is guilty. If the person who has been declared guilty deserves the sentence of flogging, the judge will command that the guilty party be flogged in his presence with the appropriate number of lashes fitting his crime. However, the maximum number of lashes one may receive is 40. More than 40 lashes would result in public humiliation.

        • HCSB writes, “Physical punishment and public humiliation may appear barbaric to the modern ‘enlightened’ mind, but their deterrent effect can hardly be denied. With prisons unavailable, especially for a people on the move, incarceration for a crime was virtually non-existent in ancient Israel. This left few options for the application of justice. The criminal who was beaten would not be kept at public expense, and would be able to continue to work to provide for his family.”

        • I also believe it’s important to note that this is a prime example of the fact that God worked with Israel within their own cultural context. God did not structure their laws as if they were existing in a modern context that would have been unfathomable for them. Flogging was a common element of the ancient Near Eastern system of justice. God did not eradicate it, but He did regulate it. Guzik notes that Paul echoes the same principle with regard to governments in the NT. Even though they weren’t theocratic governments; they were secular. One is still held responsible for breaking laws and subject to punishment levied through governmental authorities.

          • 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.”

        • Don’t muzzle an ox to prevent it from eating as it treads out the grain.

        • HCSB writes, “The significance of this apparently trivial instruction is not simply to call attention to the need for humane treatment of animals. It is also an analogy to the human scene. If an ox is to be treated with such consideration, allowed to benefit from the results of its labor, how much more should human beings be so treated. That is certainly the way the apostle Paul took this instruction (1 Corinthians 9:9; 1 Timothy 5:18).”

Preserving the Family Line

        • If two brothers live on the same property, and one of them dies without a son, his widow may not marry anyone who is outside the family. Instead, it is her brother-in-law’s duty to marry her and have intercourse with her so that she can bear children. The first son she bears to him will be considered the son of the deceased brother so that his name will carry on in Israel.

        • Guzik explains, “In ancient Israel it was seen as a great tragedy for a man to die without leaving descendants to carry on his name, and to give his family inheritance to. Therefore, if a man dies and has no son, it was the responsibility of one of his brothers to take the deceased brother’s widow as a wife and perform the duty of a husband’s brother to her.” Citing Thompson, Guzik adds that this practice was common throughout the ancient Near East, “The practice of levirate marriage… was not peculiar to Israel, for it was practiced among the Hittites and Assyrians as well as in countries such as India, Africa and South America.” Guzik then continues, “When a son was born to this union, it would not be counted as the son of the surviving brother, but as son to the deceased brother.”

          • As a side note, Guzik cites Kalland’s addition that the term rendered “son” may more accurately be rendered “child” opening the possibility for female heirs as well, “In the history of the interpretation of this Deuteronomic law, difference of opinion existed among Jewish expositors whether ben in v.5 meant ‘son’ or ‘child.’ The LXX and Josephus render it ‘child.’ Moses had already established that when no male heir existed, daughters would be heirs or their father’s property (Num 27:1-8).”

        • However, if the man doesn’t want to marry his sister-in-law she must go to the city gate and address the elders saying, “My brother-in-law refuses to preserve his brother’s name by fulfilling his duty to marry me.” The elders will require her brother-in-law to come talk to them. If the brother-in-law continues to refuse his duty, the widow must walk over to him in the presence of the elders, take his sandal off of his foot, spit in his face, and declare, “This is what happens to a man who refuses to provide his deceased brother with children.” From this time forward, this man and his family will be called, “the family of the man whose sandal was removed.”

        • HCSB reminds us to apply the appropriate cultural context, “To spit in the face may strike one as repulsive behavior, yet each society has its gestures that would seem cruel to people of other cultures. This act of disdain or refusal was (and is) common in Middle Eastern societies and must be judged, as it its propriety, against that cultural environment.”

        • On the significance of the removal of the sandal, NLT Illustrated Study Bible notes, “Using footwear, which touched the ground, the brother-in-law showed that he relinquished any claim to his dead brother’s estate (Ruth 4:7).”

        • If two Israelite men get into a fight and the wife of one of the men tries to rescue her husband by grabbing the other man’s testicles, you must cut off her hand. Don’t show any pity.

        • HCSB writes, “The woman’s harsh punishment is due to the fact that her impetuous act might result in the man’s emasculation, depriving of the ability to procreate. The result would be the same as that envisioned in vv. 5-10- he would die without progeny, and his name would forever be lost in Israel. As is often the case in OT law, the instruction’s ramifications extend beyond the surface reading of the text.”

        • In the spirit of not failing to neglect the appropriate cultural context, the NIV Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible compares the corresponding punishment in ancient Near Eastern law codes, “In the Middle Assyrian Laws, if in a fight between two men, a woman intervenes and crushes a testicle of one of them, one of her fingers is cut off. If the man suffers damage or loss of the other testicle because of complications, then the woman’s eyes were torn out (or, possibly, both nipples were ripped off).”

Honest Weights and Measures

        • Do not have two different scales that measure weight differently- one heavier than actual weight and one lighter than actual weight. You must always use honest weights and measures so that you can live long lives in the land the Lord your God is giving to you. Anyone who acts unfairly by using dishonest weights and measures is detestable to the Lord your God.

        • NLT Illustrated Study Bible writes, “Merchants were not to use two sets of weights and measures for cheating customers- a heavier weight or measure when purchasing goods (thus reducing their own cost) and a lighter one when selling them (thus increasing their own profit).”

Revenge on the Amalekites

        • Never forget what the Amalekites did to you as you were traveling from Egypt- they attacked you when you were exhausted, striking down the stragglers in the rear. They didn’t fear God. Therefore, when the Lord your God gives you rest from the enemies that surround you in the lands He is giving to you as your inheritance, you must destroy the Amalekites, completing erasing their memory from the earth.

        • NLT Illustrated Study Bible notes, “The Amalekites were tribal peoples who attacked Israel’s rear flanks during the Sinai wilderness wandering (Exodus 17:8-16). They were apparently related to the Edomites (Genesis 36:12).”

        • HCSB adds, “The injunction to forgive and forget, while clearly a biblical principle, does not apply in cases where God’s honor or that of His people has been violated without subsequent remorse and repentance. The attack of the Amalekites against the weakest of the Israelites was an attack on the Lord, who cares for just such people (v. 18).”

        • Guzik also notes, “Israel was to make this war against the Amalekites later, when they were at rest in the land. Some 400 years later, God directed Saul to make war against the Amalekites, and his failure to completely destroy them was the primary act of disobedience which cost Saul the throne (1 Samuel 15:2-9; 28:18).”