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 days, grain would be broken away from its husk by having an ox walk on it repeatedly (usually around a circle). It would be cruel to force the ox to walk on all the grain, yet to muzzle him so he couldn’t eat of it.
b. You shall not muzzle an ox: In 1 Corinthians 9:9 and 1 Timothy 5:18 Paul applied this principle to the minister’s right to be supported by the people he ministers to. In fact, 1 Corinthians 9:9-10 leads us to believe that this is the real point God is making in this verse, because in that passage Paul asked, is it oxen God is concerned about? Or does He say it altogether for our sakes?
B. Two laws dealing with family matters.
1. (5-10) The marriage obligation of surviving brothers.
If brothers dwell together, and one of them dies and has no son, the widow of the dead man shall not be married to a stranger outside the family; her husband’s brother shall go in to her, take her as his wife, and perform the duty of a husband’s brother to her. And it shall be that the firstborn son which she bears will succeed to the name of his dead brother, that his name may not be blotted out of Israel. But if the man does not want to take his brother’s wife, then let his brother’s wife go up to the gate to the elders, and say, “My husband’s brother refuses to raise up a name to his brother in Israel; he will not perform the duty of my husband’s brother.” Then the elders of his city shall call him and speak to him. But if he stands firm and says, “I do not want to take her,” then his brother’s wife shall come to him in the presence of the elders, remove his sandal from his foot, spit in his face, and answer and say, “So shall it be done to the man who will not build up his brother’s house.” And his name shall be called in Israel, “The house of him who had his sandal removed.”
a. One of them dies and has no son: 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.
i. “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.” (Thompson)
b. The firstborn son which she bears will succeed to the name of his dead brother, that his name may not be blotted out of Israel: 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.
i. Son here may simply mean child. “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).” (Kalland)
c. He will not perform the duty of my husband’s brother: If the brothers of the deceased man refused to take this responsibility, they were to be called to open shame by the widow. The shame was compounded as they would remove his sandal and the widow would spit in his face.
2. (11-12) Wives forbidden to interfere in their husband’s fights.
If two men fight together, and the wife of one draws near to rescue her husband from the hand of the one attacking him, and puts out her hand and seizes him by the genitals, then you shall cut off her hand; your eye shall not pity her.
a. Then you shall cut off her hand: In this difficult passage, various suggestions have been made as to why such a severe punishment was commanded. “Possibly it was representative of similar offences and provided a standard for judgment in all such cases. Perhaps also, the law arose from the desire to protect the reproductive organs and thus obviate anything that might prevent a man leaving descendants.” (Thompson)
b. Your eye shall not pity her: “Partly because of the great mischief she did to him, both to his person and posterity, and partly to deter all women from immodest and impudent carriages, and to secure that modesty which is indeed the guardian of all the virtues, as immodesty is an inlet to all vices, as the sad experience of this degenerate age shows; and therefore it is not strange that it is so severely restrained and punished.” (Matthew Poole, 1683)
C. Two laws commanding justice.
1. (13-16) God commands weights and measures be just.
You shall not have in your bag differing weights, a heavy and a light. You shall not have in your house differing measures, a large and a small. You shall have a perfect and just weight, a perfect and just measure, that your days may be lengthened in the land which the LORD your God is giving you. For all who do such things, all who behave unrighteously, are an abomination to the LORD your God.
2. (17-19) God commands Israel to justly destroy Amalek.
Remember what Amalek did to you on the way as you were coming out of Egypt, how he met you on the way and attacked your rear ranks, all the stragglers at your rear, when you were tired and weary; and he did not fear God. Therefore it shall be, when the LORD your God has given you rest from your enemies all around, in the land which the LORD your God is giving you to possess as an inheritance, that you will blot out the remembrance of Amalek from under heaven. You shall not forget.
a. Remember what Amalek did: The Amalekite attack on the Israelites is recorded in Exodus 17. In response, Joshua led the armies of Israel in victory over the Amalekites as Moses prayed for them, assisted by Aaron and Hur.
b. Blot out the remembrance of Amalek under heaven: Because of God’s strong command to battle against Amalek until they were completely conquered, many see the Amalekites as a picture of our flesh – which constantly battles against the spirit and must be struggled against until completely conquered (Galatians 5:17).
c. When the LORD your God has given you rest: 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).
©2018 David Guzik – No distribution beyond personal use without permission