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Deuteronomy 24-27    Listen Podcast


Once is enough! (Deuteronomy 24:1-4)

1 “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,
2 when she has departed from his house, and goes and becomes another man’s wife,
3 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,
4 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.

Here's a provision under the Mosaic Law that restricts a man from remarrying a woman after his divorce from her and her subsequent remarriage to another man. It would appear that this law is designed to protect the second marriage from emotions which may be potentially revived between the original marriage partners. This is a bridge-burning law that says, "You can't go back!"

What might this "uncleanness" of verse 1 involve? After all, the realization that a Hebrew woman wasn't a virgin after one marries her is dealt with in Deuteronomy 22:13-30 (see notes), and the penalty for this unfaithfulness was stoning to death - no divorce required there. Likewise, death by stoning is the outcome specified for adultery in Numbers 5:11-31 (see notes). However, there are at least a couple of situations that come to mind where a woman taken in marriage may not be a virgin. In Exodus 22:16-17 (see notes) we see a situation where an innocent woman is no longer a virgin. Another scenario might be the woman taken prisoner and subsequently taken as a wife by her Hebrew captor as seen in Deuteronomy 21:10-14 (see notes). In both instances we have the possibility that one might marry a woman who was not a virgin at marriage and become dissatisfied afterward because of the discovered "uncleanness."

Miscellaneous laws (Deuteronomy 24:5-22)

5 ¶ “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.
6 ¶ “No man shall take the lower or the upper millstone in pledge, for he takes one’s living in pledge.
7 ¶ “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.
8 ¶ “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.
9 Remember what the LORD your God did to Miriam on the way when you came out of Egypt!
10 ¶ “When you lend your brother anything, you shall not go into his house to get his pledge.
11 You shall stand outside, and the man to whom you lend shall bring the pledge out to you.
12 And if the man is poor, you shall not keep his pledge overnight.
13 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.
14 ¶ “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.
15 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.
16 ¶ “Fathers shall not be put to death for their children, nor shall children be put to death for their fathers; a person shall be put to death for his own sin.
17 ¶ “You shall not pervert justice due the stranger or the fatherless, nor take a widow’s garment as a pledge.
18 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.
19 ¶ “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.
20 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.
21 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.
22 And you shall remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt; therefore I command you to do this thing.

Some criminal and civil laws:

While the Hebrews were the covenant people (their relationship with God), it is interesting to note the provisions made in the Law of Moses for foreigners. Notice verses 17, 18, 20 and 21. As a matter of fact, notice Deuteronomy 10:19 (see notes), "Love ye therefore the stranger: for ye were strangers in the land of Egypt." This generosity stopped short, however, of ever being king over Israelites (Deuteronomy 17:15, see notes), and a Hebrew COULD charge interest on a loan to a stranger, but NOT a fellow Hebrew (Deuteronomy 23:20, see notes). Another interesting provision for the foreigner living among the Hebrews was that he could be given certain foods to eat that were unclean to the Hebrews and forbidden (Deuteronomy 14:21, see notes).

Ouch! Forty will do! (Deuteronomy 25:1-3)

1 “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,
2 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.
3 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 beatin' has an upper limit of 40 whacks. I guess that's some consolation. Rabbis in the first century decreed 39 stripes instead of 40; they wanted to be certain there was a margin for error so as to not exceed the letter of the law in case of a miscount. The Apostle Paul was so beaten five times according to his own words in II Corinthians 11:24 (see notes), "From the Jews five times I received forty stripes minus one." In the case of these Law-prescribed beatings, the judge was to oversee the beating as the beatee was to lie, face down, on the ground for the punishment.

Let the oxen eat while they work! (Deuteronomy 25:4)

4 ¶ “You shall not muzzle an ox while it treads out the grain.

Paul makes reference to this verse when talking about preachers getting paid in I Timothy 5:18 (see notes), "For the Scripture says, 'You shall not muzzle an ox while it treads out the grain,' and, 'The laborer is worthy of his wages.'" Paul also quotes this verse in I Corinthians 9:9 (see notes), "For it is written in the law of Moses, 'You shall not muzzle an ox while it treads out the grain.' Is it oxen God is concerned about?"

But I don't want my brother's wife! (Deuteronomy 25:5-10)

5 ¶ “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.
6 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.
7 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.’
8 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,’
9 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.’
10 And his name shall be called in Israel, “The house of him who had his sandal removed.’

In Israel, it was your family obligation after your brother's untimely death to take his wife and give her an opportunity to bear a child. So, you refuse? Better get ready for some public humiliation front of the whole city. The dead brother's name would be continued through the birth of the son conceived under this provision of the Law.

This procedure was not new under Mosaic Law. We first get a glimpse of this brotherly responsibility in Genesis 38 (see notes) with Judah and his first son, Er. We then see this scenario played out between Ruth and Boaz in the Book of Ruth (see notes). Some have sought to make this law socially compatible with contemporary standards by specifying that the obligation existed only when the brother had not previously married prior to his brother's death. There is no scriptural evidence to support this notion. In fact, providing an heir was the issue here. The widow needed an heir for her dead husband, and the remaining brother was obligated to provide that heir in his brother's name - without regard to the one or more wives he might already have. In Hebrew culture, marriages under these circumstances are known as "levirate" marriages.

A property-rights issue is probably in view here. If a widow without children marries outside of her husband's clan, that portion of the family inheritance of land may end up in the hands of another clan. This insures that the property stays where it was intended. Incidentally, the special circumstances of this law overrides the stipulations of Leviticus 18:16 (see notes) and Leviticus 20:21 (see notes). Both of those passages forbid one from marrying his brother's wife.

Jesus touches on the provisions of this law when asked a question by the Sadducees (Matthew 22:23-33; Mark 12:18-27; Luke 20:27-40 - see notes).

Wives, stay out of your husband's fight! (Deuteronomy 25:11-12)

11 ¶ “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,
12 then you shall cut off her hand; your eye shall not pity her.

Ouch! A wife can lose a hand by coming to the aid of her husband in a fight...if she's not careful. Punch, kick, bite, scratch if she likes, but she must be careful about the bodily location of her aggression.

Don't you dare pull out those phony scales! (Deuteronomy 25:13-16)

13 ¶ “You shall not have in your bag differing weights, a heavy and a light.
14 You shall not have in your house differing measures, a large and a small.
15 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.
16 For all who do such things, all who behave unrighteously, are an abomination to the LORD your God.

Inaccurate scales are illegal, and it's illegal to cheat someone by deliberately falsely weighing the product. Interesting...consumer protection laws even back then. Specifically, if one were buying, he might have pulled out a heavier weight to balance it on his scales against the product he was purchasing - getting more for his money. On the other hand, if he were selling, he might pull out the lesser weight against which he balanced the product, thus giving less product for the purchase price. That was illegal under Mosaic Law.

We're never forgetting Amalek! (Deuteronomy 25:17-19)

17 ¶ “Remember what Amalek did to you on the way as you were coming out of Egypt,
18 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.
19 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.

The Amalekites...they hate us, and we're not crazy about them. Remember when God judged Israel for refusing to go take Canaan after the return of the 12 spies in Numbers 14. They decided to try to reverse God's judgment by going up against the Amalekites into Canaan by their own might and were thoroughly whipped in battle (Number 14:39-45, see notes). However, the reference here looks back to their immediate exodus from Egypt when the Amalekites dogged them in Exodus 17:8-13 (see notes). That was Israel's first big battle, and they prevailed. But wait! That's still not enough! This revives under Saul in I Samuel 15 (see notes) when he goes after the Amalekites...and he's motivated by this very command.

According to the Jewish Study Bible, "These verses are read liturgically on the Sabbath before Purim, since according to Jewish tradition, Haman, the evil protagonist of Esther, is an Amalekite (see 1 Sam. 15:8 and Esth. 8:3)."

Tithes and offerings...with a little ceremony to boot (Deuteronomy 26:1-15)

1 “And it shall be, when you come into the land which the LORD your God is giving you as an inheritance, and you possess it and dwell in it,
2 that you shall take some of the first of all the produce of the ground, which you shall bring from your land that the LORD your God is giving you, and put it in a basket and go to the place where the LORD your God chooses to make His name abide.
3 And you shall go to the one who is priest in those days, and say to him, “I declare today to the LORD your God that I have come to the country which the LORD swore to our fathers to give us.’
4 ¶ “Then the priest shall take the basket out of your hand and set it down before the altar of the LORD your God.
5 And you shall answer and say before the LORD your God: “My father was a Syrian, about to perish, and he went down to Egypt and dwelt there, few in number; and there he became a nation, great, mighty, and populous.
6 But the Egyptians mistreated us, afflicted us, and laid hard bondage on us.
7 Then we cried out to the LORD God of our fathers, and the LORD heard our voice and looked on our affliction and our labor and our oppression.
8 So the LORD brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand and with an outstretched arm, with great terror and with signs and wonders.
9 He has brought us to this place and has given us this land, “a land flowing with milk and honey”;
10 and now, behold, I have brought the firstfruits of the land which you, O LORD, have given me.’ ¶ “Then you shall set it before the LORD your God, and worship before the LORD your God.
11 So you shall rejoice in every good thing which the LORD your God has given to you and your house, you and the Levite and the stranger who is among you.
12 ¶ “When you have finished laying aside all the tithe of your increase in the third year—the year of tithing—and have given it to the Levite, the stranger, the fatherless, and the widow, so that they may eat within your gates and be filled,
13 then you shall say before the LORD your God: “I have removed the holy tithe from my house, and also have given them to the Levite, the stranger, the fatherless, and the widow, according to all Your commandments which You have commanded me; I have not transgressed Your commandments, nor have I forgotten them.
14 I have not eaten any of it when in mourning, nor have I removed any of it for an unclean use, nor given any of it for the dead. I have obeyed the voice of the LORD my God, and have done according to all that You have commanded me.
15 Look down from Your holy habitation, from heaven, and bless Your people Israel and the land which You have given us, just as You swore to our fathers, “a land flowing with milk and honey.” ’

They were not to just take their offerings and leave - had to recite to the officiating priest the history lesson of their people going back to Jacob, the Aramean/Syrian (verses 5-9). This all took place back at the location of the tabernacle. Every third year the tithe was taken and given for the provision of the poor and Levites (verse 12) - probably not taken to the central location of the tabernacle, but to a place designated by each tribe. There was a ritual saying that went with this offering as well (verses 13-15) which offered a commitment to God and expressed thankfulness for his provisions. Again, notice that this was a mandatory tithe which, in effect, was how the government provided for the needs of their government servants and poor.

For more on this every-third-year tithe, see the notes on Deuteronomy 14:22-29.

The final word on these statutes (Deuteronomy 26:16-19)

16 ¶ “This day the LORD your God commands you to observe these statutes and judgments; therefore you shall be careful to observe them with all your heart and with all your soul.
17 Today you have proclaimed the LORD to be your God, and that you will walk in His ways and keep His statutes, His commandments, and His judgments, and that you will obey His voice.
18 Also today the LORD has proclaimed you to be His special people, just as He promised you, that you should keep all His commandments,
19 and that He will set you high above all nations which He has made, in praise, in name, and in honor, and that you may be a holy people to the LORD your God, just as He has spoken.”

The second giving of the Law is now complete. These four verses cap it off with an exhortation to adhere carefully to the stipulations of the covenant the Lord has established with the Hebrews. The special status of the Hebrew people before God is once again stated in these verses.

Setting up an awesome sight! (Deuteronomy 27)Photo of Mt. Gerizim and Mt. Ebal

1 Now Moses, with the elders of Israel, commanded the people, saying: “Keep all the commandments which I command you today.
2 And it shall be, on the day when you cross over the Jordan to the land which the LORD your God is giving you, that you shall set up for yourselves large stones, and whitewash them with lime.
3 You shall write on them all the words of this law, when you have crossed over, that you may enter the land which the LORD your God is giving you, “a land flowing with milk and honey,’ just as the LORD God of your fathers promised you.
4 Therefore it shall be, when you have crossed over the Jordan, that on Mount Ebal you shall set up these stones, which I command you today, and you shall whitewash them with lime.
5 And there you shall build an altar to the LORD your God, an altar of stones; you shall not use an iron tool on them.
6 You shall build with whole stones the altar of the LORD your God, and offer burnt offerings on it to the LORD your God.
7 You shall offer peace offerings, and shall eat there, and rejoice before the LORD your God.
8 And you shall write very plainly on the stones all the words of this law.”
9 ¶ Then Moses and the priests, the Levites, spoke to all Israel, saying, “Take heed and listen, O Israel: This day you have become the people of the LORD your God.
10 Therefore you shall obey the voice of the LORD your God, and observe His commandments and His statutes which I command you today.”
11 ¶ And Moses commanded the people on the same day, saying,
12 “These shall stand on Mount Gerizim to bless the people, when you have crossed over the Jordan: Simeon, Levi, Judah, Issachar, Joseph, and Benjamin;
13 and these shall stand on Mount Ebal to curse: Reuben, Gad, Asher, Zebulun, Dan, and Naphtali.
14 ¶ “And the Levites shall speak with a loud voice and say to all the men of Israel:
15 “Cursed is the one who makes a carved or molded image, an abomination to the LORD, the work of the hands of the craftsman, and sets it up in secret.’ ¶ “And all the people shall answer and say, ‘Amen!’
16 ¶ “Cursed is the one who treats his father or his mother with contempt.’ ¶ “And all the people shall say, ‘Amen!’
17 ¶ “Cursed is the one who moves his neighbor’s landmark.’ ¶ “And all the people shall say, ‘Amen!’
18 ¶ “Cursed is the one who makes the blind to wander off the road.’ ¶ “And all the people shall say, ‘Amen!’
19 ¶ “Cursed is the one who perverts the justice due the stranger, the fatherless, and widow.’ ¶ “And all the people shall say, ‘Amen!’
20 ¶ “Cursed is the one who lies with his father’s wife, because he has uncovered his father’s bed.’ ¶ “And all the people shall say, ‘Amen!’
21 ¶ “Cursed is the one who lies with any kind of animal.’ ¶ “And all the people shall say, ‘Amen!’
22 ¶ “Cursed is the one who lies with his sister, the daughter of his father or the daughter of his mother.’ ¶ “And all the people shall say, ‘Amen!’
23 ¶ “Cursed is the one who lies with his mother-in-law.’ ¶ “And all the people shall say, ‘Amen!’
24 ¶ “Cursed is the one who attacks his neighbor secretly.’ ¶ “And all the people shall say, ‘Amen!’
25 ¶ “Cursed is the one who takes a bribe to slay an innocent person.’ ¶ “And all the people shall say, ‘Amen!’
26 ¶ “Cursed is the one who does not confirm all the words of this law.’ ¶ “And all the people shall say, ‘Amen!’ ”

Remember the Gerizim/Ebal (see map) service we talked about in Deuteronomy 11 (see notes) with 2,000,000+ Hebrews shouting their acceptance of the cursings and blessings of the law? Here are some more specific instructions about how this event is to take place, which doesn't actually happen until Joshua 8. Hey! Be patient; it takes time to put together a 2,000,000-voice choir. The actual event takes place in Joshua 8:29-35 (see notes). It'll be an earth-shaking vocal experience!

The advance team will write "all the words of this law" (verse 3) upon stones on the other side of Jordan before this big event. These two mountain tops are about one mile apart over on the Canaan side of the Jordan River. Half of the Hebrew tribes will stand on Mount Ebal (Reuben, Gad, and Asher, and Zebulun, Dan, and Naphtali); the other half will stand on Mount Gerizim (Simeon, and Levi, and Judah, and Issachar, and Joseph, and Benjamin:). The Levites will read the curses, and the people on the mountains will cry "amen." Verses 15-26 list those curses which are to be read at that big gathering. We'll see the reading of the blessings with additional curses in Deuteronomy 28 (see notes).