March 6 Reading: Deuteronomy 21-23 Commentary

Below is our Deuteronomy 21-23 commentary from our Beginning to End Bible reading program. You can find an email link at the end of this page to share your thoughts or comments with us.

Key Verse(s):

“…so you shall put away the evil from among you…” (Deut. 21:9, 21; 22:21-22, 24)

Deuteronomy 21 – Murders, Captives, and Sons

commentaryDeuteronomy 21 begins a major section of the book that covers various laws. Many of these laws have no modern-day equivalent as they were meant for the people of that time. However, we can still learn a great deal about the people’s life and their relationship with God by studying them and draw application from some of the laws. We will note some of the more important ones in today and tomorrow’s reading. 

The biggest thing though to realize when it comes to these laws and their consequences is listed in today’s key verse section above. Multiple times in today’s reading, God instructed the people to take action and “purge” or “put away” evil from the camp. God knew that unaddressed sin would only spread and corrupt the people.

Yes, the consequences of sin were great. But inaction made things worse. That is why on occasion the measures are so drastic. 

For starters, God instructed the people what to do in the case of an unsolved murder. If someone was found laying in a field and there was no indication of who killed him, then the elders of the nearest town were to get involved (vv. 1-2). They took a heifer which had “not been worked and which [had] not pulled a yoke” (v. 3) down into the valley. The elders then broke the neck of the heifer and declared their town’s innocence of the murder (v. 4). The priests (Levites) were witnesses to this ritual (v. 5).

All of this so that the people would not be charged with shedding blood. It was atonement for the loss of life and the way to put the guilt of innocent blood behind them (vv. 8-9).

On Female Captives

God set standards in place for bringing home female captives from war and taking them as one’s wife. This was allowed but only after she had gone through a cleansing ritual and a one month mourning period for her family (vv. 12-13). They were to treat these women with dignity even if, after a time, the husband decided he no longer wanted her as his wife (v. 14).

Rebellious Sons

One interesting law details what God wanted them to do with a rebellious son. Stone him to death!

Now, this action wasn’t taken for minor rebellion that a son might demonstrate. This was only done for a son who had been immoral over a long period of time and whose parents had tried every means possible to correct his behavior (vv. 18-19). Additionally, the parents had to present their case publicly in front of all the elders. Undoubtedly, this served as one final attempt to get their son to repent (v. 20).

If he did not, then all the elders would bear the responsibility of the execution. The purpose of this drastic measure was to remove the sin and evil from among the people (v. 21).

And in case you are wondering, it does not appear there was a punishment for rebellious girls.

Deuteronomy 22 – Sexual Morality Laws

Moses lists some miscellaneous laws in Deut. 22. Then he includes a section specifically about sexual morality. Some of the laws in this section are highlighted below:

1. They could not ignore (“hide themselves from”) the problems of their neighbors (vv. 1-3).

2. God considered cross-dressing an abomination (v. 5).

3. They could not kill a bird if they found its nest on the ground (vv. 6-7).

4. Tassels were to be sown into the four corners of their garments (v. 12) (first mentioned in Numbers 15:37-41).

5. A man could not accuse his wife of shameful conduct (being a harlot) without cause (vv. 13-21).

6. If a man was found lying with a married woman, they were both to be put to death (v. 22).

7. If a man found a young woman who was not betrothed and had sexual relations with her, then he had to pay the father money and take her as his wife. He could not divorce her (vv. 28-29).

8. A man could not sleep with his father’s wife (v. 30). Incidentally, this was Reuben’s sin in Gen. 35.

Deuteronomy 23 – Exclusion Laws

Some individuals could not enter the assembly of the Lord. Those included people who had been emasculated and were of illegitimate birth (vv. 1-2). Additionally, Ammonites and Moabites are specifically called out as not being able to enter the assembly of the Lord (forever) (v. 3). This is because of how they treated Israel, specifically because they hired Balaam (Num. 22-24) to put a curse on Israel (vv. 4-6).

Several people groups would have access though during the third generation of children – the Edomites (“for he is your brother” – through Esau) and Egyptians (“because you were an alien in his land”)(vv. 7-8).

On Camp Cleanliness

Those going to battle were to keep themselves ritually clean (vv. 9-11). Additionally, they were to keep the camp clean of refuse by essentially digging latrines (vv. 12-13). All of this because:

“…the Lord your God walks in the midst of your camp, to deliver you and give your enemies over to you; therefore your camp shall be holy, that He may see no unclean thing among you, and turn away from you.” (v. 14)

Other Miscellaneous Laws

Other miscellaneous laws of note for the people included these:

“You shall not charge interest to your brother—interest on money or food or anything that is lent out at interest.” (v. 19)

“When you make a vow to the Lord your God, you shall not delay to pay it; for the Lord your God will surely require it of you…That which has gone from your lips you shall keep and perform…” (vv. 21, 23)

“When you come into your neighbor’s vineyard, you may eat your fill of grapes at your pleasure, but you shall not put any in your container.” (v. 24)

Questions to Consider:

We all have rocks in our life under which lie some ugly things we’d rather not talk about. But we cannot grow until those things are addressed and corrected. This is especially true when it comes to sin, which keeps us from drawing closer to God.

Is there unaddressed sin in your life that you need to put away? How is it impacting your thoughts and actions?

What other points would you want to know about in our Deuteronomy 21-23 commentary? Email us here with questions or comments.