March 7 Reading: Deuteronomy 24-27 Commentary
“Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.” (Gen. 2:24)
“Therefore what God has joined together, let not man separate.” (Matt. 19:6)
Deuteronomy 24 – Divorce and More Miscellaneous Laws
God instituted marriage in Gen. 2:24. He declared to Adam and Eve: “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.” That union was to be for life. God never desired for a man and woman to get divorced, as noted by Jesus in Matt 19:6: “Therefore what God has joined together, let not man separate.”
But in Deut. 24:1-4, Moses discussed how a man could issue his wife a certificate of divorce, for “uncleanliness”. The nature of that uncleanliness is not specified. And in the end, men could use this procedure to divorce their wife for any reason. Men had ultimate authority over women. Such was the nature of the social culture at that time.
When the Pharisees asked Jesus why this was allowed to happen (Matt. 19:7), he responded by saying: “Moses, because of the hardness of your hearts, permitted you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so” (Matt. 19:8).
This certificate was a legal document that gave rights to the woman once she was divorced. It allowed her to remarry (v. 2). So once again, God showed compassion towards those rejected by society in some way.
A section of various laws is included in verses 5-22. Some of the more interesting laws include the following:
1. A newly married man was free from going to war for one year so that he could “bring happiness to his wife” (v. 5).
2. People were not to be deprived of an upper or lower millstone (v. 6). When combined, these served as an essential household instrument for grinding grain into flour. Without either of them, a family could not provide for themselves.
3. Kidnappers faced the death penalty (v. 7).
4. The privacy of a debtor who offered a pledge (vv. 10-11) and their ability to provide for their family (vv. 12-13) was to be respected.
5. A master needed to respect his servants and not withhold wages from them (vv. 14-15).
6. Everyone was responsible for their own sin. “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.” (v. 16).
7. If you did not harvest some of your field or vineyard, the rest was left for “the stranger, the fatherless, and the widow” (vv. 19-22).
Deuteronomy 25 – Family Responsibility
In ancient times, having an heir to carry on the family name meant everything. But if a married man died without a son and left a widow behind, what then? What would happen to her and what would happen to his family line with no heir?
In that case, she would most likely become a beggar and an outcast of society. Furthermore, the family line would end. But God foresaw both of these challenges and provided a way for both to not occur.
In the event this happened, the husband’s brother was to step in and take the widow as his wife (v. 5). The firstborn son they would bear together would take the name of the deceased brother. It worked this way so that “his name may not be blotted out of Israel” (v. 6).
Although this was legally required to keep the family name alive, a man could refuse for his own reasons. In that case, a public hearing occurred with the elders of the city. If the man stood firm, 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.’” (v. 9).
The risk of this public disgrace drove most men to abide by the law. Otherwise, he was in danger of losing his own standing in the community (v. 10).
Two Interesting Laws
Two other interesting laws are found in this chapter. The first is in verse 4 where we read:
“You shall not muzzle an ox while it treads out the grain.”
In other words, let the animal eat while it works. It speaks to kindness and proper care of animals. But Paul would later use this law as an analogy for supporting those who work in the ministry (I Cor. 9:9-10; I Tim. 5:17-18).
Additionally, there is a law about not cheating others by using weights to tip the scales in one’s favor depending on whether you were buying or selling:
“You shall not have in your bag differing weights, a heavy and a light….You shall have a perfect and just weight, a perfect and just measure…” (vv. 13-15).
Deuteronomy 26 – Tithes and Offerings
Why was it important that Israel offer the first fruit of the ground to the Lord (v. 2)? Why not wait until later in the year when you could be sure the crops had come in and you had enough food? That seems like the more prudent thing to do.
However, God wanted them to exercise trust in him. That is what this expressed. They gave to God first without knowing if the rest of the harvest would actually come in. It brought memories of what God had done for them (vv. 5-9) and showed their faith in his provision for their present needs. In this they could worship and rejoice, knowing that God was looking out for them (vv. 10-11)
“The earth is the Lord’s, and all its fullness, the world and those who dwell therein.“ That verse from Psalms 24:1 highlights why they gave then and why we give now. Everything in the world belongs to God and we are simply stewards of it. We give in appreciation for all He’s given us.
Deuteronomy 27 – A Cursing Ceremony
Just in case they might forget, God directed Moses and the elders to set up large stones, whitewash them with lime and write the words of the law on them (v. 3). These stones were set up on Mount Ebal (v. 4) near Shechem in the center of Canaan. An altar was also built nearby for sacrifices (vv. 5-8).
Then an interesting ceremony took place. In essence, it was for the people to renew their covenant with God. Half of the tribes (Simeon, Levi, Judah, Issachar, Joseph and Benjamin) stood on Mt. Gerizim. The other half (Reuben, Gad, Asher, Zebulunm, Dan and Naphtali) stood on Mt. Ebal.
What did they do at this ceremony? The tribes on Mt. Ebal shouted cursing statements at the tribes on Mt. Gerizim. In response, the tribes on Mt. Gerizim shouted “Amen!”, showing agreement with the statement.
Each begins with the words, “Cursed is the one who…” and then it lists the curse:
“…treats his father or his mother with contempt” (v. 16).
“…moves his neighbor’s landmark” (v. 17).
“…makes the blind to wander off the road” (v. 18).
“…perverts the justice due the stranger, the fatherless, and widow” (v. 19)
“…lies with his father’s wife, because he has uncovered his father’s bed” (v. 20).
“…lies with any kind of animal” (v. 21)
“…lies with his sister, the daughter of his father or the daughter of his mother” (v. 22)
“…lies with his mother-in-law” (v. 23).
“…attacks his neighbor secretly” (v. 24).
“…takes a bribe to slay an innocent person” (v. 25).
“…does not confirm all the words of this law by observing them” (v. 26).
That last all-encompassing verse was used by Paul to emphasize the importance of keeping the entire law (Gal. 3:10).
Questions to Consider:
How have you stepped up to take care of a family member?
Do you help financially support those who teach you the word?
“You shall rejoice in every good thing with the Lord your God has given to you…” – Deut. 26:11
God has blessed us with so much. He provides for our needs just like he provided for the nation of Israel. They expressed their thanks through the giving of tithes and offerings. How are you showing your gratitude to God for all he has done? Do you make it a practice of giving a tithe or offering to the Lord out of the increase of your wealth?
What other points would you want to know about in our Deuteronomy 24-27 commentary? Email us here with questions or comments.