December 21, 2015.
Daily Reading: Deuteronomy 20-22.
Background: Deuteronomy 16-19.
Concepts and Connections.
Laws of warfare: In this chapter, Moses gives the children of Israel laws concerning warfare. There are three different categories of these laws. The first is that the children of Israel are not to be afraid when they go to war against their enemies, for the Lord their God is on their side, and when He fights for them, none can stand against them. Going even further, Moses gives a way to even cut down the number of men that go out to war from Israel by sending those back who have just built a new house by not dedicated it, planted a vineyard but not ate of its fruit or taken a wife and not consummated the marriage yet. Further, any who were afraid or fainthearted were to be sent back as well. It didn’t matter how many people were in the army of Israel so long as the Lord fought for them.
The second category of laws concerning warfare had to do with the actual battles that the children of Israel would have against their enemies. Whenever they went out to make war against a city in general, they were to first offer a treaty of peace to the city, that the city might have a chance to surrender to Israel before they had to go to battle with them. If they accepted the peace, they would be put to forced labor and serve Israel. If the city rejected the peace offering, however, Israel was to besiege it and take the plunder and spoil when the Lord gave the city into their hands. This was the general guidelines for war for those cities and peoples that were far from them, not the inhabitants of the land that the Lord was giving them. These nations the people of Israel were to totally devote to destruction as the Lord had commanded, so that they would not lead the children of Israel into the abominable practices that they partook in. This was a protection against Israel and their spiritual fidelity, for the Lord knew that if they mingled with these people, their hearts would be lead astray to sin against the Lord their God.
Finally, the last category of laws concerning warfare given in this chapter deals with the trees that are surrounding the city they are besieging. The children of Israel were not to cut down any trees that bear fruit, for they were not fighting against trees, but against humans. This seems to be a word of wisdom to not use the fruit trees for siegeworks, for the army could use the fruit for food during the siege. Any trees that did not bear fruit they could cut down and build siegeworks against the city.
Atonement, family laws and the hanging curse: This chapter addresses several different concepts and laws that the children of Israel were to abide by to follow the will of the Lord. The first was about atonement for unsolved murders. If a person was found slain in the country and there was no way of finding out who killed the person, then the elders and judges were to come out and measure the distance to the nearest city. Then the elders of that city were to bring the heifer that had never been worked or pulled a yoke and break its neck in a valley of running water that they might atone for the sin of Israel. It is important to note here that the sin of murder was still upon Israel and needed to be atoned for even if the murderer was unknown. They needed to purge the guilt from their midst.
Then laws are given concerning female captives. Though these laws may not set well with those in a different time and culture, they actually should be seen as a protective measure for the women who were taken as captives, especially during this time period. Whenever a female captive was taken to be a wife, she was to be given different clothes and allowed to lament her father and mother in her new house for a full month before she could be taken as a wife. Afterwards, the man could not sell her or take her as a slave if he no longer delighted in her, for he had humiliated her, and she was to be allowed to go out wherever she wanted.
If a man had two wives, but loved one more than the other, if the unloved wife bore his first son, the man was not allowed to despise that child because he was the child of the unloved wife. Rather, he was to treat him in all respects as his firstborn, giving to him the rights and inheritance of a firstborn son.
Finally, this chapter gives a couple of short laws that hold a lot of weight. First, if there was a stubborn and rebellious son who did not obey the voice of his father and mother, but rather remained in sin, he was to be brought before the elders of the city. Then the son was to be stoned by the city so that the evil would be purged from their midst. Similarly, anyone who was sentenced to death by hanging on a tree, the body of that person was not to remain on the tree all night, for a hanged man is cursed by God. Paul tells us that Christ uses this principle to redeem us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us though His death upon the tree (see Galatians 3:10-14).
1. Various laws: The first half of this chapter goes through various laws dealing with different aspects of life. First we see that helping others was to be a primary concern for the children of Israel, as they were to help whenever they saw their bother’s ox or sheep going astray or fallen down by the way. They were not to ignore the problem, but rather do what they could so that the animal would be returned to their brother. In the same lines of social justice and love for their fellow man, a few verses later deals with making a barrier on their roofs to prevent people from falling off by accident. Cross dressing is condemned in this chapter along with mixing two kinds of seeds, animal work or linen and wool. No one was to take a mother bird and her eggs, but rather they were to let the mother go free. Finally, they were to make tassels on the four corners of their garment that they cover themselves with.
2. Sexual Immorality: The second half of this chapter deals with laws concerning sexual immorality. First, if a man takes a wife and then accuses her of not being a virgin (implying that she had committed fornication before she was given in marriage), then the daughter’s father was to show proof of her virginity, and if he could, then the man who accused her falsely was to be whipped and fined 100 shekels of silver. However, if the father could not prove his daughter’s virginity, then she was to be stoned, for she had committed fornication in her father’s house. Then adultery is condemned, and both the man and the woman were to be punished by death. If a man took a betrothed woman in the city and lay with her, they were both to be put to death (implying that the woman had not cried out for help to stop the immorality). However, if a man took a woman in the open country to rape her, and there was no one to rescue her, the man was to be put to death, for this was to be seen as the same as attacking and murdering your neighbor. If a man raped a woman who was not betrothed, he was to give 50 shekels of silver to her father and take the woman as his wife. He was never allowed to divorce her. This was a protective measure for the woman who was violated, as she would likely have no way to support herself for the rest of her life is she was raped. This is why the man was never allowed to divorce her, but was obligated to care and provide for her for the rest of her life. Finally, a man was not to take his father’s wife.
Tomorrow’s Reading: Nehemiah 1-6.