Deuteronomy 25:13-16

Key Verse(s):

Deuteronomy 25:15 (CSB)

15 You must have a full and honest weight, a full and honest dry measure, so that you may live long in the land the Lord your God is giving you.

Reflection/Application:

This is a pretty straightforward passage, but it deals with a difficult topic.

It would seem odd to think that God’s command here is literally concerned with the ownership of differing weights and measures. It seems obvious, considering the tie to “acting unfairly” in Deut. 25:16, that the real issue is an attitude of the heart: and issue of honesty. After all, the weights and measures themselves are not “sin”, and simply having them does not constitute sin. It is the use of such items, in a way that is dishonest, that is in fact sin.

So it seems logical that the ownership of such items, with the intent to use them dishonestly, is what God is addressing here. And, it is not a far stretch to then arrive at the conclusion that such items should, in fact, not be owned! It seems quite intuitive that if we have such devices of dishonesty, we have nefarious intentions. We do not, intuitively, think that one who possesses drug paraphernalia possesses it without intention to use it!

Conversely, in Deut. 25:15, it seems absurd to think that the literal ownership of a “full and honest” weight and measure is mandatory to enjoy God’s gift of the promised land for any length of time. Again, the message here is the application of honest dealings. This seems a quite useful “guardrail” of sorts in our lives today. If we acquire items, skills, and acquaintances that enable us to behave and act deceptively, we put ourselves in a position to exercise those things and do just that. But if we acquire honest tools, skills, and acquaintances, we place ourselves in a position to pursue, follow through, and exercise those values, just as God commands.

Prayer:

Lord, thank you for providing us simple, intuitive, guidelines to live by. The pressures of the world constantly batter us, and tempt us, to join in those sinful activities, and I am sorry for joining in those activities and attitudes. I pray that you would embolden us to remain in you, and live lives that honor and glorify you. Amen.

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Deuteronomy 25:5-12

Key Verse(s):

Deuteronomy 25:6 (CSB)

6 The first son she bears will carry on the name of the dead brother, so his name will not be blotted out from Israel.

Reflection/Application:

This passage appears to be concerned primarily with the preservation of the family line of God’s people. Perhaps it is a related extension of the previous passage, continuing the idea of fairness, but in the context of continuing and protecting the family line.

It must be said that the commands here seem completely foreign to a modern western mind. But, if taken in the context of the time, it would seem the command is a provision for the well-being of the widow, and a retention of the family estate.

Additionally, there may be an aspect here that helps the brother not be consumed by greed. After all, taking his brother’s wife would cost him something. And then to have a child, and raise that child, would also cost him something. And in the end, his brothers estate would not be his, but be passed to his brother’s son, who would have actually been his own blood son. Greed would have him simply absorb his brothers estate, cast out the widow, and never take on the responsibility of children to carry on his brother’s name. But God’s command expects otherwise, and urges us to stand against that sin of greed.

Finally, Deut. 25:11-12 seem very out of place here, and flat out odd. One possible way to tie this back into the rest of the pericope could be the idea that when the woman “grabs his genitals,” she could do some sort of real damage which prevents the man from continuing his own family line, in which case the penalty would be quite severe, as is in line with the penalty stated of cutting off the hand.

Prayer:

Lord, thank you for preserving your people, for putting in place protections not just to continue on the family lines of your children, but for putting in place commands that would help us to turn from sins like greed and selfishness, and towards grace and mercy. I am sorry for the many times I’ve put myself first, with no regard for your children. I pray for the compassion, the heart, to put others first, and to have a servant heart like you do. Amen.

Deuteronomy 25:1-4

Key Verse(s):

Deuteronomy 25:4 (CSB)

4 “Do not muzzle an ox while it treads out grain.

Reflection/Application:

I like this passage. We see here both sides of justice, and we have much to learn from it.

On one hand we see that punishment is, at a minimum, condoned by God, but seemingly commanded by God due to the notion of a flogging being “deserved” (v2). It is easy to forget, due to the mercy of God, that he is also perfectly just and demands and exacts punishment for sin. Therefore we should not be surprised to read this description of a man found guilty enduring some form of punishment.

But on the other hand it is perfectly clear that there is a fairness and mercy that comes into play. We should note a few things concerning the doling out of punishment:

  1. The case itself is heard by a court. The guilt of the man is to be determined based upon evidence in court. This is an absolute protection from false accusations.
  2. The punishment is relative to the crime. Deut. 25:2 says the punishment is “the number of lashes appropriate for his crime.” There is a protection from wanton revenge and abuse for the guilty party.
  3. There is an absolute maximum to the penalty. There is a threshold, apparently, when a penalty exceeds what should be exacted due to the integrity and innate honor of a child of God. Duet. 25:3 notes that a greater punishment would cause the person to be “degraded in your sight.” They would be less than what they are in our sight, yet they have not lost their status of a being created in the image of God, thus the punishment must be tempered.

Finally, the last verse of the passage, seemingly a very odd shift, completes the thought. I don’t think we should focus so much on the literal meaning of not muzzling a working ox, instead we should recognize that the protection of one of the beasts, the ox, a creature not created in God’s image, means we should expect even more concern and protection for man, God’s treasured creation.

Prayer:

Lord, thank you for protecting and having mercy on us! We may not escape punishment, and although it is hard to accept, I pray we learn and grow closer to you through such reprimands. But no matter what you show your grace and mercy through tempering our punishment, and it culminates in your acceptance of our ultimate punishment by going to the cross on our behalf… thank you! Amen.

Deuteronomy 24:10-22

Key Verse(s):

Deuteronomy 24:16 (CSB)

16 “Fathers are not to be put to death for their children, and children are not to be put to death for their fathers; each person will be put to death for his own sin.

Reflection/Application:

Here we have a bit longer passage compared to the previous number of passages. It is likely no coincidence that this pericope addresses the treatment of the poor or needy.

The majority of the passage addresses the right way to treat others, specifically when one is in a position of power financially in relation to the other person. There a few themes we should recognize:

  1. Our focus should be on the well-being of others, and satisfying our obligations to them. When wages are owed to a worker they should be paid. Specifically when we aware of the dire need of that worker, the wages should be paid daily so that they have no complaint against us. Although it is less common in the west, it is still not unheard of for someone to survive on daily wages, thus if they are not paid daily, they do not eat daily. Our duty is to pay those wages rather than withhold them, as our desire should be to be fair and ensure their well-being by satisfying our end of the deal.
  2. Similarly, we should have our greed in check. Rather than harvest to an extent that nothing remains in the field, the trees, or on the vines, we should allow normal remains after a harvest for those in need. This is not to say that we should not harvest, nor even that we should do a “poor” job of harvesting. It implies that we should not be so consumed with getting for ourselves that we strip everything bare. The normal fruits and grains that are inevitably missed, left, and dropped, are to be left for those in need to gather themselves. Perhaps this becomes less viable in the modern world with so much mechanized farming, but the spirit of the command should remain: do not be consumed with greed to squeeze all we can out of what we have been given, but allow the normal overflow to be worked by those in need.
  3. Respect our fellow man. Notice that Deut. 24:10-13 does not tell us to avoid loans, or even to forego accepting security for a loan. But instead it outlines how that security should be collected and kept. The concern here is clearly for the integrity and honor of the borrower, to secure their equal status before God as his child. Not only that, but there should be enough respect and compassion that if the borrower was so poor that they had to offer their garment, presumably a robe or cloak, that it should be returned to sleep in as protection from the elements. So this is not a passage about extortion, it is about the worth of our brothers and sisters.

Finally, Deut. 24:16 seems a bit out of place wedged in the middle here. But, I think the significance here actually builds upon the previous verses that focused on honor and respect. What seems to be important here is that the individual is responsible before God. And I think this reinforces the notion that we owe our brothers and sisters honor and respect, for they are accountable before God, just as we are.

Prayer:

Lord, thank you for creating us each in your image. I thank you for your fingerprint upon each of us, and I am sorry for not always treating others with the respect and honor they are due as your creation and child. I pray that I would see people more like you see them. Amen.

Deuteronomy 24:6-9

Key Verse(s):

Deuteronomy 24:7 (CSB)

7 “If a man is discovered kidnapping one of his Israelite brothers, whether he treats him as a slave or sells him, the kidnapper must die. You must purge the evil from you.

Reflection/Application:

Perhaps fittingly, following the passage where God establishes commands to safeguard his creation of marriage, we read the passage concerned with protecting the most valuable gift: life. We see this played out in two ways.

  1. First we see the prohibition on taking a millstone as security for a debt or loan. When we realize the agrarian nature of Israel, this becomes clear to us. If one has no way of taking their crops and turning it into something useful, either for sale, or for survival, then their livelihood has been taken. Note that this does not preclude a security to be taken for a debt, but it restricts what that security should consist of. This command seems to fall in line with the equitable treatment of each other found throughout.
  2. Next we read the penalty for kidnapping is death. We may want to push back some, due to our modern “sensibilities”, but it is hard to argue the severity of such a crime, and the evil intentions that go along with it. After all, how often are people kidnapped to provide a better life for the victim? Surely this command is not addressing some fringe example of one “kidnapping” a child to rescue them from an abusive situation or something like that. So, when one is kidnapped, the penalty is the same as such serious crimes as murder: death. Nor should we be surprised, the destruction of a life calls for the penalty of a life.

In the CSB translation this pericope includes Deut. 24:8-9. It seems to me these two verses better belong with the next passage, but one could see a connection with this “Safeguarding Life” pericope as well. We can see it both in the reminder of care to be taken with those who are diseased, realizing that if care was not taken it could be a health risk for those involved. Also, Deut. 24:9 serves as a reminder of the severity of coming against God and his chosen leaders.

Prayer:

Lord, thank you for your concern for our lives. We may be insignificant in comparison to you, but we are not insignificant to you. I pray that such commands as found in this passage would cease to be realized, that we would come to you fully, and avoid such crimes. Please guide our nation, and each of us individually, to honor the life that you create and give. Amen.

Deuteronomy 24:1-5

Key Verse(s):

Deuteronomy 24:5 (CSB)

5 “When a man takes a bride, he must not go out with the army or be liable for any duty. He is free to stay at home for one year, so that he can bring joy to the wife he has married.

Reflection/Application:

This is one of those pericopes that I think can be taken out of historical context and read into in a way that undermines the spirit of the text. It is easy to get caught up in seeing this as some sort of approval of male chauvinism, or women being treated as property and having no rights, but again, I think that undermines the point of the passage, especially when considered in historical context.

  • We should first recognize that divorce is contrary to God’s plan, as stated in the NT (Matt 19:6). So, understanding that, along with the absence of any sort of pro-divorce text here, we must assume that this command is of a regulatory nature, likely to curb and control an abused man-made practice.
  • During a time when women apparently had little power among society, it is interesting that this passage does take strides to protect the woman. Notice that the husband who divorces must do so due to something “indecent about her”. This is not a convenience divorce, or something just because he is tired of his wife. It would seem that this is more serious, not to the extent of adultery, as that would have carried the penalty of death, but still something “indecent” and presumably serious. Additionally, the verse tacked on at the end of this pericope, sends a clear message that the wife is also to be protected and attended to. Notice the focus of Deut. 24:5 is not the husband’s, but the wife’s joy. Surely this would have been counter-cultural for this time period and region.
  • Finally, the prohibition of the woman returning to her first husband is intriguing. I am not sure I totally get it. Perhaps it is just a literal “no-no”, and to be divorced from a husband means that is final, and coming together again is simply not acceptable. I also wonder if there is some sort of spiritual aspect to this, symbolic of the idea that someone committed to God, who then turns away from him to seek after false gods, becomes separated from God. I’m not sure the picture is perfect, but it at least conveys the seriousness of the action.

Prayer:

Lord, thank you for the blessing of marriage, and the commands to guide us in working on, and being dedicated to, our marriage. I pray that those who enter into such commitments would do so with a lifelong view of it, and keep you front and center in their marriage. Help us not to seek the easy way out, the world’s way, divorce, but instead to follow you in working for the marriage you designed. Amen.

Deuteronomy 23:24-25

Key Verse(s):

Deuteronomy 23:24 (CSB)

24 “When you enter your neighbor’s vineyard, you may eat as many grapes as you want until you are full, but do not put any in your container.

Reflection/Application:

This two verse pericope continues the relational focus, but his time from a theft and grace perspective. There are, I think, two main points here.

  1. This is certainly a command against theft. Clearly to arrive with a container and fill it with grapes, or use a sickle to harvest wheat, would be considered theft of another’s property. What is interesting is the allowance of eating “on demand” while in a neighbors vineyard or field. Certainly there must be a differentiation of intent involved here. On the one hand, it would seem that partaking of a neighbor’s fruits is acceptable when not premeditated and when used to satisfy current conditions. As such, it would seem logical that this would be occasional occurrences, perhaps during trips, or some other sort of irregular events. It would seem contrary to the spirit of the pericope to think that anything actually hinges on the use of a container or sickle themselves, as if going daily to a neighbor’s field, three times a day for every meal, and eating one’s fill is somehow permissible by this command. It would seem the intent is truly what is important here, and if the intent is to abuse the grace of one’s neighbor, then that would, in fact, be breaking this command.
  2. It would seem that this command instills a sense of grace and service on the part of the field or vineyard owner. To know that the crops God has blessed you with are freely available to one who may be in need while passing through, and not be concerned with “getting mine”, is freeing. It shows a recognition that God is the provider, not man and his works.

Lastly, this pericope reminds us of the story of Jesus and his disciples walking through a grain field in Mark 2:23-28 (other accounts in Matthew 12:1-8 and Luke 6:1-5). The disciples pick grain, crush it in their hands, and eat it. The Pharisees accuse them of breaking the law, but specifically by doing something unlawful on the Sabbath. Clearly if what they were doing was theft, the Sabbath would have nothing to with it, theft was simply unlawful. But what they were referring to was the disciples “working” by picking and crushing the grain. So what we see even in the New Testament, is the spirit of this command, to allow for the consumption, while passing through on a non-regular event, to satisfy one’s hunger.

Prayer:

Lord, thank you for providing for us in abundance! And you do so in so many ways: quite often through the work of our own hands, but sometimes through the work of others. And just as you extend grace to us, we should extend grace to others, and at the same time we should not abuse or take advantage, but honor the guidelines of your provision. Help us to develop an intent in everything we do that resembles you and your will, while we extend grace to others in the same way you have to us. Amen.