Deuteronomy 23:9-14

Key Verse(s):

Deuteronomy 23:14 (CSB)

14 For the Lord your God walks throughout your camp to protect you and deliver your enemies to you; so your encampments must be holy. He must not see anything indecent among you or he will turn away from you.

Reflection/Application:

This passage contains a couple examples of acts that would be considered “offensive”, or “indecent”, and have to be handled a certain way lest God “turn away” from the Israelite soldiers that are encamped.

The first example given is of an involuntary emission of semen while sleeping. A command related to this was seen previously in Leviticus 15:16. The man is then unclean, and must remove himself from the encampment until he has bathed and evening comes. This is an involuntary action, it, as described, occurs during the night, while the soldier would be sleeping.

The second example is concerned with human excrement and the fact that it should be done outside camp, and it should be covered. Although there is no statement of uncleanliness here, it can be presumed that not following these rules would result in some sort of unclean state, whether spiritual or not! This is also an emission of sorts, but this is a voluntary emission. It does occur, but there is some form of control over when and where it happens.

In the end, it would seem that, even with acts that are not inherently sinful, we can become unclean either by the act itself, and are required to respond appropriately to be cleansed, or we are expected to take appropriate steps to ensure we do not defile the places God has appointed to remain pure. And, ultimately, it is God’s decision that determines what is, and is not, clean, and it is our duty to respond appropriately, lest God turn away from us, exposing us to our enemies.

Prayer:

Lord, thank you for not being a capricious God, but instead telling us what is clean, and what is not, and the steps we must take to be cleansed. I’m sorry for the times I decided what was appropriate, rather than observing your guidance. I pray that we would, no matter if our condition is the result of an involuntary or voluntary act, follow your resolutions and be cleansed and restored. Amen.

Deuteronomy 23:1-8

Key Verse(s):

Deuteronomy 23:2 (CSB)

2 No one of illegitimate birth may enter the Lord’s assembly; none of his descendants, even to the tenth generation, may enter the Lord’s assembly.

Reflection/Application:

At first read we might, as I did at first, think this passage is barring large swaths of people from being part of Israel in the sense of God’s people, whom he has entered a covenant relationship with. But, that is not what is said here, this passage appears to be specifically addressing attendance of the “assembly”: the gatherings for festivals and special worship. This certainly seems clear because it makes no sense to exclude an innocent child of an act of incest, for example, from being a part of the covenant community of Israel. Further, we eventually have the example of Ruth, a Moabite (Ruth 4:10), who becomes a part of the Israelite community.

So, instead, it would seem these restrictions are specifically concerning these special festivals and worship events. Why? It would seem that this is important to reinforce the difference between being a child of God versus the rest of the world. Deut. 23:1-2 address behavior that resembled pagan practices, and were thus prohibited from the assembly lest anyone think those pagan practices are somehow acceptable and pleasing to God. The bans on the enemies of Israel are easy to understand. One slight problem might stem from why the Egyptian later generations are treated differently, but it is addressed right in the passage by noting the different relationship. In the end, we must understand that being a member of the God’s covenant community does not automatically ensure participation in the assembly, nor does exclusion from the assembly necessitate an exclusion from the covenant community. Instead, these commands, it would seem, are about ensuring the assembly be representative of God and his people, and convey no sense of the pagan practices, nor perpetuate the attitudes of those who stood against God and/or his people.

Prayer:

Lord, thank you for always being the perfect standard! We might have a hard time understanding exclusions, but we easily understand our propensity to sin and fall away from you and your ways. I pray that we would represent you, as fully as possible, in an untainted way, without all our pagan tendencies, to the world. Help us to do just that. Amen.

Deuteronomy 22:13-30

Key Verse(s):

Deuteronomy 22:22 (CSB)

22 “If a man is discovered having sexual relations with another man’s wife, both the man who had sex with the woman and the woman must die. You must purge the evil from Israel.

Reflection/Application:

I’m not sure any one single verse is a “key” verse of this pericope, so I simply selected one that is a good representation of what is happening here. This pericope, it would seem, has a bit of a dual role: it is somewhat related to the “marriage” between God and his people, and it also, obviously, has practical, “real world” implications.

It is interesting that throughout this pericope, men and women are treated, generally, in an equal manner: neither has some sort of preferential treatment over the other. We don’t see men “getting off easy”, as one might expect considering the time period and patriarchal community. Instead we see a strong commitment by God, via his commands, to protect and provide for women. This is easily seen in passages like vv22-27. There might be some pushback on vv23-24, and the notion that just because something happened within the city versus in the country the punishment is extremely different. But we should note that v23 describes the act differently than the rape that is described later in the open country. It’s obvious that what is described and implied here is a consensual sexual act, else the woman would have been expected to alert someone if she was being raped in a populated area.

Where things get a little more muddy is in the first half of the pericope, and then vv28-29. We might wonder why such a despicable man would not be subject to the same death penalty as those committing the other acts. Especially the rapist in v28. But if we pause and think on this, we see that this is actually a protection of the woman, and her family. As a victim of rape, the woman, whether right or wrong, would have been defiled and her prospects of marriage would be essentially gone. But instead, God’s command ensures her care, and some sort of monetary gift that the father would normally receive as a “bride price”. What is not stated here, and we must assume, is that all of this would be at the woman’s consent to follow through with the marriage.

Additionally, we should recognize that all of these commands, as well as addressing when these acts took place, would also have served as a deterrent for those contemplating such sinful acts.

The final verse of the pericope does not outline a punishment. We might guess one based upon the content of v22 though, and then the assumption is that this particular act is exceptionally despicable due to the nature of the relationships between those involved.

In the end, the goal of these commands is not to withhold some sort of pleasure from us, but to lead us to the greatest pleasure, which would be found by following God’s design. We should be very careful about letting our modern culture and worldly “morality”, to define what should and should-not-be good and evil… it is God’s standard alone that defines that standard.

Prayer:

Lord, thank you for giving us guidance. For telling us, even though we might think something is okay, or we might want something to be good, that we are falling short. I am sorry for dishonoring your creation, and crashing through the guardrails you put in place for us, for me. I pray that we would put our fleshly desires behind us, and find true happiness in your design and ways. Amen.

Deuteronomy 22:5-12

Key Verse(s):

Deuteronomy 22:5 (CSB)

5 “A woman is not to wear male clothing, and a man is not to put on a woman’s garment, for everyone who does these things is detestable to the Lord your God.

Reflection/Application:

This passage is a bit of a mixture. For the most part, the overall theme seems to be purity. The exception is the reference to the mother bird and its eggs and chicks. I am going to focus on the general theme here.

  1. It is almost assured that my key verse, Deut. 22:5, is found to be antiquated, and some sort of “phobia”, or more nefariously, an “anti” something, statement. The only problem with that thinking is that these are God’s words, the Creator of everything, and the One who loves every one of us, including those that may be practicing this condemned behavior… so it’s not a “phobia”, an “ism”, or anything else negative… it’s guidance from God.
  2. The theme of purity starts in v5, and continues in vv9-11, with some related context in v8 and v12. Men are to dress and appear as men, women are to dress and appear as women. The two genders that God has created are to remain pure and unconfused.
  3. The same principle certainly seems to be in play concerning the mixing of seeds in the vineyard. It doesn’t seem that there would be an inability to grow mixed crops, or even that there is any sort of obvious physical-type issue that would come from it. It would seem that the command here is purely symbolic of the need to remain spiritually pure, unmixed with other, false, religions, that might grow up faster and stringer, and choke out the true faith in God.
  4. Both vv10-11 seem to be illustrations of the consequences of mixing things that should not be. Certainly, pairing an ox and a donkey to plow results in some sort of ineffective system, as, if nothing else, an ox will be much stronger. Likewise, mixing wool and linen would represent the same sort of spiritual failure due to “mixing” with false religions. Perhaps there is some sort of practical reason why the two materials, or any two materials for that matter, should not be mixed, but it does not seem that is the true point of the command.
  5. We might see a relation to the purity theme in v8, concerning the rails around the roof, in that it would keep one from being defiled, in a sense, by an accidental death due to neglect. Notice that there is a guilt that comes from this neglect that results in death, so we should not be surprised that negligence can lead to a spiritual impurity.
  6. Finally, the mention of the tassels on the outer garments, does not come accompanied with a reason why, but we might presume that they act as a reminder of these purity commands in some way.

Prayer:

Lord, thank you for giving us guidance to keep us pure. It may be unpopular in our modern culture, but your commands are for our good and profit, not something to oppress us. I am sorry for the many times I have failed to keep myself pure, that I have defiled myself. I pray that we, that I, will stay within the guidelines you have provided, and that we would, as a result, be spiritually cleansed and remain close to you. Amen.

Deuteronomy 22:1-4

Key Verse(s):

Deuteronomy 22:1 (CSB)

1 “If you see your brother Israelite’s ox or sheep straying, do not ignore it; make sure you return it to your brother.

Reflection/Application:

This is a wonderful passage! On the one hand, it draws a the inner sense of morality and comradery out of us. On the other, it is a commentary on our sinful nature, and our tendencies. Let’s list some points:

  • The fact that God has to command his people to do things like return another’s lost livestock, or help them lift a fallen donkey or ox, is unsettling. These are behaviors (helping, honesty, etc.) that we try to teach our children, that we crave in our movie heroes and heroines, that we revere. Yet God has to command us to follow through with the same behavior?
  • The command helps us to shift our focus off of ourselves and on to others. Our true focus should always be on God, and anytime we get it off ourselves we are closer to having him in our sight. Jesus says, in Matthew 22:37-40, that after loving God with all we have, we are to love our neighbor as ourselves.
  • Complacency is not okay. The entire passage does not focus on stealing your brother’s stuff, it repeatedly says not to ignore stuff. When we see a wrong, we should work to right it. When our brother or sister is in need of help, which is what is being described here, we should step up to help.
  • We are not expected to cause detriment to ourselves when helping our brother or sister, but we are called to put some effort into the situation. In Deut. 22:2 we see that we are not called to make unreasonable sacrifices, like travelling long distances to return livestock. But we are called to hold and, presumably, care for it until the owner can claim it, or, like in Deut. 22:4, stop and help our brother or sister lift their fallen donkey or ox… my guess is that lifting a donkey isn’t too bad, but lifting an ox sounds like a pretty good amount of effort!

Prayer:

Lord, thank you for never ignoring us in our times of need! I am sorry for the times when I turned my back on a brother or sister in need of a helping hand, for turning my back on you. I pray for your church to live lives of true brotherhood, where we come together and support one another, a sign of you in this self-centered world. Amen.

Deuteronomy 21:22-23

Key Verse(s):

Deuteronomy 21:22–23 (CSB)
22 “If anyone is found guilty of an offense deserving the death penalty and is executed, and you hang his body on a tree, 23 you are not to leave his corpse on the tree overnight but are to bury him that day, for anyone hung on a tree is under God’s curse. You must not defile the land the Lord your God is giving you as an inheritance.

Reflection/Application:

This two verse passage is not only very brief, but is, I find, a bit confusing as to what it is conveying. I will simply make some observations and see what might be gleaned.

  • Apparently hanging is not mandatory, but is an option to follow any death penalty. Presumably, hanging itself could be administered as the penalty. But the point is, hanging, even postmortem,  was apparently a practice. It is not addressed here, but we could guess that it would be a practice for some sort of social conditioning, to discourage others from following the same path.
  • What is special about a body remaining hanging through the night? There is nothing here to suggest whether this is a practical rule (ex. to avoid any variety of issues a hanging corpse might pose physically), or a spiritual one, (ex. to avoid some sort of callousness or even a twisted enjoyment of such actions). Either way, God had placed a hard time limit for a body to remain hung, and to have the body handled appropriately.
  • Was someone hung “especially” cursed? Why does Moses point out that “anyone hung on a tree is under God’s curse”? I think we might be reading too much into this statement as the omission of any other form of punishment meaning those who had committed those sins were not under God’s curse for some reason. I think this is more a reminder that the person who was hung was under God’s curse, not some sort of exclusionary state due to the form of punishment or postmortem display. Further, perhaps it is intended to reassure the Israelites that God’s “got this”, and we don’t, and shouldn’t, try to exact some sort of additional, over-and-above, form of punishment, and instead should move on with the burial after the prescribed limit.
  • Finally, what exactly does the second part of Deut. 21:23 refer to? The natural reading, at least in this translation, suggests that to leave a hung corpse hanging past the prescribed time would be a defiling act. But could this final command not also act as a more encompassing one? Could it not also be applicable to all times and situations, and a general command for the Israelites to avoid putting themselves in the situations, to avoid sinning, especially in a way that would have them be the recipient of capital punishment, and hanging?

Prayer:

Lord, thank you for guidance, even when it seems cloudy and confusing. We might not always be able to determine all the details, but we always get the main point: love you! If we seek you, your ways, and your spirit, then we automatically avoid sin, avoid turning from you, and avoid the punishment that comes from those acts. Please forgive my chasing after everything that is not from and of you. I pray that we would focus on you alone. Amen.

Deuteronomy 21:18-21

Key Verse(s):

Deuteronomy 21:21 (CSB)

21 Then all the men of his city will stone him to death. You must purge the evil from you, and all Israel will hear and be afraid.

Reflection/Application:

This can be a tough passage to accept, especially in our time and culture. The summation of this passage is that when a child is rebellious, refusing to obey and listen to their parents, if deemed appropriate by the elders, the penalty was death. Let’s walk through the pushback there obviously can be to this passage.

  1. The punishment doesn’t fit the crime. This is most likely the first and biggest pushback to this passage. Even for a string Christian this passage could prove difficult… it was for me at first. But there are a couple things we should think about first. First: the language used in this English translation probably does not convey the severity of the “rebelliousness” of the child. We are not talking about a simple talking back, or not doing chores, or even sassing one’s parents. Instead, the use of two adjectives: “stubborn” and “rebellious”, suggests a higher level of disobedience. It suggests a willful refusal to follow the authority of one’s parents. Second: although the sin here, at first, seems to be against one’s parents, we must keep in mind that the family is the design of God, and is his hierarchical structure to achieve his purposes in his people and his world. So, by “stubborn rebelliousness”, the child is not just dishonoring their parents, but rebelling against God. Finally, it is almost non-sensical to think that God, who so cherishes life, would institute such extreme punishment without there first being every effort made to correct the behavior prior to this final step. We can only assume that this is not some sort of “first-offense” type penalty here, but a culmination of a history of behavior without any repentance or improvement. In this light, we can certainly see how the punishment is in line with the offense.
  2. How could parents offer up their own child for a public decision on their life or death? We live in a culture where we have, in some instances, gone well past the protection of children to the stripping of parental authority, and even shifting authority to the children in some cases. There can be no doubt that our culture suffers from children who lack discipline, and this becomes not just a personal hindrance to their future success, but it becomes a real problem for society as a whole, because the attitude spreads like a disease: a sin disease. Israel was a nation surrounded by enemies. Israel was a nation who had God dwelling amongst them, and the fact that God was with them is the only reason they were not wiped out completely. So to think that a stubborn, rebellious, gluttonous, drunkard child should be allowed to poison a nation in such a fragile position is lunacy.
  3. How can God, if he is loving, want children to be stoned to death? He doesn’t! We must be careful not to interpret the fact that there is a punishment for a severe sin as meaning God wants people to commit that sin, and therefore be punished accordingly. This would be like saying the good parent that punishes their child for disobedience relishes the act of grounding their child. Obviously this is a ludicrous notion!

Prayer:

Lord, thank you for making the hard decisions, the hard choices that we so often wouldn’t make. I pray that instead of bucking against you, that we would choose to follow you. Instead of questioning your decisions, your guidelines, that we would seek to follow, honor, and glorify you. Amen.