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.

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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.

Deuteronomy 23:21-23

Key Verse(s):

Deuteronomy 23:23 (CSB)

23 Be careful to do whatever comes from your lips, because you have freely vowed what you promised to the Lord your God.

Reflection/Application:

Where the previous pericope was concerned with the relationship between Israelites, this pericope is concerned with an aspect of the relationship between an Israelite and God. Specifically, it is concerned with making a voluntary vow and following through with it.

We might expect to read something like, “Make many promises to the Lord,” in scripture, but that is not the case. Instead we read a warning to think hard about making such promises, for if we do, God fully expects us to follow through and keep it. And why wouldn’t we expect God to hold us up to our end of the promise… he perfectly executes his promises and fulfills them always, so should his people do the same, especially those vows made with God! Further, it is not a sin to avoid entering into voluntary promises, we are no less “righteous” by not constantly making hasty, poorly thought about, promises to God. It is a better representation of God to make promises that we intend to follow through with rather than go back on our word.

God expects us to follow through with our promises, especially those to Him, and it is “counted against [us] as sin” when we do not follow through. Another wrinkle here may be the timing of our vows to God. Notice that Deut. 23:21 adds, “do not be slow to keep it,” in reference to following through with our vows. I’m not sure that this is saying, “You have two days to follow through,” or something like that, some sort of hard time limit. Instead, I think this is more likely suggesting do not enter into a vow that you are not prepared to begin fulfilling and will do so without hesitation. In other words, if our promises remain unkept because of our voluntary choice to refrain from fulfilling them, even though we might intend to at some time in the future, it seems maybe that is a sign of our misplaced trust and/or authority in ourselves, or our “things”, rather than God.

Finally, we should not under-emphasize the importance of prudence, of wisdom and non-hasty decision making. Deut. 23:22 doesn’t say to just avoid making “sinful vows”. Obviously we should avoid those. But that’s not what it says, it says that it will not be a sin to choose not to make a vow. It is not a sin to avoid making a commitment to do something we are not able to do… and it does not even qualify the reason for abstaining! Certainly we should not look at this as some sort pass to avoid good works and serving, that is not the spirit of this passage. Instead, it is a call to recognize what our gifts are that God has endowed us with, and utilize them in such a way that our vows to God are able to be satisfied by us. It is a call to make vows to God that we fully intend to keep, and avoid making vows we don’t intend to keep.

Prayer:

Lord, thank you for always being true to your word. I am sorry, I have made vows to you and not kept them. Seems I do it way too often, and I want to change. I pray for the wisdom and control to avoid these false promises, and instead be mindful, and led by you in making such promises, as well as in keeping them. Amen.

Deuteronomy 23:19-20

Key Verse(s):

Deuteronomy 23:19 (CSB)

19 “Do not charge your brother interest on silver, food, or anything that can earn interest.

Reflection/Application:

Another short, straightforward pericope, but this time concerning the relationship between Israelites. This particular passage is concerned with charging interest. Three thoughts:

  • An Israelite, or a brother (or sister), is not to charge interest on “anything that can earn interest,” which is presumably anything with value, when dealing with a brother (or sister). It is reasonable to expect that if a brother were to borrow to begin with, it would be out of some need. So, what we might expect here, is that God commands his people to not exacerbate whatever situation one’s brother may be going through that prompted the borrowing to start with. After all, additional debt due to interest certainly would be counterintuitive. Further, since God does not exact some sort of “interest” from his people following his freely given grace, why would we expect God’s people to do so among each other?
  • The command is not in force when dealing with a foreigner. At first blush we might question why that is, after all, wouldn’t the circumstances most likely be the same? Why wouldn’t we expect the same “free grace” that is required between brothers? The difference here, I think, is that the foreigner, clearly a reference to one who is not one of God’s children, plays by different rules. In reality, there are certain hardships that accompany being separated from, and rebellious to, God. We could argue that the initial loan is in fact a sufficient act of grace from God’s child toward the foreigner, and the charging of interest is symbolic of the strain and struggle of being separated from God. Also, we should not see this as some sort of God-ordained opportunity to fleece via unfair and crooked practices, the foreigner. We should fully expect the child of God to practice fairness, in a God honoring and glorifying way, even when dealing with foreigners.
  • By forgoing the charging of interest with a brother, it allows for the blessing of God in our own lives, in the lives of the one giving, or loaning. I do not think it is coincidence that this is tied to the entering of Canaan, “the land you are entering to possess.” As the Israelites are about to enter the land that God is giving them, interest free, an all-out gift, they are reminded to mirror God, rather than chase after human and worldly riches through the squeezing of one’s spiritual brother. And ultimately, where are we turning for our “enrichment”? Are we turning to interest and getting all we can from others, including our brothers and sisters, or are we turning to God for our fulfillment?

Prayer:

Lord, thank you for freely giving to us. You provide everything, literally everything, from the tangible things we might own, to the ground we walk, and the air we breathe. I am sorry for placing material things above others, especially brothers and sisters. I pray for a loosening of my grip on worldly things, and a turn to you, freely giving what you have given me, to others. Amen.

Deuteronomy 23:17-18

Key Verse(s):

Deuteronomy 23:18 (CSB)

18 Do not bring a female prostitute’s wages or a male prostitute’s earnings into the house of the Lord your God to fulfill any vow, because both are detestable to the Lord your God.

Reflection/Application:

The second in a series of very short pericopes, this passage is the past of the “purity” commands. This pericope addresses the practice of cult prostitutes, and the corruption accompanying it.

First we see the command that one of God’s people should not engage in such detestable acts. And although we might think of women when we see the word prostitute, God is clear that this is a command for both genders to avoid such sexual behavior. I do not think that we should assume non-cult prostitution is acceptable since Deut. 23:17 specifically targets cult prostitution. Instead, I think the point here is presenting the idea that such behavior should be in no way associated with the worship of God.

I think this is furthered by the second part of the passage concerning the wages of a cult prostitute, male and female, and the “detestable” nature of them. So not only is the act something that God commands not to participate in, but the pay collected for engaging in such behavior carries the same detested state. We should not have much trouble with understanding this, it seems quite intuitive that God would not encourage our engaging in behavior that is directly opposed to his commands through the acceptance of such tainted money from doing so, for worship of God.

Although this passage clearly commands us to avoid engaging in such types of activities, the point, I think, is more aimed at the purity of God’s people through proper activities and offerings in worship.

Prayer:

Lord, thank you for being perfect, pure, and loving. I pray that we would avoid detestable acts, and instead seek after your ways, being a light, rather than looking like the dark world. Amen.