Deuteronomy: Moses’ Final Speech Pt.4 (ch 22-27)

Part 4 of the Deuteronomy overview with commentary featuring chapters 22-27.

Deuteronomy Chapter 22:
Moses says if any of them see another person’s livestock stray, they are not to ignore it. They must go and catch it and take it back to its owner. If they don’t know the owner or they live far away, then they should keep it until that owner comes looking for it so they can give it back. This principle applies to clothes or anything else belonging to a neighbor. They must be responsible for doing the right thing always. If they see a neighbor’s animal collapse on the road they are to help their neighbor get it back on its feet.

Moses gives some more generic rules. Men must not wear women’s clothing and vice versa because blurring the lines between the sexes is detestable. If a person finds a bird’s nest (whether in a tree or on the ground), they are allowed to take the eggs but he must leave the mother. When building a house everyone must build a railing on the roof to prevent anyone who is on the roof from falling over easily, otherwise, the owner’s negligence will make them guilty of murder.

Moses reminds them of some previous regulations. They must not plant two different kinds of seed next to each other in their vineyards, otherwise, all of the crops will be defiled. A donkey and ox must not be yoked together for plowing. They must not mix fabrics like wool and cotton in the same wardrobe. They also must put four tassels on the hem of their cloaks, on the front, back, and sides.

Moses then gives rules on sex habits. If a man marries a woman and accuses her of not being a virgin when they got married her parents must bring proof that she is a virgin from the hymen’s blood on the bed sheets. If she was a virgin the man must pay 100 pieces of silver and cannot divorce her. If it is true and she lied about her virginity before getting married she will be put to death for dishonoring her parents. In any case of adultery, both participants must be executed when caught in the act. If a man rapes an engaged or married woman. If a man is forcing sex on a married woman and they are in the city, she must cry for help so people will come to rescue her. As a rape victim, she will be innocent and only the man will be executed. If a woman is raped in the country’s side where no one can hear her scream then she is innocent regardless and is to be believed when reporting the rape. If a man and unmarried woman are caught fornicating, then the man must pay a bride price (fifty pieces of silver) and if they marry (with her father’s permission), he cannot divorce her. A man cannot marry his father’s former wife.

Comment: The yoking of the donkey and ox (Deut 22:10) is referenced as an idiom by Paul in 2 Corinthians 6:14. Paul says that believers are not to be unequally yoked with unbelievers. Oxen are larger and stronger than donkeys and this would create a clear imbalance and suffer for at least one of the animals. The prohibition on mixing of seeds in the vineyard, and the mixing of fabrics in clothing in verses 9 and 11 are reminders of Lev 19:19. These things may be prohibited because of a possibly connected to Canaanite pagan rituals where they mix animals, plants, and fabrics as an act of worship towards their fertility gods. This is according to the book, “Think Christianly: Looking at the Intersection of Faith and Culture” by Jonathan Morrow. These specific prohibitions are of things that are irrational and impractical to do. Since cotton keeps one cool in the summer and wool is for keeping one warm in the winter, this would be uncomfortable to wear and cause health problems. In Ezekiel 44:17-18, the priests are forbidden from wearing wool while serving in the temple because it will cause them to sweat which can lead to more mishaps. Plant incompatibility has practical issues, as some crops can cause harm to others when planted together by attracting the wrong insects, competing for water in the soil, etc. Cross-breeding animals doesn’t produce new animals and is a waste of time since they could be making new livestock instead, which is financial gain. No rational person would do any of these things, so if God prohibits irrational things that no one would need to do, then there must be some kind of superstition attached to them. Considering Lev 19 is sandwiched between chapters 18 and 20 which both warn the Israelites not to copy the Canaanites, it makes sense that this was a pagan religious practice of the Canaanites. The verse after Lev 19:19 deals with witchcraft and divination, so categorically they seem to be bundled together. Learn More here: Mixing Fabrics – Think Christianly

When people got engaged to be married it was expected that the woman was a virgin if she was never married before. If the man claims his new wife lied about her virginity but her parents proved her innocence by showing a hymen blood-stained bed sheet from the Huppah (marriage tent), then he was beaten and fined for slander. However, if he is correct, and the woman deceptively claimed she was a virgin and she wasn’t, then she was killed for making a marriage covenant under false pretenses (Deut 22:13-21).

The issue in Deut 22:13-21 is that the woman lied about it. Most men’s personal preference was to marry a virgin because it was a guarantee of no STIs/STDs, and a way to ensure he wasn’t marrying a pregnant woman and raising another man’s child unintentionally. So a man who wanted a virgin would feel cheated if she lied about her status, which then shamed the woman’s parents because it happened under their roof and misrepresented their family (Deut 22:21). This was a violation of the 5th commandment to honor our parents (Exod 20:12-16; Deut 5:16-20; Lev 19:18). If she was honest and a man didn’t mind her not being a virgin, then they would marry without a problem. If he did mind, then he simply wouldn’t have married her. Many women feared this because there was a cultural shame of being a barren woman and a spinster and the latter was worse because at least a barren woman is married. This explains why even rape victims may have considered marrying their rapist (Absalom’s sister Tamar, suggests this to her rapist Amnon in 2 Samuel 13:13). It was to avoid being a spinster because they are considered “damaged goods” by the men. Note again, the men would make this application, not God himself. David and his great grandfather Boaz were righteous men who valued widows enough to marry them.

Deut 22:28-30 describes what happens in the case of fornication (or premarital sex) when the woman is not married or engaged. If they are caught, no one is stoned to death. The man is required to pay her bride price and he can only marry her if her father permits (Exodus 22:16-17). He must still pay the bride price if the father doesn’t allow the marriage, and if he does marry her he can’t divorce her. The death penalty only applies if a marriage covenant is violated (Deut 22:22). Therefore, the woman would be guilty of contract breach if she made a marriage covenant under false pretenses (lying about her virginity). This is why she would be guilty of dishonoring her parents and would be executed in Deut 22:13-21.

It wasn’t sinful for a man to marry a non-virgin woman unless he was the high priest (Lev 21:13-15). Non-virgin women included promiscuous women, prostitutes, rape victims, divorcees, and widows. The widows, divorcees, and rape victims were not sinners on the subject of virginity. David’s first wife was Abigail, the widow of Nabal (1 Sam 25:39-40). Boaz married the Moabite widow Ruth (the Book of Ruth). Men throughout the bible have even married prostitutes. Judah married Tamar who prostituted herself in Genesis 38. Salmon married Rahab the Canaanite prostitute from Jericho (Joshua 6, Matt 1:5). Tamar, Rahab, and Ruth all ended up in the lineage of Jesus (Matthew ch. 1). Hosea also marries a prostitute, named Gomer, who cheats on him multiple times. This was used as a prophetic display of how Israel cheated on God multiple times. God then told Hosea to forgive her and take her back, because God would likewise take Israel back when they repent (Hosea ch. 1-3).

Deut 22:23-27 contrasts two scenarios involving an engaged or married woman, one of adultery and one of rape. If an engaged or married woman has sex with the man in the city (where people can hear her scream if she is raped) but doesn’t scream for help, it is seen as voluntary sex and therefore adultery. If they have sex outside of the city, where no one can hear her scream, then the bible says to believe her if she says she was raped. When a fiancé or wife is raped only the man will be killed. In the case of the country, the woman could lie and say she was raped since no one could have heard her scream, even if she initially consented. Ultimately God knows if she was truly raped or not. There is a test at the Tabernacle that could have exposed her in Numbers 5:11-31, but she will only be made barren, not put to death. God is not mocked everyone will reap what they sow (Galatians 6:7, Isa 59:13-19). Liars and false witnesses will not get away with it (Prov 19:9). In the rape scenario, the woman is a rape victim and is considered innocent. Even if God says not guilty, men may still say no to marriage because a woman is not a virgin. This may cause them to end up being spinsters even though it wasn’t their fault. This was Tamar’s fear when Amnon raped her. Women in similar scenarios may have married their rapists because they are afraid of becoming a spinster. This means the preference towards virgins is a cultural thing and not a command from God. Otherwise, the bible would have said all non-virgins who are unmarried are banned from marriage. The command to only marry a virgin applied to the high priest alone and that was done to set him apart.

Some translations of Deut 22:28-29 say that a woman must marry her rapist, however, most translations are describing fornication (sex before marriage). Here is a look at a bunch of translations of that verse, the word rape is only in 6 of the 28 translations listed here.

For more confirmation that this is fornication and not rape, look at Exodus 22:16-17. It says an unmarried man that has sex with an unmarried woman (fornication), must pay a bride price to marry her. He can only marry her with the father’s permission, but he must pay the bride price even if the father doesn’t give permission as a penalty for taking her virginity. It is true that married rape victims and unmarried rape victims are treated differently. For the unmarried, it is treated like fornication rather than adultery, and no one dies. The option of marriage according to Ex 22:16-17 is there if she wants to do it and her father permits. Why would a woman want to marry her rapist? This is because a woman had fewer chances of being wanted if she wasn’t a virgin. If she didn’t want to take the chance she would agree to marry, but if she had confidence she could still get a husband she would decline. We never see a rape victim marrying their rapist in the bible. We do see the opposite, Tamar suggest Amnon go to their father David to ask permission to marry, but Amnon declines because he hated her afterward. Absalom, Tamar’s brother eventually kills Amnon out of revenge for his sister. Likewise, in Genesis 34 with Dinah one of Jacob’s daughters. Dinah’s brothers pretended to agree to have her marry Shechem (her rapist) but required that he be circumcised first, along with all the other men in town. This was a trick to get all the men too weak to fight. Her brothers Simeon and Levi get revenge and kill all of the men in the town while they are healing, including the prince.

Lastly, verse 28 ends with them being caught, implying that they are both doing something bad together. If she is a raped victim, then she can’t be “caught” sinning with him, but rather she is an innocent victim, which is pointed out in the proceeding verses in Deut 22:23-27.

Finally, here is a linguistics lesson. The Hebrew word taphas (תָּפַשׂ) in verse 28 is translated as rape, in the NIV and a few other translations. This word means to lay hold of, grab, or handle. In verse 29 the word shakab (שָׁכַב) is used to refer to the man who raped her, but “shakab” is a generic word for lying down or sleeping, and can also be used for resting or laying low. If Moses wanted to say rape he would have used a hebrew word like chazaq (חָזַק) which is what he used in Deut 22:25, where he says a rape victim is innocent. Another Hebrew word translated as rape is the word, anah (עָנָה) used in Genesis 34:2 when prince Shechem raped Jacob’s daughter Dinah. These words generally mean, “prevail upon, force, become strong”.

Deuteronomy Chapter 23:
Moses gives some regulations on the proper status for assembly. If a man’s testicles are crushed (or removed) he cannot assemble with the rest of Israel. A person with illegitimate birth is not allowed in the assembly until the 10th generation. Likewise, with Moabites or Ammonites living among them, they must wait for 10 generations before they are considered a part of the Israelite nation and cannot marry Israelite women. This is their punishment for not helping Israel when they came out of Egypt, instead, they hired Balaam to curse Israel. Therefore the Moabites and Ammonites are cursed and the Israelites are not to help promote their national welfare in any way or make allegiances with them. On the other hand, Egyptians and Edomites are allowed to merge with Israel after three generations. Edom is their brother, and Egypt allowed Israel to live among them during a famine in Joseph’s time.

Moses continues with more regulations. When they go to war they must make sure to stay away from anything that is impure. If a man has a seminal emission he is unclean until the next evening just as if he had sex, and must bathe at sunset. Until then he must leave the camp and stay away. The Israelites are to defecate away from the camp in order to keep it clean and holy. Everyone must have a spade so that they can bury their dung.

More regulations from Moses: If slaves run away from their masters and seek refuge, they must not be handed over to their masters. The people must let runaway slaves live among them in any town they chose and they must not be oppressed or taken advantage of. No Israelite (male or female) can become a shrine prostitute and offerings for vows must not come from income generated from prostitution. Israelites must not charge interest on loans (of food, money, or anything) to fellow Israelites, they may do so with foreigners but not their own. When Israelites make vows they must try to fulfill it promptly, or they will be guilty of sin. It is not a sin to refrain from making a vow, but once one is made that person must be diligent in fulfilling it. When a person enters a neighbor’s vineyard or field they may freely eat their fill of grapes or grain, without permission, as long as they don’t carry any away in a basket or harvest with a sickle. Carrying produce away in a basket or using a sickle would be considered harvesting and that would be stealing if it is not with their neighbor’s permission.

Comment: The rule about eunuchs (having their testicles mutilated) is not banishment from the covenant just a restriction on worship practices. God makes it clear that foreigners and eunuchs are welcome in his kingdom in Isaiah 56:1-8. As monarchies Israel and Judah and likely adopted the practices of having eunuchs in their inner court from the nations around them. Ebed-melech an Ethiopian in the court of Zedekiah is mentioned in Jeremiah 29:15-18 and he is given a blessing for trusting God, considered his station in the kingdom he would have been a eunuch. Daniel and the Hebrew boys (as well as Nehemiah) were also eunuchs since they worked in the inner court of emperors. God clearly doesn’t hate eunuchs, in fact, Jesus approves of them in Matt:19:11-12. This rule may be based on principles associated with health requirements for the priesthood (Leviticus 21:16-24). Although these priesthood requirements are related to birth defects and major injuries. In this case, since castration is done on purpose, it was a choice and God restricts a man from the assembly in his presence since he made the choice to not participate in being whole.

In Jewish culture, even today, a person born as a bastard or illegitimately (from adultery, incest, or from a harlot) would not have been circumcised or allowed to marry an Israelite woman, or inherit anything from their Israelite father, so they are simply treated like a gentile. This is explained in Deut 23:2 and this rule was applied to the Moabites and Ammonites for 10 generations in the next verse (Deut 23:3). These restrictions on foreigners only apply to their men marrying Israelite women. Gentile women like Ruth (a Moabite), are not prohibited from marrying into the Israelite nation. Ruth is King David’s great-grandmother and has her own book in the Bible. In addition, she is even in the lineage of Jesus (Matthew 1:5), all of this is true despite the fact that she is a Moabite. In addition, the restriction on promoting the welfare of Moab and Ammon was not applied to individuals like Ruth or any Moabite or Ammonite man who was willing to live among them for 10 generations in order to merge with them, but rather to their nation-state and government. Edom and Egypt have much lighter restrictions in Deuteronomy 23:7-8, because of their relationships with Israel in the past, Edom is Israel’s brother (Jacob and Esau were twins [Gen 25:24-26]), and Egypt allowed Joseph’s family to stay in Goshen despite the fact the Egyptian citizens hated foreigners (Genesis 43:32-34, Gen 46:31-34, Gen 47:1-12). Even though they sinned against Israel later by enslaving them (Egypt in Exodus 1), and resisted allowing them safe passage as they journeyed through the wilderness (Edom in Numbers 21:18-20), they didn’t cause Israel to sin as Moab and Ammon did by using Midianite prostitutes to seduce them into idolatry.

In the modern world, women may hire prostitutes (male or female) but back then in that culture men were the clients of prostitution, therefore the male prostitutes, in this case, would have all been engaged in homosexual intercourse which is prohibited in Lev 18:22 and Lev 20:13. Furthermore, this prostitution was primarily shrine/temple prostitution, which means it involved the worship of sex gods. So the money from these would have been considered defiled and not valid. Not just because it is from prostitution, but also its connection to idolatry. The rule about not charging interest to Israelites in Deut 23:19 when paired with Ex 22:25-27 and Lev 25:35-38 primarily applies to poor Israelites.

Deuteronomy Chapter 24:
Moses continues with more regulations: If a man marries a woman and finds something shameful about her, then he has a right to divorce her. He will give her a certificate of divorce and she is free to marry another man. He cannot marry that same woman again once she marries someone else if her next husband dies or divorces her. A man must reconcile with his wife before she gets remarried otherwise it is detestable to God. A newly married man cannot get drafted into the military within the first year of marriage, because he must have time to produce an heir.

It is wrong to take a millstone or even just the upper millstone as collateral because that is taking away a person’s very means of making a living. If someone kidnaps someone in order to enslave or sell them, then the kidnapper should be executed. They must remember to follow the Levite’s instructions concerning skin diseases and obey all of the commands that God gives. Moses warns them about what God did to Miriam on the way from Egypt (he gave her a skin disease because of her disrespect of Moses in Numbers 12). If a person lends something to their neighbor, they must not go into that person’s house to get it back. Instead, they must wait outside and let the neighbor bring the loaned object out to them. If the debtor is poor and gives his coat as collateral then the creditor must not hold it overnight. They should give it back at sunset so that they can keep warm overnight. God will count those creditors as righteous.

They must never mistreat poor and destitute laborers whether they are Israelites or foreigners. Their wages must be paid each day before sunset because they are counting on it daily. If they cry out to God in anguish it will count as a sin against the employers. People must not be put to death for the sins of their children or their parents, each person is punished for their own crimes.

Foreigners and orphans must not be deprived of justice when they are wronged. Widows should never have their clothing taken as collateral for a debt. Israelites must remember the God who redeemed them from slavery when interacting with those who are destitute.

If they forget to harvest some of their grain from their fields, olives from their trees, or grapes from their vineyards, they should leave it behind for the foreigner, widows, and orphans. God will bless them for keeping this command.

Deuteronomy Chapter 25:
More instructions from Moses: If two people have a court dispute they must settle it before a judge. If the person the judge rules against deserves to be flogged he must lay down and be whipped with a number of lashes appropriate for his crime. However, 40 lashes are the maximum.

The people must not muzzle an ox to prevent it from eating while it is treading out the grain. If a wife becomes a widow and has no male heirs, then her late husband’s closest male relative (brother ideally) should marry her in order to make an heir for the deceased husband’s inheritance. The firstborn son in their union will be the deceased man’s son and heir to his wealth. If a man refused to take his brother’s wife after she is widowed, she may go to the elders at the town gate and complain that he refused to take her. The elders will talk with him and if he still refuses, then she can walk over to him in front of the elders and pull off the man’s sandal and spit in his face and declare “this is what happens to a man who refuses to provide his brother with children.”

If two Israelite men get into a fight and one of their wives grabs a man’s testicles to defend her husband, her hand must be cut off. Everyone must always use accurate scales and honest weights when measuring merchandise and money. God will bless those who are honest but those who are cheats are detestable. God says when they get into the land, they must wipe out the Amalekites because they attacked Israel as they were traveling from Egypt.

Deuteronomy Chapter 26:
When they settle in the land they are to take the first fruits of the yield from the land and bring them in a basket to the priest at the Tabernacle as a gift. When they bring it they must say, “With this gift, I acknowledge to the Lord your God that I have entered the land he swore to our ancestors he would give us.” The priest will take the basket from them and set it in front of the altar. Then they must say, “My ancestor Jacob was a wandering Aramean who went to live as a foreigner in Egypt. His family arrived few in number, but in Egypt, they became a large and mighty nation. When the Egyptians oppressed and humiliated us by making us their slaves, we cried out to the Lord, the God of our ancestors. He heard our cries and saw our hardship, toil, and oppression. So the Lord brought us out of Egypt with a strong hand and powerful arm, with overwhelming terror, and with miraculous signs and wonders. He brought us to this place and gave us this land flowing with milk and honey! And now, O Lord, I have brought you the first portion of the harvest you have given me from the ground.” Then they will set the basket before God’s presence and bow to worship him. Afterward, they are to celebrate all the good God has done. They must remember to take care of the Levites and foreigners in their celebration.

Every third year they must offer a special tithe for the Levites, foreigners, widows, and orphans in the storehouses of their towns. Then they must declare, “I have taken the sacred gift from my house and have given it to the Levites, foreigners, orphans, and widows, just as you commanded me. I have not violated or forgotten any of your commands. I have not eaten any of it while in mourning; I have not handled it while I was ceremonially unclean, and I have not offered any of it to the dead. I have obeyed the Lord my God and have done everything you commanded me. Now look down from your holy dwelling place in heaven and bless your people Israel and the land you swore to our ancestors to give us—a land flowing with milk and honey.”

Moses makes the final call for them to obey all of God’s commands and decrees wholeheartedly. God will make them a great nation if they commit themselves to following his degrees.

Deuteronomy Chapter 27:
Moses and all the leaders gave orders to the people to keep God’s commands. When they cross the Jordan they will set up some large stones at Mount Ebal, coat them in plaster and write all of God’s commands on them. Then they must build an altar with natural uncut stones, that are not shaped with a tool. This altar will be used to offer burnt offerings and peace offerings. Then the Israelites will celebrate with a feast before God. They must remember to write all of God’s commands on the plaster-covered stones. Afterward giving these instructions Moses declared: “O Israel, be quiet and listen! Today you have become the people of the Lord your God. So you must obey the Lord your God by keeping all these commands and decrees that I am giving you today.”

Later that day Moses gave special instructions for when they cross into the land. He said the tribes of Simeon, Levi, Judah, Issachar, Joseph (Ephraim and Manasseh), and Benjamin must stand on Mount Gerizim to proclaim a blessing over the people. Meanwhile, the tribes of Reuben, Gad, Asher, Zebulun, Dan, and Naphtali must stand on Mount Ebal to proclaim a curse.

Then the Levites will shout to all of the people of Israel a series of curses against those that break God’s laws and the people responded in agreement by saying “Amen” after each one.

The list of the curses:
– “Cursed is anyone who carves or casts an idol and secretly sets it up. These idols, the work of craftsmen, are detestable to the Lord.”
– “Cursed is anyone who dishonors father or mother.”
– “Cursed is anyone who steals property from a neighbor by moving a boundary marker”
– “Cursed is anyone who leads a blind person astray on the road.”
– “Cursed is anyone who denies justice to foreigners, orphans, or widows”
– “Cursed is anyone who has sexual intercourse with one of his father’s wives, for he has violated his father.”
– “Cursed is anyone who has sexual intercourse with an animal.”
– “Cursed is anyone who has sexual intercourse with his sister, whether she is the daughter of his father or his mother.”
– “Cursed is anyone who has sexual intercourse with his mother-in-law.”
– “Cursed is anyone who attacks a neighbor in secret.”
– “Cursed is anyone who accepts payment to kill an innocent person.”
– “Cursed is anyone who does not affirm and obey the terms of these instructions.”erms of these instructions.”

<–Part 3

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