Book of Deuteronomy Chapter Twenty-Four Commentary by
Pastor Ron Beckham
Kindness To The Oppressed
Verses 1-4: "When a man takes a wife and marries her, and it happens that she finds no favor in his eyes because he has found some indecency in her, and he writes her a certificate of divorce and puts it in her hand and sends her out from his house, 2 and she leaves his house and goes and becomes another man’s wife, 3 and if the latter husband turns against her and writes her a certificate of divorce and puts it in her hand and sends her out of his house, or if the latter husband dies who took her to be his wife, 4 then her former husband who sent her away is not allowed to take her again to be his wife, since she has been defiled; for that is an abomination before the Lord, and you shall not bring sin on the land which the Lord your God gives you as an inheritance." The rights of women were low to non-existent in the time and nations of that region. Here in these verses we find that the Lord wants unprecedented rights to be extended to women, and we see His true opinion of how she is to be considered in places like Galatians 3:26-28—"For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. As many of you were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus." In that region, at the time of Moses, a man could simply put his wife outside of his tent or house and that would be the end of her and the marriage. But here we find that God, though Moses, in the establishment of case law for Israel, limited the rights of men to divorce her: 1) There had to be a legal REASON for divorcing her, which is here defined as "indecency," later termed "sexual immorality" by Jesus (Matthew 5:32). This was in contrast to the teachings of the Pharisees in quoting Rabbi Hillel, who essentially taught that the man could divorce her simply if she did not please him. 2) The "certificate of divorce" had to be in writing, an unprecedented document that all the world could see. 3) Divorce and remarriage was common at the time, almost as bad as today, and the first husband was forbidden from remarrying the woman he had thrown away—he might do it again. 4) "She has been defiled" is a recognition that God is not pleased with divorce and you had better give it some serious thought before you get rid of her. People tend to copy each other and your act might lead your neighbor to do it, too, bringing more sin into the land. Worst of all, the children of a broken marriage are inevitably damaged by what has happened.
Verse 5: "When a man takes a new wife, he shall not go out with the army nor be charged with any duty; he shall be free at home one year and shall give happiness to his wife whom he has taken." God loves marriage. It is His vehicle for bringing people into this world and the family is intended to be a place of sanctuary, of safety and of love for all concerned. And so, a young man or someone newly married at any age, was exempted from military service for a year, which was intended as a time of "happiness," a gift from God for both the groom and bride. Then off to the military he would go.
Verse 6: "No one shall take a handmill or an upper millstone in pledge, for he would be taking a life in pledge." The "upper millstone" was called the "rider," the Hebrew "rechebh," and without it, the mill could not grind grain into flour. The lives of the family depended on the operation of that mill. The message is, that in lending, if you take something of value from someone needy as a pledge, a promise that a loan will be repaid, don't jeopardize the borrower's life when you do.
Verse 7: "If a man is caught kidnapping any of his countrymen of the sons of Israel, and he deals with him violently or sells him, then that thief shall die; so you shall purge the evil from among you." This ties in closely with Verse 6. It was common in the region to imprison, enslave or sell a borrower who could not or would not repay a loan. The person was often sold into slavery along with his family. Almighty God views such a practice as "evil," and we all should agree wholeheartedly with Him. People are more important than money and we are to love, not hurt them, even when they, in our expectation, owe something to us.
Verses 8-9: "Be careful against an infection of leprosy, that you diligently observe and do according to all that the Levitical priests teach you; as I have commanded them, so you shall be careful to do. 9 Remember what the Lord your God did to Miriam on the way as you came out of Egypt." It would have seemed like yesterday to Moses, that his sister, Miriam, was given leprosy (Numbers 12). She and their brother, Aaron, spoke critically of Moses' marriage to an "Ethiopian woman," a "Cushite" in another translation. The Lord came down in a cloud and when it lifted, Miriam was leprous and had to stay outside the Israeli encampment for seven days. Of great interest is God's defense of Moses and his reputation, even giving his older sister leprosy in response to Moses' hurt feelings about his wife and marriage.
Verses 10-13: "When you make your neighbor a loan of any sort, you shall not enter his house to take his pledge. 11 You shall remain outside, and the man to whom you make the loan shall bring the pledge out to you. 12 If he is a poor man, you shall not sleep with his pledge. 13 When the sun goes down you shall surely return the pledge to him, that he may sleep in his cloak and bless you; and it will be righteousness for you before the Lord your God." This is incredible, especially for that time, but we must remember that people have violated the sanctuary of others since the beginning of time. What we are seeing here is this: You are broke. You go to the man next door and borrow money from him. He wants you to give him something of value before parting with his money—your beautiful outer garment that keeps you warm, night and day. But here's where God steps in—you get the money but he can NOT enter your house, and he MUST give the garment, the cloak back to you every night so you won't be cold. In these verses you have seen the heart of God. We are to love one another more than money or anything else of this earth.
Verses 14-15: "You shall not oppress a hired servant who is poor and needy, whether he is one of your countrymen or one of your aliens who is in your land in your towns. 15 You shall give him his wages on his day before the sun sets, for he is poor and sets his heart on it; so that he will not cry against you to the Lord and it become sin in you." Years ago, I read an article called "Bosses From Hell" in a financial magazine. At that time I was working for someone who could have been the subject of that article. Your worker's condition in life MATTERS to God. We are to be fair and just in supervising and managing the ones God assigns to us, no matter what they look like or who they are. If we do otherwise, we are sinners in the sight of Almighty God.
Verse 16: "Fathers shall not be put to death for their sons, nor shall sons be put to death for their fathers; everyone shall be put to death for his own sin." The law of Israel was to reflect the law of God, who does hold the unrepentant guilty responsible for his or her sin. And note—we are all sinners who must face God in what we have thought, said and done, either now or (shudder) in judgement after we leave this earth. Right now we have a Remedy for our sin. After death, we don't, unless we have trusted in the Lord during our lives. Each of us is responsible and we face God alone, who is not only our Judge, but He is also Mercy personified and does not sentence us for someone else's sin. The reverse is true about Jesus Christ—He died for your sins and mine, for what He did not do, and on the basis of faith in Him, we are forgiven.
Verses 17-18: "You shall not pervert the justice due an alien or an orphan, nor take a widow’s garment in pledge. 18 But you shall remember that you were a slave in Egypt, and that the Lord your God redeemed you from there; therefore I am commanding you to do this thing." God is the God of Justice. He has allowed some among us to be stronger in body, wisdom or intellect, the strong who are enabled to protect the weak. He has allowed many to be weak so they will seek and find the Lord, and so the strong will have someone to protect. We all have areas of weakness—we all started out as weak little children, and we are all headed toward the weakness of old age. God, however, is our Deliverer and Redeemer, saving us from the slavery of sin and death. We who have been redeemed are to help others in need, in God's Name and in His love.
Verses 19-22: "When you reap your harvest in your field and have forgotten a sheaf in the field, you shall not go back to get it; it shall be for the alien, for the orphan, and for the widow, in order that the Lord your God may bless you in all the work of your hands. 20 When you beat your olive tree, you shall not go over the boughs again; it shall be for the alien, for the orphan, and for the widow. 21 When you gather the grapes of your vineyard, you shall not go over it again; it shall be for the alien, for the orphan, and for the widow. 22 You shall remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt; therefore I am commanding you to do this thing." We are to finally understand that any gifts we may have, mental or physical, any money we can earn or property we can own—all of that ability and acquisition is God's choice, His creation in our lives, with the intention that we will recognize that we ourselves are former slaves to sin, rescued in Jesus Christ, not only for ourselves, but also to help the needy of this world. You are to give, to share, and not just keep everything for yourself.
Father, life is not just about me and I understand that others around me get just as afraid and hurt as I am. Help me to help them, Lord, in the power and love of God. Let Your love for them flow through me. In Jesus Name. Amen.