Book of Deuteronomy Chapter Twenty-Five Commentary by
Pastor Ron Beckham
Judgment And Mercy
Verses 1-3: "If there is a dispute between men and they go to court, and the judges decide their case, and they justify the righteous and condemn the wicked, 2 then it shall be if the wicked man deserves to be beaten, the judge shall then make him lie down and be beaten in his presence with the number of stripes according to his guilt. 3 He may beat him forty times but no more, so that he does not beat him with many more stripes than these and your brother is not degraded in your eyes." Corporal punishment or punishment of any kind, is unpopular in a lot of modern countries, but other nations overly use such acts. These verses describe people found guilty by the court, people who need to learn that bad actions are like boomerangs—they can return and hurt the one who created the problem. Also, the community needs to see that consequences inevitably follow wrongful acts. The chief problem today is a lack of faith in the Lord. The perpetrators, along with judges, presidents, school board officials and others in authority all too often look for human solutions to problems that only God can solve. If you are in authority, pray to the Lord; look to Him for answers. He is the One who hears the faithful and will show us where judgment ends and mercy begins.
Verse 4: "You shall not muzzle the ox while he is threshing." It's amazing how the Holy Spirit through Scripture has placed words into God's Scriptures, the Bible, in the distant past, that contain unexpected meanings for the far future. The direct, outward meaning of this verse is obvious—the animals of this world are given to us for a variety of God's purposes, and though we may use His creatures, we are also to be kind. The ox was trapped in a harnessed life of endless circles as it was forced to crush the raw grain with its hooves. God essentially says here, "Let them eat some of what they crush." A related thought is seen in Proverbs 12:10—"A righteous man regards the life of his animal, but the tender mercies of the wicked are cruel." But then the surprise—the context of 1 Corinthians 9:9 cites this verse, using it as the Apostle Paul's defense of the right of the minister to receive income from his or her ministry. When God calls us to lives of service, we give up the direction in life we might otherwise have embraced, essentially taking vows of poverty in response to His will. But God, who does "not muzzle the ox while he is threshing," is watching out for you and me. He, our Judge, is merciful and provides what is needed, even before we fully understand our need for whatever it may be.
Verses 5-6: "When brothers live together and one of them dies and has no son, the wife of the deceased shall not be married outside the family to a strange man. Her husband’s brother shall go in to her and take her to himself as wife and perform the duty of a husband’s brother to her. 6 It shall be that the firstborn whom she bears shall assume the name of his dead brother, so that his name will not be blotted out from Israel." This was both case law for Israel in the centuries that followed, and also a prophesy that the rights of those faithful to the Lord would be protected. Paul the Apostle would later say, "God who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus" (Ephesians 2:4-6). Those in Israel were being offered a sure thing in the land of Canaan, including cities, land, homes, bountiful crops, healthy children—all they could hope for was being given—and so they were to enter the land, in faith that the Lord would bring it to pass. Christ has called us to the beauty and love of eternity, and incredibly, like Israel already was in Canaan in a sense through faith in the Lord; we who trust Him are already "in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus." Like the inheritance of the dead brother, though we are dead, our inheritance is guaranteed in Christ who makes us alive like never before.
Verses 7-10: "But if the man does not desire to take his brother’s wife, then his brother’s wife shall go up to the gate to the elders and say, ‘My husband’s brother refuses to establish a name for his brother in Israel; he is not willing to perform the duty of a husband’s brother to me.’ 8 Then the elders of his city shall summon him and speak to him. And if he persists and says, ‘I do not desire to take her,’ 9 then his brother’s wife shall come to him in the sight of the elders, and pull his sandal off his foot and spit in his face; and she shall declare, ‘Thus it is done to the man who does not build up his brother’s house.’ 10 In Israel his name shall be called, ‘The house of him whose sandal is removed.’" Whatever you might think of the Lord's choice for this situation, we can note that the widow would have a place and a position, her children, if any, were to be provided for, and the deceased husband's legacy was preserved. Note that the Book of Ruth is like a picture, a portrayal of these verses. The Moabite woman, Ruth, was married to an Israeli man, who died in Moab. Her mother-in-law, Naomi, who was also a widow, told Ruth to stay in Moab, but Ruth accompanied Naomi back to Israel anyway. Ruth gleaned in the fields for food as God commanded and allowed in Deuteronomy 24:19-22. A kinsman refused to accept her as his wife and "he took off his sandal" (Ruth 4:8-11). Boaz stepped in to become the kinsman redeemer as the one who refused to be Ruth's husband became "him whose sandal is removed." Boaz and Ruth married, became the parents of Obed, who became the father of Jesse, who would be the father of David, the future king of Israel. All of them were the human ancestors of Jesus Christ (Matthew 1).
Verses 11-12: "If two men, a man and his countryman, are struggling together, and the wife of one comes near to deliver her husband from the hand of the one who is striking him, and puts out her hand and seizes his genitals, 12 then you shall cut off her hand; you shall not show pity." These verses may be compared to Matthew 5:30—"If your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and cast it from you..." The issue here is not about which man was at fault in the fight, and it is not about the obvious loyalty of the wife in trying to save her husband. In college, someone was quoted (and this is a very rough quote; the best my memory can provide): "If the men of a country become corrupt, that country may survive, but if the women also become corrupt, it will fall." Historically, the women of our world have been more virtuous than men. These verses are advising Israel and everybody else to avoid even the appearance of evil. Such a woman and her husband have the opportunity to pray about this very difficult situation, and that is what God is leading all of us to do—pray when our lives seem to be (and are) slipping out of our control.
Verses 13-16: "You shall not have in your bag differing weights, a large and a small. 14 You shall not have in your house differing measures, a large and a small. 15 You shall have a full and just weight; you shall have a full and just measure, that your days may be prolonged in the land which the Lord your God gives you. 16 For everyone who does these things, everyone who acts unjustly is an abomination to the Lord your God." Fairness. We are to treat others honestly, even when tempted to keep a finger on the scale in order to make a greater profit from whatever we are selling. Just weights, honest dealings and truth in business are all to stem from faith the Lord. The alternative is to be an "abomination" in His sight. It is not that the Lord is on our side; instead it is you and me who are to be on HIS side. We deal with people honestly because God loves them even more than we are likely to love ourselves. He loves you, me and them also. Our honesty reflects the Lord who lives in us through faith. We are to learn that He provides for us anyway, especially when we are honest, and others are to see in our honesty that we are truly His—helping people to conclude that they can trust in Him, also.
Verses 17-19: "Remember what Amalek did to you along the way when you came out from Egypt, 18 how he met you along the way and attacked among you all the stragglers at your rear when you were faint and weary; and he did not fear God. 19 Therefore it shall come about when the Lord your God has given you rest from all your surrounding enemies, in the land which the Lord your God gives you as an inheritance to possess, you shall blot out the memory of Amalek from under heaven; you must not forget." In these verses, we are given a sketch of the historical enmity that existed between Israel and the Amalekites. God, since the time of Abraham, and by inference, from before the creation of the world, has willed that faithful Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, were to be the progenitors of the nation that was to be called by Jacob's other name: Israel. It was and is God's intention that Israel will prosper, and the jealous Amalekites interferred with God's intention that 1) Canaan is Israel's land, and 2) the Messiah would enter humanity through Israel. God said to Moses, in Exodus 17:14, "I will utterly blot out the memory of Amalek from under heaven." Have you met any Amalekites lately? I haven't either, and we are not likely to do so, during our time on earth.
Lord, though we often do not understand, You are just and merciful in Your dealings with us all. We are sorry for the times we have been unjust, and we confess our sin. We place our trust in You. In Jesus Name. Amen.