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Friday, February 27, 2015

Pledges and Righteousness - Deuteronomy 24

Introduction

In earlier chapters of Deuteronomy, we read Moses gave the Israelites God’s laws for living as His chosen people in a new land they inherited from His covenant with Abraham. People today comment that the laws seemed trivial or overbearing, but when we see them from God’s perspective, we understand why He gave them. God gave the laws to the Israelites to keep them pure and untainted by the ways of living and worshipping by neighboring countries. When the Israelites covenanted with God at Mount Sinai, they covenanted to worship Yahweh only and to live according to His laws – first the Ten Commandments and then the added laws He gave over the years. Their covenant was a pledge to stay faithful to God. By covenanting with Yahweh, they pledged to follow His laws, commands, statutes, and ordinances, which include rules of worship, rules about living in His Promised Land with other people, and rules on how to take care of nature (animals, plants, and land).
Chapter 24 begins with rules of divorce and then proceeds to pledges for loans, kidnapping, leprosy, payment of wages, justice for every person, and gleaning. Two things are prevalent in each part of this chapter – pledges and righteousness. The latter is a major theme of Deuteronomy. God gave the laws to the Israelites to keep them righteous and pure in His eyes so He could be among them. By keeping their pledge – covenant - with God, they remained faithful to Him and other people. This chapter teaches how to be faithful to God and His laws by being faithful in their relationships to the people who inhabited the Promised Land.

Divorce

Upon reading the first four verses of this chapter, you may think God condones divorce, a teaching counter to what you heard during your life. God did not and does not condone divorce. In Genesis 2:24, God created man and woman to be together. In the beginning, He did not make allowance for divorce. Why then did God give the law in Deuteronomy 24 about divorce? Jesus answered this question in Matthew 19:7-9. The Pharisees asked Jesus,
Why then did Moses command to ‘Give her a certificate of divorce and send her away?’ He [Jesus] said to them, ‘Because of your hardness of heart Moses permitted you to divorce your wives; but from the beginning it has not been this way. And I say to you, whoever divorces his wife, except for immorality, and marries another woman commits adultery.’ [NASB]
God allowed the Israelites to divorce their wives because of their hard hearts. They turned in hate and disgust from their wife of Israel against God’s word. Hard-heartedness is a euphemism in the Bible for being rebellious against God. Because of the hard-heartedness of the husbands, God protected the wife from this and provided a way for both husband and wife to stay in relationship with Him, not be unclean and bereft of His presence. With this understanding, let us study the first four verses of Deuteronomy 24 closer.
The verses appear straightforward. When a Jewish man and woman marry, in the Jewish way with the ketubbah (contract) first then the consummation of the marriage, they troth themselves to each other. “Troth” is the word from which we get the word “betroth.” It means to pledge loyalty and faith in a solemn agreement. Hence, a man and woman pledge their loyalty to each other. The covenant/pledge between and husband and wife is the strongest pledge two people make. For people who are followers of Jesus or who were Israelites then, they made this pledge before God with Him witnessing, blessing, and being part of the pledge. God gave the law about divorce in Deuteronomy 24:1-4 to help them and help keep husband and wife from divorcing. How did He do that? Before this law of Deuteronomy 24:1-4, the neighboring countries and Egypt influenced the Israelites about divorce. When the man told his wife he no longer wanted to be married to her, he just sent her out of the house. With God’s law on divorce, He commanded the husband not just to find her distasteful and send her away. He had to take the time to write out the divorce on a certificate and put it into her hand. By doing this, time elapsed from the heated emotion of the moment, time in which to let the heat of the moment pass. This time allowed the passions of the moment to cool and a clear mind with which to make decisions.
An interesting thing to note is the phrase in verse one that says, “She finds no favor in his eyes because he has found some indecency.”  “Indecency in this verse did not mean to the Jews what the word “indecent” meant to them. The word “indecent” comes from the Hebrew word ‘ervah, which meant nakedness, shameful exposure, and improper behavior. Yet when one reads the teachings of famous rabbis, they interpret indecent to mean the husband found something about the wife distasteful – her looks, actions, words, way she kept his house. One rabbi even said the man could divorce his wife if he wanted because she was a bad cook, but kept burning his food. It seems this may be the case for understanding the word “indecent”  in this way in Deuteronomy 24:1-4. Since we learned in Deuteronomy 22:13-21 what God’s judgment and punishment was for a woman or man found in adultery - stoning - if they were betrothed to each other, betrothed to another, or not betrothed to anyone, understanding “indecency” must be something other than adultery of the wife because in these verses of Deuteronomy 24. Hence the rabbi’s interpretation of “indecent” may mean things the wife did other than adultery that the husband found distasteful. In Matthew 5:31, though, Jesus pared it back to divorce just for “unchastity” (porneia – illicit sexual intercourse). Jesus returned the sanctity of marriage back to its original stance; a marriage pledge was forever, except in cases of unchastity – adultery.
In verses 2-4, Moses said when a woman received a written certificate of divorce she was free to marry another man. He then said, “If the latter husband turns against her and sends her out of his house, or if the latter husband dies who took her to be his wife, then her former husband who sent her away could not take her again to be his wife.” (vs. 3-4 [NASB]) We must note two things in these verses. First, the former husband was to consider her unclean sexually, religiously, and ceremonially since the latter husband divorced her. Second, if the latter husband died, God said He considered her the latter man’s wife and possession still. Next, we realize that by knowing this in advance, the first husband when considering divorcing his wife would pause and make sure he wanted to divorce her. If he divorced his wife then remarried and got a worse wife, he might then want his first wife back. God forbade this. Think about divorce completely before you give a written certificate of divorce to your wife is what Moses wanted the men to hear.
Moses stated in verse four the main reason God gave the divorce laws. When a man divorced his wife, the woman became defiled – unclean. “Uncleanness” is “an abomination (tow’ebah – disgusting, detestable) before the LORD,” said Moses. Sin is an abomination to the LORD and divorce created “uncleanness.” This brought uncleanness on the land God gave them so He could not be among them. Divorce was sin to God. This law from God sought to protect the sanctity of marriage and to keep the people of Israel in right standing with God, be faithful in their covenant with Him. It provided for a cooling off period and a time to think before divorcing a wife. The law provided a different way other countries did not consider and helped the husband and wife stay righteous in the eyes of God. It helped people to be faithful to their pledge to each other before God.

Newly Married

While considering divorce, Moses gave a law about newly married couples. To allow them to bond and establish their family, God provided for a new husband not to have responsibilities – civil or military – for the first year of his marriage. He intended the couple have time to build strong ties with each other so differences or misunderstandings not separate them. God provided a time for bonding like He provided a period for cooling off when a person considered divorce. He wanted the pledge of the newly married couple to stand the tests that would beset it and provided a time for making strong bonds. God meant for marriages to survive and be the backbone of society – teaching and training the future leaders to know Him and walk in His ways. A man and woman’s pledge to each other in marriage and their faithfulness to it provided a strong foundation for raising children in the ways of the LORD. It showed, too, their faithfulness to their covenant with God.

Pledges

From verse six to twenty-two, Moses spoke directly and indirectly about pledges. In verses six, ten through thirteen, and seventeen through eighteen, Moses gave specific laws about pledges. In the other ten verses, he spoke indirectly about a person or nation’s pledge. Let us study first the verses related to direct pledges then at the verses not about specific pledges.

Direct Pledges.

Each of the seven verses related directly to taking a pledge from a person concerns loans. If you recall, in Deuteronomy 14:22-15:23 God gave laws to protect and provide for the poorest people who lived in Israel – widows, children, and foreigners. In the laws of Deuteronomy 24, God continued to make sure each person, not just the rulers and tradesmen, received what they needed and remained free from abuse.

Hand Mill - Livelihood

In verse 6, Moses said, “No one shall take a hand mill or an upper millstone in pledge for he would be taking a life in pledge.” A hand mill was a small grain-grinding mill for the women of the home to grind grain for each day’s bread. It comprised two flat stones that mounted together on top of each other with a post in the middle to keep them together. The mill had a hole in the top of the upper millstone into which the women would pour handfuls of grain while grinding the earlier heads of grains. A handle rested on the top millstone by which the woman would turn the top millstone over the bottom one. To catch the ground grain, the woman would place the hand mill on a cloth on her lap or on the ground then place the mill atop that so that as she ground the mill, it would spill onto the cloth. Grinding in this way took two women for the process to be productive.
In regards to verse six, when a person received a loan from another, God forbade the creditor take any part of the hand mill as pledge. To do so meant the family would not have bread, a main staple. When the creditor took the hand mill or millstone he deprived the family of their life. God forbade taking a person’s life as pledge. The person needed to live and work to repay his or her loan. By following this law of God, the creditor was faithful to God. The creditor showed compassion and mercy to the debtor and made their pledge and bond easier to live with and fulfill.

Cloak - Warmth

The next part of this chapter where Moses specifically mentioned a pledge is in verses ten through thirteen. Moses said,
When you make your neighbor a loan of any sort, you shall not enter his house to take his pledge. You shall remain outside and the man to whom you make the loan shall bring the pledge out to you. If he is a poor man, you shall not sleep with his pledge. 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. [NASB]
Moses made several points in this passage. The first is that a creditor could give a loan to anyone who lived in Israel. We encountered before the word “neighbor.” It comes from the Hebrew word rea’, which means a friend, fellow citizen, or another person. Remember earlier in Deuteronomy, God allowed the Israelites to give loans to anyone, but not to receive loans from foreigners. The second point to notice is the creditor could not enter the home of the debtor to get his pledge. Why was this important? If the creditor went into the debtor’s home, he could see the man’s belongings, become greedy, and choose an expensive item or an heirloom to be the pledge for the loan. Moses said the debtor would bring the pledge out to the creditor to keep this from occurring. The third point Moses made was if a creditor gave a loan to a poor man and the pledge was as dear to him as his cloak, the creditor could not keep it when the sun set. In those days, the cloak was an outer garment worn for warmth and used as a blanket during the cold nights. God kept a person’s life safe from sickness when He forbade a creditor to keep a man’s cloak pledge beyond sunset. This pledge for a loan was between two people, but by keeping it they remained faithful to their covenant/pledge to God.
      This part of Deuteronomy came with the reminder of God’s blessing. The reminder of God’s blessing reminded the creditors that by taking care of each of God’s people, they remained faithful to their covenant with Him. Faithfulness to God’s covenant brought blessing as spoken in Deuteronomy 6:25. In verse thirteen, the debtor would bless the creditor (unheard of in this day) and the LORD would count the creditor’s actions as righteousness in his dealings with the debtor.

Garment – Justice

 The reason for taking care of debtors builds with this passage. The reason God required creditors to care for the debtors of Israel began in verse thirteen and built to the statement in verse eighteen. Let us look at this pledge closer as we understand verses seventeen and eighteen.
Moses said in these verses, “You shall not pervert the justice due an alien or an orphan nor take a widow’s garment. 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.” [NASB] In verse six, the debtor was a head of household in Israel. In verses ten through thirteen, the debtor was a neighbor (anyone who lived in Israel). The debtor was a person of some means in both of those passages,. In verse seventeen, the debtor was a widow. God required in this verse that justice be fair, not perverted. He said even for the lowest in society – widow, alien, and orphan, justice must prevail. Part of that justice included not removing the last thing a poor person had, his or her garment. We encountered this above when Moses told the creditor not to keep the debtor’s cloak past sunset. When creditors kept the cloak of a debtor past sunset, he affected the life of the person. God considers life sacred. He provides what each person needs to live as he or she follows His rules and is faithful to his or her covenant with Him. Sometimes God’s provision for a person comes directly through God and sometimes indirectly through another person. In this case, the provision of a garment – cloak, blanket, tunic – provided warmth and modesty, necessity for the body and for living among other people (covered nakedness). Without this necessity, a body could die. God used the example of taking a widow’s garment as one form of justice for the poorest in the country. When he mentioned the orphan, alien, and widow, He meant to include every person of low means. God expected His people to administer justice without partiality and with concern for the poor. By doing that, they kept their faithfulness to their covenant with God. This allowed them to be faithful to their pledge of caring for their neighbors, even the poorest of them. Moses attached more to this with the next verse.
The most important thing to remember about this passage, and in association with the other pledges, is what Moses said in verse eighteen. God commanded the Israelites to do this for their fellow human because they, too, were once slaves in Egypt and He redeemed them. They were to remember their redemption and be the hand of God helping other people. A pledge – covenant - with God did not just affect the individual who made the pledge. It affected the person so that he or she positively affected the lives of people around them with God’s love for all huamnkind. Pledges that just affect your life with God are not true pledges with God, but are mere actions acted out seeking your own salvation. They are pharisaical. Jesus taught against being a Pharisee, being only a hearer of the Word and not a doer. He taught that we are to stand up for the downtrodden, to provide justice and care for them.

Indirect Pledges.

In the previous three sections, we could see that Moses spoke about pledges made for loans or some benefit of a person. The next four segments of chapter twenty-four do not give direct mention of pledges, but we understand that the covenant the Israelites made with God at Mount Sinai was their pledge with Him. In addition, a pledge with God was a pledge with the people of Israel, too. Remember, too, anyone who was an enemy of one of God’s protected people, was an enemy of God. Remember, too, there were two sides to the covenant with God, blessing for faithfulness and curse for unfaithfulness.

Kidnapping - Abuse

As we consider this then, let us look at verse seven. Moses, said, “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.” [NASB] Two things arise from reading this verse. First, kidnapping is a crime. Exodus 21:16 stated this law first. Second, this verse in Deuteronomy speaks specifically to kidnapping a member of the tribe of Israel. Exodus speaks of kidnapping any person. God forbade them to kidnap an Israelite. He added to the law in Exodus and said if the kidnapper mistreated the Israelite or sold him or her, His judgment of the kidnapper was death. In case they did not understand the seriousness of the Exodus law, God laid it out for the in Deuteronomy 24:7.
Why did God’s judgment on the kidnapper include death? The Israelites knew from the first day of their covenant with Yahweh that faithfulness brought blessing and unfaithfulness brought death. They sinned often, so God had to give the specifics of every law to help them see there was no wiggle room to get around God’s laws. Moses mentioned the main reason God’s judgment was death. He said it was to purge the evil from Israel. Remember, the word “purge” comes from the Hebrew word ba’ar, which means to burn or consume. The best way to get rid of anything is not to hide it, but to burn it. God used the word “purge” or “burn” to say total annihilation - death. Besides this verse, He spoke these same words in Deuteronomy 13:5, 17:7, 19:13 & 19, 21:19 & 21, and 22:21-22 & 23. Faithlessness to God, not keeping pledge to, covenant with, God, rendered God’s judgment of death. If evil remained in the land, the other Israelites would be affected adversely and the indirect pledge to the people of God would be defaulted on, too.

Leprosy - Judgment

Before we look at verses eight through nine, we must remember, God will judge a person who breaks any of His laws, relating specifically to Him and to relationships between humans. God chose Moses to be His spokesman, priest, interceder, and leader of the Israelites. God chose Moses. When a person complains, gets others complaining about, or tries to usurp God’s appointed leader, that person questions God’s wisdom and selection. The questioning person is then an enemy of God because he or she has put his or her own priorities higher than God’s. That person usurped God’s role as supreme in his or her own life. He or she made him or herself a god in his or her life. This makes the person and enemy of God. God’s punishment for His enemies is death.
Now, let us consider verses eight and nine. Moses said, “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.” [NASB] Notice three times God used the word shamar, which, if you remember, means to hear, listen, and obey. The words “careful” and “observe and do” are shamar.
Look at these verses closely. God included a carefully phrased threat/reminder about disobedience. He said to be careful against an infection of leprosy. Leprosy is an illness associated with uncleanness and death. God used leprosy to remind Aaron and Miriam that He is supreme and He chose Moses over them to lead the people. Moses reminded the Israelites of Miriam and Aaron’s meeting with God when they complained about being second behind Moses. God showed His might and judgment on any person who tried to usurp His authority and plan when He gave Miriam leprosy while she stood with Aaron and Moses before Him (Deuteronomy 24:9, Numbers 12:10). Hence, Moses reminded the Israelites to be careful so they will not get an infection of leprosy – one way God enacted His judgment of death.
Next, look at the second part of verse eight. Moses told the Israelites the way not to get His judgment of death was to “diligently observe and do” everything the priests taught them. The way to stay faithful to God was hear, listen, and obey (do). God emphasized this when he said to “diligently observe and do.” Besides this, the phrase meant if they acquired leprosy they were to follow what the priests told them to do so they could be clean and live among the other Israelites. Leviticus 13:1-14 & 57 teach what the priests were to do to decide if sores were leprosy and what they were to instruct the Israelites do to become “clean” before the LORD.
God commanded the Israelites be faithful to their covenant/pledge with Him. To do that, they had to hear, listen, and obey Him and His laws, which His messengers (Moses and priests) spoke, taught, and enforced. Leprosy can be one way in which God enacts His death judgment. Yet God in His mercy allows a person to return to Him. He provided a way for people to become “clean” and be in His presence again. This indirect pledge was between God and humans. The next affects the relationship between two humans.

Hired Servant - Livelihood

 Verses 14-15 teach about the relationship between a hired servant and an employer. This relationship carried with it a covenant to do the work the employer required and for the employee to receive payment for his or her work. So this relationship dealt with a pledge between two people. In these verses, Moses said, “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. You shall give him his wages on his day before the sun sets for he is poor and sets his heart on it.” [NASB]
Earlier the indirect pledge dealt with agreements between Israelites. This indirect pledge affected anyone who lived in Israel – countrymen and alien. In Deuteronomy 14:22-15:23, God gave commands to the Israelites to take care of every person within their land – Israelite, widow, orphan, and alien. Before that, He said not to oppress neighbors in Leviticus 19:13. God told the Israelites to sustain the poor countryman, sojourner, and stranger in Leviticus 25:35-43. The hiring of servants most often dealt with people who were desperate and willing to serve a richer person. It dealt with the widow, poor, alien, and orphan. These people would accept some oppression to have payment by which to buy food for themselves and their families. God, with this law, ensured an unequal distribution of power did not result in unfairness towards the poorer people. Humans have a tendency when they are rich to look down on and mistreat other people.
God told people they must not oppress the hired servant. In verse fourteen, God pointedly told them not to oppress a hired servant. He told them to give the servant what he or she was due in due time – before sunset. This makes sense, but people tend not to be as careful about another person as they are themselves. They do not see the desperate need of the hired servant. Not to pay them before sunset could mean they and their family starve that night and the next day. God cares for each person whether or not a direct an indirect pledge exists to care for another person. He told the employer to pay his hired servant so the employee would not cry out to the LORD and the employers sin be made known. God is serious about sin. He said He would not be among the Israelites when they sinned. He said he could not walk among them. Moses taught the Israelite employers to pay the hired servant before sunset so as not to sin. It ensured their faithfulness to their covenant to God. This affected the direct pledge between every person of Israel and the indirect pledge between the person and God.

Gleaning - Food

In Leviticus 19:9-10 and Leviticus 23:22 God gave the law that required farmers not to double reap their grain or double pick their fruit and olives, but to leave the last remnants for the needy and stranger. In Deuteronomy 14:29, God said these gleanings were for the alien, orphan, and widow. This is an indirect pledge (the direct pledge indirectly affected this relationship) between the landowner and the poor in his area. It is a direct pledge between the landowner and the LORD. When the landowner was faithful in his pledge to God in this matter, God said he would bless the work of his hands. That was the blessing of faithfulness to the covenant with God. Three times Moses repeated why the landowner was not to go through their fields and orchards an extra time. Three times he said, “It shall be for the alien, for the orphan, and for the widow.” When the Israelites were faithful to their covenant with God, they were faithful to their indirect covenant with the people who lived in Israel.

Judgment on Whom it is Due

Lest the employer not pay wages when due, lest the Israelite kidnap his fellow countryman, lest a disgruntled person try to usurp God’s leader, Moses implied in verse sixteen the person who did these things would not escape God’s judgment. Moses said in verse sixteen, “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.” God takes sin seriously and judges the person who is unfaithful to his pledge/covenant with Him. This then makes the person unfaithful to his pledge to his fellow human.

Remember

The most important thing to remember, and put in a positive way (not to dwell on the negative), Moses said at the end, in verse twenty-two, “You shall remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt; therefore I am commanding you to do this thing.” God preferred the Israelites remember they were slaves in Egypt -  mistreated, oppressed, kidnapped, killed, unpaid, and told to worship Pharaoh, a usurper of God’s role. Moses reminded them God did not forget them, but redeemed them from their slavery, provided the Promised Land, and promised His blessing on them for their faithfulness to Him. God preferred they remembered His love for them when he redeemed them and provided everything they needed. He preferred they remembered His love rather than the curse for their unfaithfulness. Like most parents, God preferred His children stay with Him because of a positive influence rather than a negative one.

Recap and Relevance

God created a covenant with the Israelites at Mount Sinai. They agreed to it and then, as every human does, broke it…over and over. God in His mercy and love forgave and gave added opportunities for them to be faithful to their covenant with Him. The Israelites succeeded in keeping their covenant with God sometimes, while other times they failed. God promised blessing for faithfulness and death for faithlessness. Death was the curse. Life was the blessing. In God’s covenant He gave laws about the Israelites’ worship of Him alone. On top of this, He gave laws about how to live in peace in community with other humans, which required caring for and loving other people. By loving other people as God loved them, the Israelites would fulfill the second side of their covenant with Him. Our faithfulness in our pledges/covenants with people reflects our covenant/pledge with God. The latter could come through direct or indirect pledges with people. The former, about God, was a direct pledge to Him.
God knew the Israelites would not stay faithful to their covenant with Him. He knew the each human, with God’s gift of free will, would succumb to the temptation of sin. In each person’s life, he or she would sin. God was right. We all sin. We each do not deserve to be in His presence. He cannot be in our presence while sin exists. Because of that, because He knew our sinful nature, God planned from the beginning of creation to give the perfect sacrifice for the penalty of death which our sin required. The perfect sacrifice came from a sinless person, one who lived on earth and knew the temptation of sin, but did not sin. That person is Jesus Christ, the Son of God. God had this plan from before He formed each of us. His plan was to save us because He loves us and wants to be in an eternal relationship with each of us.

Conclusion

What does that mean for us? For you? Just that God loves you. He made a way for you to be in an eternal love relationship with Him. What do you have to do? Believe that Jesus Christ is God’s Son who died and arose from the dead to save you from the penalty of sin and death. Believe in Jesus as your Lord (the one who directs and guides your daily steps) and Savior (the one who saved you from your death judgment by His perfect sacrifice). The last thing – confess your sins to God and He will forgive them. By doing this you break down the walls of willfulness you created when you chose rebel against God’s plan.
Two things – believe in Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior and confess your sins to God. It requires no action because you can do nothing to earn salvation. It requires giving your heart, will, mind, and strength to God. Jesus said this when He answered the Sadducee in Matthew 22:36-37. It is your choice. It is always your choice.
What do you choose today – God’s will of a loving relationship with Him for eternity (life)
or living life the way you want no matter what God says (death)?
Salvation and eternal life or slavery to sin and death.


Friday, February 20, 2015

Purity and Honor of Israel Deuteronomy 23

Introduction


In Deuteronomy 23, God continued giving laws to help the Israelites protect their purity and set-apartness for Him. Remember, the nations around the Israelites did not follow Yahweh. They worshipped a multitude of false gods such as Molech, Baal, and Asherah. When God gave each of these laws to the Israelites, He set up a new nation and by that, provided a national system of laws by which each person should live. He, too, was setting up a way for the Israelites to be unaffected by the pagan worship and lifestyles of the surrounding nations. God did not want the Israelites to syncretize the worship of Him with the ways the other nations lived and worshipped. He wanted them to stay pure and set apart solely for Him. Deuteronomy 23 includes laws about who can be in the assembly of the LORD, how they were to live while encamped, and five laws affecting relationships within Israel.

The Purity of the Assembly of the LORD


Meaning.


Verses 1 to 8 of this chapter discuss who can be a part of the assembly of the LORD. To understand the laws, we must begin by understanding what the term “the assembly of the LORD” means. Being part of the assembly of the LORD allowed a person to hold office in the temple/sanctuary and in civil life. In addition, if a person came from a people of whom the LORD allowed to be part of the assembly of the LORD, a Jew could marry him or her. Remember, God formed the nation of Israel to be a theocracy. Because of that, every leadership roles in the society developed from Yahweh. There was no separation of church and state. Hence, if the LORD did not allow a person to be part of the assembly of the LORD, God forbade he or she to be a leader in Israel. If such a non-allowed person was to become a leader in Israel, they may have led the nation away from the LORD. God set up rules about who could become a part of the assembly of the LORD. He set up four categories of people who He forbade to be in the assembly of the LORD.

The Emasculated.


Verse 1 states, “No one who is emasculated or has his male organ cut off shall enter the assembly of the LORD.” In our century, this appears unfair, but when we look at it through God’s lens, we will understand why He instituted this law. The English word “emasculated” in this verse comes from the Hebrew word dakah and means “crushed testicles.” Notice, God forbade men with crushed testicles and eunuchs to be in the assembly of the LORD.

Remember that in the surrounding nations, men were eunuchs by the will of the ruler to protect the leader’s wives and harems. These eunuchs learned the customs of the nations in which they served and could teach the Israelites the ways of life and worship of their home countries. That would lead to syncretizing that nations’ worship of its god with the worship and way of Yahweh. God created this law to make sure this syncretization did not occur.

In Leviticus 21:16-24, God gave the law that no man from the line of Aaron (the high priest) who has a defect can come before the LORD – worshipping, interceding, or offering sacrifices. The LORD said it would profane (chalal - defile and desecrate) His sanctuaries. Likewise, in Leviticus 22:24, God forbade any animal with crushed, bruised, torn, or cut testicles be offered as a sacrifice. Why is this important? God created everything good and whole. When the animal or man was not whole through injury or intentional maiming of the genitals, the person or animal was not pure. Only pure and undefiled people were adequate to be in the presence of the LORD, just as only undefiled animals (non-maimed animals) were adequate to offer to God as a sacrifice.

In Deuteronomy 23:1, this meant just whole and unharmed men could be part of the assembly of the LORD. They alone may lead Israel because they were untainted by the practices of other nations and they were whole and pure. This law of the LORD’s sought to keep His people, Israel, pure and set apart for Himself alone.

The Illegitimate.


Verse 2 says, “No one of illegitimate birth shall enter the assembly of the LORD; none of his descendents, even to the tenth generation, shall enter the assembly of the LORD.” This, too, might seem harsh. Remember, though, God enacted these laws to keep the people of Israel, His chosen people, pure.

As we look closer at this verse, we find the word “illegitimate” comes from the Hebrew word mamzer. It means a child of incest, out of wedlock, or of mixed race (one parent is a Jew and the other is not). The influence of a person outside the faith of Israel or one who disobeyed God by conceiving a child outside holy wedlock would affect the child as he or she grew so that the child would grow up with syncretized laws. The ways of foreign nations or evil people who broke God’s laws would affect the firm foundation the LORD established for Israel through His laws. By issuing this law, God expected to keep the influence of evil (nations and people) from affecting the purity and set-apartness of His people, Israel.

God further forbade any of the descendants of the “illegitimate” person through the tenth generation to enter the assembly of the LORD. Two ways to interpret this arise. The first is that only persons of the eleventh generation and beyond may enter the assembly of the LORD, the strict reading of the words of the verse. We must consider, though, that ten is a complete number for the Hebrew people. This part of the verse, too, could mean that no descendant of this illegitimate person may ever enter the assembly of the LORD. God made sure this person (an evil person or one from another nation) would not influence Israel. He did not allow him or her to be a leader of the people in temple/sanctuary or civic life.

The Ammonite and Moabite.


History


To understand this law of God in verses three through six, we must recall who the Ammonites and Moabites were and how they affected the Israelites. Both the Ammonites and Moabites descended from Lot. When the messengers of the LORD rescued Lot and his family from Sodom before God destroyed it, Lot’s wife looked back at Sodom and turned to a pillar of salt. His daughters feared the end of their lineage because no man would be available to be their husbands (Genesis 19). Because of the daughters’ fear, they made Lot drunk and they each laid with their him. From that intimacy with their father, the oldest daughter bore a son, whom she named Moab. The youngest daughter bore a son, whom she named Ben-ammi, who later became the father of the Ammonites. So the people of Moab and Ammon came from an incestuous relationship through trickery. This already made them excluded from the assembly of the LORD.

Balak, the king of the Moabites at the time Israel left Egypt, feared the Israelites. He saw how the Israelites routed the Amorites and sent for Balaam, a prophet of Yahweh, to curse the Israelites. Besides this, when the Israelites sent word to their kindred, the Moabites, asking permission to pass through their land and drink their water for which they paid, Balak refused (Numbers 22-23). The Ammonites, too, refused the Israelites passage or drink (Judges 11:17). Because of these things, God judged them and refused them acceptance into the nation of His chosen people, Israel.

Judgment


God’s judgment appears in these verses. He said,

No Ammonite or Moabite shall enter the assembly of the LORD; none of their descendants, even to the tenth generation, shall ever enter the assembly of the LORD, because they did not meet you with food and water on the way when you came our of Egypt, and because they hired against you Balaam the son of Beor from Pethor of Mesopotamia, to curse you. Nevertheless, the LORD your God was not willing to listen to Balaam, but the LORD your God turned the curse into a blessing for you because the LORD your God loves you. You shall never seek their peace or their prosperity all your days. (Deuteronomy 23:3-6 [NASB])

God forbade the people of Ammon and Moab to enter His assembly and lead His people. We understand why God forbade the Israelites from allowing a Moabite and Ammonite to be a part of their nation and lead them. We, too, understand from verse two this meant their descendants may not lead Israel even if one of them married a Jew. The latter would make their descendants “illegitimate.” Besides this, God commanded the Israelites never to seek the peace and prosperity of these people. God judged the Moabites and Ammonites. Remember, judgment from God was dispossession of land and death. He instructed the Israelites not to help these people to prosper or seek an alliance of peace with them. The Ammonites and Moabites were enemies of God because they were enemies of the Israelites.

The Edomites and Egyptians.


A definitive distinction exists between the Moabites and Ammonites to the Edomites. They each descended from the same line as Abraham, but the former two cursed and hated the Israelites. In addition, the Edomites came from the line of Abraham’s grandson, Esau. God told the Israelites they must not detest the Edomites because they came from their brother, Esau (Genesis 25:24-26). The English word “detest” comes from the Hebrew word ta’ab and means to abhor or loathe. God told the Israelites not to loathe or abhor the Edomites.

God gave this same command about the Egyptians. This may appear odd since the Egyptians enslaved the Israelites, but God told them His reason. God said the Egyptians helped the Israelites survive the drought and famine that occurred, which led the Israelites to be in Egypt. When the people of Israel sought help from the Egyptians while they were aliens to the Egyptians, the Egyptians nurtured them (Exodus 22:21, 23:9; Leviticus 19:34; and Deuteronomy 10:19).

God commanded the Israelites not to loathe these two groups of people. He allowed them to enter the assembly of the LORD in the third generation of the family’s residence in the land of Israel. Once the families of Edom and Egypt lived long enough for a third generation to be born in Israel, God allowed them to enter the assembly of the LORD and lead/rule in religious and civic affairs.

The Purity of the Camp


God next addressed the purity of the encampment of Israel. Just as the law about who may be in the assembly of the LORD affected the spiritual and physical lives of the Israelites, so did these laws about when they encamped. What the Israelites did by their physical bodies and minds affected their spiritual selves and relationship with God. Verse 9 says they were to keep themselves from “every evil thing.” As Jesus taught, evil is not just a physical action, but the thought and temptation that preceded the action. Moses spoke many times throughout the exodus years about what was evil in the sight of the LORD. These deeds and thoughts that God proclaimed He detested or abhorred, they were not to do.

In verses 10 and 11, Moses told the Israelites again about another thing that polluted them and made them unclean. He said, “If there is among you any man who is unclean because of a nocturnal emission, then he must go outside the camp; he may not reenter the camp. But it shall be when evening approaches, he shall bathe himself with water, and at sundown he may reenter the camp.” The nocturnal emissions did not include what occurred during sexual intimacy. The English word “emission” comes from the Hebrew word qareh and means the chance or accidental nighttime emission/pollution. In both Leviticus 15:16 and Leviticus 22:4-6, God said any man who experienced nocturnal emissions was ritually unclean until evening when he bathed himself. Until the man bathed himself that evening, he could not reenter the camp and eat of the holy gifts. Notice that what comes out of the body makes the person unclean. Impurities of the body affected the relationship and closeness a man could have with Yahweh. He could not be in the presence of God until he was ritually clean.

In verses 12 through 14, God spoke about another bodily emission – feces. It may appear arbitrary that God would speak to something so base and mundane, but God had reasons. God commanded encamped  Israelites they must go outside the camp, dig a hole, put their excrement in a hole and cover it. The biological reason is obvious. By doing this, they would be safer from the bacteria and germs that arise from fecal material. From a spiritual viewpoint, keeping emissions from the body separate from the Israelites, kept them ritually clean. When a person was ritually clean, God could be with him or her. By doing as the LORD said here, the LORD remained within their camp and walked among them. God gave this important command because by His walking among them, He could deliver the Israelite soldiers and defeat their enemies (vs. 14). Moses said in verse 14b, “Therefore your camp must be holy and He must not see anything indecent among you or He will turn away from you.”

In relation to this, remember Jesus told the Pharisees what goes into the body is not what defiles it, but instead what comes from it (Matthew 15:11). Evil comes from the heart of a person. Emissions come from the body. Both make a person unclean and keep God from walking with him or her. Our sins come from within ourselves and keep us separated from God in the same way.

The Preservation of Purity and Set-Apartness of the Israelites


In the rest of this chapter, verses fifteen through twenty-five, God addressed the purity of the Israelites in five different areas of life. These areas affected the relationship of Israelite to Israelite, Israelite to foreigner, and Israelite to God. Moses gave God’s commands the Israelites about runaway slaves, prostitution, usury, vows, and abuse of a neighbor’s field/vineyard.

Against Mistreatment of Runaway Slaves.


In verses 15 and 16, God addressed the treatment of runaway slaves. God forbade the Israelites who found a slave who escaped from his master and went to Israel to return the slave to his master. In addition to this, the slave could live in any place he or she chose within Israel. God commanded the Israelites not mistreat the slave. This command from God assumes the slave escaped (natsal – delivered oneself) from an evil master in a neighboring nation, like in 1 Samuel 30:15. Remember from Deuteronomy 14:22-15:23 God showed He cared for everyone who lived in Israel including the foreigner. He cared that people not be abused. In this command from verses fifteen and sixteen, God showed His care of foreigners who were slaves. He commanded the Israelites treat them with compassion not mistreatment. Moses reminded them in Deuteronomy 5: 15 they were once slaves, too. By having compassion and care for people, the Israelites showed the love of God and remained in a covenant relationship with Him. Jesus spoke about this when He said to love your neighbor as yourself. Care for other people is with what the last six commandments dealt.

Against Prostitution.


Verses 17 and 18 deal with cultic prostitution. Moses said,

None of the daughters of Israel shall be a cult prostitute, nor shall any of the sons of Israel be a cult prostitute. You shall not bring the hire of a harlot or the wages of a dog into the house of the LORD your God or any votive offering for both, for both of these are an abomination to the LORD your God. [NASB]

God commanded this because He did not want the people of Israel to be involved in the cultic worship of the nations near them. To be involved in these religions in any way corrupted their worship of God with the practices of the cult worship. In these two verses, God forbade His people from being prostitutes for the worship of other gods. By doing so they defamed Yahweh and defiled themselves, God’s chosen people. Leviticus 19:29 speaks to this and Deuteronomy 22:21 says a prostitute’s judgment was death to purge the evil from Israel. Giving the wages of a cult prostitute as a votive offering was an abomination (detestable) to the LORD (vs. 18).

      One other thing we need to understand in verse eighteen is use of the term “dog.” The English word “dog” comes from the Hebrew word keleb. Keleb means contempt or male cult prostitute. In Leviticus 18:22, keleb spoke of a man lying with another man and in Leviticus 20:13 it says this action God considered detestable and held a death judgment. This helps explain why God considered the offering of these prostitute wages detestable and abhorrent.

       God was serious about and against prostitution whether for false gods in cultic worship, as mentioned here, or of one’s own choice as in Deuteronomy 22:21. He considered prostitution an “abomination” (tow’ebah – detestable) that made a person ritually unclean and wicked. Because of this, God even considered an offering from the wages of a prostitute as unworthy to be given to Him for a votive offering. We need to consider whether anything we do could corrupt our worship of and offering to God.

Against Usury.


In verses 19 and 20 God gave specific commands about interest on loans –  for money, food, or anything they needed. God commanded the Israelites not charge interest on any loans to their countrymen – a brother, relative, or Israelite. Moses used this same word in Exodus 22:25 and said God’s people, the Israelites. In Leviticus 25:25-27, Moses spoke of a loan to a countryman who then had near kinsman who bought his property back and returned it to him. In both verses, the term countrymen referred to Israelites as the countryman with regard to loans. So in Deuteronomy 23:19-20, we must realize about whom Moses spoke. He said to not charge interest on a loan given to another Israelite. God allowed interest to be charged on a loan to a foreigner.

The reason God did not allow interest on loans for countrymen was because the LORD God would bless each of them in everything they attempted when they were faithful to their covenant with Him. God’s blessing for faithfulness to the Ten Commandments states this many times in Deuteronomy. When a person is faithful to God, He will bless them and they will have what they need. When a fellow Israelite needed something, God commanded the person from whom the Israelite sought help give out of God’s blessing to him. Added to this, in Deuteronomy 15:10 God commanded the Israelites to give help to their fellow kinsman and the LORD would bless them in everything they attempted. This command comes with a promise of blessing or curse for faithlessness.

Against the Breach of Vows.


Verses 21 through 23 speak of vows made to the LORD. Remember, a vow is a pledge made to the LORD of one’s choice. This kind of vow God called a neder vow. God did not mandate making this vow. Yet, when we read these three verses we find when a person made a neder vow, God expected the person to fulfill his or her vow. Moses said in verse twenty-one, “You shall not delay to pay it for it would be sin in you and the LORD your God would surely require it of you.” God expects each person to keep his or her pledges (Numbers 30:1-2). Ecclesiastes 5:4-5 says it is better not to vow than not to fulfill a vow. In carrying this command forward, Jesus told the people to keep an oath they made to the LORD (Matthew 5:33). In Deuteronomy 23:22, Moses said, “If you refrain from vowing, it would not be sin in you.” The pledge of a vow or oath as a neder vow is not mandatory to the LORD. Not keeping the vow is faithlessness and sin just as Moses said in verse 23. Because a person volunteered a vow, God required him or her to do what he or she promised.

Against Abuse of Neighborly Liberties in a Neighbor’s Field/Vineyard.


Verses 24 and 25 command how much of a neighbor’s produce a person may eat. Moses said,

When you enter your neighbor’s vineyard, then you may eat grapes until you are fully satisfied, but you shall not put any in your basket. When you enter your neighbor’s standing grain, then you may pluck the heads with your hand, but you shall not wield a sickle in your neighbor’s standing grain.

In these two verses, a neighbor is anyone living within Israel, unlike the definition of “countryman” in verses nineteen and twenty. This law provides food for the hungry until sated at that moment. It does not allow people to harvest a neighbor’s produce for themselves and take it to their homes. The verses say “you may eat grapes until you are fully satisfied” and “you may pluck the heads (of grain) with your hand but not use a sickle.” This law has a two-fold purpose. It taught the Israelites they were to feed the hungry. Besides that, it taught that an Israelite may not abuse a neighbor’s care by taking a large part of his produce. Greed is not acceptable. This law reminds me of the law of gleaning found in Leviticus 23:22. This law told the farmer not to harvest the grain on the edges of his field, but to leave them for the poor and foreigners living among them. God cared about each person living in Israel. He cared that His people showed compassion for them. By being obedient to these laws, the Israelites’ relationship with God would grow.

Recap


God provided laws by which the Israelites were to live and for the foreigners living among them. Because of the deceit and unfriendliness of the Moabites and Ammonites, God’s judgment on them was they were never to be a part of the assembly of God. God allowed just the pure to lead His people. Added to this, He allowed just the legitimate and non-emasculated to lead His people. If God’s allowed His people to be led by people affected by the evil of other cultures and nations, Israel would be misled. God made allowances for the Edomites and Egyptians to become a part of the assembly of the LORD. The third generation born in Israel may become a leader in civic and religious roles.

Besides the laws defining who may lead Israel, God addressed the purity of men within an encampment, most likely soldiers in military camps. God promised to walk among them and defeat their enemies if they remained pure. God told the Israelites what came from their bodies, nocturnal emissions and fecal matter, made them impure. In His laws, God provided a way for them to stay clean or become clean from these things. From these and the other laws God gave, the Israelites received the message and command to stay pure. The Pharisees were hyper-vigilant about purity to the point of making sure people saw their purity by highlighting it in public out and punishing those who were not pure. Jesus, in Matthew 5, spoke about this and explained that what comes from the heart of a person makes him or her unclean, not what is put into a person.

As to people living within Israel, God gave laws to keep peace. He taught how He wanted escaped slaves treated. God recalled for them how He looked upon prostitution, particularly cultic worship prostitution and the money earned from it. God gave a command on how they were to treat loans to fellow Israelites and foreigners. This law recalled the promise of God’s blessing to the Israelites for being faithfulness to their covenant with Him. Next God commanded that if they made a neder vow to Him, He required them to do what they promised. God did not require a neder vow, but if they made one, He required its fulfillment. The last thing Moses told the Israelites was God commanded them not to abuse a neighbor’s goodwill when eating from his field or vineyard. He provided a law stating they must allow their fellow man to eat their produce, but just enough to satisfy his or her hunger at that point in time.

Each of these laws dealt with the Israelites’ relationship with other people – countrymen, Israelite, foreigner, slave, and enemy. They, too, dealt with the relationship of Israelite to the LORD God. If the people followed these laws, they would stay pure and God would walk among them. If they did not follow them, then God would not walk among them because of their impurity and lack of righteousness. This would lead to death (per the curse of their covenant with God). God provided ways for people to return to following Him through sacrifices and cleansing in water. He provided ways to remove evil from among them, too.

Relevance


The Old Testament covenant between the Israelites and Yahweh God led them to seek and find God. It did not give salvation from their past sin, nor power to overcome sin in the present and future. God knew from the beginning of time He would give salvation through a Redeemer, His Son, Jesus Christ. At the right time, God sent His Son to be born of a virgin in a low place, a stable. Jesus lived the life of any young Jewish boy – learning a trade with his father, learning Torah and Talmud from his father and priests. At the right time, Jesus revealed Himself as the Son of Father God sent to take away the sins of the world. He proclaimed the Father’s Good News of salvation. He lived a sin-free life. Jesus died the accursed death, on a cross even though He was sinless. By Jesus’ hanging and dying on the cross, He bore the penalty - the judgment - for our own sins. Our sins required judgment. That judgment is death. When Jesus died for each of us, He saved us from our death penalty and redeemed us from the power sin would have over us in the present and future. With Jesus’ ascension from the grave, He removed the power of death Satan held over us. Jesus conquered death and the grave. He gave everyone who trusts in and believes on Him the same power – not to sin, not to be tied to eternal death, and to be in the presence of God forever.

Conclusion


How we each respond to God’s love at Jesus’ cost is our own decision. We can stick to Old Testament laws and be led to God repeatedly as we strive to live by them. These laws do not give salvation from sin and death. Alternatively, we each can choose to follow Jesus Christ, admit He is the Son of God, accept His love and grace given through His life, death, and resurrection, and have victory over sin and death. God’s laws in the Old Testament led people to Him. His gift of Jesus Christ gives us salvation if we will believe and receive. We each must choose for ourselves. God will force none of us.

What will you choose – love, mercy, and grace shown on the cross

or a life lived trying to be perfect through the laws of the Old Testament?

Monday, February 9, 2015

Laws on Sexual Morality and Purity Deuteronomy 22:13-30


Introduction


In the first twelve verses of Deuteronomy 22, Moses spoke to the Israelites about mixing two different things contrary to God’s plans (beasts of burden, cloths, seeds) and being compassionate to God’s creations (humankind and animal). In the rest of chapter twenty-two, Moses continued the thoughts on mixing things together that were not in God’s plans. Chiefly, he told them the rules of morality related to human relations. Moses taught them what God considered adultery. Rabbinical literature teaches adultery is the mixing of any two or more things that the LORD says are not to be mixed or put together – ox and donkey, wool and cotton, maiden and non-husband/betrothed husband-to-be. God allows the proper use and union of His creation for His purposes. He made them and He knows best how each fits and works within His universe for the good of the whole universe. When something goes against God’s perfect plan for His created universe, rabbinical teachers call that adultery. Adultery is using something in a way not consistent with His order, which then creates perversion and chaos.

Morality in Marriage 


From verse thirteen through verse twenty-one, Moses taught the Israelites God’s plan for the marriage of a man and woman. He taught them using a negative format. Before we study these nine verses, we must understand the Jewish customs of betrothal and marriage.

Stages in Marriage. 


Contract


The early Jewish method of marriage involved three stages – contract, consummation, and celebration. We read of these stages in the Bible from the time of Abraham to the first century AD. The first stage was the signing of the marriage contract called the ketubbah. This contract legally bound the bride, groom, and their families. The father of the bride and the father of the groom or the groom himself signed the ketubbah, the purpose of which was primarily to protect the bride. The father of the bride used his wisdom to protect his daughter. The contract included the money the groom paid the father of the bride (“bride price”). Fifty shekels of silver was the normal bride price. The groom lost this bride price if he divorced the bride without cause or took a second wife without the permission of the bride or her father. The ketubbah also spelled out the assets the bride would take into the marriage to contribute to her husband’s estate when she married him. The signature by the groom and bride’s father (with or without the bride’s consent) sealed the marriage. The bride and groom would get to know each other between the first two stages of the wedding. They were legally married/betrothed after the signatures on the ketubbah and began dating at that point. The signing of the betrothal meant they were married according to law.

Consummation


Though the bride and groom were legally married at the signing of the contract, they did not co-habitate until stage two, which could be six months to seven years later (as Jacob did for Leah in Genesis 29). They had no physical relationship until the groom paid the bride price to the bride’s father. This occurred for a few reasons. Often a bride was younger than puberty so the waiting period for the consummation allowed her to reach puberty. The time delay showed if the bride was pregnant before her betrothal in which case her bride price changed to that of a non-virgin. Added to this, as stated earlier, it allowed the groom to earn the bride price to pay to the bride’s father.

When the bride’s father approved the groom had met his legal and financial requirements of the contract, he set a date for the chuppah and told the bride. The bride and her mother prepared the wedding room and bed at her home. The groom went to the home of the bride and consummated the marriage in her own house. At the consummation of the marriage, a chuppah (virginity cloth about two feet square) lay under the bride on the bed for her to bleed onto to leave proof of her virginity. Several formal witnesses waited in a room nearby while the bride and groom consummated their marriage after which the bridegroom would give them the “proof of virginity.” The bride’s father kept the chuppah in a safe place.

Celebration


Once the bride and groom consummated the marriage, the groom led the witnesses and his bride to his home or to a friend’s home for a wedding celebration/feast. The apostle, John, spoke of a wedding feast in his Gospel, John 2:1-11. Jesus spoke a parable to the people comparing the kingdom of heaven to a wedding feast in Matthew 22:1-14.

Accusations and Judgments.


Groom and Bride


Remember when we studied Deuteronomy 20, we defined the Israelites’ enemies as someone who was an enemy of God. Conversely, someone who was an enemy of God was an enemy of the Israelites. To defame one of God’s children, an Israelite, was to defame God. Defamation of character ruins reputations. God spoke about this in Deuteronomy 16, 19, & 21. God did not allow a malicious witness’ testimony as the sole evidence that sentenced a person. That testimony about the other person could be due to the witness’ own evil of wanting to gain the property of the accused. God required two or more witnesses to any claim to verify the truth.

The same rule is required for a bride. She needed a testimony or witness of her virginity should a man go into the marriage contract just to gain her assets, sexual relations, or defame her name. Moses taught the Israelites what God commanded about this situation in verses thirteen through twenty-one. Verses 13 to 15 say,

If any man takes a wife and goes in to her and then turns against her and charges her with shameful deeds and publicly defames her deed and says, “I took this woman, but when I came near her, I did not find her a virgin,” then the girl’s father and her mother shall take and bring out the evidence of the girl’s virginity to the elders of the city at the gate. [NASB]

In verse thirteen, the Hebrew word for “man” is ‘iysh, unlike in verse five. This verse speaks about every man. The English word “wife” is the Hebrew word ‘ishshah and means female, woman, or wife. This is the same word used in verse five. Regarding a Jewish marriage, the “wife” can be a betrothed maiden girl or a woman whose marriage was consummated. We must understand that this teaching is about both women. Verse 13 says, when the man goes in to her, (into her bedroom) and then turns against her, this “turning against” her comes from the Hebrew word sane’. It means to hate or detest her. Why would anyone hate a young bride and intentionally lie with her except that he wanted to harm her. Moses said in these three verses the groom’s hate or detest of her could turn into verbal defamation. His hate might provoke his public proclaiming that she did shameful deeds and her family tricked him into marrying her assuming she was a virgin. Moses said the father, as the bride’s witness along with her mother (two or more witnesses, you remember), shall take evidence of the girl’s virginity to the elders of the city at the gate. Here the benefit of having the witnesses at the consummation comes into play. The witnesses for the groom and bride saw the chuppah after consummation and the bride’s parents kept it as evidence should an evil man try to claim their daughter was not a virgin. The elders of a city, you recall, were the people of the city having authority. They could be the Levites of the city, the older and wiser people of the city, or the key leaders of business there. The gate of a city was the place where the elders decided between claimants on matters of law and judgment. From stools, barrels, or rocks, the elders listened, consulted together, and decided judgment on matters brought to them.

The testimony of two or three people can vouch for or against the validity of a claim. The validity of a claim is greater if a person presents physical evidence with a verbal testimony. When the bride’s father brought the evidence of virginity, he approached the elders of the city saying,

I gave my daughter to this man for a wide, but he turned against her and behold, he has charged her with shameful deeds, saying, ‘I did not find your daughter a virgin.’ But this is the evidence of my daughter’s virginity. And they shall spread the garment before the elders of the city. (Deut. 22:16-17 [NASB])

The girl’s father would say he is the girl’s protector, her ‘ab, father. He must speak to the elders who decide great matters in a city and show them the evidence he and his wife kept. The groom’s witnesses saw the evidence, too. More people than the groom could attest to the event. The father said the groom turned against her and hated her. The groom defamed her name and, by doing so, defamed the family and the God. The father said, “See the evidence of the garment” (simlah – cloak, mantle, wrapper), in this case the chuppah. The father protected the reputation of his daughter, family, and LORD with his and the mother’s witness with the physical evidence.

      What did Moses command the elders of the city do in such a case? He told them in verses eighteen through twenty-one. He gave answers for two possible scenarios. First, if they found the groom about the bride, Moses said in verses eighteen and nineteen,

The elders of that city shall take the man and chastise him and they shall fine him a hundred shekels of silver and give it to the girl’s father, because he publicly defamed a virgin of Israel (not just the father). And she shall remain his wife; he cannot divorce her all his days. [NASB] (emphasis my own)

The chastisement of that man comes from the Hebrew word yacar, meaning to discipline, admonish, and chastise. The groom’s false claim would sully his own name. Added to this, the elders would assess a fine of a hundred shekels of silver, which they gave to the bride’s father. A shekel is the weight of silver, about 10.5 grams. The current value of one shekel of silver is about $10, so the groom in today’s money would pay the father $1000 for defaming his daughter. That is double the price he paid for the bride in the marriage contract, the ketubbah. The elders admonished the groom in public and made him pay the bride’s father punitive damages. These actions would bring shame on the groom’s name just as he wanted to bring on the bride. Added to this, the groom had to remain her husband and never divorce her. If he did, she would no longer be a virgin because he took that from her. She would have a ruined reputation since a few people would believe the groom no matter what evidence came forward in the claim. This kept the bride’s, her family’s, and Israel’s names free from defamation. God’s purpose for marriage would occur despite an attempt to change it by the groom.

      Another possibility could occur when the groom brought the charge to the elders. The bride may not have been a virgin as the groom claimed. For such a situation, Moses taught that God commanded a harsh judgment on her. He said in verses twenty and twenty-one,

But if this charge is true, that the girl was not found a virgin, then they shall bring out the girl to the doorway of her father’s house and the men of her city shall stone her to death because she has committed an act of folly in Israel by playing the harlot in her father’s house; thus you shall purge the evil from among you. [NASB]

      There are two people in any marriage relationship. The fault could lie with the bride. God created man and woman to be helpmates to each other. He created them to work together, be fruitful, and multiply. He gave Adam just one wife and Eve just one husband. God’s plan was one man for one woman. If the husband found he was not the first to have sexual relations with his wife, he had recourse. He did not have to live in an adulterated relationship, but had the privilege of living in a relationship where Yahweh and His rules for living stood firm. The bride/wife, in this case, defamed her family, the groom and his family, and Yahweh. She brought evil into their relationship with her choice to lie with a man outside of marriage. Moses charged the elders with keeping God’s command to have the girl stoned by the men of her city at her father’s door. The girl’s actions tainted her family’s name and her blood made her family’s gate unclean.

      This command taught one of the hard sayings of God, but He said it to purge evil from among the people of the city and from Israel. Anything that went against the purpose of God for His created universe brought evil and allowed it to separate the Israelites from Him. To keep the Israelites from being separated from Him by impurity, the evil had to be removed. Remember God’s judgment for sin is the death penalty, often given through a sacrificial animal back then. Yet, in a few cases such as premeditated manslaughter (Deut. 19:19), false prophets (Deut. 13:5), or worshipping of other gods (Deut. 17:7), the judgment of death was immediate, not in the distant future. That was the case here.

Sexual Relations Outside of Marriage


Man and Wife of Another Man.


In the case of a man lying with a married woman, we read that God protects His creation and perfect order. Moses told them what God commanded in verse twenty-two when he said, “If a man is found lying with a married woman, then both of them shall die, the man who lay with the woman, and the woman; thus you shall purge the evil from Israel.” [NASB] This command from God sounds straightforward. God explained when two unmarried people laid the together He considered that evil, sin. This required His judgment, which was death to “purge evil from Israel.” God’s purpose was to make sure evil did not taint the faith and purity of the people of Israel. God used the phrase, “to purge evil from Israel” in Deuteronomy 13:5, 17:7, and 19:19, too. Evil must be removed from the land so it would not cause confusion/chaos and raise up more evil in the land. God’s laws led people to Him in the Old Testament. Jesus was the physical manifestation of God on earth who permanently took away the sins of the people. He offered them the power they never had to stay away from sin and the temptation to sin. Until Jesus brought fulfillment of God’s laws, God commanded the Israelites stay pure by following His commands, laws, and statutes.

Jesus taught about this law when the Pharisees brought him a woman found in adultery. In John 8:3-8, Jesus recognized the Pharisees desire to trick him. When they asked Him what they should do to the woman found in adultery, Jesus said, “Let the one who is without sin cast the first stone.” The Pharisees did not understand He came to save the world, not judge it. Jesus wanted them to see themselves as sinners, too, so they would see the need for a Savior. Jesus gave adultery a new definition from the one in the Old Testament. In the Old Testament, adultery was the act of illicit sexual relations. Jesus said in Matthew 5:27-28 adultery occurs when a man looks at a woman with lust in his heart. God knows some intentions of the heart can lead to sin. He knows we need the power to overcome those temptations and intentions that begin in the heart. Jesus gives us that power when we accept Him as our Lord and Savior.

Man and Betrothed Woman of Another Man.


In the next section of this chapter, verses twenty-three through twenty-seven speak of two situations that can occur when a betrothed woman laid with a man who was not her betrothed husband. In both cases, God said to purge the evil from Israel, but the elders of the city must apply diligence in their investigation to decide if the accusation was true. God gave the elders ways to determine this.

Verse 23 speaks of an engaged woman with a man who finds her in the city and laid with her. For this situation, God’s command was that both the people be stoned to death. God told them this punishment on the girl was because she did not cry out for help so she must have willingly laid with the man. If she unwillingly laid with him, then she would have cried out. Since she was in the city when found, if she cried for help, the city people would have heard and rescued her. The man’s judgment of death came because he violated his neighbor’s wife/betrothed. By violating the man’s wife, he humiliated her and her husband in the face of the family, community, and nation of Israel. By doing that the man made himself an enemy of Israel, and enemy of God. Enemies of God receive the judgment of death, most often seen as eternal death after physical life on earth. In these cases and the few others recalled earlier, God’s judgment of death was immediate. Once again, God’s reasoning for this was to purge the evil from Israel so no other people would follow that evil, become impure, fall away from God, and not be able to be in His presence.

Verses 23 – 27 speak of a man finding a betrothed woman in a field and lying with her. For this situation, just the man received the death sentence. The betrothed girl did not because no one could have heard her call for help since she was not in the city where more people were available to hear such cries. Being in the field meant there was little opportunity for someone to hear a cry for help. There was no one to save her. God said in verse twenty-six, “But you shall do nothing to the girl; there is no sin in the girl worthy of death.” For the man, we find he humiliated the betrothed man and woman, their families, the community, and their nation. By doing that, the man sinned against God and made God his enemy, too.

Unengaged Man and Woman.


In this case, the man seized (taphas – captures and grasps) an un-betrothed girl and laid with her. By doing this, he stole the father’s property and his pride, his daughter. The man ruined the girl’s chance to be married as a virgin bride and gave her a bad reputation. To remedy the humiliation of the girl and her family, the man must pay the bride price for the girl and never divorce her. The bride price became half the price (fifty shekels of silver) of a virgin bride (one hundred shekels of silver). This happened if the girl was an un-betrothed maiden or married to another man.

A Father’s Wife and Son.


In Leviticus 18:7-8, God commanded sons not to “uncover the nakedness of his [their] father,” that is his mother or step-mother. In Leviticus 20:11, a son must not lie with his father’s wife or else both of them, the wife and the son, shall die. Deuteronomy 27:20 repeats what Moses said in Deuteronomy 22:30, “A man shall not take his father’s wife so that he will not uncover his father’s skirt.” From the first, we read that incest is un-permissable. For strong genetics to continue, we see why God commanded that. Obviously, if the stepmother is still married to the father, the son cannot lay with her. That would be the same sin as a man lying with a married woman. The other though, lying with his step-mother, is made clear when we study Hebrew symbolism.

To understand this better, we must understand what it means to “uncover his father’s skirt.” This phrase is like the phrase found in the Bible that says, “uncovering nakedness.” It means having sexual relations with someone. In Hebrew symbolism, a man’s wife was his garment. The wife was so valuable and close to the man, that she was as close as his garment. When a son uncovered his father’s skirt, it meant he had sexual relations with his father’s wife and concubines. The sexual union between a father’s wife and his son is a forbidden mixture just like wool and cotton or ox and donkey.

This law had much to do with the laws of inheritance in the cultures around Israel at the time. When a father died in the surrounding nations, the inheriting son took possession of his father’s concubines and wives. In this way, a man’s stepmother became his wife and his father’s concubines became his harem. God forbade the Israelites to keep these inheritance laws just because the other nations had them.

An instance of this occurred in the Bible when Reuben took one of Jacob’s concubines (Genesis 35:19-23). When Jacob lay dying, he did not give Reuben the firstborn inheritance because he lay with his concubine, Bilah (Genesis 49:1-4). Besides this reasoning, when a man of that time in other Middle Eastern countries wanted to usurp another man’s throne, authority, and power, whether clan, tribal, or kingship, he showed his own power by having sexual relations with the leader’s wives and concubines. Jacob removed Reuben’s birthright of becoming the next leader of Israel when he “uncovered his father’s skirt.” With Deuteronomy 22:30, God said the practice of other nations, inheriting a father’s wives and concubines, was not acceptable. God forbade this practice in Israel.

Recap


The marriage of a man and woman is sacred to God whether betrothed or consummated. He created man and woman for each other. They were not to share themselves with others, be passed to the next leaders, or taken by force. God provided judgment for those people who caused confusion in human relationships, people who put God’s perfect order out of balance by thinking just of themselves and their wants. Sometimes God delays His judgments against sinners and other times He acts at once. The timing of God’s judgment is His alone because He knows the hearts of humankind. Sins of relationship between men and women required God’s people to act right then to effect His judgment and “purge the evil from among them.” Sin separates people from God because He cannot be in the presence of evil. To remove sin from the people meant the people could be in God’s presence quicker. God provided that with these judgments in Deuteronomy 22.

Relevance


The sexual union between a husband and wife is a physical manifestation of their intimate relationship to each other. Walking with the LORD by obeying, worshipping, and loving Him is a physical manifestation of our intimacy with God. Adam and Eve walked with God before they sinned. God called Abraham His friend. God was with these people because they sought Him and His righteousness. To be righteous, a person must follow God. Moses taught the Israelites this required them to love, worship, and obey Him. God created everything in the universe to work in certain ways to keep it running perfectly. He created man and woman to multiply, be fruitful, subdue, and fill the earth. Verses one through twelve of Deuteronomy 22 teach some ways they were to manage and maintain God’s universe from Genesis 1:28. Verses thirteen through 30 speak of the first part of God’s mandate to humankind from Genesis 1:28 – to be fruitful and multiply. These things could not happen well if men and women just saw each other as sexual outlets. Mutual trust, love, and respect has to be a part of man-woman relationships otherwise they were just taking care of their physical needs and not taking care of God’s created universe. Man and woman would become totally absorbed in his or herself and not in God. God created man and woman to be in a relationship with each other exclusively just as He requires humankind exclusively to love and worship Him. Without following His plans for the world, chaos, sin, and death occur and perfection and purity departs.

Conclusion


Each of us has to decide if we will take up the mantle God gave us in Genesis 1. If we do, that means we will follow God’s perfect plan for His created universe. The relationship each of us has with Him affects our relationship with the created world and with other humans. God made humans into two sexes to be helpmates and to provide what was needed for the tasks of multiplying, being fruitful, subduing, and ruling. To live harmoniously while following God’s commands, a deep trust relationship is necessary between man and woman and between man and God. God’s perfect laws enhance the relationship between man and woman. Trust and love occur. Life is easier when shared. Worship of the God who created everything in the universe perfectly happens naturally. Love of God grows to love between man and woman and then to their descendants. God’s commands in Deuteronomy 22 come across harsh to the ears of the post-modern 21st century. Maybe though we should consider if they are truly harsh of if they just get in the way of doing what we want when we want to do it, not considering what harm may occur in our world or universe because of our selfish choices. That is adulteration of God’s plans for His creation. Maybe when we look at it that way we can see how God’s judgment to purge the evil from among the Israelites was most important, especially over the desires of flesh.

We each now must decide how we want to walk after this lesson. Can we walk our lives the way we have been? Are there things we have done that are not the best, which is what God wants? We need to reflect and talk with God about each of the actions with which we want to be or are involved to decide if they advance God’s perfect plan for His created universe. Come back closer to yourself – Is there something God wants you to do to allow Him to come back into your life in a closer way? That is where we each must start.

Where did you stop following God and His plan?

Where do you need to be to follow God?

Monday, February 2, 2015

Rightness and Purity (part 2) Deuteronomy 22:1-12


Introduction

Over the last couple of chapters, this one, and the next few, God gave statutes to the Israelites by which they were to live. Bible teachers and commentators have called these statutes miscellaneous or sundry statutes/laws. Though God appeared too concerned with the minutiae of the days and appeared to be overbearing, we must not forget the main purpose of the laws, statutes, and commandments. God gave these laws to help the Israelites, God’s chosen people, stay pure. To be pure means being “clean,” not stained by bloodguilt and not bowed with sin and its resultant guilt, but staying in relationship with Yahweh God.

Before the covenant with Noah, Abraham, Moses, and the Israelites, God made a covenant of love with His first created people, Adam and Eve. He created them because He wanted to be in a relationship with them. God made them in the image of Himself. He gave to them authority over everything on the earth, in the seas, and in the sky to manage and maintain it. This covenant was the first between God and created humankind. This Adamic covenant continues throughout earth’s lifespan, even today. God had unhindered access to Adam and Eve and they to Him. Remember, the Bible says He walked with them in the garden (Genesis 3:8). The first people, representative and father/mother of  humankind, had closeness, intimacy, and communion with God, Creator of humankind. When sin entered the world through Adam and Eve’s disobedience, the closeness, intimacy, and communion with God left. God, being holy, cannot be in the presence of sin.

Disobedience continued to occur on earth. God found just Noah and his family repentant and willing to stay in a relationship with Him. God’s judgment upon sinful humanity was to flood the earth. After the flood, the regeneration of humanity occurred, but people continued to sin. God had a plan from the beginning of the world to make a people pure so they could be in relationship with Him. First, He had to get the attention of people and to show Himself so that they sought relationship with Him. Leviticus 26:12 says Abraham walked with God. Over time, more people walked with God in relationship, but these followers were still few .

Because of God’s relationship with Noah and Abraham, God chose to love the people descended from Israel, Abraham’s grandson. These people became God’s chosen people – the Israelites. Through Moses, God taught them who He is and what He would do for them. This is yada “knowing” Moses spoke of in Deuteronomy – a progressive knowing of God. God’s one requirement was they stay faithful to Him as their LORD/YAHWEH. Because God chose the Israelites as His people and they covenanted with Him about He being their one and only God, God gave laws, statutes, and commandments to them so they would stay righteous and pure before His eyes. This reason is the primary purpose God gave the rules for living. The secondary reason for God’s laws/statutes was for each person to live in harmony with other people and to live in harmony with nature. God did not give His laws to police and put the people under a tyrannical dictator.  He gave them to keep the Israelites in relationship with Himself. God gave His laws because of His love.

In Deuteronomy 22:1-12, God gave the Israelites laws affecting relationships between people and between people and nature. By keeping and obeying these laws, they would stay strong in their relationship with God. People’s relationship with God remains strong and strengthens

 because of their love of and obedience to God. Remember, by keeping God’s laws and statutes the Israelites remained right in God’s eyes. They remained free from the guilt of sin and pure in God’s eyes.

Affecting Humans – Care for Neighbors: Possessions


The first four verses of Deuteronomy 22 affect the Hebrews’ relationship with his or her neighbor. Verse 1 says a person shall not ignore or hide him or herself when he or she sees his or her countryman’s ox or sheep straying away. That person must take the animals back to the countryman to whom the animals belong. First, we need to note that the word “countryman” comes from the Hebrew word ach. It means a brother, relative, or kinsman. Since God founded the nation of Israel from the family line of Israel and gave them the Promised Land, this verse refers to every person who lived in the Promised Land. Anyone who lived in Israel must help anyone else who lived in Israel. The other important point of this verse is that God commanded (“shall”) them not to be negligent about taking care of another person – their person or possessions. Additionally, at the end of verse one, God told the Israelites, “You shall certainly bring them back to their countryman.” The finder was not to keep the possession of another person. The word “certainly” is a strong adverb added to the command “shall” to make sure the Israelites would not take liberties and keep the possession.

In verse 2, God told the Israelites what to do if the countryman to whom the possessions belonged did not live nearby or if he was unknown. He said the finder must (“shall”) take the neighbor’s possession to his or her own home and keep it until the countryman looked for it. The finder must keep the item with him or her just like he or she found it. He or she must keep it safe in his or her home until the countryman “looks” (seeks and asks) for it. The last part of verse two says, “Then you shall restore it to him.” The finder must not squeeze out of the obligation to return the found item. God commanded him or her to “restore” it. The word “restore” comes from the Hebrew word shuwb and means to restore, refresh, repair, and relinquish.  

God said in verse three if the found item was an animal, the finder must return the animal in as good or better condition than he found it. That means the finder was to feed the animal and not use it for his or her own purposes and work. If the found item was a garment (“simlah”), God meant the finder return it to the owner in the same condition, not more worn. God required due diligence of the finder. He did not apply this law just to animals and clothing, but included anything found belonging to another person. God said, “You shall do likewise with anything lost by your countryman, which he has lost and you have found. You are not allowed to neglect them.” The Hebrew word for our English word “found” is matsa. It includes protecting the found item - protecting for the future when the owner claims it and protecting from his or her own “neglect” (concealing and keeping it for his or herself). The word “neglect” in Hebrew is ‘alam and means to hide and keep to oneself.

God explicitly said was a person to pay attention, keep, and protect a found item. He stated, too, a person must help another person who was in obvious need. In verse 4, God told the Israelites if they saw a countryman whose donkey or ox fell, they were not to ignore the countryman. They were to help the countryman raise up the animal. Once again, God told the Israelite not to hide (neglect) from the need of another countryman (anyone living in Israel), but He commanded them to “certainly help.” These four verses relate to the relationship between two people. They relate to a person’s covenant with God about managing and maintaining the earth, too (from the first covenant with humankind in the garden of Eden). Animals are part of the earth and when they are in need, God commanded the Israelites give compassion and help.

Affecting God’s Order - Humans


From the beginning of creation, God created man and woman different. He created them in His image, both male and female (Genesis 1). God designed them with different bodily characteristics that gave them the ability to do tasks needed to be “fruitful,” “multiply,” “fill,” “subdue,” and “rule” over the earth (Genesis 1:27-28). Adam and Eve and their descendents were to use their bodies as God made them to be fruitful, multiply, and fill the earth. To keep chaos from occurring on earth (remember, God is not a God of chaos and confusion – 1 Corinthians 14:33), they had to exercise the authority and wisdom God gave them to fill, subdue, and rule over the earth. “Subdue” comes from the Hebrew word kabash and means to keep under control and make subservient. This action requires brain and brawn. “Rule” comes from the Hebrew word radah and means to have dominion and subjugate. This action required brain and brawn, too. God gave man and woman the ability to multiply humankind and they each had different roles in re-creation. He gave men and women a desire for each other so they would be fulfilled in their relationship with each other as well as multiply and fill the earth. God made men with more muscle so they could do harder tasks and work longer. He gave both man and woman brains to exercise knowledge and wisdom in subduing and ruling over the earth, sky, and seas to keep them in God’s natural perfect balance so ecological chaos did not occur. God gave women the physical ability to bear and nurture her children. Because of that and her smaller muscle mass, her body could better care for the family and tasks requiring less strength. Neither partner in the relationship demands from the other a specific role, but in love for the other person, recognizes his or her strengths and weaknesses and works to help and complement the other for the tasks needed so they both work together in union and unity, like the husband-wife team of Aquila and Priscilla in Acts 18, Romans 16:3-4, 1 Corinthians 16:19, and 2 Timothy 4:19.  Paul considered them both equal, but they knew each other’s strengths and worked towards their joint strengths. Paul recognized the equality of every person under God in Galatians 3:27-28. This complementary work is how both man and woman fill, subdue, and rule over the earth, together. Neither the man nor woman is greater under God; they are equally loved and cherished. One’s ability – brain, brawn, nurturing nature – does not make him or her greater than the other.

God knew working side by side in managing and maintaining His creation would create a potential for distraction because of the desire man and woman would have for each other – a God-given desire. Satan would try to use the sexual attraction/distraction to cause lust, abuse of one by the other and temptation to change the God-made purpose of each sex. To keep correct the God-given order of sexuality, God commanded in verse five, “A woman shall not wear a man’s clothing nor shall a man put on a woman’s clothing for whoever does these things is an abomination to the LORD your God.” This verse does not command one person be subjugated under another. It means most of all be careful how one dresses so temptation is not given to another regarding one’s body. Paul reiterated this statute about modesty in 1 Timothy 2:9-10 when he told Timothy women should cloth themselves modestly and discreetly. A deeper understanding occurs when the Hebrew words are understood in Deuteronomy 22:5.

If you think you know exactly what this verse means, let me remind you to be open to God’s Spirit moving and teaching as you read God’s Word. This verse does not say, as people over the years interpreted it, that women must not wear pants. Let us study the Hebrew words. The word “woman” used both times in this verse is the Hebrew word ishshah. It means a woman, female, or wife. It gives the general meaning of woman. The English word “man” in this verse is the Hebrew word geber. Geber is not the general word for man. It means a strong, valiant warrior. The most common Hebrew words used for “man” in the Bible are ‘ish and ‘adam.  Ish means  man, male, or husband and ‘adam means man or mankind. ‘Ish is the most common word for man and is used 1797 times in the Old Testament. “Adam is the next most common word used for man and is used 524 times in the Old Testament. Bible writers used geber sixty-three times. It speaks about a specific male role in society that reflects upon his strength and valor due to his strength. Hence, the comparison in this verse is between a general female role and a specific male role.

Next, let us look at the words used for clothing. The “man’s clothing” mentioned in the first part of the verse comes from the Hebrew word keliy and means implements such as for hunting, war, or specific to a man’s labor. Since the verse speaks of a strong, valiant warrior, then the clothing the woman must not wear, according to God, was the clothing a strong, valiant  man wore. These types of clothes could be armor, shield, chainmail, or any other clothing/implement a strong, valiant man would wear. These clothes would be extremely heavy for a man and more so for a woman. Now, to look at the clothing of a woman that a geber man must not wear, we need to look at the Hebrew word used for woman’s clothing. The woman’s clothing is the Hebrew word simlah. Simlah is a mantle, cloak, wrapper, or covering garment. People wore these cloaks for extra warmth during colder weather and often used them as blankets. Both men and women wore cloaks. Some Bible teachers propose people made cloaks for men and women differently. They proposed a man’s cloak/mantle had long slits in it so it could be tucked into his loincloth to make running or fighting easier. A woman’s cloak, they say, had no slits because they were to dress modestly and cover more of themselves. This theory sounds plausible, but nothing proves this idea. Other commentators say people transposed silmah from salmah, which means something closer to a dress. I think we should not stray too far from the Hebrew words and the context in which they are used. This verse, in essence, says a woman must not wear a strong, valiant man’s implements and a strong, valiant man must not wear women’s clothing – dress or a cloak made for a woman. The first thing we must remember is that God commanded it so we must obey it. The second thing we must remember is God gave these commands to keep this new nation - a people He chose to be His own – right and pure before His eyes so He could be among them.

For our rational selves, the next thing we want to consider is does this statute affect all men’s clothes and all women’s clothes. From the first, we see God only spoke about not wearing strong, warrior clothing. God did not want women wearing strong, valiant man’s implements either because of woman’s innate, God-created lesser muscle strength or because the role of a strong warrior was not the role God intended for women. Most of us cannot deny that women in general are not as physically strong as men, especially strong warriors. Added to this, we do not see within the Bible specific roles about women farming or men cooking and cleaning. We read about men and women working together to get tasks done. We read, too, that women have the specific task of bearing and feeding infants. Therefore this verse does not say women cannot wear pants and men cannot wear coats and it does not say women work only in the house and men work only out of the house. It says women shall not put on strong, valiant warrior-like men’s implements and men hall not wear women’s clothes (form-revealing garments).

In regards to form-revealing garments, Paul told women and implied to men they are to dress modestly not to cause distraction or temptation (1 Timothy 2:9-10). This verse tells us, too, men are not to act as a woman nor women act like a man, this includes relationships. Men acting as women for other men or women acting as men for other women is specifically forbidden in the Bible (Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13, Romans 1:24-28, Jude 1:7, 1 Corinthians 6:9-11, and 1 Timothy 1:10). Dress for the task, but modestly so the work is done and no distraction or leading into temptation occurs. Remember, Jesus said in Matthew 5:27-28, “You have heard it said, ‘You shall not commit adultery,’ but I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” Modesty helps curb the temptation to lust. God put man and women together on earth to help each other (Genesis 2:18) do the tasks He set them to do in Genesis 1:28. A person dressing for the task enables him or her to work better, but God gave specifics about what clothing/implements men and women were not to wear.

Affecting God’s Design – Nature: Balance


Deuteronomy 22:6-7 appears from an initial reading to give God’s statute on maintaining and managing ecological wildlife. In essence, God told the Israelites when they came upon a bird’s nest with eggs and/or chicks and a mother sitting on the eggs, they were not to take both eggs/chicks and the mother, but leave the mother. By leaving the mother to survive, the person ensured the species survived to another gestation. By taking all of them, that branch of the species ended. In Genesis 1:28 God requires humankind to manage and maintain God’s creation.

Upon closer study we find God commanded this. He used the word “shall” twice – “you shall not take the mother with the young” and “you shall certainly let the mother go” (vs. 6 & 7). Another lesson we learn upon study of these two verses is following this command brings with it a promised and implies a curse if not followed. At the end of verse seven, God told them to do this “ so it may be well with them and they may prolong their days.” God gave this exact promise in Deuteronomy 4:40 if the Israelites followed God and His commandments. Remember, inheriting the Promised Land came from a covenant God had with Abraham. God promised the possession of the Promised Land came if the current Israelites’ kept their covenant with God. The promise in verse seven promises a long life in the Promised Land for each person and generation who lives there. The long life is individual and national. God will judge each person and controls the timing of each person’s life. As the ruler of Israel and creator of humankind, He controls the life or death/destruction of each nation as judgment for their moral depravity and disdain of Yahweh.

Another part to this command is that it taught compassion and mercy to the Israelites. As the Israelites cared for one animal and then others, the compassion and mercy God instilled within them would grow. The command taught each action built upon the next and led to a way of life. On the negative side, it forbade cruelty and covetousness. In caring for animals, the Israelites’ hearts learned compassion and mercy so that when they needed it in human relationships and encounters, they would have it to use.

Affecting Humans – Care for Neighbors: Life


Deuteronomy 22:8 says, “When you build a new house, you shall make a parapet for your roof so that you will not bring bloodguilt on your house if anyone falls from it.” In the Middle East at that time, people made their houses with flat roofs so that when the weather was hot, people could sleep and be on the roof to catch any cool breeze. Because a person could easily fall from the roof by a misstep, God told them to make a low wall on the roof to prevent that from happening. Researchers explained that the roof wall was between three feet high and ten hands high. Both heights were enough to keep a person from stepping off the roof.

God told the Israelites the main reason He commanded this action – to prevent bloodguilt. If you remember from the last Bible study, bloodguilt occurred when a person or nation killed people. The blood of any person created a wall of separation between God and the person or nation. So rid themselves of bloodguilt, the person/nation had to remove the evil from among themselves if the killing was intentional or break the neck of a young cow if it was not and then declare they were innocent and did not intend the death of the person. Either way, bloodguilt created a separation from God. God provided a precaution against accidental death by stipulating a wall be built around the roof edges. This statute prevented the severing of human relationships, the assumption of guilt, and the severing of a relationship with God.

Affecting God’s Design – Nature: Clean and Unclean


Verses nine to eleven speak about keeping dissimilar things separate. In these three verses, God dealt with mixing crops, mixing animals, and mixing fibers/threads. Remember, though, the three laws deal with the purity of things and keeping pure in God’s eyes. In each of them, God forbade particular actions. The Jews call this kilaym, which means the forbidden mixture of two things.

Sowing Seed.


The common practice of farming in the Middle East at that time was to sow seeds of a fruit, vegetable, or grain among the vines of the vineyard. In verse 9, God told the Israelites, “You shall not sow your vineyard with two kinds of seed or all the produce of the seed which you have sown and the increase of the vineyard will become defiled.” On the surface, this seems like an unusual requirement, but when we look deeper, good reasons appear about why God commanded this.

First, having a vineyard required about seven years of hard labor. This means the place in which the vineyard grew was an established town, city, or nation. Since that was the case, most likely the area grew other crops necessary for survival, too. To sow more than one crop in a particular field could point to discontent by a farmer, town, or nation with what the LORD gave them. This mindset came from comparing what God blessed them with to what another farmer, town, or nation had. The tenth commandment stated that they were not to covet anything that belongs to their neighbor (Deuteronomy 5:21). Discontent is a symptom of covetousness. By being covetous, a person goes against God and makes the person and nation be sinners and unrighteous in God’s eyes.

A second issue to consider with this command of not sowing two things in the vineyard arises when considering the science of farming. When sowers put two distinct plants too close together, they created a potential for cross-pollination. When a new plant occurs, it could be indistinguishable from either of its parent plants and may not have the benefits of the two original plants. Additionally, it could be an infertile plant. God created each plant for a purpose and told Adam and Eve to eat from it. He knew these plants as He made them would give the nutrients and benefits that a human body needed. This commandment prevented the corruption of the plants from cross-pollination and kept the original order as God created.

The kilaym of Jews speaks about the forbidden mixture of plants to keep God’s intended design and purpose for them. By following God’s commands kept the plants pure and the people pure, the latter by obedience. Hence, this command affected the physical, mental, and spiritual aspects of creation. Kilaym considers the forbidden mixture of animals, too.

Plowing with Ox and Donkey.


Where the former section forbade the mixing of plant life, in this section of Deuteronomy 22 God forbade the mixing of animals. God said in verse ten, “You shall not plow with an ox and a donkey together.” This law appears innocuous and makes a person wonder why God would consider making such a commonsense law. God meant more than the obvious when He gave this statute to the Israelites.

The obvious purpose of this command is that an ox and donkey are different and must not be mixed to do a joint task like pull a plow or cart. Consider the ox’s strength as compared to the donkey. When an ox and donkey wore a yoke together, the plow would veer toward the side the ox pulled making uneven furrows. On top of this, because the ox is taller than the donkey, the yoke would tear at the ox’s skin or the donkey might choke from the straps pulling higher to accommodate the ox. Additionally, because an ox has a longer stride and is stronger, the donkey would have to work harder to keep up with the ox, putting a strain on the donkey’s body. Once again, God taught the Israelites compassion for animals, as He did with the mother bird in verses six and seven. By living in a compassionate, the Jews were a light to other nations. Each of these obvious facts makes sense of God’s command.

Another fact comes into play with this command from God. In Leviticus 11:18 and Deuteronomy 14:16, God specified which animals were clean and unclean. Mammals that chew the cud and part the hoof, such as the ox, were clean.  The equine family of animals, such as the donkey and horse, were unclean. Notice that God never asked the Israelites to sacrifice a donkey on the altar, but He often stipulated that they sacrifice an ox. Hence, God commanded they not work a clean and unclean animal side by side.

As a final note, Paul used this verse as the rationale for what he wrote to the Corinthians in 2 Corinthians 6:14-16. He told the Corinthians not to marry a person of another faith. Righteousness and lawlessness do not go together just as ox and donkey do not go together. In verses fifteen and sixteen Paul said,

Or what harmony has Christ with Belial, or what has a believer in common with an unbeliever? Or what agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God, just as God said, ‘I will dwell in them and walk among them, and I will be their God and they shall be my people.’

Each of the statutes above affect a person’s relationship with other people, with nature, and with God. God did not do this on accident. He made sure the Israelites learned the way they live affects every part of life. God gave His commandments, laws, and statutes to keep the people right and pure - set apart from other nations. He chose them to love them, be there God, and they be His people. These laws did not come from a vindictive God, but loving Yahweh.

Mixed Fabrics.


God gave another law that affected everyday life for the Israelites. He said in verse eleven, “You shall not wear material mixed of wool and linen together.” This is a reiteration of Leviticus 19:19c. The only difference in these two verses is Leviticus says no mixture of any material shall occur, whereas in Deuteronomy God stated no mixture of linen and wool shall occur. A few Old Testament teachers say the difference in the two verses came about because God used wool and linen as an example for the Israelites in Deuteronomy 22:11. Others say that God clarified which materials He forbade be mixed in the Deuteronomy verse.

To understand this verse better, we need to understand the practices of other nations of which the Israelites were aware or would become aware. Maimonides, a renowned rabbi of the twelfth century AD, wrote in his Guide to the Perplexed that ancient pagan priests wore wool and linen woven together because they knew how to use it in occult practices. The pagan priests believed the weaving of the fabrics together united the power of the items and made them more powerful. Maimonides said because of this God forbade the Israelites not to mix these two materials and to stay away from it. The Hebrew word sha’atnez  means to stay far away from. The Jews have laws of sha’atnez to cover every similar commands and laws. Maimonides said God permitted the priests to wear a linen garment with a wool garment over or under it because but not attached to each other. Exodus 28:31-35 tells readers that the robe of the Levitical priest was blue linen with blue, purple, and scarlet in the hem. The ephod had these colors, too, with golden thread woven in it. God said in Exodus 28:39-43 the ordinary clothes of priests were to be made of linen with sashes. They wore linen trousers, too. God said no Israelite was to wear cloth made by mixing wool and linen.

Another possible reason God forbade the mixing of wool and linen comes from the history of linen in the Israelites’ lives. Linen derives from flax. Flax is a plant grown in places with much water. Egypt produced lots of flax to make linen. Israel, because they were nomadic and, thus, farmers of sheep and goats, easily produced woolen, not linen garments. By forbidding the Israelites from mixing wool and linen, God removed the method of making cloth like their captor, Egypt, to remove their ties from Egypt and create stronger ties with Himself.

In answering the question,  “Did God use wool and linen as an example of not mixing any cloth or was he clarifying and making his command in Leviticus 19:19 more clear,” it appears reasonable to conclude that since God forbade the priests wear clothes of mixed wool and linen, God meant to exclude these two materials from being mixed within one piece of cloth for everyone. The important part of this statute is God required it to keep the Israelites righteous and pure. If their making mixed wool and linen cloth led them to look back with fondness at Egypt, God removed that possibility with this statute. If making a mixed material garment caused them hardship because one material was not a product of the Promised Land, God removed that hardship with this statute. Since God required obedience to this statute for them to stay right in His eyes and have a prolonged life in the Promised Land, the Israelites had great incentive to follow this statute. Each of God’s laws was not about the ease of doing them, but of the Israelites’ set apartness - their consecration - for God’s purposes. Would they be different from the nations around them and stay faithful to their covenant with God? Or would they meld themselves with the neighboring cultures and become a new country unlike what God chose and taught them to be?

Affecting Humans – Remembering God


The final verse in this lesson is verse twelve. God said, “You shall make yourself tassels on the four corners of your garment with which you cover yourself.” This is unreasonable to people today, except to Hasidic Jews. For the Israelites, it made great sense. Remember when God told the Israelites to write God’s words on their heads and hearts, to put them on the gates and doorposts, and to teach them to their children. He did this so they would visually see and remember Him, His commandments, and laws. By seeing things, people find it easier to remember. When a person ties a strong around his or her finger, a visual reminder to remember something important occurs. God said the tassels would remind the Israelites of Him and His commandments. Numbers 15:37-41 spoke of this. God commanded the wearing of tassels in Numbers after a man gathered wood on the Sabbath instead of keeping it holy (the fourth commandment – Deuteronomy 5:12). He gave this commandment solely to keep the Israelites’ focus on Him. Do we today have anything that reminds us to keep our minds on God?

Recap


God gave commandments, laws, and statutes to keep people right before His eyes and to keep them pure. Their purity determined if He could be among them. From the beginning of the world, God chose to make humans to love them. From then to now, God still chooses to love people. He made covenants with people over time to be in relationship with them and show His merciful love.

The covenant God made with the Israelites occurred because of His love for the descendents of Abraham. At Mount Sinai, the Israelites agreed to be in covenant with Yahweh God. God gave the commandments, laws, and statutes to the Israelites to live by to keep them safe from mixing with other people and nations and then having their faith diluted with faith in false gods. He did not give them to be overbearing. They were for the good of the Israelites. The laws and statutes were good for God’s created order, too – nature and man. They kept relationships between people and between humankind and nature stable and good. God gave the commandments, laws, and statutes because of His love for the Israelites just as parents give rules and set boundaries for their children to follow. He gave them to keep a love relationship with humankind possible. The laws and statutes affect the person and world in four ways -  personally, ecologically, relationally, and spiritually.

Relevance and Conclusion


Since the covenant with the Israelites at Mount Sinai, God created another covenant – an everlasting one. He made a covenant for anyone to join into with Him. This covenant guarantees not just a prolonged life on earth, but a long life with God in heaven after our deaths. Through His Son, Jesus Christ, we can live eternally with God – on earth now and in heaven after our physical bodies die. Jesus came to earth as a baby who grew up and lived. The Jewish leaders instigated the Romans to crucify though He never sinned. Jesus chose to come to earth so He could die a sinless life as the sacrifice for the death penalty humanity deserved for its sins. His sacrifice made a way for the cleansing of sins from people  – being made pure. To receive this gift of grace through Jesus’ sacrifice, each person must choose for him or herself to accept Jesus’ salvation - accept Him as his or her Lord and Savior, and confess and repent of his or her sins. No works need to be done for this and none can be done to compensate for the wrongdoings of our lifetimes. Jesus’ death paid the complete penalty price for our sins.

A question remains – will you join God in His covenant to you? Will you ask Jesus to be your Lord and Savior? Will you follow Him? It is that simple. It is your choice.