SynopsisThis is a very long passage, in which Moses peppers the Israelites with many laws to obey. There doesn’t seem to be much of a relation between many of these laws; there isn’t a “theme” being followed.
- If a slave takes refuge with the Israelites, they are to let him live among them, wherever he likes, and they are not to oppress him. They are not to hand him over to his master.
- No Israelite—man or woman—is to become a shrine prostitute.
- Earnings from prostitutes—male or female—are not to be brought into the house of the LORD to pay a vow, “because the LORD your God detests them both” (verse 23:18).
- Israelites are not to charge fellow Israelites interest. They may charge foreigners interest, but not fellow Israelites.
- The Israelites are to be careful about making vows to the LORD. If they do make a vow, they are not to be slow to pay it, or the LORD will hold them guilty of sin. Verse 23:22 says that if they refrain from making a vow, they will not be guilty, which indicates to me that it would be better not to vow anything to the LORD, unless sure of being able to pay it. As it says in verse 23:23:
Whatever your lips utter you must be sure to do, because you made your vow freely to the LORD your God with your own mouth.
- If an Israelite enters a fellow Israelite’s vineyard, he can eat all of the grapes he wants. He’s not allowed to put any in his basket—which, to me, is just a way of saying that he’s not allowed to collect any—but while he’s there, he can eat them.
- The same rule applies to a grainfield; kernels can be picked by hand, but an Israelite wouldn’t be allowed to use a sickle on his neighbour’s grain.
- The next rule is kind of complex, so I’ll just quote it:
If a man marries a woman who becomes displeasing to him because he finds something indecent about her, and he writes her a certificate of divorce, gives it to her and sends her from his house, and if after she leaves his house she becomes the wife of another man, and her second husband dislikes her and writes her a certificate of divorce, gives it to her and sends her from his house, or if he dies, then her first husband, who divorced her, is not allowed to marry her again after she has been defiled. That would be detestable in the eyes of the LORD. Do not bring sin upon the land the LORD your God is giving you as an inheritance. (verses 24:1–4)
- The “indecent” thing he discovered about her wasn’t really indecent at all. In this case, he has maligned a good woman’s name by divorcing her for no reason.
- Or, if the thing he discovered really was indecent, then he shouldn’t be marrying her.
- When a man gets married, he is to have a full year with his wife, “to be free to stay at home and bring happiness to the wife he has married” (verse 24:5). During this time, he is not to be sent to war, or have any other “duty” laid on him.
- When an Israelite makes a loan, he is not to take the person’s millstone as collateral, because that would be taking away the person’s livelihood.
- If an Israelite kidnaps a fellow Israelite, to make him a slave or to sell him, the one who committed this crime is to be executed.
- When an Israelite gets a skin disease, s/he is to carefully obey all of the instructions of the priests, as the LORD has commanded them. Verse 24:9 gives a warning, which refers back to Numbers 12:
Remember what the LORD your God did to Miriam along the way after you came out of Egypt.
- When a loan is made, and the person borrowing offers a pledge in return for the loan, the person making the loan is not go to into the loanee’s house, to get the pledge; the man is to go into his own house, and get the pledge, to bring out to the loaner.
- If the person taking the loan is poor, the person giving the loan is not to keep the pledge overnight; verse 24:13 says that the person’s cloak is to be returned to him by sunset, so that he may sleep in it.
- If this is done properly, the person receiving the loan will thank the person giving the loan, and God will regard it as a righteous act.
- The Israelites are not to take advantage of hired workers who are poor and needy—fellow Israelites or aliens—by withholding their wages. Wages are to be paid each day, before sunset, because the people are counting on these wages to live.
- If an Israelite does withhold wages from a hired worker, that worker may cry out to the LORD, who would hold the boss guilty of sin.
- Fathers are not to be punished for the crimes of their children, and neither are children to be punished for the crimes of their fathers. Each are to be punished for their own sins.
- A very general rule comes next:
Do not deprive the alien or the fatherless of justice, or take the cloak of the widow as a pledge. Remember that you were slaves in Egypt and the LORD your God redeemed you from there. That is why I command you to do this.(verses 24:17–18)
- When the Israelites are harvesting their fields, or beating the olives from their olive trees, or harvesting the grapes from their vineyards, they are only to go over the crops once. They are not to go back over the field/tree/vineyard again, looking for anything they missed—they are to leave that for the poor. (Verse 24:19 uses the phrase that gets used a lot in the Old Testament: “the alien, the fatherless and the widow.”)
- Verse 24:22 instructs the Israelites, again, to remember that they themselves were slaves in Egypt, and says that that’s why God is giving this command.
- Disputes are to be taken to court, where the judges will decide the case. They are to acquit the innocent and condemn the guilty.
- If the guilty man deserves to be beaten, the judge is to decide the number of lashes, based on his crime. But the number is never to exceed forty, so that he won’t be degraded in his fellow Israelites’ eyes.
- While an ox is “treading out the grain”—I assume this is something the Israelite farmers would be familiar with—it is not to be muzzled.
The elders who direct the affairs of the church well are worthy of double honor, especially those whose work is preaching and teaching. For the Scripture says, “Do not muzzle the ox while it is treading out the grain,” and “The worker deserves his wages.” Do not entertain an accusation against an elder unless it is brought by two or three witnesses. Those who sin are to be rebuked publicly, so that the others may take warning. (1 Timothy 5:17–20)
Who serves as a soldier at his own expense? Who plants a vineyard and does not eat of its grapes? Who tends a flock and does not drink of the milk? Do I say this merely from a human point of view? Doesn’t the Law say the same thing? For it is written in the Law of Moses: “Do not muzzle an ox while it is treading out the grain.” Is it about oxen that God is concerned? Surely he says this for us, doesn’t he? Yes, this was written for us, because when the plowman plows and the thresher threshes, they ought to do so in the hope of sharing in the harvest. If we have sown spiritual seed among you, is it too much if we reap a material harvest from you? If others have this right of support from you, shouldn’t we have it all the more? (1 Corinthians 9:7–12a)
I’m especially looking at the part that says, “Is it about oxen that God is concerned? Surely he says this for us, doesn’t he?” It’s written even more explicitly in other versions:
- ESV: “Is it for oxen that God is concerned? Does he not speak entirely for our sake? It was written for our sake…”
- NASB: “God is not concerned about oxen, is He? Or is He speaking altogether for our sake? Yes, for our sake it was written…”
- KJV: “Doth God take care for oxen? Or saith he it altogether for our sakes? For our sakes, no doubt…”
- When a man marries, but then dies before producing a son, his wife is to marry one of the dead husband’s brothers, who is to “fulfil the duty of a brother-in-law to her” (verse 25:5)—in other words, he is to help her produce a son.
- The son, when he is born, will be considered to be a son of the dead husband, rather than the brother-in-law. He will carry on the dead man’s name, so that it won’t be “blotted out from Israel” (verse 25:6).
- If the brother-in-law refuses to marry the woman, she is to go to the elders, and tell them so. The elders are then to summon him and try and talk some sense into him (my words), but if the man still refuses, the woman is to go up to him, take off one of her sandals, spit in his face, and say, “This is what is done to the man who will not build up his brother’s family line” (verse 25:9b)
- If that happens, the brother-in-law’s family line will be known in Israel as “The Family of the Unsandaled” (verse 25:10).
- If two men are fighting, and the wife of one of the men tries to protect her husband by grabbing the other man’s private parts, she is to have her hand cut off. Verse 25:12 says that she is not to be shown pity.
- The Israelites are to be honest in their buying and selling. They’re not to have two sets of weights, or two sets of measures, for buying and selling. They’re to have one, accurate, set of weights, and one, accurate, set of measures.
- If they are honest in their dealings, they will live long in the land that the LORD is providing them.
For the LORD your God detests anyone who does these things, anyone who deals dishonestly. (verse 25:16)
- Because of what the Amalekites did to the Israelites—see Exodus 17—the Israelites are to “blot out the memory of Amalek from under heaven” (verse 25:19). (I think it’s pretty safe to say that this means the Israelites are to destroy the Amalekites.) Once the LORD has given the Israelites rest from all of the enemies within the Promised Land, they are to turn their attention to the Amalekites, and carry out God’s judgement.
ThoughtsAgain, I have to wonder if I’m wandering into sacrilegious or blasphemous areas to say that I “like” some rules and “don’t like” others. But I’m humble about it, in my own heart; I know that when I don’t understand something, it’s my own lack of understanding, not God’s rules that are messed up.
I really didn’t expect to write so much about a simple verse like 25:4, “Do not muzzle an ox while it is treading out the grain.” But that’s one of the benefits of blogging your way through the Bible: sometimes you have to stop and examine a verse more closely, when you would have been tempted to simply skim over it, reading it in your bedroom before bed.