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Deuteronomy 25

PARAGRAPH DIVISIONS OF MODERN TRANSLATIONS

NKJV NRSV TEV NJB
Miscellaneous Laws (24:5-25:4) Laws Dealing with Humanitarian and Religious Obligations (23:15-25:19) Various Laws (24:5-25:4) Protection to the Individual (24:5-25:4)
24:19-25:3      
  25:1-3 25:1-3 25:1-3
25:4 25:4 25:4 25:4
Marriage Duty of the Surviving Brother   Duty to a Dead Brother The Levirate Law
25:5-10 25:5-10 25:5-10 25:5-10
Miscellaneous Laws   Other Laws Modesty in Brawls
25:11-12 25:11-12 25:11-12 25:11-12
      Appendices
25:13-16 25:13-16 25:13-16 25:13-16
Destroy the Amalekites   The Command to Kill the Amalekites  
25:17-19 25:17-19 25:17-19 25:17-19

READING CYCLE THREE (see introductory section)

FOLLOWING THE ORIGINAL AUTHOR'S INTENT AT PARAGRAPH LEVEL

This is a study guide commentary which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

Read the chapter in one sitting. Identify the subjects (reading cycle #3). Compare your subject divisions with the four modern translations above. Paragraphing is not inspired, but it is the key to following the original author's intent, which is the heart of interpretation. Every paragraph has one and only one subject.

1. First paragraph

2. Second paragraph

3. Third paragraph

4. Etc.

 

CONTEXTUAL INSIGHTS

A. Different areas covered by Mosaic Legislation

1. criminal law

2. civil law

3. family law

4. cultic law

5. charitable law

B. For a good discussion on the genre of law and how to apply it today see:

1. Introduction to Biblical Interpretation by Klein, Blomberg, and Hubbard, pp. 278-283

2. How To Read the Bible for All Its Worth by Fee and Stuart, pp. 163-180

3. Cracking Old Testament Code, chapter 6, "Law" by Richard E. Everbeck, pp. 113-138

 

WORD AND PHRASE STUDY

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: 25:1-3
  
1"If there is a dispute between men and they go to court, and the judges decide their case, and they justify the righteous and condemn the wicked, 2then it shall be if the wicked man deserves to be beaten, the judge shall then make him lie down and be beaten in his presence with the number of stripes according to his guilt. 3He may beat him forty times but no more, so that he does not beat him with many more stripes than these and your brother is not degraded in your eyes."

25:1 "If there is a dispute" This refers to a legal case between covenant brothers (BDB 936, cf. 17:8-13; 19:17; 21:5). Legal cases are meant to stop personal revenge.

▣ "justify the righteous" The court decides fairly and accurately (cf. 1:16-17). The verb (BDB 842, KB 1003, Hiphil perfect) and the adjective (BDB 843) are from the same root. See Special Topic: Righteousness at 1:16.

▣ "condemn the wicked" Like the previous pair, this involves the verb (BDB 957, KB 1294, Hiphil perfect and the adjective (BDB 957) from the same root.

25:2 "the judge" This is either (1) the observing Levite or (2) the striking Levite. Later Judaism required three witnesses to a beating. The beater, the counter, and the reader of the Scriptural requirement.

▣ "in his presence" This is literally, "before his face," which means the judge must watch to assure the carrying out of the sentence. This phrase was interpreted by later Judaism to refer to the position of the one to be punished, "beat on chest one third of the strokes and on the back two thirds of strokes."

▣ "the number of stripes according to his guilt" The punishment needs to fit the crime. The number of strokes varied (cf. Neh. 13:25).

25:3 "forty times" This was the maximum number of strokes with either a rod (cf. Exod. 21:20; Middle Assyrian Laws, A18) or a whip made of leather. By NT times thirty-nine stripes were the maximum (cf. Mishnah Makkoth, III, 13-14; II Cor. 11:24).

▣ "stripes" This term (BDB 912 I) means lash marks. It has a wide semantic field and can refer to (1) a wound (cf. Isa. 1:6) or (2) a disease (cf. 28:61).

▣ "your brother is not degraded in your eyes" Even in punishment a humanitarian spirit prevails. Restoration and changed character are always the goal.

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: 25:4
  
4"You shall not muzzle the ox while he is threshing."

25:4 "You shall not muzzle the ox" This shows kindness to animals (cf. 22:6-7; Pro. 12:10). This was used by Paul in the NT to support wages for Christian leaders (cf. I Cor. 9:9; I Tim. 5:18). Paul is using (1) Jesus' words in Luke 10:7 (cf. I Tim. 5:18) and (2) a rabbinical method of interpretation and application called "lesser to greater." If this statement is true for oxen, surely it is true for human workers. See Expository Hermeneutics by Elliott E. Johnson, pp. 235-236.

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: 25:5-10
  
5"When brothers live together and one of them dies and has no son, the wife of the deceased shall not be married outside the family to a strange man. Her husband's brother shall go in to her and take her to himself as wife and perform the duty of a husband's brother to her. 6It shall be that the firstborn whom she bears shall assume the name of his dead brother, so that his name will not be blotted out from Israel. 7But if the man does not desire to take his brother's wife, then his brother's wife shall go up to the gate to the elders and say, 'My husband's brother refuses to establish a name for his brother in Israel; he is not willing to perform the duty of a husband's brother to me.' 8Then the elders of his city shall summon him and speak to him. And if he persists and says, 'I do not desire to take her,' 9then his brother's wife shall come to him in the sight of the elders, and pull his sandal off his foot and spit in his face; and she shall declare, 'Thus it is done to the man who does not build up his brother's house.' 10In Israel his name shall be called, 'The house of him whose sandal is removed.'"

25:5 "When brothers live together" This is the beginning of the discussion of "Levirate marriages" (cf. Genesis 38). The term "Levirate" came from the Latin term for brother-in-law. The whole purpose of this legislation is to keep the inheritance within the family. If there is no one in the family who wants to marry the widow then the brother shall raise up an heir for him (cf. Matt. 22:24; Mark 12:19; Luke 20:28).

Notice that the texts specifically state that the two brothers "live together." The maintenance of the ancestral inheritance from YHWH, given through Joshua, is the issue of this legislation.

Deuteronomy foresees the establishment of villages and towns. Its laws are geared to this rural agricultural society.

25:6 "the firstborn" The firstborn son would inherit the dead brother's property (cf. Num. 27:6-11).

25:7 "does not desire" The motive is unstated, but it may be greed on the living brother's part or possibly jealousy of the dead brother. The consequences of an unwilling brother are clearly delineated.

▣ "the gate" This was the site of the local court of the elders (e.g., 16:18-20; 19:12; 21:1-9,19; 22:15).

25:9-10 "pull his sandal off his foot" In context this was an act of humiliation (cf. Isa. 20:2). The NET Bible, p. 381, SN #16, mentions that the removal of the sandal may symbolize that the living brother gives up all legal rights to the brother's inheritance. In Ps. 60:8 and 108:9 casting YHWH's sandal across Edom symbolically showed His ownership. This may explain Ruth 4. The removal of a sandal also recorded in the Nuzi tablets (Lacheman 53-56) had legal symbolism.

25:9 "spit in his face" This was a symbolic act of humiliation (cf. Num. 12:14). It made one ceremonially unclean (cf. Lev. 15:8).

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: 25:11-12
  
11"If two men, a man and his countryman, are struggling together, and the wife of one comes near to deliver her husband from the hand of the one who is striking him, and puts out her hand and seizes his genitals, 12then you shall cut off her hand; you shall not show pity."

25:11 "his genitals" Again, this shows the significance of inheritance rights in ancient Israel!

25:12 "you shall cut off her hand" This is the only specific mutilation mentioned in the Mosaic legislation. Exact "eye for eye" (Lex talionis) judgment in this case was not possible. Later Judaism interpreted this as "give restitution for," which they applied to many Mosaic texts.

▣ "you shall not show pity" This phrase is repeated in several contexts (cf. 7:16; 13:8; 19:13,21; 25:12; and a similar phrase in 7:2). God's law, not human emotion, must be carried out.

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: 25:13-16
 13
"You shall not have in your bag differing weights, a large and a small. 14You shall not have in your house differing measures, a large and a small. 15You shall have a full and just weight; you shall have a full and just measure, that your days may be prolonged in the land which the Lord your God gives you. 16For everyone who does these things, everyone who acts unjustly is an abomination to the Lord your God."

25:13 "differing weights" Literally "a stone and a stone," one size to buy with, one size to sell with (cf. Ps. 11;1; 16:11). Fairness and honesty among covenant brothers was crucial.

SPECIAL TOPIC: Ancient near Eastern Weights and Volumes (Metrology)

25:15 "that your days may be prolonged in the land" This is a societal promise of longevity (cf. 4:40; 5:16,33; 6:2; 11:9; 22:7; 25:15; 30:18; 32:47).

25:16 "anyone who acts unjustly is an abomination to the Lord" Blessings and curses are related to covenant obedience (cf. chapters 27-29).

▣ "abomination" See Special Topic at 14:3.

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: 25:17-19
 17
"Remember what Amalek did to you along the way when you came out from Egypt, 18how he met you along the way and attacked among you all the stragglers at your rear when you were faint and weary; and he did not fear God. 19Therefore it shall come about when the Lord your God has given you rest from all your surrounding enemies, in the land which the Lord your God gives you as an inheritance to possess, you shall blot out the memory of Amalek from under heaven; you must not forget."

25:17-19 Deuteronomy has several passages related to how Israel should conduct "holy war" (cf. 7:1-26; 20:1-10; 21:10-14; 25:17-19). Holy War was YHWH's war. It had special rules and procedures!

25:17 "Amalek" This group may be descendants from Esau (cf. Gen. 36:15-16), became a symbol of evil to Israel because of their raiding techniques (cf. v. 18-19; 17:8-16). They were a nomadic group who lived south of the Dead Sea. Both Saul and David fought against them (cf. I Sam. 15:2; 27:8).

25:18 "rear" This term (BDB 275) means "tail." When used as a verb (BDB 275, KB 274, Piel imperfect) it means to attack (1) at the rear or (2) the rear guard. It is found only here and in Josh. 10:19.

25:19 "you shall blot out the memory" In vv. 5-10 the loss of a brother with no descendants is discussed. Here the loss of descendants is commanded! They did not fear God (v. 18); they attacked Israel's most vulnerable; they must die (cf. Exod. 17:14; I Sam. 15:2-4; 30:16-20; I Chr. 4:43)!

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

This is a study guide commentary which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

These discussion questions are provided to help you think through the major issues of this section of the book. They are meant to be thought provoking, not definitive.

1. Why is verse 1 so important to theology?

2. What was the purpose of Levirate marriage?

3. Why are vv. 11-12 included in the Pentateuch?

4. Who was Amalek and why are they cursed?

 

Related Topics: Bible Study Methods