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Bible Commentaries

John Dummelow's Commentary on the Bible

Deuteronomy 24

 

 

Verses 1-22


Laws regarding Divorce, Pledges, Man-stealing, Leprosy, Justice, and Gleaning

1-4. The Law of Divorce. The right of the husband to divorce his wife is here acknowledged but is guarded against abuse. There must be some good reason for the separation; it must be done in a legal and formal manner: and it is final. If the. woman is divorced a second time, or becomes a widow after remarriage, she is not free to marry her first husband.

1. Some uncleanness] RV 'some unseemly thing.' The Heb. is literally 'nakedness of a thing,' an expression also used in Deuteronomy 23:14. The vagueness of the language gave rise to endless disputes among Jewish teachers. In the time of our Lord, opinion was divided between the school of Shammai who held that it meant unchastity, and the school of Hillel who understood the expression in a much wider sense as referring to almost any cause of displeasure on the part of the husband, such as an ill-cooked meal or the sight of a more beautiful woman. The Pharisees asked the judgment of our Lord upon the matter and He decreed in favour of the stricter interpretation. He acknowledged no ground for divorce except that of adultery, and even this is a doubtful exception (neither Mark nor Luke gives the qualifying words 'except for fornication'; see Mark 10:11). He characterised the Mosaic law of divorce as a concession to the 'hardness' of men's hearts, and went back to the original ordinance of God in creating one man and one woman as evidence of the divine idea of the inviolability of the marriage bond: see Mark 10:2-12; Matthew 19:3-9; Matthew 5:31-32; Luke 16:18. The bill of divorcement contained the sentence, 'And thou art permitted (to be married) to another man.'

4. The infinitude of the divine mercy is beautifully illustrated in Jeremiah 3:1, where God takes back those who have broken His covenant and have repented. His ways are higher than our ways (see also Hosea 1-3).

5. See on Deuteronomy 20:5-9.

6. On the nature of the Eastern hand-mill see on Exodus 11:5; Exodus 22:26, Exodus 22:27. The mill is an indispensable domestic utensil; and, as neither of the stones is of any use without the other, to take one away would inflict a cruel hardship. It would be to 'take a man's life,' i.e. his means of livelihood.

7. See Exodus 21:16.

8, 9. See Leviticus 13, 14 Numbers 12. Miriam, though she was the sister of Moses, had to comply strictly with the laws regulating the separation and purification of lepers.

10. Not go into his house] The debtor must be allowed to select himself the article that he will give as a pledge for a loan. Whatever it be, the creditor must accept it, and not force his way into the house to see what is there and perhaps carry off something that the poor man cannot spare. If the man is so poor that he has nothing save his blanket to give in pledge, it must not be kept overnight (Deuteronomy 24:12-13 see on Exodus 22:26).

13. Righteousness] In the Rabbinical language the word for 'alms' is 'righteousness.' To give alms is the righteous act par excellence: see Matthew 6:1 and mg.

15. Another humane principle of far reaching application.

16. For an instance of the observance of this rule see 2 Kings 14:6, and cp. Ezekiel 18:2-4, Ezekiel 18:19, Ezekiel 18:20.

20. When thou beatest thine olive tree] In gathering olives the fruit is brought to the ground either by shaking the boughs or beating them with a long palm branch. At the present time the trees are beaten on a certain day announced by a crier, after which the poor are allowed to glean what is left. A similar permission holds good in the case of vineyards and cornfields: see on Leviticus 19:9. Gleaning is a beautiful and kindly custom still surviving to some extent in Palestine, but fast disappearing before the introduction of modern methods of harvesting, which are not unnaturally regarded with disfavour by the poorer classes.

 


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Bibliography Information
Dummelow, John. "Commentary on Deuteronomy 24:4". "John Dummelow's Commentary on the Bible". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/dcb/deuteronomy-24.html. 1909.

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