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Bible Commentaries

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged

Deuteronomy 25

 

 

Verse 1

If there be a controversy between men, and they come unto judgment, that the judges may judge them; then they shall justify the righteous, and condemn the wicked.

No JFB commentary on this verse.


Verse 2

And it shall be, if the wicked man be worthy to be beaten, that the judge shall cause him to lie down, and to be beaten before his face, according to his fault, by a certain number.

Worthy to be beaten. In judicial sentences which awarded punishment short of capital, scourging was the most common form in which they were executed, and it was inflicted immediately on condemnation. The amount of stripes was of course proportioned to the nature or aggravations of the offence: an officer of justice laid hold of his garment and tore it until his breast and back were bared; and from the criminal being "caused to lie down," the Hebrew mode of inflicting them seems to have been precisely the same as the Egyptian bastinado, which was applied to the bared back of the culprit, who was stretched flat on the ground, his hands and feet being held by attendants; or more commonly, while the latter only were held, the hands were tied to a post a cubit and a half high, so that his body was a little inclined.

The Mosaic law, however, introduced two important restrictions-namely:

(1) That the punishment should be inflicted in presence of the judge, instead of being dealt with in private by some heartless official;

and

(2) That the maximum amount of it should be limited to 40 stripes, instead of being awarded according to the arbitrary will or passion of the magistrate, who, like Turkish or Chinese rulers, often apply the stick until they cause death or lameness for life.

Of what the scourge consisted at first, whether a single stick or a bundle of twigs, we are not informed; but in later times, when the Jews were exceedingly scrupulous in adhering to the letter of the law, and, for fear of miscalculation, were desirous of keeping within the prescribed limit, it was formed of three cords, terminating in leather thongs; and thirteen strokes of this counted thirty-nine (2 Corinthians 11:24). This punishment was commonly awarded for religious offences.


Verse 3

Forty stripes he may give him, and not exceed: lest, if he should exceed, and beat him above these with many stripes, then thy brother should seem vile unto thee.

Lest, if he should exceed ... then thy brother should seem vile unto thee. It may, perhaps, be thought that this mode of punishment was itself a brand of infamy, whatever precautions were taken to limit its severity. But it must be borne in mind that the ancients regarded it with associations very different from ours. Among the Romans the infliction of the scourge was not deemed infamous; for it was sometimes applied even to freemen and high-born citizens. But the reason assigned by the legislator in this statute for restricting the number of stripes is very remarkable. It is not simply a motive of compassion for a sufferer-it is a respect for human nature, the rights of which are preserved even in a criminal. To inflict upon a man an excessive and degrading punishment is to outrage the feelings of those who witness it, and to pour contempt upon humanity itself. This humane character of the Mosaic legislation is deserving of special notice. How rigorous soever it may be in some respects, it upholds the dignity of man's nature, and does not permit even a guilty offender to 'seem vile unto others.'


Verse 4

Thou shalt not muzzle the ox when he treadeth out the corn.

Thou shalt not muzzle the ox when he treadeth out the corn. In Judea, as in modern Syria and Egypt, the larger grains, wheat, barley, and rice, were not threshed, but beaten out by the feet of oxen, which, yoked together, trode round day after day the wide open spaces which form the threshing-floors. These flat open spaces or floors are formed of clay hardened with cow's dung, as the barn-floors are with a small mixture lime in this country. A pole or pillar is raised in the center, and by a halter attached to it on the one end, and to the neck of the oxen on the other, the patient animals are made to perambulate in circular courses at their daily work. The ancient paintings in Egypt represent oxen as commonly used in treading out the grain from the ear in harvest time-rarely donkeys. Swine, not being sufficiently heavy for the purpose, are not likely to have been employed in this work, although Herodotus asserts it. Horses and mules are sometimes driven over threshing-floors in Spain and other countries of Southern Europe (Wilkinson in Rawlinson's 'Herodotus,' b.

ii., ch. 15:, note 3).

The Israelites used oxen alone. The animals were allowed freely to pick up a mouthful when they chose to do so-a wise as well as humane regulation introduced by the law of Moses, as it would have been not only great cruelty, but have produced a dispiriting effect on the cattle, to be trampling, as was the primitive practice, with a bag on their mouths, or their necks bound up a whole day, amid heaps of grain, while they were under irksome restraint from touching the grain or the straw.

That this law continued in full operation in Israel during the later times of the monarchy, is evident from Hosea 10:11. Though enacted in a particular case, it teaches the humane lesson, that animals, while engaged in the service of man, are entitled to his indulgence and kindness.

Paul quotes this law (1 Corinthians 9:9; 1 Timothy 5:18), and shows that God did not appoint it for the sake of oxen alone, but that every labourer is worthy of his hire; and hence, declares the obligation of men to exercise justice in properly rewarding those who labour for their advantage, and specially those who labour for the good of their souls.

The application he makes of the passage, so far from weakening, seems to confirm its obligation and reference to that point, inasmuch as it displays to us that in the eye of God the same principles of equity are expected to prevail among all His creatures, and that they are not to be confined to our dealings with men.


Verses 5-10

If brethren dwell together, and one of them die, and have no child, the wife of the dead shall not marry without unto a stranger: her husband's brother shall go in unto her, and take her to him to wife, and perform the duty of an husband's brother unto her.

Her husband's brother shall ... take her to him to wife. This usage existed before the age of Moses (Genesis 38:8; Genesis 38:11), and seems to have originated in patriarchal times, for preserving the name and honours of the oldest son-the chieftain of the family. But the Mosaic law rendered the custom obligatory (Matthew 22:25) on younger brothers, or the nearest kinsman, to marry the widow (Ruth 4:4), by associating the natural desire of perpetuating a brother's name with the preservation of property in the Hebrew families and tribes (see the notes at Nun. 33:54; 36:9).

No betrothal was necessary nor marriage ceremonies observed: it was a succession by divine right to the wife, with all the possessions of the deceased to the child who would be the heir. In the event of the younger brother declining to comply with the law, the widow brought her claim before the authorities of the place at a public assembly (the gate of the city); and he having declared his refusal, she was ordered to loose the thong of his shoe-a sign of degradation-following up that act by spitting [ b


Verse 11-12

When men strive together one with another and the wife of the one draweth near for to deliver her When men strive together one with another, and the wife of the one draweth near for to deliver her husband out of the hand of him that smiteth him, and putteth forth her hand, and taketh him by the secrets:

No JFB commentary on these verses.


Verse 13

Thou shalt not have in thy bag divers weights, a great and a small.

Thou shalt not have ... divers weights , [ 'eben (Hebrew #68) waa'aaben (Hebrew #68)] - 'a stone and a stone' [Septuagint, stathmion kai stathmion]; a just and false, or a light and heavy one. Weights were anciently made of stone; and the facility for procuring stones apparently, though not exactly similar, gave much occasion to fraud (Leviticus 19:31; Proverbs 16:11; Proverbs 20:10; Micah 6:11).

Bag - the leather pouch in which the weights were kept. Stones are frequently used still by Eastern shopkeepers and traders, who take them out of the bag and put them in the balance. The man who is not cheated by the trader and his bag of divers weights must be blessed with more acuteness than most of his fellows (Roberts, 'Oriental Illustrations,' in hoc loco).


Verse 14

Thou shalt not have in thine house divers measures, a great and a small.

Divers measures , [ 'eeypaah (Hebrew #374) w


Verse 15-16

But thou shalt have a perfect and just weight, a perfect and just measure shalt thou have: that thy days may be lengthened in the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee.

No JFB commentary on these verses.


Verses 17-19

Remember what Amalek did unto thee by the way, when ye were come forth out of Egypt;

Remember what Amalek did ... how he met thee - i:e., stealthily and in hostile encounter. This cold-blooded and dastardly atrocity is not narrated in the previous history (Exodus 17:14). It was an unprovoked outrage on the laws of humanity, as well as a daring defiance of that God who had by so many signs and miraculous deeds shown His interest in and favour toward Israel, (see the notes at 1 Samuel 15:1-35; 1 Samuel 27:8; 1 Samuel 30:1-31.)

This was the gravamen of the malignant attack of the Amalekites. It was, in the circumstances, an act of presumptuous impiety, which it was not consistent with the honour of the Deity to overlook; and therefore, as the punishment was, for wise and important purposes, deferred, it was necessary-for the instruction of the Israelites, who required assurance that in cases of open and daring insult to the majesty of God delay did not imply exemption from punishment-to announce to the Israelites that, when fully settled in their own land, they would be employed as executioners of the divine vengeance in exterminating that inveterately hostile people (see the notes at Exodus 17:14; Exodus 17:16; Numbers 24:20).

 


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Bibliography Information
Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Deuteronomy 25:4". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/jfu/deuteronomy-25.html. 1871-8.

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