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Bible Commentaries

Peter Pett's Commentary on the Bible

Deuteronomy 25

 

 

Introduction

The Covenant Stipulations, Covenant Making at Shechem, Blessings and Cursings (Deuteronomy 12:1 to Deuteronomy 29:1).

In this section of Deuteronomy we first have a description of specific requirements that Yahweh laid down for His people. These make up the second part of the covenant stipulations for the covenant expressed in Deuteronomy 4:45 to Deuteronomy 29:1 and also for the covenant which makes up the whole book. They are found in chapters 12-26. As we have seen Deuteronomy 1:1 to Deuteronomy 4:44 provide the preamble and historical prologue for the overall covenant, followed by the general stipulations in chapters 5-11. There now, therefore, in 12-26 follow the detailed stipulations which complete the main body of the covenant. These also continue the second speech of Moses which began in Deuteronomy 5:1.

Overall in this speech Moses is concerned to connect with the people. It is to the people that his words are spoken rather than the priests so that much of the priestly legislation is simply assumed. Indeed it is remarkably absent in Deuteronomy except where it directly touches on the people. Anyone who read Deuteronomy on its own would wonder at the lack of cultic material it contained, and at how much the people were involved. It concentrates on their interests, and not those of the priests and Levites, while acknowledging the responsibility that they had towards both priests and Levites.

And even where the cultic legislation more specifically connects with the people, necessary detail is not given, simply because he was aware that they already had it in writing elsewhere. Their knowledge of it is assumed. Deuteronomy is building on a foundation already laid. In it Moses was more concerned to get over special aspects of the legislation as it was specifically affected by entry into the land, with the interests of the people especially in mind. The suggestion that it was later written in order to bring home a new law connected with the Temple does not fit in with the facts. Without the remainder of the covenant legislation in Exodus/Leviticus/Numbers to back it up, its presentation often does not make sense from a cultic point of view.

This is especially brought home by the fact that when he refers to their approach to God he speaks of it in terms of where they themselves stood or will stand when they do approach Him. They stand not on Sinai but in Horeb. They stand not in the Sanctuary but in ‘the place’, the site of the Sanctuary. That is why he emphasises Horeb, which included the area before the Mount, and not just Sinai itself (which he does not mention). And why he speaks of ‘the place’ which Yahweh chose, which includes where the Tabernacle is sited and where they gather together around the Tabernacle, and not of the Sanctuary itself. He wants them to feel that they have their full part in the whole.

These detailed stipulations in chapters 12-26 will then be followed by the details of the covenant ceremony to take place at the place which Yahweh has chosen at Shechem (Deuteronomy 27), followed by blessings and cursings to do with the observance or breach of the covenant (Deuteronomy 28).

V. FURTHER REGULATIONS (Chapters 22-25).

We have all heard sermons where the experienced preacher suddenly begins to roam far and wide, jumping swiftly from one subject to another in rapid succession, picking out information here and there, in order to present an overall picture. Sometimes there may seem to be no logic to it, but there usually is. And that is partly what Moses was doing here The regulations that follow may not seem to come in any discernible overall pattern, although Moses probably had one in his mind. But items are grouped together, or joined by key words and thoughts. Moses had a wide collection of laws from which he here extracted examples covering a wide range of circumstances so as to turn their thoughts back to Yahweh’s written Instruction. It was not intended to be comprehensive or detailed, but to convey an impression. (In the same way a similar lack of connections was found in many law codes).

While in some cases there is, and has been, a connection with the ten commandments, that is not sufficient to explain the miscellany of laws which we must now consider, although for such a connection see, for example, Deuteronomy 19:15-21 - ‘you shall not bear false witness’; Deuteronomy 21:1-9 - ‘you shall not murder’; Deuteronomy 21:18-21 ‘honour your father and your mother’; Deuteronomy 22:22-27 - ‘you shall not commit adultery’; Deuteronomy 23:24-25; Deuteronomy 24:7 (compare Deuteronomy 19:14) - ‘you shall not steal’. But we note that there is no mention anywhere of the Sabbath day, something which is quite remarkable if, as some think, parts of Deuteronomy were written later. It would have been seen as an obvious gap that had to be filled. But Moses may well have classed that as priestly regulation, which he rarely touches on in the speech. But these regulations which have the particular commandments in mind are found other regulations which do not obviously fit into the pattern, although attempts have been made to do it. Such attempts do, however, require a lot from the imagination.

From this point on therefore we have a miscellany of regulations which cap what has gone before. While certain connections are unquestionably at times discoverable there seem in some cases to be no particular pattern to them, apart from the important one of consideration for others, and a need to consider covenant regulations. The essence of the message was that they were to love their neighbours, and resident aliens, as themselves (Deuteronomy 10:19 compare Leviticus 19:18; Leviticus 19:34).

Chapter 25 Doing What Is Truly Right And Avoiding Shame.

This chapter continues with the idea of fairness, and the thought of consideration and doing right and runs throughout, commencing with the requirement for true justice and a fair hearing with a limitation on beatings, and dealing with not muzzling the ox, surrogate motherhood, decency and right behaviour when quarrelling, and correct weights and measures. There is an emphasis on shaming for those who fail (‘vile’ - Deuteronomy 25:3; ‘spit in his face’ - Deuteronomy 25:9; ‘cut off her hand’ - Deuteronomy 25:12; ‘abomination’ Deuteronomy 25:16). Thus a beating shames the recipient, and must not therefore be too heavy (Deuteronomy 25:3). The woman refused her Levirate rights shames her brother-in-law by spitting in his face (Deuteronomy 25:9-10). The violent and unscrupulous woman is to openly bear her shame before all, for they would be able to tell from the mutilation what she had done (Deuteronomy 25:12). False weights and measures are an abomination, they bring shame on those who use them (Deuteronomy 25:16). It concludes with the fate of Amalek on which comes the greatest shame of all.

(We have here ‘thou, thee’ all the way through).


Verses 1-3

Chapter 25 Doing What Is Truly Right And Avoiding Shame.

This chapter continues with the idea of fairness, and the thought of consideration and doing right and runs throughout, commencing with the requirement for true justice and a fair hearing with a limitation on beatings, and dealing with not muzzling the ox, surrogate motherhood, decency and right behaviour when quarrelling, and correct weights and measures. There is an emphasis on shaming for those who fail (‘vile’ - Deuteronomy 25:3; ‘spit in his face’ - Deuteronomy 25:9; ‘cut off her hand’ - Deuteronomy 25:12; ‘abomination’ Deuteronomy 25:16). Thus a beating shames the recipient, and must not therefore be too heavy (Deuteronomy 25:3). The woman refused her Levirate rights shames her brother-in-law by spitting in his face (Deuteronomy 25:9-10). The violent and unscrupulous woman is to openly bear her shame before all, for they would be able to tell from the mutilation what she had done (Deuteronomy 25:12). False weights and measures are an abomination, they bring shame on those who use them (Deuteronomy 25:16). It concludes with the fate of Amalek on which comes the greatest shame of all.

(We have here ‘thou, thee’ all the way through).

Judgment Is To Be Righteous Judgment (Deuteronomy 25:1-3).

As we have seen this connects up with the previous chapter in the analysis of Deuteronomy 24:16 to Deuteronomy 25:3. And yet it also connects up in thought with what follows. A reminder that we must nor straitjacket Moses’ thought or delivery.

Deuteronomy 25:1

If there be a controversy between men, and they come for judgment, and the judges judge them, then they shall justify the righteous, and condemn the wicked.’

Right justice was so important that Moses, like any good preacher repeated the idea a number of times deu (Deuteronomy 1:15-18; Deuteronomy 16:18-20;Deuteronomy 17:8-13; Deuteronomy 19:15-21). Here he summarised the situation quite simply by declaring that in any controversy that came for judgment which the judges judge, they must have only one aim in mind, to declare righteous those who are righteous, and condemn those who are unrighteous, without fear or favour.

We are probably to see that one of the combatants may well have charged the other with something that deserved a beating. (Imprisonment at that time was often not an option). A guilty verdict would mean the offender was beaten, a not guilty verdict might see the accuser beaten if he was seen as a false witness (Deuteronomy 19:16-21),

The Public Beating (Deuteronomy 2-3)

Deuteronomy 25:2-3

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 wickedness, by number. Forty stripes he may give him, he shall not exceed it, lest, if he should exceed it, and beat him above this with many stripes, then your brother should seem vile to you.’

But any punishment must be reasonable and controlled. If a man was to be beaten the judge must cause him to lie down, and then he would be beaten in his presence, probably with a rod (Exodus 21:20), the number of stripes determined by what was seen as his deserts. But the number of stripes must not be more than forty under any circumstances. Forty stripes as a maximum parallel the Middle Assyrian laws and were probably a recognised standard of what a man could bear at that time, although earlier the Code of Hammurabi had allowed sixty.

Compare here Proverbs 10:13; Proverbs 19:29; Proverbs 26:3. This was the Egyptian method of punishment as depicted on monuments where the guilty party was laid flat on the ground, and being held fast by the hands and feet, received their strokes in the presence of the judge

We notice here the concern for justice with a mixture of mercy. Being prone rather than strung up would ensure that the beating was more limited in power, the judge’s presence would ensure fair play, the fact that he had to be present would, apart from the most heartless, hopefully make him consider his sentence more carefully, the strokes were to be counted, and they must not number more than forty. Much later on they were limited to thirty nine in case of wrong counting, but the means of application became more vicious. This was comparatively compassionate.

If more than forty stripes were given it would mean that they were looking on their fellow-tribesman as vile and worthy of humiliation, which would be contrary to the covenant, and therefore not to be allowed. The dignity of an Israelite was considered to be important, and the purpose of the punishment was restoration to good covenant citizenship.


Verses 4-16

Regulations Concerning Fair Treatment To Another Party (Deuteronomy 25:4-16).

The principle in these regulations is that of fair and just treatment towards other parties. The ox who treads out the grain must be treated fairly and be given seed (grain) (Deuteronomy 25:4), a deceased brother must be treated fairly and be given seed (children) (Deuteronomy 25:5-10), a combatant must be treated fairly and his seed producing capability not be attacked (Deuteronomy 25:11-12), a purchaser must be treated fairly when he buys seed (grain) (Deuteronomy 25:13-16). (The play on the word ‘seed’ is mine, but the play on ideas is the writer’s).

Analysis using the words of Moses.

You shall not muzzle the ox when he treads out the grain (Deuteronomy 25:4).

a If brothers dwell together, and one of them die, and have no son, the wife of the dead shall not be married without to a stranger, her husband’s brother shall go in to her, and take her to him to wife, and perform the duty of a husband’s brother to her (Deuteronomy 25:5).

b And it shall be, that the firstborn that she bears shall succeed in the name of his brother who is dead, that his name be not blotted out of Israel (Deuteronomy 25:6).

c And if the man does not like 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 raise up to his brother a name in Israel. He will not perform the duty of a husband’s brother to me” (Deuteronomy 25:7).

d Then the elders of his city shall call him, and speak to him, and if he stand, and say, ‘I do not like to take her,” then shall his brother’s wife come to him in the presence of the elders, and loose his shoe from off his foot, and spit in his face (Deuteronomy 25:8).

d And she shall answer and say, “So shall it be done to the man who does not build up his brother’s house” (Deuteronomy 25:9).

c And his name shall be called in Israel, “The house of him who has his shoe loosed” (Deuteronomy 25:10).

b When men strive together one with a brother, and the wife of the one draws near to deliver her husband out of the hand of him who smites him, and puts forth her hand, and takes him by the private parts, then you shall cut off her hand, your eye shall have no pity (Deuteronomy 25:11-12).

a You shall not have in your bag differing weights, a great and a small. You shall not have in your house differing measures, a great and a small. Perfect and just weight shall you have; a perfect and just measure shall you have; that your days may be long in the land which Yahweh your God gives you. For all who do such things, even all who do unrighteously, are an abomination to Yahweh your God’ (Deuteronomy 25:13-16)

Note that in ‘a’ we have cases of fair dealing. The ox treads the grain and his owner must therefore give him the right to eat of it. He is entitled to fair measure. In the same way in the parallel the seller must give to the purchaser fair measure when weighing out the goods. The purchaser has the right to eat of what is justly his. In ‘b’ a brother who lives in the same household must go in to the wife of his deceased brother, if he has no son, in order to produce seed for his deceased brother. The family name must be maintained, and otherwise he is rendering his deceased brother childless. In the parallel a woman who seeks to render a man childless by squeezing his private parts must be severely punished. The aim of both is to prevent childlessness.

In the central section c d d c each section has within it a statement which balances with another statement. In ‘c’ the man refuses to produce seed for his brother the wife of the deceased brother declares “my husband’s brother refuses to raise up to his brother a name in Israel. He will not perform the duty of a husband’s brother to me” and in the parallel the brother is shamed because his name shall be called in Israel, “The house of him who has his shoe loosed”. In ‘d’ the elders of his city shall call him, and speak to him, and if he stand, and say, ‘I do not like to take her,” then his brother’s wife will come to him in the presence of the elders, and loose his shoe from off his foot, and spit in his face and in the parallel, she will answer and say, “So shall it be done to the man who does not build up his brother’s house”.

The Working Ox Not To Be Muzzled (Deuteronomy 25:4).

At first sight this may appear totally out of place. But it actually follows the ideas of the previous two regulations. In the first case out of humanity gleanings were to be left for the weak and helpless, so should grain be available to the oxen who trod out the grain. Secondly the man found guilty was beaten with a rod in order to correct him, and the oxen would be hit with a rod to drive them to tread down the grain. This would be a common sight. It may even be suggesting that the ox must be allowed to partake of the equivalent of the gleanings (Deuteronomy 24:19) lest it had to be beaten to make it perform its function (Deuteronomy 25:2-3). Did Moses also have in mind the Israelite who was beaten in order to restore him to a productive life, with the thought that he should not be made unproductive by too severe treatment? The human ‘ox’ must not be muzzled.

This verse also fits in with what follows, introducing the idea of treating others fairly in the normal course of life.

Deuteronomy 25:4

You shall not muzzle the ox when he treads out the grain.’

Once the grain had been gathered (Deuteronomy 24:19) it would be threshed by using an ox to tread it down to separate the grain from the chaff with its hooves, after which it would be tossed up into the prevailing wind, which came regularly at that time of year, to complete the separation. The grain would fall to the ground, and the lighter chaff would be blown away.

Sometimes a yoke of oxen would pull a threshing sledge round and round, which was a large block of wood with sharp stones fitted underneath, on which the driver would stand, which would do a better job of separation, and would grind the stubble to chaff.

In either case the ox was not to be muzzled. Just as the poor could gather the gleanings (Deuteronomy 24:19), so was the ox to be allowed his fodder. (Just as it also benefited from the seventh day Sabbath - Deuteronomy 5:14). Not only would it work more contentedly and possibly save it from having to be beaten (was there a contrast in Moses’ mind with the man who had to be beaten?), but it was also not felt to be seemly to make an ox work on its natural food and not be able to eat of it. The labourer was worthy of its hire. Just as certain unlike things should be kept apart (Deuteronomy 22:9-11), so others which were compatible should not unreasonably be kept apart.

It may well be that this was already a proverb and had wider implications, signifying the duty of giving due reward and appreciation for services rendered. Paul used this example to illustrate the need for Christians to give to assist the work of the ministry (1 Corinthians 9:9; 1 Timothy 5:18).

Husband’s Brother’s (Levirate) Marriage (Deuteronomy 25:5-10).

The purpose of this regulation was in order to ensure that a man who died childless had a son who could inherit his property, and, more importantly, would continue his name. To an Israelite these were matters of supreme importance. It was to be achieved by his brother acting as his proxy and discreetly having sexual relations with his deceased brother’s wife so as to implant within her the family seed, who would then be looked on as his deceased brother’s, and inherit his name and his land. This practise was widespread in the ancient world.

One example of this occurs in Genesis 38:1-30, where there was a clear unwillingness to carry it through, but where Tamar managed by manoeuvring to achieve her end.

Deuteronomy 25:5

If brothers dwell together, and one of them die, and have no son, the wife of the dead shall not be married without to a stranger, her husband’s brother shall go in to her, and take her to him to wife, and perform the duty of a husband’s brother to her.’

We should note the condition. The brothers must be ‘dwelling together’ (compare Psalms 133:1). That meant that they must be living on the same ‘estate’, although not necessarily in the same house, with their lands jointly worked as a family concern. They would have decided to keep the family estates together rather than split them up when they inherited. It therefore suggested a close family bond. Family feeling and family unity was especially strong among the ancients. This condition indicated that the aim to keep the estates together and the maintenance of the deceased brother’s name were central to the whole idea.

The idea then was that the surviving brother should take his brother’s wife as one of his own wives in order to keep things in the family, although it may well be that she had a more independent status and was not necessarily seen as a fully functioning wife. Any land that she had brought with her would then remain in the family and not go to ‘strangers’, as would any wealth that had passed to her. She should not need to look for an outsider to marry, but would remain as a part of the family circle. And the brother would have discreet sexual relations with her in order to ‘perform the duty of a husband’s brother’ towards her, so as to raise up a son for his brother. This was the only case where a woman having sexual relations with her husband’s brother was allowed. Leviticus 18:16; Leviticus 20:21 refer either to where the brother was still living or to cases where the marriage was for the wrong reasons. Intention was everything, and would be known to Yahweh. There was nothing sordid or behind hand about it. The aim was totally meritorious, to preserve the brother’s name.

Numbers 27:8-11 may suggest that it may not have been seen as necessary when there were daughters who could inherit, although as that would not ensure the preservation of the deceased husband’s name, it was probably seen as second best. That case may have in mind circumstances where a Levirate marriage was not possible through a failure to be able to meet the conditions in one way or another (through, for example, the refusal mentioned in Deuteronomy 25:7, or because the family was no longer a close family unit, or because the wife was also dead). But once they had inherited their father’s land the women were not then to marry outside the tribe, taking the land with them (see Numbers 36:1-9). This does bring out how important it was seen to be at that time that land remained within the family and within the tribe. And that the Levirate marriage would ensure.

Deuteronomy 25:6

And it shall be, that the firstborn that she bears shall succeed in the name of his brother who is dead, that his name be not blotted out of Israel.’

Any firstborn son would then be looked on as the deceased brother’s. He would succeed to his name and to his inheritance, so that his name might not be blotted out of Israel, and so that the dead brother might live on in his son. Before he died he might well have pleaded with his brother to do this for him. The blotting out of the name was seen as an appalling catastrophe. It was ceasing to be.

Deuteronomy 25:7

And if the man does not like 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 raise up to his brother a name in Israel. He will not perform the duty of a husband’s brother to me.”

It was always open to the brother to refuse, although that was looked on with disapproval. The widow could then go to the city elders as they sat and conferred in the gate area, and inform them that the brother refused to maintain his deceased brother’s name in Israel by bearing children in his name, that he refused to perform ‘the duty of a husband’s brother’.

It should be noted that while in this case it is the widow taking the initiative, that might not always be the case. Sometimes it would be the family who urged it on the widow. We only hear of the cases where difficulties arose. But it was certainly to the widow’s advantage, for then her son would inherit his father’s land and she would, along with him, have a good level of independence. Not that all widows became totally dependent on others. Quite apart from the issue of the land, she might have inherited wealth from her husband, and even have had lands of her own (Numbers 27:8-11). Note that the land did not immediately pass into someone else’s possession. Time was clearly allowed for her to achieve a Levirate marriage and have a son.

Deuteronomy 25:8-9

Then the elders of his city shall call him, and speak to him, and if he stand, and say, ‘I do not like to take her,” then shall his brother’s wife come to him in the presence of the elders, and loose his shoe from off his foot, and spit in his face, and she shall answer and say, “So shall it be done to the man who does not build up his brother’s house.” ’

The elders of the city were then to add their weight behind the widow’s plea. This was something to be favoured by all. But if the brother still declared his intention of not fulfilling the responsibility it was accepted, but it was made quite clear to the brother that his failure to honour his brother was not appreciated.

His brother’s wife was to come to him in the presence of the elders, loose and take of one of his sandals, and spit in his face, saying ‘so shall it be done to the man who does not build up his brother’s house’.

The loosing of the sandal may have indicated that he could be no longer seen as having a comfortable path ahead. His future prospects had been damaged. Or it may have been indicating that he had now lost his authority over anything that she possessed, which he would otherwise have benefited by. She was now free from his authority, and was no longer ‘under his feet’ (compare Psalms 8:6). Or it may have indicated loss of possession of the land, which he could no longer tread on. The case of Naomi indicated that property did not automatically pass to the nearest relative on death but went with the widow. Thus Numbers 27:8-11 might have been dependent on the right treatment of the widow. Spitting in the face was an indication of derision and disrespect (Numbers 12:14; Job 30:10). He was revealed as having failed in his duty.

Deuteronomy 25:10

And his name shall be called in Israel, “The house of him who has his shoe loosed.” ’

From then on his reputation would be tarnished. His house would be known as “The house of him who has his shoe loosed.” He had broken up the family unity, and divided the family. Instead of maintaining his brother’s name, he had tarnished his own. To be shoeless was for an Israelite a sign of indignity (Isaiah 20:2-3).

While the incident in Ruth 4 illuminates what happened here the circumstances were somewhat different and illustrate the complications of succession law about which we would be wise not to dogmatise. There the responsibility of the kinsman redeemer was in mind, not that of the brother. But it still had to do with retaining land in the wider family.

A Woman Shall Not Touch The Private Parts of a Man Who Is Not Her Husband.

In the last regulation the ability of a deceased brother to produce children through a dutiful brother and wife was maintained. We are probably to see here the opposite case. The ability of a man to produce is destroyed by a revengeful woman. Whereas the last regulation would bring the woman praise, this would bring her humiliation and mutilation, for her aim was exactly the opposite.

Deuteronomy 25:11-12

When men strive together one with a brother, and the wife of the one draws near to deliver her husband out of the hand of him who smites him, and puts forth her hand, and takes him by the private parts, then you shall cut off her hand, your eye shall have no pity.’

This rather unusual case may simply refer to a gross lack of decency, a woman deliberately and inexcusably taking a man’s private parts in her hand. This would undoubtedly have been looked on with horror as being something against all decency. But it may well refer to something more significant, the fact that what she did was with the intention of deliberately making the man unable to bear children, possibly by her crushing his private parts (compare Deuteronomy 23:1). She was preventing the fulfilment of God’s command to ‘go forth and multiply’ and removing him from the assembly of Yahweh. This latter would explain the seriousness of the penalty, which was unquestionably intended to ensure that such a thing never happened. This is the only place in the Old Testament where mutilation is seemingly specifically prescribed as a punishment because of the dreadful mutilation that she caused, although it was assumed in the lex talionis as the ultimate measure.

Thus she would never again be able to caress her husband. Indeed the ‘cutting off’ of the ‘hand’ may actually refer to some action which also made it impossible for her to conceive, cutting off her ability to bear children in retaliation for her act of preventing the man having children, which would be seen as fulfilling the law of lex talionis (an eye for an eye). ‘Hand’ is sometimes used as a euphemism for the sexual organ, and the word used for ‘hand’ in verse 12 differs from that for ‘hand’ in Deuteronomy 25:11 suggesting that some distinction might be made. But the mutilation itself, in retaliation for the mutilation she had caused, would be a constant proclamation of what kind of woman she was. It would be her greatest shame.

Weights and Measures Are To Be Just (Deuteronomy 25:13-16).

God dealt totally honestly with His people and His judgments were always righteous. When He weighed them the balances were always accurate. The very idea of weighing was that it ensured accuracy and fairness. In the same way must His people use accurate weights and measures. There was clearly widespread use of false weights and measures in the ancient world, an art which has not been lost. See Leviticus 19:35-37; Proverbs 11:1; Proverbs 16:11; Proverbs 20:10; Ezekiel 45:10; Amos 8:5; Micah 6:11.

What is in mind here is the purchase and sale of produce, for it is mainly that which would require weighing. In the background may be the thought that the purchaser has laboured for his silver, as the ox did on threshing the grain, and must not therefore be ‘muzzled’ by being given short measure. But basic to it all is just dealing.

Deuteronomy 25:13-15

You shall not have in your bag differing weights, a great and a small. You shall not have in your house differing measures, a great and a small. Perfect and just weight shall you have; a perfect and just measure shall you have; that your days may be long in the land which Yahweh your God gives you.’

Here God speaks very strongly against dishonesty in selling goods. To use different weights depending on the customer was inexcusable. To use different measures was equally inexcusable. The very purpose of weights and measures was to demonstrate fair dealing. To have ones which were themselves dishonest was total hypocrisy, and it especially hit at the poor and trusting, and those who had laboured hard to obtain food.

The twofold weights might have been used one for buying, and the other for selling, or one for weighing the goods and the other for weighing the silver, or one for the astute and the other for the simple. They could produce a combination of deceit. But this was not to be. All their dealings were to be totally open and honest. The weights and measures used must be precise, accurate and genuine. Then they would deserve to have long life in the land which Yahweh their God was giving them.

Deuteronomy 25:16

For all who do such things, even all who do unrighteously, are an abomination to Yahweh your God.’

For any dishonest action, and any dishonest behaviour is an abomination to Yahweh. The language is very strong. Such behaviour was firmly contrary to the covenant, and God hated it.


Verses 17-19

Amalek To Be Punished For Their Guilt (Deuteronomy 25:17-19).

This sudden introduction of this curse on Amalek may seem to take us by surprise, but it in fact a closing echo of Deuteronomy 23:1-9, while at the same time finalising the whole section from Deuteronomy 12 onwards (see below). In Deuteronomy 23:1-9 we saw described those who were excluded from the assembly of Yahweh. Here was a people who were to be more than excluded, they were to be blotted out completely. Thus here it stands alone as a conclusion to the whole.

Nevertheless it contrasts with the ensuring of the perpetuation of Israel (Deuteronomy 25:5-10; Deuteronomy 25:15), and the perpetuation of the names of the children of Israel (Deuteronomy 25:6). And it brings to a close this final section of regulations with a stern reminder that God is not mocked, and that He watches over His covenant people, and that all who come against them and deal treacherously with them will perish. It will then be followed by Israel’s submission to the people to the Overlord Who has so delivered them (Deuteronomy 26:1-15).

Analysis in the words of Moses.

a Remember what Amalek did to you by the way as you came forth out of Egypt (Deuteronomy 25:17).

b How he met you by the way, and smote the hindmost of you, all who were feeble behind you, when you were faint and weary; and he did not fear God (Deuteronomy 25:18).

b Therefore it shall be, when Yahweh your God has given you rest from all your enemies round about, in the land which Yahweh your God gives you for an inheritance to possess it (Deuteronomy 25:19 a).

a That you shall blot out the remembrance of Amalek from under heaven. You shall not forget (Deuteronomy 25:19 b).

Note that in ‘a’ they are to remember what Amalek did and in the parallel they are not to forget but must blot out the remembrance of Amalek. In ‘b’ they are reminded how Amalek made them ill at ease and restless, therefore in the parallel, when they are at rest in the land which Yahweh is giving them they must proceed against them.

Deuteronomy 25:17-18

Remember what Amalek did to you by the way as you came forth out of Egypt, how he met you by the way, and smote the hindmost of you, all who were feeble behind you, when you were faint and weary; and he did not fear God.’

We must recognise in what is said here that God knows men’s hearts. He was aware of the total degradation of the Canaanites, and the untrustworthiness of Moab and Ammon, but He was even more aware that Amalek could not be redeemed. They were totally treacherous. They did indeed later combine with Edom and Moab in continual merciless raids on Israel (Judges 3:12-13). And like the Canaanites they must be totally destroyed

They had only to think back to see why this should be so. For even as they were coming forth from Egypt the Amalekites were lying in wait and treacherously attacked the rear of the exhausted party, where the weak and most vulnerable were. They had no fear of God (Exodus 17:16). To them the weak and vulnerable, clearly escaping from Egypt, were not seen as an opportunity to show kindness or to give hospitality, but as an easy target to be taken advantage of. They had revealed themselves as totally devoid of that fear of God which alone could make a man redeemable (Exodus 17:8-15). Indeed it was then that, at Yahweh’s command, Moses had written down the whole incident as a permanent record against them, and as a testimonial to the fact that God would ‘put out the remembrance of Amalek from under heaven’ (Exodus 17:14).

Deuteronomy 25:19

Therefore it shall be, when Yahweh your God has given you rest from all your enemies round about, in the land which Yahweh your God gives you for an inheritance to possess it, that you shall blot out the remembrance of Amalek from under heaven. You shall not forget.’

And it was now confirmed that that was what He would do. Once Israel had been given rest from all their enemies (it could wait until they were safely established in the land) then He would blot out the name of Amalek from under heaven, as He had previously declared in Exodus 17:14. They were under the Ban. For the partial fulfilment see 1 Samuel 15:1-33, and for its completion 1 Chronicles 4:43. Amalek was the ultimate picture of those who do not fear God and who refuse utterly to obey Him.

“When Yahweh your God has given you rest from all your enemies round about.” This is a marker which connects these verses with Deuteronomy 12, which began this section of the book. There it had led in to the establishment of the place which Yahweh would choose and to their abundant worship of Him (Deuteronomy 12:10-12), here it was to lead in to the blotting out of Amalek. The section began in glory, it ends in judgment. Light must triumph. Darkness must be obliterated. And in between His people must do His will.

We can therefore see in this description a picture of the destruction of Satan and his forces. Like the Serpent, the Amalekites had sought to destroy God’s project right at the beginning. But Yahweh will bring His people into the land and bring them into rest, then He will establish His name there and dwell among them, while their darkest enemies both within (the Canaanites) and without (the Amalekites) will be removed for ever. So one day will it be with Satan.

There is also the stark warning that it is possible for people to come to such a state that turning to God becomes impossible because their hearts are too hardened. If we do not seek Him wile we are young, we might find that age has hardened us so that we never seek Him.

 


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Bibliography Information
Pett, Peter. "Commentary on Deuteronomy 25:4". "Peter Pett's Commentary on the Bible ". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/pet/deuteronomy-25.html. 2013.

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