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Bible Commentaries

Arthur Peake's Commentary on the Bible

Deuteronomy 21

 

 

Introduction

Deuteronomy 12-26, 28. A code of laws (Deuteronomy 1-26) followed by promises to the obedient and threats of punishment for the rest (Deuteronomy 28): see Introd., p. 231. The great Deuteronomic law of one sanctuary is taught or implied in Deuteronomy 12:1 to Deuteronomy 19:13 and hardly in any other part of Dt. This section may, therefore, represent essentially the original Deuteronomic code (see Introd.).


Verses 1-9

Deuteronomy 21:1-9. See W. R. Smith, Kinship1 p. 263 (= 64f. in Kinship2) for a similar law among the ancient Arabs. The ground of this law may be the belief that, until avenged or atoned for, a murdered man's blood defiles a land and its people. Note the idea that the community (here the nearest town) is responsible for the act of an individual. The conception of individual responsibility becomes specially prominent in Jeremiah 31:29, Ezekiel 14:12 ff., Ezekiel 18:2 f. The solidarity of the family, tribe, and nation had been emphasized in early writings, the whole suffering for the sins of each one; see Deuteronomy 13:7, Exodus 20:5 f., CH, 23f., and for modern Arabia, Doughty, Arabia Deserta, i. 176; also the valuable treatise of M. Lhr, Socialismus und Individualismus im AT (reviewed by the present writer in RTP, viii. p. 578ff.).


Verses 10-14

Deuteronomy 21:10-14. Another regulation (only here) pertaining to war (see ch. 20, which it should perhaps immediately follow). It is another example of D's humanitarianism (Deuteronomy 15:12-18*). The relief claimed for the captive woman could not apply to a Canaanitish woman, as no Israelite was allowed to marry such a woman (Deuteronomy 7:3); besides, when conquered, the entire Canaanite foe (including women and children), was to be utterly destroyed (Deuteronomy 20:16-18).

Deuteronomy 21:12. Shaving the head (Deuteronomy 14:1*) and paring the nails are acts of mourning (p. 110) as among the Arabs (see Lane, Arab Lex. 24094; Wellhausen, Reste 2, p. 156; W. R. Smith, Kinship1, p. 178, Kinship2, p. 209; OTJC2, p. 368; RS 2, 428, n. 3; Bertholet, p. 66. The woman in the present case mourns her parents as if they were dead.


Verses 15-17

Deuteronomy 21:15-17. Only in Dt. The first-born of the first wife is to inherit a double portion.

Deuteronomy 21:15. two wives: Genesis 29:30 and 1 Samuel 1:6.—hated: better, "less loved."

Deuteronomy 21:17. acknowledge, etc.: read (with Graetz, Steuernagel, and also, though hesitatingly, Driver and Bertholet) "accord the first-born, first-born rights."—double portion: among the Babylonians, sons inherited equally, though the father might in his life make a special present to any son (see CH, § 165f.).


Verses 18-21

Deuteronomy 21:18-21. Peculiar to D. Here respect for both parents is enforced (see Exodus 20:12; Exodus 21:15); cf. CH. 195, "The son's hand which has smitten his father shall be cut off" (see Deuteronomy 15:12-18*).

Deuteronomy 21:22 f. This law (peculiar to D) rests upon the early belief that the soul of a dead person wanders about, often working mischief.

Deuteronomy 21:22. hang: render "impale," a common form of punishment in the ancient East. In the present case the criminal would be first stoned, the only Hebrew mode of capital punishment—his body being then spiked and exposed as a disgrace and a warning (see Deuteronomy 13:10*, Galatians 3:13, and Cent.B on Ezra 6:11).

 


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Bibliography Information
Peake, Arthur. "Commentary on Deuteronomy 21:4". "Arthur Peake's Commentary on the Bible ". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/pfc/deuteronomy-21.html. 1919.

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