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Bible Commentaries

Expository Notes of Dr. Thomas Constable
Deuteronomy 22



Verses 1-8

Preventing accidental death22:1-8

Love for one"s neighbor comes through in several concrete situations in Deuteronomy 22:1-4. Failure to get involved and help a neighbor in need is also wrong under the New Covenant ( James 2:15-16; 1 John 3:17).

Men appeared in women"s clothing and vice versa ( Deuteronomy 22:5) in some of the worship rituals of Astarte. [Note: Ibid, p234.] Furthermore transvestism did and still does have associations with certain forms of homosexuality. [Note: Craigie, The Book . . ., p288.] Perhaps for these reasons God gave the command to wear clothing appropriate to one"s own sex as well as because God intended to keep the sexes distinct ( Deuteronomy 22:5). Homosexuality was punishable by death in Israel ( Leviticus 20:13).

"There are positive values in preserving the differences between the sexes in matters of dress. The New Testament instruction in Galatians 3:28, that there is neither male nor female, but that Christians are all one in Christ Jesus, applies rather to status in God"s sight than to such things as dress. Without being legalistic some attempt to recognize the relative difference of the sexes, within their common unity as persons, is a principle worth safeguarding." [Note: Thompson, p234.]

Deuteronomy 22:6-7 show that God cares for the least of His creatures, and He wanted His people to do the same. Israelites could not kill mother birds along with their young or vice versa.

"The affectionate relation of parents to their young which God had established even in the animal world, was to be kept just as sacred [among animals as among humans, Deuteronomy 22:6-7]." [Note: Keil and Delitzsch, 3:410.]

Another view is that this law taught the Israelites to protect this important source of food, namely, eggs. [Note: Deere, p302. On the law of the bird"s nest ( Deuteronomy 22:6-7), see Robert M. Johnston, "The Least of the Commandments: Deuteronomy 22:6-7 in Rabbinic Judaism and Early Christianity," Andrews University Seminary Studies20:3 (Autumn1982):205-15.] Building parapets on their flat-roofed houses, to keep people from falling off, reminded them of the value of human life and to love their neighbors ( Deuteronomy 22:8).

Verses 9-12

Illustrations of the principle22:9-12

The laws against mixing seed, animals in yoke, and fibers in clothing ( Deuteronomy 22:9-11) may have had a double significance. They taught the Israelites the importance of purity and keeping things distinct "... because the order of the world must not be endangered." [Note: C. Houtman, "Another Look at Forbidden Mixtures," Vetus Testamentum24:2 (1984):227.] They may have also illustrated the importance of remaining separate from the Canaanites (cf. 2 Corinthians 6:14-18). Oxen and donkeys would have not been a good combination when yoked together because they would pull at different rates. Wool was the fiber from which the Israelites made their clothing. However the Canaanites, especially the Canaanite priests, dressed in linen. [Note: See Calum Carmichael, "Forbidden Mixtures," Vetus Testamentum32:4 (1982):394-415.] Tassels ( Deuteronomy 22:12) were also visual aids (cf. Numbers 15:37-41).

"One of the ways the purity of the people is to be maintained, one that sounds rather strange in the contemporary world, is the insistence that things be kept in order and not mixed up inappropriately." [Note: Miller, p162.]

Verses 9-18

7. Laws arising from the seventh commandment22:9-23:18

The seventh commandment Isaiah , "You shall not commit adultery" ( Deuteronomy 5:18). Adultery involves mixing people in a way that they should not mix. The Israelites need to keep things properly apart separate.

"Known elsewhere in the ancient Near East as the "Great Sin," adultery epitomizes all that impurity means, whether in family, social, political, or religious life." [Note: Merrill, Deuteronomy , p299.]

Verses 13-30

The marriage relationship22:13-30

Moses considered seven types of cases in these verses.

The first case ( Deuteronomy 22:13-19) is of a man who marries a woman and then falsely charges her with being a harlot (not being a virgin when he married her). If the girl could prove her virginity, her husband would have to pay a large fine (cf. 2 Samuel 24:24) to her father and remain married to the girl. Note that his law clarifies that God permitted divorce among the Israelites in some situations (because of the hardness of their hearts; cf. Deuteronomy 22:28-29; Deuteronomy 21:14; Deuteronomy 24:1-4). The evidence of the girl"s virginity was the blood on her dress or bedclothes on the wedding night. Some Bedouin and Moslem parents still retrieve and keep these to prove virginity if necessary. [Note: Keil and Delitzsch, 3:411; Kalland, p138.]

The second case ( Deuteronomy 22:20-21) involved a similar situation, but in this instance the girl was not a virgin. She would suffer stoning for being a harlot, a capital offense in Israel. These verses reveal that sex before marriage is sinful and serious in God"s sight (cf. 1 Corinthians 7:1-2). Premarital sex presumes to seize the highest privilege in marriage (i.e, intimacy through sexual union that results in the "one flesh" relationship). It does so without shouldering the responsibility, namely, permanent commitment to one another (expressed as "cleaving" in Genesis 2:24). It therefore perverts marriage, the basic institution of society. It presumes to dictate to God by altering His plan. Not everyone who has engaged in premarital sex has thought this through, but this is the basic reason premarital sex is wrong. To the engaged couple committed to one another and tempted to have sex before their marriage I would say postpone sex until the marriage has taken place. Scripture regards sex as the consummation of marriage, what takes place after the couple has completed everything else involved in the establishment of marriage (cf. Genesis 2:24). [Note: A good book to give teenagers tempted to have premarital sex is Al Haffner"s The High Cost of Free Love.]

The third case ( Deuteronomy 22:22) decreed that a man who committed adultery with a married woman would die along with the woman.

The fourth case ( Deuteronomy 22:23-24) dealt with a man who had intercourse with an engaged girl in a city. Both individuals would die by stoning. Israelites regarded engaged girls as virtually married and even called them wives ( Deuteronomy 22:24). Thus they treated the man as having committed adultery, as in case three. The girl died because she did not cry out for help; she consented to the act. Apparently Moses was assuming that if she had cried out someone in the city would have heard and rescued her.

The fifth case ( Deuteronomy 22:25-27) involved a situation similar to case four, but the intercourse took place in an isolated field. In this instance only the man died, assuming the girl cried for help but no one heard her. Presumably if it was clear that she did not cry out she would have died too.

The sixth case ( Deuteronomy 22:28-29) had to do with a man and a virgin who had intercourse before they became engaged. In this case they had to marry and could not divorce. The man had to pay a penalty to his father-in-law too (cf. Exodus 22:16-17).

The seventh case ( Deuteronomy 22:30) Moses stated in terms of a general principle. God forbade incest in Israel. "Uncovering the skirt" is a euphemism for sexual intercourse in Scripture ( Deuteronomy 27:20). To do this means to encroach on another person"s marital rights. To "cover" in this sense represents committing to marry (cf. Ruth 3:9).

"One of the most important and difficult tasks in the interpretation of the Scriptures in general and of the passages that deal with women and marriage in particular, is the need to discern which elements are cultural, temporary, and variable, and which ones are transcultural, timeless, and universal." [Note: Edwin Yamauchi, "Cultural Aspects of Marriage in the Ancient World," Bibliotheca Sacra135:539 (July-September1978):241.]

God designed these laws to stress the importance of monogamy in a polygamous culture.

Marital ". . . purity and fidelity are essential to the well-being of society." [Note: Thompson, p238.]

God"s people need to keep sex in its proper place in relation to marriage (cf. Hebrews 13:4). The focus of this entire chapter is how to apply love.


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These files are public domain.
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Bibliography Information
Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on Deuteronomy 22:4". "Expository Notes of Dr. Thomas Constable". 2012.

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Tuesday, January 21st, 2020
the Second Week after Epiphany
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