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Bible Commentaries

Expository Notes of Dr. Thomas Constable
Deuteronomy 25



Verses 1-3


Beating was a form of punishment used in Israel for various offenses. However the safety and personal dignity of the person being beaten was important to God even though he or she deserved the beating. These things were also to be important to God"s people.

"This was the Egyptian mode of whipping, as we may see depicted upon the monuments, when the culprits lie flat upon the ground, and being held fast by the hands and feet, receive their strokes in the presence of the judge.... The number forty was not to be exceeded, because a larger number of strokes with a stick would not only endanger health and life, but disgrace the man.... If he had deserved a severer punishment, he was to be executed.... The number, forty, was probably chosen with reference to its symbolical significance, which it had derived from Gen. vii12onwards, as the full measure of judgment. The Rabbins fixed the number at forty save one (vid. 2Cor. xi24), from a scrupulous fear of transgressing the letter of the law, in case a mistake should be made in the counting; yet they felt no conscientious scruples about using a whip of twisted thongs instead of a stick." [Note: Ibid, 3:421.]

Deuteronomy 25:1 points out very clearly that "justify" means to declare righteous, not to make righteous. This distinction is very important to a correct understanding of the doctrine of justification as God has revealed it in Scripture. Generally speaking the Protestant Reformers failed to express this distinction clearly. To combat the Roman Catholic charge that justification by faith alone leads to antinomianism, some of them went beyond the proper definition of justification and taught that the justified believer will inevitably persevere in faith and good works. [Note: See Dillow, pp14 , 25-41.]

Verse 4


God"s care for animals as His creatures lay behind this law. The Apostle Paul expounded the significance of this command ( 1 Corinthians 9:9; 1 Timothy 5:18).

"The purpose clearly was not only to provide for the ox itself but to make the point by a fortiori argument that if a mere animal was worthy of humane treatment, how much more so was a human being created as the image of God." [Note: Merrill, Deuteronomy , p325.]

Verses 5-10

Selfishness in levirate marriage25:5-10

The purpose of the levirate marriage ordinance was to enable a man who died before fathering an heir to obtain one and so perpetuate his name and estate. "Levirate" comes from the Latin word levir meaning husband"s brother.

"The practice was common in the patriarchal period [cf. Genesis 38:1-10]. ... Presumably the prohibition of sexual union with a brother"s wife in Leviticus 18:16; Leviticus 20:21 refers to such an act while the brother is still living." [Note: Thompson, p251.]

"The taking off of the shoe was an ancient custom in Israel, adopted, according to Ruth iv7 , in cases of redemption and exchange, for the purpose of confirming commercial transactions. The usage arose from the fact, that when any one took possession of landed property he did so by treading upon the soil, and asserting his right of possession by standing upon it in his shoes [cf. e.g, Genesis 13:17]. In this way the taking off of the shoe and handing it to another became a symbol of the renunciation of a man"s position and property. ... But the custom was an ignominious one in such a case as this, when the shoe was publicly taken off the foot of the brother-in-law by the widow whom he refused to marry. He was thus deprived of the position which he ought to have occupied in relation to her and to his deceased brother, or to his paternal house; and the disgrace involved in this was still further heightened by the fact that his sister-in-law spat in his face." [Note: Keil and Delitzsch, 3:423.]

The Israelites were to practice levirate marriage only in cases where the brothers had lived together ( Deuteronomy 25:5) and the remaining brother was not already married. Living together meant living in the same area, not necessarily residing under the same roof. [Note: Ibid, 3:422.] When another kinsman voluntarily assumed the responsibility of the surviving brother, that brother was apparently under no obligation to marry his sister-in-law (cf. Ruth 4).

There were several reasons for this provision. These reasons were the importance of descendants in God"s purposes for Israel, the welfare of the widow, and the demonstration of love for one"s brother (cf. Genesis 38). [Note: See Dale W. Manor, "A Brief History of Levirate Marriage As It Relates to the Bible," Near Eastern Archaeological Society Bulletin NS20 (Fall1982):33-52.]

Verses 5-19

10. Laws arising from the tenth commandment25:5-19

The tenth commandment Isaiah , "You shall not covet ... anything that belongs to your neighbor" ( Deuteronomy 5:21). The four laws in this section all deal with desire or intention as opposed to deed.

Verse 11-12

Unfair defense by a wife25:11-12

God forbade an Israelite woman from gaining unfair advantage of her husband"s adversary in hand-to-hand fighting. This is a rare example of punishment by mutilation in the Pentateuch (cf. Exodus 21:23-25; Leviticus 24:19-20; Deuteronomy 19:21).

Verses 13-16

Dishonest weights and measures25:13-16

The Israelites were to use the same weights and measures for both buying and selling to ensure fairness in business ( Deuteronomy 25:13-16).

Verses 17-19

Desire for peace at any price25:17-19

When the Israelites had entered the Promised Land and had attained a measure of rest there, they were to remember that God had commanded them to exterminate the Amalekites. They were to do this because of the Amalekites" treatment of Israel in the wilderness ( Deuteronomy 25:17-19; cf. Exodus 17:8-16; Numbers 24:20; 1 Chronicles 4:42-43).

"Particular importance is attached to the fate of the Amalekites in the Pentateuch, especially as a sign of God"s faithfulness in fulfilling his promises." [Note: Sailhamer, p469.]

"Taken together, the laws of love and hate amount to the single requirement to love God, and consequently to love whom he loves and hate whom he hates." [Note: Kline, " Deuteronomy ," p189.]


Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of Used by Permission.

Bibliography Information
Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on Deuteronomy 25:4". "Expository Notes of Dr. Thomas Constable". 2012.

Lectionary Calendar
Tuesday, October 20th, 2020
the Week of Proper 24 / Ordinary 29
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