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Bible Commentaries
Deuteronomy 24

Smith's Bible CommentarySmith's Commentary

Verses 1-22

Chapter 24


When a man hath taken a wife, and married her, and it come to pass that she finds no favour in his eyes, because he hath found some uncleanness in her: then let him write her a bill of divorcement, and give it in unto her hand, and send her out of his house ( Deuteronomy 24:1 ).

So the law of divorce.

Now what does constitute an uncleanness? A man marries a woman and finds an uncleanness. There are some who say "Well, he discovers that she is not a virgin". No, that's not it because that has already been dealt with in the previous laws. If he says she is not a virgin and they can't prove her virginity she is to be put to death. So it isn't that he marries her and then finds out the uncleanness, that she is not a virgin. That isn't it and that was the big argument among the Jews, what constituted uncleanness.

And one school of the rabbis said, "Well, if she wasn't a virgin". Well that could not be so because God has already dealt with that under other laws. So it left open what constituted uncleanness and that is an open issue.

Now surely they became extremely liberal in their interpretation of it. One school of the rabbis, they taught that if she doesn't fix your eggs to suit you for breakfast, that's uncleanness: you can give her a writing of divorcement. And of course in those days divorces were quite easy. All you do is write out "I divorce you" and you hand it to her and she's had it.

Now Jesus was challenged on this very issue. And really the challenge was "what constitutes uncleanness?" They came to Jesus one day with a trap question, and it was a definite trap question. They said to Jesus, "Can a man put away his wife for any cause?" Now here in the Mosaic Law if he find an uncleanness in her he can give her a bill of divorcement. Now they knew that Jesus was teaching a more strict code. So they came to Him with this trick, trap question, "Can a man put away his wife for any cause?" Jesus said, "If a man puts away his wife and marries another except it be for fornication, he causes her to commit adultery and whoso marries her commits adultery."

Aha. He's fallen right into their trap. That's just what they were hoping He would answer. So they came right back to Him, and said, "How is it then that Moses said let him give her a writing of a bill of divorcement"? They figured they had trapped Him. We've got you now because it is acknowledged that God gave the law to Moses. No challenge: no question about that. It was a well-established fact that the law came by God to Moses. So Jesus is actually now in conflict with what God declared. For God said unto Moses, "Let him give her a writing of a bill of divorcement" and the law of divorce was established by God through Moses, and it's there in their law. And for Jesus to come down in such a strict way puts Him now at variance against God, exactly what they were hoping He would do. But Jesus went on to say, "In the beginning it was not so."

Now the law was added later on; the law came many years later. "In the beginning," God now goes back to Adam and Eve. Jesus now goes back to God's perfect initial plan for family relationships or husband and wife relationships. It was originally God's divine intent, that you have a once for life marriage relationship. "In the beginning God made them male and female and for this cause a man shall leave his mother and father and shall cleave to his wife and the two shall become one flesh. Therefore that which God has joined together, let no man put asunder". And that is God's divine ideal for every couple. But Jesus said, "because of the hardness of your hearts Moses said let him give her a writing of a bill of divorcement".

Now, Jesus is not going back to the law. He's going back to before the law. He's going back to God's divine intent for man, for husband and wife relationships. But because man's heart is hard and he can not come up to God's divine ordinance and will, God then under the law gave the law of divorce that a man finding an uncleanness in his wife could put her away.

Now, I believe that some marriages are a mistake from the beginning. They should never have been. Young people so often getting married have a totally wrong concept of marriage. I'm tired of living at home. I don't want to take orders from my parents anymore. I'm going to escape. I'm going to get married. I want my freedom. And you say, "When are you going to get married?" "Oh, we're getting married the first." "The first what?" "The first chance I get." You know, they're just out to get married. So that many times they do not use good sense or good judgment in their choice of a marriage partner. Because he was good-looking and he was a tackle on the football team, and played first string and all, oh, you know, I'm in love. But the guy is as mean and rough at home as he is out on the football field. He has no love, no care, no tenderness; the marriage was a mistake from the beginning. He uses his wife as a punching bag. He gets rid of all his aggressions on her. And the poor little thing is beat up, terrified.

Now does God say, "Well, young lady, you made a mistake, you made your bed, you live in it. You're just going to have to settle down with the fact you are going to be his punching bag and you're going to live the rest of your life in terror of this brute". I don't believe so. I don't believe that God requires that. I don't believe that God ever intended that marriage be a terrorized paranoia where you live in constant terror. I don't think that was God's intention for marriage, ever.

In fact God said to the husbands, "Love your wives as God loves the church and gave Himself for it". But there are some people whose hearts are hardened against God's divine ideal. Whose hearts are hardened against God, thus they make very poor marriage partners. And God, knowing that people could not achieve, that is all people could not achieve His divine ideal, then created the alternate out by the law of divorcement that He gave to Moses. But no, that isn't God's best for a person's life; the best and first ideal that God gave to a person is one marriage for life. Now those who have made mistakes or can't live with that, God has developed the alternate, then give her a writing of a bill of divorcement.

Now it is obvious that this would come early, "If he marries her and finds an uncleanness in her;" in other words, just as soon as you're married, you realize, "hey this was a mistake" then you're allowed to put her away with a bill of divorcement. Now, if then she were to go out and marry another man and the other man that she married in time would die, and you think, "Well, she wasn't to bad, maybe I'll take her back". No, you can't do that. You've already put her away once: thus you are not to take her back again as your wife. This would be an abomination unto the Lord.

And so interesting law of divorce that is here under the law that God did give in certain conditions. And Jesus declared, "the law was given for the hardness of the hearts of the people" because man could not come up to God's divine ideal. How much better if we come up to God's divine ideal, but if you can't handle that then God has made the out through divorce.

Now when a man has taken a new wife, he doesn't have to go to war, or charged with any business: for a whole year. He can just stay at home and cheer his wife ( Deuteronomy 24:5 ).

With some wives it wouldn't be much cheer after a few months.

You're not to take the upper millstone as a pledge ( Deuteronomy 24:6 ):

Now the reason why you weren't to take a millstone as a pledge is because people, actually that was their livelihood. You used your millstone to grind your wheat and all. If you don't have your millstone you're out of bread, you know. So you weren't allowed to take these as a pledge for a debt.

If a man was found stealing [or kidnapping] any of the children to make merchandise of them; he was to be put to death [kidnappers, capital punishment]; Then watch out for the plague of leprosy, let the priest follow Moses' instructions on that. Remember what the Lord did to Miriam; [that is by her coming against Moses.] ( Deuteronomy 24:7-9 )

So, honor the leadership.

Then further laws concerning the pledges that you could take and the pledges you weren't to take. You weren't to take a man's blanket as a pledge because if at night he got cold and he said, "Oh, God, I'm cold" and started praying to God, God would hold it against you because you had his blanket. So you're in trouble with God because this guy is complaining to God and you're the fault, you see. You don't want to do any thing that would cause a fellow to complain to God about his situation, because then God comes to you for it.

And so if you hire a man, you are to pay him at the end of the day lest he is hungry and he complain to God. "Oh God he didn't pay me today and I'm so hungry, Oh I'm hungry". Then God comes to you because you're the fault of this guy bothering God.

So you're not to put the fathers to death for the sins of the children, and you're not to put the children to death for the sins of the fathers: A man was to be put to death for his own sin. You're not to pervert the judgment of a stranger, or the fatherless; or take a widow's raiment as a pledge ( Deuteronomy 24:16-17 ):

God watches out for the stranger, for the fatherless, for the downcast, for the outcast, and so forth; God has a special tender care for them.

Now when you cut down the harvest in your field and if you remember, "Oh, I left a sheaf out in the field", don't go back and get it. Just leave that for the poor, they can come in behind you and get it.

When you go through and pick your olives, you only pick the olive tree once ( Deuteronomy 24:20 ):

Those olives that are still green and not ready to be picked you just leave them on the tree, so the poor people can come into your grove. They can pick the olives that you leave.

When you go through and pick the grapes in your vineyard, you're to not pick them all ( Deuteronomy 24:21 ):

Leave the green ones, those that aren't completely ripe, but you can't go back and pick your vineyard the second time. You have one shot through to get your harvest; whatever is left you just leave it on the vines for the poor people. So, it was an excellent welfare program. The poor could always go out into the fields and gather up whatever was left in the fields.

Now I've noticed up here when they are harvesting the cabbage and all. Actually they leave as much in the field as what they pick, almost. How wonderful it would be if after they have gone through, rather than plowing under the cabbage, the poor people could just come in and help themselves to the cabbage, or the celery, or the lettuce, or these various fields that are planted up here; much better than plowing it under. It would be there and you just say, "All right. Just come in and help yourselves." And the people would just come in and help themselves to it. That's what they did in those days. You could shake your olive tree once, and whatever came down in that first shaking you could have but then you had to leave the rest of it and the poor could move in, and thus the poor could actually, you know, gather enough to actually get along themselves. And so it was an excellent welfare program for the poor. You shall leave it. You're not to glean, for it will be for the stranger, the fatherless and the widow.


Bibliographical Information
Smith, Charles Ward. "Commentary on Deuteronomy 24". "Smith's Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/csc/deuteronomy-24.html. 2014.
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