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Bible Commentaries
Deuteronomy 25

Garner-Howes Baptist CommentaryGarner-Howes

Verses 1-3


Verses 1-3:

Corporal punishment was an accepted judicial sentence in ancient times, and is still practiced among some societies. This text prescribes regulations for Israel to follow when this method of judgment was called for.

"Controversy," rib, "strife, contention, cause," a legal dispute in which no capital offense was involved.

In the event two men brought to court a legal dispute which they were unable to resolve privately, the magistrates were to weigh all the evidence, and determine the guilty and the innocent parties. If the matter called for corporal punishment, the judges were to fix the number of stripes to be inflicted upon the guilty. This number must not exceed forty, possibly because this number often symbolizes completeness.

An important reason for limiting the number of stripes to forty was that the culprit, though guilty, must not be degraded to the statutes of a brute.

The rabbis limited the number of stripes to thirty-nine, likely as a precautionary measure that they not exceed the prescribed number, see 2 Corinthians 11:24.

Stripes were administered by various means:

(1) A stick, or rod, Exodus 21:25; 2 Samuel 7:14.

(2) A branch with thorns, Judges 8:7; Judges 8:16.

(3) Whips and "scorpions," or whips made of strong cords or leather thongs studded with sharp points or hard knots, 1 Kings 12:11; 1 Kings 12:14.

The blows were administered to the shoulders and back, Proverbs 10:13; Proverbs 19:29; Proverbs 26:3, as the culprit lay prone on the ground.

Verse 4

Verse 4:

The law mandated humane treatment toward work animals. This was a symbol of a spiritual principle, which Paul explains and applies in 1 Timothy 5:18; and 1 Corinthians 9:9-14.

Verses 5-10

Verses 5-10:

This text regulates levirate marriages, a practice before the Law was given, see Genesis 38:6-11. If a man died childless, his brother (or next of kin) must marry the widow and raise a child to be is successor and heir. In this way, a family name and heritage would not become extinct.

"Dwell together," in the same community, see Genesis 13:6; Genesis 26:6.

"Child," either male or female. The Law provided that in event a man had no son, a daughter could inherit her father’s estate, Numbers 27:1-11.

A man was free to refuse to marry his brother’s widow. But if so, she had recourse to the court for redress of grievance. She could bring the man before the magistrates on the charge that he refused to do the duty of his brother and raise up or perpetuate a name in Israel.

The text implies that the man was given opportunity to change his mind and proceed with the marriage. But if he continued to refuse, the brother’s widow had further recourse.

In open court, the woman loosed the man’s shoe, and then spat in his face. Both these acts were highly insulting. Removal of the shoe signified:

(1) That the man was unworthy to stand in his brother’s place.

(2) The planting of the shod foot on a piece of property symbolized the taking of possession. of it; the removal of a shoe to confirm an agreement signified the surrender of rights, see Deuteronomy 11:24; Joshua 1:3; Psalms 60:8; Psalms 108:9.

(3) Confirmation of a covenant, Ruth 4:7-8.

This insult inflicted publicly branded the man, and was a mark of disgrace throughout his life. He would thenceforth be known as one who refused to meet his just obligations, and who disregarded the sanctity of covenants.

Verses 11-12

Verses 11, 12:

"Strive together," natsah; the term denotes physical violence, see Exodus 2:13; Exodus 21:22; Leviticus 24; Leviticus 10; 2 Samuel 14:6.

"Secrets," mebushim, "parts of shame," from bosheth, "shameful thing." The text is the only occurrence of the term in Scripture. Here it denotes the genital organs.

If a wife attempted to aid her husband in a fight, and laid hold of the adversary’s genitals, the penalty was severe: the courts ordered that her hand be cut off. In later years, the rabbis commuted this to a fine of the calculated value of the hand.

Verses 13-16

Verses 13-16:

The Law demanded scrupulous honesty, in all business transactions. A man must not have two standards of weights and measures, one great for buying, and one small for selling. All weights and measures were to be exact and correct, see Leviticus 19:35-37; Proverbs 11:1; Proverbs 16:11; Proverbs 20:1; Proverbs 20:23.

Honesty in business dealings was a condition of length of days and peaceful possession of one’s inheritance.

Verses 17-19

Verses 17-19:

Compare this text with Exodus 17:8-16; Numbers 24:20.

Failure to observe this command brought disaster to King Saul, in the rejection of his lineage as Israel’s king; 1 Samuel 15:2-9; 1 Samuel 15:19-29. It also posed a serious threat to the Jews in the Persian kingdom, Ezra 3:1; Ezra 3:5-13.

Bibliographical Information
Garner, Albert & Howes, J.C. "Commentary on Deuteronomy 25". Garner-Howes Baptist Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/ghb/deuteronomy-25.html. 1985.
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