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Saturday, June 22nd, 2024
the Week of Proper 6 / Ordinary 11
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Bible Commentaries
Deuteronomy 22

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - UnabridgedCommentary Critical Unabridged

Verse 1

Thou shalt not see thy brother's ox or his sheep go astray, and hide thyself from them: thou shalt in any case bring them again unto thy brother.

Thou shalt not see thy brother's ox ... "Brother" is a term of extensive application, comprehending persons of every description-not a relative, neighbour, or fellow-countryman only, but any human being known or unknown, a foreigner, and even an enemy (Exodus 23:4).

The duty inculcated is an act of common justice and charity, which, while it was taught by the law of nature, was more clearly and forcibly enjoined in the law delivered by God to His people. Indifference or dissimulation in the circumstances supposed would not only be cruelty to the mute animals, but a violation of the common rights of humanity; and therefore the dictates of natural feeling, and still more the authority of the divine law, enjoined that the lost or missing property of another should be taken care of by the finder, until a proper opportunity occurred of restoring it to the owner.

Verses 2-4

And if thy brother be not nigh unto thee, or if thou know him not, then thou shalt bring it unto thine own house, and it shall be with thee until thy brother seek after it, and thou shalt restore it to him again.

No JFB commentary on these verses.

Verse 5

The woman shall not wear that which pertaineth unto a man, neither shall a man put on a woman's garment: for all that do so are abomination unto the LORD thy God.

The woman shall not wear that which pertaineth unto a man. Disguises were assumed at certain times in pagan temples. Maimonides ('More Nevochim.,' pars 3:, cap. 12:) mentions that a man attired in a coloured female dress, in honour of Venus, Ashtaroth, or Astarte, and a woman equipped in armour, worshipped at the shrine of the statue of Mars, (see also Spencer, 'Do Legibus Hebraeorum,' lib. 1:, cap. 5:, 11:)

The old Asiatics, when they engaged in the worship of Ashtaroth, were accustomed, according to Philocorus, quoted by Townley (in his edition of Maimonides, note 33), to exchange the male and female dresses. In fact, all idolators confounded the sexes of their deities-representing them sometimes as male, at other times as female; and hence, their worshippers, male and female, fell gradually into the custom, which became extensively prevalent, of changing their attire in adaptation to the sex of a particular divinity. (See many instances adduced by Young, 'Idol. Corruptions in Religion,' vol. 1:, pp. 97-105.)

It is probable that a reference was made to unbecoming levities practiced in common life. They were properly forbidden; for the adoption of the habiliments of the one sex by the other is an outrage on decency, obliterates the distinctions of nature by fostering softness and effeminacy in the man, impudence and boldness in the woman, as well as levity and hypocrisy in both; and, in short, opens the door to an influx of so many evils, that all who wear the dress of another sex are pronounced "an abomination unto the Lord."

Verse 6

If a bird's nest chance to be before thee in the way in any tree, or on the ground, whether they be young ones, or eggs, and the dam sitting upon the young, or upon the eggs, thou shalt not take the dam with the young:

If a bird's nest chance to be before thee. This is a beautiful instance of the humanizing spirit of the Mosaic law in checking a tendency to wanton destructiveness, and encouraging a spirit of kind and compassionate tenderness to the tiniest creatures. But there was wisdom as well as humanity in the precept; for, as birds are well known to serve important uses in the economy of nature, the extirpation of a species, whether of edible or ravenous birds, must in any country be productive of serious evils. Palestine, in particular, was situated in a climate which produced poisonous snakes and scorpions, and between deserts and mountains from which it would have been overrun with them, as well as immense swarms of flies, locusts, mice, and vermin of various kinds, if the birds which fed upon them were extirpated (Michaelis).

Accordingly, the counsel given in this passage was wise as well as humane, to leave the hen undisturbed, as the privation of her young would be affliction enough without the additional calamity of the loss of her liberty. Besides, left in her native haunts, she might have the pleasure of rearing another family in their stead; while the taking of the brood occasionally was permitted as a check to too rapid an increase.

Harmer ('Observations,' 4:, p. 31) institutes an inquiry into the reasons that might have induced Moses to issue this prohibition to the Israelites while encamped on the confines of the promised land, and made no previous mention of the subject, although birds were and are undoubtedly inhabitants of the desert. Quails, partridges, pigeons, ostriches, are met with by travelers in that part of the wilderness through which the Israelites passed. As to the ostrich, he answers that their eggs, deposited in the sand, are hatched by the heat of the ground alone, without incubation (Job 39:13); and as to the other birds which are found in the desert, and sit on their eggs, 'they were too few, perhaps to require a law, and of too wild and shy a disposition to run any considerable of being taken by those that might find their nests; or had their nests out of reach, as the dove, which builds in crevices of the rocks, when in a wild state (Jeremiah 48:28) - not to say the old ones are unfit to be eaten, being too tough for food.

This may sufficiently account for the silence of Moses on this point in the first years of their wandering in the desert. But what occasion, it may be asked, was there to mention it at all? What eggs were they likely to meet with, when residing in Canaan, of use to human life? Or young birds whose dams were in danger of being taken through their attachment to their eggs or to their young? Some eggs might possibly be useful for food, and esteemed among the Jews, which were laid by wild fowl or birds; but the beauty of the shell might make many of the younger people fond of taking the eggs of many of the birds of that country, which are numerous.' Then there is the providential reason assigned by Michaelis, and already quoted.

Verse 7

But thou shalt in any wise let the dam go, and take the young to thee; that it may be well with thee, and that thou mayest prolong thy days. No JFB commentary on this verse.

Verse 8

When thou buildest a new house, then thou shalt make a battlement for thy roof, that thou bring not blood upon thine house, if any man fall from thence.

Thou shalt make a battlement for thy roof. The tops of houses in ancient Judea, as in the East still, were flat, being composed of branches or twigs laid across large beams, and covered with a cement of clay or strong plaster. They were surrounded by a parapet breast high; for, as in summer the roof is a favourite resort for coolness. Accidents would frequently happen from persons incautiously approaching the edge and falling into the street or court; hence, it was a wise and prudent precaution in the Jewish legislator to provide that a stone balustrade or timber railing round the roof should form an essential part of every new house (2 Kings 1:2). The same precaution is still observed (see Rogers' 'Domestic Life in Palestine,' p. 326). But during the Mosaic economy the builder of a house who neglected the erection of a balustrade to the roof subjected himself to the charge of blood-guiltiness, should any one have been accidentally killed by falling from the terrace.

Verse 9

Thou shalt not sow thy vineyard with divers seeds: lest the fruit of thy seed which thou hast sown, and the fruit of thy vineyard, be defiled.

Thou shalt not sow thy vineyard with divers seeds - (see the note at Leviticus 19:19.)

Verse 10

Thou shalt not plow with an ox and an ass together.

Thou shalt not plow with an ox and an ass together. Whether this association, like the mixture of seeds, had been dictated by superstitious motives, and the prohibition was symbolical, designed to teach a moral lesson (2 Corinthians 6:14), may or may not have been the case. Maimonides, following the generality of Jewish writers, considers the reason of this interdict to have been, that the ox was a clean, while the donkey was an unclean animal. But the prohibition prevented a great inhumanity still occasionally practiced by the poorer sort in Oriental countries. An ox and a donkey being of different species, and of very different characters, cannot associate comfortably, nor unite cheerfully in drawing a plow or a wagon. The donkey being much smaller, and his step shorter, there must be an unequal and irregular load. Besides the donkey, from feeding on coarse and poisonous weeds, as a fetid breath, which its yoke-fellow seeks to avoid, not only as poisonous and offensive, but producing leanness, or, if long continued, death. And hence, it has been observed always to hold away its head from the donkey, and to pull only with one shoulder.

The classic writers on agriculture give the same precept as Moses; and yet the cruel and unnatural practice of yoking these two animals of different species was very prevalent, as appears from a familiar allusion to it by Plautus ('Aulularia,' art. 1:, sec. 4, where Euclio's dialogue with Megadorus says, 'Now if I were to give my daughter to you, it seems to me that, when we had formed this alliance, I should be the donkey and you the ox').

Verse 11

Thou shalt not wear a garment of divers sorts, as of woollen and linen together.

Thou shalt not wear a garment of divers sorts. The essence of the crime (Zephaniah 1:8) consisted, not in wearing a woolen and a linen robe, nor in the two stuffs being woven together-for some portions of the high priest's robes were so interwoven-but in doing them in a particular form, according to a favourite superstition of ancient idolaters (see the note at Leviticus 19:19).

Verse 12

Thou shalt make thee fringes upon the four quarters of thy vesture, wherewith thou coverest thyself.

Thou shalt make thee fringes upon the four quarters - tassels on the corners of the outer coat; or, according to some eminent Biblical interpreters, tassels on the coverlet of the bed. The precept is not the same as Numbers 15:38; nor is "fringes represented in the two passages by the same term in the original. [In Numbers the expression used is tsiytsit (H6734), which denotes the edge of fur on the Assyrian mantles; also a lock of hair (Ezekiel 8:3). In this passage the word is gªdiliym (H1434), tassels attached with strings or slender cords to the corner of a robe.] These tasseled cords are seen hanging from the corners of the Assyrian garments on the pictorial plates of Layard and Botta.

Verses 13-24

If any man take a wife, and go in unto her, and hate her,

If any man take a wife ... The regulations that follow might be imperatively needful in the then situation of the Israelites; and yet it is not necessary that we should curiously and impertinently inquire into usages unknown to the language of civilization.

So far was it from being unworthy of God to leave such things upon record, that the enactments must heighten our admiration of His wisdom and goodness in the management of a people so perverse and so given to irregular passions. 'Nor is it a better argument that the Scriptures were not written by inspiration of God to object, that this passage, and others of a like nature, tend to corrupt the imagination, and will be abused by evil-disposed readers, than it is to say that the sun was not created by God, because its light may be abused by wicked men as an assistant in committing crimes which they have meditated' (Horne).

Niebuhr ('Voyage en Arabie') describes the same custom as still prevalent in many parts of that country, and he traces its origin to the idea that marriage being a sort of purchase, a man is entitled not only to look for a wife of a certain character and qualifications, but to return her to her father if she does not answer his expectations, accompanied by a demand for the restoration of the nuptial presents.

Verse 21. Out the damsel to the door of her father's house. If it had been proved that she had been formerly seduced, she was to suffer the penalty of death; and the place chosen for her execution was "the door of her father's house." The whole family were thus virtually involved in her punishment, because they were all bound to watch over her conduct, especially her father, in whose house she resided until her removal to that of her husband.

Verse 25

But if a man find a betrothed damsel in the field, and the man force her, and lie with her: then the man only that lay with her shall die:

If a man find a betrothed damsel. If a young woman was seduced after betrothal, and before the consummation of her marriage, both she and her seducer were to be put to death. But if she was forced, the man only who committed the rape was to suffer for the violence, which was regarded as a capital crime. In the case of a maiden not betrothed being seduced, the man was obliged to marry her, and he forfeited the right possessed by other husbands of giving her a divorce. But her father might refuse to allow the marriage, and in that case the seducer had to pay her a dowry (cf. Exodus 22:16-17). These stringent laws were calculated to exert a powerful influence, not only over young women themselves, but over their parents, in increasing their vigilance in preserving the chastity of their daughters.

Bibliographical Information
Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Deuteronomy 22". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/jfu/deuteronomy-22.html. 1871-8.
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