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Thursday, June 20th, 2024
the Week of Proper 6 / Ordinary 11
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Bible Commentaries
Deuteronomy 21

Gray's Concise Bible CommentaryGray's Concise Commentary

Verses 1-23



These ceremonies showed the sanctity associated with human life. The “rough valley” of verse 4 is in the Revised Version “running water,” and the whole was calculated to lead to the discovery of criminals and repress crime.

FEMALE CAPTIVES (Deuteronomy 21:10-14 )

These regulations were to improve the usages of the nations concerning the capture of females in war. A month was the period of mourning among the Jews, and the details of Deuteronomy 21:4 were the signs of grief which the captive must be permitted to manifest for the loss of her parents and old associates now the same as dead. The delay was an act of humanity and kindness.

How further were these virtues to be manifested (Deuteronomy 21:14 )? We should ever remember that we are comparing conditions not with our present ideas of social and domestic obligations, which are what they are because of the later teachings of the Bible, but with those existing in the days of Moses.

RIGHT OF THE FIRSTBORN (Deuteronomy 21:15-17 )

In this case it is presupposed that the first wife was dead at the time referred to. The opening of Deuteronomy 21:15 should be: “If a man have had two wives.” In other words, the legislation does not touch a man who has two wives at the same time, for polygamy, while tolerated under the Mosaic law, was never legalized.

PRODIGAL SONS (Deuteronomy 21:18-21 )

This law was qualified by the fact that the consent of both parents was necessary to its execution.

COMMON HUMANITIES (Deuteronomy 22:1-12 )

“Brother” in Deuteronomy 22:1 comprehends not only relatives, but neighbors or even strangers which should stand in need of such justice and charity.

The command of Deuteronomy 22:6-7 needs reinforcement today in certain quarters. Birds serve important uses in nature, and the extirpation of a species is productive of evils. The mother bird should be left for propagation, but the young occasionally might be taken as a check on too rapid an increase.

There is a lesson in the prohibitions of Deuteronomy 22:9-11 to which reference has been made in Leviticus; but touching Deuteronomy 22:10 : An ox and ass being of different species, and different characters, cannot associate comfortably, nor unite cheerfully in drawing a plough or a wagon. The ass being smaller and his step shorter, there must be an unequal and irregular draught. Besides, the ass, from feeding on poisonous weeds, has a fetid breath, which its yoke-fellow seeks to avoid, not only as offensive, but producing leanness, or, if long continued, death; and hence it has been observed to hold away its head from the ass, and to pull only with one shoulder.

SEXUAL MATTERS (Deuteronomy 22:13-30 )

The regulations might be imperatively needful in the then situation of the Israelites; and yet, it is not necessary that we should curiously inquire into them. 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 to object that this passage, and others of a like nature, tend to corrupt the imagination, than it is to say that the sun was not created by God, because its light may be abused by men as an assistant in committing crimes.


1. What was the intended effect of the legislation about innocent blood?

2. With what conditions should this legislation be compared?

3. Was polygamy legalized by Moses?

4. How is the severity of the legislation about the prodigal son qualified?

5. How does this lesson illustrate the divine care for the comfort of animal life?

6. How would you reply in general terms to arguments against contents of Deuteronomy 22:13-20 ?

Bibliographical Information
Gray, James. "Commentary on Deuteronomy 21". Gray's Concise Bible Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/jgc/deuteronomy-21.html. 1897-1910.
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