Deuteronomy 24:1. Some uncleanness; not adultery, but leprosy, secret infirmities, or insupportable wickedness. Moses, says our Saviour; because of the hardness of your hearts, suffered you to put away your wives; but from the beginning it was not so. The magistrates executing the writing, would no doubt see the woman invested with all her property, or provided with a maintenance. With us a man may put away his wife for adultery, but he cannot marry another without leave from parliament. Among the Jews divorce was merely permitted, as the less of two evils. Matthew 19:7. Malachi 2:16.
Deuteronomy 24:5. One year, that he may form a family establishment. Then if he afterwards fell in war, he might leave a son to inherit his lot of land. Surely this law was just and humane.
Deuteronomy 24:6. Millstone. The Israelites, like our ancient Britons, used handmills, the construction of which is very simple. The stones are two feet diameter, and four inches thick, cut exactly like the great millstones. The frame on which the nether stone is placed consists of four posts, two of which are three feet high, and the other two are five feet high, with a bar across. The iron spindle resembles that of a razor grinder’s wheel, bended to admit the hand. If the use of these mills were revived, they would save a poor family from sixpense to a shilling per week.
Deuteronomy 24:7. If a man steal any of his brethren he shall die. Never was law more just. Are we not all brethren; have we not all one Father, even God?
Deuteronomy 24:13. Thou shalt deliver him his pledge. The ancient poor were ill clad, and poor indeed: they slept in their one dress, or were covered with it. What then shall we say of christian pawnbrokers; and what shall we think of our courts of conscience. What right have those shop traps, first to trust, and then to distress, the poor?
Deuteronomy 24:16. The fathers shall not die for their children. See Daniel 6:24.
Deuteronomy 24:19. Forgot a sheaf. What is said above of pledges, justifies all the subsequent precepts of mercy.
If a man might not receive back a repudiated wife who had since married another man, how holy is the covenant of marriage! And if the parents are holy, the children are also holy, and heirs of life and salvation by the grace of the covenant. They who do not look to the Lord in their marriage, are ignorant of its nature and true glory.
The caution to do all as the priests and levites shall teach, in the ritual service, is enforced by the judgment inflicted on Miriam. There are no sins more resented of heaven than those committed against religion: and if God smote the sister of Moses with the uncleanness of leprosy, how can others expect to escape? Those who oppose the ministers of religion and the elders of the church, in the exercise of their delegated power and holy discipline, will bring upon themselves the discipline of God’s almighty hand.
Next follows a law of humanity to the poor. If a man pledged his upper garment in a morning to buy bread, and if any accident happened to him in the day, that he had no wages at night, his raiment must not be detained. When we aid the poor with a little kindness or loan, the surest way of being repaid is to take the Lord’s bond; then at farthest, we shall be recompensed at the resurrection of the just.
This law of kindness to the poor is next followed by an injunction to masters, not to oppress a servant, but to allow him an indulgent price for labour, that he may procure bread for his family; nor in any case of the like poverty to withhold at night the hire of the day. All crimes committed against the poor, the orphan and the widow, are considered as peculiarly committed against God, who has charged himself with their protection and defence.
The son not being allowed to suffer for the sins of the father, nor the father for the sins of the son, shows the protection which God afforded to the whole Hebrew nation. Justice must be administered according to law, and law must be founded on equity. The Egyptians, the Macedonians, and the Amorites were so cruel as to require these rigours. Though the last nation required the sacrifice of seven of Saul’s sons; yet it is highly probable from David’s compliance, that they had been privy to the massacre of the Gibeonites, occasioned by their father. 2 Kings 21:9; 2 Kings 21:14. How gracious, how pure are thy precepts, oh Lord of Hosts! Write thy law of love deeply on my heart, that I may never depart from the rules of rectitude and truth.
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Sutcliffe, Joseph. "Commentary on Deuteronomy 24". Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New Testaments. https://www.studylight.org/
the Third Sunday after Epiphany