Lectionary Calendar
Wednesday, June 19th, 2024
the Week of Proper 6 / Ordinary 11
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Bible Commentaries
Deuteronomy 24

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Verses 1-4

Divorce and a Certificate of Divorce

It seems that this arrangement is being made because divorce is already regularly happening. Possibly it has even been practiced in Egypt. The purpose of this prescript seems to be to discourage a loose divorce. If someone has sent his wife out of his house and she is married again and is then send away again, then the first man is not allowed to take her back as his wife.

Although God, because of the hardness of their hearts, has allowed them to send their wives away, He considers the next marriage of the woman to be defiled. Therefore the Lord Jesus says that anyone who marries a woman who is send away by her husband commits adultery. This could not be so if God were to recognize divorce as a lawful thing. But for God there can be no legitimate reason for divorce.

There is no explicit consent to divorce anywhere. It is permitted, because of the hardness of heart (Matthew 19:8). God hates divorce (Malachi 2:16). This arrangement is also made to prevent a man from always acting according to will, at his discretion. He could change women as often as he likes. What a confusion that would cause in family life. Finally, there would also be no clarity about the inheritance.

The reason for sending away can be anything the man describes as “some indecency”. In any case, it has nothing to do with adultery, because therefore death penalty applies (Deuteronomy 22:20-Song of Solomon :). If he sends the wife away, he must give a certificate of divorce. She then has proof that her first husband renounces her and is no longer allowed to take her to wife.

God has given Israel a certificate of divorce: “And I saw that for all the adulteries of faithless Israel, I had sent her away and given her a writ of divorce” (Jeremiah 3:8). How long did God not hesitate before He gave that letter? Finally, God had to write the certificate of divorce, because it is an apostate people who, as it is, will never return to blessing. For the people as a whole there is no recovery. What is being restored is a remnant of the election of grace (Romans 11:5; Romans 11:23-Jeremiah :). Grace goes beyond the law. In this remnant God accepts His people again, while they as a whole have been whoring away from Him.

For the church as nominal Christianity, the moment of the certificate of divorce also comes. No restoration is possible for this Christianity either (Revelation 18:21; Romans 11:21-Song of Solomon :). However, in the present time there is still a Philadelphia (Revelation 3:7-1 Chronicles :). This is indicated in Deuteronomy 24:5.

Verse 5

Dispensation for a Just Married Man

Like the previous section, this verse also emphasizes the importance of marriage. It would be rather harsh to send a just married man into battle with the chance of his death. Then there is no chance of offspring and his name disappears from Israel. Therefore, he gets a year off to give happiness to his wife, which also means to experience sexual intercourse with her. It will also make the evil of the previous verses rather small.

This verse contrasts sharply with the previous verses. This is about a new wife taken by a man, whereas the previous verses refer to a send away wife. This man may stay at home for a whole year to give happiness to his wife. That’s how great the wife is for her husband. It is not a second wife, next to his first, but a new one.

For us, practice is not that we give happiness to our wife only for one year, but it is our privilege to do so throughout our life (1 Corinthians 7:33; 1 Corinthians 7:39). The church is that wife to the Lord Jesus. The Lord is now free from battle and free from burdens and is committed to His church to give happiness to her. That is what He as Man in glory is doing now.

Verse 6

Grinding Instrument Is No Pledge

The interests of the brother are dealt with in the section of Deuteronomy 24:6-25:16. When our brother’s interests conflict with our own, our brother’s interests take precedence: “Do not [merely] look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others. … For I have no one [else] of kindred spirit who will genuinely be concerned for your welfare. 21For they all seek after their own interests, not those of Christ Jesus” (Philippians 2:4; Philippians 2:20-Ecclesiastes :).

God allows much, but He also gives limitations, to protect the other. Someone may take something in pledge from his brother. But when a brother asks to borrow something, it shows that he is in a weak position and therefore he is protected. God indicates here what may not be taken in pledge. It is not so much the value of what is taken in pledge, but the great significance in its use.

For example, if someone has to borrow grain, the instrument with which that grain has to be grinded may not be taken in pledge. He needs this instrument to process the grain so that it can be consumed as food and he can stay alive. This instrument is his life and whoever takes this instrument in pledge, takes the life of his brother in pledge.

This can be applied to the ministry of someone who brings the Word. The spiritual ministry that comes to the believers in the words of the servant means spiritual food for the believers. But what has been said still has to be worked out by the believer. It is not suitable for consumption. It must be judged, tested. It also needs to be worked out. The Word that comes to us has yet to be grinded, it has to undergo a process in our hearts and conscience to extract the food.

In this work, no brother or sister may be hindered by taking a millstone. No obstacle shall be created to the full enjoyment of the food. Anyone who brings the Word may not connect any of the hearers to himself and make him dependent on him for spiritual growth. Each one must work the food himself in fellowship with the Lord.

Verse 7


The danger of dependence in the previous verse has become here kidnapping. Not only is someone here impoverished, but someone is completely owned by someone else, to make a profit with him. In Christianity this finds its horrible fulfillment in the roman catholic church. She assumes herself to be the bride of Christ, and that there is no salvation without her. She is called “the great harlot” and “BABYLON THE GREAT, THE MOTHER OF HARLOTS” (Revelation 17:1; Revelation 17:5). It says of her that she trades in “human lives” (Revelation 18:12-1 Chronicles :).

For this world church, the spirits are made ripe by the advancing charismatic movement. People with charisma who manipulate the (often large) audience through their rousing language and impressive manifestations of powers, signs and miracles exercise an enormous power over their followers. In their words they honor God, but in practice they manipulate the feelings of the Christians who admire them. People who regard any criticism of ‘their’ preacher or miracle worker as a slander of the Spirit often turn out to be completely under the spell of that preacher or miracle worker. They have sold themselves to such a person.

Spiritual leaders are always in danger of connecting people to themselves. If they do that, they become party leaders. An example of this is Absalom of whom we read: “So Absalom stole away the hearts of the men of Israel” (2 Samuel 15:6). By flattering the men, he won them for his party and loosened them from David. A party leader is a sect leader. Of a sectarian man is written: “Reject a factious man after a first and second warning, knowing that such a man is perverted and is sinning, being self-condemned” (Titus 3:10).

How very different is the Lord Jesus. He is committed to the sheep and gives His life for them. The contrast with the thief who “comes only to steal and kill and destroy” is enormous. He is “the good Shepherd”, He “lays down His life for the sheep” (John 10:10-1 Kings :).

Verses 8-9

Infection of Leprosy

Leprosy is a picture of sin with infectivity as its hallmark and death as the result. The precept on the plague of leprosy seems to focus on preventing the plague. The thought seems to be: Be careful against the plague of leprosy, beware that it does not strike you by rebellion against what the priests teach by the LORD’s command. It is about the Levitical priest’s teaching, not so much about the priest’s research of the plague. The importance of this teaching is emphasized by the fact that twice in this verse we read “be careful”.

Here in this book, by way of exception, something of the priest is mentioned again. A priest knows the holiness of God and teaches about it. Its purpose is that the flesh will not reveal itself. To add strength to this prescription Moses refers to what happened to Miriam.

Miriam is a concrete example (Numbers 12:2-2 Samuel :). In her there has been an eruption of sin. It is not moral evil, but making a party. She contested Moses’ leadership out of jealousy. The result was that the people could not continue their journey for seven days (Numbers 12:14).

This prescription to be careful against an infection of leprosy connects to the previous verse. That verse denounces the domination over others. The precept here points to the consequences of this: domination causes the infection of leprosy.

Verses 10-13

Procedure in Case of Taking a Pledge

As said, God allows His people to take a pledge as security for the repayment of the loan. But he who lends out, is not free to choose his pledge himself. In Deuteronomy 24:6 there is something mentioned that may not be taken in pledge. Now we are told how this pledge can be taken. Giving in pledge is a matter for the borrower. The one who takes in pledge may not enter the private property of the one who gives in pledge for this purpose.

God also imposes restrictions on the duration of taking in pledge. If someone is entitled to the pledge of another person, he may not keep it unlimited, despite that the other person has not paid his debt. For example, a garment must be returned when the sun goes down if it belongs to a poor man. That gives blessing and will be to righteousness. Here someone renounces his own interest, in favor of the interest of the other. The prophet Amos is to blame the people for the transgression of this commandment (Amos 2:8).

This arrangement preserves the pledgor’s own responsibility and personal freedom. Sect leaders have no respect whatsoever for this. They push through decisions that they consider important for their cause, without listening to the voice of a single person. Personal conscience is not taken into account.

Verses 14-15

Treatment of a Hired Servant

This is not a question of borrowing and debt, but of fairly earned wages. The worker must give each of his employees to what he is entitled, and must not postpone payment: “The wages of a hired man are not to remain with you all night until morning” (Leviticus 19:13; Matthew 20:8; Job 7:2). If the wages are not paid in time, he will outcry to the LORD (James 5:4). Anyone to whom a service is provided is obliged to pay the amount due in respect thereof. Employers should realize that they also have Someone above them: “Masters, grant to your slaves justice and fairness, knowing that you too have a Master in heaven” (Colossians 4:1).

It also applies spiritually. Anyone who is “taught in the Word” is expected “to share all good things with the one who teaches [him]” (Galatians 6:6). “For the laborer is worthy of his wages” (Luke 10:7). Where the spiritual is sown, it is only logical that the material things are reaped (1 Corinthians 9:11).

The obligation to pay must be fulfilled before sunset, as with the return of the cloak taken in pledge (Deuteronomy 24:12). The previous regulation concludes with a blessing for the pledgor and justice from the LORD if it is met. The regulation for payment of wages concludes with a cry to the LORD and committing sin if it is not met.

Verse 16

Everyone Dies for His Own Sin

Each one receives the punishment for his own fault and not a descendant (2 Kings 14:6; Ezekiel 18:4; Ezekiel 18:20). There seems to be a contradiction with the statement that the sins of the fathers are visited on the third and fourth generations (Exodus 20:5). The answer is that we must always distinguish the punishment of sin from the consequences of sin. David receives forgiveness, but he cannot escape the consequences of sin (2 Samuel 12:1-1 Chronicles :). We all too often meet the consequences of the fathers’ sin in the lives of their descendants.

Verses 17-22

Alien, Orphan and Widow

God upholds the right of the weak. We are referred back to what God has done for us. Then we see Someone Who has not thought of Himself, but only of our interests. He has freed us from the power of sin at the expense of Himself. That is the example of our attitude towards others. We see this in the parable that the Lord Jesus tells of the debtor with a large debt that is forgiven to him. This man forgets that so much is forgiven him. This is evident from the fact that he constrains another who owes him a much smaller debt, without mercy, to repay it (Matthew 18:21-Habakkuk :).

This is about maintaining the rights of the other. In the church of God, it is different than in the world. In the world my own norm is standard in upholding human rights: ‘I have right, the other is obliged.’ The own rights are defended. In the church of God, my brother has only rights and I only duties. We cannot assert any rights. It is about what God says to me. Of course He says that to the other as well, but that is not my concern here. The memory of one’s own oppression and the liberation from it help to stand up for others who are in oppression.

What has remained on the land or on the olive tree and in the vineyard may not be collected later by the owner (see also Leviticus 19:9-2 Samuel :; Leviticus 23:22). God determines that the reaping of what is left of it is for those who have no other support than Him.

What has not been collected has been forgotten by the mowers. They have overlooked it. It is, so to speak, a fruit that sometimes is not obvious. Those to whom God has bestowed this fruit of the land must make an effort to find it, collect it, and enjoy it. It is not thrown into their laps or delivered to their homes. Ruth has to be active to appropriate these blessings (cf. Ruth 2:2; Ruth 2:7).

Just as the exhortation of Deuteronomy 24:17 is followed by a reminder of the liberation from Egypt, so is the case with the reaping of what is left of the harvest. It is to be expected from those who have been shown mercy that they themselves will show mercy to others. The memory of proven goodness urges us to show goodness to others.

Bibliographical Information
de Koning, Ger. Commentaar op Deuteronomy 24". "Kingcomments on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/kng/deuteronomy-24.html. 'Stichting Titus' / 'Stichting Uitgeverij Daniël', Zwolle, Nederland. 2021.
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