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Monday, May 20th, 2024
the Week of Proper 2 / Ordinary 7
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Bible Commentaries
Deuteronomy 25

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Verses 1-3

Righteous Punishment

Punishment should be given where necessary, but not more than necessary. The punishment must be in accordance with the crime and with the responsibility of the criminal: “And that slave who knew his master’s will and did not get ready or act in accord with his will, will receive many lashes, but the one who did not know [it], and committed deeds worthy of a flogging, will receive but few. From everyone who has been given much, much will be required; and to whom they entrusted much, of him they will ask all the more” (Luke 12:47-Galatians :).

The number of forty stripes is a maximum, where the number forty stands for a full punishment (Genesis 7:12; Numbers 14:33-Nahum :). In giving the punishment, the rabbis, for fear of violating the letter of the law, have determined that forty minus one stripes must be given in case one should count wrong. Paul has received this maximum five times (2 Corinthians 11:24). It indicates that he was seen by the Jews as a great criminal.

In the church of God, what is called justice here is discipline. Discipline is exercised by the entire church. In practice, spiritually-minded brothers will prepare a disciplinary case. Here, too, it is important that a disciplinary measure is in accordance with the committed sin. For example, someone who lives an undisciplined Christian life is unfaithful must be marked (Darby Translation), while he must still be seen as a brother and also be admonished as such (2 Thessalonians 3:14-Ezra :). The heaviest disciplinary measure of removing from the church does not fit in this case (1 Corinthians 5:13). That would be tantamount to degrade the brother.

The stripes must be given in the presence of the judge. This emphasizes the fact that the sentence is executed as it was pronounced and that the sentence must be executed immediately.

Verse 4

Not Muzzle a Threshing Ox

As the previous section teaches that punishment should be given according to the offence, so does this verse teach that food may be enjoyed according to the work done. Just as criminal is worth punishment, so is the worker worth his wages.

This verse is quoted twice in the New Testament:
1. “For it is written in the Law of Moses, “You shall not muzzle the ox while he is threshing.” God is not concerned about oxen, is He? Or is He speaking altogether for our sake? Yes, for our sake it was written, because the plowman ought to plow in hope, and the thresher [to thresh] in hope of sharing [the crops]” (1 Corinthians 9:9-2 Samuel :).
2. “The elders who rule well are to be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who work hard at preaching and teaching. For the Scripture says, “You shall not muzzle the ox while he is threshing,” and “The laborer is worthy of his wages”” (1 Timothy 5:17-Job :).

The first quotation shows that this instruction was not given primarily out of concern for the ox, but that it is intended for the worker in God’s kingdom. It is not just an application but a clear explanation of this verse.

This precept makes it clear to believers that those who do spiritual work are entitled to material support from those who benefit from this spiritual work (cf. Galatians 6:6).

Verses 5-10

The Duty of a Husband’s Brother

In these verses an arrangement is made to protect the inheritance, that it will not fall into other hands. It describes the situation of two brothers who live in the same inheritance and of whom one is married and the other still unmarried. If the married brother dies without a descendant, the brother must take the widow as his wife. This is called “the duty of a husband’s brother” (Deuteronomy 25:5; Deuteronomy 25:7). The son who is then conceived shall assume the name of the first husband and is his heir. This use, now enacted as law, has been known for some time (Genesis 38:8).

With Boaz’s marriage to Ruth it is about a family member further away, because there is no brother (Ruth 4:1-:). There, too, the land has already passed into other hands. Boaz must become both the redeemer and the one who performs the duty of a husband’s brother. God has now enacted this existing, unwritten law and also brought it to the human level. This allows the brother to evade the duty of a husband’s brother. He can do this because he simply does not want it or because he puts his own interests at risk.

Pull off the sandal is a symbolic indication. To put the sandal or shoe on somewhere speaks of taking possession, appropriating and make it your own (Joshua 1:3; Psalms 60:10; Psalms 108:10). Pulling off the shoe speaks of the opposite and means abandoning something. That is what the man does in the case of Ruth (Ruth 4:7). He does so because he ruins his own inheritance by marrying Ruth. He thinks more of his own interests. He then renounces the woman and the land. Here the woman pulls the sandal off his foot. That will be an insult name for the man.

In Ruth is a redeemer who is nearer. This first redeemer is a type of law. The law is the first obligation given to man to receive life through this way. The law says: “Do this and you will live’ (Leviticus 18:5). But this first redeemer cannot redeem. People who keep the law are like thieves and robbers. The Pharisees and scribes think only of their own interest and not of the people. They impose heavy loads.

Then comes the Redeemer Who can and does, the Lord Jesus. He steps aside. He is not afraid to lose his own inheritance. He wants to be ”cut off and have nothing” (Daniel 9:26). The Lord Jesus is the true Boaz, that means ‘in him is strength’. Ruth is a picture of the remnant of Israel and Naomi of the Israel that has lost everything. How aptly Ruth, who is a Moabitess, shows the disenfranchisement of the remnant and that everything that is obtained is only on the basis of grace.

The meaning for us is what we have to do for the other. It shows that we have to step aside for the other. Are we prepared to stand up for the interests of the brother, or do we look like the first redeemer? It may take some time or effort, but how important is it that the other person keeps his inheritance?

The Sadducees refer in one of their discussions with the Lord Jesus to the duty of a husband’s brother to “prove” the implausibility of the resurrection (Matthew 22:23-Micah :). The Sadducees are the liberals of that time. They only believe in what they can reason. Therefore they do not believe in the resurrection, nor in angels and spirits (Acts 23:8). They propose to the Lord the case invented by them of seven brothers who marry the same woman in succession. They explain from their corrupt thinking how the situation develops in their invented example.

Yet the Lord makes an effort to enlighten their darkened minds. He refers to the Scripture that speaks of God as the God of Abraham and the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob (Exodus 3:6; Exodus 3:15-Nehemiah :). The Lord quotes this Scripture to show that in the days of Moses the patriarchs live in another world, although they then have not yet been raised from the dead. The fact that their spirits are there guarantees that they will share the fulfillment of the promises with resurrected bodies.

When God says this to Moses, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob have long since passed away. But God has given them His promises. Will He not then be able to make them come true? Surely He will make them true. He will do that in the resurrection. How very different is the faith of Abraham from that of the Sadducees. He has believed that God is able to raise even the dead (Hebrews 11:18).

Verses 11-12

Improper Method of Delivery

This case is related to the previous part, but as a counterpart. If her husband’s brother refuses to perform duty of the husband’s brother in marrying her, the woman, being very independent, may express her contempt for this (Deuteronomy 25:9). But in these verses it is made clear that this independence must not tempt her into unauthorized, shameless actions. It is understandable that she wants to stand up for her husband, but the way in which she does so is malicious. She wants to make the man unfit to procreate offspring.

The physical mutilation that should be used as a punishment is the only example given in the law. The evil that is happening here must be punished with a punishment that has a lasting effect. In the execution of the sentence, pity, for example because it concerns a woman, should not play a role (cf. Deuteronomy 13:8; Deuteronomy 19:13Deuteronomy 19:21).

The Lord may point to this precept when He speaks of cutting off the hand that can cause us to fall into sin. Preventing an inappropriate act is done by judging oneself. Whoever cuts off his hand spiritually spoken, will not literally have to lose it. The Lord goes much further: whoever cuts off his hand spiritually, thereby escapes the judgment of hell (Mark 9:43).

Verses 13-16

A Just Weight and Measure

The ban on dual weights and measures covers not only the use but also the possession. The bad merchant has a large measure for the purchase and a small measure for the sale. The prophet Amos also speaks against this evil with clear language (Amos 8:5). The ban has been given before (Leviticus 19:35-Zephaniah :). In the same line we read in Psalm 12 about speaking “with flattering lips and with a double heart” (Psalms 12:3).

The evil of two measures can so easily play a role in our own hearts and in church life. When it comes to ourselves, we often apply different standards than when it comes to others. We are often much more lenient towards family members than towards outsiders. That is why it is wise, for example, to stay out of a disciplinary case as a family.

For God, such a conduct of ambivalence is an abomination (Proverbs 20:10; Proverbs 11:1Proverbs 20:23). In Deuteronomy 25:16 it is said of every one by who measures with two measures that such a man is “an abomination to the LORD your God”. The LORD wants judgment without regard to persons. In His ways of government He takes into account what measure we have used for others. How we have judged others, according to that standard we ourselves will be judged by Him, as the He Himself says: “For by your standard of measure it will be measured to you in return” (Luke 6:38).

God rewards honest conduct with a long life in the land. Those who are honest do not do themselves any harm, even though it sometimes seems so. The full blessing that God gives His people to enjoy in the land He has given His people, is for the Christian the heavenly places. Honesty in all relationships is a prerequisite for the enjoyment of spiritual blessings.

Verses 17-19

Assignment to Blot out Amalek

Amalek is a mean people who attack the weakest spots of a people who have barely escaped slavery (Exodus 17:14-Nehemiah :). It also attacks a people who have no experience of struggle and who have done nothing wrong to them. In the attack of God’s people they show that they have no fear of God in mind.

God does not forget what this cowardly enemy has done to His people. The only judgement is to totally blot out the memory of this enemy by a complete judgement. It can be compared to the judgment of the flood in the days of Noah and the turning upside down and burning of Sodom and Gomorrah (Genesis 6:5-Judges :; Genesis 18:20-Ecclesiastes :Genesis 19:24-Lamentations :). Saul is commissioned to blot out Amalek, but fails by disobedience (1 Samuel 15:1-Leviticus :; 1 Samuel 15:18-Psalms :). Some time later David beats the Amalekites (2 Samuel 1:1). In the days of Hizkia the final liquidation of Amalek will take place (1 Chronicles 4:41-Acts :).

Amalek is a picture of the sinful flesh. The flesh, the sin in us, must be completely set aside. Faith may know that sin in the flesh is judged when Christ died under God’s judgment on the cross and that we are crucified there with Him (Romans 6:6; Romans 8:3). Now it is our responsibility to consider ourselves dead to sin (Romans 6:11).

Just like Amalek, the sinful flesh is also very mean. It attacks us at times of weakness and at the weakest spots. Right then it is important to think of Christ and His work and of our union with Him in that work. Then the flesh has no chance to assert itself and seduce us to sin by which we suffer the defeat.

We must go far in our love for others, but we must not give any room to the flesh. We must allow God in all our affairs, in all our relationships. Then things like charity, determination, correctness in our judgments, all will find their place and be found in all our ways. Love for the flesh, for Satan and his powers, must never be there, otherwise we will never get to the beautiful message of the next chapter.

Bibliographical Information
de Koning, Ger. Commentaar op Deuteronomy 25". "Kingcomments on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/kng/deuteronomy-25.html. 'Stichting Titus' / 'Stichting Uitgeverij Daniël', Zwolle, Nederland. 2021.
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