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Bible Commentaries
Deuteronomy 25

Utley's You Can Understand the BibleUtley Commentary


Deuteronomy 25:0


Miscellaneous Laws (Deuteronomy 24:5-4)Laws Dealing with Humanitarian and Religious Obligations (Deuteronomy 23:15-19)Various Laws (Deuteronomy 24:5-4)Protection to the Individual (Deuteronomy 24:5-4)
Deuteronomy 24:19-3
Deuteronomy 25:1-3Deuteronomy 25:1-3Deuteronomy 25:1-3
Deuteronomy 25:4Deuteronomy 25:4Deuteronomy 25:4Deuteronomy 25:4
Marriage Duty of the Surviving Brother Duty to a Dead BrotherThe Levirate Law
Deuteronomy 25:5-10Deuteronomy 25:5-10Deuteronomy 25:5-10Deuteronomy 25:5-10
Miscellaneous Laws Other LawsModesty in Brawls
Deuteronomy 25:11-12Deuteronomy 25:11-12Deuteronomy 25:11-12Deuteronomy 25:11-12
Deuteronomy 25:13-16Deuteronomy 25:13-16Deuteronomy 25:13-16Deuteronomy 25:13-16
Destroy the Amalekites The Command to Kill the Amalekites
Deuteronomy 25:17-19Deuteronomy 25:17-19Deuteronomy 25:17-19Deuteronomy 25:17-19

READING CYCLE THREE (see “Guide to Good Bible Reading”)


This is a study guide commentary which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

Read the chapter in one sitting. Identify the subjects (reading cycle #3). Compare your subject divisions with the four modern translations above. Paragraphing is not inspired, but it is the key to following the original author's intent, which is the heart of interpretation. Every paragraph has one and only one subject.

1. First paragraph

2. Second paragraph

3. Third paragraph

4. Etc.


A. Different areas covered by Mosaic Legislation

1. criminal law

2. civil law

3. family law

4. cultic law

5. charitable law

B. For a good discussion on the genre of law and how to apply it today see:

1. Introduction to Biblical Interpretation by Klein, Blomberg, and Hubbard, pp. 278-283

2. How To Read the Bible for All Its Worth by Fee and Stuart, pp. 163-180

3. Cracking Old Testament Code, chapter 6, “Law” by Richard E. Everbeck, pp. 113-138

Verses 1-3

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Deuteronomy 25:1-3 1”If there is a dispute between men and they go to court, and the judges decide their case, and they justify the righteous and condemn the wicked, 2then it shall be if the wicked man deserves to be beaten, the judge shall then make him lie down and be beaten in his presence with the number of stripes according to his guilt. 3He may beat him forty times but no more, so that he does not beat him with many more stripes than these and your brother is not degraded in your eyes.”

Deuteronomy 25:1 “If there is a dispute” This refers to a legal case between covenant brothers (BDB 936, cf. Deuteronomy 17:8-13; Deuteronomy 19:17; Deuteronomy 21:5). Legal cases are meant to stop personal revenge.

“justify the righteous” The court decides fairly and accurately (cf. Deuteronomy 1:16-17). The VERB (BDB 842, KB 1003, Hiphil PERFECT) and the ADJECTIVE (BDB 843) are from the same root. See Special Topic: Righteousness.

“condemn the wicked” Like the previous pair, this involves the VERB (BDB 957, KB 1294, Hiphil PERFECT and the ADJECTIVE (BDB 957) from the same root.

Deuteronomy 25:2 “the judge” This is either (1) the observing Levite or (2) the striking Levite. Later Judaism required three witnesses to a beating. The beater, the counter, and the reader of the Scriptural requirement.

“in his presence” This is literally, “before his face,” which means the judge must watch to assure the carrying out of the sentence. This phrase was interpreted by later Judaism to refer to the position of the one to be punished, “beat on chest one third of the strokes and on the back two thirds of strokes.”

“the number of stripes according to his guilt” The punishment needs to fit the crime. The number of strokes varied (cf. Nehemiah 13:25).

Deuteronomy 25:3 “forty times” This was the maximum number of strokes with either a rod (cf. Exodus 21:20; Middle Assyrian Laws, A18) or a whip made of leather. By NT times thirty-nine stripes were the maximum (cf. Mishnah Makkoth, III, 13-14; 2 Corinthians 11:24).

“stripes” This term (BDB 912 I) means lash marks. It has a wide semantic field and can refer to (1) a wound (cf. Isaiah 1:6) or (2) a disease (cf. Deuteronomy 28:61).

“your brother is not degraded in your eyes” Even in punishment a humanitarian spirit prevails. Restoration and changed character are always the goal.

Verse 4

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Deuteronomy 25:4 4”You shall not muzzle the ox while he is threshing.”

Deuteronomy 25:4 “You shall not muzzle the ox” This shows kindness to animals (cf. Deuteronomy 22:6-7; Proverbs 12:10). This was used by Paul in the NT to support wages for Christian leaders (cf. 1 Corinthians 9:9; 1 Timothy 5:18). Paul is using (1) Jesus' words in Luke 10:7 (cf. 1 Timothy 5:18) and (2) a rabbinical method of interpretation and application called “lesser to greater.” If this statement is true for oxen, surely it is true for human workers. See Expository Hermeneutics by Elliott E. Johnson, pp. 235-236.

Verses 5-10

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Deuteronomy 25:5-10 5”When brothers live together and one of them dies and has no son, the wife of the deceased shall not be married outside the family to a strange man. Her husband's brother shall go in to her and take her to himself as wife and perform the duty of a husband's brother to her. 6It shall be that the firstborn whom she bears shall assume the name of his dead brother, so that his name will not be blotted out from Israel. 7But if the man does not desire to take his brother's wife, then his brother's wife shall go up to the gate to the elders and say, 'My husband's brother refuses to establish a name for his brother in Israel; he is not willing to perform the duty of a husband's brother to me.' 8Then the elders of his city shall summon him and speak to him. And if he persists and says, 'I do not desire to take her,' 9then his brother's wife shall come to him in the sight of the elders, and pull his sandal off his foot and spit in his face; and she shall declare, 'Thus it is done to the man who does not build up his brother's house.' 10In Israel his name shall be called, 'The house of him whose sandal is removed.'“

Deuteronomy 25:5 “When brothers live together” This is the beginning of the discussion of “Levirate marriages” (cf. Genesis 38:0). The term “Levirate” came from the Latin term for brother-in-law. The whole purpose of this legislation is to keep the inheritance within the family. If there is no one in the family who wants to marry the widow then the brother shall raise up an heir for him (cf. Matthew 22:24; Mark 12:19; Luke 20:28).

Notice that the texts specifically state that the two brothers “live together.” The maintenance of the ancestral inheritance from YHWH, given through Joshua, is the issue of this legislation.

Deuteronomy foresees the establishment of villages and towns. Its laws are geared to this rural agricultural society.

Deuteronomy 25:6 “the firstborn” The firstborn son would inherit the dead brother's property (cf. Numbers 27:6-11).

Deuteronomy 25:7 “does not desire” The motive is unstated, but it may be greed on the living brother's part or possibly jealousy of the dead brother. The consequences of an unwilling brother are clearly delineated.

“the gate” This was the site of the local court of the elders (e.g., Deuteronomy 16:18-20; Deuteronomy 19:12; Deuteronomy 21:1-9, Deuteronomy 21:19; Deuteronomy 22:15).

Deuteronomy 25:9-10 “pull his sandal off his foot” In context this was an act of humiliation (cf. Isaiah 20:2). The NET Bible, p. 381, SN #16, mentions that the removal of the sandal may symbolize that the living brother gives up all legal rights to the brother's inheritance. In Psalms 60:8 and 108:9 casting YHWH's sandal across Edom symbolically showed His ownership. This may explain Ruth 4:0. The removal of a sandal also recorded in the Nuzi tablets (Lacheman 53-56) had legal symbolism.

Deuteronomy 25:9 “spit in his face” This was a symbolic act of humiliation (cf. Numbers 12:14). It made one ceremonially unclean (cf. Leviticus 15:8).

Verses 11-12

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Deuteronomy 25:11-12 11”If two men, a man and his countryman, are struggling together, and the wife of one comes near to deliver her husband from the hand of the one who is striking him, and puts out her hand and seizes his genitals, 12then you shall cut off her hand; you shall not show pity.”

Deuteronomy 25:11 “his genitals” Again, this shows the significance of inheritance rights in ancient Israel!

Deuteronomy 25:12 “you shall cut off her hand” This is the only specific mutilation mentioned in the Mosaic legislation. Exact “eye for eye” (Lex talionis) judgment in this case was not possible. Later Judaism interpreted this as “give restitution for,” which they applied to many Mosaic texts.

“you shall not show pity” This phrase is repeated in several contexts (cf. Deuteronomy 7:16; Deuteronomy 13:8; Deuteronomy 19:13, Deuteronomy 19:21; Deuteronomy 25:12; and a similar phrase in Deuteronomy 7:2). God's law, not human emotion, must be carried out.

Verses 13-16

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Deuteronomy 25:13-16 13”You shall not have in your bag differing weights, a large and a small. 14You shall not have in your house differing measures, a large and a small. 15You shall have a full and just weight; you shall have a full and just measure, that your days may be prolonged in the land which the LORD your God gives you. 16For everyone who does these things, everyone who acts unjustly is an abomination to the LORD your God.”

Deuteronomy 25:13 “differing weights” Literally “a stone and a stone,” one size to buy with, one size to sell with (cf. Psalms 11:0; Psalms 1:0; Psalms 16:11). Fairness and honesty among covenant brothers was crucial.

SPECIAL TOPIC: Ancient near Eastern Weights and Volumes (Metrology)

Deuteronomy 25:15 “that your days may be prolonged in the land” This is a societal promise of longevity (cf. Deuteronomy 4:40; Deuteronomy 5:16, Deuteronomy 5:33; Deuteronomy 6:2; Deuteronomy 11:9; Deuteronomy 22:7; Deuteronomy 25:15; Deuteronomy 30:18; Deuteronomy 32:47).

Deuteronomy 25:16 “anyone who acts unjustly is an abomination to the LORD” Blessings and curses are related to covenant obedience (cf. Leviticus 26:0; Deut. 27-29).

“abomination” See Special Topic: Abomination.

Verses 17-19

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Deuteronomy 25:17-19 17”Remember what Amalek did to you along the way when you came out from Egypt, 18how he met you along the way and attacked among you all the stragglers at your rear when you were faint and weary; and he did not fear God. 19Therefore it shall come about when the LORD your God has given you rest from all your surrounding enemies, in the land which the LORD your God gives you as an inheritance to possess, you shall blot out the memory of Amalek from under heaven; you must not forget.”

Deuteronomy 25:17-19 Deuteronomy has several passages related to how Israel should conduct “holy war” (cf. Deuteronomy 7:1-26; Deuteronomy 20:1-10; Deuteronomy 21:10-14; Deuteronomy 25:17-19). Holy War was YHWH's war. It had special rules and procedures!

Deuteronomy 25:17 “Amalek” This group may be descendants from Esau (cf. Genesis 36:15-16), became a symbol of evil to Israel because of their raiding techniques (cf. Deuteronomy 25:18-19; Deuteronomy 17:8-16). They were a nomadic group who lived south of the Dead Sea. Both Saul and David fought against them (cf. 1 Samuel 15:2; 1 Samuel 27:8).

Deuteronomy 25:18 “rear” This term (BDB 275) means “tail.” When used as a VERB (BDB 275, KB 274, Piel IMPERFECT) it means to attack (1) at the rear or (2) the rear guard. It is found only here and in Joshua 10:19.

Deuteronomy 25:19 “you shall blot out the memory” In Deuteronomy 25:5-10 the loss of a brother with no descendants is discussed. Here the loss of descendants is commanded! They did not fear God (Deuteronomy 25:18); they attacked Israel's most vulnerable; they must die (cf. Exodus 17:14; 1 Samuel 15:2-4; 1 Samuel 30:16-20; 1 Chronicles 4:43)!


This is a study guide commentary which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

These discussion questions are provided to help you think through the major issues of this section of the book. They are meant to be thought provoking, not definitive.

1. Why is verse Deuteronomy 25:1 so important to theology?

2. What was the purpose of Levirate marriage?

3. Why are Deuteronomy 25:11-12 included in the Pentateuch?

4. Who was Amalek and why are they cursed?

Bibliographical Information
Utley. Dr. Robert. "Commentary on Deuteronomy 25". "Utley's You Can Understand the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/ubc/deuteronomy-25.html. 2021.
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