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FRAMEWORKS: Deuteronomy

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FRAMEWORKS: Deuteronomy 21: Misc. Administrative Laws



Part 4: Ch.21-25 Moses lays out Relational Laws

Ch.21 – Misc. Administrative Laws

Ch.22 – Civil Laws, Marriage Laws & Abuse Laws

Ch.23 – Holiness & Righteousness in the Nation

Ch.24 – Relational Laws for a Holy Community

Ch.25 – Sentencing, Succession, Misc. Laws



v.1-9 Atonement for an Unsolved Murder

v.10-14 Rules for Marrying a Captive Woman

v.15-17 The Right of the Firstborn

v.18-21 Dealing with a Rebellious Son

v.22,23 Misc. Laws



v.1-9 Atonement for an Unsolved Murder


v.1 If someone is found slain, lying in a field in the land the Lord your God is giving you to possess, and it is not known who the killer was,

v.2 your elders and judges shall go out and measure the distance from the body to the neighboring towns.

v.3 Then the elders of the town nearest the body shall take a heifer that has never been worked and has never worn a yoke

v.4 and lead it down to a valley that has not been plowed or planted and where there is a flowing stream. There in the valley they are to break the heifer's neck.

v.5 The Levitical priests shall step forward, for the Lord your God has chosen them to minister and to pronounce blessings in the name of the Lord and to decide all cases of dispute and assault.

v.6 Then all the elders of the town nearest the body shall wash their hands over the heifer whose neck was broken in the valley,

v.7 and they shall declare: “Our hands did not shed this blood, nor did our eyes see it done.

v.8 Accept this atonement for your people Israel, whom you have redeemed, Lord, and do not hold your people guilty of the blood of an innocent person.” Then the bloodshed will be atoned for,

v.9 and you will have purged from yourselves the guilt of shedding innocent blood, since you have done what is right in the eyes of the Lord.


[Notes: There is the recognition here that murder can occur without being able to ascertain who the murderer was. The objective here is that the local elders take responsibility for their area and so, with the help of the priests, stand before God and disclaim any knowledge of the event and make atonement before the Lord for the death.]



v.10-14 Rules for Marrying a Captive Woman


v.10 When you go to war against your enemies and the Lord your God delivers them into your hands and you take captives,

v.11 if you notice among the captives a beautiful woman and are attracted to her, you may take her as your wife.

v.12 Bring her into your home and have her shave her head, trim her nails

v.13 and put aside the clothes she was wearing when captured. After she has lived in your house and mourned her father and mother for a full month, then you may go to her and be her husband and she shall be your wife.

v.14 If you are not pleased with her, let her go wherever she wishes. You must not sell her or treat her as a slave, since you have dishonored her.


[Notes: There is a recognition here [and remember this does not apply to occupants of the Land] that when there has been war and woman have been taken captive, there may be a temptation to take them as yours. Therefore, there is a process laid down where such a woman may be taken as a wife, while at the same time ensuring a certain measure of protection for her.]



v.15-17 The Right of the Firstborn


v.15 If a man has two wives, and he loves one but not the other, and both bear him sons but the firstborn is the son of the wife he does not love,

v.16 when he wills his property to his sons, he must not give the rights of the firstborn to the son of the wife he loves in preference to his actual firstborn, the son of the wife he does not love.

v.17 He must acknowledge the son of his unloved wife as the firstborn by giving him a double share of all he has. That son is the first sign of his father's strength. The right of the firstborn belongs to him.


[Notes: Firstborn sons were given a certain honour, perhaps to accompany the fact that they would eventually become responsible for the whole family when the father eventually died. It doesn't matter if there are two wives, whichever first-born was in fact first, must have that honour and responsibility.]



v.18-21 Dealing with a Rebellious Son


v.18 If someone has a stubborn and rebellious son who does not obey his father and mother and will not listen to them when they discipline him,

v.19 his father and mother shall take hold of him and bring him to the elders at the gate of his town.

v.20 They shall say to the elders, “This son of ours is stubborn and rebellious. He will not obey us. He is a glutton and a drunkard.”

v.21 Then all the men of his town are to stone him to death. You must purge the evil from among you. All Israel will hear of it and be afraid.


[Notes: This may seem severe by modern standards yet the deterrent factor should always be remembered here, together with the process covered in these verses. It would not be a casual and quick execution but the elders would no doubt give the boy every chance to repent. It would have been a very obstinate child who would go through with this. This is one of a number of indicators in the Law that the family unit is all important and to be protected.]



v.22,23 Misc. Laws


v.22 If someone guilty of a capital offense is put to death and their body is exposed on a pole,

v.23 you must not leave the body hanging on the pole overnight. Be sure to bury it that same day, because anyone who is hung on a pole is under God's curse. You must not desecrate the land the Lord your God is giving you as an inheritance.


[Notes: There was a fairly common practice in such times that an executed body would be displayed for all to see and take note of. In a hot climate this body should not be left beyond the one day. This may be for hygiene reasons or, for the sake of civilized society, not glorying in such sights.]



Continue to Chapter 22