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Go to Bible: Deuteronomy 25
“guilty.” The Hebrew word translated “guilty” also can be translated “evil.” Thus the sentence can legitimately be translated, “and declare evil the evil one,” but in this context or a court of law the evil one is “guilty.”
“in his presence.” The Hebrew text is more literally, “before his face,” but the meaning of the English phrase “be beaten before his face” is unclear. The person convicted as guilty was to be beaten in the presence of the judge who oversaw the punishment.
“and by number.” The number of lashes is determined by the crime of the guilty person. The maximum number of lashes allowed by the Mosaic Law was 40 (Deut. 25:3). In time the custom of the Jews was not to give a person more than 39 lashes because if there was a miscount it would be breaking the Law to give more than 40.(top)
“then your brother would be contemptable in your eyes.” The guilty person may be guilty of a crime, but he or she is still a human being to be respected. Even if the person is disliked, that does not give the one dealing out the punishment the right to treat them in an ungodly manner. Corporal punishment such as whipping can be very effective in deterring crime even though its use is generally condemned today, but there is a limit after which it it simply cruel. That is why God said give no more than 40 lashes.(top)
“You are not to muzzle the ox when it treads out the grain.” This is an example of the Mosaic Law instructing people in compassion. After the grain harvest, the grain (wheat, barley, etc.) needed to be threshed to get the kernels of grain separated from the stalk so that it could then be winnowed and eventually ground into flour. One common way to thresh the grain was to put the grain on the stalk into a huge pile and let a cow or cows walk over it again and again, and their hooves would knock the grain off the stalk. But the grain harvest was usually April through June, and it was often very hot in Israel at that time of year and the cattle would be hungry, so the compassionate thing to do was to let the cows graze on the grain stalks as they worked. The cows would eat very little compared to the work they saved their owners if the owners had to thresh the grain another way. A godly person takes care of their animals (Prov. 12:10). This lesson in compassion is meant to extend far beyond cattle to all animals and people, but the cattle are given as an example.(top)
“If brothers live together.” This does not mean in the same house. It was common for families to live very close together, including in a family compound. Or, if the family lived in tents, the tents would be very close together.
“The duty of a husband’s brother.” The "duty of a husband’s brother" was to ensure that the dead brother had a son who could then inherit the dead brother’s land and keep the land in the family. It is noteworthy that keeping the land of Israel in the families to whom it was allotted was more important socially than the potential happiness of the widow who might not have particularly liked her husband’s brother. But in any case, she would stay in the extended family that she had been a part of and was accustomed to.(top)
|Deu 25:6||- (top)|
“gate of the city to the elders.” In the biblical culture of the Old Testament it was the custom that the elders of a city would sit at the city gate (Gen. 19:1, 9; Deut. 21:19; 22:15; 25:7; Josh. 20:4; Ruth 4:11; 1 Sam. 4:18; Esther 2:19, 21; 3:2; Lam. 5:14; Dan. 2:49). [For more on the elders at the gate, see commentary on Ruth 4:11; and for Wisdom being at the city gate, see commentary on Prov. 1:21].(top)
|Deu 25:8||- (top)|
“in the presence of the elders.” The Hebrew text is more literally, “before the eyes of the elders,” that is, while the elders watch.
“answer and say.” The original text of the Old and New Testaments has the phrase, “answered and said” or “answer and say” more than 100 times in the Bible, and it can sometimes be confusing because “answered and said” is often used when no one asked a question. The phrase is an idiom, so it gets its meaning from the cultural use and not the specific meanings of the words in the phrase. The person who “answered and said” may not have been answering a direct question from someone, but they were answering and addressing the situation that was presenting itself before them. For example, in this case, the widow answered the situation she was in with her brother-in-law, and spoke to him.
“house.” This is one of the places where “house” clearly means "household,” i.e., the family.(top)
|Deu 25:10||- (top)|
“brother.” In this context, a “brother” is a fellow countryman, usually a fellow Israelite. It does not mean a family member although it could be; fights between members of the extended family were not uncommon.
“genitals.” The Hebrew word is from the root “shame,” and literally means “that excites shame” (or perhaps “that elicits shame”). Common translations are “genitals,” “private parts,” and “secret parts.”(top)
“cut off her hand.” This seems harsh, but children were the safety and security of the family, and a woman who grabbed a man by the testicles endangered him and his wife, and perhaps his entire household. Women understood this and there is no record in the Bible of a woman ever grabbing a man’s testicles when men were fighting.(top)
“differing weights.” The literal Hebrew is “a stone and a stone.” This command was understood in the Old Testament culture. The command is not saying a traveling merchant cannot have different weights in his bag, i.e., a one-shekel weight, a five-shekel weight, a 20-shekel weight, etc. What it is forbidding is having differing weights but claiming they are the same weight. Unscrupulous merchants often kept stones of different weight in their bag that only they could easily tell apart; stones that were a little heavier for buying and stones that were a little lighter for selling, so that they bought a lot and sold a little. But that kind of dishonest dealing is an abomination to Yahweh (Lev. 19:35). [For more on trading using honest balances, see commentary on Prov. 11:1]. Cheating in buying and selling has been around for thousands of years, but God sees and will repay. It is better to have a little less in this life and more in the next than more in this short life but less in the next.(top)
“differing measures.” The Hebrew is literally, “an ephah and an ephah” (an ephah was a dry measure, equal to about 23 quarts (22 liters)). This is the same kind of command as in Deuteronomy 25:13. An unscrupulous homeowner who bought and sold grain might have two ephah measures that looked very similar; a larger one for buying and a smaller one for selling.(top)
|Deu 25:15||- (top)|
|Deu 25:16||- (top)|
|Deu 25:17||- (top)|
“lagging behind you.” The Hebrew word “lagging” contains the idea that the people were weak, unsteady, feeble. The weaker among the Israelites were lagging behind, and the Amalekites attacked them, not the stronger warriors up in the group who could more readily defend themselves. For that cowardly act, God declared war on the Amalekites.(top)
|Deu 25:19||- (top)|