Morning Light – Deuteronomy 25

[Deuteronomy 25] Am I My Brother’s Keeper? To what degree are you responsible for the lives of others? Are there consequences when we ignore needs other than our own? What about the corporal punishment of children? Is it ok to physically chastise a child? When under pressure, at what point are we justified to excuse ourselves from the dictates of our faith and act in self-preservation? These and other issues are all addressed in this chapter.

[Deu 25:1-19 KJV] 1 If there be a controversy between men, and they come unto judgment, that [the judges] may judge them; then they shall justify the righteous, and condemn the wicked. 2 And it shall be, if the wicked man [be] worthy to be beaten, that the judge shall cause him to lie down, and to be beaten before his face, according to his fault, by a certain number. 3 Forty stripes he may give him, [and] not exceed: lest, [if] he should exceed, and beat him above these with many stripes, then thy brother should seem vile unto thee. 4 Thou shalt not muzzle the ox when he treadeth out [the corn]. 5 If brethren dwell together, and one of them die, and have no child, the wife of the dead shall not marry without unto a stranger: her husband’s brother shall go in unto her, and take her to him to wife, and perform the duty of an husband’s brother unto her. 6 And it shall be, [that] the firstborn which she beareth shall succeed in the name of his brother [which is] dead, that his name be not put out of Israel. 7 And if the man like not to take his brother’s wife, then let his brother’s wife go up to the gate unto the elders, and say, My husband’s brother refuseth to raise up unto his brother a name in Israel, he will not perform the duty of my husband’s brother. 8 Then the elders of his city shall call him, and speak unto him: and [if] he stand [to it], and say, I like not to take her; 9 Then shall his brother’s wife come unto him in the presence of the elders, and loose his shoe from off his foot, and spit in his face, and shall answer and say, So shall it be done unto that man that will not build up his brother’s house. 10 And his name shall be called in Israel, The house of him that hath his shoe loosed. 11 When men strive together one with another, and the wife of the one draweth near for to deliver her husband out of the hand of him that smiteth him, and putteth forth her hand, and taketh him by the secrets: 12 Then thou shalt cut off her hand, thine eye shall not pity [her]. 13 Thou shalt not have in thy bag divers weights, a great and a small. 14 Thou shalt not have in thine house divers measures, a great and a small. 15 [But] thou shalt have a perfect and just weight, a perfect and just measure shalt thou have: that thy days may be lengthened in the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee. 16 For all that do such things, [and] all that do unrighteously, [are] an abomination unto the LORD thy God. 17 Remember what Amalek did unto thee by the way, when ye were come forth out of Egypt; 18 How he met thee by the way, and smote the hindmost of thee, [even] all [that were] feeble behind thee, when thou [wast] faint and weary; and he feared not God. 19 Therefore it shall be, when the LORD thy God hath given thee rest from all thine enemies round about, in the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee [for] an inheritance to possess it, [that] thou shalt blot out the remembrance of Amalek from under heaven; thou shalt not forget [it].

Flogging was a common form of punishment in ancient times, and in many countries is still in use today. In vs. 1-2 of our chapter, the law stipulates circumstances when corporal punishment was called for an appropriate. The punishment was carried out with a whip of three cords with leather thongs on the end. Thirteen strokes constituted 39 stripes, 1/3 administered to the chest and the remaining to the back. The scripture mentioned 40 stripes, but the Talmudic judges reduced it to 39 to assure that the number 40 was not accidentally exceeded. There are several differences here contrasted by how scourging was carried out in other cultures. For instance, the scourging was carried out in front of a judge publicly and not in private by an unknown person. This assured that the victim did not suffer unnecessarily at the hands of an overzealous person. The apostle Paul received this punishment five times (2 Cor. 11:24). It is interesting that Paul mentions this and other punishments without commentary. Corporal punishment was an accepted thing in ancient times.

Corporal punishment was common even in the western world until the mid-1800’s when it came under public scrutiny after two controversial deaths during the administering of court-ordered beatings. Up until 1870, laws on the books in the United States explicitly allowed a man to beat his wife. In 1948 corporal punishment was banned altogether in the UK except in schools and prisons, where it continued till the 1980s and in the US. In the US and the UK, there is a legal principle called loco parentis that still gives schools the same common law rights as parents. However, corporal punishment by either parents or school officials is allowed or disallowed depending on what part of the country you live in and the political temperament of the school district or child protective services.

Is it allowable in scripture to physically punish your children? Interesting enough, the first mention of corporal punishment is in the words of Solomon 1000 years before Jesus:

He that spareth the rod hateth his son: but he that loveth him correcteth him betimes (Prov. 13:24).

Withhold not correction from a child: for if thou strike him with the rod, he shall not die. Thou shalt beat him with the rod, and deliver his soul from hell (Prov. 23:13-14).

The bible clearly and plainly allows for and encourages parental administration of physical discipline. Is there an age limit? My observation would be this – beyond the age of 12, and usually, much earlier corporal punishment does little good. Where is it allowable to strike a child? The face is off-limits. In the bible, the face is a metaphor for the spirit. When you hit a child in the face you are wounding their spirit. Their backside is the safest and most humane place to administer a spanking. How hard should you strike a child? Hard enough to get their attention, not hard enough to leave lingering marks. How long should the spanking continue at a given time? Until anger leaves and penance is evident.

Having said all of this, let us point out that spanking does little good outside the context of loving and consistent parenting. My father gave me wonderful advice that I tried to live up to in raising my children. 1.) never tell them anything twice. 2.) never raise your voice. 3.) never break a promise. Raising children can be challenging, particularly in a Christian home where your values are mocked and repudiated by every outside influence, including the school room where they spend more time than they do with you at home. You must maintain your patience and continue to give the LOVE and LIMITS and BOUNDARIES that provide a safe and secure environment for your children.

Deut. 25:4 Thou shalt not muzzle the ox when he treadeth out [the corn].

We’ve quoted this in previous lessons as an example of how to find an application of obscure Old Testament references to our own Christian examples. Paul quotes this verse directly as applying to the financial support of our ministers:

[1Co 9:9, 11 KJV] 9 For it is written in the law of Moses, Thou shalt not muzzle the mouth of the ox that treadeth out the corn. Doth God take care for oxen? … 11 If we have sown unto you spiritual things, [is it] a great thing if we shall reap your carnal things?

Unfortunately, there exists in Christian culture a lingering prejudice toward financial support of the ministry. It existed in Paul’s time and continues down to our day exacerbated by the heretical practice of taking vows of poverty etc.

In vs. 5-10, we find edicts imposed on family members when a married brother dies, leaving a widow. Social responsibility and compassion for others is an ongoing problem in human society. The question has been asked from the beginning of creation, “am I my brother’s keeper?” The scriptures heap scorn and disdain upon those who see their brother in need and refuse to act in their defense. The baseline response is “us four and no more” and “not in my back yard.” This is true where strangers are concerned but, in fact can be much more vehement where close family such as brothers or sisters are involved. The scriptural mandate is to be willing to take responsibility even when you are set at a disadvantage by doing so. Determine in every social interaction to be a part of the solution and not part of the problem.

Deut. 25:11 When men strive together one with another, and the wife of the one draweth near for to deliver her husband out of the hand of him that smiteth him, and putteth forth her hand, and taketh him by the secrets: 12 Then thou shalt cut off her hand, thine eye shall not pity [her].

This is a very uncomfortable picture, and it is hard to imagine God’s holy people embroiled in this kind of tabloid activity. The justification, no doubt, would be that the end justified the means. The woman would excuse her actions by claiming she was trying to defend her husband. There was no excuse, and the penalty was severe. In our own challenging circumstances, we will often resort to tactics by which we defile and degrade ourselves and others, all under the excuse that the situation called for it. This verse should give us pause. Integrity is that which holds true even under the worst of circumstances.

In vs. 13-16, we are warned about diverse weights and dishonest measurements. Diverse weights are an abomination to God. This speaks directly to the subjectivism and relativity of the day we live in. In other words, you don’t weigh out something one way when it was in your best interest and another way when it wasn’t to your advantage. The world today says, “what is right for me is right for me, and what is right for you is right for you,” as though there is no arbitrary standard or objective morality. The thinking behind this is that it doesn’t matter what you believe, just so you are sincere. Because of this, many of our most well-known Christian leaders, when pressed, will not say that Jesus is the only way to salvation, although this is the clear testimony of scripture. Therefore, from our personal lives to the most public issues laid before society, we must hold to the perceived objective principles of the faith as revealed in the bible.

In vs. 17-19, God strictly instructs the people to annihilate the people of Amalek when the time comes. The nation of Amalek was to be shown no mercy when the people came into Canaan. Why would God mention them specifically? Because of the fact that even though they are singled out, the people never dealt with them. There is no history of the Israelites obey what God tells them here. As a result, centuries later, King Saul has dealings with the Amalekites that cost him the throne and eventually his life. We can learn from this that when God tells us to do things that don’t seem expedient at the time, we have to realize that He knows the end from the beginning, and though we may not understand, He is trying to shield us from consequences that we cannot see.

[Deu 26:1-19 KJV] 1 And it shall be, when thou [art] come in unto the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee [for] an inheritance, and possessest it, and dwellest therein;

Notice that the verse says WHEN and not IF you come into the promise of God. From God’s perspective there is no probability that you will fail to appropriate those things that He has promised to you in His word. These are things that God GIVES not something you earn. The word GIVE here means to “give over to your power or custody”. This implies ongoing jurisdiction and touches on the authority of the believer. Why would God GIVE you anything? By inheritance. He is dealing with you as His beloved child. His motivation is as a Father making something happen for His son or daughter. He intends for you to POSSESS and DWELL in your own personal promise land. How do you possess the things God has promised you? The word means to SIEZE and LAY HOLD ON. How do you do this? By your words and your actions. Your words and your actions are to be of an anticipatory nature expecting God’s promise to be delivered on in your life. This is what walking in faith is all about.


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