Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Deuteronomy 20-26: Laws You Probably Didn't Know About

In chapters 20-27, the oddly-organized explanation of laws continues.  Here is the overview:

  • 20:1-20 Laws about war
  • 21:1-9 What to do if you find a dead person and don't know who killed him
  • 21:10-17 Laws about wives
  • 21:18-21 What to do with a rebellious son
  • 21:22-23 Laws about hangings
  • 22:1-4 Laws about your neighbor's animals
  • 22:5-12 almost every verse has a different law that doesn't seem related to any of the others
  • 22:13-30 Laws about marriage relations and marital abuse
  • 23:1-8 Laws about who can't enter the assembly of the Lord
  • 23:9-14 Laws about cleanliness whe away at war
  • 23:15-125 every two verses is about something different
  • 24:1-5 Laws about marriage and divorce
  • 24:6-9 more one-liners
  • 24:10-22 Laws about treating poor people well
  • 25:1-3 Laws about court sentencing
  • 25:4-10 Laws about widows remarrying
  • 25:12-16 Laws about having fair weights
  • 25:17-19 Get rid of the Amalekites
  • 26:1-19 Laws about offering firstfruits
Reading these, I came across many very interesting laws that I didn't remember ever reading before.  Here are my favorites:

1.  The only people that the Hebrews were supposed to wipe out completely were the Hittites, Amorites, Canaanites, Perizzites, Hivites, and Jebusites (the people living in the promised land, because of their immorality).  Any other nation that they went to war against, they were first to offer them a peace treaty; if they didn't surrender and accept the terms, the people were to kill all the men (that is, the army) but none of the women, children, or animals.

2. When the people were besieging a city for a long time, they were not allowed to chop down trees to make siege weapons unless they knew for certain they weren't fruit trees.  I even love what it says here - "For is the tree of the field a man, that it should be besieged by you?"  Some people forget that God has more respect for nature than people do, being its creator and all.  He wants us to take care of it and treat it with respect.

3.  If somebody found a nest of clean birds (acceptable to eat), they could take the eggs or young birds but not the mother bird.  If I remember right, this is a law that exists today for falconers who are allowed to possess endangered birds.

4.  These aren't laws that surprised me, but I wanted to comment on them anyway.  There are three weird laws about mixing things - don't sow your field with two kinds of seed, don't plow with an ox and a donkey together, don't wear clothes made of two kinds of fabric, etc.  And those three are right together.  I am wondering if the purpose of these laws was to symbolize the separateness of Israel from the other nations, how they weren't supposed to mix in with the others but be holy (cut off or separate).

5.  If a slave runs away and enters a person's house, that person is not allowed to return the slave to his master; instead, the person is supposed to let him pick a house in town to live in and the person is not allowed to mistreat him.  I think this is really interesting.

6. When people entered a neighbor's field or vineyard, they could eat whatever they wanted in it, as long as they didn't try to carry any of the stuff back home with them.  This explains to me what Jesus and his disciples were doing in Matthew 12.

7.  When a person took out a loan from another person, they were to give them their cloak as collateral.  Here it says that if the guy taking the loan is poor, the guy he gets a loan from can't keep the cloak overnight - he has to return it to him so that he has something to keep him warm when he's sleeping.  Also, an employer has to give the day's wages to his poor employees before sunset instead of making him wait till the next day.

8.  This is great.  So if a man died and his wife had no children, the man's brother (or nearest of kin) had to marry the woman, and her firstborn son would take the name of the late husband so that he would have an inheritance.  Well, some brothers wouldn't want to do this.  If the brother refused to marry the widow, she was to go in front of the elders of the city and have them talk to him.  If he still won't do it, then in the sight of all the elders the woman was to take his sandal off and spit in his face, and then the whole country would refer to him as "the house of him whose sandal is removed."  This explains what happened in Ruth 4.  I was always told that giving your sandal to somebody was a symbol of an oath, but sandal-removing is never mentioned where the Law talks about oaths.  Instead, here it seems to be a sort of humiliation.

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