There's not a lot in last week's study I want to review, so let's continue forward as Moses finishes reminding the people of Israel what the Law says.
The Law addresses the issue of divorce and remarriage. The King James translators wrote, "then let him write her a certificate of divorcement." But Jesus clarified that this was not a command, but a permission (Matt. 19:3-4). And so the more accurate rendering is "and he writes her a certificate of divorce." It is not a command TO divorce, but simply saying IF there is a divorce.
If the husband divorces the wife and she remarries, and subsequently is divorced again, or even widowed, she cannot go back and marry her first husband again, "since she has been defiled."
What defiled her? It is possible that adultery has defiled her. You see, Jesus said,
Luke 16:18 "Everyone who divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery, and he who marries one who is divorced from a husband commits adultery."
Whatever may have defiled her, remarriage after another spouse has been taken in between is called an abomination before the Lord. Jeremiah referred to this Law, saying,
Jer. 3:1 ..."If a husband divorces his wife and she goes from him and belongs to another man, will he still return to her? Will not that land be completely polluted? But you are a harlot with many lovers; Yet you turn to Me," declares the LORD.
It has been said by some that taking a year off after marriage applies to everything, including ministry. But with that I disagree. The verb here is "yaw-TSAW," meaning "to go out, or exit." It is clearly the early separation of couples which is being spoken of. Notice that the idea is for him to be with his wife.
Pledges were used as loan security, very much like a pawn shop taking your valuable item as collateral for a short-term loan. Here, the Law says that you cannot take someone's sole source of food for a pledge.
The book of Exodus says,
Ex. 21:16 He who kidnaps a man, whether he sells him or he is found in his possession, shall surely be put to death.
So, while we think of kidnapping as holding a child for the parents' ransom money, in Bible times it was more to turn them into slaves, to serve the kidnapper, or to be sold to slave traders. The penalty for such a crime was death.
Leviticus chapters 13 and 14 detail the Law regarding leprosy diagnosis and treatment. Leprosy was a serious disease, which the people certainly remembered seeing when Miriam was stricken by it for undermining Moses' authority (Num. 12).
I imagine it would be quite humiliating to have to take out a loan, and then to have the guy walk into your house to take your valuable item as a pledge. It would be so much less degrading to bring it out to him.
The Law also said that if the guy borrowing money from you was poor, and thus didn't have much besides his cloak, the righteous thing to do is return it to him before evening.
The rich always have the upper hand over their poor employees. God forbids using this to take advantage of them. Day laborers are to be paid daily. James repeated this, saying to the rich,
James 5:4 Behold, the pay of the laborers who mowed your fields, and which has been withheld by you, cries out against you; and the outcry of those who did the harvesting has reached the ears of the Lord...
The idea behind the "generational curses" doctrine is that God punishes us for things our ancestors did. This Law clearly exposes that teaching as wrong.
The basic message behind this Law is, "Never forget where you came from. Let it influence the way you deal with people." If we have been mistreated by others, we are to not repeat the cycle.
Another aspect of remembering is to remember what your financial condition was earlier in life. When we were poverty-stricken, we were provided for. That's why we are called to provide for others in generosity.
This Law was used by Ruth to glean in the fields being harvested, to provide for herself and her mother-in-law (Ruth 2).
If we live life trying to squeeze every penny for ourselves, we will never be satisfied. But if we freely give, then we are entrusted with more.
Prov. 11:24 There is one who scatters, and yet increases all the more, and there is one who withholds what is justly due, and yet it results only in want.
Here we see that it is a judge's obligation to insure that punishment is given. In our society, even when a judge rules with a strict sentence, the criminal is often paroled or released much earlier, without input from the sentencing judge who first heard the case.
On the other hand, the Law also forbids excessive punishment for crimes. If someone was sentenced to receive a beating, it could not exceed forty lashes. The word translated "degraded" is the Hebrew word "kaw-LAW." It means, "to be disgraced, treated shamefully with contempt." To exceed a proper punishment would degrade and disgrace the one being punished. "The number of stripes according to his guilt" means that punishment must always fit the crime.
We might have a tendency to read this and think, "Okay, I'll keep this in mind if I ever happen to thresh using an ox." But this Scripture is quoted twice in the New Testament, both times in a much different context than we would expect. Paul told the Corinthians
1Cor. 9:9-11 For it is written in the Law of Moses, "YOU SHALL NOT MUZZLE THE OX WHILE HE IS THRESHING." God is not concerned about oxen, is He? Or is He speaking altogether for our sake? Yes, for our sake it was written, because the plowman ought to plow in hope, and the thresher to thresh in hope of sharing the crops. If we sowed spiritual things in you, is it too much if we reap material things from you?
Paul was making the case that ministers need to earn their living through ministry. He quoted it again in the same context, saying,
1Tim. 5:17-18 The elders who rule well are to be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who work hard at preaching and teaching. For the Scripture says, "YOU SHALL NOT MUZZLE THE OX WHILE HE IS THRESHING," and "The laborer is worthy of his wages."
The conclusion is that...
1Cor. 9:14 ...the Lord directed those who proclaim the gospel to get their living from the gospel.
Because the inheritance of the land of Israel was tied to the family, it was necessary for a widow to marry within the family. The book of Ruth illustrates this Law (Ruth 4) with the nearest kinsman refusing to redeem Ruth. He gave up the shoe, but didn't get the spit. Instead, Boaz redeemed her, married her, and had children with her.
The Sadducees tried to use this law to demonstrate to Jesus how "ridiculous" it was to believe in the resurrection. They said,
Matt. 22:24-28 ..."Teacher, Moses said, 'IF A MAN DIES HAVING NO CHILDREN, HIS BROTHER AS NEXT OF KIN SHALL MARRY HIS WIFE, AND RAISE UP CHILDREN FOR HIS BROTHER.' Now there were seven brothers with us; and the first married and died, and having no children left his wife to his brother; so also the second, and the third, down to the seventh. Last of all, the woman died. In the resurrection, therefore, whose wife of the seven will she be? For they all had married her."
They created a ridiculous scenario, hoping Jesus would admit, "Yes, you're right. There must be no resurrection." Instead, He just flattened them with His response:
Matt. 22:29 But Jesus answered and said to them, "You are mistaken, not understanding the Scriptures nor the power of God.
Somehow it seems like this belongs in our previous study, doesn't it? Why is this in the Law? To keep a wife from meddling in what is clearly her husband's dispute. The proverb says,
Prov. 26:17 Like one who takes a dog by the ears is he who passes by and meddles with strife not belonging to him.
To deter her from interfering, the penalty was to have her hand cut off. It would be good to heed the words of Simon Peter...
1Pet. 4:15 Make sure that none of you suffers as a murderer, or thief, or evildoer, or a troublesome meddler
One of the easiest ways to gain money through corrupt business practices was through dishonest weights and measurements. Unlike today, where technology and common standards prevent most people from being dishonest, it was quite easy to cheat at this in Bible times.
The prophet Amos rebuked those who made the bushel smaller, the shekel bigger, and cheated with dishonest scales (Amos 8:4-6). And Micah rebuked those with short measures, wicked scales, and a bag of deceptive weights (Mic. 6:10-11).
In the proverbs, we read that God pays attention to these things:
Prov. 16:11 A just balance and scales belong to the LORD; All the weights of the bag are His concern.
Amalek was a grandson of Esau. His descendants became the Amalekites, who attacked Israel at Rephidim (Exo. 17:8).
They attacked the weak and weary people at the rear. Moses assigned Joshua to choose men for an army, while he stationed himself above the battle, holding his staff in the air. As long as his arms were in the air, Israel was winning the battle. But when his arms would begin to fall from exhaustion, the Amalekites would begin to have victory. And so Aaron and Hur helped hold his arms up, insuring victory.
Ex. 17:13-16 So Joshua overwhelmed Amalek and his people with the edge of the sword. Then the LORD said to Moses, "Write this in a book as a memorial and recite it to Joshua, that I will utterly blot out the memory of Amalek from under heaven." Moses built an altar and named it The LORD is My Banner; and he said, "The LORD has sworn; the LORD will have war against Amalek from generation to generation."
Now, Moses tells them that when they enter the land of Canaan, they are to finish the job and utterly destroy the Amalekites. This will not happen fully until 1Chronicles 4:43.
Moses also reminds them that when they enter the Promised Land, they need to give thanks to God by offering the firstfruits of the land to Him.
Notice that the tithes were to be given to the priests and those in need. They were not to hold any of it back. If they were faithful to do this, then they could ask the Lord to bless them.
The Lord asked His people then, as He asks us today, to obey His Word. We must give heed to the Scriptures and do what they instruct us.