Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Deuteronomy 21:1-23:25


Some of the laws in the book of Deuteronomy seem...What is the right adjective?...Quaint?

Chapter 21:1-9 describes a process to atone for an unsolved murder that occurs in open countryside. Guilt is imputed to the nearest town whose citizens must make up for it.

Some of the laws in the book of Deuteronomy are offensive to our modern sensibilities.

Verses 10-14 describe the situation of a man who marries a woman captured in war. The situation seems cruel, but the regulations actually provide the woman with some small measure of protection. She is allowed to mourn her dead. She is not to be treated like a slave.

Some of the laws in the book of Deuteronomy echo through other books of the Bible.

21:15-17 instruct that the firstborn son of a household is to receive a double share of the inheritance. If the father has more than one wife and prefers another wife over the firstborn's mother, the firstborn still receives the larger inheritance. The stories of Abraham, Jacob, David and Bathsheba, and the Prodigal Son all resonate with this passage.

21:22-23 declare that the body of a hanged (impaled? crucified?) person is a curse that must be removed. Jesus was crucified.

22:22 declares adultery a capital offense, punishable by stoning. John 8 describes the plight of a woman caught in adultery.

23:1-5 exclude (among others) eunuchs and Moabites, from the temple. The Ethiopian eunuch, and Ruth the Moabite woman will both be included among God's people.

23:15-16 say that runaway slaves should not be returned. The apostle Paul will return the runaway Onesimus to his master Philemon.

Some of the laws in the book of Deuteronomy are naive, patriarchal, outdated and even horrifying.

A woman who is raped in a city but does not call for help is to be stoned to death along with her attacker (22:23-24). If she is attacked in the countryside, she will not be punished since no one would hear her scream if she did. Apparently the idea that a rapist might prevent a woman from screaming did not occur to the author(s) of Deuteronomy.

A man who rapes a virgin who is not engaged to another man must pay a bride price and marry the woman. Only in a patriarchal culture could this be seen as a good idea.

Some of the laws in the book of Deuteronomy are strangely tender and kind.

Israelites are to help their neighbors, even the ones they don't like (22:1-4). An Israelite who takes eggs or young birds from a nest must not also take the mother bird (22:6-7).

And then there's the Hebrew Bible's insistence on a kind of purity that involves not mixing things. Cross-dressing is verboten (22:5). Mixing seeds, plow animals, and fabrics is prohibited (22:9-11).

There are other laws in this section, but I'll let these comments suffice.

I'd love to hear your take on these various laws. For instance, is 22:8 an early example of product liability law?

Next: Deuteronomy 24-27.

The remaining laws in these chapters deal with a variety of

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