“Loving Concerns, Part 1” – Deuteronomy 25:1-10

February 25th,  2018

Dt. 25:1-10

“Loving Concerns – Pt 1”

Aux Text: Galatians 5:13-15

Call to Worship: Psalm 133


Service Orientation: Jesus came to fulfill the Law which is love.   Jesus was right when He said that Love fulfills the Law.  Today, if we are not wise we can become like the Pharisees and follow the letter of the Law and yet break the Spirit of the Law.  Love must be our ultimate concern.


Bible Memory Verse for the Week: Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers. — Galatians 6:10


Background Information:

  • This passage contains three more miscellaneous laws, quite unconnected with each other; a common theme is, once again, concern for the welfare and dignity of others. The recipients of this concern may surprise us in some ways.  We have observed this before that Deuteronomy’s punishments were, by our standards, harsh; yet verses 1-3 show a concern for the dignity of a man condemned to be flogged.  We also tend to assume that interest in the welfare of animals is a modern idea; but verse 4 reveals exactly such a concept, long before the time of Christ.  The longest paragraph, verses 5-10, deals with the question of a woman left not only widowed, but childless (or rather, without a son).  Today our only concern could well be the financial welfare of such a woman, but Dt 25 is equally concerned about the dignity of the family, and indeed of the dead man.  (David F. Payne, The Daily Study Bible Series: Dt, 138)
  • (v. 3) The Mishnah (Mak. 3:10-14) allows for lashes with a strap of oxhide and specifies that one-third of the lashes are to be on the front of the body, two-thirds on the back. (Jack R. Lundbom, Deuteronomy, A Commentary, 699)
  • (v. 3) The Mishnah (Mak.) 3:12-13) specified that the two hands of the criminal be tried on either side of a pillar, his clothes torn and his chest bared. Blows were to be administered with the victim bending low, one-third on the chest, the remaining two-thirds on the back.  The flogger was to stand on a stone above the victim, hitting him with a cowhide strap with all his might.  (Jack R. Lundbom, Deuteronomy, A Commentary, 699-700)
  • (v. 5) The word levirate comes from a Latin word that means a husband’s brother and refers to a marriage where a widow marries her late husband’s brother. Levirate marriage was a common practice in the ancient Near East.  (Ajith Fernando, Preaching the Word: Dt, 558)
  • (v. 5) Deuteronomy prescribes the levirate duty only for the brother-in-law, with the added stipulation that he must have been living together with the deceased on the family estate, presumably after the father had died. Since the book of Ruth is written later than the time it describes, some think that the transaction concerning Ruth and Boaz extends the custom of the levirate from the brother to the kinsman (Driver and Miles 1935, 245; de Vaux 1965, 38).  (Jack R. Lundbom, Deuteronomy, A Commentary, 705)
  • (v. 5) If the brothers have separated after their father’s death and each has established his own family at some distance from the other, the present law will not apply. It will also not apply to brothers whose father is still alive.  Extension of the law to deal with such cases occurred later (Daube 1950, 90).  Later Jewish law also stated that if there were two or more surviving brothers in a family where one brother had died, the eldest had the duty to take the widow in a levirate marriage (m. Yebam, 2:18).  (Jack R. Lundbom, Deuteronomy, A Commentary, 706-7)
  • (v. 5) She shall not marry outside the family or clan, which she may want to do after returning to her father’s house (cf. Lv 22:13). The concern is to keep her and her deceased husband’s inheritance within the family (Henrey 1954, 6).  (Jack R. Lundbom, Deuteronomy, A Commentary, 707)
  • (v. 5) At a later date the practice of daughters inheriting property became widespread (cf. Nm 27:1-11), and this old custom of the brother fathering a son died out. The custom (known technically as levirate marriage) was so ancient and obsolete by NT times that the Sadducees used it as a means of ridiculing Jesus’ teachings about resurrection, cf. Mk 12:18-27.  (David F. Payne, The Daily Study Bible Series: Dt, 138)
  • (v. 5) Although the shabby episode of Gn 38:1-10 occurred several hundred years before Moses, levirate marriage seems to have been an accepted custom at Judah’s time. During the patriarchal age it may even have been more strictly required than it was under Mosaic law.  (Mark E. Braun, The People’s Bible: Dt, 234)
  • (v. 10) Although Dt 25:5-10 provides the only formal instruction on the institution in the OT, variations of this type of marriage are widely attested in the ancient world (cf. Gn 38; Ruth 4). (Daniel I. Block, The NIV Application Commentary: Dt, 580-1)
  • (v. 10) In modern times, a form of levirate marriage is attested among the Arabs and the Bedouin (Neufeld 1944, 31-2), also among the Asian Mongols (Michaelis 1814, 2:25), Hindus in India, and the peoples of Madagascar and Brazil (Driver 1895, 282). (Jack R. Lundbom, Deuteronomy, A Commentary, 706)


The question to be answered is . . . What do these Laws teach us about what it means to have a loving concern for others?


Answer:   Loving concern means seeing that justice prevails both in the pronouncing of innocence and the just punishment of the guilty; making sure that we do not promote rebellion and non-productivity though our insensitivity of the needs and desires of our employees; and provide, protect and promote our family and their legacy.


The Word for the Day is . . . Concern


What does Deuteronomy show us about what it means to have loving concern for others?:

I-  We should see that justice and human dignity prevails both in the pronouncing of innocence and the just punishment of the guilty.  (see Dt 25:1-3; see also: Ex 23:7-8; Prv 17:15; Ezek 45:10-11; 2 Cor 11:24)


Rebuking and punishing are intensely spiritual activities.  We need God’s help and infilling when we do such things.  (Ajith Fernando, Preaching the Word: Dt, 557)


In verses 1-3 Moses reiterates the conviction that the function of legal procedures must always be to establish the truth, which means that when they are followed, the guilty will in fact be convicted and the innocent will be acquitted.  Any system (including our own) that acquits those known to be guilty or convicts those known to be innocent cannot be considered a just system.  When the guilty are acquitted on a technicality and the innocent are condemned because they do not have access to competent defense counsel, justice has not been served.  (Daniel I. Block, The NIV Application Commentary: Dt, 589)


When a dispute arises between persons, they are to take the matter to court (v. 1).  The alternative would be to take matters into their own hands, and that is not acceptable in a nation governed by law.  Moreover, the judge has been given the responsibility and the authority to make decisions and to make sure that the punishment, if any, is inflicted on the guilty party.  (Frank E. Gæbelein, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Vol. 3, 149)


To give a man the punishment due him for his crime was not to dishonor him as a fellow Israelite, but to beat him indiscriminately in public was to treat him like an animal rather than with the respect due a fellow human being.  (George Arthur Buttrick, The Interpreter’s Bible Vol 2, 479)


God only provides that the wretched man should be improved by his chastisement, and not that he should grow callous from his infamy.  (John Calvin, Commentaries, vol. III, 49)


There is a limit on how much dishonor is permissible even toward a criminal.  (Jack R. Lundbom, Deuteronomy, A Commentary, 700)


When a dispute arises that people are unable to settle privately, they may take it to the court for adjudication.  (Daniel I. Block, The NIV Application Commentary: Dt, 579)


If a judge declared a man guilty of a crime, it was also his obligation to be present during the punishment of the convicted man to assure that the punishment he received was appropriate to his crime.  The Lord wanted to preserve the basic human dignity, even of a guilty man.  If a man received a reasonable sentence, he was not dishonored, but if he received a punishment far greater than his crime deserved, he would be humiliated in front of other Israelites.  (Mark E. Braun, The People’s Bible: Dt, 231)


The innate worth and dignity of humanity was a line never to be crossed, in particular since the offender was a brother.  Even criminals, in their vulnerability before an angry community, are covered by God’s protection.  (Doug McIntosh, Holman OT Commentary: Dt, 292)


One aim of punishment is correcting the person’s sinful weaknesses.  That will not happen if the punishment makes one feel subhuman.  Sometimes parents and teachers make statements like, “You have no hope of doing well in life” or, “You are useless” or, “You come from the gutter.”  Such statements degrade those children.  (Ajith Fernando, Preaching the Word: Dt, 556)


The recent moves to outlaw corporal punishment in many countries were motivated by the degrading way it is often meted out.  People in a rage can lose control and cause harm to the punished person that outweighed the good the punishment was intended to achieve.  Parents sometimes destroy a child’s sense of self-esteem by angrily screaming at him or her by lashing out unmercifully and causing grievous physical and mental harm.  (Ajith Fernando, Preaching the Word: Dt, 556)


To ensure that we do not degrade a person, it is good to control ourselves when we are angry and wait until the anger subsides because in our anger we may say and do things that cause more harm than good.  For example, we can say insulting things to children that will cause deep wounds and make it difficult for them to believe they are significant and loved.  (Ajith Fernando, Preaching the Word: Dt, 557)


Beating, probably with a rod not a whip (cf. Ex 21:20), was one of Israel’s forms of legal punishment.  (Apart from the death penalty and the rare case of Dt 25:12, the only other forms were restitution, compensation, or slavery.  Imprisonment is not prescribed for an offense in Pentateuchal law.)  (Christopher J. H. Wright, Understanding the Bible Commentary Series: Dt, 264)


The number, forty, was probably chosen with reference to its symbolical significance, which it had derived from Gn 7:12 onwards, as the full measure of judgment.  The Rabbins fixed the number at forty save one (vid. 2 Cor 11:24), from a scrupulous fear of transgressing the letter of the law, in case a mistake should be made in the counting; yet they felt no conscientious scruples about using a whip of twisted thongs instead of a stick.  (C.F. Keil and F. Delitzsch, Commentary on the OT Vol 3, 421)


Thus far, I was dealing with what Mrs. Wesley called “follies and inadvertencies.”  Then we turned a corner.

They do not emanate from willful, haughty disobedience.  In my opinion, spankings should be reserved for the moment a child (age ten or less) expresses a defiant “I will not!” or “You shut up!”  When a youngster tries this kind of stiff-necked rebellion, you had better take it out of him, and pain is a marvelous purifier.  When nose to nose confrontation occurs between you and your child, it is not the time to have a discussion about the virtues of obedience.  It is not the occasion to send him to his room to pout.  It is not appropriate to wait until poor, tired old dad comes plodding in from work, just in time to handle the conflicts of the day.  You have drawn a line in the dirt, and the child has deliberately flopped his big hairy toe across it.  Who is going to win?  Who has the most courage?  Who is in charge here?  If you do not answer these questions conclusively for the child, he will precipitate other battles designed to ask them again and again.  It is the ultimate paradox of childhood that a youngster wants to be controlled, but he insists that his parents earn the right to control him.

The tougher the temperament of the child, the more critical it is to “shape his will” early in life.  However, I must hasten to repeat the familiar disclaimers that have accompanied all my other writings on this subject.  I am not recommending harshness and rigidity in child-rearing techniques!  I don’t believe in parental oppression, and indeed, our own children were not raised in such an atmosphere.  Furthermore, I want to make it clear that corporal punishment is not to be imposed on babies. (Dr. James C. Dobson; Parenting Isn’t for Cowards, 91-2)


Manipulations!  It’s a game any number can play, right in the privacy of your own home.  The objective is to obtain power over the other players, as we have seen.  It will come as no surprise to parents, I’m sure, that children can be quite gifted at power games.  That is why it is important for mothers and fathers to consider this characteristic as they attempt to interpret childish behavior.  Another level of motivation lies below the surface issues that seemingly cause conflicts between generations.  For example, when a three-year-old runs away in a supermarket, or when a nine-year-old refuses to straighten his room, or when a twelve-year-old continues to bully his little brother, or when a sixteen-year-old smokes cigarettes or drinks liquor, they are making individual statements about power.  Their rebellious behavior usually represents more than a desire to do what is forbidden.  Rather, it is an expression of independence and self-assertion.  It is also a rejection of adult authority, and therein lies the significance for us. (Dr. James C. Dobson; Parenting Isn’t for Cowards, 112)


II-  As employers and/or supervisors we need to make sure that we do not promote rebellion and non-productivity though our insensitivity of the needs and desires of those working for us (human or animal).   (see Dt 25:4; see also: Gn 1:28; 9:2-3; Ex 20:10; Job 24:10-11; Prv 12:10; Lk 10:7; 1 Cor 9:9-14; Gal 6:6; 1 Tm 5:17-18)


In verse 4 Moses calls for the humane treatment of domesticated animals.  This charge has greatest relevance for farmers and others who use animals for draft purposes, but the principle underlying this statement extends to all involved in the raising of livestock and poultry.  Although for economic reasons farmers cannot cave in to maddening and often naïve demands of some organizations that supposedly defend the rights of animals, the members of the community of faith should be exemplary in their fair and considerate treatment of their stock.  Urbanites demand cheap meat, but they are removed from the practical need for farmers to make a living and often do not understand the issues involved in raising livestock.  However, when for their own pleasure (as in the case of pets) or out of necessity (seeing-eye dogs), they add God’s creatures to their households, righteousness demands a commitment to humane care.  (Daniel I. Block, The NIV Application Commentary: Dt, 589)


The Lord was right to be concerned about the animals he’d created for man to use.  But if God regarded a beast of burden so highly, didn’t he care even more about people?  “Is it about oxen that God is concerned?” Paul asked the Corinthians.  “Surely he says this for us, doesn’t he?  Yes, this was written for us, because when the plowman plows and the thresher threshes, they ought to do so in the hope of sharing in the harvest.  If we have sown spiritual seed among you, is it too much if we reap a material harvest from you? . . . The Lord has commanded that those who preach the gospel should receive their living from the gospel” (1 Cor 9:9-11, 14).  (Mark E. Braun, The People’s Bible: Dt, 232)


Muzzling the beast prevents it from eating any of the grain.  So this law bans the muzzle to enable the animal to have a share in the food that its labor is making available for human beings.  It is as though the gleaning rights of the poor (24:19-22) have been extended to include working animals as well.  Such practical concern even for animals is commended by the sage as a mark of righteousness (Prv 12:10) and indeed reflects God’s own heart (Jon 4:11).  (Christopher J. H. Wright, Understanding the Bible Commentary Series: Dt, 265)


Just as a man had no right to refuse to leave some of his crop in the field for the poor, he also had no right to prevent his oxen from helping themselves to the grain as they worked.  A farmer might moan, “Look how much grain my oxen eat!”  But because their labor helped feed a farmer and his family, his oxen were entitled to eat their share.  (Mark E. Braun, The People’s Bible: Dt, 232)


The sum is, that we should freely and voluntarily pay what is right, and that every one should be strict with himself as to the performance of his duty; for, if we are bound to supply subsistence to brute animals, much less must we wait for men to be importunate with us, in order that they may obtain their due.  (John Calvin, Commentaries, vol. III, 115-6)


The purpose of the law is clear:  it allows a working animal to eat food continually before its eyes.  Michaelis (1814, 2:188) says it would be an act of cruelty not to make such an allowance (cf. Prv 12:10; Job 24:10-11), and he compares this to a person working in similar circumstances.  Luther says that by practicing kindness to beasts, people become more benevolent toward other people.  In the Talmud (b. B. Meşiʻa 88b-89a; cf. m. 7:2-5) the present law is discussed with another concerning laborers in a field, who are permitted to eat food they are harvesting (cf. 23:25-26 [24-25]).  (Jack R. Lundbom, Deuteronomy, A Commentary, 701)


Christians adopt a humane approach to animals and humans because they believe that these have been created by God and that God has given humans the responsibility of caring for all of creation (Gn 1:28; 9:2, 3).

The Bible does give permission for the killing of animals for sacrifices and food, but we must balance this with the call to be considerate to animals.  Any form of killing animals that causes great pain to them would be unacceptable to Christians.  This is why it is not surprising that in several countries Christians, though a minority, have been in the forefront of advocating humane ways to slaughter animals.  (Ajith Fernando, Preaching the Word: Dt, 557-8)


III-  We need to provide, protect and promote our family and their legacyGoel (Biological and spiritual).  (see Dt 25:5-10; see also: Gen 38; Lev 18:16; 20:21; 25:25; Num 27:1-11; 36:10-12; Ruth 3:10-4:10; Mt 22:23-31; Gal 6:10; 1 Tim 5:1-10)


Tragedy strikes the household when the married brother dies without having fathered a child to continue his branch of the family tree.  This left his widow with two options.  Either she could return to her own father’s household, free to remarry any person she pleased, or she could remain a part of her husband’s household, which obligated a surviving male of the deceased’s family to marry her.  (Daniel I. Block, The NIV Application Commentary: Dt, 581-2)


Given the links between family and patrimony, in Israel it was critical that property stay within the family (cf. Ruth 4:3, 5, 10).  What Moses offers here is not a comprehensive law redressing all these issues, but a pastoral appeal to maintain “the moral integrity and social solidarity” of Israelite families once they have settled in the land.  The well-being of the community depends on the preservation of each branch of the family tree and the continued tie of each branch with its patrimonial holdings.  (Daniel I. Block, The NIV Application Commentary: Dt, 581)


This practice would guarantee that a man who died without children would have a son to continue his family line.  It would also protect the widow from being abandoned to marry a foreigner.  Because Moses introduced this law with the statement, “If brothers are living together,” levirate marriage may have arisen as a method of keeping ancestral property in the deceased brother’s family.  (Mark E. Braun, The People’s Bible: Dt, 233)


The law is set in the context of the centrality of the family in Israel’s life and faith.  Each family had a share in the land, through the original tribal division and distribution; that family inheritance was to be held inalienably; and when it was threatened by natural misfortunes such as premature or childless death, steps had to be taken to protect it.  (Christopher J. H. Wright, Understanding the Bible Commentary Series: Dt, 266)


The Priestly legislation of Nm 27:8-11 states that if a widow had children of her own, the estate would pass to them, first to the sons, and if she had no sons, then to the daughters.  If the widow had no sons or daughters, the estate would pass to brothers of the deceased, and in the absence of brothers, to the next-of-kin.  (Jack R. Lundbom, Deuteronomy, A Commentary, 707)


It is generally agreed that this is no temporary sexual union, as in Hindu practice, but an actual marriage intended to be permanent.  (Jack R. Lundbom, Deuteronomy, A Commentary, 708)


In Gn 38 the levirate duty is compulsory, even though Onam managed to avoid it, but here the brother-in-law can refuse it.  He is still under obligation to marry his brother’s widow and raise up a son, but cannot be forced to do it.  The most likely reason for his refusal would be that a son born for his deceased brother would gain the brother’s share of the family estate, whereas by not begetting a son the share of the estate belonging to the deceased will be added to his share and after his death his own son will inherit everything.  The brother’s widow will also be left without anything.  This law, then, besides preserving the deceased brother’s share of the inheritance, is looking out for the welfare of the widow, whose financial status is now in desperate straits after her husband’s death.  (Jack R. Lundbom, Deuteronomy, A Commentary, 709)


Though there is a moral responsibility to marry her, the law cannot force a man to marry his widowed sister-in-law.  The law, however, must do all it can to protect the vulnerable.  So it permits her to express her outrage in a concrete way.  This could be a step in healing the pain of this unfortunate widow.  She has lost her husband and has now been rejected by his brother.  She is given an opportunity to express her rage.  (Ajith Fernando, Preaching the Word: Dt, 559)


This law is sensitive to the needs of the widow and does all it can to see that she is cared for.  We, too, have a similar responsibility to widows–especially those without children who can take care of them.  This is such an important value that, in a discussion on caring for widows, Paul says, “But if anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for members of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever” (1 Tm 5:8).  (Ajith Fernando, Preaching the Word: Dt, 560)


The brothers must “dwell together” before one dies.  This suggests that the father has died before the property had been divided, and the children were thus living in an undivided property.  This law also is for a situation where the person who dies “has no son.”  This means that someone was needed to carry on her husband’s name.  (Ajith Fernando, Preaching the Word: Dt, 558)


These actions show her strong disapproval of his refusal.  This embarrassment to him, along with the stigma of being known for his refusal to honor his dead brother’s right name, illustrates how God used social pressure to motivate His people to obedience.  (John C. Maxwell, The Preacher’s Commentary, Dt, 262)


Lv 18:16 and 20:21 prohibited a man from marrying or having sexual relations with his brother’s wife while his brother was alive, but this law required a man to marry his brother’s wife after his brother died, if his brother had no children.  The first son born to the new union would be considered the dead brother’s legal heir.  (Mark E. Braun, The People’s Bible: Dt, 233)


In the sight of the elders the widow is to approach her brother-in-law, pull one of his sandals from his foot, spit in his face, and finally interpret her actions in a public declaration (v. 9).  The action represented a symbolic action of shame, but it also symbolized the transfer of the brother-in-law’s rights to the deceased’s widow and to that portion of the patrimonial estate that her husband would have received when it was divided.  Since the woman would take the sandal home, it would function like a receipt, providing concrete proof of the present legal proceedings (cf. Ruth 4:7-8).  (Daniel I. Block, The NIV Application Commentary: Dt, 483-4)


In previous OT history, this practice was considered an act of love for a dead brother, not an absolute law.  Here, a man could refuse to carry out this responsibility, but he risked public humiliation before the elders at the town gate.  What was the significance of having one of his sandals removed?  Luther suggested that having his foot exposed symbolized that he would never have a household or dependents; he exposed his “nakedness” for failing to do this caring good deed for his family.  (Mark E. Braun, The People’s Bible: Dt, 233-4)


Worship Point: Worship the God of the Universe Whose wisdom and understanding transcends time, culture, and human depravity so that His Words are our life.  (Dt 32:47)


Gospel Application: As our Goel, Jesus laid down his life and took our punishment so that God’s justice might be satisfied (Isa 53:4-5, 11-12; Rom 3:22-26; 5:8-21; 10:3-7; 1 Cor 1:30; 2 Cor 5:21; Gal 2:21; Phil 3:9) and we could maintain our human dignity.  Jesus also made it possible, through His Spirit living in us as Christians, to enjoy a first-fruit or a foretaste of what we are working for in the Kingdom of Heaven.  Finally, Jesus has sacrificed Himself to insure that we, His bride, is not left without provision, protection and an eternal legacy.


When a woman was left a widow and with no children, the law of the goel decreed that if a nearby relative could redeem her house by marrying her, providing for her, and giving her children, he would be called the goel.  The Bible records the fulfillment of this law more than once.  These fulfillments or redemptions are all focused on one specific tribe, the tribe of Judah, and one specific line, the line of David.  The man Judah became the goel of the widow Tamar and fathered her child.  From that child and line was born the man Boaz.  Boaz, in turn, became the goel of the widow Ruth and fathered her child Obed.  From Obed came King David.  (Jonathan Cahn, The Book of Mysteries, Day 244)


Beating was a common means of punishment, but no case of judicial beating as prescribed in verses 1-2 is recorded.  In the NT, Jesus’ beating was but one of the many illegal features of his arrest and trial (Lk 22:63).  (Daniel I. Block, The NIV Application Commentary: Dt, 587)


Spiritual Challenge:  Strive to embrace the Spirit of Jesus Who found His joy in serving and loving others while fulfilling the Law of love.


Many reject these and most of Moses’ instructions as having no binding authority for Christians, for they are not explicitly reiterated in the NT, and in any case the eschatological new Israel of God has been established.  However, this approach rejects the authority of Jesus Christ himself, who declared that he did not come to destroy the “law” (read “Torah”), but to fulfill it (Mt 5:17), and that the proof of covenant commitment (love) to him (the vine) is keeping his “command,” which functions as a collective expression for the revealed will of God (Jn 14:15, 21; 15:10).

It also neutralizes the force of Paul’s declaration in 2 Tm 3:16 that all Scripture is authoritative and effective for training in “righteousness”, a thoroughly Deuteronomic notion.  (Daniel I. Block, The NIV Application Commentary: Dt, 588)


So What?:  Again, as has been true with nearly every message from Deuteronomy, if we want to live in the best possible world, we need to know, obey and promote to others the message and Spirit of the Law of God in Deuteronomy.  Because the Spirit of Deuteronomy is a Spirit of love and life.  (Dt 32:47; Rom 13:8-10; Gal 5:14, 22-23; Jam 2:8)




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