Deuteronomy 24





If a man put away his wife because she did not any longer please him, and she

became the wife of another man, by whom also she was put away, or from

whom she was severed by his death, the first husband might not remarry her,

for that would be an abomination in the eyes of the Lord, and would bring sin

on the land. This is not a law sanctioning or regulating divorce; that is simply

assumed as what might occur, and what is here regulated is the treatment by

the first husband of a woman who has been divorced a second time.


The first four verses should be read as one continuous sentence, of which the

protasis is in vs. 1-3, and the apodosis in v. 4, thus:


1 “When a man hath taken a wife, and married her, and it come to pass that

she find no favor in his eyes, because he hath found some uncleanness in her:”

 literally, a thing or matter of nakedness, i.e. some shameful thing, something

disgraceful; Septuagint, ἄσχημον πρᾶγμα - aschaemon pragma  Vulgate,

aliquam foeditatem.” In the Targum of Onkelos, the expression is explained by

עֲבֵירִת פִתֵגָם; “the transgression of a [Divine] word” (Levi). On this the school of

Hillel among the rabbins put the interpretation that a man might divorce his wife

for any unbecomingness (Mishna, ‘Gittin,’ 9:10), or indeed for any cause,

as the Pharisees in our Lord’s day taught (Matthew 19:2). The school

of Shammai, on the other hand, taught that only for something disgraceful,

such as adultery, could a wife be divorced (Lightfoot, ‘Her. Hebrews et

Talm.,’ on Matthew 5:31, Opp., tom. 2:290). Adultery, however,

cannot be supposed here because that was punishable with death.

then let him write her a bill of divorcement,” -  literally, a writing of excision;

the man and woman having by marriage become one flesh, the divorce of

 the woman was a cutting of her off from the one whole - “and give it in her

hand, and send her out of his house.  2 And when she is departed out of his

house, she may go and be another man’s wife.  3 And if the latter husband

hate her, and write her a bill of divorcement, and giveth it in her hand, and

sendeth her out of his house; or if the latter husband die, which took her to

be his wife;  4  Her former husband, which sent her away, may not take her

again to be his wife, after that she is defiled; for that is abomination

before the LORD:”  - The woman was held to be defiled by her second marriage,

and thus by implication, the marrying of a woman who had been divorced was

pronounced immoral, as is by our Lord explicitly asserted (Matthew 5:32). The

prohibition of a return of the wife to her first husband, as well as the necessity of

a formal bill of divorcement being given to the woman before she could be sent

away, could not fail to be checks on the license of divorce, as doubtless they

were intended to be -“and thou shalt not cause the land to sin, which

the LORD thy God giveth thee for an inheritance.”  (Notice the

divorcee’s contribution – it causes THE LAND TO SIN CY – 2012)


5 “When a man hath taken a new wife, he shall not go out to war,

neither shall he be charged with any business: but he shall be free

at home one year, and shall cheer up his wife which he hath taken.”

A man newly married was to be exempt from going to war, and

was not to have any public burdens imposed on him for a year after his

marriage. Charged with any business; literally, there shall not pass upon

him for any matter; i.e. there shall not be laid on him anything in respect of

any business. This is explained by what follows. Free shall he be for his

house for one year; i.e. no public burden shall be laid on him, that he may

be free to devote himself entirely to his household relations, and be able to

cheer and gladden his wife (compare ch.20:7).  By this law God showed how

He approved of holy wedlock (as by the former He showed His hatred of

unjust divorces) when, to encourage the newly married against the cumbrances

which that estate bringeth with it, and to settle their love each to other, He

exempted those men from all wars, cares, and expenses, that they might the

more comfortably provide for their own estate).



Permissive Legislation (vs. 1-5)


No treatment of this passage can be appropriate which does not set it in the light

thrown upon it by Matthew 19:1-12. The heading we have given to this outline indicates

a point on which special stress should be laid whenever an expositor has occasion to

refer to it. In the course of time, men had come to regard this passage in the light of a

command. Hence the wording of the question in Matthew 19:7. But our Lord informs

us that it was simply permissive. Divorce, under the circumstances here named,

was tolerated a while by Moses owing to “the hardness of men’s hearts,”

but that the original Divine arrangement contemplated the indissolubility of

marriage. The entire principle of the Mosaic Law was that of educating the

people out of a semi-degraded state into something higher, Its method of doing this

was by giving the people the best legislation they could bear; tolerating some ill for

a while rather than forcing on the people revolutionary methods. The more gentle

and gracious, though the slower process, was to sow the seed of higher good, and

to let it have time to grow. The following Divine teaching on marriage may well be

brought forward with this passage as a basis:


  • That the marriage bond is holy in the eye of God, and ought ever to be

recognized as very sacred by man.


  • That by God’s own declared appointment this most sacred of all

nature’s ties is INDISSOLUBLE.


  • That however, owing to the degeneracy of national habit and thought,

civil legislation may suffer the legal cessation of the marriage bond, yet it

can in no case be severed, save by death, without heinous sin on one

side or on both.


  • That the claims of married life are such that, with them, not even the

exigencies of military service are unduly to interfere (v. 5).


  • That the highest and purest enjoyments of wedded life come to

perfection only when it is entered on and spent in the Lord Jesus Christ.

The law was but a παιδαγωγὸς εἰς χριστόν paidagogos eis Christon

schoolmaster in Christ (Galatians 3:24; I Corinthians 7:39).



Divorce (vs. 1-5)


The Hebrew Law, “for the hardness of men’s hearts,” found it was necessary to

 suffer” many things not approved of absolutely (Matthew 19:8). Divorce was one

of these. It was permitted on grounds of strong personal dislike (v. 3). The Law was

inapplicable to adultery, that being judged a capital offense. While permitting

divorce, Moses obviously aims at restricting it, and shows, by his modes of

 expression, how alien this rupture of the marriage bond is to the original

 institution of marriage.  We may learn:



GUARDED. Divorce, even where most justified, is a great evil. It is the

rupture of a tie intended by the Creator to be INDISSOLUBLE! 

 Adultery warrants it, but it must be deemed not the least part of the evil

 that so unhappy a cause for the dissolution of marriage should exist. THE


INJURIOUS TO “PUBLIC MORALITY!”  Facilities for divorce,

(let us say “no fault divorce – CY – 20112) such as some advocate, leads

to serious mischief. Besides being wrong in principle, they create inconstancy,

lead to domestic unhappiness, inflict hardship on children, prevent efforts

being made to mend matters by forbearance and. compliance. Frequent

divorces blunt the sense of the sacredness of the marriage union, and so

lead to LICENTIOUSNESS!  “At the time when divorces were most frequent

among the Romans marriages were most rare; and Augustus was obliged,

by penal laws, to force men of fashion into the married state” (Hume).

Moses restrains divorce thus far that he requires it to take place:


Ř      By means of a legal document.

Ř      For reason given.

Ř      He debars the man divorcing from remarrying the woman divorced if,

in the interval, she has been married to another. The Christian law

recognizes no legitimate ground of divorce save adultery (Matthew 5:32).





RELATION. This is suggested by the terms employed in v. 4. A husband

is prohibited from remarrying his divorced wife if in the interval she has

been the wife of another, and the ground given for the prohibition is that

she is defiled.” But why “defiled?” The expression could not have been

used had the first marriage been regarded as perfectly nullified by the legal

divorce. The statement that a divorced woman, remarrying, is “defiled,”

implies that deep view of the marriage relation given in Genesis (2:24),

and reiterated by Christ (Matthew 19:3-10). And it will be found, in

practice, that light views of the sacredness of the marriage relation

invariably work in the direction of increasing facilities for divorce.



Various Prohibitions (vs. 6-22)


6  No man shall take the nether or the upper millstone to pledge:” -  rather,

the hand mill and the upper millstone (literally, the rider) shall not be taken

(literally, one shall not take) in pledge. Neither the mill itself nor the upper millstone,

the removal of which would render the mill useless, was to be taken. The upper

millstone is still called the rider by the Arabs (Hebrew reehebh, Arabic rekkab) –

for he taketh a man’s life to pledge.” - or for (thereby) life itself is pledged; if a

man were deprived of that by which food for the sustaining of life could be

prepared, his life itself would be imperiled (compare Job. 22:6; Proverbs 22:27;

Amos 2:8).


7 “If a man be found stealing any of his brethren of the children of

Israel, and maketh merchandise of him, or selleth him; then that

thief shall die; and thou shalt put evil away from among you.”

A repetition against man-stealing, a repetition, with expansion, of the law in

Exodus 21:16.


8 “Take heed in the plague of leprosy, that thou observe diligently, and do

according to all that the priests the Levites shall teach you:  as I commanded

them, so ye shall observe to do.  9  Remember what the LORD thy God did

unto Miriam by the way, after that ye were come forth out of Egypt.”

The law concerning the leprosy is in Leviticus 13 and 14. By this law the priests

are directed how to proceed with those afflicted with leprosy; and here the people

are counseled by Moses to follow the directions of the priests in this case, however

painful it might be for them to submit to the restrictions that would be thereby

imposed upon them, remembering what the Lord did to Miriam the sister of Moses,

how even she was separated from the camp by the express command of God until

she was healed (Numbers 12:14).  The formula b] rm,V;hi means, “Take heed to

yourself in respect of” (compare II Samuel 20:10; Jeremiah 17:21), rather than

“Beware of,” or “Be on your guard against.”



Leprosy Symbolic (vs. 8-9)


God has intended the material world to be a schoolhouse, and every event

a vehicle of moral instruction. The sick-chamber may become an audience room,

where lessons of heavenly wisdom are conveyed by the Spirit of truth. Leprosy

was singled out by God to be a visible picture of sin; so that“out of the eater

there might come forth meat” (Judges 14:14).  Out of seeming evil, good

can be distilled.



the infliction than was seen by the bodily eye. It was mysterious in its

origin, and irresistible in its progress. It gradually spread and covered

the whole man. It touched and injured every faculty. The intention was

salutary, viz. to lead the sufferer’s thoughts to the discovery of a deeper

malady, and to awaken desire for a more enduring cure. The outward is an

index of the inward. LEPROSY IS A TYPE AND PICTURE OF SIN!



seek the offices of an ordinary physician (much like cancer in the 21st century –

CY – 2012).   Earthly remedy was and still is unknown. The sufferer was

required to visit the priest. Direct application to God was to be made.

Meanwhile, the leper was to be completely isolated. He might not consort

with his fellows. Hereby he might learn the DISASTROUS EFFECTS OF

SIN in DISINTEGRATING SOCIETY; and hereby he might in solitude

mourn over sin, and SEEK ITS CURE!   The only possibility of the

removal of leprosy was in religious obedience. Every part of the

prescription was FURNISHED BY GOD and was to be applied by God’s

ministers. COMPLETE SUBMISSION was a condition of cure.



TYPE. This type was furnished by Miriam. Her specific sin was known; it

was insubordination to authority. Her chastisement was sudden. It came

direct from God in the form of leprosy. The injured man became her

intercessor. God graciously responded to the intercession of Moses.

Temporary separation and strict seclusion were the method of cure. Golden

lessons lie here. Every leper may confidently follow this indication of God’s

will. If He healed Miriam, CAN HE NOT ALSO HEAL ME!!!!!!!!!!!



OBLIGATIONS. As a healed man will cheerfully recompense the physician

for his pains, so God required the restored leper to express his gratitude in

the form of animal sacrifice. His gratitude could not be expressed in empty

words. He was not permitted to bring that “which cost him nothing.”

In the slaughter of the devoted victim, the grateful man would confess that he

himself had deserved to die, and that God had permitted a substitute. If the

man were fully penitent, the sight of the dying substitute would vividly

impress his heart with a sense of God’s mercy. In every arrangement which

God made, the good of man was sought. The method will often seem

strange to our dim vision, but respecting the beneficent end there can be no



10 “When thou dost lend thy brother any thing, thou shalt not go into

his house to fetch his pledge.  11 Thou shalt stand abroad, and the man to

whom thou dost lend shall bring out the pledge abroad unto thee.

12 And if the man be poor, thou shalt not sleep with his pledge:

13 In any case thou shalt deliver him the pledge again when the sun

goeth down, that he may sleep in his own raiment, and bless thee:

and it shall be righteousness unto thee before the LORD thy God.”

If one had to take a pledge from another, he was not to go into the house of the

latter and take what he thought fit; he must stand without, and allow the debtor to

bring to him what he saw meet to offer. He might stand outside and summon the

debtor to produce his pledge, but he was not insolently to enter the house and lay

hands on any part of the owner’s property. To stand outside and call is still a

common mode of seeking access to a person in his own house or apartment among

the Arabs, and is regarded as the only respectful mode. There would be thus a

mitigation of the severity of the exaction, the tendency of which would be

to preserve good feeling between the parties. If the debtor was needy, and

being such could give in pledge only some necessary article, such as his

upper garment in which he slept at night, the pledge was to be returned ere

nightfall, that the man might sleep in his own raiment, and have a grateful

feeling towards his creditor. In many parts of the East, with the Arabs

notably, it is customary for the poor to sleep in their outer garment.

“During the day the poor while at work can and do dispense with this

outside raiment, but at night it is greatly needed, even in summer. This

furnishes a good reason why this sort of pledge should be restored before

night” (Thomson, ‘Land and the Book,’ 1:192, 500). The earlier legislation

(Exodus 22:25-26) is evidently assumed here as well known by the people.

It shall be righteousness unto thee (see on ch.6:25).


14 “Thou shalt not oppress an hired servant that is poor and needy,

whether he be of thy brethren, or of thy strangers that are in thy

land within thy gates:  15  At his day thou shalt give him his hire, neither

shall the sun go down upon it; for he is poor, and setteth his heart upon it:

lest he cry against thee unto the LORD, and it be sin unto thee.”

The wage of the laborer was to be punctually paid, whether he were an Israelite

or a foreigner (compare Leviticus 19:13; the law here is repeated here, with a

special reference to the distress which the withholding of the hire from a poor man

even for a day might occasion).




Omitted Duty Ripens into Curse (vs. 14-15)


Thoughtlessness is a flimsy excuse for neglected duty. It is a sin to be thoughtless.

(I recommend – Isaiah 1 – Spurgeon Sermon – To the Thoughtless – this web

site – CY – 2012).  One talent is buried in the earth. In proportion to the mischief

produced is the punishment thereof.




Ř      The rich is debtor to the poor. (Notice that this is in reference to

individuals, not the collective government of which Moses speaks –

CY – 2012)  Obligation between the several ranks of society is equal.

The rich rely for many services upon the poor. The king depends

upon the cook. The laborer gives his strength, the employer

contributes his money. There is as much obligation on the one

side as on the other.


Ř      At a fixed point of time the obligation is matured. Henceforth the

neglect of the obligation becomes sin. My obligations today differ

from those of yesterday. The element of time plays an important part.

Obligations grow.


Ř      Obligations are implied as well as expressed. Custom is unwritten law.

Riches carry with them no warrant for arrogance. Riches have cursed

The man if they have made him churlish.



cannot follow the effects of thoughtlessness into all their intricate

ramifications and to their utmost issues. What would be regarded as a

trivial disappointment on the part of one man may be an agony of pain to

another. Wages expected and deferred may mean to a needy laborer

pinching hunger, not only to himself, but to feeble wife and to helpless

babes. A gloomy and sleepless night may follow. Bitter and angry feelings

may be engendered. Faith in human integrity may be lost. Self-restraint may



                           For want of a nail the shoe was lost.

                        For want of a shoe the horse was lost.

                        For want of a horse the rider was lost.

                        For want of a rider the battle was lost.

                    For want of a battle the kingdom was lost.

                        And all for the want of a horseshoe nail!



UPON THE CULPRIT. It is not safe to treat any human being with

contempt, especially the poor. God is the avowed Champion of such. The

command, “Honor all men” (I Peter 2:17), is as binding as “Thou shalt

not steal” (Exodus 20:15).  The cry of the injured man in his distress is sure

to pierce the skies. The ear of God is specially attent to His children’s suffering

cry (Psalm 34:15), even as a mother catches the plaintive wail of her firstborn

infant. Swiftly God attaches Himself to the side of the oppressed, and takes

upon Himself the burden.  The injustice done to the man becomes an insult

done to God. The deed alters in its character, intensifies in its immorality, and

becomes heinous sin.  Vials of wrath are preparing for the head of the unthinking

transgressor. It will be as the sin of blasphemy or of murder unto them.


16 “The fathers shall not be put to death for the children, neither shall

the children be put to death for the fathers: every man shall be put to

death for his own sin.”  Among heathen nations it was common for a whole family to

be involved in the penalty incurred by the head of the family, and to be put

to death along with him (compare Esther 9:13-14; Herodotus., 3:118, 119;

and various secular authorities). Such severity of retribution is here prohibited in

the penal code of the Israelites. Though God, in the exercise of His absolute

sovereignty, might visit the sins of the parent upon the children (Exodus 20:5),

earthly judges were not to assume this power.  Only the transgressor himself

was to bear the penalty of his sin (compare II Kings 14:6).


17 “Thou shalt not pervert the judgment of the stranger, nor of the

fatherless; nor take a widow’s raiment to pledge: 18 But thou shalt remember

that thou wast a bondman in Egypt, and the LORD thy God redeemed thee

thence: therefore I command thee to do this thing.”  The law against perverting

the right of strangers, widows, and orphans is here repeated from Exodus 22:21-24;

23:9, with the addition that the raiment of the widow was not to be taken in pledge.

To enforce this, the people are reminded that they themselves as a nation had

been in the condition of strangers and bondmen in Egypt (compare Leviticus



Not only was no injustice to be done to the poor, but, out of the abundance of those in

better estate, were they to be helped.


19 “When thou cuttest down thine harvest in thy field, and hast forgot a

sheaf in the field, thou shalt not go again to fetch it: it shall be for the stranger,

for the fatherless, and for the widow: that the LORD thy God may bless thee

in all the work of thine hands.  20  When thou beatest thine olive tree, thou

shalt not go over the boughs again: it shall be for the stranger, for the

fatherless, and for the widow.  21 When thou gatherest the grapes of thy

vineyard, thou shalt not glean it afterward:” - literally, Thou shalt not glean after

 thee, i.e. after thou hast reaped and gathered for thyself. It is still the custom among

the Arabs for the poor to be allowed to gather the berries that may be left on the olive

trees after they have been beaten and the main produce carried off by the owner. All

the injunctions in this section are adapted to preserve relations of brotherliness and

love among the people of the Lord - “it shall be for the stranger, for the fatherless,

and for the widow.  22 And thou shalt remember that thou wast a bondman in

the land of Egypt: therefore I command thee to do this thing.”  (Compare

Leviticus 19:9-10; 23:22)  Over and over, God reminded them that their own

redemption out of Egypt should be the motive for all good deeds!  HE HAS





       Neighborly Love and Good Will to be Cultivated in Detail (vs. 6-22)


One golden thread runs through all the varied precepts of this chapter. They are most

interesting illustrations, one and all, of the spirit of humanity and of far-reaching wisdom

which pervades the Mosaic Law. The following heading include the gist of the several

injunctions here given, and show also their relation to each other.


  • Man’s “inhumanity to man” is sternly restrained. No Israelite, however

poor, is to be kidnapped and sold into foreign slavery (v. 7).


  • No one might be deprived of the machinery, tools, or implements on the

use of which his daily bread depended, for a pledge (v. 6). It is doubtless

to this humane regulation that we owe the ancient common law of this

realm (England – CY – 2012), that no man shall be deprived of the

necessaries of his trade or profession as long as there are other things

on which the depravation can be made.


  • A man’s house is to be his castle. No one may enter it, even to fetch a

pledge (vs. 10-11). The exception to this is in the case of leprosy, in

which instance the priest had a right to enter a man’s house to see into the

state of things, i.e. home is to be inviolable save where the public security

demands it otherwise. Hence a special caution is given to avoid anything

which might bring such a plague upon them. The case of Miriam should be

before their eyes (vs. 8-9).


  • If the poor man has pledged that in which he needs to sleep, it is to be

restored to him before sundown (v. 13).


  • Hired servants were not to be oppressed, but were to have fair and even

generous treatment (vs. 14-15).


  • The spirit of the checks upon blood-revenge, which are found in

connection with the cities of refuge, is never to be violated, and no one is

to suffer any civil penalty on account of another’s sin. JUSTICE IS



  • No advantage is ever to be taken of the stranger, the fatherless, and the

widow. They who are deprived of earthly helpers on whom they might lean

are to find their safeguard in the sentiments of honor and benevolence

which pervade the people (vs. 17-18).


  • Not only is no wrong to be done to them, but their aid and comfort are

to be specially studied, in the time of harvest, and in the gathering in of the

olive and the grape (vs. 19-22).


  • The reason for such cultivation of kindness to others is that GOD HAS

BEEN KIND TO THEM!   (vs. 18, 22).




  • The requirements of God in the social relations of life are righteousness,

justice, mercy, love, and good will to all.

  • God has fenced round the poor, the weak, the widow, and the

fatherless with a special guard.

  • A wrong done by man to man is SIN AGAINST GOD!

The inspiring motive for our showing love to others is THE LOVE OF

GOD TO US!  ( Romans 5:14; I John 4:10,19).




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