REGULATIONS REGARDING CATTLE STRAYED OR THINGS LOST
Moses repeats here the law formerly given (Exodus 23:4-5), with additional details.
Not only the ox or the ass that had strayed was to be taken and restored to its owner,
but articles of raiment, and, in short, anything that had been lost was, when found by
another, to be carefully kept until it could be restored to the person to whom it belonged.
1 “Thou shalt not see thy brother’s ox or his sheep go astray,” - wandering at
large. The Hebrew verb means primarily to seduce, draw aside, or entice (ch. 13:6);
and in the passive conveys the idea of wandering through being drawn away by
some enticement - “and hide thyself from them:” - i.e. withdraw thyself from
them, avoid noticing them or having to do with them - “thou shalt in any case” –
certainly, without fail - “bring them again unto thy brother. 2 And if thy brother
be not nigh unto thee, or if thou know him not, then thou shalt bring it unto
thine own house, and it shall be with thee until thy brother seek after it, and
thou shalt restore it to him again. 3 In like manner shalt thou do with his ass;
and so shalt thou do with his raiment; and with all lost thing of thy brother’s,
which he hath lost, and thou hast found, shalt thou do likewise: thou mayest
not hide thyself. 4 Thou shalt not see thy brother’s ass or his ox fall down by
the way, and hide thyself from them: thou shalt surely help him to lift them
up again.” An animal that had fallen was also to be lifted up, and the owner
was to be assisted to do this. In Exodus 23:5, it is specially declared that both these
services are to be rendered, even though the parties are at enmity
with each other, and the one is the object of hatred to the other.
The Duty of Cultivating Neighborly Kindness (vs. 1-4)
It will be a valuable study in Divine ethics if we first of all show what it is which is here
required of the Hebrews, and then, with the Mosaic teaching for a starting-point,
advance further and see how far in Christian ethics there is incorporated all that was
valuable in the Mosaic, while there is added thereto that which belongs peculiarly to
the law of the gospel. Moses, in this paragraph, enjoins acts of neighborly kindness.
To whom is this kindness to be shown? To “thy brother.” He may be
o a brother by kinship,
o an unknown individual (v. 2), or
o an enemy (Exodus 23:4).
In either case a like kindness is to be shown. There is contained in Leviticus 19:18
the general precept out of which these details of kindness would come. “Thou shalt
love thy neighbor as thyself.” This was to be the human aspect, the social side of
a godly life. The basis of love to man would be found in LOVING GOD WITH
ALL THE HEART, AND SOUL, AND MIND AND STRENGTH! And as
God had redeemed the people from
people to show forth His praise, they were to regard this redemption as uniting them
in one bond of brotherhood, with interests and aims in common; hence each was to
regard another’s good as being as dear to him as his own. From this point let us now
proceed to develop in outline the Christian law of kindness to others.
ON HIS OWN AUTHORITY. (Matthew 5:43.) He not only reproduces the
old law, but clears it from the ambiguities and disfigurements with which
rabbinical teaching had obscured it. “Ye have heard that it hath been said,
Thou shalt love thy neighbor, and hate thine enemy.” Moses had said the first,
the rabbis had added the second. Christ tears off this addition. Again, when
the lawyer said, “And who is my neighbor?” Christ gave him the parable of
the good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37), in which He virtually said, “That depends
upon yourself; whoever cherishes a kindly spirit to all, he is the neighbor,
however far off in place or nation.” The Christian law is, “As we have
opportunity, let us do good unto all men.” (Galatians 6:10). We are to
know no barriers in race, color, or clime; no, nor is even hatred or ill will on
the part of others to prevent our seeking their good.
RELIGION, BUT ONLY THAT PART OF IT WHICH HAS TO DO
WITH MAN. Love to God is the first command. This is the second.
Benevolence without religion is incomplete; religion without
Benevolence is vain. Both must abound in the truly Christian life.
LOVING-KINDNESS TO US. See Matthew 7:12: note the force of
the word, “therefore,” in the latter verse. Because God is so ready to bless
you, be you ready to bless others. This great redeeming love of God for
our race should lead us to see in all men members of one vast brotherhood,
(He “hath made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on all
the face of the earth, and hath determined the times before
appointed, and the bounds of their habitation” (Acts 17:26), which
God would encircle in His girdle of love, and draw together by the
thought that, as He cares for all, each should care for the other! “Let no
man seek his own, but every one another’s wealth” (I Corinthians 10:24).
OF OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST. Here are we to find the love that
must kindle ours. “When we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by
the death of His Son” (Romans 5:10). If we owe so much to redeeming love,
ought we not to show a corresponding love for others? What said Paul?
“If we be beside ourselves, it is to God; if we be sober, it is for your cause,
for “THE LOVE OF CHRIST CONSTRAINETH US!” (I Corinthians
5:14) “If God so loved us, WE OUGHT ALSO TO LOVE ONE
ANOTHER!” (I John 4:11)
Brotherly Service in Daily Life (vs. 1-4)
In A HEALTHY STATE our souls should so overflow with love, that every
neighbor should be regarded as a brother. If the esteem should not at first
be reciprocated, our kindness would soften his asperity and make him a better man.
In the long run, kindness will produce kindness.
Our earthly possessions have many drawbacks, and are always subject to
injury and loss. Hence it is wisdom to hold them lightly, and to grieve little
over their diminution. This insecurity is an indication of their inferiority.
But the possessions of the soul, viz. wisdom, righteousness, faith, love,
patience, are inalienable. The “things unseen are eternal.”
(II Corinthians 4:18) Jesus taught “Lay not up for yourselves
treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and
where thieves break through and steal: But lay up for yourselves
treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt,
and where thieves do not break through and steal.” (Matthew
ills and trials which are incident to the present life provide full scope for
active sympathy and help. (In fact, God seems to use you and I where
we will, to be His hands and arms in helping others! – CY – 2012) We can
scarcely imagine a condition of life in which could be afforded such room for
the culture and discipline of the best affections. Every station in life gives
opportunity for doing service to others. Every day we hear some new
call to duty. We thus train ourselves for higher service. We become more
qualified to do good on a large scale, are qualified to rule (Matthew 24:21,23).
Ø It is sin, inasmuch as it is a plain violation of God’s command. As
Creator and King, He has a right to make law and to enforce it.
(Christ has given us an example that we should walk in His steps -
I Peter 2:21; God makes “His sun to rise on the evil and on the
Good, and sendeth rain on the just and the unjust.” (Matthew
Ø It is sin, inasmuch as it is disloyalty to our best feelings. The instinct to
show kindness is a part of our constitutional nature.
Ø It is sin, inasmuch as it consciously allows injury to be done. The ox or
ass that has wandered today, will have wandered further (if not recovered)
tomorrow; may be irrecoverable then. The gold that is not occupied rusts.
To hide our light under a bushel is sin. (Matthew 5:15)
SELFISHNESS. Generous and self-forgetful kindness brings returns of
blessing to the soul. (“Cast thy bread upon the waters: for thou shalt
find it after many days” (Ecclesiastes 11:1). The treasury of the heart is
enriched. We gain wealth that is imperishable. We obtain a good name
among men, and live in their affectionate memory. We secure, in some
measure, the favor of our God. We are in truth, by kindly service, laying up
large store of good for coming days. “Blessed is he that considereth the
poor; the Lord will deliver him in the time of trouble. The Lord will
preserve him, and keep him alive.” (Psalm 41:1-2)
THE APPAREL OF THE SEXES (v. 5)
5 “The woman shall not wear that which pertaineth unto a man, neither shall
a man put on a woman’s garment: for all that do so are abomination unto the
LORD thy God.” The DIVINELY INSTITUTED distinction between the
sexes was to be SACREDLY OBSERVED and, in order to this, the dress and
other things appropriate to the one were not to be used by the other. That which
pertaineth unto a man; literally, the apparatus (כְּלִי) of a man, including,
not dress merely, but implements, tools, weapons, and utensils. This is an
ethical regulation in the interests of morality. There is no reference, as some have
supposed, to the wearing of masks for the purpose of disguise, or to the practice
of the priests at heathen festivals of wearing masks of their gods. Whatever tends
to obliterate the distinction between the sexes tends to LICENTIOUSNESS
and that the one sex should assume the dress of the other has always been
regarded as UNNATURAL and INDECENT! Such a change of vesture is
here declared to be an abomination to the Lord, because of its tendency to
IT IS A DEEP INJURY TO BOTH SEXES TO OBLITERATE THE
the male sex effeminate and the female sex masculine, is an injury to both.
The tendency of the times is in this direction; women are being introduced
to fierce competitions with men: we have had women, forgetful of their
sex, even entering the prize-ring, to afford amusement to brutal onlookers;
we have women persistently knocking at the door of professions fit for
men only; while, on the other hand, we have a number of occupations,
which will readily occur to every one, where men are made effeminate, and
which could be most fitly discharged by women; and those reformers are
not friends of either sex who try to break down the barriers between them.
by any manipulation of ours to obliterate the distinction.
Man and Woman (v. 5)
Woman has her rightful place and function in society. So has man his. Their places,
while complementary, are distinct. In modern society, a variety of influences —
competition in business, difficulty of finding suitable employment, the leveling tendency
of the age, which is impatient even of distinctions that have their ground in nature-
combine to thrust women into spheres and work not in keeping with womanly character.
The distinction of the sexes is to be preserved:
before the public is as unpleasant as foppish effeminacy is in men.
IT IS A DEEP INJURY TO BOTH SEXES TO OBLITERATE THE
the male sex effeminate and the female sex masculine, is an INJURY TO
by any manipulation of ours to obliterate the distinction.
(This is a hot-button issue in the age of political correctness. I will say that
women are not men and vice versa – Paul seems to teach that for a woman
to usurp the position of man is analogous to the angels trying to overthrow
God, a very serious and unproductive scenario as the modern world in sin
is finding out! [I Corinthians 11:10] – CY – 2012)
IT TAKES THE TWO SEXES COMBINED TO GIVE A COMPLETE
IMAGE OF THE DIVINE NATURE. When God said, “Let
us make man (אָדָם)) in our image, after our likeness,” He used the generic
term, and hence immediately resorts to the plural verb, “and let them have
dominion (יִרְדּוּ),” etc. (Genesis 1:26). The idea is that it takes the female with
the male to complete the Divine image. There is a maternal element as well as a
paternal and a filial in the Divine nature (compare Isaiah 49:15 with Psalm 103:13
and John 8:29). If then we find the sexual distinctions to be but the reflection of
elements in the Divine nature, then a halo of true glory is thrown around each.
In their respective spheres the sexes are exhibiting traits of divinity, and all
effort at obliterating the distinctions through artificial means, will be found
only to obliterate the Divine. FATHER, SON and HOLY GHOST have their
counterparts in the development of humanity, and it is well clearly to see this. May
the sexes carry on their respective missions so faithfully that earth may soon reflect
in undimmed luster the various qualities of God!
(One of my favorite verses in the Bible is that the husband and the wife are “heirs
Together of the grace of life!” – CY – 2012)
THE TAKING OF BIRDS (vs. 6-7)
6 “If a bird’s nest chance to be before thee in the way in any tree, or on the
ground, whether they be young ones, or eggs, and the dam sitting upon the
young, or upon the eggs, thou shalt not take the dam with the young:
7 But thou shalt in any wise let the dam go, and take the young to thee; that
it may be well with thee, and that thou mayest prolong thy days.” (ch. 5:16;
Exodus 20:12). These precepts are designed to foster humane feeling towards the
lower animals, and not less to preserve regard to that affectionate relation between
parents and their young which God has established as a law in the animal world.
(Compare Leviticus 22:28; Exodus 23:19.)
THE CONSTRUCTION OF HOUSES (v. 8)
8 “When thou buildest a new house, then thou shalt make a battlement for
thy roof, that thou bring not blood upon thine house, if any man fall from
thence.” Still less was human life to be exposed to danger through neglect of proper
precautions. The houses in
as these were much frequented by the inhabitants for various purposes (Joshua 2:6;
II Samuel 11:2; 18:24; Nehemiah 8:16; Matthew 10:27; Acts 10:9), it was
necessary that a battlement or balustrade should surround the roof, in order
to prevent persons falling over. Hence the direction here given.
CONFUSIONS TO BE AVOIDED (vs. 9-11)
God has made distinctions in nature, and these are not to be confounded by the mixing
of things distinct. The ox and the ass were chiefly used in husbandry; but, as they were
of different size and strength, it was not only fitting that they should not be yoked to the
same plough, but it might be cruel so to yoke them. (Compare Leviticus 19:19.)
9 “Thou shalt not sow thy vineyard with divers seeds: lest the fruit of thy seed
which thou hast sown, and the fruit of thy vineyard, be defiled. 10 Thou shalt
not plow with an ox and an ass together. 11 Thou shalt not wear a garment of
divers sorts,” - sha’atnez, a kind of cloth in which threads of linen and threads of
woollen were interwoven. The meaning of the word is uncertain. The Septuagint renders
kibdaelos - spurious,
variously disposed, diverse. No Semitic etymology can be found for the word, and as
derived the textile art from
probably of Egyptian origin - “as of woollen and linen together.
FRINGES TO BE MADE ON VESTMENTS (v. 12)
12 “Thou shalt make thee fringes” - properly, tassels. The tunic of the Hebrews
appears to have been divided at the bottom in front, and back, so that four corners or
wings (כַּנְפות) were made, to each of which a tassel was appended (Greek,
κράσπεδον – kraspedon – border, hem, tassel- Matthew 9:20; 23:5) -“upon the
four quarters of thy vesture, wherewith thou coverest thyself.” (Compare
Attention to the Minutiae of Conduct (vs. 6-12)
The Law descends to very slight points of conduct. It keeps in view that CHARACTER
IS MADE UP OF THE RESULT OF OUR ACTIONS IN THE MILLION
TRIVIAL DETAILS OF LIFE! “Trifles,” said Michelangelo, when a friend thus
characterized the slight finishing touches he was giving to a statue — “trifles make
perfection.” Matters which in themselves are of little moment acquire importance
from the associations they awaken, the ideas they suggest, the consequences
they lead up to. Little traits of humane behavior (vs. 6-7), the habit of considering
the bearings of what we do on others (v. 8), respect for the ordinary and obvious
distinctions of creation (v. 9), etc., have all their influence on character, their effect
in making us what we ultimately become. We may suggest, as lessons from these
verses, that our conduct is to be marked:
Ø To animals.
Ø To our fellow-men.
In vs. 6-7, the act forbidden is one akin to killing a cow and calf on the
same day, or to seething a kid in its mother’s milk (ch.14:21) — an unfeeling
violation of the sacredness of the relation between parent and offspring. Or
the parent bird may be presumed to be taken only in wantonness, the young
ones being really of service. This would be an act of cruelty. Humanity may
be a motive in the precept of v. 10 — “ox” and “ass” being obviously
“unequally yoked together” (compare Paul’s allusion with application to
marriage with unbelievers, in II Corinthians 6:14).
Ø By caution. This is strikingly inculcated in v. 8. How many accidents
might be avoided if greater conscientiousness and caution prevailed in the
different departments of labor! A shipbuilder puts in the side of a ship one
wormy plank, and years after this costs the whole ship’s crew their lives.
Ø By simplicity. This is a lesson which may be learned from the precepts
against mixing kinds (vs. 9, 11).
Ø By mindfulness. The law of fringes in Numbers 15:38 — if this
refers to the same thing — was intended to aid memory In another view of
the precept, it inculcates decency and propriety.
PUNISHMENT OF WIFE-SLANDER, ADULTERY, RAPE,
FORNICATION, INCEST (vs. 13-30)
The laws in this section have the design of fostering purity and fidelity in the
relation of the sexes, and also of protecting the female against the malice of
sated lust and the violence of brutal lust. (For the case supposed in v. 13, see
II Samuel 13:15.
13 “If any man take a wife, and go in unto her, and hate her, 14 And give
occasions of speech against her, and bring up an evil name upon her, and
say, I took this woman, and when I came to her, I found her not a maid:
15 Then shall the father of the damsel, and her mother, take and bring
forth the tokens of the damsel’s virginity unto the elders of the city
in the gate: 16 And the damsel’s father shall say unto the elders, I gave my
daughter unto this man to wife, and he hateth her; 17 And, lo, he hath given
occasions of speech against her, saying, I found not thy daughter a maid;
and yet these are the tokens of my daughter’s virginity. And they shall
spread the cloth before the elders of the city. 18 And the elders of that city
shall take that man and chastise him; 19 And they shall amerce him in an
hundred shekels of silver, and give them unto the father of the damsel,
because he hath brought up an evil name upon a
shall be his wife; he may not put her away all his days. 20 But if this thing
be true, and the tokens of virginity be not found for the damsel:
21 Then they shall bring out the damsel to the door of her father’s
house, and the men of her city shall stone her with stones that she
die: because she hath wrought folly in
her father’s house: so shalt thou put evil away from among you.”
22 “If a man be found lying with a woman married to an husband, then
they shall both of them die, both the man that lay with the woman,
and the woman: so shalt
thou put away evil from
that is a virgin be betrothed unto an husband, and a man find her in the city,
and lie with her; 24 Then ye shall bring them both out unto the gate of that
city, and ye shall stone them with stones that they die; the damsel, because
she cried not, being in the city; and the man, because he hath humbled
his neighbor’s wife: so thou shalt put away evil from among you.
25 But if a man find a betrothed damsel in the field, and the man force
her, and lie with her: then the man only that lay with her shall die.
26 But unto the damsel thou shalt do nothing; there is in the damsel
no sin worthy of death: for as when a man riseth against his neighbor,
and slayeth him, even so is this matter: 27 For he found her in the field,
and the betrothed damsel cried, and there was none to save her.
28 If a man find a damsel that is a virgin, which is not betrothed, and
lay hold on her, and lie with her, and they be found; 29 Then the man
that lay with her shall give unto the damsel’s father fifty shekels of silver,
and she shall be his wife; because he hath humbled her, he may not put
her away all his days.”
Four cases are here distinguished (vs. 22-29):
woman and her paramour are, when detected, to be put to death (v. 22).
have cried for protection, but did not; in this case also both were to be
punished with death as adulterers (vs. 23-24).
where, if she cried for help, her cry was in vain; in this case only the man
should be liable to be put to death, whilst the woman was to be held
innocent (vs. 25-27).
intercourse; in this case the man should be required to pay a fine of fifty
shekels of silver to the damsel’s father, and to take her to be his wife, from
whom he could not be separated during life (vs. 28-29).
To these is appended a general prohibition of incestuous connections, the first
provision in the earlier law being cited as a sort of index to the whole (Leviticus
30 “A man shall not take his father’s wife, nor discover his father’s skirt.”
Divine Care for Sexual Honor (vs. 5, 13-21, 22-24, 25-27, 27-29, 30)
In these, as in so many of the precepts of this book, we find civil precepts invested with
religious sanctions. Nothing is more important for the honorable maintenance of
social life, than that both men and women should honor each other’s sex as
well as their own. Those that do otherwise are an abomination to the Lord their
God. There are five or six different cases supposed in the verses referred to in this
o clothing (v. 5);
o impeached or impaired reputation (vs. 13-21);
o adultery (vs. 22-24);
o rape or seduction (vs. 25-29) — two cases;
o unlawful marriages (v. 30).
Such sins would have been thought nothing of among the Canaanites. God
would have His people lifted up above them. Hence it is needful that they
should be specifically named, and that the people should be solemnly told
of the odiousness of these sins in God’s sight, that thus they might become
odious also in their eyes. While all will feel that such subjects need great
wisdom in handling them, yet undue reticence thereon may work direful
harm. Many need to be told with great plainness of speech, “He that
breaketh a hedge, a serpent shall bite him” (Ecclesiastes 10:8). Our theme is:
SEXUAL DISHONOR IS ODIOUS IN THE SIGHT OF GOD! Consider
possibilities of love, of holiness, of usefulness, by each rendering to the
other due honor in accordance with Divine Law.
are obeyed, by so much are the misery and debasement great when
they are disobeyed.
Ø nip spiritual nature in the bud,
Ø embitter life beyond all power of expression, and
Ø render TRUE GREATNESS ALTOGETHER IMPOSSIBLE
One sin will drag the whole man after it. Hence our Lord’s solemn warnings in
Matthew 5:29-30; Mark 9:43, 45, 47.
Chastity (vs. 13-30)
The Mosaic Law is strict and stern in its requirement of purity in all that pertains to
the marriage relation. Its strictness, however, is united with a fine sense of justice,
and its shield is, as usual, extended for the PROTECTION OF THE
cruel or dastardly than that of a man who groundlessly assails his wife’s
character, accusing her of ante-nuptial unchastity. As the matter was one
proof of which was not directly possible, and the man’s word was all that
could be adduced on his side, the Law threw the onus of clearing herself
upon the woman through her parents, and indicated the mode of doing so.
The “forty stripes save one” was a punishment not too heavy for this sort
of false accusation.
punishable with death.
Ø A woman found to be unchaste at time of marriage (vs. 20-21).
Ø Adultery after marriage (v. 22).
Ø A betrothed woman ravished with her implied consent (vs. 23-24).
In the last two cases, the partner in guilt dies also. In the first, he only
escapes, because he is unknown. Yet that unknown seducer, the cause of
the woman’s fall — a fall which shame subsequently tempted her to
conceal — was not lost to the eye of him who sees secret crime, and will
repay it. Little do such seducers think of the life-long shame and sin and
misery to which they may be dooming the unfortunate victims of their
wiles. God knows it, and will bring them to account. The severe penalties
attached to conjugal unfaithfulness place in a startling light the gravity of
the offence in the Divine esteem, and form a striking contrast to the light
tone adopted about such matters in OUR SOCIETY!
those of rape.
Ø If the woman was betrothed, and could not save herself, she was to be
held innocent, but her violator was to be punished with death.
Ø If she was not betrothed, the man who had injured her was heavily fined,
and was compelled to take her to wife, with no right of subsequent
divorce. Possibly our own law might fitly imitate that of v. 29.
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