LAWS RELATING TO CORPORAL PUNISHMENT (vs. 1-3)
The first and second verses should be read as one sentence, of which the protasis
is in v.1 and the apodosis in v. 2.
1 “If there be a controversy between men, and they (i.e. the judges) come unto
judgment, that the judges may judge them; then they shall justify the righteous,
and condemn the wicked. 2 And it shall be, if the wicked man be worthy to be
beaten - (literally, be the son of blows), that the judge shall cause him to lie down,
and to be beaten before his face,” – It is assumed that the judges shall pronounce
just judgment, and apportion to the guilty party his due punishment; and then it is
prescribed how that is to be inflicted. In the presence of the judge the man was to be
cast down, and the adjudged number of blows were to be given him, not, however,
exceeding forty, lest the man should be rendered contemptible in the eyes of the
people, as if he were a mere slave or brute. This punishment was usually inflicted with
a stick (Exodus 21:20; II Samuel 7:14), as is still the case among the Arabs and
Egyptians (not so long ago, we heard of a caning in
is to let the guilty go unpunished. This will change when we all face God in the
Judgment!!!!!!!!!! – CY – 2012); sometimes they were punished with thorns
(Judges 8:7, 16); sometimes with whips and scorpions, i.e. scourges of cord or
leather armed with sharp points or hard knots (I Kings 12:11,14). Though the
culprit was laid on the ground, it does not appear that the bastinado was used
among the Jews as it is now among the Arabs; the back and shoulders were the
parts of the body on which the blows fell (Proverbs 10:13; 19:29; 26:3; Isaiah 50:6) -
“according to his fault, by a certain number.” - literally, according to the
requirement of his crime in number; i.e. according as his crime deserved. The
number was fixed at forty, probably because of the symbolical significance of that
number as a measure of completeness. The rabbins fixed the number at thirty-nine,
apparently in order that the danger of exceeding the number prescribed by
the Law should be diminished (compare II Corinthians 11:24); but another
reason is assigned by Maimonides, viz. that, as the instrument of punishment was
a scourge with three tails, each stroke counted for three, and thus they could not
give forty, but only thirty-nine, unless they exceeded the forty (Maimon., ‘In
3 “Forty stripes he may give him, and not exceed: lest, if he should
exceed, and beat him above these with many stripes, then thy brother
should seem vile unto thee.”
Corporal Punishment (vs. 1-3)
We have here directions given for the punishment of criminals. As the Hebrews had no
gaol system, a properly graduated corporal punishment supplied most effectively its
place. Moses here directs the judges to look carefully into the case, and to assign a
certain number of stripes, which are never to exceed forty, the chastisement being
given in the presence of the judge. Thus the largest measure of equity was introduced
into their penal system.
IDEAS OF RIGHTEOUSNESS. To be allowed to sin with impunity
would be, we all feel, an immoral regulation under any government, and
especially immoral under a theocracy. Punishment for sin is demanded by
the human conscience. All quarrel with retribution as such argues
A WANT OF CONSCIOUSNESS!
This is what the law before us secured. The stripes were to be few or many,
according to the crime, but never to exceed forty. The judgment was to be
righteous and equitable all through.
RELIEF UNDER PUNISHMENT, IT WOULD BE KINDER FOR
CONTROVERSIALISTS TO INDUCE MEN THROUGH FAITH IN
JESUS CHRIST TO ACCEPT OF PARDON AND SO ESCAPE
PENALTY. The spectacle at present is A SAD ONE! Liberal journalists
are pursuing the phantom of leniency for sins and punishment in this life,
instead of urging their fellows TO FLEE AT ONCE TO JESUS CHRIST
AS THE ONLY REFUGE! This much is certain, “Him that cometh unto
me,” says Christ, “I will in no wise cast out.” Let men come to Jesus, and
the question of punishment, so far as they are concerned, is settled forever.
Punishment gives way to pardon; while at the same time, it is felt that the sin has
not gone unpunished since Christ died for you and it. He was made “to be
sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness
of God in Him.” (II Corinthians 5:21)
4 “Thou shalt not muzzle the ox when he treadeth out the corn.”
The leaving the ox unmuzzled when treading out the corn was in order that the
animal might be free to eat of the grains which its labor severed from the husks.
This prohibition, therefore, was dictated by a regard to the rights and claims of
animals employed in labor; but there is involved in it the general principle that all
labor is to be duly requited, (I remember in my early days on the farm, that
work hands who helped were always fed a good meal at midday – “The
laborer is worthy of his hire.” - I Timothy 5:18) - CY – 2012) and hence
it seems to have passed into a proverb, and was applied to men as well as
the lower animals (I Corinthians 9:9; I Timothy 5:18).
LEVIRATE MARRIAGES (vs. 5-10)
If a man who was married died without issue, his surviving brother was required
to marry the widow, so as to raise up a successor to the deceased, who should
be his heir. The brother who refused this duty must be publicly disgraced. The
design of this institution — which was not originated by Moses, but came down
from early times (Genesis 38:7-10), and is to be found amongst ether nations than
the Jews, and that even in the present day — was to preserve a family from
becoming extinct and to secure the property of a family from passing into
the hands of a stranger.
5 “If brethren dwell together,” - i.e. not necessarily in the same house, but in
the same community or place (compare Genesis 13:6; 26:7) - “and one of them die,
and have no child,” - literally, have no son; but this is rightly interpreted as meaning
child (so the Septuagint; Vulgate; Josephus, ‘Antiq.,’ 4:8, 23; Matthew 22:23-32); for,
if the deceased left a daughter, the perpetuation of the family and the retention of the
property might be secured through her (compare Numbers 27:1-11) -“the wife of
the dead shall not marry without unto a stranger: her husband’s brother shall
go in unto her, and take her to him to wife, and perform the duty of an
husband’s brother unto her.”
6 “And it shall be, that the firstborn which she beareth shall succeed
in the name of his brother which is dead,” - literally, shall rise up on the
name of his deceased brother; i.e. shall be enrolled in the family register as
heir of the deceased, and shall perpetuate his name -“that his name be not
put out of
7 “And if the man like not to take his brother’s wife, then let his brother’s
wife go up to the gate unto the elders, and say, My husband’s brother
refuseth to raise up unto his brother a name in
the duty of my husband’s brother. 8 Then the elders of his city shall call him,
and speak unto him: and if he stand to it, and say, I like not to take her;
9 Then shall his brother’s wife come unto him in the presence of the elders,
and loose his shoe from off his foot, and spit in his face, and shall answer and
say, So shall it be done unto that man that will not build up his brother’s house.
And his name shall be called in
loosed.” If the man refused to marry the widow of his deceased brother, he was free
to do so; but the woman had her redress. She was to bring the matter before the
elders of the town, sitting as magistrates at the gate, and they were to summon the
man and speak to him, and if he persisted in his refusal, the woman was to take his
shoe from off his foot, and spit before his face, and say, So shall it be done unto
that man that will not build up his brother’s house. The taking off of the
shoe of the man by the woman was an act of indignity to him; it amounted to a
declaration that he was not worthy to stand in his brother’s place, and was
scornfully rejected by the woman herself. As the planting of the shod foot
on a piece of property, or the casting of the shoe over a field, was emblematical
of taking possession of it with satisfaction (Psalm 108:9); and as the voluntary
handing of one’s shoe to another betokened the giving up to that other of some
property or right; so, contrariwise, the forcible removal from one of his shoe and
the casting of it aside indicated contemptuous rejection of the owner, and repudiation
of all his rights and claims in the matter. To walk barefooted was regarded by the
Jews as ignominious and miserable (compare Isaiah 20:2, 4; II Samuel 15:30). The
spitting before the face of the man (בְּפָנַיו in front of him) is by the Jewish
interpreters understood of spitting on the ground in his presence (Talmud,
‘Jebam.,’ 106; Madmen., ‘In Jibbum.,’ 4:6-8). This seems to be what the
words express (see ch. 7:24; 11:25; Joshua 10:8; Ezekiel 10:8, for the
rendering of בפני); and this, according to Oriental notions, would be insult
enough (Numbers 12:14; Isaiah 50:6; ).
11 “When men strive together one with another, and the wife of the
one draweth near for to deliver her husband out of the hand of him
that smiteth him, and putteth forth her hand, and taketh him by the
secrets: 12 Then thou shalt cut off her hand, thine eye shall not pity her.”
But though the childless widow might thus approach and lay hold on the man,
no license was thus granted to women to pass beyond the bounds of decency
in their approaches to the other sex. Hence the prohibition in these verses.
The severe sentence here prescribed was by the rabbins commuted into a fine
of the value of the hand.
WEIGHTS AND MEASURES (vs. 13-16)
Rectitude and integrity in trade are here anew inculcated (compare Leviticus 19:35-37).
13 “Thou shalt not have in thy bag divers weights, a great and a small.
14 Thou shalt not have in thine house divers measures, a great and a small.
15 But thou shalt have a perfect and just weight, a perfect and just measure
shalt thou have: that thy days may be lengthened in the land which the
LORD thy God giveth thee.” - Diverse weights; literally, a stone and a stone –
a large one for buying, and a small one for selling (compare Amos 8:5). Both
weights and measures were to be “perfect,” i.e. exactly correct, and so just.
(On the promise in v. 15, see ch. 4:26; 5:16.)
16 “For all that do such things, and all that do unrighteously,” – (equivalent
to all that transgress any law) - “are an abomination unto the LORD thy God.”
(Compare ch. 22:5) (There is no telling to how much men have lost or suffered
because of tricky and unjust dealings when trading with men. God has gotten
involved in their wicked lives. The Bible teaches “the way of the transgressors
is hard” – Proverbs 13:15 – CY – 2012)
Righteousness in Trade Imperative (vs. 13-16)
These four verses give us one of the most important in the range of human ethics. It
furnishes six lines of thought:
justice and equity.
unequal weights and measures.
exonerate us from obligations to justice.
Ø The neglect of it is an abomination to God (v. 16).
Ø The observance of it will tend to long life, prosperity,
and peace (v.15).
Religion Inspires Commercial Life (vs. 13-16)
It is certain that God displays the liveliest interest in every department of human life.
He is not only the God of the hills; He is God of the valleys also. He takes cognizance,
not only of great things, but also of small. Can any man tell us what are small things?
Not only on the portal of every church, but on the forefront of every shop — ay, on
the beam of every balance, we ought to see the inscription, “TO THE GLORY
OF GOD ALONE!”
the sunny smile from God’s eye, and, as the common light of day
penetrates into every nook and cranny of nature, so the light of God’s love
pierces into every interest of human life. It is not a romantic something
which has merely to do with the region of existence beyond the grave; it is
the life of cur present life — the secret spring of every duty. Ordinary
trade is a splendid field for the practical exercise of religious virtues, because
the commercial activities of the age afford large facilities either for fidelity or
for fraud. In every office and warehouse religion claims to set up her
throne. In the smallest act of buying and selling she insists on having a
THE STANDARDS OF HUMAN ACTION. If the weight or measure be
false, then every transaction will be false. Ingenious wickedness had
invented two sets of standards — an over-large one for the man as buyer,
an under-size for the same man as seller. This course of vile procedure
carried the villainy into every item of the man’s mercantile life. It is of the
first importance that we set up right standards. The Pharisee in the temple
was a perfect man, according to his standard. The rich young man who
came to Jesus Christ for counsel was blameless, according to his standard.
Men are prone to set up conventional standards, and measure themselves
and every one else according to their rule. Take heed that your standard is
God’s standard, “A PERFECT AND JUST MEASURE!”
Thou shalt not have this; thou shalt have that.” It first pulls down, then
builds up. It first uproots, then plants. “Mortify your members, then add to
your virtues.” The old must be destroyed; the new must be sown and
nursed. In our self-culture and in our training of others, it is not enough
that we are repressive and prohibitive; the new growths will often cast off
effete and injurious matter. Prune away barren boughs; encourage the
development of the fruitful wood.
main reward is in the future, viz. possession of the Divine image;
nevertheless, she confers many solid favors here and now. (“godliness is
profitable unto all things, having promise of the life that now is,
and of that which is to come” (I Timothy 4:8). Real pleasure is
her daily gift, and “length of days” is her special prize. “Deceitful
men shall not live out half their days” ( Psalm 55:23), they die
prematurely. Nor is long life on earth to be despised. There are, doubtless,
moral advantages and gains obtainable in this life, which are not obtainable
in the life to come. Many of the means of discipline and pruning and
reformation will end with this life. We are placed here for probation; and
(if well-used) long school-life is an advantage unspeakable. To be esteemed
by God as “the apple of His eye” (I have heard this explained as the
upside down image one sees as a reflection in the eye! - CY – 2012) is
better than an earthly coronet. To be regarded by Him as “abomination”
is “concentrated curse.”
Honesty the Best Policy (vs. 13-16)
No blessing from God can rest upon dishonest trading. If His blessing is to be
experienced, it must be by a policy of honesty all round.
WEIGHTS AND SHORT MEASURES. It is not only securing the
ordinary profits, but gaining by the deficiency palmed off for the perfect
measure. It is a gain by quantity as well as by price. And plenty of people
who look only at the surface imagine that they can easily enrich themselves
by a little dishonesty, which will never be detected. Inspectors of weights
and measures are the embodiment of the suspicions of society.
BLESSING CAN BE ASKED. No better test of the propriety of our
procedure can be found than this. Will it stand the test of prayer?
Can God, the All-Holy One, be expected to bless it? Now, His whole
Word shows that such practices are abominations to Him.
UNEASY CONSCIENCE. Suppose that success waited on dishonesty
invariably and proved lasting, life would be made miserable by the uneasy
conscience. Stifled for a time, it rises like the furies at last, and makes life a
lasting misery. No man ever trifled with conscience and did not suffer
for it. Success becomes in such a case but a whited sepulcher; the experience
within is but the rottenness of the tomb.
FOR DIVINE BLESSING. We say that no man should so far outrage his
conscience as to be dishonest. Honesty is a policy to be pursued for its own
sake, as the only condition of personal peace. Were there no Divine
blessing in question at all, conscientious men would be as honest as they
are now. At the same time, it makes the honesty all the happier that it lies
in the sunshine of the Infinite Presence, and that his radiant smile is
on it. There is no danger of a mercenary spirit entering into such a relation
with God. He so wraps us round that in His circle of love it would be most
ungrateful and most dissonant to practice dishonesty. With people under a
theocracy, or reign of God, we should expect to find just weights and full
measures. The visits of the inspectors should prove superfluous with all
those whose life lies open as the day to the inspection of their KING!
Whilst in their intercourse with each other the law of love and brotherly kindness
was to predominate, it was to be otherwise in regard to the enemies of God and
His people. Them they were to overcome by force; wickedness was to be removed
by the extinction of the wicked. Moses has already repeatedly reminded the
Israelites that they had utterly to destroy the wicked
closes this discourse by reminding them that there was a nation
which was also doomed, and which they were to root out. This was Amalek, which
had attacked the Israelites in their journey at Rephidim, and had taken advantage
of their exhausted condition to harass their rear and destroy those who, faint and
weary, had lagged behind. For this they had been already punished by the Israelites,
who, led on by Joshua, had turned upon them and discomfited them with the edge
of the sword. This, however, was not enough; Amalek was to be utterly destroyed,
and this the Israelites were to effect as soon as the Lord had given them rest in the
Promised Land. It was not, however, till the time of David that this was done.
17 “Remember what Amalek did unto thee by the way, when ye were come
forth out of
of thee,” - literally, and tailed thee; i.e. cut off thy tail, or rear. The verb (bNezi)
occurs only here and in Joshua 10:19. It is a denominative from bn;z;, a tail, and,
like many denominatives, both in the Hebrew and in other languages, it has the sense
of taking away or cutting off the thing expressed by the noun from which it
is formed, like the English verb to skin, for example - “even all that were feeble
behind thee, when thou wast faint and weary; and he feared not God.
19 Therefore it shall be, when the LORD thy God hath given thee rest
from all thine enemies round about, in the land which the LORD
thy God giveth thee for an inheritance to possess it, that thou shalt
blot out the remembrance of Amalek from under heaven; thou
shalt not forget it.”
Kindness to Enemies is not to Degenerate into Sympathy with
or Indifference to Ungodliness (vs. 17-19)
God is kind. God is terrible. When he riseth up against sin to punish it
openly, who — who can stand? The repeated injunctions in this book, of
kindness to enemies, the prohibitions against private revenge, etc., should
effectually guard any against attributing to Moses any incitement of the people
to revengeful retaliation. He utters a prophecy, as a prophet. In Exodus 17:16,
the Septuagint read, ἐν χειρὶ κρυφαίᾳ - en cheiri kruphaia – “by an unseen hand
the Lord will war against Amalek.” In Numbers 24:20, Balaam foretells Amalek’s
doom. In 1 Samuel 15., the execution of judgment on Amalek is recorded; and
thus is the meaning of our present paragraph explained.
providence. “Their feet shall slide in due time.” (ch. 32:35)
that God will ultimately avenge His people’s wrongs may fill us with
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