New European Commentary


About | PDFs | Mobile formats | Word formats | Other languages | Contact Us | What is the Gospel? | Support the work | Carelinks Ministries | | The Real Christ | The Real Devil | "Bible Companion" Daily Bible reading plan

Deeper Commentary


Deu 22:1 You must not see your brother’s ox or his sheep go astray and hide yourself from them; you must surely bring them again to your brother-
This penetrates psychologically to the very core of our inaction and frequent sins of omission- we hide the need we encounter from ourselves. We pretend we have not seen. Prov. 28:27 uses the same word: "He that gives to the poor shall not lack: but he that hides his eyes shall have many a curse" (as in Is. 58:7- "Deal your bread to the hungry.... hide not your eyes"). This theme of sins of omission is continued throughout the chapter in :8 and in connection with the woman who did not cry out when raped, for fear of social consequence, being punished with the same punishment as the rapist.

Deu 22:2 If your brother isn’t near to you, or if you don’t know him, then you shall bring it home to your house and it shall be with you until your brother seeks after it, and you shall restore it to him-
One theme of Deuteronomy is the way in which Moses visualizes commonplace daily incidents which he could foresee occurring in Israel's daily life: here, coming across a stray animal on the way home from work; the man cutting down the tree and the axe head flying off and hitting someone; finding a dead body in a lonely field; a man with two wives treating one as his favourite; seeing your neighbour struggling to lift up his sick animal; coming across a bird's nest and being tempted to take the mature bird as well as the chicks home for supper; being tempted not to bother building a battlement around the flat roof of your  new house; the temptation to take a bag with you and fill it up with your neighbour's grapes; the need to have weapons which could be used for covering excrement (Dt. 19:5; 21:1,15; 22:1,2,4,6,8; 23:13,24,25; 24:5,6,10,15,19; 25:11,13). The sensitivity of Moses was just fantastic! His eager imagination of his people in daily life, his understanding of their everyday temptations, so superbly typifies that of Jesus. 

Deu 22:3 So you must do with his donkey and with his garment and with every lost thing of your brother’s, which he has lost and you have found; you must not keep it to yourself-
LXX "thou shalt not have power to overlook", as in :4 "hide yourself from them". The idea is that they were not to pretend they didn't notice that the lost item actually belonged to someone else. Time and again, the Mosaic law addresses issues of the heart. Here, self deception is specifically targetted. No other legal code pays so much attention to the heart; for Yahweh alone can judge human hearts and attitudes.

Deu 22:4 You must not see your brother’s donkey or his ox fallen down by the way and hide yourself from them; you shall surely help him to lift them up again-
"Hide yourself" as in :3 addresses directly the self deception of the human heart, pretending that we've not seen nor understood a situation. The Bible gives us helpful insight into human psychology and assists us in the practical business of being spiritually minded- for this is of critical importance to God. We see a situation that requires us to act in the way of love, and yet the 'devil' of our own mind tempts us to think that we didn't in fact understand correctly. Spirituality is about who we are when nobody's watching, and the situation here envisages encountering a situation which only we know about.

Deu 22:5 A woman must not wear men’s clothing neither should a man put on women’s clothing, for whoever does these things is an abomination to Yahweh your God-
The reference is to some form of sexual perversion. Perhaps this section is not simply random commandments thrown together. Maybe the theme which connects the commandments here is self deception [discussed on :3,4], persuading ourselves of another narrative which is untrue; for that is the root of much sexual perversion.

Deu 22:6 If a bird’s nest happens to be before you in the way, in any tree or on the ground, with young ones or eggs and the hen sitting on the young or on the eggs, you must not take the hen with the young-
As in :4, this envisages a situation encountered privately. The law of Moses legislates so often about cases which were intensely private, where there would be no witnesses. This is because this unique legal code is a contract between God [who is witness to all things] and His people. Who we are when nobody else is watching is the essence of true spirituality.

A theme of Deuteronomy is the way in which Moses visualizes commonplace daily incidents which he could foresee occurring in Israel's daily life: the man cutting down the tree and the axe head flying off and hitting someone; finding a dead body in a lonely field; coming across a stray animal on the way home from work; a man with two wives treating one as his favourite; seeing your neighbour struggling to lift up his sick animal; coming across a bird's nest and being tempted to take the mature bird as well as the chicks home for supper; being tempted not to bother building a battlement around the flat roof of your  new house; the temptation to take a bag with you and fill it up with your neighbour's grapes; the need to have weapons which could be used for covering excrement (Dt. 19:5; 21:1,15; 22:1,2,4,6,8; 23:13,24,25; 24:5,6,10,15,19; 25:11,13). The sensitivity of Moses was just fantastic! His eager imagination of His people in daily life, his understanding of their everyday temptations so superbly typifies that of our Lord! 

Deu 22:7 You must surely let the hen go, but the young you may take to yourself, that it may be well with you and that you may prolong your days-
The bird could only be taken if it was devoted to its young and was willing to die with them, rather than flying away. Such loyalty was to be noticed and respected. This is how to 'do life' in a spiritual way- perceive the good even in the natural creation and learn from it.

Things 'going well / good' with Israel is the language of the Kingdom of God in Dt. 8:16 "to do you good / well at your latter end". It is associated with days being prolonged (Dt. 22:7) and the fulfilment of the promises to Abraham (Dt. 30:5), and Israel and the children somehow existing "forever" (Dt. 12:28). So I deduce in the wish "that it may go well with you" a hint towards the eternal establishment of God's Kingdom based around Israel, what Paul terms "the hope of Israel".

Deu 22:8 When you build a new house you must make a battlement for your roof, so that you don’t bring blood on your house if anyone falls from there-
There is a big principle here. We are responsible for the fall of others, to death or spiritually, if we do not take adequate care for them. That is a principle which alone can drive our entire life's work.

Deu 22:9 You shall not sow your vineyard with two kinds of seed, lest the whole fruit be forfeited, the seed which you have sown, and the increase of the vineyard-
"Forfeited" is AV "defiled". The idea of the Hebrew is sanctification. The whole fruit was to dedicated in this case- maybe to destruction, maybe to the priests. The commandments about not inappropriately mixing things are sandwiched between commandments about avoiding sexual perversion and inappropriate bonding, such as adultery, sex with a father's wife (:30), and the perversion of :5, which is also about inappropriate mixture of sexual behaviours. The idea of these commands about not mixing seed and animals may be as it were a fence around these laws. The fear was that this was going to be a subliminal temptation towards sin. Rather like the command not to plant trees near an altar of Yahweh, lest this lead to the subliminal temptation to worship the trees like an Asherah grove. 

Deu 22:10 You shall not plough with an ox and a donkey together-
This is the basis for the command not to be unequally yoked together with unbelievers (2 Cot. 6:14). As discussed on :9, there was nothing intrinsically sinful with such ploughing, although it would likely have been painful and frustrating for both parties. But it was a warning against inappropriate bonding. The donkey was an unclean animal, and the ox was clean. Clearly the lesson to be learned was that clean and unclean were not to be mixed, under the excuse of needing to work together in order to get a job done. 

Deu 22:11 You shall not wear mixed stuff, wool and linen together-
Again, as discussed on :9,10, there is nothing intrinsically sinful about this. Rather the idea was that in daily life, there was to be the lesson of separation and avoidance of inappropriate bonding. Just as the ox and donkey of :10 were clean and unclean which should not be mixed, it could be argued that "linen" came from Egypt (1 Kings 10:28; Prov. 7:16; Ez. 27:7), whilst wool was the classic produce of Israel. "Mixed stuff" translates a word which appears to be of Egyptian origin.

Deu 22:12 You shall make yourselves fringes on the four borders of your garment with which you cover yourself-
Each Israelite was to emulate the High Priest, who had such clothing. Daily reminders of spirituality are vital in the daily round of life; these fringes or tassles were to remind them to be obedient (Num. 15:37-41). It is therefore significant that the sick woman of Mt. 9:20 took hold of the fringes of the Lord's garment, perhaps showing some appreciation of the fact that He alone was totally obedient.

Deu 22:13 If any man takes a wife and goes in to her and hates her-
The clear implication is that sex was to follow marriage and not to happen beforehand (also :14). The hatred he feels is either because he doesn't find her a virgin (:14), or because having broken through the taboo and psychological barrier of intercourse, his previous love for her turns to hatred, as in 2 Sam. 13:15, where intercourse made "love" turn to hatred, and he then wanted to slander her as an immoral woman in order to annul the marriage. This is a commonly experienced situation. And the Mosaic law addresses it. LXX "and dwell with her, and hate her" seems to begin this legislation with the hint that the man is likely the guilty one, getting angry with his wife after the honeymoon period is over, as is often observed in marriages. This taking the woman's side is never seen in other legislation of the time.

Deu 22:14 and accuses her of shameful things and brings up an evil name on her and says, I took this woman and when I came near to her I didn’t find in her the tokens of virginity-
The argument is weak, because if the token of virginity was a cloth (:17), then he would have been given this when they married. For him to sleep with her without seeing it, and then later demand it, would be strange. And no cloth is absolute guarantee of virginity. However the idea may be that the breaking of the hymen was supposed to cause bleeding which then stained the bed sheet, and the husband then gave this stained sheet to the parents (:15). If this didn't happen, the man assumed his wife was not a virgin. The bed sheet was unstained. But there was no evidence that was the sheet they had slept together on. And not every woman bleeds when she first has intercourse; and there is the possibility of menstrual bleeding too. The hymen is a fragile tissue with limited blood supply to it, and it can break for many reasons. In any case, it would surely be unreasonable to assume that a broken hymen meant a woman was a whore (:21). I conclude therefore that there must be implied in :20 a far wider examination of the situation, before the woman was declared a whore. Perhaps we are intended to discern that the "cloth" argument is suspect, and therefore the man is likely lying and seeking an excuse to end the marriage because he failed to truly love the woman; see on :13.

Deu 22:15 then shall the father of the young woman and her mother take and bring forth the tokens of the young woman’s virginity to the elders of the city in the gate-
GNB "the young woman's parents are to take the blood-stained wedding sheet that proves she was a virgin". This suggests it was the custom to give the sheet to the parents of the girl. But I have discussed on :13 that not every woman bleeds the first time she has sex. It's possible that the whole legislation is being given, in order to suggest the conclusion: "This is all so hard to prove, the way ahead is only love and forgiveness".

Deu 22:16 The young woman’s father shall tell the elders, I gave my daughter to this man to wife and he hates her-
An accusation that the woman was a whore was a slander of her father and her family. And so often this happens- an individual dislikes another, and the slander raised against them makes social life impossible for the family. All because of the dysfunction of one individual against another.

Deu 22:17 and behold, he has accused her of shameful things saying, ‘I didn’t find in your daughter the tokens of virginity’, and yet these are the tokens of my daughter’s virginity. They shall spread the cloth before the elders of the city-
I have discussed on :13 that the idea of a literal bed sheet from their first night sleeping together was hardly evidence of virginity. And it was hardly upon that basis that she could be judged to have been a whore (:21). I am not generally in favour of metaphorical or symbolic interpretations, but the Jewish rabbis are understandably insistent that to spread a cloth before people as evidence is an idiom for declaring the full facts of a case. Whilst a literal bed sheet may have been used, it was symbolic of far more. And that seems to me the only explanation that makes sense here. See on :20.

Deu 22:18 The elders of that city must take the man and chastise him-
Chastise can mean to literally beat, or to sternly reprove with words.

Deu 22:19 and they shall fine him one hundred shekels of silver and give them to the father of the young woman-
Dowry was apparently considered to be 50 shekels (:29), so the man was being treated as a thief, who must restore twice the value he had stolen (Ex. 22:8). He had sought to 'steal back' the dowry by claiming the woman was not a virgin. 


Because he has brought up an evil name on a virgin of Israel, and she shall be his wife; he may not divorce her all his days-
This reflects the seriousness with which God views slander. It was to be paid to the father- for slander hurts not only the victim but also their family. Prov. 17:4 has a piercing analysis of gossip: "A wicked doer gives heed to wicked lips, and a liar gives ear to a lying tongue". It's the wicked who listen to gossip. It's liars who pay attention to lies. By listening to gossip, we show what sort of a person we are. Those with an interest in lies or gossip end up lying and gossiping themselves. Both gossiping and listening to it are both therefore part of a serious downward spiral of behaviour; and they are related to each other. This is how serious this matter is. The seriousness of it was reflected in how the Law of Moses stipulated a huge penalty if a man sullied the name of his wife by falsely accusing her- he had to pay 100 shekels of silver, twice the bride price (Dt. 22:19,29). This was a heavy fine, double that for raping a virgin (:29).

The ruling that he could never divorce her reveals how the Law of Moses operated on different levels. Divorce was only permitted for unfaithfulness, which was punishable by death. But this command suggests that divorce was permitted in practice for lesser issues.

Divorce was clearly possible under the Mosaic system. If a man's wife committed adultery he could have her killed; or he could put her through the trial of jealousy of Num. 5, with the result that she would become barren; or he could divorce her (Dt. 22:19; 24:1 RV; Lev. 21:14; 22:13). Within a Law that was holy, just and good (Rom. 7:12), unsurpassed in it's righteousness (Dt. 4:8; and let us not overlook these estimations), there were these different levels of response possible. But there was a higher level: he could simply forgive her. This was what God did with His fickle Israel, time and again (Hos. 3:1-3). And so the Israelite faced with an unfaithful wife could respond on at least four levels. This view would explain how divorce seems outlawed in passages like Dt. 22:19,29, and yet there are other parts of the OT which seem to imply that it was permitted. It should be noted that there were some concessions to weakness under the Law which the Lord was not so willing to make to His followers (e.g., outside the marriage context, Dt. 20:5-8 cp. Lk. 9:59-62; 14:18,19). He ever held before us the Biblical ideal of marriage. It was as if God gave these laws, intending purposefully that the way of grace was to be beyond them. 

Deu 22:20 But if this thing is true, that the tokens of virginity were not found in the young woman-
I have argued on :14 that the evidence of the "cloth" alone is suspect. The presence or absence of blood on the bed sheet the couple first slept on was no evidence that the woman was a whore (:21) and worthy of death. Therefore I think much hinges upon these words "If this thing be true". It must imply that a major investigation was made, as to why she appeared not to be a virgin when she married her husband. The punishment of a whore in :21 was only to be given if this had been established beyond doubt, far beyond the bed sheet evidence.

Deu 22:21 then they shall bring out the young woman to the door of her father’s house and the men of her city must stone her to death with stones, because she has done folly in Israel, to play the prostitute in her father’s house. So you shall put away the evil from the midst of you-
The use of stoning (Dt. 13:10; 17:5; 21:21; 22:21,24) was to show their connection with the death of the apostate. It was to also make them realize that any attempt to deny the saving work of God in bringing them out of Egypt, or attempt to reverse it by returning them to bondage, was worthy of death (Dt. 13:10). To act as a prostitute was to lead others into sin. We note that false teaching, enticing others to sin, is seen as the most serious kind of sin. The New Testament teaching about church discipline takes a similar approach; moral weakness of individuals was tolerated, although criticized; but those teaching such behaviour were condemned. Stoning resulted in the covering of the body with the dust of the earth, as if recognizing that the death being brought about was also to be the fate of all under the curse in Eden.  

LXX "turning her father’s house into a harlot’s" suggests that the "shameful things" she stood accused of (:17) were more than having slept with another village boy years previously. The accusation was that she was in fact a prostitute, hence the severe judgment, and the explanation on :17,20 that there was a major investigation made of the woman, far beyond the dubious evidence of a bed sheet with blood on it.

Deu 22:22 If a man is found lying with a woman married to a husband, then they must both of them die, the man who lay with the woman and the woman. So you shall put away the evil from Israel-
There are various ways prescribed for dealing with adultery under the Law of Moses. This was one of them. The trial of jealousy (Num. 5) was another. Or the adulterous woman could be divorced. But the higher option, as practiced by Yahweh through Hosea, was to forgive and "play on". "They must... you shall..." were therefore all phrases open to interpretation. The very existence of different levels of response to God's principles of itself inspires us to reach up to the highest levels. For who can be a minimalist before the grace and love of God. Or we could argue that the stress is upon if the couple were "found lying" together, and therefore the public nature of the discovery required a stronger response. But the Lord dealt with such a case, and taught that although this command was true, the problem is that none are without sin, and therefore no man should in honest conscience seek to obey this commandment. His view of morality and ethics was far above mere literalistic, legalistic obedience to commandments. He seems to reason as if this commandment was inserted into the law to elicit in honest men an awareness that they could not in good conscience obey it.

Deu 22:23 If there is a young woman who is a virgin pledged to be married to a husband, and a man finds her in the city and lies with her-
As an example of unconscious allusion, consider Lk. 1:27: “A virgin betrothed to a man”. This is right out of Dt. 22:23 LXX “If there be a virgin betrothed to a man…”. The context is quite different, but the wording is the same. And in many other cases, Luke picks up phraseology from the LXX apparently without attention to the context. He saw the whole of the OT as having its fulfilment in the story of Jesus.

Deu 22:24 then you shall bring them both out to the gate of that city and you must stone them to death with stones; the woman, because she didn’t cry, being in the city, and the man, because he has humbled his neighbour’s wife-
Rape is rarely a case of a man picking upon a random female victim. Usually there is an element of manipulation in forms other than physical forcing. But the woman in the case was to be condemned because she all the same didn't cry out and thus avoid penetration. She valued her image in society more than her marriage.

So you shall put away the evil from among you-
“The evil one” in the Old Testament was always “the evil man in Israel” (Dt. 17:12; 19:19; 22:21–24 cp. 1 Cor. 5:13) – never a superhuman being, not any personal, superhuman Satan.

Deu 22:25 But if the man finds the woman who is pledged to be married in the field, and the man forces her and lies with her, then the man only who lay with her must die-
This gives the woman the benefit of the doubt, assuming she would have cried out, unlike the woman of :24. This giving the benefit of the doubt is to be part of our generally positive outlook upon people and the cases we encounter in life.

Deu 22:26 but to the woman you shall do nothing; there is in the woman no sin worthy of death. For as when a man rises against his neighbour and kills him, even so is this matter-
The phrase "found her in the field" in :27 leads us to assume that the similarity is being drawn with a murdered body being found in a field. There was no evidence she hadn't called out, so she was not to be condemned without evidence.

Deu 22:27 for when he found her in the field, the betrothed woman cried and there was none to save her-
The assumption is that she cried. There was no investigation as to whether she had cried out or not. The law here is very protective to women and assuming their innocence, in stark contrast to the legal codes of the surrounding nations.

Deu 22:28 If a man finds a woman who is a virgin, who is not betrothed, and lays hold on her and lies with her and they are found-
There is no mention of her crying out, so we can assume that this may not refer to rape but rather a boyfriend / girlfriend situation where they were "found" or discovered, possibly through her falling pregnant. This is why the judgment was that they must marry (:29), which would be inappropriate if the man in view was a random rapist. The equivalent in Ex. 22:16 is "If a man entices a virgin who isn’t pledged to be married". The fault in this case is placed more with the man. The law here is again very protective to women and assuming their innocence, in stark contrast to the legal codes of the surrounding nations.

Deu 22:29 then the man who lay with her must give to the woman’s father fifty shekels of silver and she shall be his wife, because he has humbled her; he may not put her away all his days-
Divorce was allowed for adultery, so the implication is that if she committed adultery, then divorce was not to be an option. It was as if having wronged her, the man was to exercise maximum forgiveness to her if she were to wrong him. The tendency for the woman to 'hit back' at her husband in later life is here well understood by God, and leniency would have to be shown to her by the husband.

Deu 22:30 A man must not take his father’s wife, and shall not uncover his father’s skirt-
These laws teach that nakedness should only be uncovered before your wife or husband. Uncovering nakedness is an idiom for the sexual act. The allusion is to Adam and Eve having their nakedness uncovered; we have to accept the situation we are in as a result of the curse, rather than having sexual relations with who we like, as if uncovering nakedness is nothing shameful. Our hope is for the curse put on us in Eden to be lifted at Christ’s return; we can’t lift it in this life, as our own ever insistent mortality reminds us.