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 25:1 If there is a controversy between men, and they come to judgment and the judges judge them, then they must justify the righteous and condemn the wicked-
This coming to judgment suggests the two men walk together to the place of judgment. This was clearly in the Lord's mind when He spoke of such a scenario, and urged that instead of allowing the case to come to the judges, by all means the spiritual person will make peace with his brother. The implication is that we should not assume that because we are innocent, therefore we will find justice. Rather should we seek to make peace with our brother, even if we think we are in the right.

Deu 25:2 If the wicked man is worthy to be beaten, the judge shall cause him to lie down and be beaten in his presence according to his wickedness, by number-
"His presence" may refer to "the righteous" who took "the wicked" to court. Or it may refer to the judge. Even if someone is so seriously astray that they require discipline, remember that the judges of Israel had to have the person they judged worthy of stripes lay down before their presence [or that of the injured party] and be beaten in their presence. The principle being taught was that we should be fully aware of the pain and implications of the judgment we inflict upon others. Those who practice exclusion of others through closed communion need to see the tears they are causing, the ruptured marriages, the little children left without a daddy or mummy, the cancer, the stress, the tears every night for life... and unflinchingly look at all that and give a string of Bible verses which says that this is how believers in Christ should treat other believers in Christ.

Deu 25:3 Forty stripes he may give him. He must not exceed this number. If he should beat him with many more than forty stripes, then your brother may seem vile to you-
There’s a tendency in us to be harsh in punishing others for their sin. This is psychologically explainable by our conscience for our own sins, and subconsciously realizing we deserve punishment; we then eagerly transfer this guilt and need for punishment onto others. Instead we are to confess our sins and believe that the final judgment for our sin was in Christ upon the cross; and if we believe this to the point of really feeling it, we will never punish anyone more than required, indeed we will be gracious to them as God has been to us.        

We should never be abusive, in any form, to or about anyone, even if it is sure that they will never know or feel our abuse. The Law also taught that a man must not be over punished, or else, if you did this, you considered him “light” (Dt. 25:3 Heb.). The weight of persons, the immense meaning attached to them, is not accepted by us if our judgment of them is too harsh or severe. Even a criminal was not to be overly punished, "lest your brother be degraded in your sight" (Dt. 25:3)- he was still to be treated as a person, and nothing should be done to him which would make the punishers think too lowly of that person.

Deu 25:4 You shall not muzzle the ox when he treads out the grain-
Moses' sensitivity is shown by the introduction in Deuteronomy [the ‘second law’] of expansions upon existing commandments; e.g. "You shall not muzzle the ox when he treads out the corn". This is quoted by Paul as being actually part of the Law (1 Cor. 9:9; 1 Tim. 5:18), showing that Moses was so attune with the mind of God that these practical extensions which his sensitivity led him to command Israel were indeed the inspired commandments of God. 

In 1 Cor. 9:9 Paul likens himself to a lowly ox treading out corn, and being allowed to eat a bit of it. The argument seems to be that this commandment was not given because God cares for oxen, but for the sake of teaching us a principle. But often Paul uses a grammatical device whereby he argues 'Not [so much] A, but B'. Such a device is common in several other languages. God is clearly not insensitive to animals, as so many cases in the Old Testament demonstrate. So surely we are to read this as meaning that this command about not muzzling the ox was not primarily for the sake of the oxen, but even more importantly for the sake of teaching us a lesson. The treading out of corn connects with the metaphor of judgment day in Mt. 3:12, where we read that the "floor", literally 'the treading place' will be winnowed by the Lord Jesus in judgment. The fruit of Paul's labours for Corinth would be tested by the winnowing of what he had trodden out. He saw his work as preparing them for judgment, making them true grain, separating them from the husks. We note the immediate context here in Dt. 15:1-3 is of judgment.

The command is also quoted about providing sustenance for church teachers (1 Tim. 5:18). The word for "muzzle" means literally to render speechless. The idea may be that if an elder was not paid, then they would not have time to prepare their talks for the congregation. The Old Testament contains examples of where the Levites failed to teach the people because the tithes for supporting them were not paid. The stress may be on the word "when" in "when he treads out the corn"; the elder must do this if he is to be fed. The treading out of the corn represents the labour in the word which is required before teaching it to the church congregation (see on 1 Tim. 5:17). The corn represents God's word and the treading out the processing of it. And yet in this figure, the ox [cp. the elder] eats some of the corn he processes. This has been a theme of Paul in advising Timothy- that the very process of spiritually feeding others leads to the spiritual benefit of the feeder (see on 1 Tim. 4:6 Nourished up).

Deu 25:5 If brothers dwell together and one of them dies and has no son, the wife of the dead should not be married outside to a stranger. Her husband’s brother should go in to her and take her to him as wife and perform the duty of a husband’s brother to her-
This tacitly allowed polygamy. Here we have an example where one principle [the one man: one woman ideal of Eden] is in conflict with another [to build up the family name of your childless brother]. God could have arranged ethics in a simpler manner; but He has allowed and in this case encouraged the development of such conflicts in order that we think and reason things through, and make whatever decision we do consciously and from our own desire rather than merely in mindless submission to a commandment.

Deu 25:6 The firstborn whom she bears shall succeed in the name of his brother who is dead, so that his name is not blotted out of Israel-
Not only does all this show a concession to human weakness and human inability to live up to the Biblical ideal of marriage; but it should be observed that seeing that most adult men in such societies were married, obeying this command probably involved polygamy. One principle was broken in order to keep another, more important one (in this case "that his name be not put out of Israel").

Deu 25:7 If the man doesn’t want to take his brother’s wife, then she shall go up to the gate to the elders and say, My husband’s brother refuses to raise up to his brother a name in Israel; he will not perform the duty of a husband’s brother to me-
Naomi apparently had only produced two sickly sons who survived to adulthood, and they had both prematurely died; and she felt herself to be barren. There was no legal requirement for a widow to marry the younger brother of a deceased husband, but it could be argued that any future children of Naomi had a duty to marry their late brother's wife and have children by her in his name. But that would be a very strict reading of the Mosaic legislation in this case, if not simply a wrong interpretation of the Levirate law. For the simple intention of the Levirate law was that if a man died, his brother was to marry his widow and have children by her. And it only applied to "brothers dwelling together". But Naomi has clearly thought it through; for all her apparent weakness and even apostacy as noted so far, she was aware of God's laws. Despite having nobody to teach her there in Moab and no written scripture with her [she was surely illiterate anyway], she remembered the Mosaic law and thought through its implications. However her very strict interpretation of them in this case may suggest she is seeking every reason to discourage the young women to follow her back to Israel. And this makes Ruth's decision the more commendable. But they were to be surprised by the grace of Boaz. For he had no obligation to marry Ruth, neither did the anonymous kinsman. Boaz understood this law as a springboard into a culture of far more extensive grace, rather than a chain which limits human behaviour, to be tolerated and obeyed with reluctance.  See on Dt. 23:25.    


Deu 25:8 Then the elders of his city shall call him and speak to him, and if he stands and says, I don’t want to take her-
This was nearly always from economic reasons. Most men were married and had children already, and to take another wife and have more children would have been crippling for many. The children would have to have an inheritance in their own names (:6), but that inheritance would have to come from this man who married the widow. So his own inheritance would be reduced, and also that of his existing children. This is why the anonymous relative of Ruth 4:6 didn't want to spoil his own inheritance. And yet he remains anonymous- his name was the name cut off from Israel, whereas the name of Boaz continued, and he became an ancestor of the Lord Jesus.

Land at that time was organized according to strips of land within a field, rather than owning a field. Even wealthy Boaz only owned part of the field (Ruth 2:3). Strip farming was very inefficient; upon death, land was split up between the children, and then when they died, the land was split up even further. The anonymous man didn’t want to have any more children because it would mean that what he was leaving as an inheritance would be even more reduced and divided. But because of that, he remains anonymous. He was concerned about what would happen over the next generation or so. By contrast, Boaz wasn’t worried about splitting up yet further the inheritance which he was leaving- and because of that, he left an inheritance which was recorded and stretched right down to the Lord Jesus.

It seems to me that the nameless relative in Ruth 4 was like so many people today. He was interested in getting a bit more land to add to his stack; but he didn't really care for the redemption of his brother, and pulled out of the whole thing once he learnt he would have to marry another wife and have more children. He said he couldn't do this because he would spoil [AV] or endanger [NIV] his inheritance. We know that at this time, strip farming was being practiced- whereby a field was split up into parts, each of which belonged to a different person (Ruth 2:3). By having more children, the man would have to split up his land into yet more parts so that each son had his strips. And the son he had by Ruth would be counted as Mahlon's son, in the spirit of the levirate marriage laws. And so his bit of land would then be separate from the land strips the man was intending to give to his existing children. Ultimately this could lead to the man's total inheritance becoming almost worthless if it was just split into tiny strips because he had too many children.

I like how the NIV has the man speaking of 'endangering' his inheritance. He was like so many people- he had say a 20 year horizon, genuinely concerned about what was best for his children in the short term, rather than thinking about his responsibility to his brother. He saw 'danger' in doing that. It could be argued that the 50 year Jubilee law meant that the land boundaries returned to how they originally were after 50 years... so perhaps [although it's hard to work out how the Jubilee law worked in practice] he was worrying about something which only had meaning for the next few decades [if that]. He wasn't a bad man; just one who was fearful and wouldn't look beyond the next 20 years or so. And I suggest the genealogy at the end of Ruth 4 comments upon this- that man is anonymous, his name never went down in history, whereas Boaz who loved his brother and didn't focus solely on his own immediate family went on to be the ancestor of both David and the Lord Jesus Himself.


Deu 25:9 then his brother’s wife shall come to him in the presence of the elders and loose his shoe from off his foot, spit in his face, and say, So shall it be done to the man who does not build up his brother’s house-
Such selfish thinking (see on :8) was worthy of the maximum level of contempt. God's whole work for us His people is about building up a house for His Name (s.w. 2 Sam. 7:5). Building up others in faith, that might be a part of that house, is to be a focus which eclipses all temporary material advantage. It means we allow career and personal materialism to be subsumed beneath our passion to build up our brethren. This is where these ancient principles have constant contemporary relevance in the multitude of life decisions we face.

"As one occupied land by treading on it, the shoe became the symbol of taking possession (Ps. 60:8; 108:9); when a man renounced property to another, he drew off and gave him his shoe. So among the ancient Germans the taking off of the shoe was a symbol for giving up property and heritable rights, and with the delivery of the shoe or the throwing of it away goods were conveyed to another". In this case the man was effectively losing a potential inheritance.

Deu 25:10 His name shall be called in Israel’, The house of him who had his shoe untied’-
The person in view preferred temporal advantage materially rather than worrying about his long term name in Israel. This is true of so many today, and the anonymous relative of Ruth's remained anonymous in the historical record, whereas Boaz's name will be eternally remembered as an ancestor of the Lord Jesus.

Deu 25:11 When men strive together one with another-
This appears to connect with the situation in :5, where brothers lived together in peace. It seems these various laws are legal rulings given by Divine inspiration to Moses, from actual cases which arose during the wilderness journeyings. However, the striving together may e a reference to a legal struggle. See on :12.

And the wife of the one draws near to deliver her husband out of the hand of him who strikes him, and puts forth her hand and takes him by the private parts-
The principle from this is that each person has a weakness, an exposed point in their lives or character, which we are aware of. We are not to use that to unfair advantage- because if we were touched in that way, we likewise could not endure. And God saves His weak people and has historically been angry with those who do such things (:18).

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 25:12 then you shall cut off her hand, your eye shall have no pity-
The striving together of :11 could refer to a legal struggle, which resulted in a striking or beating. The woman's attempt to stop this was therefore effectively her argument with God and His decreed justice; hence the punishment. There is also the teaching here that we should never exploit the obvious weakness of another; and a reminder that all men are very vulnerable and have weak points. See on :18.

Deu 25:13 You must not have in your bag different weights, a great and a small-
Deceitful traders still use balancing weights (Heb. "stones") of different weights, the lighter to sell with, the heavier to buy with. But the reference to the bag suggests that this command strikes at the forethought before the action. Don't go to market having prepared such weights in your bag. Any human legal code would focus just upon the act of using deceitful weights, whereas God foresees the planning and thought process behind the act of sin.

Deu 25:14 You must not have in your house different measures, a great and a small-
To avoid temptation it’s best to not even possess things which we may be tempted to misuse. See on :13. The act of deceiving at the market was analyzed by God as beginning in the home, and it was there and to that thought that the Divine law struck. Even possessing such "different measures" was a temptation to misuse them, and we take the lesson that we are to remove sources of temptation.

Deu 25:15 You shall have a perfect and just weight. You shall have a perfect and just measure, that your days may be long in the land which Yahweh your God gives you-
The repeated promises recorded in Deuteronomy of prolonged days upon the land of Israel would therefore hint at the eternity of the Kingdom rather than this life. Obedience to the law could not give life of itself, but an Israel obedient to the covenant would have been given a Messiah who could have enabled this. And having integrity in apparently minor matters like just weights was one of the issues God looked at, for he who is faithful in the small things is faithful in all. Indeed, Dt. 4:40 says they would prolong their days "for ever". For an individual Israelite might be faithful but not prolong his or her days in the land because the whole people were to be carried away captive for their sins and the land given to a Gentile power. The opposite of 'days being prolonged' was 'utter destruction' (Dt. 4:26)- which would then speak of condemnation in the second death. This is one of many examples of where eternal life was possible under the Old Covenant- there were multiple different possibilities and plans God could have worked by. Israel could have accepted the Lord Jesus as their Messiah and not killed Him, and so forth. It seems the closer we probe God's word, the more open He is revealed as being.

Deu 25:16 For all who do such things, all who do unrighteously, are an abomination to Yahweh your God-
The 'doing' in view is not deceiving customers in the marketplace but the forethought which preceded it- having unjust weights and measures in your bag when you set out to market, or even having them in your home. The Lord Jesus rightly interpreted this teaching as meaning that the thought is counted as the action, the doing. See on :13,14. These forethoughts, planning deceit in order to gain a petty amount of material advantage, were seen by Yahweh as "abomination", the word for idol worship. And such things are our temptation constantly. 

Deu 25:17 Remember what Amalek did to you by the way as you came forth out of Egypt-
In our world, human history is generally felt to be bunk, irrelevant to this generation, of merely passing cultural fascination to the hurrying man of modern society. And in some ways, that may indeed be a legitimate take on secular history. But Biblical history is to be seen quite otherwise by God's people. It is a living word spoken to us, and the salvation acts which are there recorded happened to us. We are to learn from history, not as a merely fascinating exercise. But the Bible is history, and yet it is a living word to us. Israel were supposed to reason back from the actions of Amalek towards them, and therefore not exploit the weakness of others in unjust weights, or by a woman exploiting the male weakness of her husband's enemy (:12).

Deu 25:18 how he met you by the way and struck the hindmost of you, all who were feeble behind you, when you were faint and weary, and he didn’t fear God-
This explained why the woman of :12 was to be punished for taking a man from behind by his sensitive, private parts. We note the analogy makes a man's reproductive organs his "feeble" part, when it was the boast of men in those times.

Deu 25:19 Therefore when Yahweh your God has given you rest from all your enemies all around in the land which Yahweh your God gives you for an inheritance to possess it-
"Drive out" is s.w. "possess". We must note the difference between the  Canaanite peoples and their kings being "struck" and their land "taken" by Joshua-Jesus; and the people of Israel permanently taking possession. This is the difference between the Lord's victory on the cross, and our taking possession of the Kingdom. Even though that possession has been "given" to us. The word used for "possession" is literally 'an inheritance'. The allusion is to the people, like us, being the seed of Abraham. The Kingdom was and is our possession, our inheritance- if we walk in the steps of Abraham. But it is one thing to be the seed of Abraham, another to take possession of the inheritance; and Israel generally did not take possession of all the land (Josh. 11:23 13:1; 16:10; 18:3; 23:4). The language of inheritance / possession is applied to us in the New Testament (Eph. 1:11,14; Col. 3:24; Acts 20:32; 26:18; 1 Pet. 1:4 etc.). Israel were promised: "You shall possess it" (Dt. 30:5; 33:23). This was more of a command than a prophecy, for sadly they were "given" the land but did not "possess" it. They were constantly encouraged in the wilderness that they were on the path to possessing the land (Dt. 30:16,18; 31:3,13; 32:47), but when they got there they didn't possess it fully.

You must blot out the memory of Amalek from under the sky. Do not forget-
Yahweh's Name, by contrast, was to be an eternal memory (Ex. 3:15). He was to be remembered for how He had articulated His Name in how He had historically acted in saving the patriarchs, and He would be remembered for how He was going to act to save His people from Egypt. What was to be memorialized was therefore His actions, rather than simply the letters YHWH. It was His wonderful works which were to be remembered [Ps. 111:4, s.w. "My memorial"]. By contrast, the sinful works and persons of the wicked would not be remembered / memorialized, be they Amalek (s.w. Ex. 17:14; Dt. 25:19), or God's apostate people (s.w. Dt. 32:26).