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Going deeper and deeper into the manifold relations of the national life, Moses first of all explains in Deuteronomy 22:1-12 the attitude of an Israelite, on the one hand, towards a neighbour; and, on the other hand, towards the natural classification and arrangement of things, and shows how love should rule in the midst of all these relations. The different relations brought under consideration are selected rather by way of examples, and therefore follow one another without any link of connection, for the purpose of exhibiting the truth in certain concrete cases, and showing how the covenant people were to hold all the arrangement of God sacred, whether in nature or in social life.
In Deuteronomy 22:1-4 Moses shows, by a still further expansion of Exodus 23:4-5, how the property of a neighbour was to be regarded and preserved. If any man saw an ox or a sheep of his brother's (fellow-countryman) going astray, he was not to draw back from it, but to bring it back to his brother; and if the owner lived at a distance, or was unknown, he was to take it into his own house or farm, till he came to seek it. He was also to do the same with an ass or any other property that another had lost.
A fallen animal belonging to another he was also to help up (as in Exodus 23:5: except that in this case, instead of a brother generally, an enemy or hater is mentioned).
As the property of a neighbour was to be sacred in the estimation of an Israelite, so also the divine distinction of the sexes, which was kept sacred in civil life by the clothing peculiar to each sex, was to be not less but even more sacredly observed. “ There shall not be man's things upon a woman, and a man shall not put on a woman's clothes.” כּלי does not signify clothing merely, nor arms only, but includes every kind of domestic and other utensils (as in Exodus 22:6; Leviticus 11:32; Leviticus 13:49). The immediate design of this prohibition was not to prevent licentiousness, or to oppose idolatrous practices (the proofs which Spencer has adduced of the existence of such usages among heathen nations are very far-fetched); but to maintain the sanctity of that distinction of the sexes which was established by the creation of man and woman, and in relation to which Israel was not to sin. Every violation or wiping out of this distinction - such even, for example, as the emancipation of a woman - was unnatural, and therefore an abomination in the sight of God.
The affectionate relation of parents to their young, which God had established even in the animal world, was also to be kept just as sacred. If any one found a bird's nest by the road upon a tree, or upon the ground, with young ones or eggs, and the mother sitting upon them, he was not to take the mother with the young ones, but to let the mother fly, and only take the young. נקרא for נקרה , as in Exodus 5:3. The command is related to the one in Leviticus 22:28 and Exodus 23:19, and is placed upon a par with the commandment relating to parents, by the fact that obedience is urged upon the people by the same promise in both instances (vid., Deuteronomy 5:16; Exodus 20:12).
Still less were they to expose human life to danger through carelessness. “ If thou build a new house, make a rim ( maakeh ) - i.e., a balustrade - to thy roof, that thou bring not blood-guiltiness upon thy house, if any one fall from it.” The roofs of the Israelitish houses were flat, as they mostly are in the East, so that the inhabitants often lived upon them (Joshua 2:6; 2 Samuel 11:2; Matthew 10:27). - In Deuteronomy 22:9-11, there follow several prohibitions against mixing together the things which are separated in God's creation, consisting partly of a verbal repetition of Leviticus 19:19 (see the explanation of this passage). - To this there is appended in Deuteronomy 22:12 the law concerning the tassels upon the hem of the upper garment (Numbers 15:37.), which were to remind the Israelites of their calling, to walk before the Lord in faithful fulfilment of the commandments of God (see the commentary upon this passage).
Laws of Chastity and Marriage. - Higher and still holier than the order of nature stands the moral order of marriage, upon which the well-being not only of domestic life, but also of the civil commonwealth of nations, depends. Marriage must be founded upon fidelity and chastity on the part of those who are married. To foster this, and secure it against outbreaks of malice and evil lust, was the design and object of the laws which follow. The first (Deuteronomy 22:13-21) relates to the chastity of a woman on entering into the married state, which might be called in question by her husband, either from malice or with justice. The former case is that which Moses treats of first of all. If a man took a wife, and came to her, and hated her, i.e., turned against her after gratifying his carnal desires (like Amnon, for example, 2 Samuel 13:15), and in order to get rid of her again, attributed “deeds or things of words” to her, i.e., things which give occasion for words or talk, and so brought an evil name upon her, saying, that on coming to her he did not find virginity in her. בּתוּלים , virginity, here the signs of it, viz., according to Deuteronomy 22:17, the marks of a first intercourse upon the bed-clothes or dress.
In such a case the parents of the young woman ( הנּער for הנּערה , as in Genesis 24:14, Genesis 24:28, according to the earliest usage of the books of Moses, a virgin, then also a young woman, e.g., Ruth 2:6; Ruth 4:12) were to bring the matter before the elders of the town into the gate (the judicial forum; see Deuteronomy 21:19), and establish the chastity and innocence of their daughter by spreading the bed-clothes before them. It was not necessary to this end that the parents should have taken possession of the spotted bed-clothes directly after the marriage night, as in customarily done by the Bedouins and the lower classes of the Moslem in Egypt and Syria (cf. Niebuhr, Beschr. v. Arab. pp. 35ff.; Arvieux, merkw. Nachr. iii. p. 258; Burckhardt, Beduinen, p. 214, etc.). It was sufficient that the cloth should be kept, in case such a proof might be required.
The elders, as the magistrates of the place, were then to send for the man who had so calumniated his young wife, and to chastise him ( יסּר , as in Deuteronomy 21:18, used to denote bodily chastisement, thought the limitation of the number of strokes to forty save one, may have been a later institution of the schools); and in addition to this they were to impose a fine upon him of 100 shekels of silver, which he was to pay to the father of the young wife for his malicious calumniation of an Israelitish maiden, - twice as much as the seducer of a virgin was to pay to her father for the reproach brought upon him by the humiliation of his daughter (Deuteronomy 22:29); and lastly, they were to deprive the man of the right of divorce from his wife.
In the other case, however, if the man's words were true, and the girl had not been found to be a virgin, the elders were to bring her out before the door of her father's house, and the men of the town were to stone her to death, because she had committed a folly in Israel (cf. Genesis 34:7), to commit fornication in her father's house. The punishment of death was to be inflicted upon her, not so much because she had committed fornication, as because notwithstanding this she had allowed a man to marry her as a spotless virgin, and possibly even after her betrothal had gone with another man (cf. Deuteronomy 22:23, Deuteronomy 22:24). There is no ground for thinking of unnatural wantonness, as Knobel does.
If any one lay with a married woman, they were both of them to be put to death as adulterers (cf. Leviticus 20:10).
In connection with the seduction of a virgin ( נער , puella, a marriageable girl; בּתוּלה , virgo immaculata , a virgin), two, or really three, cases are distinguished; viz., (1) whether she was betrothed (Deuteronomy 22:23-27), or not betrothed (Deuteronomy 22:28, Deuteronomy 22:29); (2) if she were betrothed, whether it was ( a) in the town (Deuteronomy 22:23, Deuteronomy 22:24) or ( b) in the open field (Deuteronomy 22:25-27) that she had been violated by a man.
If a betrothed virgin had allowed a man to have intercourse with her (i.e., one who was not her bridegroom), they were both of them, the man and the girl, to be led out to the gate of the town, and stoned that they might die: the girl, because she had not cried in the city, i.e., had not called for help, and consequently was to be regarded as consenting to the deed; the man, because he had humbled his neighbour's wife. The betrothed woman was placed in this respect upon a par with a married woman, and in fact is expressly called a wife in Deuteronomy 22:24. Betrothal was the first step towards marriage, even if it was not a solemn act attested by witnesses. Written agreements of marriage were not introduced till a later period (Tobit 7:14; Tr. Ketuboth i. 2).
If, on the other hand, a man met a betrothed girl in the field, and laid hold of her and lay with her, the man alone was to die, and nothing was to be done to the girl. “ There is in the damsel no death-sin (i.e., no sin to be punished with death); but as when a man riseth against his neighbour and slayeth him, even so is this matter.” In the open field the girl had called for help, but no one had helped her. It was therefore a forcible rape.
The last case: if a virgin was not betrothed, and a man seized her and lay with her, and they were found, i.e., discovered or convicted of their deed, the man was to pay the father of the girl fifty shekels of silver, for the reproach brought upon him and his house, and to marry the girl whom he had humbled, without ever being able to divorce her. This case is similar to the one mentioned in Exodus 22:15-16. The omission to mention the possibility of the father refusing to give him his daughter for a wife, makes no essential difference. It is assumed as self-evident here, that such a right was possessed by the father.
(or Deuteronomy 23:1) This verse, in which the prohibition of incest is renewed by a repetition of the first provision in the earlier law (Leviticus 18:7-8), is no doubt much better adapted to form the close of the laws of chastity and marriage, than the introduction to the laws which follow concerning the right of citizenship in the congregation of the Lord.
The Keil & Delitzsch Old Testament Commentary is a derivative of a public domain electronic edition.
Keil, Carl Friedrich & Delitzsch, Franz. "Commentary on Deuteronomy 22". Keil & Delitzsch Old Testament Commentary. https://studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 21 / Ordinary 26