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Things found are to be restored: men and women are not to interchange apparel: the punishment of married and single persons found guilty of uncleanness.
Before Christ 1451.
Ver. 1. And hide thyself from them— That is, "pass by them, as if thou didst not see them." The expression is borrowed from people's hiding themselves from those whom they do not choose to meet.
Ver. 4. Thou shalt not see thy brother's ass—fall down by the way, &c.— See Exodus 23:5. A famous example to this purpose is mentioned of Alphonsus, king of Naples, who, travelling upon a road, attended by a great retinue of courtiers, saw an ass with a heavy burden fallen into a deep slough: all who went before the king, passed by without any regard; but when he came to the place, he stopped, went himself to the driver, and lent him assistance to help the ass out of the mire. No one can fail remarking upon this law, how attentive Moses is to recommend the duties of justice, charity, and humanity.
Note; God would herein teach us, 1. To be ready for every friendly office to our neighbour. 2. To be strictly honest and upright, in retaining nothing of his, that came, however secretly, into our possession. 3. If such care is enjoined towards a lost sheep, how much more should it be shewn towards a lost soul!
Ver. 5. The woman shall not wear that which pertaineth unto a man, &c.— A woman shall not wear man's clothes, neither shall a man put on women's clothes. Vid. Mill. Dissert. 9: p. 258, &c. The last words of the verse clearly shew this to have been an idolatrous custom; and several authors have produced instances of the like practice among the heathens. See Maimonides, More Nev. p. iii. c. 37. But, beside this, if the law had not an immediate respect to idolatrous practices; every one knows, that if the sexes were not distinguished by their habits, it would open a door to all impurity; for which reason, were there no other, this law was very wise and pious. See Macrob. Saturnal. lib. 3: cap. 8 and Spencer, de Leg. Heb. lib. 2: cap. 29. Some have thought that this law had reference to the abominable practice condemned Leviticus 18:22; Leviticus 18:30.
Ver. 6. Thou shalt not take the dam with the young— This is one of those merciful constitutions in the law of Moses, which, inspiring the minds of his people with a regard for the animal creation, tended much to humanize their hearts, to breed in them a sense of the Divine Providence extending its care to all its creatures; and to teach them to exercise their dominion over that animal creation with gentleness. The law seems also to regard posterity; for, by letting the dam go free, the breed may be continued; and as the reason of the law subsists now as well as then, it is doubtless obligatory upon us. Thomas Aquinas alleges, that this law also is opposed to the practice of some idolaters, who fancied they should have good fortune if they could catch the dam upon the nest with the young. Phocylides has enjoined the same practice as Moses:
"Who spoils a nest, would act extremely wrong, With greedy hands to take both old and young; To leave the dam has this apparent good, Thou hence may'st haply find a second brood." HARTE'S Translation, ver. 125.
To this law Moses adds an exhortation; that it may be well with thee, &c. as much as to say, "This humanity, this compassion, is one of the things which will very much contribute to draw down upon you the blessing of God." Nothing can be more just than the following observation of a Rabbi in the Mischna: "If upon a precept of the least importance, the law says, that it may be well with thee, and that thou mayest prolong thy days; what may not they reasonably promise themselves, who carefully observe those duties which are of the highest importance in the law?"
Ver. 8. Thou shalt make a battlement for thy roof— The Jewish houses were flat-roofed, for the convenience of taking the air and discoursing together, or for meditation and prayer in little closets which they had there; and as they used to frequent this outer part so much, it is enjoined that a battlement be made for the roof. That thou bring not blood upon thine house, says the sacred writer; that is, "That thou be not, by thy neglect, the occasion of any person's death." It was on one of those flat roofs that David walked and saw Bath-sheba; and it was through one of them that the paralytic was let down before our Saviour. See Mar 2:4 on which place we shall have occasion to speak more largely concerning the mode of building in the East. Those, however, who are desirous of satisfying their curiosity, may do so, by consulting Dr. Shaw, vol. 1: p. 356. The Hebrew word, which we render battlement, is rendered by the LXX crown, στεφανη ; the same word which they used in speaking of the altar, and other ornaments of the temple.
Ver. 10. Thou shalt not plow with an ox and an ass together— We refer to Lev 19:19 respecting these unnatural mixtures. This, as well as the other particulars, is thought to have respect to some idolatrous custom of the Gentiles, who were taught to believe, that their fields would be more fruitful if thus ploughed; for it is not likely that men would have yoked together two creatures so different in their tempers and motions, had they not been led to it by some superstition. This prohibition is supposed to extend to other animals of different species. Or rather, it prohibits the yoking clean and unclean animals together.
Ver. 13-17. If any man take a wife, &c.— The most probable arguments we can meet with, in support of the literal sense of this passage, amount to this; first, That the Jewish young women were married at the age of twelve or thirteen. Secondly, That we are not to judge of the constitution of the human body in other climates, by that of bodies in our own. Thirdly, That, in fact, customs wholly similar to those which Moses insinuates to have been common in his time, and which must have been so among the Jews after his death, are still observable in divers places of the East. Of this, Selden in his Treatise de Uxor. Heb. lib. iii. cap. 1 has collected together many proofs: other writers have multiplied those proofs, particularly Gensius, p. i. c. 9 and p. ii. c. 2. and we have the positive testimony of Leo Africanus, in his Description of Africa, respecting the nuptial ceremonies of the Mahometans; to which we might subjoin others more modern, and no less indubitable. See the Latin version, printed at Antwerp, 1556. lib. iii. p. 126. See also Chardin, tom. ii. p. 362 and other travellers mentioned by Gensius as above. Lastly, the most skilful physicians see no difficulty in reconciling with nature what Moses here says, supposes, and enjoins, in case his law respects only wives of twelve or thirteen years old. See Scheuchzer, tom. iv. p. 68. On the other hand, however, there are strong arguments for determining us to quit the literal, and adopt the figurative meaning. It is not conceivable, that a man of good sense, however passionate he might be, would have attempted a proceeding against his wife, concerning proofs like those in question. Had she produced the pretended signs of her virtue, his end was defeated; if she could not have produced them, what was he to gain by it? Certainly he could not attain his ends, by having her punished with death as an adulteress; for still it remained previously to be proved, that this false step was taken after her being betrothed; and how could that be done? Thus, all he could obtain, would be a divorce, on condition to restore to the accused her dowry; and by this means the punishment, specified in the letter of the law, would never have taken effect. In the fifty-sixth of Michaelis's Questions, intitled, Les Preuves de la Virginite conservees apres les Noces, there are some remarks on this subject, into which we cannot enter further with any propriety.
Note; (1.) Chastity is a precious jewel, which must be kept with jealous care; and parents are exhorted to especial watchfulness, that neither by their own examples, nor by permitting their children to keep bad company, they may lead them into criminal conduct in this point. (2.) Chastity is a tender plant, and can least of any thing bear the blasts of malevolence; we should, therefore, be very jealous how we entertain, and still more cautious how we spread a suspicion to our neighbour's prejudice, the evil consequences of which are irreparable. (3.) The loss of chastity is justly reckoned, in women, infamous; nor is it less sinful in men: but though it may now be so secretly concealed that no suspicion wounds, the folly and shame of fornication will shortly be manifest to all, when whoremongers and adulterers God will judge, and worse than this ignominious death be the sentence.
Ver. 18, 19. The elders—shall—chastise—him, &c.— That is, say the Talmudists, condemn him to receive forty stripes, save one; and they add, that the woman was sent back with a solemn benediction; and that the false witnesses who deposed against her were stoned. See ch. Deuteronomy 19:18-19. It is thought that this chastisement was only inflicted in case of the non-payment of the fine of one hundred shekels of silver; which sum the father was to receive, as some compensation for the reproach thrown on his family; and because the husband designed to put his wife away without allowing her maintenance, he was to pay a hundred shekels, which is a double dowry. See Exodus 22:17. Besides the two former punishments, in his person and his purse, he was deprived of the common benefit which every Israelite had, who did not like his wife; which was, to sue out a divorce: He may not put her away all his days. "A good name," says Lord Clarendon, "is too precious a thing to be left to the rude tongue of every licentious person, without a severe penalty for the abusing it. God had so signal a tenderness for the reputation of his people, that, in the first body of laws which he puts himself to the task of compiling, he provided, that if a man traduced his own wife, he was to be most severely punished. We never see any notable act of in injustice and oppression done, but the person is much defamed, first, to make him the fitter to be injured when he seems unworthy to be pitied; and therefore St. Paul put backbiters and haters of God together, Rom 1:30 as if they could not love the majesty of God, who have no remorse in calumniating their neighbour."
Ver. 21. Then they shall bring out the damsel, &c.— As a disgrace to her parents, who had not taken better care to preserve her chastity, she was to be punished at their door, having committed the crime in their house.
Ver. 24. Ye shall stone them with stones— Moses appoints the same punishment for debauching a young woman contracted with a man, though not actually married, as for adultery; provided the fact was committed while she was at home, with her friends about her; in which case, it is presumed, it was not accomplished by force, but with her consent, she having all fair opportunities of avoiding any compulsion to such an action; and thus she is to die for violating her faith and chastity; as the man is, for invading the right of him to whom she was contracted. The case in the next verses is founded upon the presumption of a rape.
Ver. 26. As when a man riseth against his neighbour, &c.— Chastity, say Grotius and Louis de Dieu, is as valuable as life: hence, the depriving another of life in its defence, has been deemed just by the most sensible nations. See Seneca de Beneficiis, lib. 1: cap. 11 and Paulus, Sentent. 5: tit. 23.
Ver. 30. Nor discover his father's skirt— A modest phrase for unlawful commerce. See the places referred to in the margins of our Bibles.
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Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on Deuteronomy 22". Coke's Commentary on the Holy Bible. https://studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 21 / Ordinary 26