Deuteronomy
1-3 Righteous Punishment 4 Not Muzzle a Threshing Ox 5-10 The Duty of a Husband’s Brother 11-12 Improper Method of Delivery 13-16 A Just Weight and Measure 17-19 Assignment to Blot out Amalek
Righteous Punishment

1“If there is a dispute between men and they go to court, and the judges decide their case, and they justify the righteous and condemn the wicked, 2then it shall be if the wicked man deserves to be beaten, the judge shall then make him lie down and be beaten in his presence with the number of stripes according to his guilt. 3He may beat him forty times [but] no more, so that he does not beat him with many more stripes than these and your brother is not degraded in your eyes.

Punishment should be given where necessary, but not more than necessary. The punishment must be in accordance with the crime and with the responsibility of the criminal: “And that slave who knew his master’s will and did not get ready or act in accord with his will, will receive many lashes, but the one who did not know [it], and committed deeds worthy of a flogging, will receive but few. From everyone who has been given much, much will be required; and to whom they entrusted much, of him they will ask all the more” (Lk 12:47-4847And that slave who knew his master’s will and did not get ready or act in accord with his will, will receive many lashes,48but the one who did not know [it], and committed deeds worthy of a flogging, will receive but few. From everyone who has been given much, much will be required; and to whom they entrusted much, of him they will ask all the more.).

The number of forty stripes is a maximum, where the number forty stands for a full punishment (Gen 7:1212The rain fell upon the earth for forty days and forty nights.; Num 14:33-3433Your sons shall be shepherds for forty years in the wilderness, and they will suffer [for] your unfaithfulness, until your corpses lie in the wilderness.34According to the number of days which you spied out the land, forty days, for every day you shall bear your guilt a year, [even] forty years, and you will know My opposition.). In giving the punishment, the rabbis, for fear of violating the letter of the law, have determined that forty minus one stripes must be given in case one should count wrong. Paul has received this maximum five times (2Cor 11:2424Five times I received from the Jews thirty-nine [lashes].). It indicates that he was seen by the Jews as a great criminal.

In the church of God, what is called justice here is discipline. Discipline is exercised by the entire church. In practice, spiritually-minded brothers will prepare a disciplinary case. Here, too, it is important that a disciplinary measure is in accordance with the committed sin. For example, someone who lives an undisciplined Christian life is unfaithful must be marked (Darby Translation), while he must still be seen as a brother and also be admonished as such (2Thes 3:14-1514If anyone does not obey our instruction in this letter, take special note of that person and do not associate with him, so that he will be put to shame.15[Yet] do not regard him as an enemy, but admonish him as a brother.). The heaviest disciplinary measure of removing from the church does not fit in this case (1Cor 5:13b13But those who are outside, God judges. Remove the wicked man from among yourselves.). That would be tantamount to degrade the brother.

The stripes must be given in the presence of the judge. This emphasizes the fact that the sentence is executed as it was pronounced and that the sentence must be executed immediately.


Not Muzzle a Threshing Ox

4“You shall not muzzle the ox while he is threshing.

As the previous section teaches that punishment should be given according to the offence, so does this verse teach that food may be enjoyed according to the work done. Just as criminal is worth punishment, so is the worker worth his wages.

This verse is quoted twice in the New Testament:
1. “For it is written in the Law of Moses, “You shall not muzzle the ox while he is threshing.” God is not concerned about oxen, is He? Or is He speaking altogether for our sake? Yes, for our sake it was written, because the plowman ought to plow in hope, and the thresher [to thresh] in hope of sharing [the crops]” (1Cor 9:9-109For it is written in the Law of Moses, “You shall not muzzle the ox while he is threshing.” God is not concerned about oxen, is He?10Or is He speaking altogether for our sake? Yes, for our sake it was written, because the plowman ought to plow in hope, and the thresher [to thresh] in hope of sharing [the crops].).
2. “The elders who rule well are to be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who work hard at preaching and teaching. For the Scripture says, “You shall not muzzle the ox while he is threshing,” and “The laborer is worthy of his wages”” (1Tim 5:17-1817The elders who rule well are to be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who work hard at preaching and teaching.18For the Scripture says, “You shall not muzzle the ox while he is threshing,” and “The laborer is worthy of his wages.”).

The first quotation shows that this instruction was not given primarily out of concern for the ox, but that it is intended for the worker in God’s kingdom. It is not just an application but a clear explanation of this verse.

This precept makes it clear to believers that those who do spiritual work are entitled to material support from those who benefit from this spiritual work (cf. Gal 6:66The one who is taught the word is to share all good things with the one who teaches [him].).


The Duty of a Husband’s Brother

5“When brothers live together and one of them dies and has no son, the wife of the deceased shall not be [married] outside [the family] to a strange man. Her husband’s brother shall go in to her and take her to himself as wife and perform the duty of a husband’s brother to her. 6It shall be that the firstborn whom she bears shall assume the name of his dead brother, so that his name will not be blotted out from Israel. 7But if the man does not desire to take his brother’s wife, then his brother’s wife shall go up to the gate to the elders and say, ‘My husband’s brother refuses to establish a name for his brother in Israel; he is not willing to perform the duty of a husband’s brother to me.’ 8Then the elders of his city shall summon him and speak to him. And [if] he persists and says, ‘I do not desire to take her,’ 9then his brother’s wife shall come to him in the sight of the elders, and pull his sandal off his foot and spit in his face; and she shall declare, ‘Thus it is done to the man who does not build up his brother’s house.’ 10In Israel his name shall be called, ‘The house of him whose sandal is removed.’

In these verses an arrangement is made to protect the inheritance, that it will not fall into other hands. It describes the situation of two brothers who live in the same inheritance and of whom one is married and the other still unmarried. If the married brother dies without a descendant, the brother must take the widow as his wife. This is called “the duty of a husband’s brother” (verses 5,75“When brothers live together and one of them dies and has no son, the wife of the deceased shall not be [married] outside [the family] to a strange man. Her husband’s brother shall go in to her and take her to himself as wife and perform the duty of a husband’s brother to her.7But if the man does not desire to take his brother’s wife, then his brother’s wife shall go up to the gate to the elders and say, ‘My husband’s brother refuses to establish a name for his brother in Israel; he is not willing to perform the duty of a husband’s brother to me.’). The son who is then conceived shall assume the name of the first husband and is his heir. This use, now enacted as law, has been known for some time (Gen 38:88Then Judah said to Onan, “Go in to your brother’s wife, and perform your duty as a brother-in-law to her, and raise up offspring for your brother.”).

With Boaz’s marriage to Ruth it is about a family member further away, because there is no brother (Rth 4:1-81Now Boaz went up to the gate and sat down there, and behold, the close relative of whom Boaz spoke was passing by, so he said, “Turn aside, friend, sit down here.” And he turned aside and sat down.2He took ten men of the elders of the city and said, “Sit down here.” So they sat down.3Then he said to the closest relative, “Naomi, who has come back from the land of Moab, has to sell the piece of land which belonged to our brother Elimelech.4So I thought to inform you, saying, ‘Buy [it] before those who are sitting [here], and before the elders of my people. If you will redeem [it], redeem [it]; but if not, tell me that I may know; for there is no one but you to redeem [it], and I am after you.’” And he said, “I will redeem [it].”5Then Boaz said, “On the day you buy the field from the hand of Naomi, you must also acquire Ruth the Moabitess, the widow of the deceased, in order to raise up the name of the deceased on his inheritance.”6The closest relative said, “I cannot redeem [it] for myself, because I would jeopardize my own inheritance. Redeem [it] for yourself; you [may have] my right of redemption, for I cannot redeem [it].”7Now this was [the custom] in former times in Israel concerning the redemption and the exchange [of land] to confirm any matter: a man removed his sandal and gave it to another; and this was the [manner of] attestation in Israel.8So the closest relative said to Boaz, “Buy [it] for yourself.” And he removed his sandal.). There, too, the land has already passed into other hands. Boaz must become both the redeemer and the one who performs the duty of a husband’s brother. God has now enacted this existing, unwritten law and also brought it to the human level. This allows the brother to evade the duty of a husband’s brother. He can do this because he simply does not want it or because he puts his own interests at risk.

Pull off the sandal is a symbolic indication. To put the sandal or shoe on somewhere speaks of taking possession, appropriating and make it your own (Jos 1:33Every place on which the sole of your foot treads, I have given it to you, just as I spoke to Moses.; Psa 60:1010Have not You Yourself, O God, rejected us?
And will You not go forth with our armies, O God?
; 108:1010Who will bring me into the besieged city?
Who will lead me to Edom?
). Pulling off the shoe speaks of the opposite and means abandoning something. That is what the man does in the case of Ruth (Rth 4:77Now this was [the custom] in former times in Israel concerning the redemption and the exchange [of land] to confirm any matter: a man removed his sandal and gave it to another; and this was the [manner of] attestation in Israel.). He does so because he ruins his own inheritance by marrying Ruth. He thinks more of his own interests. He then renounces the woman and the land. Here the woman pulls the sandal off his foot. That will be an insult name for the man.

In Ruth is a redeemer who is nearer. This first redeemer is a type of law. The law is the first obligation given to man to receive life through this way. The law says: “Do this and you will live’ (Lev 18:55So you shall keep My statutes and My judgments, by which a man may live if he does them; I am the LORD.). But this first redeemer cannot redeem. People who keep the law are like thieves and robbers. The Pharisees and scribes think only of their own interest and not of the people. They impose heavy loads.

Then comes the Redeemer Who can and does, the Lord Jesus. He steps aside. He is not afraid to lose his own inheritance. He wants to be ”cut off and have nothing” (Dan 9:26b26Then after the sixty-two weeks the Messiah will be cut off and have nothing, and the people of the prince who is to come will destroy the city and the sanctuary. And its end [will come] with a flood; even to the end there will be war; desolations are determined.). The Lord Jesus is the true Boaz, that means ‘in him is strength’. Ruth is a picture of the remnant of Israel and Naomi of the Israel that has lost everything. How aptly Ruth, who is a Moabitess, shows the disenfranchisement of the remnant and that everything that is obtained is only on the basis of grace.

The meaning for us is what we have to do for the other. It shows that we have to step aside for the other. Are we prepared to stand up for the interests of the brother, or do we look like the first redeemer? It may take some time or effort, but how important is it that the other person keeps his inheritance?

The Sadducees refer in one of their discussions with the Lord Jesus to the duty of a husband’s brother to “prove” the implausibility of the resurrection (Mt 22:23-3323On that day [some] Sadducees (who say there is no resurrection) came to Jesus and questioned Him,24asking, “Teacher, Moses said, ‘IF A MAN DIES HAVING NO CHILDREN, HIS BROTHER AS NEXT OF KIN SHALL MARRY HIS WIFE, AND RAISE UP CHILDREN FOR HIS BROTHER.’25Now there were seven brothers with us; and the first married and died, and having no children left his wife to his brother;26so also the second, and the third, down to the seventh.27Last of all, the woman died.28In the resurrection, therefore, whose wife of the seven will she be? For they all had [married] her.”29But Jesus answered and said to them, “You are mistaken, not understanding the Scriptures nor the power of God.30For in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven.31But regarding the resurrection of the dead, have you not read what was spoken to you by God:32‘I AM THE GOD OF ABRAHAM, AND THE GOD OF ISAAC, AND THE GOD OF JACOB’? He is not the God of the dead but of the living.”33When the crowds heard [this], they were astonished at His teaching.). The Sadducees are the liberals of that time. They only believe in what they can reason. Therefore they do not believe in the resurrection, nor in angels and spirits (Acts 23:88For the Sadducees say that there is no resurrection, nor an angel, nor a spirit, but the Pharisees acknowledge them all.). They propose to the Lord the case invented by them of seven brothers who marry the same woman in succession. They explain from their corrupt thinking how the situation develops in their invented example.

Yet the Lord makes an effort to enlighten their darkened minds. He refers to the Scripture that speaks of God as the God of Abraham and the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob (Exo 3:6,15-166He said also, “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” Then Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look at God.15God, furthermore, said to Moses, “Thus you shall say to the sons of Israel, ‘The LORD, the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has sent me to you.’ This is My name forever, and this is My memorial-name to all generations.16Go and gather the elders of Israel together and say to them, ‘The LORD, the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, has appeared to me, saying, “I am indeed concerned about you and what has been done to you in Egypt.). The Lord quotes this Scripture to show that in the days of Moses the patriarchs live in another world, although they then have not yet been raised from the dead. The fact that their spirits are there guarantees that they will share the fulfillment of the promises with resurrected bodies.

When God says this to Moses, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob have long since passed away. But God has given them His promises. Will He not then be able to make them come true? Surely He will make them true. He will do that in the resurrection. How very different is the faith of Abraham from that of the Sadducees. He has believed that God is able to raise even the dead (Heb 11:1818[it was he] to whom it was said, “In Isaac your descendants shall be called.”).


Improper Method of Delivery

11“If [two] men, a man and his countryman, are struggling together, and the wife of one comes near to deliver her husband from the hand of the one who is striking him, and puts out her hand and seizes his genitals, 12then you shall cut off her hand; you shall not show pity.

This case is related to the previous part, but as a counterpart. If her husband’s brother refuses to perform duty of the husband’s brother in marrying her, the woman, being very independent, may express her contempt for this (verse 99then his brother’s wife shall come to him in the sight of the elders, and pull his sandal off his foot and spit in his face; and she shall declare, ‘Thus it is done to the man who does not build up his brother’s house.’). But in these verses it is made clear that this independence must not tempt her into unauthorized, shameless actions. It is understandable that she wants to stand up for her husband, but the way in which she does so is malicious. She wants to make the man unfit to procreate offspring.

The physical mutilation that should be used as a punishment is the only example given in the law. The evil that is happening here must be punished with a punishment that has a lasting effect. In the execution of the sentence, pity, for example because it concerns a woman, should not play a role (cf. Deu 13:88you shall not yield to him or listen to him; and your eye shall not pity him, nor shall you spare or conceal him.; 19:13,2113You shall not pity him, but you shall purge the blood of the innocent from Israel, that it may go well with you.21Thus you shall not show pity: life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot.).

The Lord may point to this precept when He speaks of cutting off the hand that can cause us to fall into sin. Preventing an inappropriate act is done by judging oneself. Whoever cuts off his hand spiritually spoken, will not literally have to lose it. The Lord goes much further: whoever cuts off his hand spiritually, thereby escapes the judgment of hell (Mk 9:4343If your hand causes you to stumble, cut it off; it is better for you to enter life crippled, than, having your two hands, to go into hell, into the unquenchable fire,).


A Just Weight and Measure

13“You shall not have in your bag differing weights, a large and a small. 14You shall not have in your house differing measures, a large and a small. 15You shall have a full and just weight; you shall have a full and just measure, that your days may be prolonged in the land which the LORD your God gives you. 16For everyone who does these things, everyone who acts unjustly is an abomination to the LORD your God.

The ban on dual weights and measures covers not only the use but also the possession. The bad merchant has a large measure for the purchase and a small measure for the sale. The prophet Amos also speaks against this evil with clear language (Amos 8:5b5saying,
“When will the new moon be over,
So that we may sell grain,
And the sabbath, that we may open the wheat [market],
To make the bushel smaller and the shekel bigger,
And to cheat with dishonest scales,
). The ban has been given before (Lev 19:35-3635‘You shall do no wrong in judgment, in measurement of weight, or capacity.36You shall have just balances, just weights, a just ephah, and a just hin; I am the LORD your God, who brought you out from the land of Egypt.). In the same line we read in Psalm 12 about speaking “with flattering lips and with a double heart” (Psa 12:33May the LORD cut off all flattering lips,
The tongue that speaks great things;
).

The evil of two measures can so easily play a role in our own hearts and in church life. When it comes to ourselves, we often apply different standards than when it comes to others. We are often much more lenient towards family members than towards outsiders. That is why it is wise, for example, to stay out of a disciplinary case as a family.

For God, such a conduct of ambivalence is an abomination (Pro 20:1010Differing weights and differing measures,
Both of them are abominable to the LORD.
; 11:11A false balance is an abomination to the LORD,
But a just weight is His delight.
; 20:2323Differing weights are an abomination to the LORD,
And a false scale is not good.
). In verse 1616For everyone who does these things, everyone who acts unjustly is an abomination to the LORD your God. it is said of every one by who measures with two measures that such a man is “an abomination to the LORD your God”. The LORD wants judgment without regard to persons. In His ways of government He takes into account what measure we have used for others. How we have judged others, according to that standard we ourselves will be judged by Him, as the He Himself says: “For by your standard of measure it will be measured to you in return” (Lk 6:38c38Give, and it will be given to you. They will pour into your lap a good measure—pressed down, shaken together, [and] running over. For by your standard of measure it will be measured to you in return.”).

God rewards honest conduct with a long life in the land. Those who are honest do not do themselves any harm, even though it sometimes seems so. The full blessing that God gives His people to enjoy in the land He has given His people, is for the Christian the heavenly places. Honesty in all relationships is a prerequisite for the enjoyment of spiritual blessings.


Assignment to Blot out Amalek

17“Remember what Amalek did to you along the way when you came out from Egypt, 18how he met you along the way and attacked among you all the stragglers at your rear when you were faint and weary; and he did not fear God. 19Therefore it shall come about when the LORD your God has given you rest from all your surrounding enemies, in the land which the LORD your God gives you as an inheritance to possess, you shall blot out the memory of Amalek from under heaven; you must not forget.

Amalek is a mean people who attack the weakest spots of a people who have barely escaped slavery (Exo 17:14-1714Then the LORD said to Moses, “Write this in a book as a memorial and recite it to Joshua, that I will utterly blot out the memory of Amalek from under heaven.”15Moses built an altar and named it The LORD is My Banner;16and he said, “The LORD has sworn; the LORD will have war against Amalek from generation to generation.”). It also attacks a people who have no experience of struggle and who have done nothing wrong to them. In the attack of God’s people they show that they have no fear of God in mind.

God does not forget what this cowardly enemy has done to His people. The only judgement is to totally blot out the memory of this enemy by a complete judgement. It can be compared to the judgment of the flood in the days of Noah and the turning upside down and burning of Sodom and Gomorrah (Gen 6:5-75Then the LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great on the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.6The LORD was sorry that He had made man on the earth, and He was grieved in His heart.7The LORD said, “I will blot out man whom I have created from the face of the land, from man to animals to creeping things and to birds of the sky; for I am sorry that I have made them.”; 18:20-2120And the LORD said, “The outcry of Sodom and Gomorrah is indeed great, and their sin is exceedingly grave.21I will go down now, and see if they have done entirely according to its outcry, which has come to Me; and if not, I will know.”; 19:24-2524Then the LORD rained on Sodom and Gomorrah brimstone and fire from the LORD out of heaven,25and He overthrew those cities, and all the valley, and all the inhabitants of the cities, and what grew on the ground.). Saul is commissioned to blot out Amalek, but fails by disobedience (1Sam 15:1-3,18-191Then Samuel said to Saul, “The LORD sent me to anoint you as king over His people, over Israel; now therefore, listen to the words of the LORD.2Thus says the LORD of hosts, ‘I will punish Amalek [for] what he did to Israel, how he set himself against him on the way while he was coming up from Egypt.3Now go and strike Amalek and utterly destroy all that he has, and do not spare him; but put to death both man and woman, child and infant, ox and sheep, camel and donkey.’”18and the LORD sent you on a mission, and said, ‘Go and utterly destroy the sinners, the Amalekites, and fight against them until they are exterminated.’19Why then did you not obey the voice of the LORD, but rushed upon the spoil and did what was evil in the sight of the LORD?”). Some time later David beats the Amalekites (2Sam 1:11Now it came about after the death of Saul, when David had returned from the slaughter of the Amalekites, that David remained two days in Ziklag.). In the days of Hizkia the final liquidation of Amalek will take place (1Chr 4:41-4441These, recorded by name, came in the days of Hezekiah king of Judah, and attacked their tents and the Meunites who were found there, and destroyed them utterly to this day, and lived in their place, because there was pasture there for their flocks.42From them, from the sons of Simeon, five hundred men went to Mount Seir, with Pelatiah, Neariah, Rephaiah and Uzziel, the sons of Ishi, as their leaders.43They destroyed the remnant of the Amalekites who escaped, and have lived there to this day.).

Amalek is a picture of the sinful flesh. The flesh, the sin in us, must be completely set aside. Faith may know that sin in the flesh is judged when Christ died under God’s judgment on the cross and that we are crucified there with Him (Rom 6:66knowing this, that our old self was crucified with [Him], in order that our body of sin might be done away with, so that we would no longer be slaves to sin;; 8:33For what the Law could not do, weak as it was through the flesh, God [did]: sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and [as an offering] for sin, He condemned sin in the flesh,). Now it is our responsibility to consider ourselves dead to sin (Rom 6:1111Even so consider yourselves to be dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus.).

Just like Amalek, the sinful flesh is also very mean. It attacks us at times of weakness and at the weakest spots. Right then it is important to think of Christ and His work and of our union with Him in that work. Then the flesh has no chance to assert itself and seduce us to sin by which we suffer the defeat.

We must go far in our love for others, but we must not give any room to the flesh. We must allow God in all our affairs, in all our relationships. Then things like charity, determination, correctness in our judgments, all will find their place and be found in all our ways. Love for the flesh, for Satan and his powers, must never be there, otherwise we will never get to the beautiful message of the next chapter.


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