Wednesday, August 4, 2021

Deuteronomy. Day 94, Meddling In A Fight, Dishonest Business Practices, Destroying The Amalekites

Today's passage, which is the remainder of Chapter 25, deals with three different subjects.

The first segment of our portion of Scripture today has to do with a certain type of meddling in a fight between two men. The penalty for causing a particular type of injury is quite severe. "If two men are fighting and the wife of one of them comes to rescue her husband from his assailant, and she reaches out and seizes him by his private parts, you shall cut off her hand. Show her no pity." (Deuteronomy 25:11-12) What on earth is going on here? Scholars have various opinions on these two verses and some of the writers of Bible commentaries simply skip over these two verses entirely because they don't want to deal with them. I will speculate on this portion of Scripture but we may not be able to come to any firm conclusions about why the woman's penalty is so harsh.

The way the passage is worded it sounds as if her husband is the victim in the altercation; it says she is coming to rescue him from his assailant. Perhaps it looks to her as if her husband is losing the fight and needs someone to intervene before he's seriously wounded or killed. She runs up and grabs his assailant by his private parts, maybe in such a way as to render him permanently maimed. Maiming in the testicles is something that was taken so seriously in ancient Israel that no man with an injury to his testicles could hold any type of religious office in the nation. (Leviticus 21:16-23) He could not serve in the house of God, regardless of being a Levite or even a direct descendant of Aaron. Injuries to the testicles of animals were taken seriously as well. Animals with any type of problem in the testicles could not be offered as sacrifices according to Leviticus 22:24. Testicular injuries disqualified a man to serve the Lord in any official capacity and disqualified any male animal, no matter how otherwise perfect and spotless, unclean to offer to the Lord. 

In addition, continuing the family line was of the utmost importance in any clanlike ancient culture. In yesterday's study we looked at a law that helped to preserve a childless man's name and legacy even after his death. If a man is rendered sterile by the injury the woman causes him in verses 11-12, he cannot continue his family line. He will have no direct heirs to whom to pass his property in the promised land. 

Some scholars believe verses 11-12 are an issue of female modesty and that the woman has committed an act of immorality by grabbing hold of the private parts of the man who is fighting with her husband. They think that to underscore the importance of female modesty and virtue, the woman will go through the rest of her life missing the hand that touched a man in this intimate matter. I personally feel there's a lot more to it than this, as outlined above, but choosing to grab the man by his testicles instead of hitting him over the head with a tree limb to stop the fight, for example, may indicate she is a woman of coarse character. A woman of more delicate and modest character might not think to intervene in quite this way. Then again, if no weapon was at hand with which to rescue her husband from a violent man, a woman of even the most strict morals might resort to intervening in this way, knowing the pain resulting from such an action will immediately cause her husband's assailant to let go of him. I feel that the answer to why her penalty is so harsh has to do with much more than modesty but it's difficult to say for certain exactly what's going on here. It may even have to do with ancient laws or customs that we have no knowledge of in our modern times. 

Moving on, we'll take a look at how much the Lord hates dishonesty. "Do not have two differing weights in your bag---one heavy, one light. Do not have two differing measures in your house---one large, one small. You must have accurate and honest weights and measures, so that you may live long in the land the Lord your God is giving you. For the Lord your God detests anyone who does these things, anyone who deals dishonestly." (Deuteronomy 25:13-16)

King Solomon mentioned this dishonest business practice a number of times in the book of Proverbs, pointing out how much the Lord hates it when a person cheats his fellow man. The Lord had very harsh words, in the days of the prophet Micah, for those who were making themselves rich by cheating people in this manner. He said He was about to bring judgment upon the nation, in part because dishonesty and the financial oppression of the poor was so rampant. The Lord is honest and true. He will never tell a lie; He can't tell a lie because it isn't in Him to tell one. No one who belongs to the Lord should be lying and cheating and making a dishonest buck off their fellow man. The children of the Lord should look like Him, not like children of the devil.

Finally, to conclude Chapter 25, the Lord reminds the congregation of Israel that they must rid the promised land of the Amalekites. "Remember what the Amalekites did to you along the way when you came out of Egypt. When you were weary and worn out, they met you on your journey and attacked all who were lagging behind; they had no fear of God. When the Lord your God gives you rest from all the enemies around you in the land He is giving you to possess as an inheritance, you shall blot out the name of Amalek from under heaven. Do not forget!" (Deuteronomy 25:17-19)

This was an unforgivable offense on the part of the Amalekites. If they had ever sought forgiveness, perhaps the Lord would have heard their cries for mercy and made them subject to Israel, but they never repented of their grievous attack on His people. Here in Deuteronomy 25, forty years after the Israelites came out of Egypt, the Amalekites still hated them and wanted them dead. The Amalekites will continue to be a problem for the Israelites. Because the Lord knows this, He orders the Israelites to wipe them from the earth. 

The Lord mentions the way the Amalekites not only opposed the Israelites as a whole but how they also attacked those who were "lagging behind". Who is it that would have been lagging behind? Those who were slowed down by age or illnesses or disabilities. Those who were carrying infants and leading small children by the hand and those who were heavily pregnant. The most defenseless of the people of Israel were specifically targeted by the Amalekites. This enraged the Lord. This offended the Lord. This made the Lord declare: "I will completely blot out the name of Amalek from under heaven." (Exodus 17:14) The Israelites were minding their own business, escaping slavery in Egypt and moving toward the land the Lord promised them, not being a threat or a bother to anyone along the way. The attack on them was unprovoked. The attack on their women, children, elderly, sick, and disabled persons was grievous and inhumane. The Lord was not going to tolerate it, not only because this particular attack was so cruel but because the Amalekites were going to continue to be cruel. He said, in response, something like this: "I will rid the earth of them! By your hands---the hands of My people Israel---the name of Amalek will be wiped from the earth. A day is coming when no Amalekite can be found anywhere in the world. Because these people attacked you for no cause, I will allow you to take part in their destruction. When I have brought you into the land as I have promised, see to it that none of them remains alive."

No comments:

Post a Comment