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DEUTERONOMY 24 COMMENTARY
EDITED BY GLENN PEASE
1 If a man marries a woman who becomes
displeasing to him because he finds something
indecent about her, and he writes her a
certificate of divorce,gives it to her and sends
her from his house,
BARNES 1-4, "In this and the next chapter certain particular rights and duties,
domestic, social, and civil, are treated. The cases brought forward have often no
definite connection, and seem selected in order to illustrate the application of the
great principles of the Law in certain important events and circumstances.
These four verses contain only one sentence, and should be rendered thus: If a man
hath taken a wife, etc., and given her a bill of divorcement and Deu_24:2 if she has
departed out of his house and become another man’s wife; and Deu_24:3 if the latter
husband hates her, then Deu_24:4 her former husband, etc.
Moses neither institutes nor enjoins divorce. The exact spirit of the passage is
given in our Lord’s words to the Jews’, “Moses because of the hardness of your hearts
suffered you to put away your wives” Mat_19:8. Not only does the original institution
of marriage as recorded by Moses Gen_2:24 set forth the perpetuity of the bond, but
the verses before us plainly intimate that divorce, while tolerated for the time,
contravenes the order of nature and of God. The divorced woman who marries again
is “defiled” Deu_24:4, and is grouped in this particular with the adulteress (compare
Lev_18:20). Our Lord then was speaking according to the spirit of the law of Moses
when he declared, “Whoso marrieth her which is put away doth commit adultery”
Mat_19:9. He was speaking too not less according to the mind of the prophets
(compare Mal_2:14-16). But Moses could not absolutely put an end to a practice
which was traditional, and common to the Jews with other Oriental nations. His aim
is therefore to regulate and thus to mitigate an evil which he could not extirpate.
CLARKE, "Some uncleanness - Any cause of dislike, for this great latitude of
meaning the fact itself authorizes us to adopt, for it is certain that a Jew might put
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away his wife for any cause that seemed good to himself; and so hard were their
hearts, that Moses suffered this; and we find they continued this practice even to the
time of our Lord, who strongly reprehended them on the account, and showed that
such license was wholly inconsistent with the original design of marriage; see Mat_
5:31 (note), etc.; Mat_19:3 (note), etc., and the notes there.
GILL, "When a man hath taken a wife and married her,.... That is, when a
man has made choice of a woman for his wife, and has obtained her consent, and the
consent of her parents; and has not only betrothed her, but taken her home, and
consummated the marriage:
and it come to pass that she find no favour in his eyes; is not agreeable to
him, he takes no delight in her person, nor pleasure in her company and
conversation; but, on the contrary, his affections are alienated from her, and he
cannot bear the sight of her:
because he hath found some uncleanness in her; something that he disliked,
and was disagreeable to him, and which made their continuance together in the
marriage state very uncomfortable; which led him on to be very ill-natured, severe,
and cruel to her; so that her life was exposed to danger, or at least become very
uneasy; in which case a divorce was permitted, both for the badness of the man's
heart, and in favour of the woman, that she might be freed from such rigorous usage.
This word "uncleanness" does not signify adultery, or any of the uncleannesses
forbidden in Lev_18:6; because that was punishable with death, when it could be
proved; and where there was only a suspicion of it, the husband might make use of
the bitter water: though the house of Shammai seem to take it in this sense; for they
say a man might not divorce his wife unless he found her in some unclean thing,
something dishonest and wicked, and which they ground upon these words; but the
house of Hillell say, if she burnt his food, or spoiled it by over salting, or over
roasting it; and Akiba says, even if he found another woman more beautiful than her
or more agreeable to him. But neither his sense, nor that of the house of Shammai,
are approved of by the Jews in general, but that of the house of Hillell (m); and they
suppose a man might divorce his wife for any ill qualities of mind in her, or for any ill
or impudent behaviour of hers; as if her husband saw her go abroad with her head
uncovered, and spinning in the streets, and so showing her naked arms to men; or
having her garments slit on both sides; or washing in a bath with men, or where men
use to wash, and talking with every man, and joking with young men; or her voice is
sonorous and noisy; or any disease of body, as the leprosy, and the like; or any
blemishes, as warts, are upon her; or any disagreeable smell that might arise from
any parts of the body, from sweat, or a stinking breath (n):
then let him write her a bill of divorcement; Jarchi says, this is a command
upon him to divorce her, because she finds not favour in his eyes; and so the Jews (o)
generally understand it, and so they did in the time of Christ, Mat_19:7; whereas it
was no more than a permission, for reasons before given. A man might not dismiss
his wife by word of mouth, which might be done hastily, in a passion, of which he
might soon repent; but by writing, which was to be drawn up in form; and, as the
Targum of Jonathan, before the sanhedrim, in a court of judicature, which required
time, during which he might think more of it, and either recede from his purpose
before the case was finished, or do it upon mature deliberation; and a firm
resolution. The Jews say (p) many things of the witnesses before whom it was to be
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written and sealed, and at what time, and upon what, and with what it was to be
written, and who were proper persons to write it or not, in a treatise of theirs, called
Gittin, or divorces. In the Hebrew text this bill is called "a bill of cutting off" (q);
because the marriage was rescinded, and man and wife were cut off and separated
from one another for ever; of the form of such a bill; see Gill on Mat_5:31,
and give it in her hand; which was to be done before witnesses, and which is one
of the ten things requisite to a divorce (r); though it made no difference whether it
was delivered by himself, or by a messenger; or whether to her, or to her deputy,
appointed by her before witnesses; or whether it was put into her hand, or in her
bosom, so be it that she was but possessed of it; with which agrees the Jewish
canon,"if he casts a bill to his wife, and she is within the house, or within the court,
she is divorced; if he casts it into her bosom, or into her work basket, she is divorced
(s):"
and send her out of his house; which was a visible token and public declaration
of her divorce; besides, were she to be continued in his house afterwards, it would
give suspicion of cohabitation, which after a divorce was not lawful.
HENRY, "This is that permission which the Pharisees erroneously referred to as a
precept, Mat_19:7, Moses commanded to give a writing of divorcement. It was not
so; our Saviour told them that he only suffered it because of the hardness of their
hearts, lest, if they had not had liberty to divorce their wives, they should have ruled
them with rigour, and it may be, have been the death of them. It is probable that
divorces were in use before (they are taken for granted, Lev_21:14), and Moses
thought it needful here to give some rules concerning them. 1. That a man might not
divorce his wife unless he found some uncleanness in her, Deu_24:1. It was not
sufficient to say that he did not like her, or that he liked another better, but he must
show cause for his dislike; something that made her disagreeable and unpleasant to
him, though it might not make her so to another. This uncleanness must mean
something less than adultery; for, for that, she was to die; and less than the suspicion
of it, for in that case he might give her the waters of jealousy; but it means either a
light carriage, or a cross froward disposition, or some loathsome sore or disease; nay,
some of the Jewish writers suppose that an offensive breath might be a just ground
for divorce. Whatever is meant by it, doubtless it was something considerable; so that
their modern doctors erred who allowed divorce for every cause, though ever so
trivial, Mat_19:3. 2. That it must be done, not by word of mouth, for that might be
spoken hastily, but by writing, and that put in due form, and solemnly declared,
before witnesses, to be his own act and deed, which was a work of time, and left room
for consideration, that it might not be done rashly. 3. That the husband must give it
into the hand of his wife, and send her away, which some think obliged him to endow
her and make provision for her, according to her quality and such as might help to
marry her again; and good reason he should do this, since the cause of quarrel was
not her fault, but her infelicity. 4. That being divorced it was lawful for her to marry
another husband, Deu_24:2. The divorce had dissolved the bond of marriage as
effectually as death could dissolve it; so that she was as free to marry again as if her
first husband had been naturally dead. 5. That if her second husband died, or
divorced her, then still she might marry a third, but her first husband should never
take her again (Deu_24:3, Deu_24:4), which he might have done if she had not
married another; for by that act of her own she had perfectly renounced him for ever,
and, as to him was looked upon as defiled, though not as to another person. The
Jewish writers say that this was to prevent a most vile and wicked practice which the
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Egyptians had of changing wives; or perhaps it was intended to prevent men's
rashness in putting away their wives; for the wife that was divorced would be apt, in
revenge, to marry another immediately, and perhaps the husband that divorced her,
how much soever he though to better himself by another choice, would find the next
worse, and something in her more disagreeable, so that he would wish for his first
wife again. “No” (says this law) “you shall not have her, you should have kept her
when you had her.” Note, It is best to be content with such things as we have, since
changes made by discontent often prove for the worse. The uneasiness we know is
commonly better, though we are apt to think it worse, than that which we do not
know. By the strictness of this law God illustrates the riches of his grace in his
willingness to be reconciled to his people that had gone a whoring from him. Jer_3:1,
Thou hast played the harlot with many lovers, yet return again to me. For his
thoughts and ways are above ours.
JAMISON, "Deu_24:1-22. Of divorces.
When a man hath taken a wife, and married her, and it come to pass
that she find no favour in his eyes — It appears that the practice of divorces was
at this early period very prevalent amongst the Israelites, who had in all probability
become familiar with it in Egypt [Lane]. The usage, being too deep-rooted to be soon
or easily abolished, was tolerated by Moses (Mat_19:8). But it was accompanied
under the law with two conditions, which were calculated greatly to prevent the evils
incident to the permitted system; namely: (1) The act of divorcement was to be
certified on a written document, the preparation of which, with legal formality, would
afford time for reflection and repentance; and (2) In the event of the divorced wife
being married to another husband, she could not, on the termination of that second
marriage, be restored to her first husband, however desirous he might be to receive
her.
K&D, "Deu_24:1-5 contain two laws concerning the relation of a man to his wife.
The first (Deu_24:1-4) has reference to divorce. In these verses, however, divorce is
not established as a right; all that is done is, that in case of a divorce a reunion with
the divorced wife is forbidden, if in the meantime she had married another man, even
though the second husband had also put her away, or had died. The four verses form
a period, in which Deu_24:1-3 are the clauses of the protasis, which describe the
matter treated about; and Deu_24:4 contains the apodosis, with the law concerning
the point in question. If a man married a wife, and he put her away with a letter of
divorce, because she did not please him any longer, and the divorced woman married
another man, and he either put her away in the same manner or died, the first
husband could not take her as his wife again. The putting away (divorce) of a wife
with a letter of divorce, which the husband gave to the wife whom he put away, is
assumed as a custom founded upon tradition. This tradition left the question of
divorce entirely at the will of the husband: “if the wife does not find favour in his
eyes (i.e., does not please him), because he has found in her something shameful”
(Deu_23:15). ‫ה‬ָ‫ו‬ ְ‫ר‬ ֶ‫,ע‬ nakedness, shame, disgrace (Isa_20:4; 1Sa_20:30); in connection
with ‫ר‬ ָ‫ב‬ ָ , the shame of a thing, i.e., a shameful thing (lxx ᅎσχηµον πρᇰγµα; Vulg.
aliquam faetiditatem). The meaning of this expression as a ground of divorce was
disputed even among the Rabbins. Hillel's school interpret it in the widest and most
lax manner possible, according to the explanation of the Pharisees in Mat_19:3, “for
every cause.” They no doubt followed the rendering of Onkelos, ‫ם‬ָ‫ג‬ ְ‫ת‬ ִ‫פ‬ ‫ת‬ ַ‫יר‬ ֵ‫ב‬ ֲ‫,ע‬ the
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transgression of a thing; but this is contrary to the use of the word ‫ה‬ָ‫ו‬ ְ‫ר‬ ֶ‫,ע‬ to which the
interpretation given by Shammai adhered more strictly. His explanation of ‫ר‬ ָ‫ב‬ ָ ‫ת‬ַ‫ו‬ ְ‫ר‬ ֶ‫ע‬ is
“rem impudicam, libidinem, lasciviam, impudicitiam.” Adultery, to which some of
the Rabbins would restrict the expression, is certainly not to be thought of, because
this was to be punished with death.
(Note: For the different views of the Rabbins upon this subject, see Mishnah
tract. Gittin ix. 10; Buxtorf, de sponsal. et divort. pp. 88ff.; Selden, uxor ebr. l. iii.
c. 18 and 20; and Lightfoot, horae ebr. et talm. ad Matth. v. 31f.)
‫ת‬ ֻ‫ית‬ ִ‫ר‬ ְⅴ ‫ר‬ ֶ‫פ‬ ֶ‫,ס‬ βιβλίον ᅊποστασίου, a letter of divorce; ‫ת‬ ֻ‫ית‬ ִ‫ר‬ ְⅴ, hewing off, cutting off, sc.,
from the man, with whom the wife was to be one flesh (Gen_2:24). The custom of
giving letters of divorce was probably adopted by the Israelites in Egypt, where the
practice of writing had already found its way into all the relations of life.
(Note: The rabbinical rules on the grounds of divorce and the letter of divorce,
according to Maimonides, have been collected by Surenhusius, ad Mishn. tr.
Gittin, c. 1 (T. iii. pp. 322f. of the Mishnah of Sur.), where different specimens of
letters of divorce are given; the latter also in Lightfoot, l.c.)
The law that the first husband could not take his divorced wife back again, if she had
married another husband in the meantime, even supposing that the second husband
was dead, would necessarily put a check upon frivolous divorces. Moses could not
entirely abolish the traditional custom, if only “because of the hardness of the
people's hearts” (Mat_19:8). The thought, therefore, of the impossibility of reunion
with the first husband, after the wife had contracted a second marriage, would put
some restraint upon a frivolous rupture of the marriage tie: it would have this effect,
that whilst, on the one hand, the man would reflect when inducements to divorce his
wife presented themselves, and would recall a rash act if it had been performed,
before the wife he had put away had married another husband; on the other hand,
the wife would yield more readily to the will of her husband, and seek to avoid
furnishing him with an inducement for divorce. But this effect would be still more
readily produced by the reason assigned by Moses, namely, that the divorced woman
was defiled (‫ה‬ፎ ָ ַ ֻ‫,ה‬ Hothpael, as in Num_1:47) by her marriage with a second
husband. The second marriage of a woman who had been divorced is designated by
Moses a defilement of the woman, primarily no doubt with reference to the fact that
the emissio seminis in sexual intercourse rendered unclean, though not merely in the
sense of such a defilement as was removed in the evening by simple washing, but as a
moral defilement, i.e., blemishing, desecration of the sexual communion with was
sanctified by marriage, in the same sense in which adultery is called a defilement in
Lev_18:20 and Num_5:13-14. Thus the second marriage of a divorced woman was
placed implicite upon a par with adultery, and some approach made towards the
teaching of Christ concerning marriage: “Whosoever shall marry her that is divorced,
committeth adultery” (Mat_5:32). - But if the second marriage of a divorced woman
was a moral defilement, of course the wife could not marry the first again even after
the death of her second husband, not only because such a reunion would lower the
dignity of the woman, and the woman would appear too much like property, which
could be disposed of at one time and reclaimed at another (Schultz), but because the
defilement of the wife would be thereby repeated, and even increased, as the moral
defilement which the divorced wife acquired through the second marriage was not
removed by a divorce from the second husband, nor yet by his death. Such
defilement was an abomination before Jehovah, by which they would cause the land
to sin, i.e., stain it with sin, as much as by the sins of incest and unnatural
licentiousness (Lev_18:25).
5
Attached to this law, which is intended to prevent a frivolous severance of the
marriage tie, there is another in Deu_24:5, which was of a more positive character,
and adapted to fortify the marriage bond. The newly married man was not required
to perform military service for a whole year; “and there shall not come (anything)
upon him with regard to any matter.” The meaning of this last clause is to be found
in what follows: “Free shall he be for his house for a year,” i.e., they shall put no
public burdens upon him, that he may devote himself entirely to his newly
established domestic relations, and be able to gladden his wife (compare Deu_20:7).
CALVIN, "Although what relates to divorce was granted in indulgence to the
Jews, yet Christ pronounces that it was never in accordance with the Law,
because it is directly repugnant to the first institution of God, from whence a
perpetual and inviolable rule is to be sought. It is proverbially said that the laws
of nature are indissoluble; and God has declared once for all, that the bond of
union between husband and wife is closer than that of parent and child;
wherefore, if a son cannot shake off the paternal yoke, no cause can permit the
dissolution of the connection which a man has with his wife. Hence it appears
how great was the perverseness of that nation, which could not be restrained
from dissolving a most sacred and inviolable tie. Meanwhile the Jews improperly
concluded from their impunity that that was lawful, which God did not punish
because of the hardness of their hearts; whereas they ought rather to have
considered, agreeably to the answer of Christ, that man is not at liberty to
separate those whom God hath joined together. (Matthew 19:6.) Still, God chose
to make a provision for women who were cruelly oppressed, and for whom it was
better that they should at once be set free, than that they should groan beneath a
cruel tyranny during their whole lives. Thus, in Malachi, divorce is preferred to
polygamy, since it would be a more tolerable condition to be divorced than to
bear with a harlot and a rival. (Malachi 2:14.) And undoubtedly the bill or scroll
of divorce, whilst it cleared the woman from all disgrace, cast some reproach on
the husband; for he who confesses that he puts away his wife, because she does
not please him, brings himself under the accusation both of moroseness and
inconstancy. For what gross levity and disgraceful inconstancy it shows, that a
husband should be so offended with some imperfection or disease in his wife, as
to east away from him half of himself! We see, then, that husbands were
indirectly condemned by the writing of divorce, since they thus committed an
6
injury against their wives who were chaste, and in other respects what they
should be. On these grounds, God in Isaiah, in order that He might take away
from the Jews all subject of complaint, bids them produce the bill of divorce, if
He had given any to their mother, (Isaiah 1:1;) as much as to say, that His cause
for rejecting them was just, because they had treacherously revolted to
ungodliness.
Some interpreters do not read these three verses continuously, but suppose the
sense to be complete at the end of the first, wherein the husband testifies that he
divorces his wife for no offense, but because her beauty does not satisfy his lust.
If, however, we give more close attention, we shall see that it is only one provision
of the Law, viz., that when a man has divorced his wife, it is not lawful for him to
marry her again if she have married another. The reason of the law is, that, by
prostituting his wife, he would be, as far as in him lay, acting like a procurer. In
this view, it is said that she was defiled, because he had contaminated her body,
for the liberty which he gave her could not abolish the first institution of God,
but rather, as Christ teaches, gave cause for adultery. (Matthew 5:31, and 19:9.)
Thus, the Israelites were reminded that, although they divorced their wives with
impunity, still this license was by no means excused before God.
BENSON, "Deuteronomy 24:1. Some uncleanness — Some hateful thing, some
distemper of body, or quality of mind, not observed before marriage: or some
light carriage, as this phrase commonly signifies, but not amounting to adultery.
Let him write — This is not a command, as some of the Jews understood it, nor
an allowance and approbation, but merely a permission of that practice for
prevention of greater mischiefs, and this only until the time of reformation, till
the coming of the Messiah, when things were to return to their first institution
and purest condition.
COFFMAN, "Verse 1
Kline's analysis of this chapter is thus:
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(1) Laws of Family (Deuteronomy 24:1-5)
(2) Laws of Life (Deuteronomy 24:6-15)
(3) Laws of Justice (Deuteronomy 24:16-18)
(4) Laws of Charity (Deuteronomy 24:19-22).[1]
A number of these have already been studied earlier in the Pentateuch, the
repetition of them here being recalled, apparently at random, by Moses in one of
his great farewell addresses. This entire third division of Deuteronomy extending
through Deuteronomy 26:19 is nearing the end, the whole of this long section
being devoted to "Covenant Stipulations," a general summary of the whole
Covenant duties of God's people, including a very large number of specific rules
and regulations. The Decalogue and other portions of the sacred law were
already committed to writing and known by God's people, and Moses' words in
this section do not replace any of the previously written ordinances, but serve,
rather as a reminder and restatement of all of them, with, here and there, a
specific addition.
In the larger context, all of Deuteronomy "follows the structure of that
suzerainty type of covenant (or treaty) in its classical mid-second millennium
B.C. form, confirming the unity and authenticity of Deuteronomy as a Mosaic
product."[2] It is important to remember in this connection that, throughout,
Moses speaks as the personal representative of God Himself, the sovereign ruler
of the Chosen Nation. Efforts of the critical community to deny the authorship
and approximate mid-second millennium B.C. date of Deuteronomy have now
been thoroughly refuted and discredited.
8
LAWS OF FAMILY
"When a man taketh a wife, and marrieth her, then it shall be, if she find no
favor in his eyes, because he hath found some unseemly thing in her, that he shall
write her a bill of divorcement, and give it in her hand, and send her out of his
house. And when she is departed out of his house, she may go and be another
man's wife. And if the latter husband hate her, and write her a bill of
divorcement, and give it in her hand, and send her out of his house; or if the
latter husband die, who took her to be his wife; her former husband, who sent
her away, may not take her again to be his wife, after that she is defiled; for that
is abomination before Jehovah: and thou shalt not cause the land to sin, which
Jehovah thy God giveth thee for an inheritance.
"When a man taketh a new wife, he shall not go out in the host, neither shall he
be charged with any business: he shall be free at home one year, and shall cheer
his wife whom he hath taken."
The first paragraph here is that famous passage brought up by the Pharisees in
the presence of Jesus Christ in Matthew 19:3. The view of those evil men was
that Moses commanded to give a bill of divorcement (Matthew 19:7), but Christ
corrected them, pointing out that Moses indeed permitted divorce because of the
hardness of men's hearts, but that he, in no sense whatever commanded it. Some
of the commentators today also need to be corrected. For example, Dummelow
stated that, "The right of the husband to divorce his wife is here
acknowledged."[3] This passage, of course, does no such thing. "This is not a law
instituting or regulating divorce but a regulation concerning this ancient Semitic
custom."[4] Cook has elaborated this correct view a little more fully, as follows:
9
"Moses neither instituted nor enjoined divorce. The exact spirit of this passage is
found in our Lord's words to the Pharisees: "Moses because of the hardness of
your hearts suffered you to put away your wives (Matthew 19:8). Moses reported
the original institution of marriage (Genesis 2:24), setting forth the perpetuity of
the bond, and even the passage before us plainly indicates that divorce, while
tolerated for the time, contravenes the order of nature and of God. The divorced
woman who marries again is "defiled" (Deuteronomy 24:4), and is grouped in
this particular with the adulteress. Our Lord, then, was speaking according to
the spirit of this passage when he declared, "Whoso marrieth her that is put
away committeth adultery" (Matthew 19:9)."[5]
(For further comment on this question, see in Vol. 1 of our series on the N.T.,
under Matthew 19:1ff.)
There are a number of very interesting things here. "Some unseemly thing in
her ..." what can this mean? The Hebrew has, literally, "some matter of
nakedness."[6] The Jews spawned two schools of authorities on this, those of
Shammai thought it meant something disgraceful, such as adultery, and those of
Hillel took the position that it meant any "unbecomingness," actually meaning
that, "for any reason," a man could put away his wife.[7] It is not hard to
discover the position of the Pharisees (Matthew 19:3) who accepted Hillel's
position on this, believing that divorce was possible "for every cause."
The first three verses here are all conditional, the one affirmation in the whole
first paragraph being that the woman's first husband may not take her back
after her union with another man. Needless to say, there have been many
disputes about what some of these clauses mean. Deuteronomy 24:2, for example,
is cited by Dummelow as proof that a divorced woman had the right to remarry.
"The bill of divorcement contained the sentence, "And thou art free to be
married to another man."[8] Also, some have disputed that there are any
exceptions at all, not even allowing what Jesus said, regarding "except for
10
fornication" (Matthew 19:9).
Occasionally, some commentator affirms that Jesus' exception `except for
fornication" should not be allowed because the parallel passages in Mark and in
Luke do not record it, but to us this appears little short of blasphemy. All of
everything written in all of the gospels is true, dependable, authentic, and of full
authority. It is NOT required that anything in any gospel be repeated by another
in order for it to be acceptable. The same thing is true of all of the Bible, and
thus Paul's additional "exception" in 1 Corinthians 7:15 is just as much the
Word of God as any other part of the Bible.
One insight into the passage should be stressed and that is the prevalence of
writing. The time here is the mid-second millennium B.C. (around 1400 B.C.),
and writing was generally known and in constant use in that society. Therefore,
the notion that Moses would not have written all of the pertinent material
contained in the Pentateuch borders on foolishness, especially in view of the
specific commandment of God that he was to do so, as in Exodus 17:14.
Summarizing the instructions relating to marriage and divorce in these first four
verses, these rules, it appears, were fashioned:
(1) in order to make divorce harder to get;
(2) requiring that a legal document be prepared in writing;
(3) thus probably involving the services of a scribe and perhaps also a
magistrate;
11
(4) forbidding any return to the original marriage after another had been
contracted; and
(5) indicating altogether God's displeasure with the whole business of "putting
away" wives.
If there should remain any doubt about how God actually views this sin, it is
found in the following verse:
"And did not he (God) make one ...? Therefore take heed to your spirit, and let
none deal treacherously against the wife of his youth. FOR I HATE PUTTING
AWAY, saith Jehovah the God of hosts." (Malachi 2:15,16)
The instruction in Deuteronomy 24:5 regarding the man newly-married,
exempting him from any kind of military service for a whole year is also
mentioned again in Deuteronomy 20:7. Kline was correct in grouping this along
with the previous four verses. As Klein pointed out that:
"Attached to the laws regarding marriage which are intended to prevent a
frivolous severance of the marriage tie, Deuteronomy 24:5 is of a more positive
character and adapted to fortify the marriage tie."[9]
There is an amazing echo of this sequence in the sacred teachings in Matthew 19,
where, following the conversation about divorce, the apostles brought unto him
little children that Christ should place his hands upon them and bless them
(Matthew 19:13). It will be remembered that the apostles said, after that
conversation, " ...it is not expedient to marry." By bringing this beautiful episode
involving little children into focus at that very point, "It served as a comment on
the discussion of divorce, and left a better impression with reference to married
12
life.[10]
"To cheer his wife ..." (Deuteronomy 24:5). This is variously translated: "Rejoice
with his wife" (Douay Version), "Be happy with his wife" (RSV), "Para felicidad
de su mujer" (Spanish Version), "Stay at home and bring happiness to his wife"
(NIV), "Be happy with his wife" (Moffatt), "Cheer up his wife" (KJV and the
Polyglot). Tyndale has this, literally, "Fhalbe fre at home one yere and reioyfe
with his wife whiche he hath taken."
COKE, "Ver. 1. When a man hath taken a wife— The Hebrew nation having
been accustomed to the liberty of putting away their wives from motives of
dislike and aversion, and Moses being sensible that their hardness of heart, and
severity of temper, would, upon an absolute restraint from such liberty, produce
greater inconveniences and distractions in families; he now enacted, that when
any husband laboured under an absolute dislike to his wife, either upon account
of any bodily disease, or of her disagreeable temper, he should have the privilege
of parting with her; yet not in a violent, hasty, and passionate method, but
deliberately, by giving her, signed with his own hand, a discharge from all
further relation to him; whence she obtained a full right to marry any other
person. That by the phrase found some uncleanness in her, cannot be meant
adultery, or any other enormous crime, as idolatry, apostacy, and the like, is
evident, because those crimes were punished with death. The word uncleanness,
therefore, which is used with great latitude in these books, must signify any thing
creating dislike or aversion; something, either in her body or mind, which
created in the husband a fixed disgust: but as he himself was sole judge what this
uncleanness or turpitude was, whatever displeased him about her he might call
by that name. Mr. Locke observes, in agreement to the Margin of our Bibles,
that the phrase literally signifies the nakedness of any thing; and nakedness, says
he, is usually referred in Scripture to the mind, as well as body. Houbigant is of
opinion, that this uncleanness refers solely to some secret bodily defect, of which
the husband alone could be conscious; and that such defect only could justify
divorce. This, no doubt, gave husbands a great power over their wives, and must
have been attended with very great inconveniencies to society. See ch.
13
Deuteronomy 22:19; Deuteronomy 22:29 and Matthew 19:3-9. The law enjoins,
that a bill of divorcement (or of cutting off, so called, as it cut off a woman from
her husband) was to be written and given to the woman. A form of this divorce
may be seen in Selden and Buxtorf. As we have mention of divorces in several
places, (Leviticus 21:14; Leviticus 22:13. Numbers 30:9.) many judicious
interpreters have been of opinion, that it was usual to put away wives before the
law of Moses; that he only indulged them in an established custom, which he
knew their intractable tempers would not bear to have quite abolished; and
therefore he contented himself with bringing it under proper regulations and
restrictions. For more on this subject, we refer to St. Matthew as above, as well
as to Selden's Treatise de Uxor. Heb. lib. 3: cap. 18. J. Buxtorf de Sponsalib. &
Divort. Grotius de Jure B. & P. lib. 2: cap. 5 sect. 9 and a very learned
dissertation of the famous Mr. Mosheim, de Divortio.
CONSTABLE, "Marital duties and rights 24:1-5
A discussion of divorce and remarriage fits into this context because both
practices involve respect for the rights of others. The first of the two situations
Moses dealt with in this section concerns a married, divorced, and remarried
woman (Deuteronomy 24:1-4).
"In modern society, marriage and divorce are not only regulated by law, but are
invalid unless conducted or decreed by accredited officials in accredited places
(churches and register offices, or law-courts in the case of divorce). In Israel,
however, both were purely domestic matters, with no officials and scarcely any
documents involved; the bill of divorce was the exception, and it was essential, to
protect the divorced woman from any charge of adultery, which was punishable
by death (cf. Deuteronomy 22:22)." [Note: Ibid., pp. 133-34.]
Moses allowed divorce for the "hardness of heart" of the Israelites, but God's
preference was that there be no divorce (Genesis 1:27; Genesis 2:24; Malachi
2:16; Matthew 19:8). This, then, is another example of God regulating practices
that were not His desire for people, but that He permitted in Israel (e.g.,
polygamy, etc.). The worst situation envisaged in these verses is divorce,
14
remarriage, divorce, and then remarriage to the first spouse. The better situation
was divorce and remarriage. Still better was divorce and no remarriage. Best of
all was no divorce.
The Egyptians practiced divorce and gave written certificates of divorce, so
perhaps the Israelites learned these practices from them. [Note: Keil and
Delitzsch, 3:417.] Divorce was common in the ancient Near East, and it was easy
to obtain. [Note: Thompson, p. 244.] However, the Israelites took marriage more
seriously than their neighbors did.
The reason for the granting of the divorce by the husband, who alone had the
power to divorce, was "some indecency" in his wife (Deuteronomy 24:1). This
could not have been simple adultery since the Israelites stoned adulteresses
(Deuteronomy 22:22). However it is debatable whether the Israelites enforced the
death penalty for adultery. [Note: Henry McKeating, "Sanctions Against
Adultery in Ancient Israelite Society," Journal for the Study of the Old
Testament 11 (1979):57-72.] It could not have been just suspicion of adultery
either since there was a specified procedure for dealing with that (Numbers
5:5-31). Two schools of rabbinic interpretation of this phrase developed in time.
Rabbi Hillel's liberal position was that God permitted a divorce "for every
cause" (Matthew 19:3), for example, burning the husband's food. Rabbi
Shammai's conservative position allowed divorce only for fornication (sexual
sin). Jesus said that God permitted divorce for fornication, but He warned
against remarrying after such a divorce (Matthew 19:9). [Note: See Appendix 1
at the end of these notes for a detailed discussion of the major interpretive
problems in Deuteronomy 24:1-4. See also Appendix 2 for some suggestions for
preventing divorce.]
Divorce not permitted by God followed by remarriage, which involved post-
marital adultery for the woman, resulted in the moral defilement and
15
uncleanness of the woman (Deuteronomy 24:4; cf. Leviticus 18:20; Numbers
5:12-14).
The point of Moses' legislation was that when a couple divorced and then wanted
to remarry, the woman's first husband could not marry her again if she had
married someone else following her divorce. Evidently Israel's neighbors would
divorce their mates, marry someone else, and then remarry their first spouse
after their "affair." This ordinance would have discouraged hasty divorce as
well as strengthening second marriages in Israel. [Note: For discussion of other
possible purposes, see J. Carl Laney, "Deuteronomy 24:1-4 and the Issue of
Divorce," Bibliotheca Sacra 149:593 (January-March 1992):9-13.]
"Thus the intent of the legislation seems to be to apply certain restrictions on the
already existing practice of divorce. If divorce became too easy, then it could be
abused and it would become a 'legal' form of committing adultery." [Note:
Craigie, The Book . . ., p. 305.]
One scholar argued that the giving of a certificate of divorce implies not only a
legal permission for divorce but also the legal permission for the woman to
remarry. He also believed that the improper behavior for which divorce was
allowed was behavior that fundamentally violated the essence of the marriage
covenant. [Note: Sprinkle, pp. 529-32 and 546-47.]
Jesus taught His disciples not to divorce (Matthew 19:1-12; Mark 10:1-12).
Matthew included Jesus' clarification of the condition for divorce that God
permitted (Matthew 19:9; cf. Deuteronomy 24:1), but Mark did not. Paul
restated Jesus' point (1 Corinthians 7:10-11) and added that a believing spouse
need not remain with an unbelieving mate if the unbeliever departs (i.e.,
divorces; 1 Corinthians 7:12-16). After a divorce he encouraged remarriage to
the former spouse or remaining single (1 Corinthians 7:11). [Note: Some of the
best writings on marriage, divorce, and remarriage are these. For the view that
16
God permitted divorce and remarriage for immorality and desertion, see John
Murray, Divorce (scholarly); Jay E. Adams, Marriage, Divorce and Remarriage
(popular); and Tim Crater, "Bill Gothard's View of the Exception Clause,"
Journal of Pastoral Practice 4 (1980):5-10 (popular). For the view that God
permitted divorce and remarriage for unlawful marriages, as the Mosaic Law
specified unlawful marriages, see Joseph A. Fitzmyer, "The Matthean Divorce
Texts and Some New Palestinian Evidence," Theological Studies 37:2 (June
1976):197-226 (scholarly); J. Carl Laney, The Divorce Myth (popular); and
Charles C. Ryrie, You Mean the Bible Teaches That ..., pp. 45-56 (popular). For
the view that God permitted divorce and remarriage in Israel for unfaithfulness
during the betrothal period, see Abel Isaksson, "Marriage and Ministry in the
New Temple," pp. 7-152 (scholarly); and Mark Geldard, "Jesus' Teaching on
Divorce," Churchman 92 (1978):134-43 (popular). For the view that God
permitted divorce but not remarriage, see William A. Heth and Gordon J.
Wenham, Jesus and Divorce (scholarly). A helpful general resource is James B.
Hurley, Man and Woman in Biblical Perspective.]
The second situation Moses dealt with in this section concerns a recently married
male (Deuteronomy 24:5). Such a person did not have to participate in military
service for one year. The reason for this provision was so the man could establish
a strong home and begin producing descendants. Both strong homes and
descendants were essential to God's purposes through Israel. Going into war and
dying was a type of stealing from his wife.
ELLICOTT, ". DIVORCE.
Some uncleanness.—Evidently mere caprice and dislike are not intended here.
There must be some real ground of complaint. (See Margin.)
Let him write her a bill of divorcement.—“Moses, because of the hardness of
your hearts, suffered you to put away your wives,” is the Divine comment upon
this. It is a distinct concession to the weakness of Israel—not the ideal standard
of the Law, but the highest which it was found practicable to enforce. (See
Matthew 19:2 seq.) There are many other particular enactments in the Law of
17
Moses of which the same thing may be said. The ideal standard of morality has
never varied. There is no higher ideal than that of the Pentateuch. But the Law
which was actually enforced, in many particulars fell short of that ideal.
(2) If the latter husband hate her.—Rashi says here that “the Scripture intimates
that the end of such a marriage will be that he will hate her.” He makes a similar
remark on the marriage with the captive in Deuteronomy 21. The result of the
marriage will be a hated wife, and a firstborn son of her, who will be a glutton
and a drunkard.
(4) Her former husband . . . may not take her again . . . and thou shalt not cause
the land to sin.—The comment upon this, supplied by Jeremiah 3:1, is singularly
beautiful. “They say, If a man put away his wife, and she go from him, and
become another man’s, shall he return unto her again? Shall not that land be
greatly polluted? But thou hast played the harlot with many lovers; yet return
again to me, saith the Lord.”
HAWKER, "The Chapter before us is a continuation of certain laws, appointed
to be observed in certain cases. Here are directions concerning divorces; of the
permission, for the newly married to refrain from war; concerning pledges; men-
stealers; leprosy; hire of wages; of justice, and of charity.
Verses 1-4
Our blessed LORD'S comment upon this law throws a full light upon the subject
of divorces in general. The permission of such acts, carries with it the evidence of
the hardness of the human heart. Matthew 19:8. But what a precious thought is
it to the true believer in JESUS, that his union with him admits of no divorce.
No, not even our backsliding, for he saith himself, I have betrothed thee to me
forever. And though thou hast played the harlot with many lovers, yet return
again unto me, saith the LORD, Jeremiah 3:1; Hosea 2:19.
PETT, "Regulation On Divorce and Remarriage With The Same Woman
(Deuteronomy 24:1-4).
This regulation caused much dissension between the Rabbis. The question for
18
them was as to what ‘because he has found some unseemly thing (literally ‘some
nakedness of a thing’, compare Deuteronomy 23:14) in her’ meant. Shammai
said that it signified fornication and unclean behaviour. Hillel argued that it
simply meant anything that displeased the husband. Jesus came down on the side
of Shammai, but limited it to adultery.
The argument that it could not refer to adultery, because the punishment for
adultery was death, overlooks the fact that such a sentence would only be passed
where the husband had lodged his case and called in witnesses. If the husband
did not wish to pursue the death penalty, and no one else took up the case, it
would not necessarily be exacted, unless the woman was discovered by others in
open breach. (Compare how in the Matthew 1:19, in what appeared to be a
similar case, ‘Joseph being a righteous man, and not willing to make her a public
example, was minded to put her away secretly’).
But this was not actually a law laying down a case for divorce. The Law in fact
never lays down a case for divorce. It was disapproved of by God. This was
about one particular point as to what was to happen when a man following
custom had divorced a wife who then remarried, and was later divorced by the
second husband, or whose second husband died. The point being made was that
the first husband could not remarry her. That was seen as a step too far.
Such a position would in practise be very important. Otherwise there would
always be the danger that the longstanding relationship of the first marriage
might act as a constant magnet to draw the woman out of a second marriage to
remarry her first husband. It might produce instability in the second marriage.
It might even cause some women to poison their second husbands so as to be able
to return to the first.
It also prevented reckless divorces gone through on the basis that if they wished
19
they could always come together again. The introduction of this regulation here
might suggest that Moses was very much aware of recent cases where these
things had occurred.
This chapter again has ‘thou, thee’ all the way through apart from Deuteronomy
24:7 and Deuteronomy 24:8 where the change simply stresses that everyone is
involved.
Analysis using the words of Moses.
· When a man takes a wife, and marries her, then it shall be, if she find no
favour in his eyes because he has found some unseemly thing (literally
‘nakedness of a word/thing’) in her, that he shall write her a bill of divorcement,
and give it in her hand, and send her out of his house (Deuteronomy 24:1).
· And when she is departed out of his house, she may go and be another
man’s wife (Deuteronomy 24:2).
· And if the latter husband hate her, and write her a bill of divorcement,
and give it in her hand, and send her out of his house, or if the latter husband
die, who took her to be his wife (Deuteronomy 24:3).
· Her former husband, who sent her away, may not take her again to be his
wife, after she is shown as (declared to be) defiled, for that is abomination before
Yahweh, and you shall not cause the land to sin, which Yahweh your God gives
you for an inheritance (Deuteronomy 24:4).
Note that in ‘a’ the husband divorces his wife, and in the parallel may not take
her again once she has remarried, even if her husband dies. In ‘b’ she marries
another man, and in the parallel it is posited that she is divorced by him, or that
he dies.
20
Deuteronomy 24:1
‘When a man takes a wife, and marries her, then it shall be, if she find no favour
in his eyes because he has found some unseemly thing (literally ‘nakedness of a
word/thing’) in her, that he shall write her a bill of divorcement, and give it in
her hand, and send her out of his house.’
Moses was really here only explaining that a divorce had taken place for some
particular reason, without going into detail, although he undoubtedly did see it
as a valid reason. He was not, however, intending it to be analysed, either by the
Rabbis, or by would be divorce seekers of the present day. He expected his
listeners to know the customary conditions for divorce, so he did not explain
them here. His reference was not specific. But what did ‘nakedness of a
word/thing’ convey. It would certainly seem to suggest some sexual transgression
or something unpleasantly unclean. We can compare Deuteronomy 23:14 where
the same phrase is used and translated as ‘unclean’ and signifies a man’s waste
products.
The word for ‘nakedness’ is regularly used of the shame of a person’s nakedness
being revealed. It is not the word for ritually unclean nor for things which were
just generally unseemly. So ‘nakedness’ usually connects with something to do
with sex or the sexual organs. An act of adultery or near adultery for which he
did not wish to press charges would fit the bill exactly, possibly a case where she
had been discovered before the actual adultery took place, or of actual adultery
where there were no witnesses, and his reticence on the matter is then explained
by the fact that he divorced her rather than openly accusing her and that he was
represented as loving her enough to be willing to take her back after the second
divorce.
But while he did not press charges it had been sufficient of a blow to his family
honour and his own sense of pride for him to give her a divorce contract in
21
writing and send her away. Possibly out of shame she had even demanded it. It
would seem, also, that she left without any rights, which would indicate that she
had sinned grievously. That divorce was possible is made clear by Deuteronomy
22:19; Deuteronomy 22:29, but not on what conditions. Those verses were simply
saying that never again could those particular men bring an action for divorce
against that woman for any reason. (Others could accuse her but not them. They
had forfeited their right by their behaviour. They were not considered
trustworthy). So the grounds for divorce here seems to be restricted to sexual
misconduct.
PULPIT, "Deuteronomy 24:1-4
Of divorce. If a man put away his wife because she did not any longer please
him, and she became the wife of another man, by whom also she was put away,
or from whom she was severed by his death, the first husband might not remarry
her, for that would be an abomination in the eyes of the Lord, and would bring
sin on the land. This is not a law sanctioning or regulating divorce; that is simply
assumed as what might occur, and what is here regulated is the treatment by the
first husband of a woman who has been divorced a second time.
Deuteronomy 24:1-4
These verses should be read as one continuous sentence, of which the protasis is
in Deuteronomy 24:1-3, and the apodosis in Deuteronomy 24:4, thus: "If a man
hath taken a wife, and married her, and it come to pass that she doth not find
favor in his eyes, because of some uncleanness in her, and he hath written her a
bill of divorcement, and given it in her hand, and sent her out of his house; and if
she hath departed out of his house, and hath gone and become another man's;
and if the latter husband hate her, and write her a bill of divorcement, and give
it in her hand, and send her out of his house; or if the latter husband who took
her to be his wife, die; her former husband, who sent her away, may not take her
22
again to be his wife," etc.
Deuteronomy 24:1
Because he hath found some uncleanness in her; literally, a thing or matter of
nakedness, i.e. some shameful thing, something disgraceful; LXX; ἄσχημον
πρᾶγμα: Vulgate, "aliquam foeditatem." In the Targum of Onkelos, the
expression is explained by ‫ָם‬‫ג‬ ֵ‫ת‬ ִ‫פ‬ ‫ת‬ ִ‫יר‬ֵ‫ֲב‬‫ﬠ‬; "aliquid foeditatis" (London Polyglot);
"iniquitas rei alicujus"(Buxtorf); "the transgression of a [Divine] word" (Levi).
On this the school of Hillel among the rabbins put the interpretation that a man
might divorce his wife for any unbecomingness (Mishna, 'Gittin,' 9.10), or indeed
for any cause, as the Pharisees in our Lord's day taught (Matthew 19:3). The
school of Shammai, on the other hand, taught that only for something
disgraceful, such as adultery, could a wife be divorced (Lightfoot, 'Her. Hebrews
et Talm.,' on Matthew 5:31, Opp; tom. 2.290). Adultery, however, cannot be
supposed here because that was punishable with death. A bill of divorcement;
literally, a writing of excision; the man and woman having by marriage become
one flesh, the divorce of the woman was a cutting of her off from the one whole.
Lightfoot has given (loc. cit.) different forms of letters of divorce in use among
the Jews (see also Maimonides, 'De Divortiis,' ch. 4. § 12).
PULPIT, "Deuteronomy 24:1-5
Permissive legislation.
No treatment of this passage can Be appropriate which does not set it in the light
thrown upon it by Matthew 19:1-12. The heading we have given to this outline
indicates a point on which special stress should be laid whenever an expositor
has occasion to refer to it. In the course of time, men had come to regard this
passage in the light of a command. Hence the wording of the question in
23
Matthew 19:7. But our Lord informs us that it was simply permissive. Divorce,
under the circumstances here named, was tolerated a while by Moses owing to
"the hardness of men's hearts," but that the original Divine arrangement
contemplated the indissolubility of marriage. The entire principle of the Mosaic
Law was that of educating the people out of a semi-degraded state into
something higher, Its method of doing this was by giving the people the best
legislation they could bear; tolerating some ill for a while rather than forcing on
the people revolutionary methods. The more gentle and gracious, though the
slower process, was to sow the seed of higher good, and to let it have time to
grow. The following Divine teaching on marriage may well be brought forward
with this passage as a basis.
I. That the marriage bond is holy in the eye of God, and ought ever to be
recognized as very sacred by man.
II. That by God's own declared appointment this most sacred of all nature's ties
is indissoluble.
III. That however, owing to the degeneracy of national habit and thought, civil
legislation may suffer the legal cessation of the marriage bond, yet it can in no
case be severed, save by death, without heinous sin on one side or on both.
IV. That the claims of married life are such that, with them, not even the
exigencies of military service are unduly to interfere (Matthew 19:5).
V. That the highest and purest enjoyments of wedded life come to perfection only
when it is entered on and spent in the Lord Jesus Christ. The law was but a
παιδαγωγός εἰς χριστὸν (see 1 Corinthians 7:39).
24
PULPIT, "Deuteronomy 24:1-5
Permissive legislation.
No treatment of this passage can Be appropriate which does not set it in the light
thrown upon it by Matthew 19:1-12. The heading we have given to this outline
indicates a point on which special stress should be laid whenever an expositor
has occasion to refer to it. In the course of time, men had come to regard this
passage in the light of a command. Hence the wording of the question in
Matthew 19:7. But our Lord informs us that it was simply permissive. Divorce,
under the circumstances here named, was tolerated a while by Moses owing to
"the hardness of men's hearts," but that the original Divine arrangement
contemplated the indissolubility of marriage. The entire principle of the Mosaic
Law was that of educating the people out of a semi-degraded state into
something higher, Its method of doing this was by giving the people the best
legislation they could bear; tolerating some ill for a while rather than forcing on
the people revolutionary methods. The more gentle and gracious, though the
slower process, was to sow the seed of higher good, and to let it have time to
grow. The following Divine teaching on marriage may well be brought forward
with this passage as a basis.
I. That the marriage bond is holy in the eye of God, and ought ever to be
recognized as very sacred by man.
II. That by God's own declared appointment this most sacred of all nature's ties
is indissoluble.
III. That however, owing to the degeneracy of national habit and thought, civil
legislation may suffer the legal cessation of the marriage bond, yet it can in no
25
case be severed, save by death, without heinous sin on one side or on both.
IV. That the claims of married life are such that, with them, not even the
exigencies of military service are unduly to interfere (Matthew 19:5).
V. That the highest and purest enjoyments of wedded life come to perfection only
when it is entered on and spent in the Lord Jesus Christ. The law was but a
παιδαγωγός εἰς χριστὸν (see 1 Corinthians 7:39).
2 and if after she leaves his house she becomes
the wife of another man,
GILL, "And when she is departed out of his house,.... With her bill of divorce,
by which departure out of his house it is notified to all:
she may go and be other man's wife; it was permitted her to marry another
man, she being by her divorce freed from the law of her former husband; and who
indeed, in express words contained in the divorce, gave her leave so to do; which ran
thus,"thou art in thine own hand, and hast power over thyself to go and marry any
other man whom thou pleasest; and let no man hinder thee in my name, from this
day forward and for ever; and, lo, thou art free to any man;''See Gill on Mat_5:31
PETT, "Deuteronomy 24:2
‘And when she is departed out of his house, she may go and be another man’s
26
wife.’
Once the woman was dismissed from his household she may take the step of
going and becoming another man’s wife. (This was not giving permission for
this, only stating that it may happen. Unless she returned home it was almost her
only option). She had her written contract declaring her to be free. We note here
that it was seemingly seen as perfectly acceptable by custom for her to remarry,
but never stated in God’s Law. It was this remarriage that Jesus called adultery,
and said that it was only allowed by God, although never authorised by Him, for
the hardness of their hearts. The point was not that He had condoned it, but that
He did not interfere with the general custom and actually forbid it.
3 and her second husband dislikes her and writes
her a certificate of divorce, gives it to her and
sends her from his house, or if he dies,
CLARKE, "And write her a bill of divorcement - These bills, though varying
in expression, are the same in substance among the Jews in all places. The following,
collected from Maimonides and others, is a general form, and contains all the
particulars of such instruments. The reader who is curious may find a full account of
divorces in the Biblioth. Rab. of Bartolocci, and the following form in that work, vol.
iv., p. 550.
“In - day of the week, or day - of the month A., in - year from the
creation of the world, or from the supputation (of Alexander) after the
account that we are accustomed to count by, here, in the place B., I, C.,
the son of D., of the place B., (or if there be any other name which I
have, or my father hath had, or which my place or my father’s place
hath had), have voluntarily, and with the willingness of my soul,
without constraint, dismissed, and left, and put away thee, even thee,
E., the daughter of F., of the city G., (or if thou have any other name or
surname, thou or thy father, or thy place or thy father’s place), who
hast been my wife heretofore; but now I dismiss thee, and leave thee,
and put thee away, that thou mayest be free, and have power over thy
27
own life, to go away to be married to any man whom thou wilt; and
that no man be refused of thine hand, for my name, from this day and
for ever. And thus thou art lawful for any man; and this is unto thee,
from me, a writing of divorcement, and book (instrument) of
dismission, and an epistle of putting away; according to the Law of
Moses and Israel.
A., son of B., witness.
C., son of D., witness.”
GILL, "And if the latter husband hate her,.... Or less loves her than another
woman, and she is disliked by him as she was by her former husband:
and write her a bill off divorcement, and giveth it into her hand,
and sendeth her out of his house: as he had by this law a permission, in like
manner as her former husband had; See Gill on Deu_24:1,
or if her latter husband die, which took her to be his wife; and she survives
him; as she is then by death loosed from the law of an husband, she may lawfully
marry another man, but not her former husband, as follows.
PETT, "Deuteronomy 24:3-4
‘And if the latter husband hate her, and write her a bill of divorcement, and give
it in her hand, and send her out of his house, or if the latter husband die, who
took her to be his wife, her former husband, who sent her away, may not take
her again to be his wife, after she is shown as (declared to be) defiled, for that is
abomination before Yahweh, and you shall not cause the land to sin, which
Yahweh your God gives you for an inheritance.’
But the second husband might hate her and also give her a bill of divorcement,
and send her from his household. Here the condition for the divorce is the
husband’s ‘hate’. It is the same word as that which caused a false accusation of
adultery in Deuteronomy 22:13-14. It is thus in the wider context connected with
a man who accused his wife of sexual misbehaviour. (The fact that the one who
made the false charge of adultery in Deuteronomy 22:13-14 found it necessary to
do so demonstrates that divorce was not easy). But no detail of why this second
husband hated her is given. There is nothing to say what it was. For that is not
what Moses was seeking to demonstrate here. It is probably suggesting in
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summary form the fact that she had done exactly the same as she did to her first
husband.
Alternately the second husband might die. By adding the clause ‘if the second
husband dies’ Moses has put us on the spot. We must immediately ask in passing
why Moses complicated things and even mentioned the possibility of a divorce in
the second case. It is clearly irrelevant to the case, for if it had not happened it
would have made no difference to the argument. The second husband’s death
would produce the same situation. Why then did he not just use the illustration
that her second husband died? The answer can only be because he wanted to
bring out what the woman was like, that all the fault lay with the woman. She
was the kind of woman, said Moses, who might easily have had a second divorce.
She was a disaster waiting to happen.
But the vital point was now reached. She was again free. However, we now learn
that even under the old law the first husband cannot now remarry her. He knows
that she was ‘shown as defiled’. But why was she ‘shown as defiled’? We may
basically ignore the actions of the second husband, because the same would
apply even if he had done nothing and had simply died. Thus we must
concentrate on the first husband. And here we must ignore the effect of the
theoretical remarriage to the first husband because she was ‘shown to be defiled’
before that had happened.
How had she been shown to be defiled? It may be by her behaviour which had
caused the first divorce, of which possibly only he knew, or it may be by her, to
his knowledge, having married a second time, or both. To him she had twice
revealed herself as an adulteress. There was, however, no suggestion about
whether she was or was not permitted to marry again. It was simply stated as
something that did happen. No comment is made on it, although as we have seen
Moses does make clear what he thought of her.
This is very important to note. Had God approved of divorce it would have been
so important a factor that surely it would have been legislated for. Yet it was
never legislated for. The only concession that God made was not to interfere with
the custom because of the hardness of their hearts. He did not step in to interfere
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with the custom. But divorce nowhere has God’s blessing.
Thus the ‘showing of defilement’ only seems to apply to the first husband. He not
only knew about the divorce certificate, but he also knew the facts behind the
case. For him therefore to take her now would be for him to take a woman he
knew to be permanently defiled, and defiled in such a way that the defilement
could not be removed. For she had committed adultery by going with her second
husband. And that could surely only indicate a continuingly adulterous woman.
To marry her would result in his own permanent defilement and would defile the
land (compare Jeremiah 3:1).
Another alternative explanation is that he was the only one who knew about the
two (or one) divorce contracts. Others would have only known about one, or
none at all. So he knew that she had been married twice while her first husband
was still alive and was thereby an adulteress against him. Thus to marry her as
an adulteress against him would be to confirm her adultery and be equally
defiling, and would defile the land. She could no longer come to him as unsullied
to become one with him. It would in Yahweh’s eyes be obscene. It would be
making a mockery of all that marriage stood for. It would be so obscene that it
would cause the land which had been given to them as an inheritance from
Yahweh to sin. For the sins done in the land were the sins of the land.
Whichever way it was, (and in some ways they were saying the same thing), it
was her continuing adulterous state that banned the marriage. And yet as the
banning is only in relation to marriage with him it must connect with his
personal knowledge of her. He would know that she had not just made one slip
up, but was an adulteress through and through. Anyone else who married her
might not realise what kind of woman she was, and would not therefore be
deliberately sinning against the land. But he did know and would be doing so.
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4 then her first husband, who divorced her, is
not allowed to marry her again after she has
been defiled. That would be detestable in the
eyes of the Lord. Do not bring sin upon the land
the Lord your God is giving you as an
inheritance.
CLARKE, "She is defiled - Does not this refer to her having been divorced, and
married in consequence to another? Though God, for the hardness of their hearts,
suffered them to put away their wives, yet he considered all after-marriages in that
case to be pollution and defilement; and it is on this ground that our Lord argues in
the places referred to above, that whoever marries the woman that is put away is an
adulterer: now this could not have been the case if God had allowed the divorce to be
a legal and proper separation of the man from his wife; but in the sight of God
nothing can be a legal cause of separation but adultery on either side. In such a case,
according to the law of God, a man may put away his wife, and a wife may put away
her husband; (see Mat_19:9); for it appears that the wife had as much right to put
away her husband as the husband had to put away his wife, see Mar_10:12.
GILL, "Her former husband which sent her away may not take her again
to be his wife,.... Though ever so desirous of it, and having heartily repented that he
had put her away: this is the punishment of his fickleness and inconstancy, and was
ordered to make men cautious how they put away their wives; since when they had so
done, and they had been married to another, they could not enjoy them again even on
the death of the second husband; yea, though she was only espoused to him, and he
had never lain with her, as Ben Melech observes, it was forbidden the former
husband to marry her; though if she had only played the whore, according to the
same writer, and others (a), she might return to him:
after that she is defiled; not by whoredom, for in that case she was not forbidden,
as it is interpreted, but by her being married to another man; when she was defiled,
not by him, or with respect to him, nor with regard to any other man, whom she
might lawfully marry after the decease of her latter husband; but with respect to her
first husband, being by her divorce from him, and by her marriage to another,
entirely alienated and separated from him, and so prohibited to him; and thus R.
Joseph Kimchi interprets this defilement of prohibition, things prohibited being
reckoned unclean, or not lawful to be used:
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for that is abomination before the Lord; for a man to take his wife again, after
she had been divorced by him, and married to another man; and yet, such is the
grace and goodness of God to his backsliding people, that he receives them when they
return unto him their first husband, and forsake other lovers, Jer_3:1,
and thou shalt not cause the land to sin which the Lord thy God giveth
thee for an inheritance; since if this was allowed, that men might put away their
wives, and take them again at pleasure, and change them as often as they thought fit,
no order could be observed, and the utmost confusion in families introduced, and
lewdness encouraged, and which would subject the land and the inhabitants of it to
many evils and calamities, as the just punishment thereof.
COKE, "Ver. 4. Her former husband—may not take her again— To restrain
them from the abuse of this permission, the law provides, that the husband, who
had once put away his wife, should, upon her being married to another, be for
ever incapable of having her again. The law considered her as defiled; i.e.
unclean, as to her first husband, by having been the wife of a second, and so
forbidden to that first. See Acts 10:14-15. This intimates, that if she had not been
married to another, but kept herself free, her husband might have taken her
again to wife, if he were inclined so to do. Such, at least, is the opinion of Grotius,
and several other learned interpreters. Had husbands been allowed to take their
wives again, after being married to others, this might have produced the
abominable practice of prostitution, by exchanging wives at pleasure, whereby
the land would have been filled with pollutions, and the Lord provoked to inflict
judgments upon it; and, therefore, the sacred writer adds, for that is
abomination, &c. Abarbanel says, that this custom was common among the
Egyptians; and Selden observes, that Mahomet permitted his followers to take
their wives again, after having been divorced even three times. The Turks,
however, are not the only people who were deficient in delicacy upon this point;
it is well known, that the Lacedemonians were guilty of shameful pollutions in
this way. A person expressing surprise that no adulterers were to be heard of
among that people, was answered, that "through the prevalence of the custom
now mentioned, their very marriages were rank adulteries." See Grotius on the
place., "
BENSON, "Deuteronomy 24:4. Her former husband may not take her again —
This is the punishment of his levity and injustice in putting her away without
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sufficient cause, which, by this offer, he now acknowledgeth. Defiled — Not
absolutely, as if her second marriage were a sin, but with respect to her first
husband, to whom she is as a defiled or unclean woman; that is, forbidden; for
things forbidden are accounted and called unclean, ( 13:7,) because they may no
more be touched or used than an unclean thing. Thou shalt not cause the land to
sin — Thou shalt not suffer such lightness to be practised, lest the people be
polluted, and the land defiled and accursed by that means.
PULPIT, "Deuteronomy 24:4
The woman was held to be defiled by her second marriage, and thus by
implication, the marrying of a woman who had been divorced was pronounced
immoral, as is by our Lord explicitly asserted (Matthew 5:32). The prohibition of
a return of the wife to her first husband, as well as the necessity of a formal bill
of divorcement being given to the woman before she could be sent away, could
not fail to be checks on the license of divorce, as doubtless they were intended to
be.
5 If a man has recently married, he must not be
sent to war or have any other duty laid on him.
For one year he is to be free to stay at home and
bring happiness to the wife he has married.
CLARKE, "When a man hath taken a new wife - Other people made a
similar provision for such circumstances. Alexander ordered those of his soldiers
who had married that year to spend the winter with their wives, while the army was
33
in winter quarters. See Arrian, lib. i.
GILL, "When a man hath taken a new wife,.... A wife he has lately married,
new to him, though a widow, as Jarchi observes; but the Targum of Jonathan says a
virgin; however this is opposed to his old wife, and divorced; for this, as Jarchi and
Ben Melech say, excepts the return of a divorced wife, who cannot be said to be a new
one:
he shall not go out to war; this is to be understood of a man that had not only
betrothed, but married a wife; a man that had betrothed a wife, and not married her,
who went out to war, might return if he would, Deu_20:7; but one that had married a
wife was not to go out to war:
neither shall be charged with any business; as betrothed ones were; they,
though they had a liberty of returning, yet they were to provide food and drink for the
army, and to prepare or mend the highways, as Jarchi observes; but these were not
obliged to such things, nor even to keep watch on the walls of the city, or to pay taxes,
as Maimonides (b) writes:
but he shall be free at home one year; not only from all tributes and taxes, and
everything relative to the affairs of war, but from public offices and employments,
which might occasion absence from home. Jarchi remarks, that his house or home
comprehends his vineyard; and so he thinks that this respects his house and his
vineyard, that if he had built a house and dedicated it, or planted a vineyard and
made it common, yet was not to remove from his house because of the necessities of
war:
and shall cheer up his wife which he hath taken; or rejoice with his wife
which he hath taken, and solace themselves with love; and thereby not only endear
himself to her, but settle his affections on her, and be so confirmed in conjugal love,
that hereafter no jealousies may arise, or any cause of divorce, which this law seems
to be made to guard against. So it is said (c), that Alexander after the battle of
Granicus sent home to Macedonia his newly married soldiers, to winter with their
wives, and return at spring; which his master Aristotle had taught him, and as he was
taught by a Jew.
HENRY, "Here is, I. Provision made for the preservation and confirmation of love
between new-married people, Deu_24:5. This fitly follows upon the laws concerning
divorce, which would be prevented if their affection to each other were well settled at
first. If the husband were much abroad from his wife the first year, his love to her
would be in danger of cooling, and of being drawn aside to others whom he would
meet with abroad; therefore his service to his country in war, embassies, or other
public business that would call him from home, shall be dispensed with, that he may
cheer up the wife that he has taken. Note, 1. It is of great consequence that love be
kept up between husband and wife, and that every thing be very carefully avoided
which might make them strange one to another, especially at first; for in that
relation, where there is not the love that should be, there is an inlet ready to
abundance of guilt and grief. 2. One of the duties of that relation is to cheer up one
another under the cares and crosses that happen, as helpers of each other's joy; for a
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cheerful heart does good like a medicine.
JAMISON, "When a man hath taken a new wife, he shall not go out to
war — This law of exemption was founded on good policy and was favorable to
matrimony, as it afforded a full opportunity for the affections of the newly married
pair being more firmly rooted, and it diminished or removed occasions for the
divorces just mentioned.
CALVIN, "The immunity here given has for its object the awakening of that
mutual love which may preserve the conjugal fidelity of husband and wife; for
there is danger lest, if a husband departs from his wife immediately after
marriage, the bride, before she has become thoroughly accustomed to him,
should be too prone to fall in love with some one else. A similar danger affects
the husband; for in war, and other expeditions, many things occur which tempt
men to sin. God, therefore, would have the love of husband and wife fostered by
their association for a whole year, that thus mutual confidence may be
established between them, and they may afterwards continually beware of all
incontinency.
But that God should permit a bride to enjoy herself with her husband, affords no
trifling proof of His indulgence. Assuredly, it cannot be but that the lust of the
flesh must affect the connection of husband and wife with some amount of sin;
yet God not only pardons it, but covers it with the veil of holy matrimony, lest
that which is sinful in itself should be so imputed; nay, He spontaneously allows
them to enjoy themselves. With this injunction corresponds what Paul says,
“Let the husband render unto his wife due benevolence: and likewise also the
wife unto the husband. Defraud ye not one the other, except it be with consent
for a time, that ye may give yourselves to fasting and prayer.” (1 Corinthians
7:3.)
BENSON "Deuteronomy 24:5. Business — Any public office or employment,
which may cause an absence from or neglect of his wife. One year — That their
affections may be firmly settled, so as there may be no occasion for the divorces
last mentioned.
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HAWKER, "This precept very properly follows the one respecting divorces.
Absence from the object we love begets coolness; and it would be well to be
considered by the married, whether much of the infidelity we hear of in common
life, doth not begin in this. But whether this be so or not; well I know that the
absence of my affections, from the LORD my husband, and the earthly concerns,
which so much carry away my soul from frequent communion with JESUS, are
the sad causes why my unworthy and unfaithful heart, is living so far from him.
Oh! for more constant enjoyment of thy presence, dearest Redeemer!
PETT, "Further Commands Related to Relationships (Deuteronomy 24:5-15).
The relationship between the people was to be that of ‘neighbours’, and they
must love their neighbour as themselves (Leviticus 19:18). Thus they must ensure
that men received immediately the benefit of contracts (Deuteronomy 24:5 and
Deuteronomy 24:15), that their necessities should not be retained in pledges
(Deuteronomy 24:6 and Deuteronomy 24:13), that their households were
protected from violation (Deuteronomy 24:7 and Deuteronomy 24:10-11), and
that they were not made unclean by another’s skin disease (Deuteronomy
24:8-9).
Analysis using the words of Moses:
a When a man takes a new wife, he shall not go out in the army, nor shall
he be charged with any business. He shall be free at home one year, and shall
pleasure his wife whom he has taken (Deuteronomy 24:5).
b No man shall take the mill or the upper millstone to pledge, for he takes a
man’s life to pledge (Deuteronomy 24:6).
c If a man be found stealing any of his brethren of the children of Israel,
and he deal with him as a slave, or sell him, then that thief shall die. So shall you
put away the evil from the midst of you (Deuteronomy 24:7).
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d Take heed in the plague of skin disease, that you observe diligently, and
do according to all that the priests the Levites shall teach you (Deuteronomy
24:8).
d As I commanded them, so you shall observe to do. Remember what
Yahweh your God did to Miriam, by the way as you came forth out of Egypt
(Deuteronomy 24:9).
c When you lend your neighbour any manner of loan, you shall not go into
his house to fetch his pledge. You shall stand outside, and the man to whom you
lend shall bring forth the pledge outside to you (Deuteronomy 24:10-11).
b And if he is a poor man, you shall not sleep holding on to his pledge, you
shall surely restore to him the pledge when the sun goes down, that he may sleep
in his garment, and bless you, and it shall be righteousness to you before Yahweh
your God (Deuteronomy 24:12-13).
a You shall not take advantage of a hired servant who is poor and needy,
whether he be of your brethren, or of your resident aliens who are in your land
within your gates, in the same day you shall give him his hire, nor shall the sun
go down on it, for he is poor, and sets his heart on it, lest he cry against you to
Yahweh, and it be sin to you (14-15).
Note that in ‘a’ a man takes a new wife, he shall not go out in the army, nor shall
he be charged with any business. He shall be free at home one year, and shall
pleasure his wife whom he has taken. Advantage must not be taken of him for he
has a right to receive immediately the benefits of his marriage. In the parallel
advantage must not be taken of a hired servant. He too has a right to receive
immediately the benefits of his contract. In ‘b’ no man shall take the mill or the
upper millstone to pledge, for he takes a man’s life to pledge, and in the parallel
he must not retain a poor man’s pledge overnight but must restore it to him so
that he may sleep in it. In ‘c’ if a man is found stealing any of his brethren of the
children of Israel, and he deal with him as a slave, or sell him, then that thief
must die, he has forced himself on and violated another’s household, and in the
parallel when a man lends his neighbour any manner of loan, he must not go into
his neighbour’s house to fetch his pledge, forcing himself on his household and
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violating it. He must stand outside, and the man to whom he lends will bring out
the pledge to him. In ‘d’ all must take heed in the plague of skin disease, that
they observe diligently, and do according to all that the priests the Levites shall
teach them out of concern for their neighbour’s and the cleanliness of the camp,
and in the parallel they must observe to do what Moses commanded them in this
regard, remembering what Yahweh your God did to Miriam in smiting her with
skin disease by the way as you came forth out of Egypt (and then healing her
after which she had to observe her seven days - Numbers 12:10-15).
A Newly Married Man Free From Military Service For A Year (Deuteronomy
24:5).
The thought of the previous case caused Moses to want to relieve the gloom
about marriage so he now introduced a case which revealed the other side of
things. This is absolutely understandable in the context of Moses speaking to
Israel. It is not so in the case of someone making up a story to hang on Moses.
There are so many of these small indications of a speaker’s concern that no one
could have had the consummate artistry to think of them all. They ring true as
being what they claim to be.
This is the first in a series where the stress is on fair dealing and consideration
towards the individual, with regard to relationships.
Deuteronomy 24:5
‘When a man takes a new wife, he shall not go out in the army, nor shall he be
charged with any business. He shall be free at home one year, and shall pleasure
his wife whom he has taken.’
Here was a man for whom marriage was a delight. He had taken a new wife and
38
his only desire was to be at home with her. The Law concurred. For a whole year
he was to be free from army call-up, or from any pressing business that would
take him away from home, so that he could pleasure his wife.
It may well be true that part of the reason for this was in order to produce an
heir so that his name would live on if he was killed in war. That no doubt was a
reason behind the regulation. But that is not what Moses brought out in his
speech. He was stressing the positive side of marriage as well rectifying the sad
view of marriage revealed in the previous case. Here advantage must not be
taken of the newly wed household. They must be allowed immediately to enjoy
the benefits of the marriage.
PULPIT, "Deuteronomy 24:5
A man newly married was to be exempt from going to war, and was not to have
any public burdens imposed on him for a year after his marriage. Charged with
any business; literally, there shall not pass upon him for any matter; i.e. there
shall not be laid on him anything in respect of any business. This is explained by
what follows. Free shall he be for his house for one year; i.e. no public burden
shall be laid on him, that he may be free to devote himself entirely to his
household relations, and be able to cheer and gladden his wife (comp.
Deuteronomy 20:7). "By this law God showed how he approved of holy wedlock
(as by the former he showed his hatred of unjust divorces) when, to encourage
the newly married against the cumbrances which that estate bringeth with it,
and to settle their love each to other, he exempted those men from all wars, cares,
and expenses, that they might the more comfortably provide for their own
estate" (Ainsworth).
BI, "Free at home.
Home
Some words contain a history in themselves, and are the monuments of great
movements of thought and life. Such a word is “home.” With something like a
sacramental sacredness it enshrines a deep and precious meaning and a history. That
the English-speaking people and their congeners alone should have this word,
indicates that there are certain peculiar domestic and social traits of character
belonging to them. When we study their history we find that from the very first they
have been distinguished, as Tacitus tells us, by the manly and womanly virtues of
39
fidelity and chastity; by the faithful devotion of wife to husband and husband to wife;
by the recognised headship and guardianship of the married man as indicated in the
old word “husband,” and the domestic dignity and function of the married woman as
indicated in the old word “wife,” betokening the presence of those home-making,
home-keeping, home-loving qualities of mind and heart which have always belonged
to this sturdy race. And when upon these qualities the vitalising, sanctifying influence
of Christianity was brought to bear, the outcome has been the building up of the
noblest of all the institutions of the Christian life. No man is poor, no matter what
storms of ill-fortune have beaten upon him, who can still find refuge beneath its
sacred shelter; and no man is rich, no matter how splendid his fortune or his lot, who
cannot claim some spot of earth as his home. My purpose, however, is neither
philological nor ethnological; it is rather to speak of the function of Christianity in
the home. It is upon God’s special enactment that this great institution rests. Its
function is to carry out His purposes in training and ennobling men to do His will. Its
perfection is the reflection of His love in the majestic order of His Godhead with
fatherhood, sonship, life; its beatitude is the maintenance on earth of the peace and
purity of heaven. Taking the Christian home as we know it, then, there are certain
broad features of its economy, the mention of which will serve to bring out its
character.
I. The first of these is its unity of orderly administration, in the supreme headship of
one man, the husband; the supreme dignity of one woman, the wife; the providence
of parental love in the nurture of children, and the natural piety of children in their
reverence and obedience to their parents.
1. First, with reference to the discipline of the home, it is to be remembered that
there is a home discipline to which all the members thereof are subject—the
father and mother not less than the children. The husband and father, the wife
and mother, while they are the source of authority in the home, are themselves
under the authority of the God and Father of all, of whose great economy they are
the earthly representatives.
2. The only basis, for instance, on which the headship of the husband can
securely rest is in its conformity to the headship of Christ over His Church. From
Christ he learns that all his true authority is derived from self-surrender, all his
real power from self-sacrifice. Nor is the wife, the husband’s consort, exempt
from this discipline of self-sacrificing love. Such service, indeed, the fond mother
heart of woman is quick to render, and therein lies the hiding of her power. But
this service is due not to children only, but to the husband as well. And this is to
be shown not only in those gentle ministries of the home which every good wife is
glad to render, and in the rendering of which her true queenship lies, but it is to
be shown likewise in the reverence which she ought always to feel towards the
husband. Whensoever the wife acts on this principle, she calls out what is noblest
in her husband. To such parental authority I need not say that children ought to
be altogether obedient in all things. Obedience is the crown and grace of
childhood, without which no child can learn to be strong and great; without
which no child can be lovable or lovely.
II. In the next place, let me speak of three dangers that beset the Christian home—
care, worldliness, and passion.
1. First, care. The lives of all earnest men are full of care. Men have to toil and
struggle to keep their place while the busy world is moving. There is one thing
that can be done, however, and that is, we can keep care away from the sacred
precincts of the home.
2. Even more fatal to the peace and safety of the home is worldliness—the
40
worldliness of the husband which takes him away from his home in the calm
evenings. But even worse is the worldliness of the wife. No woman is fit to be the
queen she ought to be in her own household who does not, no matter what her
station may be, find her chief pleasure and count her chief delight in the
employments and endearments of her home.
3. And lastly, passion. Not to speak of its darker aspects—the fretful, peevish,
ungovernable temper, the hasty word, the harsh unloving look, the little
unkindnesses—oh, how often do these break up the peace, and finally desolate
the home! Therefore there is need of prayer in the home. Therefore there is need
that the fire of sacrifice should be always kept burning on its altars. But when this
is so, then we see the blessedness of a Christian home. Beneath its shelter alone
can the care-worn toiler and thinker lay his heavy burden down; in its calm haven
alone can the weary or storm-tossed spirit find rest. (Bp. S. S. Harris.)
6 Do not take a pair of millstones—not even the
upper one—as security for a debt, because that
would be taking a person’s livelihood as
security.
CLARKE, "The nether or the upper mill-stone - Small hand-mills which
can be worked by a single person were formerly in use among the Jews, and are still
used in many parts of the East. As therefore the day’s meal was generally ground for
each day, they keeping no stock beforehand, hence they were forbidden to take either
of the stones to pledge, because in such a case the family must be without bread. On
this account the text terms the millstone the man’s life.
GILL, "No man shall take the nether or the upper millstone to pledge,....
The first word being of the dual number takes in both stones, wherefore Vatablus
renders the words,"ye shall not take for a pledge both the millstones, nor indeed the
uppermost;''which is the least; so far should they be from taking both, that they were
not allowed to take the uppermost, which was the shortest, meanest, and lightest;
and indeed if anyone of them was taken, the other became useless, so that neither
was to be taken:
for he taketh a man's life to pledge; or with which his life is supported, and the
41
life of his family; for if he has corn to supply them with, yet if his mill or millstones
are pawned, he cannot grind his corn, and so he and his family must starve: and in
those times and countries they did, as the Arabs do to this day, as Dr. Shaw (d)
relates,"most families grind their wheat and barley at home, having two portable
millstones for that purpose; the uppermost whereof is turned round by a small
handle of wood or iron, that is placed in the rim;''and these millstones being
portable, might be the more easily taken for pledges, which is here forbidden, for the
above reason; and this takes in any other thing whatever, on which a man's living
depends, or by which he gets his bread (e).
JAMISON, "No man shall take the nether or the upper millstone to
pledge — The “upper” stone being concave, covers the “nether” like a lid; and it has
a small aperture, through which the corn is poured, as well as a handle by which it is
turned. The propriety of the law was founded on the custom of grinding corn every
morning for daily consumption. If either of the stones, therefore, which composed
the handmill was wanting, a person would be deprived of his necessary provision.
CALVIN, "Deuteronomy 24:6No man shall take the nether. God now enforces
another principle of equity in relation to loans, (not to be too strict (107)) in
requiring pledges, whereby the poor are often exceedingly distressed. In the first
place, He prohibits the taking of anything in pledge which is necessary to the
poor for the support of existence; for by the words which I have translated meta
and catillus, i e. , the upper and nether millstone, He designates by synecdoche
all other instruments, which workmen cannot do without in earning their daily
bread. As if any one should forcibly deprive a husbandman of his plough, or his
spade, or harrow, or other tools, or should empty a shoemaker’s, or potter’s, or
other person’s shop, who could not exercise his trade when deprived of its
implements; and this is sufficiently clear from the context, where it is said, “He
taketh a man’s life to pledge,” together with his millstones. He, then, is as cruel,
whosoever takes in pledge what supports a poor man’s life, as if he should take
away bread from a starving man, and thus his life itself, which, as it is sustained
by labor, so, when its means of subsistence are cut off, is, as it were, itself
destroyed.
COKE, "Ver. 6. No man shall take the nether or the upper millstone to pledge—
This law is of the same merciful kind with that in Exodus 22:26-27 which is
repeated in the following verses; and it is founded upon the same equitable and
compassionate reasons. On the same account it was, that at Rome they were
42
forbidden to take the oxen or plough of a labourer, for the payment of his debts;
and there is the same humane provision in our laws also, which prohibit the
distraining of a labouring man's working tools or implements. See Blackstone's
Commentaries, Book 3: ch. 1.
COFFMAN, "LAWS OF LIFE
"No man shall take the mill or the upper millstone to pledge; for he taketh a
man's life to pledge.
"If a man be found stealing any of his brethren of the children of Israel, and he
deal with him as a slave, or sell him; then that thief shall die: so shalt thou put
away the evil from the midst of thee.
HAWKER, "This precept had much of mercy in it, because the nether, or upper
mill-stone, was daily needed to grind the borrower's food. But, do I not see here
a fence thrown up, to secure to a believer, his inheritance both in the upper and
the nether springs of all our mercies in JESUS? Reader, depend upon it, if
JESUS be your portion, or as this verse expresseth it, your life, you cannot
pledge him, neither can any take him from you. Sweet thought! in all our wants,
in all our poverty, borrowings, and distresses, though the creditor be come to
take our two sources of comfort from us, in the upper and the nether springs of
JESUS'S love; the vessels of grace shall be filled, and we shall have enough and
to spare. See that sweet scripture, and read the spiritual illustration of it in
proof, 2 Kings 4:1-7.
"Take heed in the plague of leprosy, that thou observe diligently, and do
according to all that the priests the Levites shall teach you: as I commanded
them, so ye shall observe to do. Remember what Jehovah thy God did unto
Miriam, by the way as ye came forth out of Egypt.
"When thou dost lend thy neighbor any manner of loan, thou shalt not go into
his house to fetch his pledge. Thou shalt stand without, and the man to whom
thou dost lend shall bring forth the pledge without unto thee. And if he be a poor
43
man, thou shalt not sleep with his pledge; thou shalt surely restore to him the
pledge when the sun goeth down, that he may sleep in his garment, and bless
thee: and it shall be righteousness unto thee before Jehovah thy God.
"Thou shalt not oppress a hired servant that is poor and needy, whether he be of
thy brethren, or of thy sojourners that are in thy land within thy gates: in his
day, thou shalt give him his hire, neither shall the sun go down upon it (for he is
poor, and setteth his heart upon it); lest he cry against thee unto Jehovah, and it
be sin unto thee."
In Deuteronomy 24:6, the KJV has "the nether or the upper millstone," instead
of "the mill or the upper millstone." The KJV is preferable, because, by any
definition, "the mill" would include both millstones. "The upper millstone was
concave and fitted like a lid over the nether millstone which was convex. There
was a small aperture through which the grain was poured, and also a handle by
which the mill was turned."[11] This important device was necessary in the daily
preparation of meals in the home, and therefore, lenders were not allowed to
touch it as a pledge. Exodus 22:25,26 relates to the subject here.
The crime in view in Deuteronomy 24:7 is kidnapping, and there is hardly a
civilized nation on earth, even today, that does not affix the death penalty for
such crimes.
Deuteronomy 24:8 and Deuteronomy 24:9 are understood in two different ways.
Alexander, and others think the passage is an admonition for people afflicted
with leprosy, counseling them to be careful to comply with all the priestly
regulations applicable to those thus afflicted.[12] On the other hand, Keil and the
commentators who usually follow him, are certain that this is an admonition to
all the people to keep all of God's laws commanded through the priests, in order
to avoid the onset of the plague of leprosy.[13] It seems to us that the example of
44
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Deuteronomy 24 commentary

  • 1. DEUTERONOMY 24 COMMENTARY EDITED BY GLENN PEASE 1 If a man marries a woman who becomes displeasing to him because he finds something indecent about her, and he writes her a certificate of divorce,gives it to her and sends her from his house, BARNES 1-4, "In this and the next chapter certain particular rights and duties, domestic, social, and civil, are treated. The cases brought forward have often no definite connection, and seem selected in order to illustrate the application of the great principles of the Law in certain important events and circumstances. These four verses contain only one sentence, and should be rendered thus: If a man hath taken a wife, etc., and given her a bill of divorcement and Deu_24:2 if she has departed out of his house and become another man’s wife; and Deu_24:3 if the latter husband hates her, then Deu_24:4 her former husband, etc. Moses neither institutes nor enjoins divorce. The exact spirit of the passage is given in our Lord’s words to the Jews’, “Moses because of the hardness of your hearts suffered you to put away your wives” Mat_19:8. Not only does the original institution of marriage as recorded by Moses Gen_2:24 set forth the perpetuity of the bond, but the verses before us plainly intimate that divorce, while tolerated for the time, contravenes the order of nature and of God. The divorced woman who marries again is “defiled” Deu_24:4, and is grouped in this particular with the adulteress (compare Lev_18:20). Our Lord then was speaking according to the spirit of the law of Moses when he declared, “Whoso marrieth her which is put away doth commit adultery” Mat_19:9. He was speaking too not less according to the mind of the prophets (compare Mal_2:14-16). But Moses could not absolutely put an end to a practice which was traditional, and common to the Jews with other Oriental nations. His aim is therefore to regulate and thus to mitigate an evil which he could not extirpate. CLARKE, "Some uncleanness - Any cause of dislike, for this great latitude of meaning the fact itself authorizes us to adopt, for it is certain that a Jew might put 1
  • 2. away his wife for any cause that seemed good to himself; and so hard were their hearts, that Moses suffered this; and we find they continued this practice even to the time of our Lord, who strongly reprehended them on the account, and showed that such license was wholly inconsistent with the original design of marriage; see Mat_ 5:31 (note), etc.; Mat_19:3 (note), etc., and the notes there. GILL, "When a man hath taken a wife and married her,.... That is, when a man has made choice of a woman for his wife, and has obtained her consent, and the consent of her parents; and has not only betrothed her, but taken her home, and consummated the marriage: and it come to pass that she find no favour in his eyes; is not agreeable to him, he takes no delight in her person, nor pleasure in her company and conversation; but, on the contrary, his affections are alienated from her, and he cannot bear the sight of her: because he hath found some uncleanness in her; something that he disliked, and was disagreeable to him, and which made their continuance together in the marriage state very uncomfortable; which led him on to be very ill-natured, severe, and cruel to her; so that her life was exposed to danger, or at least become very uneasy; in which case a divorce was permitted, both for the badness of the man's heart, and in favour of the woman, that she might be freed from such rigorous usage. This word "uncleanness" does not signify adultery, or any of the uncleannesses forbidden in Lev_18:6; because that was punishable with death, when it could be proved; and where there was only a suspicion of it, the husband might make use of the bitter water: though the house of Shammai seem to take it in this sense; for they say a man might not divorce his wife unless he found her in some unclean thing, something dishonest and wicked, and which they ground upon these words; but the house of Hillell say, if she burnt his food, or spoiled it by over salting, or over roasting it; and Akiba says, even if he found another woman more beautiful than her or more agreeable to him. But neither his sense, nor that of the house of Shammai, are approved of by the Jews in general, but that of the house of Hillell (m); and they suppose a man might divorce his wife for any ill qualities of mind in her, or for any ill or impudent behaviour of hers; as if her husband saw her go abroad with her head uncovered, and spinning in the streets, and so showing her naked arms to men; or having her garments slit on both sides; or washing in a bath with men, or where men use to wash, and talking with every man, and joking with young men; or her voice is sonorous and noisy; or any disease of body, as the leprosy, and the like; or any blemishes, as warts, are upon her; or any disagreeable smell that might arise from any parts of the body, from sweat, or a stinking breath (n): then let him write her a bill of divorcement; Jarchi says, this is a command upon him to divorce her, because she finds not favour in his eyes; and so the Jews (o) generally understand it, and so they did in the time of Christ, Mat_19:7; whereas it was no more than a permission, for reasons before given. A man might not dismiss his wife by word of mouth, which might be done hastily, in a passion, of which he might soon repent; but by writing, which was to be drawn up in form; and, as the Targum of Jonathan, before the sanhedrim, in a court of judicature, which required time, during which he might think more of it, and either recede from his purpose before the case was finished, or do it upon mature deliberation; and a firm resolution. The Jews say (p) many things of the witnesses before whom it was to be 2
  • 3. written and sealed, and at what time, and upon what, and with what it was to be written, and who were proper persons to write it or not, in a treatise of theirs, called Gittin, or divorces. In the Hebrew text this bill is called "a bill of cutting off" (q); because the marriage was rescinded, and man and wife were cut off and separated from one another for ever; of the form of such a bill; see Gill on Mat_5:31, and give it in her hand; which was to be done before witnesses, and which is one of the ten things requisite to a divorce (r); though it made no difference whether it was delivered by himself, or by a messenger; or whether to her, or to her deputy, appointed by her before witnesses; or whether it was put into her hand, or in her bosom, so be it that she was but possessed of it; with which agrees the Jewish canon,"if he casts a bill to his wife, and she is within the house, or within the court, she is divorced; if he casts it into her bosom, or into her work basket, she is divorced (s):" and send her out of his house; which was a visible token and public declaration of her divorce; besides, were she to be continued in his house afterwards, it would give suspicion of cohabitation, which after a divorce was not lawful. HENRY, "This is that permission which the Pharisees erroneously referred to as a precept, Mat_19:7, Moses commanded to give a writing of divorcement. It was not so; our Saviour told them that he only suffered it because of the hardness of their hearts, lest, if they had not had liberty to divorce their wives, they should have ruled them with rigour, and it may be, have been the death of them. It is probable that divorces were in use before (they are taken for granted, Lev_21:14), and Moses thought it needful here to give some rules concerning them. 1. That a man might not divorce his wife unless he found some uncleanness in her, Deu_24:1. It was not sufficient to say that he did not like her, or that he liked another better, but he must show cause for his dislike; something that made her disagreeable and unpleasant to him, though it might not make her so to another. This uncleanness must mean something less than adultery; for, for that, she was to die; and less than the suspicion of it, for in that case he might give her the waters of jealousy; but it means either a light carriage, or a cross froward disposition, or some loathsome sore or disease; nay, some of the Jewish writers suppose that an offensive breath might be a just ground for divorce. Whatever is meant by it, doubtless it was something considerable; so that their modern doctors erred who allowed divorce for every cause, though ever so trivial, Mat_19:3. 2. That it must be done, not by word of mouth, for that might be spoken hastily, but by writing, and that put in due form, and solemnly declared, before witnesses, to be his own act and deed, which was a work of time, and left room for consideration, that it might not be done rashly. 3. That the husband must give it into the hand of his wife, and send her away, which some think obliged him to endow her and make provision for her, according to her quality and such as might help to marry her again; and good reason he should do this, since the cause of quarrel was not her fault, but her infelicity. 4. That being divorced it was lawful for her to marry another husband, Deu_24:2. The divorce had dissolved the bond of marriage as effectually as death could dissolve it; so that she was as free to marry again as if her first husband had been naturally dead. 5. That if her second husband died, or divorced her, then still she might marry a third, but her first husband should never take her again (Deu_24:3, Deu_24:4), which he might have done if she had not married another; for by that act of her own she had perfectly renounced him for ever, and, as to him was looked upon as defiled, though not as to another person. The Jewish writers say that this was to prevent a most vile and wicked practice which the 3
  • 4. Egyptians had of changing wives; or perhaps it was intended to prevent men's rashness in putting away their wives; for the wife that was divorced would be apt, in revenge, to marry another immediately, and perhaps the husband that divorced her, how much soever he though to better himself by another choice, would find the next worse, and something in her more disagreeable, so that he would wish for his first wife again. “No” (says this law) “you shall not have her, you should have kept her when you had her.” Note, It is best to be content with such things as we have, since changes made by discontent often prove for the worse. The uneasiness we know is commonly better, though we are apt to think it worse, than that which we do not know. By the strictness of this law God illustrates the riches of his grace in his willingness to be reconciled to his people that had gone a whoring from him. Jer_3:1, Thou hast played the harlot with many lovers, yet return again to me. For his thoughts and ways are above ours. JAMISON, "Deu_24:1-22. Of divorces. When a man hath taken a wife, and married her, and it come to pass that she find no favour in his eyes — It appears that the practice of divorces was at this early period very prevalent amongst the Israelites, who had in all probability become familiar with it in Egypt [Lane]. The usage, being too deep-rooted to be soon or easily abolished, was tolerated by Moses (Mat_19:8). But it was accompanied under the law with two conditions, which were calculated greatly to prevent the evils incident to the permitted system; namely: (1) The act of divorcement was to be certified on a written document, the preparation of which, with legal formality, would afford time for reflection and repentance; and (2) In the event of the divorced wife being married to another husband, she could not, on the termination of that second marriage, be restored to her first husband, however desirous he might be to receive her. K&D, "Deu_24:1-5 contain two laws concerning the relation of a man to his wife. The first (Deu_24:1-4) has reference to divorce. In these verses, however, divorce is not established as a right; all that is done is, that in case of a divorce a reunion with the divorced wife is forbidden, if in the meantime she had married another man, even though the second husband had also put her away, or had died. The four verses form a period, in which Deu_24:1-3 are the clauses of the protasis, which describe the matter treated about; and Deu_24:4 contains the apodosis, with the law concerning the point in question. If a man married a wife, and he put her away with a letter of divorce, because she did not please him any longer, and the divorced woman married another man, and he either put her away in the same manner or died, the first husband could not take her as his wife again. The putting away (divorce) of a wife with a letter of divorce, which the husband gave to the wife whom he put away, is assumed as a custom founded upon tradition. This tradition left the question of divorce entirely at the will of the husband: “if the wife does not find favour in his eyes (i.e., does not please him), because he has found in her something shameful” (Deu_23:15). ‫ה‬ָ‫ו‬ ְ‫ר‬ ֶ‫,ע‬ nakedness, shame, disgrace (Isa_20:4; 1Sa_20:30); in connection with ‫ר‬ ָ‫ב‬ ָ , the shame of a thing, i.e., a shameful thing (lxx ᅎσχηµον πρᇰγµα; Vulg. aliquam faetiditatem). The meaning of this expression as a ground of divorce was disputed even among the Rabbins. Hillel's school interpret it in the widest and most lax manner possible, according to the explanation of the Pharisees in Mat_19:3, “for every cause.” They no doubt followed the rendering of Onkelos, ‫ם‬ָ‫ג‬ ְ‫ת‬ ִ‫פ‬ ‫ת‬ ַ‫יר‬ ֵ‫ב‬ ֲ‫,ע‬ the 4
  • 5. transgression of a thing; but this is contrary to the use of the word ‫ה‬ָ‫ו‬ ְ‫ר‬ ֶ‫,ע‬ to which the interpretation given by Shammai adhered more strictly. His explanation of ‫ר‬ ָ‫ב‬ ָ ‫ת‬ַ‫ו‬ ְ‫ר‬ ֶ‫ע‬ is “rem impudicam, libidinem, lasciviam, impudicitiam.” Adultery, to which some of the Rabbins would restrict the expression, is certainly not to be thought of, because this was to be punished with death. (Note: For the different views of the Rabbins upon this subject, see Mishnah tract. Gittin ix. 10; Buxtorf, de sponsal. et divort. pp. 88ff.; Selden, uxor ebr. l. iii. c. 18 and 20; and Lightfoot, horae ebr. et talm. ad Matth. v. 31f.) ‫ת‬ ֻ‫ית‬ ִ‫ר‬ ְⅴ ‫ר‬ ֶ‫פ‬ ֶ‫,ס‬ βιβλίον ᅊποστασίου, a letter of divorce; ‫ת‬ ֻ‫ית‬ ִ‫ר‬ ְⅴ, hewing off, cutting off, sc., from the man, with whom the wife was to be one flesh (Gen_2:24). The custom of giving letters of divorce was probably adopted by the Israelites in Egypt, where the practice of writing had already found its way into all the relations of life. (Note: The rabbinical rules on the grounds of divorce and the letter of divorce, according to Maimonides, have been collected by Surenhusius, ad Mishn. tr. Gittin, c. 1 (T. iii. pp. 322f. of the Mishnah of Sur.), where different specimens of letters of divorce are given; the latter also in Lightfoot, l.c.) The law that the first husband could not take his divorced wife back again, if she had married another husband in the meantime, even supposing that the second husband was dead, would necessarily put a check upon frivolous divorces. Moses could not entirely abolish the traditional custom, if only “because of the hardness of the people's hearts” (Mat_19:8). The thought, therefore, of the impossibility of reunion with the first husband, after the wife had contracted a second marriage, would put some restraint upon a frivolous rupture of the marriage tie: it would have this effect, that whilst, on the one hand, the man would reflect when inducements to divorce his wife presented themselves, and would recall a rash act if it had been performed, before the wife he had put away had married another husband; on the other hand, the wife would yield more readily to the will of her husband, and seek to avoid furnishing him with an inducement for divorce. But this effect would be still more readily produced by the reason assigned by Moses, namely, that the divorced woman was defiled (‫ה‬ፎ ָ ַ ֻ‫,ה‬ Hothpael, as in Num_1:47) by her marriage with a second husband. The second marriage of a woman who had been divorced is designated by Moses a defilement of the woman, primarily no doubt with reference to the fact that the emissio seminis in sexual intercourse rendered unclean, though not merely in the sense of such a defilement as was removed in the evening by simple washing, but as a moral defilement, i.e., blemishing, desecration of the sexual communion with was sanctified by marriage, in the same sense in which adultery is called a defilement in Lev_18:20 and Num_5:13-14. Thus the second marriage of a divorced woman was placed implicite upon a par with adultery, and some approach made towards the teaching of Christ concerning marriage: “Whosoever shall marry her that is divorced, committeth adultery” (Mat_5:32). - But if the second marriage of a divorced woman was a moral defilement, of course the wife could not marry the first again even after the death of her second husband, not only because such a reunion would lower the dignity of the woman, and the woman would appear too much like property, which could be disposed of at one time and reclaimed at another (Schultz), but because the defilement of the wife would be thereby repeated, and even increased, as the moral defilement which the divorced wife acquired through the second marriage was not removed by a divorce from the second husband, nor yet by his death. Such defilement was an abomination before Jehovah, by which they would cause the land to sin, i.e., stain it with sin, as much as by the sins of incest and unnatural licentiousness (Lev_18:25). 5
  • 6. Attached to this law, which is intended to prevent a frivolous severance of the marriage tie, there is another in Deu_24:5, which was of a more positive character, and adapted to fortify the marriage bond. The newly married man was not required to perform military service for a whole year; “and there shall not come (anything) upon him with regard to any matter.” The meaning of this last clause is to be found in what follows: “Free shall he be for his house for a year,” i.e., they shall put no public burdens upon him, that he may devote himself entirely to his newly established domestic relations, and be able to gladden his wife (compare Deu_20:7). CALVIN, "Although what relates to divorce was granted in indulgence to the Jews, yet Christ pronounces that it was never in accordance with the Law, because it is directly repugnant to the first institution of God, from whence a perpetual and inviolable rule is to be sought. It is proverbially said that the laws of nature are indissoluble; and God has declared once for all, that the bond of union between husband and wife is closer than that of parent and child; wherefore, if a son cannot shake off the paternal yoke, no cause can permit the dissolution of the connection which a man has with his wife. Hence it appears how great was the perverseness of that nation, which could not be restrained from dissolving a most sacred and inviolable tie. Meanwhile the Jews improperly concluded from their impunity that that was lawful, which God did not punish because of the hardness of their hearts; whereas they ought rather to have considered, agreeably to the answer of Christ, that man is not at liberty to separate those whom God hath joined together. (Matthew 19:6.) Still, God chose to make a provision for women who were cruelly oppressed, and for whom it was better that they should at once be set free, than that they should groan beneath a cruel tyranny during their whole lives. Thus, in Malachi, divorce is preferred to polygamy, since it would be a more tolerable condition to be divorced than to bear with a harlot and a rival. (Malachi 2:14.) And undoubtedly the bill or scroll of divorce, whilst it cleared the woman from all disgrace, cast some reproach on the husband; for he who confesses that he puts away his wife, because she does not please him, brings himself under the accusation both of moroseness and inconstancy. For what gross levity and disgraceful inconstancy it shows, that a husband should be so offended with some imperfection or disease in his wife, as to east away from him half of himself! We see, then, that husbands were indirectly condemned by the writing of divorce, since they thus committed an 6
  • 7. injury against their wives who were chaste, and in other respects what they should be. On these grounds, God in Isaiah, in order that He might take away from the Jews all subject of complaint, bids them produce the bill of divorce, if He had given any to their mother, (Isaiah 1:1;) as much as to say, that His cause for rejecting them was just, because they had treacherously revolted to ungodliness. Some interpreters do not read these three verses continuously, but suppose the sense to be complete at the end of the first, wherein the husband testifies that he divorces his wife for no offense, but because her beauty does not satisfy his lust. If, however, we give more close attention, we shall see that it is only one provision of the Law, viz., that when a man has divorced his wife, it is not lawful for him to marry her again if she have married another. The reason of the law is, that, by prostituting his wife, he would be, as far as in him lay, acting like a procurer. In this view, it is said that she was defiled, because he had contaminated her body, for the liberty which he gave her could not abolish the first institution of God, but rather, as Christ teaches, gave cause for adultery. (Matthew 5:31, and 19:9.) Thus, the Israelites were reminded that, although they divorced their wives with impunity, still this license was by no means excused before God. BENSON, "Deuteronomy 24:1. Some uncleanness — Some hateful thing, some distemper of body, or quality of mind, not observed before marriage: or some light carriage, as this phrase commonly signifies, but not amounting to adultery. Let him write — This is not a command, as some of the Jews understood it, nor an allowance and approbation, but merely a permission of that practice for prevention of greater mischiefs, and this only until the time of reformation, till the coming of the Messiah, when things were to return to their first institution and purest condition. COFFMAN, "Verse 1 Kline's analysis of this chapter is thus: 7
  • 8. (1) Laws of Family (Deuteronomy 24:1-5) (2) Laws of Life (Deuteronomy 24:6-15) (3) Laws of Justice (Deuteronomy 24:16-18) (4) Laws of Charity (Deuteronomy 24:19-22).[1] A number of these have already been studied earlier in the Pentateuch, the repetition of them here being recalled, apparently at random, by Moses in one of his great farewell addresses. This entire third division of Deuteronomy extending through Deuteronomy 26:19 is nearing the end, the whole of this long section being devoted to "Covenant Stipulations," a general summary of the whole Covenant duties of God's people, including a very large number of specific rules and regulations. The Decalogue and other portions of the sacred law were already committed to writing and known by God's people, and Moses' words in this section do not replace any of the previously written ordinances, but serve, rather as a reminder and restatement of all of them, with, here and there, a specific addition. In the larger context, all of Deuteronomy "follows the structure of that suzerainty type of covenant (or treaty) in its classical mid-second millennium B.C. form, confirming the unity and authenticity of Deuteronomy as a Mosaic product."[2] It is important to remember in this connection that, throughout, Moses speaks as the personal representative of God Himself, the sovereign ruler of the Chosen Nation. Efforts of the critical community to deny the authorship and approximate mid-second millennium B.C. date of Deuteronomy have now been thoroughly refuted and discredited. 8
  • 9. LAWS OF FAMILY "When a man taketh a wife, and marrieth her, then it shall be, if she find no favor in his eyes, because he hath found some unseemly thing in her, that he shall write her a bill of divorcement, and give it in her hand, and send her out of his house. And when she is departed out of his house, she may go and be another man's wife. And if the latter husband hate her, and write her a bill of divorcement, and give it in her hand, and send her out of his house; or if the latter husband die, who took her to be his wife; her former husband, who sent her away, may not take her again to be his wife, after that she is defiled; for that is abomination before Jehovah: and thou shalt not cause the land to sin, which Jehovah thy God giveth thee for an inheritance. "When a man taketh a new wife, he shall not go out in the host, neither shall he be charged with any business: he shall be free at home one year, and shall cheer his wife whom he hath taken." The first paragraph here is that famous passage brought up by the Pharisees in the presence of Jesus Christ in Matthew 19:3. The view of those evil men was that Moses commanded to give a bill of divorcement (Matthew 19:7), but Christ corrected them, pointing out that Moses indeed permitted divorce because of the hardness of men's hearts, but that he, in no sense whatever commanded it. Some of the commentators today also need to be corrected. For example, Dummelow stated that, "The right of the husband to divorce his wife is here acknowledged."[3] This passage, of course, does no such thing. "This is not a law instituting or regulating divorce but a regulation concerning this ancient Semitic custom."[4] Cook has elaborated this correct view a little more fully, as follows: 9
  • 10. "Moses neither instituted nor enjoined divorce. The exact spirit of this passage is found in our Lord's words to the Pharisees: "Moses because of the hardness of your hearts suffered you to put away your wives (Matthew 19:8). Moses reported the original institution of marriage (Genesis 2:24), setting forth the perpetuity of the bond, and even the passage before us plainly indicates that divorce, while tolerated for the time, contravenes the order of nature and of God. The divorced woman who marries again is "defiled" (Deuteronomy 24:4), and is grouped in this particular with the adulteress. Our Lord, then, was speaking according to the spirit of this passage when he declared, "Whoso marrieth her that is put away committeth adultery" (Matthew 19:9)."[5] (For further comment on this question, see in Vol. 1 of our series on the N.T., under Matthew 19:1ff.) There are a number of very interesting things here. "Some unseemly thing in her ..." what can this mean? The Hebrew has, literally, "some matter of nakedness."[6] The Jews spawned two schools of authorities on this, those of Shammai thought it meant something disgraceful, such as adultery, and those of Hillel took the position that it meant any "unbecomingness," actually meaning that, "for any reason," a man could put away his wife.[7] It is not hard to discover the position of the Pharisees (Matthew 19:3) who accepted Hillel's position on this, believing that divorce was possible "for every cause." The first three verses here are all conditional, the one affirmation in the whole first paragraph being that the woman's first husband may not take her back after her union with another man. Needless to say, there have been many disputes about what some of these clauses mean. Deuteronomy 24:2, for example, is cited by Dummelow as proof that a divorced woman had the right to remarry. "The bill of divorcement contained the sentence, "And thou art free to be married to another man."[8] Also, some have disputed that there are any exceptions at all, not even allowing what Jesus said, regarding "except for 10
  • 11. fornication" (Matthew 19:9). Occasionally, some commentator affirms that Jesus' exception `except for fornication" should not be allowed because the parallel passages in Mark and in Luke do not record it, but to us this appears little short of blasphemy. All of everything written in all of the gospels is true, dependable, authentic, and of full authority. It is NOT required that anything in any gospel be repeated by another in order for it to be acceptable. The same thing is true of all of the Bible, and thus Paul's additional "exception" in 1 Corinthians 7:15 is just as much the Word of God as any other part of the Bible. One insight into the passage should be stressed and that is the prevalence of writing. The time here is the mid-second millennium B.C. (around 1400 B.C.), and writing was generally known and in constant use in that society. Therefore, the notion that Moses would not have written all of the pertinent material contained in the Pentateuch borders on foolishness, especially in view of the specific commandment of God that he was to do so, as in Exodus 17:14. Summarizing the instructions relating to marriage and divorce in these first four verses, these rules, it appears, were fashioned: (1) in order to make divorce harder to get; (2) requiring that a legal document be prepared in writing; (3) thus probably involving the services of a scribe and perhaps also a magistrate; 11
  • 12. (4) forbidding any return to the original marriage after another had been contracted; and (5) indicating altogether God's displeasure with the whole business of "putting away" wives. If there should remain any doubt about how God actually views this sin, it is found in the following verse: "And did not he (God) make one ...? Therefore take heed to your spirit, and let none deal treacherously against the wife of his youth. FOR I HATE PUTTING AWAY, saith Jehovah the God of hosts." (Malachi 2:15,16) The instruction in Deuteronomy 24:5 regarding the man newly-married, exempting him from any kind of military service for a whole year is also mentioned again in Deuteronomy 20:7. Kline was correct in grouping this along with the previous four verses. As Klein pointed out that: "Attached to the laws regarding marriage which are intended to prevent a frivolous severance of the marriage tie, Deuteronomy 24:5 is of a more positive character and adapted to fortify the marriage tie."[9] There is an amazing echo of this sequence in the sacred teachings in Matthew 19, where, following the conversation about divorce, the apostles brought unto him little children that Christ should place his hands upon them and bless them (Matthew 19:13). It will be remembered that the apostles said, after that conversation, " ...it is not expedient to marry." By bringing this beautiful episode involving little children into focus at that very point, "It served as a comment on the discussion of divorce, and left a better impression with reference to married 12
  • 13. life.[10] "To cheer his wife ..." (Deuteronomy 24:5). This is variously translated: "Rejoice with his wife" (Douay Version), "Be happy with his wife" (RSV), "Para felicidad de su mujer" (Spanish Version), "Stay at home and bring happiness to his wife" (NIV), "Be happy with his wife" (Moffatt), "Cheer up his wife" (KJV and the Polyglot). Tyndale has this, literally, "Fhalbe fre at home one yere and reioyfe with his wife whiche he hath taken." COKE, "Ver. 1. When a man hath taken a wife— The Hebrew nation having been accustomed to the liberty of putting away their wives from motives of dislike and aversion, and Moses being sensible that their hardness of heart, and severity of temper, would, upon an absolute restraint from such liberty, produce greater inconveniences and distractions in families; he now enacted, that when any husband laboured under an absolute dislike to his wife, either upon account of any bodily disease, or of her disagreeable temper, he should have the privilege of parting with her; yet not in a violent, hasty, and passionate method, but deliberately, by giving her, signed with his own hand, a discharge from all further relation to him; whence she obtained a full right to marry any other person. That by the phrase found some uncleanness in her, cannot be meant adultery, or any other enormous crime, as idolatry, apostacy, and the like, is evident, because those crimes were punished with death. The word uncleanness, therefore, which is used with great latitude in these books, must signify any thing creating dislike or aversion; something, either in her body or mind, which created in the husband a fixed disgust: but as he himself was sole judge what this uncleanness or turpitude was, whatever displeased him about her he might call by that name. Mr. Locke observes, in agreement to the Margin of our Bibles, that the phrase literally signifies the nakedness of any thing; and nakedness, says he, is usually referred in Scripture to the mind, as well as body. Houbigant is of opinion, that this uncleanness refers solely to some secret bodily defect, of which the husband alone could be conscious; and that such defect only could justify divorce. This, no doubt, gave husbands a great power over their wives, and must have been attended with very great inconveniencies to society. See ch. 13
  • 14. Deuteronomy 22:19; Deuteronomy 22:29 and Matthew 19:3-9. The law enjoins, that a bill of divorcement (or of cutting off, so called, as it cut off a woman from her husband) was to be written and given to the woman. A form of this divorce may be seen in Selden and Buxtorf. As we have mention of divorces in several places, (Leviticus 21:14; Leviticus 22:13. Numbers 30:9.) many judicious interpreters have been of opinion, that it was usual to put away wives before the law of Moses; that he only indulged them in an established custom, which he knew their intractable tempers would not bear to have quite abolished; and therefore he contented himself with bringing it under proper regulations and restrictions. For more on this subject, we refer to St. Matthew as above, as well as to Selden's Treatise de Uxor. Heb. lib. 3: cap. 18. J. Buxtorf de Sponsalib. & Divort. Grotius de Jure B. & P. lib. 2: cap. 5 sect. 9 and a very learned dissertation of the famous Mr. Mosheim, de Divortio. CONSTABLE, "Marital duties and rights 24:1-5 A discussion of divorce and remarriage fits into this context because both practices involve respect for the rights of others. The first of the two situations Moses dealt with in this section concerns a married, divorced, and remarried woman (Deuteronomy 24:1-4). "In modern society, marriage and divorce are not only regulated by law, but are invalid unless conducted or decreed by accredited officials in accredited places (churches and register offices, or law-courts in the case of divorce). In Israel, however, both were purely domestic matters, with no officials and scarcely any documents involved; the bill of divorce was the exception, and it was essential, to protect the divorced woman from any charge of adultery, which was punishable by death (cf. Deuteronomy 22:22)." [Note: Ibid., pp. 133-34.] Moses allowed divorce for the "hardness of heart" of the Israelites, but God's preference was that there be no divorce (Genesis 1:27; Genesis 2:24; Malachi 2:16; Matthew 19:8). This, then, is another example of God regulating practices that were not His desire for people, but that He permitted in Israel (e.g., polygamy, etc.). The worst situation envisaged in these verses is divorce, 14
  • 15. remarriage, divorce, and then remarriage to the first spouse. The better situation was divorce and remarriage. Still better was divorce and no remarriage. Best of all was no divorce. The Egyptians practiced divorce and gave written certificates of divorce, so perhaps the Israelites learned these practices from them. [Note: Keil and Delitzsch, 3:417.] Divorce was common in the ancient Near East, and it was easy to obtain. [Note: Thompson, p. 244.] However, the Israelites took marriage more seriously than their neighbors did. The reason for the granting of the divorce by the husband, who alone had the power to divorce, was "some indecency" in his wife (Deuteronomy 24:1). This could not have been simple adultery since the Israelites stoned adulteresses (Deuteronomy 22:22). However it is debatable whether the Israelites enforced the death penalty for adultery. [Note: Henry McKeating, "Sanctions Against Adultery in Ancient Israelite Society," Journal for the Study of the Old Testament 11 (1979):57-72.] It could not have been just suspicion of adultery either since there was a specified procedure for dealing with that (Numbers 5:5-31). Two schools of rabbinic interpretation of this phrase developed in time. Rabbi Hillel's liberal position was that God permitted a divorce "for every cause" (Matthew 19:3), for example, burning the husband's food. Rabbi Shammai's conservative position allowed divorce only for fornication (sexual sin). Jesus said that God permitted divorce for fornication, but He warned against remarrying after such a divorce (Matthew 19:9). [Note: See Appendix 1 at the end of these notes for a detailed discussion of the major interpretive problems in Deuteronomy 24:1-4. See also Appendix 2 for some suggestions for preventing divorce.] Divorce not permitted by God followed by remarriage, which involved post- marital adultery for the woman, resulted in the moral defilement and 15
  • 16. uncleanness of the woman (Deuteronomy 24:4; cf. Leviticus 18:20; Numbers 5:12-14). The point of Moses' legislation was that when a couple divorced and then wanted to remarry, the woman's first husband could not marry her again if she had married someone else following her divorce. Evidently Israel's neighbors would divorce their mates, marry someone else, and then remarry their first spouse after their "affair." This ordinance would have discouraged hasty divorce as well as strengthening second marriages in Israel. [Note: For discussion of other possible purposes, see J. Carl Laney, "Deuteronomy 24:1-4 and the Issue of Divorce," Bibliotheca Sacra 149:593 (January-March 1992):9-13.] "Thus the intent of the legislation seems to be to apply certain restrictions on the already existing practice of divorce. If divorce became too easy, then it could be abused and it would become a 'legal' form of committing adultery." [Note: Craigie, The Book . . ., p. 305.] One scholar argued that the giving of a certificate of divorce implies not only a legal permission for divorce but also the legal permission for the woman to remarry. He also believed that the improper behavior for which divorce was allowed was behavior that fundamentally violated the essence of the marriage covenant. [Note: Sprinkle, pp. 529-32 and 546-47.] Jesus taught His disciples not to divorce (Matthew 19:1-12; Mark 10:1-12). Matthew included Jesus' clarification of the condition for divorce that God permitted (Matthew 19:9; cf. Deuteronomy 24:1), but Mark did not. Paul restated Jesus' point (1 Corinthians 7:10-11) and added that a believing spouse need not remain with an unbelieving mate if the unbeliever departs (i.e., divorces; 1 Corinthians 7:12-16). After a divorce he encouraged remarriage to the former spouse or remaining single (1 Corinthians 7:11). [Note: Some of the best writings on marriage, divorce, and remarriage are these. For the view that 16
  • 17. God permitted divorce and remarriage for immorality and desertion, see John Murray, Divorce (scholarly); Jay E. Adams, Marriage, Divorce and Remarriage (popular); and Tim Crater, "Bill Gothard's View of the Exception Clause," Journal of Pastoral Practice 4 (1980):5-10 (popular). For the view that God permitted divorce and remarriage for unlawful marriages, as the Mosaic Law specified unlawful marriages, see Joseph A. Fitzmyer, "The Matthean Divorce Texts and Some New Palestinian Evidence," Theological Studies 37:2 (June 1976):197-226 (scholarly); J. Carl Laney, The Divorce Myth (popular); and Charles C. Ryrie, You Mean the Bible Teaches That ..., pp. 45-56 (popular). For the view that God permitted divorce and remarriage in Israel for unfaithfulness during the betrothal period, see Abel Isaksson, "Marriage and Ministry in the New Temple," pp. 7-152 (scholarly); and Mark Geldard, "Jesus' Teaching on Divorce," Churchman 92 (1978):134-43 (popular). For the view that God permitted divorce but not remarriage, see William A. Heth and Gordon J. Wenham, Jesus and Divorce (scholarly). A helpful general resource is James B. Hurley, Man and Woman in Biblical Perspective.] The second situation Moses dealt with in this section concerns a recently married male (Deuteronomy 24:5). Such a person did not have to participate in military service for one year. The reason for this provision was so the man could establish a strong home and begin producing descendants. Both strong homes and descendants were essential to God's purposes through Israel. Going into war and dying was a type of stealing from his wife. ELLICOTT, ". DIVORCE. Some uncleanness.—Evidently mere caprice and dislike are not intended here. There must be some real ground of complaint. (See Margin.) Let him write her a bill of divorcement.—“Moses, because of the hardness of your hearts, suffered you to put away your wives,” is the Divine comment upon this. It is a distinct concession to the weakness of Israel—not the ideal standard of the Law, but the highest which it was found practicable to enforce. (See Matthew 19:2 seq.) There are many other particular enactments in the Law of 17
  • 18. Moses of which the same thing may be said. The ideal standard of morality has never varied. There is no higher ideal than that of the Pentateuch. But the Law which was actually enforced, in many particulars fell short of that ideal. (2) If the latter husband hate her.—Rashi says here that “the Scripture intimates that the end of such a marriage will be that he will hate her.” He makes a similar remark on the marriage with the captive in Deuteronomy 21. The result of the marriage will be a hated wife, and a firstborn son of her, who will be a glutton and a drunkard. (4) Her former husband . . . may not take her again . . . and thou shalt not cause the land to sin.—The comment upon this, supplied by Jeremiah 3:1, is singularly beautiful. “They say, If a man put away his wife, and she go from him, and become another man’s, shall he return unto her again? Shall not that land be greatly polluted? But thou hast played the harlot with many lovers; yet return again to me, saith the Lord.” HAWKER, "The Chapter before us is a continuation of certain laws, appointed to be observed in certain cases. Here are directions concerning divorces; of the permission, for the newly married to refrain from war; concerning pledges; men- stealers; leprosy; hire of wages; of justice, and of charity. Verses 1-4 Our blessed LORD'S comment upon this law throws a full light upon the subject of divorces in general. The permission of such acts, carries with it the evidence of the hardness of the human heart. Matthew 19:8. But what a precious thought is it to the true believer in JESUS, that his union with him admits of no divorce. No, not even our backsliding, for he saith himself, I have betrothed thee to me forever. And though thou hast played the harlot with many lovers, yet return again unto me, saith the LORD, Jeremiah 3:1; Hosea 2:19. PETT, "Regulation On Divorce and Remarriage With The Same Woman (Deuteronomy 24:1-4). This regulation caused much dissension between the Rabbis. The question for 18
  • 19. them was as to what ‘because he has found some unseemly thing (literally ‘some nakedness of a thing’, compare Deuteronomy 23:14) in her’ meant. Shammai said that it signified fornication and unclean behaviour. Hillel argued that it simply meant anything that displeased the husband. Jesus came down on the side of Shammai, but limited it to adultery. The argument that it could not refer to adultery, because the punishment for adultery was death, overlooks the fact that such a sentence would only be passed where the husband had lodged his case and called in witnesses. If the husband did not wish to pursue the death penalty, and no one else took up the case, it would not necessarily be exacted, unless the woman was discovered by others in open breach. (Compare how in the Matthew 1:19, in what appeared to be a similar case, ‘Joseph being a righteous man, and not willing to make her a public example, was minded to put her away secretly’). But this was not actually a law laying down a case for divorce. The Law in fact never lays down a case for divorce. It was disapproved of by God. This was about one particular point as to what was to happen when a man following custom had divorced a wife who then remarried, and was later divorced by the second husband, or whose second husband died. The point being made was that the first husband could not remarry her. That was seen as a step too far. Such a position would in practise be very important. Otherwise there would always be the danger that the longstanding relationship of the first marriage might act as a constant magnet to draw the woman out of a second marriage to remarry her first husband. It might produce instability in the second marriage. It might even cause some women to poison their second husbands so as to be able to return to the first. It also prevented reckless divorces gone through on the basis that if they wished 19
  • 20. they could always come together again. The introduction of this regulation here might suggest that Moses was very much aware of recent cases where these things had occurred. This chapter again has ‘thou, thee’ all the way through apart from Deuteronomy 24:7 and Deuteronomy 24:8 where the change simply stresses that everyone is involved. Analysis using the words of Moses. · When a man takes a wife, and marries her, then it shall be, if she find no favour in his eyes because he has found some unseemly thing (literally ‘nakedness of a word/thing’) in her, that he shall write her a bill of divorcement, and give it in her hand, and send her out of his house (Deuteronomy 24:1). · And when she is departed out of his house, she may go and be another man’s wife (Deuteronomy 24:2). · And if the latter husband hate her, and write her a bill of divorcement, and give it in her hand, and send her out of his house, or if the latter husband die, who took her to be his wife (Deuteronomy 24:3). · Her former husband, who sent her away, may not take her again to be his wife, after she is shown as (declared to be) defiled, for that is abomination before Yahweh, and you shall not cause the land to sin, which Yahweh your God gives you for an inheritance (Deuteronomy 24:4). Note that in ‘a’ the husband divorces his wife, and in the parallel may not take her again once she has remarried, even if her husband dies. In ‘b’ she marries another man, and in the parallel it is posited that she is divorced by him, or that he dies. 20
  • 21. Deuteronomy 24:1 ‘When a man takes a wife, and marries her, then it shall be, if she find no favour in his eyes because he has found some unseemly thing (literally ‘nakedness of a word/thing’) in her, that he shall write her a bill of divorcement, and give it in her hand, and send her out of his house.’ Moses was really here only explaining that a divorce had taken place for some particular reason, without going into detail, although he undoubtedly did see it as a valid reason. He was not, however, intending it to be analysed, either by the Rabbis, or by would be divorce seekers of the present day. He expected his listeners to know the customary conditions for divorce, so he did not explain them here. His reference was not specific. But what did ‘nakedness of a word/thing’ convey. It would certainly seem to suggest some sexual transgression or something unpleasantly unclean. We can compare Deuteronomy 23:14 where the same phrase is used and translated as ‘unclean’ and signifies a man’s waste products. The word for ‘nakedness’ is regularly used of the shame of a person’s nakedness being revealed. It is not the word for ritually unclean nor for things which were just generally unseemly. So ‘nakedness’ usually connects with something to do with sex or the sexual organs. An act of adultery or near adultery for which he did not wish to press charges would fit the bill exactly, possibly a case where she had been discovered before the actual adultery took place, or of actual adultery where there were no witnesses, and his reticence on the matter is then explained by the fact that he divorced her rather than openly accusing her and that he was represented as loving her enough to be willing to take her back after the second divorce. But while he did not press charges it had been sufficient of a blow to his family honour and his own sense of pride for him to give her a divorce contract in 21
  • 22. writing and send her away. Possibly out of shame she had even demanded it. It would seem, also, that she left without any rights, which would indicate that she had sinned grievously. That divorce was possible is made clear by Deuteronomy 22:19; Deuteronomy 22:29, but not on what conditions. Those verses were simply saying that never again could those particular men bring an action for divorce against that woman for any reason. (Others could accuse her but not them. They had forfeited their right by their behaviour. They were not considered trustworthy). So the grounds for divorce here seems to be restricted to sexual misconduct. PULPIT, "Deuteronomy 24:1-4 Of divorce. If a man put away his wife because she did not any longer please him, and she became the wife of another man, by whom also she was put away, or from whom she was severed by his death, the first husband might not remarry her, for that would be an abomination in the eyes of the Lord, and would bring sin on the land. This is not a law sanctioning or regulating divorce; that is simply assumed as what might occur, and what is here regulated is the treatment by the first husband of a woman who has been divorced a second time. Deuteronomy 24:1-4 These verses should be read as one continuous sentence, of which the protasis is in Deuteronomy 24:1-3, and the apodosis in Deuteronomy 24:4, thus: "If a man hath taken a wife, and married her, and it come to pass that she doth not find favor in his eyes, because of some uncleanness in her, and he hath written her a bill of divorcement, and given it in her hand, and sent her out of his house; and if she hath departed out of his house, and hath gone and become another man's; and if the latter husband hate her, and write her a bill of divorcement, and give it in her hand, and send her out of his house; or if the latter husband who took her to be his wife, die; her former husband, who sent her away, may not take her 22
  • 23. again to be his wife," etc. Deuteronomy 24:1 Because he hath found some uncleanness in her; literally, a thing or matter of nakedness, i.e. some shameful thing, something disgraceful; LXX; ἄσχημον πρᾶγμα: Vulgate, "aliquam foeditatem." In the Targum of Onkelos, the expression is explained by ‫ָם‬‫ג‬ ֵ‫ת‬ ִ‫פ‬ ‫ת‬ ִ‫יר‬ֵ‫ֲב‬‫ﬠ‬; "aliquid foeditatis" (London Polyglot); "iniquitas rei alicujus"(Buxtorf); "the transgression of a [Divine] word" (Levi). On this the school of Hillel among the rabbins put the interpretation that a man might divorce his wife for any unbecomingness (Mishna, 'Gittin,' 9.10), or indeed for any cause, as the Pharisees in our Lord's day taught (Matthew 19:3). The school of Shammai, on the other hand, taught that only for something disgraceful, such as adultery, could a wife be divorced (Lightfoot, 'Her. Hebrews et Talm.,' on Matthew 5:31, Opp; tom. 2.290). Adultery, however, cannot be supposed here because that was punishable with death. A bill of divorcement; literally, a writing of excision; the man and woman having by marriage become one flesh, the divorce of the woman was a cutting of her off from the one whole. Lightfoot has given (loc. cit.) different forms of letters of divorce in use among the Jews (see also Maimonides, 'De Divortiis,' ch. 4. § 12). PULPIT, "Deuteronomy 24:1-5 Permissive legislation. No treatment of this passage can Be appropriate which does not set it in the light thrown upon it by Matthew 19:1-12. The heading we have given to this outline indicates a point on which special stress should be laid whenever an expositor has occasion to refer to it. In the course of time, men had come to regard this passage in the light of a command. Hence the wording of the question in 23
  • 24. Matthew 19:7. But our Lord informs us that it was simply permissive. Divorce, under the circumstances here named, was tolerated a while by Moses owing to "the hardness of men's hearts," but that the original Divine arrangement contemplated the indissolubility of marriage. The entire principle of the Mosaic Law was that of educating the people out of a semi-degraded state into something higher, Its method of doing this was by giving the people the best legislation they could bear; tolerating some ill for a while rather than forcing on the people revolutionary methods. The more gentle and gracious, though the slower process, was to sow the seed of higher good, and to let it have time to grow. The following Divine teaching on marriage may well be brought forward with this passage as a basis. I. That the marriage bond is holy in the eye of God, and ought ever to be recognized as very sacred by man. II. That by God's own declared appointment this most sacred of all nature's ties is indissoluble. III. That however, owing to the degeneracy of national habit and thought, civil legislation may suffer the legal cessation of the marriage bond, yet it can in no case be severed, save by death, without heinous sin on one side or on both. IV. That the claims of married life are such that, with them, not even the exigencies of military service are unduly to interfere (Matthew 19:5). V. That the highest and purest enjoyments of wedded life come to perfection only when it is entered on and spent in the Lord Jesus Christ. The law was but a παιδαγωγός εἰς χριστὸν (see 1 Corinthians 7:39). 24
  • 25. PULPIT, "Deuteronomy 24:1-5 Permissive legislation. No treatment of this passage can Be appropriate which does not set it in the light thrown upon it by Matthew 19:1-12. The heading we have given to this outline indicates a point on which special stress should be laid whenever an expositor has occasion to refer to it. In the course of time, men had come to regard this passage in the light of a command. Hence the wording of the question in Matthew 19:7. But our Lord informs us that it was simply permissive. Divorce, under the circumstances here named, was tolerated a while by Moses owing to "the hardness of men's hearts," but that the original Divine arrangement contemplated the indissolubility of marriage. The entire principle of the Mosaic Law was that of educating the people out of a semi-degraded state into something higher, Its method of doing this was by giving the people the best legislation they could bear; tolerating some ill for a while rather than forcing on the people revolutionary methods. The more gentle and gracious, though the slower process, was to sow the seed of higher good, and to let it have time to grow. The following Divine teaching on marriage may well be brought forward with this passage as a basis. I. That the marriage bond is holy in the eye of God, and ought ever to be recognized as very sacred by man. II. That by God's own declared appointment this most sacred of all nature's ties is indissoluble. III. That however, owing to the degeneracy of national habit and thought, civil legislation may suffer the legal cessation of the marriage bond, yet it can in no 25
  • 26. case be severed, save by death, without heinous sin on one side or on both. IV. That the claims of married life are such that, with them, not even the exigencies of military service are unduly to interfere (Matthew 19:5). V. That the highest and purest enjoyments of wedded life come to perfection only when it is entered on and spent in the Lord Jesus Christ. The law was but a παιδαγωγός εἰς χριστὸν (see 1 Corinthians 7:39). 2 and if after she leaves his house she becomes the wife of another man, GILL, "And when she is departed out of his house,.... With her bill of divorce, by which departure out of his house it is notified to all: she may go and be other man's wife; it was permitted her to marry another man, she being by her divorce freed from the law of her former husband; and who indeed, in express words contained in the divorce, gave her leave so to do; which ran thus,"thou art in thine own hand, and hast power over thyself to go and marry any other man whom thou pleasest; and let no man hinder thee in my name, from this day forward and for ever; and, lo, thou art free to any man;''See Gill on Mat_5:31 PETT, "Deuteronomy 24:2 ‘And when she is departed out of his house, she may go and be another man’s 26
  • 27. wife.’ Once the woman was dismissed from his household she may take the step of going and becoming another man’s wife. (This was not giving permission for this, only stating that it may happen. Unless she returned home it was almost her only option). She had her written contract declaring her to be free. We note here that it was seemingly seen as perfectly acceptable by custom for her to remarry, but never stated in God’s Law. It was this remarriage that Jesus called adultery, and said that it was only allowed by God, although never authorised by Him, for the hardness of their hearts. The point was not that He had condoned it, but that He did not interfere with the general custom and actually forbid it. 3 and her second husband dislikes her and writes her a certificate of divorce, gives it to her and sends her from his house, or if he dies, CLARKE, "And write her a bill of divorcement - These bills, though varying in expression, are the same in substance among the Jews in all places. The following, collected from Maimonides and others, is a general form, and contains all the particulars of such instruments. The reader who is curious may find a full account of divorces in the Biblioth. Rab. of Bartolocci, and the following form in that work, vol. iv., p. 550. “In - day of the week, or day - of the month A., in - year from the creation of the world, or from the supputation (of Alexander) after the account that we are accustomed to count by, here, in the place B., I, C., the son of D., of the place B., (or if there be any other name which I have, or my father hath had, or which my place or my father’s place hath had), have voluntarily, and with the willingness of my soul, without constraint, dismissed, and left, and put away thee, even thee, E., the daughter of F., of the city G., (or if thou have any other name or surname, thou or thy father, or thy place or thy father’s place), who hast been my wife heretofore; but now I dismiss thee, and leave thee, and put thee away, that thou mayest be free, and have power over thy 27
  • 28. own life, to go away to be married to any man whom thou wilt; and that no man be refused of thine hand, for my name, from this day and for ever. And thus thou art lawful for any man; and this is unto thee, from me, a writing of divorcement, and book (instrument) of dismission, and an epistle of putting away; according to the Law of Moses and Israel. A., son of B., witness. C., son of D., witness.” GILL, "And if the latter husband hate her,.... Or less loves her than another woman, and she is disliked by him as she was by her former husband: and write her a bill off divorcement, and giveth it into her hand, and sendeth her out of his house: as he had by this law a permission, in like manner as her former husband had; See Gill on Deu_24:1, or if her latter husband die, which took her to be his wife; and she survives him; as she is then by death loosed from the law of an husband, she may lawfully marry another man, but not her former husband, as follows. PETT, "Deuteronomy 24:3-4 ‘And if the latter husband hate her, and write her a bill of divorcement, and give it in her hand, and send her out of his house, or if the latter husband die, who took her to be his wife, her former husband, who sent her away, may not take her again to be his wife, after she is shown as (declared to be) defiled, for that is abomination before Yahweh, and you shall not cause the land to sin, which Yahweh your God gives you for an inheritance.’ But the second husband might hate her and also give her a bill of divorcement, and send her from his household. Here the condition for the divorce is the husband’s ‘hate’. It is the same word as that which caused a false accusation of adultery in Deuteronomy 22:13-14. It is thus in the wider context connected with a man who accused his wife of sexual misbehaviour. (The fact that the one who made the false charge of adultery in Deuteronomy 22:13-14 found it necessary to do so demonstrates that divorce was not easy). But no detail of why this second husband hated her is given. There is nothing to say what it was. For that is not what Moses was seeking to demonstrate here. It is probably suggesting in 28
  • 29. summary form the fact that she had done exactly the same as she did to her first husband. Alternately the second husband might die. By adding the clause ‘if the second husband dies’ Moses has put us on the spot. We must immediately ask in passing why Moses complicated things and even mentioned the possibility of a divorce in the second case. It is clearly irrelevant to the case, for if it had not happened it would have made no difference to the argument. The second husband’s death would produce the same situation. Why then did he not just use the illustration that her second husband died? The answer can only be because he wanted to bring out what the woman was like, that all the fault lay with the woman. She was the kind of woman, said Moses, who might easily have had a second divorce. She was a disaster waiting to happen. But the vital point was now reached. She was again free. However, we now learn that even under the old law the first husband cannot now remarry her. He knows that she was ‘shown as defiled’. But why was she ‘shown as defiled’? We may basically ignore the actions of the second husband, because the same would apply even if he had done nothing and had simply died. Thus we must concentrate on the first husband. And here we must ignore the effect of the theoretical remarriage to the first husband because she was ‘shown to be defiled’ before that had happened. How had she been shown to be defiled? It may be by her behaviour which had caused the first divorce, of which possibly only he knew, or it may be by her, to his knowledge, having married a second time, or both. To him she had twice revealed herself as an adulteress. There was, however, no suggestion about whether she was or was not permitted to marry again. It was simply stated as something that did happen. No comment is made on it, although as we have seen Moses does make clear what he thought of her. This is very important to note. Had God approved of divorce it would have been so important a factor that surely it would have been legislated for. Yet it was never legislated for. The only concession that God made was not to interfere with the custom because of the hardness of their hearts. He did not step in to interfere 29
  • 30. with the custom. But divorce nowhere has God’s blessing. Thus the ‘showing of defilement’ only seems to apply to the first husband. He not only knew about the divorce certificate, but he also knew the facts behind the case. For him therefore to take her now would be for him to take a woman he knew to be permanently defiled, and defiled in such a way that the defilement could not be removed. For she had committed adultery by going with her second husband. And that could surely only indicate a continuingly adulterous woman. To marry her would result in his own permanent defilement and would defile the land (compare Jeremiah 3:1). Another alternative explanation is that he was the only one who knew about the two (or one) divorce contracts. Others would have only known about one, or none at all. So he knew that she had been married twice while her first husband was still alive and was thereby an adulteress against him. Thus to marry her as an adulteress against him would be to confirm her adultery and be equally defiling, and would defile the land. She could no longer come to him as unsullied to become one with him. It would in Yahweh’s eyes be obscene. It would be making a mockery of all that marriage stood for. It would be so obscene that it would cause the land which had been given to them as an inheritance from Yahweh to sin. For the sins done in the land were the sins of the land. Whichever way it was, (and in some ways they were saying the same thing), it was her continuing adulterous state that banned the marriage. And yet as the banning is only in relation to marriage with him it must connect with his personal knowledge of her. He would know that she had not just made one slip up, but was an adulteress through and through. Anyone else who married her might not realise what kind of woman she was, and would not therefore be deliberately sinning against the land. But he did know and would be doing so. 30
  • 31. 4 then her first husband, who divorced her, is not allowed to marry her again after she has been defiled. That would be detestable in the eyes of the Lord. Do not bring sin upon the land the Lord your God is giving you as an inheritance. CLARKE, "She is defiled - Does not this refer to her having been divorced, and married in consequence to another? Though God, for the hardness of their hearts, suffered them to put away their wives, yet he considered all after-marriages in that case to be pollution and defilement; and it is on this ground that our Lord argues in the places referred to above, that whoever marries the woman that is put away is an adulterer: now this could not have been the case if God had allowed the divorce to be a legal and proper separation of the man from his wife; but in the sight of God nothing can be a legal cause of separation but adultery on either side. In such a case, according to the law of God, a man may put away his wife, and a wife may put away her husband; (see Mat_19:9); for it appears that the wife had as much right to put away her husband as the husband had to put away his wife, see Mar_10:12. GILL, "Her former husband which sent her away may not take her again to be his wife,.... Though ever so desirous of it, and having heartily repented that he had put her away: this is the punishment of his fickleness and inconstancy, and was ordered to make men cautious how they put away their wives; since when they had so done, and they had been married to another, they could not enjoy them again even on the death of the second husband; yea, though she was only espoused to him, and he had never lain with her, as Ben Melech observes, it was forbidden the former husband to marry her; though if she had only played the whore, according to the same writer, and others (a), she might return to him: after that she is defiled; not by whoredom, for in that case she was not forbidden, as it is interpreted, but by her being married to another man; when she was defiled, not by him, or with respect to him, nor with regard to any other man, whom she might lawfully marry after the decease of her latter husband; but with respect to her first husband, being by her divorce from him, and by her marriage to another, entirely alienated and separated from him, and so prohibited to him; and thus R. Joseph Kimchi interprets this defilement of prohibition, things prohibited being reckoned unclean, or not lawful to be used: 31
  • 32. for that is abomination before the Lord; for a man to take his wife again, after she had been divorced by him, and married to another man; and yet, such is the grace and goodness of God to his backsliding people, that he receives them when they return unto him their first husband, and forsake other lovers, Jer_3:1, and thou shalt not cause the land to sin which the Lord thy God giveth thee for an inheritance; since if this was allowed, that men might put away their wives, and take them again at pleasure, and change them as often as they thought fit, no order could be observed, and the utmost confusion in families introduced, and lewdness encouraged, and which would subject the land and the inhabitants of it to many evils and calamities, as the just punishment thereof. COKE, "Ver. 4. Her former husband—may not take her again— To restrain them from the abuse of this permission, the law provides, that the husband, who had once put away his wife, should, upon her being married to another, be for ever incapable of having her again. The law considered her as defiled; i.e. unclean, as to her first husband, by having been the wife of a second, and so forbidden to that first. See Acts 10:14-15. This intimates, that if she had not been married to another, but kept herself free, her husband might have taken her again to wife, if he were inclined so to do. Such, at least, is the opinion of Grotius, and several other learned interpreters. Had husbands been allowed to take their wives again, after being married to others, this might have produced the abominable practice of prostitution, by exchanging wives at pleasure, whereby the land would have been filled with pollutions, and the Lord provoked to inflict judgments upon it; and, therefore, the sacred writer adds, for that is abomination, &c. Abarbanel says, that this custom was common among the Egyptians; and Selden observes, that Mahomet permitted his followers to take their wives again, after having been divorced even three times. The Turks, however, are not the only people who were deficient in delicacy upon this point; it is well known, that the Lacedemonians were guilty of shameful pollutions in this way. A person expressing surprise that no adulterers were to be heard of among that people, was answered, that "through the prevalence of the custom now mentioned, their very marriages were rank adulteries." See Grotius on the place., " BENSON, "Deuteronomy 24:4. Her former husband may not take her again — This is the punishment of his levity and injustice in putting her away without 32
  • 33. sufficient cause, which, by this offer, he now acknowledgeth. Defiled — Not absolutely, as if her second marriage were a sin, but with respect to her first husband, to whom she is as a defiled or unclean woman; that is, forbidden; for things forbidden are accounted and called unclean, ( 13:7,) because they may no more be touched or used than an unclean thing. Thou shalt not cause the land to sin — Thou shalt not suffer such lightness to be practised, lest the people be polluted, and the land defiled and accursed by that means. PULPIT, "Deuteronomy 24:4 The woman was held to be defiled by her second marriage, and thus by implication, the marrying of a woman who had been divorced was pronounced immoral, as is by our Lord explicitly asserted (Matthew 5:32). The prohibition of a return of the wife to her first husband, as well as the necessity of a formal bill of divorcement being given to the woman before she could be sent away, could not fail to be checks on the license of divorce, as doubtless they were intended to be. 5 If a man has recently married, he must not be sent to war or have any other duty laid on him. For one year he is to be free to stay at home and bring happiness to the wife he has married. CLARKE, "When a man hath taken a new wife - Other people made a similar provision for such circumstances. Alexander ordered those of his soldiers who had married that year to spend the winter with their wives, while the army was 33
  • 34. in winter quarters. See Arrian, lib. i. GILL, "When a man hath taken a new wife,.... A wife he has lately married, new to him, though a widow, as Jarchi observes; but the Targum of Jonathan says a virgin; however this is opposed to his old wife, and divorced; for this, as Jarchi and Ben Melech say, excepts the return of a divorced wife, who cannot be said to be a new one: he shall not go out to war; this is to be understood of a man that had not only betrothed, but married a wife; a man that had betrothed a wife, and not married her, who went out to war, might return if he would, Deu_20:7; but one that had married a wife was not to go out to war: neither shall be charged with any business; as betrothed ones were; they, though they had a liberty of returning, yet they were to provide food and drink for the army, and to prepare or mend the highways, as Jarchi observes; but these were not obliged to such things, nor even to keep watch on the walls of the city, or to pay taxes, as Maimonides (b) writes: but he shall be free at home one year; not only from all tributes and taxes, and everything relative to the affairs of war, but from public offices and employments, which might occasion absence from home. Jarchi remarks, that his house or home comprehends his vineyard; and so he thinks that this respects his house and his vineyard, that if he had built a house and dedicated it, or planted a vineyard and made it common, yet was not to remove from his house because of the necessities of war: and shall cheer up his wife which he hath taken; or rejoice with his wife which he hath taken, and solace themselves with love; and thereby not only endear himself to her, but settle his affections on her, and be so confirmed in conjugal love, that hereafter no jealousies may arise, or any cause of divorce, which this law seems to be made to guard against. So it is said (c), that Alexander after the battle of Granicus sent home to Macedonia his newly married soldiers, to winter with their wives, and return at spring; which his master Aristotle had taught him, and as he was taught by a Jew. HENRY, "Here is, I. Provision made for the preservation and confirmation of love between new-married people, Deu_24:5. This fitly follows upon the laws concerning divorce, which would be prevented if their affection to each other were well settled at first. If the husband were much abroad from his wife the first year, his love to her would be in danger of cooling, and of being drawn aside to others whom he would meet with abroad; therefore his service to his country in war, embassies, or other public business that would call him from home, shall be dispensed with, that he may cheer up the wife that he has taken. Note, 1. It is of great consequence that love be kept up between husband and wife, and that every thing be very carefully avoided which might make them strange one to another, especially at first; for in that relation, where there is not the love that should be, there is an inlet ready to abundance of guilt and grief. 2. One of the duties of that relation is to cheer up one another under the cares and crosses that happen, as helpers of each other's joy; for a 34
  • 35. cheerful heart does good like a medicine. JAMISON, "When a man hath taken a new wife, he shall not go out to war — This law of exemption was founded on good policy and was favorable to matrimony, as it afforded a full opportunity for the affections of the newly married pair being more firmly rooted, and it diminished or removed occasions for the divorces just mentioned. CALVIN, "The immunity here given has for its object the awakening of that mutual love which may preserve the conjugal fidelity of husband and wife; for there is danger lest, if a husband departs from his wife immediately after marriage, the bride, before she has become thoroughly accustomed to him, should be too prone to fall in love with some one else. A similar danger affects the husband; for in war, and other expeditions, many things occur which tempt men to sin. God, therefore, would have the love of husband and wife fostered by their association for a whole year, that thus mutual confidence may be established between them, and they may afterwards continually beware of all incontinency. But that God should permit a bride to enjoy herself with her husband, affords no trifling proof of His indulgence. Assuredly, it cannot be but that the lust of the flesh must affect the connection of husband and wife with some amount of sin; yet God not only pardons it, but covers it with the veil of holy matrimony, lest that which is sinful in itself should be so imputed; nay, He spontaneously allows them to enjoy themselves. With this injunction corresponds what Paul says, “Let the husband render unto his wife due benevolence: and likewise also the wife unto the husband. Defraud ye not one the other, except it be with consent for a time, that ye may give yourselves to fasting and prayer.” (1 Corinthians 7:3.) BENSON "Deuteronomy 24:5. Business — Any public office or employment, which may cause an absence from or neglect of his wife. One year — That their affections may be firmly settled, so as there may be no occasion for the divorces last mentioned. 35
  • 36. HAWKER, "This precept very properly follows the one respecting divorces. Absence from the object we love begets coolness; and it would be well to be considered by the married, whether much of the infidelity we hear of in common life, doth not begin in this. But whether this be so or not; well I know that the absence of my affections, from the LORD my husband, and the earthly concerns, which so much carry away my soul from frequent communion with JESUS, are the sad causes why my unworthy and unfaithful heart, is living so far from him. Oh! for more constant enjoyment of thy presence, dearest Redeemer! PETT, "Further Commands Related to Relationships (Deuteronomy 24:5-15). The relationship between the people was to be that of ‘neighbours’, and they must love their neighbour as themselves (Leviticus 19:18). Thus they must ensure that men received immediately the benefit of contracts (Deuteronomy 24:5 and Deuteronomy 24:15), that their necessities should not be retained in pledges (Deuteronomy 24:6 and Deuteronomy 24:13), that their households were protected from violation (Deuteronomy 24:7 and Deuteronomy 24:10-11), and that they were not made unclean by another’s skin disease (Deuteronomy 24:8-9). Analysis using the words of Moses: a When a man takes a new wife, he shall not go out in the army, nor shall he be charged with any business. He shall be free at home one year, and shall pleasure his wife whom he has taken (Deuteronomy 24:5). b No man shall take the mill or the upper millstone to pledge, for he takes a man’s life to pledge (Deuteronomy 24:6). c If a man be found stealing any of his brethren of the children of Israel, and he deal with him as a slave, or sell him, then that thief shall die. So shall you put away the evil from the midst of you (Deuteronomy 24:7). 36
  • 37. d Take heed in the plague of skin disease, that you observe diligently, and do according to all that the priests the Levites shall teach you (Deuteronomy 24:8). d As I commanded them, so you shall observe to do. Remember what Yahweh your God did to Miriam, by the way as you came forth out of Egypt (Deuteronomy 24:9). c When you lend your neighbour any manner of loan, you shall not go into his house to fetch his pledge. You shall stand outside, and the man to whom you lend shall bring forth the pledge outside to you (Deuteronomy 24:10-11). b And if he is a poor man, you shall not sleep holding on to his pledge, you shall surely restore to him the pledge when the sun goes down, that he may sleep in his garment, and bless you, and it shall be righteousness to you before Yahweh your God (Deuteronomy 24:12-13). a You shall not take advantage of a hired servant who is poor and needy, whether he be of your brethren, or of your resident aliens who are in your land within your gates, in the same day you shall give him his hire, nor shall the sun go down on it, for he is poor, and sets his heart on it, lest he cry against you to Yahweh, and it be sin to you (14-15). Note that in ‘a’ a man takes a new wife, he shall not go out in the army, nor shall he be charged with any business. He shall be free at home one year, and shall pleasure his wife whom he has taken. Advantage must not be taken of him for he has a right to receive immediately the benefits of his marriage. In the parallel advantage must not be taken of a hired servant. He too has a right to receive immediately the benefits of his contract. In ‘b’ no man shall take the mill or the upper millstone to pledge, for he takes a man’s life to pledge, and in the parallel he must not retain a poor man’s pledge overnight but must restore it to him so that he may sleep in it. In ‘c’ if a man is found stealing any of his brethren of the children of Israel, and he deal with him as a slave, or sell him, then that thief must die, he has forced himself on and violated another’s household, and in the parallel when a man lends his neighbour any manner of loan, he must not go into his neighbour’s house to fetch his pledge, forcing himself on his household and 37
  • 38. violating it. He must stand outside, and the man to whom he lends will bring out the pledge to him. In ‘d’ all must take heed in the plague of skin disease, that they observe diligently, and do according to all that the priests the Levites shall teach them out of concern for their neighbour’s and the cleanliness of the camp, and in the parallel they must observe to do what Moses commanded them in this regard, remembering what Yahweh your God did to Miriam in smiting her with skin disease by the way as you came forth out of Egypt (and then healing her after which she had to observe her seven days - Numbers 12:10-15). A Newly Married Man Free From Military Service For A Year (Deuteronomy 24:5). The thought of the previous case caused Moses to want to relieve the gloom about marriage so he now introduced a case which revealed the other side of things. This is absolutely understandable in the context of Moses speaking to Israel. It is not so in the case of someone making up a story to hang on Moses. There are so many of these small indications of a speaker’s concern that no one could have had the consummate artistry to think of them all. They ring true as being what they claim to be. This is the first in a series where the stress is on fair dealing and consideration towards the individual, with regard to relationships. Deuteronomy 24:5 ‘When a man takes a new wife, he shall not go out in the army, nor shall he be charged with any business. He shall be free at home one year, and shall pleasure his wife whom he has taken.’ Here was a man for whom marriage was a delight. He had taken a new wife and 38
  • 39. his only desire was to be at home with her. The Law concurred. For a whole year he was to be free from army call-up, or from any pressing business that would take him away from home, so that he could pleasure his wife. It may well be true that part of the reason for this was in order to produce an heir so that his name would live on if he was killed in war. That no doubt was a reason behind the regulation. But that is not what Moses brought out in his speech. He was stressing the positive side of marriage as well rectifying the sad view of marriage revealed in the previous case. Here advantage must not be taken of the newly wed household. They must be allowed immediately to enjoy the benefits of the marriage. PULPIT, "Deuteronomy 24:5 A man newly married was to be exempt from going to war, and was not to have any public burdens imposed on him for a year after his marriage. Charged with any business; literally, there shall not pass upon him for any matter; i.e. there shall not be laid on him anything in respect of any business. This is explained by what follows. Free shall he be for his house for one year; i.e. no public burden shall be laid on him, that he may be free to devote himself entirely to his household relations, and be able to cheer and gladden his wife (comp. Deuteronomy 20:7). "By this law God showed how he approved of holy wedlock (as by the former he showed his hatred of unjust divorces) when, to encourage the newly married against the cumbrances which that estate bringeth with it, and to settle their love each to other, he exempted those men from all wars, cares, and expenses, that they might the more comfortably provide for their own estate" (Ainsworth). BI, "Free at home. Home Some words contain a history in themselves, and are the monuments of great movements of thought and life. Such a word is “home.” With something like a sacramental sacredness it enshrines a deep and precious meaning and a history. That the English-speaking people and their congeners alone should have this word, indicates that there are certain peculiar domestic and social traits of character belonging to them. When we study their history we find that from the very first they have been distinguished, as Tacitus tells us, by the manly and womanly virtues of 39
  • 40. fidelity and chastity; by the faithful devotion of wife to husband and husband to wife; by the recognised headship and guardianship of the married man as indicated in the old word “husband,” and the domestic dignity and function of the married woman as indicated in the old word “wife,” betokening the presence of those home-making, home-keeping, home-loving qualities of mind and heart which have always belonged to this sturdy race. And when upon these qualities the vitalising, sanctifying influence of Christianity was brought to bear, the outcome has been the building up of the noblest of all the institutions of the Christian life. No man is poor, no matter what storms of ill-fortune have beaten upon him, who can still find refuge beneath its sacred shelter; and no man is rich, no matter how splendid his fortune or his lot, who cannot claim some spot of earth as his home. My purpose, however, is neither philological nor ethnological; it is rather to speak of the function of Christianity in the home. It is upon God’s special enactment that this great institution rests. Its function is to carry out His purposes in training and ennobling men to do His will. Its perfection is the reflection of His love in the majestic order of His Godhead with fatherhood, sonship, life; its beatitude is the maintenance on earth of the peace and purity of heaven. Taking the Christian home as we know it, then, there are certain broad features of its economy, the mention of which will serve to bring out its character. I. The first of these is its unity of orderly administration, in the supreme headship of one man, the husband; the supreme dignity of one woman, the wife; the providence of parental love in the nurture of children, and the natural piety of children in their reverence and obedience to their parents. 1. First, with reference to the discipline of the home, it is to be remembered that there is a home discipline to which all the members thereof are subject—the father and mother not less than the children. The husband and father, the wife and mother, while they are the source of authority in the home, are themselves under the authority of the God and Father of all, of whose great economy they are the earthly representatives. 2. The only basis, for instance, on which the headship of the husband can securely rest is in its conformity to the headship of Christ over His Church. From Christ he learns that all his true authority is derived from self-surrender, all his real power from self-sacrifice. Nor is the wife, the husband’s consort, exempt from this discipline of self-sacrificing love. Such service, indeed, the fond mother heart of woman is quick to render, and therein lies the hiding of her power. But this service is due not to children only, but to the husband as well. And this is to be shown not only in those gentle ministries of the home which every good wife is glad to render, and in the rendering of which her true queenship lies, but it is to be shown likewise in the reverence which she ought always to feel towards the husband. Whensoever the wife acts on this principle, she calls out what is noblest in her husband. To such parental authority I need not say that children ought to be altogether obedient in all things. Obedience is the crown and grace of childhood, without which no child can learn to be strong and great; without which no child can be lovable or lovely. II. In the next place, let me speak of three dangers that beset the Christian home— care, worldliness, and passion. 1. First, care. The lives of all earnest men are full of care. Men have to toil and struggle to keep their place while the busy world is moving. There is one thing that can be done, however, and that is, we can keep care away from the sacred precincts of the home. 2. Even more fatal to the peace and safety of the home is worldliness—the 40
  • 41. worldliness of the husband which takes him away from his home in the calm evenings. But even worse is the worldliness of the wife. No woman is fit to be the queen she ought to be in her own household who does not, no matter what her station may be, find her chief pleasure and count her chief delight in the employments and endearments of her home. 3. And lastly, passion. Not to speak of its darker aspects—the fretful, peevish, ungovernable temper, the hasty word, the harsh unloving look, the little unkindnesses—oh, how often do these break up the peace, and finally desolate the home! Therefore there is need of prayer in the home. Therefore there is need that the fire of sacrifice should be always kept burning on its altars. But when this is so, then we see the blessedness of a Christian home. Beneath its shelter alone can the care-worn toiler and thinker lay his heavy burden down; in its calm haven alone can the weary or storm-tossed spirit find rest. (Bp. S. S. Harris.) 6 Do not take a pair of millstones—not even the upper one—as security for a debt, because that would be taking a person’s livelihood as security. CLARKE, "The nether or the upper mill-stone - Small hand-mills which can be worked by a single person were formerly in use among the Jews, and are still used in many parts of the East. As therefore the day’s meal was generally ground for each day, they keeping no stock beforehand, hence they were forbidden to take either of the stones to pledge, because in such a case the family must be without bread. On this account the text terms the millstone the man’s life. GILL, "No man shall take the nether or the upper millstone to pledge,.... The first word being of the dual number takes in both stones, wherefore Vatablus renders the words,"ye shall not take for a pledge both the millstones, nor indeed the uppermost;''which is the least; so far should they be from taking both, that they were not allowed to take the uppermost, which was the shortest, meanest, and lightest; and indeed if anyone of them was taken, the other became useless, so that neither was to be taken: for he taketh a man's life to pledge; or with which his life is supported, and the 41
  • 42. life of his family; for if he has corn to supply them with, yet if his mill or millstones are pawned, he cannot grind his corn, and so he and his family must starve: and in those times and countries they did, as the Arabs do to this day, as Dr. Shaw (d) relates,"most families grind their wheat and barley at home, having two portable millstones for that purpose; the uppermost whereof is turned round by a small handle of wood or iron, that is placed in the rim;''and these millstones being portable, might be the more easily taken for pledges, which is here forbidden, for the above reason; and this takes in any other thing whatever, on which a man's living depends, or by which he gets his bread (e). JAMISON, "No man shall take the nether or the upper millstone to pledge — The “upper” stone being concave, covers the “nether” like a lid; and it has a small aperture, through which the corn is poured, as well as a handle by which it is turned. The propriety of the law was founded on the custom of grinding corn every morning for daily consumption. If either of the stones, therefore, which composed the handmill was wanting, a person would be deprived of his necessary provision. CALVIN, "Deuteronomy 24:6No man shall take the nether. God now enforces another principle of equity in relation to loans, (not to be too strict (107)) in requiring pledges, whereby the poor are often exceedingly distressed. In the first place, He prohibits the taking of anything in pledge which is necessary to the poor for the support of existence; for by the words which I have translated meta and catillus, i e. , the upper and nether millstone, He designates by synecdoche all other instruments, which workmen cannot do without in earning their daily bread. As if any one should forcibly deprive a husbandman of his plough, or his spade, or harrow, or other tools, or should empty a shoemaker’s, or potter’s, or other person’s shop, who could not exercise his trade when deprived of its implements; and this is sufficiently clear from the context, where it is said, “He taketh a man’s life to pledge,” together with his millstones. He, then, is as cruel, whosoever takes in pledge what supports a poor man’s life, as if he should take away bread from a starving man, and thus his life itself, which, as it is sustained by labor, so, when its means of subsistence are cut off, is, as it were, itself destroyed. COKE, "Ver. 6. No man shall take the nether or the upper millstone to pledge— This law is of the same merciful kind with that in Exodus 22:26-27 which is repeated in the following verses; and it is founded upon the same equitable and compassionate reasons. On the same account it was, that at Rome they were 42
  • 43. forbidden to take the oxen or plough of a labourer, for the payment of his debts; and there is the same humane provision in our laws also, which prohibit the distraining of a labouring man's working tools or implements. See Blackstone's Commentaries, Book 3: ch. 1. COFFMAN, "LAWS OF LIFE "No man shall take the mill or the upper millstone to pledge; for he taketh a man's life to pledge. "If a man be found stealing any of his brethren of the children of Israel, and he deal with him as a slave, or sell him; then that thief shall die: so shalt thou put away the evil from the midst of thee. HAWKER, "This precept had much of mercy in it, because the nether, or upper mill-stone, was daily needed to grind the borrower's food. But, do I not see here a fence thrown up, to secure to a believer, his inheritance both in the upper and the nether springs of all our mercies in JESUS? Reader, depend upon it, if JESUS be your portion, or as this verse expresseth it, your life, you cannot pledge him, neither can any take him from you. Sweet thought! in all our wants, in all our poverty, borrowings, and distresses, though the creditor be come to take our two sources of comfort from us, in the upper and the nether springs of JESUS'S love; the vessels of grace shall be filled, and we shall have enough and to spare. See that sweet scripture, and read the spiritual illustration of it in proof, 2 Kings 4:1-7. "Take heed in the plague of leprosy, that thou observe diligently, and do according to all that the priests the Levites shall teach you: as I commanded them, so ye shall observe to do. Remember what Jehovah thy God did unto Miriam, by the way as ye came forth out of Egypt. "When thou dost lend thy neighbor any manner of loan, thou shalt not go into his house to fetch his pledge. Thou shalt stand without, and the man to whom thou dost lend shall bring forth the pledge without unto thee. And if he be a poor 43
  • 44. man, thou shalt not sleep with his pledge; thou shalt surely restore to him the pledge when the sun goeth down, that he may sleep in his garment, and bless thee: and it shall be righteousness unto thee before Jehovah thy God. "Thou shalt not oppress a hired servant that is poor and needy, whether he be of thy brethren, or of thy sojourners that are in thy land within thy gates: in his day, thou shalt give him his hire, neither shall the sun go down upon it (for he is poor, and setteth his heart upon it); lest he cry against thee unto Jehovah, and it be sin unto thee." In Deuteronomy 24:6, the KJV has "the nether or the upper millstone," instead of "the mill or the upper millstone." The KJV is preferable, because, by any definition, "the mill" would include both millstones. "The upper millstone was concave and fitted like a lid over the nether millstone which was convex. There was a small aperture through which the grain was poured, and also a handle by which the mill was turned."[11] This important device was necessary in the daily preparation of meals in the home, and therefore, lenders were not allowed to touch it as a pledge. Exodus 22:25,26 relates to the subject here. The crime in view in Deuteronomy 24:7 is kidnapping, and there is hardly a civilized nation on earth, even today, that does not affix the death penalty for such crimes. Deuteronomy 24:8 and Deuteronomy 24:9 are understood in two different ways. Alexander, and others think the passage is an admonition for people afflicted with leprosy, counseling them to be careful to comply with all the priestly regulations applicable to those thus afflicted.[12] On the other hand, Keil and the commentators who usually follow him, are certain that this is an admonition to all the people to keep all of God's laws commanded through the priests, in order to avoid the onset of the plague of leprosy.[13] It seems to us that the example of 44