THE FIFTH BOOK OF MOSES (DEUTORONOMY)
By Linda Mutzig
The last nine chapters of Deuteronomy are, perhaps, the best known of the entire book because they summarize God’s blessings and curses upon the nation of Israel for obedience and disobedience. These chapters also detail Moses’ own disobedience and what it cost him personally – entering the Promised Land.
Chapters 24 and 25 continue the summation and recounting of the Law to the Israeli nation. These laws include a discussion on divorce, the marriage duty of the surviving brother and some miscellaneous laws. Although divorce was not sanctioned in Deuteronomy 24:1-4, it was recognized as a common practice among the Israelites. The requirement of a “certificate of divorce” for the wife had the effect of nullifying all of the husband’s rights to the dowry she had brought with her into the marriage. (The Spirit-Filled Life Bible NKJV 1991)
Moses goes on to detail the reasons that a man can give a bill of divorcement. First, he must find “some uncleanness in her” and show cause for his dislike. (Deut. 24:1) The uncleanness must be something less than adultery for which she must die, but must make her disagreeable to her husband “though it might not make her so to another”. Some believe that the bill of divorcement obliged the man to make provision for the woman so that she might marry again since it was not her fault that he divorced her. Accordingly, she was permitted to marry again since the divorce had dissolved the bonds of marriage as effectually as if her husband had died. However, if she chose to marry again, she could never remarry her first husband for she had renounced him forever and was looked upon as defiled. (Henry 1706) It is sometimes best to be happy with what we already have since the changes made by discontent often prove to be worse. Through this law, God illustrates the richness of his grace and his willingness to be reconciled to his people, Israel even though they had gone whoring from him. “. . .You have played the harlot with many lovers; Yet return to Me, says the Lord.” Jeremiah 3:1b (The Spirit-Filled Life Bible NKJV 1991)
In Deuteronomy 25:6 God was not authorizing polygamy when he said that “If brothers dwell together, and one of them dies and has no son, the widow of the dead man shall not be married to a stranger outside the family; her husband’s brother shall go in to her, take her as his wife, and perform the duty of a husband’s brother to her.” (The Spirit-Filled Life Bible NKJV 1991) Instead, Moses was stating that anyone who had been brought up together in the father’s house and was now unmarried should marry the widow and raise up the first born with the name of the deceased brother so that his linage would not be forgotten. This only applied when there were no children from the marriage. (Gill 1748-1763) If there were, there was no obligation to marry a brother’s wife. When Moses spoke of not marrying a stranger, he did not mean a Gentile but instead, was speaking of any Israelite that was not of her husband’s family. This custom existed before the age of Moses as shown in Genesis 38:8. However, the Mosaic Law rendered this custom obligatory (Robert Jamieson n.d.) so that inheritances would be secure and continue in the family to which they belonged. The marriage, however, was not to take place until at least three months after the brother’s death according to the Jewish canon. (Gill 1748-1763)
If the younger brother refused to comply, the widow could bring a claim before the authorities where she was ordered to loose the thong of his shoe and spit upon the ground which was a sign of degradation - the strongest expression of public disgrace and contempt among Eastern people. The shoe was kept by the magistrate as an evidence of the transaction, and the parties separated. (Robert Jamieson n.d.) This act...