We are working through the law-giving section of Deuteronomy, where Moses is repeats most of God's Law, and appends it, for a new generation of Israelites. (God had killed the previous Israelite generation for being afraid.) Recently we saw how God was planning on providing prophets for the Israelites; prophets who needed to be tested before being believed. In Deuteronomy 19 we see the establishment of refuge cities, requirements for witnesses, and eye-for-eye/tooth-for-tooth justice. In Deuteronomy 20, there are rules for wars of aggression, where the Israelites are to slay all of the men of a captured city, but keep the women and children as plunder. That brings us up to this study.
One of the most-often purported benefits of Christianity is moral guidance. When you look at the concepts of this guidance, and when you consider how these ideas are communicated today, it seems like this is true. When you look at the text of the Bible itself, however, you get a different picture. The morals we have today are often dissonant with the morals actually written in the Word of God. Let us consider Deuteronomy 21.
First, on a slight diversion of atonement and redemption, let us take a look at God's law for unsolved murders in Deuteronomy 21:1-9. Find someone murdered in a field, but you have no witnesses? Forget the crime scene investigation, and do not consult omniscient God to determine the guilty party. Instead, determine the closest town. Then have the elders of that town kill a non-worked cow in a stream within some virgin valley, and have the elders wash their hands over the cow while declaring their innocence of the murder. Deuteronomy 21:8-9 are particularly revealing:
"Accept this atonement for your people Israel, whom you have redeemed, O LORD, and do not hold your people guilty of the blood of an innocent man." And the bloodshed will be atoned for. So you will purge from yourselves the guilt of shedding innocent blood, since you have done what is right in the eyes of the LORD. NIVAgain in the Old Testament we see true atonement without Jesus. This act does not even foreshadow Jesus, as Jesus is presumed to have worked as a carpenter and certainly did His Father's work, while the sacrificed cow was not allowed to have worked, to say nothing of differences in the manners of death between the cow and Jesus. Note how God has redeemed the Israelites without a sacrifice, referring to their Exodus from Egypt, which again conflicts with foreshadowing Christianity. Finally note how the murdered person is considered an innocent man, as in being quite the opposite of a sinner who deserved to die for his sins.
Moving on to values and morals, Deuteronomy 21:10-14 states that after you go to war (and slay all of the surviving men – Deuteronomy 20:13), you can take a captive woman as your wife after she mourns her family for a month. The woman gets no choice in the matter. If you decide that do not like her, you can let her go, but you can not sell her. Why? Because you have dishonored her... meaning you have had sex with her already. So much for love and the sanctity of marriage.
Do you think that those morals are good? Well, how about Deuteronomy 21:15-17? That passage explains that the inheritance rights of the firstborn always go to the firstborn son, regardless of how many wives you have or whether or not you actually love the wife who bears you the firstborn son. Not only does this passage implicitly approve of polygamy, but it also sees no problem with a man marrying and having sex with someone who he does not love! I guess in reality that goes on all the time, but you would think that God, the purported epitome of love, would push for love to be the basis of marriage. That is not the case. So will you teach your kids that you can not only have multiple wives, but that you can marry people you do not love?
Lest you think I simply cherry-pick the couple of embarrassing laws out of a wealth of good ones, let us continue on to Deuteronomy 21:18-21. Here you find that if you have a stubborn and rebellious child, you are to have him stoned to death. Remarkably, this is the kind of law which Jesus would get behind, as we see in Matthew 15:3-6 and Mark 7:9-13 where Jesus is angry that the Pharisees teach against killing your own children because they teach contrary to what is in God's Law.
Now, will you teach and practice these laws from God, or will you seek a higher moral ground? Will you teach your children that polygamy is wrong? Will you teach your children that both people who get married should consensually agree to do so? Will you teach your children that slavery is wrong? Will you promote the liberty to kill your own children for disobedience? Or will you instead align yourself with the “moral” God of Christianity? What are your family values?