Friday, February 11, 2011

Family Obligations

Almost. We are almost at the end of the laws which God is giving to the Israelites through Moses in the Book of Deuteronomy. Previously, we saw how God thinks that a child should not be killed for the sins of the father, despite the fact that God has a track record of killing children for their fathers' sins.

Family Obligations
Some things are just funny. Funny for irony. Funny because it is not supposed to be funny. Funny because someone managed to think of something so bizarre. Take Deuteronomy 25, for example.

Verses Deuteronomy 25:1-3 are laws handling disputes. Deuteronomy 25:1 begins with “When men have a dispute, they are to take it to court...” Pretty simple, right? Dispute = Court. Ironically, it would take several hundred years for an omniscient God (through Jesus) to recommend first trying to settle the matter privately before taking it to court (Matthew 5:25-26).

Also in these laws is a restriction. You can lash someone 39 times, but not 40 times, because with the fortieth lashing you might loose respect for the person being lashed.

In Deuteronomy 25:5-6, God dictates that if a married man dies without having a son, then it is the duty of the man's brother to marry the man's widow (regardless of how many wives the brother already has), and that the first son born from that marriage would carry on the deceased man's heritage.

Deuteronomy 25:7-10 covers if this man's brother refuses to marry his brother's widow, such as if he wanted to keep a monogamous relationship with his own wife or if he simply could not afford another wife. In that case, in front of the town elders, the widow is to spit in the brother's face and take one of his sandals. Then this brother's lineage would henceforth be shamefully known as “The Family of the Unsandaled.” The word of God. God be praised. ;-)

Next is one of my favorite laws. Deuteronomy 25:11-12 states:
“If two men are fighting and the wife of one of them comes to rescue her husband from his assailant, and she reaches out and seizes him by his private parts, you shall cut off her hand. Show her no pity.” NIV
The mental pictures of this situation are hilarious enough, but what really boggles and amuses the mind is pondering why God thought that it was necessary to add this specific law? Was this really such a pressing issue of the day as to need this law? Was it in the name of trying to have a “complete” set of laws, despite the fact that there are no laws against pedophilia? It is amusing, in a sad, sad way.

We have skipped over good laws in this chapter such as not muzzling an ox while it is treading out grain (Deuteronomy 25:4) and using honest weights and measures (Deuteronomy 25:13-16), but the chapter ends on a sour note.

Deuteronomy 25:17-19 instructs the Israelites to hold a permanent grudge against the Amalekites until they have been completely destroyed. Why? Because of what their previous generation had done to the Israelites as they were on their Exodus. This is in blatant contrast to the message which Jesus would later instruct; to forgive everyone of all transgressions in order to be forgiven yourself (Matthew 6:14-15).

It is so funny, and so sad, that so many believe.

The photo below is of the placard describing the sandal in the photo above. It is funny how the museum description sanitized Deuteronomy 25:7-10 here, stating “if the marriage was not possible” as if to downplay the brother's role of refusal and stating that this ceremony “allowed the widow to marry outside the family” as if it was her choice. There is not a hint of the shame which the law of God actually conveys.


  1. I read your opening paragraph and I thought of something I've observed in people.

    Those who are highly opinionated often contradict themselves. Because they're saying too much, really. They're pretending to know it all. And ALL is complex and non-congruent. If we go around giving our opinion about everything, we're bound to be wrong sometimes and to contradict ourselves.

    The Bible is a know-it-all book, and as such, it does constantly contradict itself.

    It is the black-or-whiteness of the book that makes it so prone to error, since well, life is anything but.

  2. Well put, Lorena. :-) I completely agree.