Deuteronomy 24 Commentary

Protection for the disadvantaged (24:1-25:4)

Various laws guaranteed protection for defenceless people who might otherwise be exploited. A woman who had been divorced was free from interference by her previous husband. He had to respect the decency of marriage, and had no right to send her away then take her back as he pleased (24:1-4; cf. Matt


5:32; 19:3-9). A newly married man could not be forced into the army till at least one year after marriage (5; cf. 20:7). A poor person who borrowed money could not be forced to give his creditor a millstone as guarantee for the debt, as he would be left with no means of providing flour for his family’s food (6).

There was to be no mercy for a kidnapper (7) and no relaxation of the laws concerning leprosy, no matter how important the infected person was (8). However, people were to show mercy to debtors and not to trample on the rights of the poor. Clothing taken as guarantee for a debt had to be returned by evening, so that the person would not have to sleep in the cold (9-13). Employers were to be considerate to their employees, and pay wages daily to those who had no reserve savings (14-15).

Justice was not to favour the rich and powerful. At all times Israelites were to be merciful to the oppressed, remembering how they felt when they were oppressed in Egypt (16-18). When farmers harvested their cereals and fruit, whatever they missed at the first reaping or picking was to be left for the poor (19-22).

Whipping was never to be used to force confessions from suspected lawbreakers, but only to punish those who had been proved guilty. The number of lashes was to be in proportion to the offence and was never to exceed forty (25:1-3). Farmers were to be kind to their animals and allow them to eat as they worked (4).

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