christine's bible study

The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God stands forever. Isa 40:8

deuteronomy 21:10-22:7, kind treatment of captives

Read Deuteronomy 21:10-22:7 at Bible Gateway.

Previously: deuteronomy 21:10-23:14, do not commit adultery

(Please review the teaching tools of scripture, especially the Hebrew paragraph divisions and chiastic structures. The paragraphs marked by an “s” at their close are weak paragraphs, which indicate a change of facet but not a change of theme or topic. The paragraphs marked by a “p” at their close are strong paragraphs, which indicate the completion of a theme or topic. The paragraph divisions reveal the chiastic structures: narratives which zero in on the main point of the narrative at its center, like a bull’s eye at the center of a target. The main point is revealed, because the narrative elements before the main point (or central axis) are repeated after the central axis, in reverse order, while the central axis itself is not repeated.)

All the paragraphs contained in the explanation of Do not commit adultery are weak paragraphs, so instead of using the strong paragraph divisions to break up our sections, as we have done with the other commandments, we will use common theme to break up our sections. Deu 21:10-22:7 is the first section explaining the seventh commandment, Do not commit adultery. The seventh commandment is explained in Deu 21:10-23:14, and this is my summary of it. The Hebrew paragraph divisions are:

Deu 21:10-14 {s} Treatment of the captive woman
Deu 21:15-17 {s} Do not reject the legitimate firstborn
Deu 21:18-21 {s} Treatment of the rebellious son
Deu 21:22-23 {s} Treatment of the executed criminal
Deu 22:1-3 {s} Treatment of a neighbor’s lost animals
Deu 22:4 {s} Treatment of a neighbor’s burdened animals
Deu 22:5 {s} Sanctity of gender distinction
Deu 22:6-7 {s} Treatment of a mother bird

All these have a common theme? Bear with me, let us first look at each paragraph one by one:

Deu 21:10-14 {s} Treatment of the captive woman

This is the paragraph where we find the topic switch from Do not commit murder to Do not commit adultery. The paragraph starts out with conduct in warfare, so at first glance we think it might belong with the previous paragraphs. But no. In the ancient world, conquering a city in warfare was not only the signal for wholesale murder of inhabitants, even of non- combatants, but also rape and worse. It was an excuse to do everything that the Ten forbid. So God is in essence telling His people, Listen, when you conquer a city, you will not do as all the nations around you do. You will offer a sincere peace first. You will preserve the farms, fields, and fruit trees. You will not murder non- combatants. You will not rape the captive women!

You will honor the sanctity of your marital covenant with your wife, even while you are away engaged in warfare. If you see a beautiful woman among the captives, this is what you will do instead. You will give her time to mourn her parents and her change in fortune, without touching her! But why the command to shave her head? Hasn’t the poor girl lost enough?

For if a woman is not covered, let her also be shorn. But if it is shameful for a woman to be shorn or shaved, let her be covered. 1 Cor 11:6

But if a woman has long hair, it is a glory to her; for her hair is given to her for a covering. 1 Cor 11:15

In the ancient world, the standard of beauty for women was long hair, so much so that Paul says that a woman’s long hair is her glory! God, by the command to be shaved, is taking the captive woman’s glory and beauty from her temporarily. At the end of 30 days, after the man has had a chance to cool off from the battle rush, if he still wants a woman shorn of her glory and beauty, in sackcloth, with red eyes and nose from crying for a month, God is giving him permission to have her, but only as a full wife with all her rights and privileges. But probably in the majority of the cases, he will change his mind. God is protecting the captive woman from suffering rape and humiliation, and in so doing, also protecting the sanctity of the warrior’s marriage, by this command!

Continued: deuteronomy 21:10-22:7, the value of the next generation


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