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 animals

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

Previously: deuteronomy 21:10-22:7, the integrity of the land

(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.)

We are considering what each of the weak paragraphs in Deu 21:10-22:7, the first section explaining Do not commit adultery (Deu 21:10-23:14), have to teach us in the matter of adultery. 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

We saw that the 4th paragraph, Deu 21:22-23, preserves the sanctity or integrity of the land, which ultimately comes from the sanctity or integrity of the marital union. The 5th and 6th paragraphs have to do with our treatment of our neighbor’s animals. What on earth does this have to do with Do not commit adultery?

“You shall not see your brother’s ox or his sheep going astray, and hide yourself from them; you shall certainly bring them back to your brother. And if your brother is not near you, or if you do not know him, then you shall bring it to your own house, and it shall remain with you until your brother seeks it; then you shall restore it to him. You shall do the same with his donkey, and so shall you do with his garment; with any lost thing of your brother’s, which he has lost and you have found, you shall do likewise; you must not hide yourself. You shall not see your brother’s donkey or his ox fall down along the road, and hide yourself from them; you shall surely help him lift them up again.” Deu 22:1-4

This is my outline revealing the Hebrew parallelism:

You shall not see your brother’s ox going astray and hide yourself;
You shall certainly bring them back to your brother (Deu 22:1);

If your brother is not near, or known, you shall care for it until he seeks it;
Then you shall restore it to him (Deu 22:2);

You shall do the same with any lost thing of your brother’s;
You must not hide yourself (Deu 22:3 s);

You shall not see your brother’s donkey fall down and hide yourself;
You shall surely help him lift them up (Deu 22:4 s).

This is a Hebrew parallelism; and it helps us see that one of the paragraphs by itself, forms a chiastic structure:

Deu 22:1-3 s
1a) Deu 22:1a, You shall not see you brother’s ox astray and hide yourself;
1b) Deu 22:1b, You shall certainly bring them back to your brother;
central axis) Deu 22:2a, If your brother is not near, or known, you shall care for it;
2b) Deu 22:2b, You shall restore it to him;
2a) Deu 22:3 s, So with any lost thing of your brother’s, you shall not hide yourself.

Before we can understand what this has to do with sanctity of the marital union, we first have to understand its basic message. Notice the use of brother in these passages instead of neighbor. There is a perfectly good word for neighbor in Hebrew, which God did not use here. Almost everyone would help their blood brother with lost animals; that goes without saying. But if your brother is not known to you? That is a neighbor, a stranger, not a brother. But because God continues to call him “brother,” I believe He is saying, treat your neighbor, and even strangers, just as you would your brother!

This calls to mind the parable of the good Samaritan that Jesus taught: the Samaritan found a Jew fallen down along the road, and cared for him as if he were his own brother and not a stranger (Luk 10:30-37). It was the Samaritan, and not the Jews in the parable, who obeyed Torah, in other words. By this Jesus was teaching that it is obedience to God that matters, and not membership in the right church or adherence to the right doctrine … or something like that. ;)

So, back to adultery: this command of Torah teach us how to be kind to others. They teach us to be unselfish, and to treat others just as we ourselves would want to be treated if the position were reversed. Because, by the weak paragraph divisions, we see that being kind and unselfish is another facet of our same topic, we can conclude that in order to preserve the sanctity of the marital union, we must treat our mate with kindness and unselfishness! We must give to bless them even though we ourselves gain nothing from it.

Continued: deuteronomy 21:10-22:7, the importance of mothers

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