christine's bible study

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

deuteronomy 23:17-23, thefts against YHVH

Read Deuteronomy 23:17-23 at Bible Gateway.

Previously: deuteronomy 23:15-16, escaped slaves

(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.)

Deu 23:17-23 is the second section explaining Do not steal, the eighth commandment. The eighth commandment is explained in Deu 23:15-24:7, and this is my summary of it. These are the Hebrew paragraph division in this section:

Deu 23:17-18 {s} Wages not to be offered to YHVH
Deu 23:19-20 {s} Interest on loans
Deu 23:21-23 {s} Pay vows to YHVH

Let’s start with the last paragraph and work our way back: a vow is not commanded but voluntary. You might say, “If God does thus and so for me, then I will do this.” That is a vow, something you promise with your mouth. Now, vows are holy to the Lord. He keeps the promises of His mouth, therefore His people and His children are to likewise keep the promises of their mouths. If someone was to make a vow (and vows are not commanded, but voluntary), then the command is to perform (or pay) your vow.

This is the connection to Do not steal. When we make a vow, then we have created a debt which must be paid to the Lord. We must fulfill our words. When we do not pay our vows, we have stolen from the Lord God. This is why Jesus said:

“Again you have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not swear falsely, but shall perform your oaths to the Lord.’ But I say to you, do not swear at all: neither by heaven, for it is God’s throne; nor by the earth, for it is His footstool; nor by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. Nor shall you swear by your head, because you cannot make one hair white or black. But let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No,’ ‘No.’ For whatever is more than these is from the evil one.” Mat 5:33-37

If you abstain from vowing, it shall not be a sin for you! Problem solved! The one instance where vows might still be desired to be made, is a marriage vow. If we vow to love our spouse until death do us part, then pay our vow to the Lord, and do not steal from Him.

Charging interest to our brother (i.e., fellow Hebrew) is likewise considered stealing. You are not simply requiring what is owed, but an additional amount above what is owed. Now taking out a loan isn’t always the best solution, and in the rest of Scripture, it is considered wisdom to refrain from borrowing. In light of that, someone borrows when they are in dire straits and have no other options. The person borrowing is already oppressed by poverty. Charging interest, then, is adding an additional burden onto someone who is disadvantaged. The interest charge is not theft against the borrower, however, but theft against the Lord, because the disadvantaged are under His special protection.

Finally, certain wages are an abomination and not to be used to pay a vow made to the Lord. A ritual harlot is not the same as a run of the mill prostitute. These lived and worked in the temples of pagan idols, and the harlotry was part of the religious rituals of paganism and the worship of false gods. It was its special connection with idolatry that made the wages an abomination. Why the price of a dog is an abomination, I am not wise enough yet to understand.

These three paragraphs have to do with thefts against the Lord.

Continued: deuteronomy 23:24-25, theft of income


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