Read Deuteronomy 23:15-24:7 at Bible Gateway.
Previously: deuteronomy 24:7, persons are not property
(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.)
The eighth commandment, Do not steal, is explained in Deu 23:15-24:7, and this is my summary of it. It turns out the explanation of the eighth commandment forms a single chiastic structure:
Deu 23:15-24:7 sx9
1a) Deu 23:15-16 s, Freedom for an escaped slave is not theft as persons are not property;
1b) Deu 23:17-20 s+s, Harlotry + loans:
– 1b.1) Deu 23:17-18 s, Harloty defiles the land and is an abomination (the purity of the land is stolen);
– 1b.2) Deu 23:19, A man shall not be charged with interest when he borrows from his brother;
– 1b.3) Deu 23:20 s, Proper conduct when one man borrows from another;
1c) Deu 23:21-23 s, Pay vows to YHVH;
central axis) Deu 23:24-25 s+s, Do not harvest your neighbor’s vineyard + standing grain;
2c) Deu 24:1-3, When a man divorces his wife;
2b) Deu 24:4-6 s+s, Adultery + loans:
– 2b.1) Deu 24:4 s, Adultery defiles the land and is an abomination (the purity of the land is stolen);
– 2b.2) Deu 24:5, A bridegroom shall not be charged with business when he takes a new wife;
– 2b.3) Deu 24:6 s, Proper conduct when one man borrows from another;
2a) Deu 24:7 s, Kidnapping is theft and a capital offense as persons are not property.
This structure was not easy to see because the matching pairs are not obvious at first glance. How the elements relate sets up a puzzle crying out to be solved. First the C pair. When a man marries a woman, he makes a vow before YHVH of faithfulness till death do them part. If a man is considering sending his wife away, be very careful that you are paying your vow to YHVH that you have vowed voluntarily before YHVH. Divorce should be uncommon and rare.
Now the B pair: just as a man shall not be charged with interest when he takes a loan from his brother, a bridegroom shall not be charged with business when he takes a new wife. We can see by the repeating language and phrases that these elements are meant to be paired in this way. Interest is theft against a brother; business his newlywed year is theft against the wife’s happiness. In a way, the pairing almost makes me think that the bridegroom is being lent his new wife … but who is the one making the loan? I believe it is YHVH who is making the loan. He is freely giving His handmaiden to this man, because He is providing for his essential needs, just as when a brother makes a loan for money or food (vs. 19). A man repays YHVH for His loan of her, by not stealing her happiness, by paying His vow to YHVH concerning her, and not sending her away.