This past Saturday morning I woke up, put on my clothes, and started making my way to the kitchen to get breakfast. As I walked through our living room, my twenty-year-old son, Royce, was sprawled out there on the couch. He was holding his New Living Translation Study Bible that Tonya and I bought him for Christmas a few years ago. He said, “Daddy, listen to this passage.” Then he read the following words from Deuteronomy 25:11-12:
If two Israelite men get into a fight and the wife of one tries to rescue her husband by grabbing the testicles of the other man, you must cut off her hand. Show her no pity.
How’s that for a little Bible study to kick off your weekend? I chuckled and said, “Royce, I’ve read the Bible through, but I don’t recall that being in there.” Then it dawned on me that I had used the K.J.V. translation when I had completed one of those charts that guides you through reading the Bible in a year. As it turns out, the K.J.V. is much more discreet in its wording of that passage. The K.J.V. says:
When men strive together one with another, and the wife of the one draweth near for to deliver her husband out of the hand of him that smiteth him, and putteth forth her hand, and taketh him by the secrets: Then thou shalt cut off her hand, thine eye shall not pity her.
Discretion aside, we are left to wonder why God would include such a harsh piece of law in the Mosaic law. (For the record, this is that law’s only instance in which mutilation is the decreed punishment.) I mean, was this problem of women grabbing men in this way commonplace in ancient Israel? Were Israelite wives classically trained to defend their husbands by using this crude but admittedly effective method? For that matter, how often did Israelite husbands get into brawls and how often did their wives interject themselves into those brawls? It’s hard to believe that these situations were rampant enough to require that a specific law be devoted to them.
What God seems to have done by way of this law was convey a larger general principle. That principle was: A man’s ability to procreate and carry on his family line is of great importance because God places a premium upon families and children. It’s certainly no coincidence that this command comes directly after Deuteronomy 25:5-10, another equally strange section of law regarding a man’s obligation to produce a son for his deceased brother. Since I originally quoted the other passage from the New Living Translation, I’ll use that same translation to quote Deuteronomy 25:5-10. Those verses say:
If two brothers are living together on the same property and one of them dies without a son, his widow may not be married to anyone from outside the family. Instead, her husband’s brother should marry her and have intercourse with her to fulfill the duties of a brother-in-law. The first son she bears to him will be considered the son of the dead brother, so that his name will not be forgotten in Israel. But if the man refuses to marry his brother’s widow, she must go to the town gate and say to the elders assembled there, “My husband’s brother refuses to preserve his brother’s name in Israel—he refuses to fulfill the duties of a brother-in-law by marrying me.” The elders of the town will then summon him and talk with him. If he still refuses and says, “I don’t want to marry her,” the widow must walk over to him in the presence of the elders, pull his sandal from his foot, and spit in his face. Then she must declare, “This is what happens to a man who refuses to provide his brother with children.“ Ever afterward in Israel his family will be referred to as “the family of the man whose sandal was pulled off”!
Reading such passages ought to make us glad that God no longer requires us to live under the Mosaic law, right? Still, though, we should keep in mind that 2 Timothy 3:16, a New Testament passage, says that all Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, and for instruction in righteousness. And since those words “all Scripture” definitely include Deuteronomy 25:5-10 and 11-12, what would God have us learn from these two passages?
First, as I’ve already mentioned, we should learn the value that God places upon procreation, children, families. etc. To God, family lines being propagated are a BIG deal. That was true in ancient Israel and it is still true today.
Second, we should learn that God makes males to be males, complete with male sex organs, and He is very much against anything that might be classified as emasculation or an attempt to rob a male of his maleness. This, of course, aligns perfectly with God’s numerous condemnations of homosexuality in the both the Old Testament and the New Testament. How pathetic it is that we have now reached a cultural level in which homosexuality, transgenderism, and all other attempts to blur the God-designed lines of sexual distinction are celebrated as social “progress.” God help us.
With this in mind, Christian, let me encourage you to continue to stand true for God and His written word. By doing so, you will shine spiritual light into this world of spiritual darkness. Even though we don’t live under the Mosaic law, we can glean valuable principles and lessons from that law, and we can apply them in New Testament ways each day. Just as Royce’s Saturday comment led to this Monday blog post, who knows what positive effect you can have for the Lord simply by studying His word and bringing it into everyday conversations? As was the case with me and Deuteronomy 25:11-12, those conversations might take you out of your comfort zone a bit and lead you to some rarely discussed topics, but you never know when one of those topics will be God’s way of using you to draw someone closer to Him.