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Deuteronomy 21

Deuteronomy 21:14-17

14. And it shall be, if thou have no delight in her, then thou shalt let her go whither she will; but thou shalt not sell her at all for money, thou shalt not make merchandise of her, because thou hast humbled her.

14. Si non placuerit tibi uxor captiva, dimittes eam pro desiderio suo: nec vendendo vendes eam pecunia, neque negotiaberis de ea, quod afflixeris eam.

15. If a man have two wives, one beloved, and another hated, and they have borne him children, both the beloved and the hated; and if the first-born son be her’s that was hated:

15. Quum fuerint viroduae uxores, una dilecta et altera exosa, et pepererit ei filios dilecta et exosa, fuerit autem filius primogenitus exosae:

16. Then it shall be, when he maketh his sons to inherit that which he hath, that he may not make the son of the beloved first-born before the son of the hated, which is indeed the first-born:

16. Die quo haeredes instituet filios suos eorum quae habuerit, non poterit dare jus primogeniturae filio dilectae ante filium exosae primogenitum.

17. But he shall acknowledge the son of the hated for the first-born, by giving him a double portion of all that he hath: for he is the beginning of his strength; the right of the first-born is his.

17. Sed primogenitum filium exosae agnoscet, ut det ei mensuram duorum ex omnibus quae habuerit: ipse enim principium fortitudinis ejus, ipsius est jus primogeniturae.


14. And it shall be, if thou have no delight in her. I have been compelled to separate this sentence from the foregoing context which I have explained elsewhere; 161161     Vide vol. 2, p. 70. for Moses there gave instructions how a captive woman was to be taken to wife if her beauty attracted a Jewish husband. That law then had reference to chastity and conjugal fidelity, and especially to the purity of God’s worship; but now Moses prescribes that, if a man have dishonored a captive woman, he should not sell her, but let her go free, and by this satisfaction wipe out, or at any rate diminish, the injury. Hence we infer that this rule of justice depends on the Eighth Commandment, Let none defraud another. This condition was at least tolerable for the captive; for, although chastity is a special treasure, yet liberty, which is justly called an inestimable blessing, was no trifling consolation to her. The penalty, then, of lust, was that the conqueror should lose his booty.

15. If a man have two wives. Inasmuch as it is here provided that a father should not unjustly transfer what belongs to one son to another, it is a part and supplement of the Eighth Commandment, the substance of which is, that every one’s rights should be preserved to him. For, if the father substituted another son in the place of his first-born, it was unquestionably a kind of theft. But, since it rarely happens that a father unnaturally degrades his first-born from his precedence, if all are born of the same mother, God reminds us that He did not enact this law without cause; for, where polygamy was allowed, the mind of the husband was generally most inclined to the second wife; because, if he had loved the first with true affection, he would have been contented with her as the companion of his life and bed, and would not have thought of a second. When, therefore, the husband grew tired of his first wife, and desired a second, he might be coaxed by her blandishments to leave away from the children of his first marriage what naturally belonged to them. Hence, therefore, the necessity of the remedy whereby the father’s power of altering the right of primogeniture is barred; for, although they might allege that they only gave what was their own, yet it was an act of ungodly arrogance to reject him whom God had deigned to honor. For he who arrogates such power to himself, or who assigns the birth-right to whom he will, almost arrogates to himself the ability to create. This right, as is stated in verse 17, was a double portion of the paternal inheritance. The reason which is added, is equivalent to saying, that the first-born is the principal honor and ornament of the father. Still, if there was a just cause for disinheriting the first-born, another successor might be substituted in his stead, as Jacob shewed in his case when he disinherited Reuben. (Genesis 49:4.) When it is said, “before the son of the hated,” some expound it to mean “during his lifetime;” others retain the Hebrew phrase, “before his face.” Their opinion, however, is probable, who take this particle comparatively, for “instead of her son.” The wife is called hated, not that her husband is positively her enemy, but because he loves her least; for contempt is considered as hatred, and he is called an enemy who does not render conjugal benevolence.

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