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Laws concerning Marriage and Divorce


Suppose a man enters into marriage with a woman, but she does not please him because he finds something objectionable about her, and so he writes her a certificate of divorce, puts it in her hand, and sends her out of his house; she then leaves his house 2and goes off to become another man’s wife. 3Then suppose the second man dislikes her, writes her a bill of divorce, puts it in her hand, and sends her out of his house (or the second man who married her dies); 4her first husband, who sent her away, is not permitted to take her again to be his wife after she has been defiled; for that would be abhorrent to the L ord, and you shall not bring guilt on the land that the L ord your God is giving you as a possession.

Miscellaneous Laws

5 When a man is newly married, he shall not go out with the army or be charged with any related duty. He shall be free at home one year, to be happy with the wife whom he has married.

6 No one shall take a mill or an upper millstone in pledge, for that would be taking a life in pledge.

7 If someone is caught kidnaping another Israelite, enslaving or selling the Israelite, then that kidnaper shall die. So you shall purge the evil from your midst.

8 Guard against an outbreak of a leprous skin disease by being very careful; you shall carefully observe whatever the levitical priests instruct you, just as I have commanded them. 9Remember what the L ord your God did to Miriam on your journey out of Egypt.

10 When you make your neighbor a loan of any kind, you shall not go into the house to take the pledge. 11You shall wait outside, while the person to whom you are making the loan brings the pledge out to you. 12If the person is poor, you shall not sleep in the garment given you as the pledge. 13You shall give the pledge back by sunset, so that your neighbor may sleep in the cloak and bless you; and it will be to your credit before the L ord your God.

14 You shall not withhold the wages of poor and needy laborers, whether other Israelites or aliens who reside in your land in one of your towns. 15You shall pay them their wages daily before sunset, because they are poor and their livelihood depends on them; otherwise they might cry to the L ord against you, and you would incur guilt.

16 Parents shall not be put to death for their children, nor shall children be put to death for their parents; only for their own crimes may persons be put to death.

17 You shall not deprive a resident alien or an orphan of justice; you shall not take a widow’s garment in pledge. 18Remember that you were a slave in Egypt and the L ord your God redeemed you from there; therefore I command you to do this.

19 When you reap your harvest in your field and forget a sheaf in the field, you shall not go back to get it; it shall be left for the alien, the orphan, and the widow, so that the L ord your God may bless you in all your undertakings. 20When you beat your olive trees, do not strip what is left; it shall be for the alien, the orphan, and the widow.

21 When you gather the grapes of your vineyard, do not glean what is left; it shall be for the alien, the orphan, and the widow. 22Remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt; therefore I am commanding you to do this.

14. Thou shalt not oppress an hired servant. This precept is akin to the foregoing. Moses pronounces that he who has hired a poor person for wages oppresses him unless he gives him immediate recompense for his labor; since the two admonitions, “thou shalt; not; oppress,” and “thou shalt give him his hire,” are to be read in connection with each other. Hence it follows, that if a hireling suffers from want because we do not pay him what he has earned, we are by our very delay alone convicted of unrighteousness. The reason is now more clearly expressed, viz., because he sustains his life by his daily labors. 101101     The expression on which C. founds this statement is translated by himself “ea (i.e., mercede) sustentat animam suam;” in our A. V., “setteth his heart upon it;“ margin, “Heb., lifteth his soul unto it.” Dathe has, “eam anhelat;” Ainsworth, “and unto it he lifteth up his soul,” and his note is, “that is, hopeth for and desireth it for the maintenance of his life. So the Greek here translateth, he hath hope; and in. Jeremiah 22:27, and 44:14, the lifting up of the soul signifieth a desire; and the soul is often put for the life. Hereupon the Hebrews say, Whosoever with-holdeth the hireling’s wage, is as if he took away his soul (or life) from him” etc. Although, however, this provision only refers to the poor, lest they should suffer hunger from the negligence or pride of the rich, still humanity in general is enforced, lest, whilst the poor labor for our profit, we should arrogantly abuse them as if they were our slaves, or should be too illiberal and stingy towards them, since nothing can be more disgraceful than that, when they are in our service, they should not at least have enough to live upon frugally. Finally, Moses admonishes us that this tyranny on the part of the rich shall not be unpunished, if they do not supply their workmen with the means of subsistence, even although no account shall be rendered of it before the tribunals of men. Hence we infer that this law is not political, but altogether spiritual, and binding on our consciences before the judgment-seat of God; for although the poor man may not sue us at law, Moses teaches us that it is sufficient for him to appeal to the faithfulness of God. Wherefore, although the earthly judge may absolve us a hundred times over, let us not therefore think that we have escaped; since God will always require of us from heaven, whatever may have been unjustly excused us on earth. The question, however, here arises, whether, if he who has been oppressed should not cry out, the criminality will cease in consequence of his silence; for the words of Moses seem to imply this, when he says, that the rich will be guilty, if the poor cry unto God and make complaint of their wrongs. The reply’ is easy, that Moses had no other intention than to over-. throw the vain confidence of the despisers, whereby they arc, stimulated to greater audacity in sin, and are hardened in iniquity. He says, therefore, that although, as far as men are concerned, they may allow us to pillage and rob, still a more awful judgment is to be dreaded; for God hears the complaints of the poor, who find no protector or avenger on earth. And surely, the more patiently he who is despoiled shall bear his wrong, the more ready will God be to undertake his cause; nor is there any louder cry to Him than patient endurance. If, however, any should object that the cry here spoken of is at variance with Christ’s command, that we should pray for our enemies, we answer at once, that God does not always approve of the prayers which He nevertheless answers. The imprecation of Jotham, the son of Gideon, took effect upon the Shechemites, (Judges 9:20,) although it was plainly the offspring of immoderate anger. Besides, it sometimes happens that the miserable, although they endure their injuries with pious meekness, still cease not to lay their sorrows and their groans in the bosom of God. Nor is this a slight consolation for the poor, that if no one on earth relieves them because their condition is low and abject, still God will hereafter take cognizance of their cause.

Here also God manifests how great is His regard for human life, so that blood should not be shed indiscriminately, when he forbids that children should be involved in the punishment of their parents. Nor was this Law by any means supererogatory, because on account of one man’s crime his whole race was often severely dealt with. It is not without cause, therefore, that God interposes for the protection of the innocent, and does not allow the punishment to travel further than where the crime exists. And surely our natural common sense dictates that it is an act of barbarous madness to put children to death out of hatred to their father. If any should object, what we have already seen, that God avenges “unto the third and fourth generation,” the reply is easy, that He is a law unto Himself, and that He does not rush by a blind impulse to the exercise of vengeance, so as to confound the innocent with the reprobate, but that He so visits the iniquity of the fathers upon their children, as to temper extreme severity with the greatest equity. Moreover, He has not so bound Himself by an inflexible rule as not to be free, if it so pleases Him, to depart from the Law; as, for example, He commanded the whole race of Canaan to be rooted out, because the land would not be purged except by the extermination of their defilements; and, since they were all reprobate, the children, no less than their fathers, were doomed to just destruction. Nay, we read that, after Saul’s death, his guilt was expiated by the death of his children, (2 Samuel 21;) still, by this special exception, the Supreme Lawgiver did not abrogate what He had commanded; but would have His own admirable wisdom acquiesced in, which is the fountain from whence all laws proceed.

God here inculcates liberality upon the possessors of land, when their fruits are gathered: for, when His bounty is exercised before our eyes, it invites us to imitate Him; and it is a sign of ingratitude, unkindly and maliciously, to withhold what we derive from His blessing. God does not indeed require that those who have abundance should so profusely give away their produce, as to despoil themselves by enriching others; and, in fact, Paul prescribes this as the measure of our alms, that their relief of the poor should not bring into distress the rich themselves, who kindly distribute. (2 Corinthians 8:13.) God, therefore, permits every one to reap his corn, to gather his vintage, and to enjoy his abundance; provided the rich, content with their own vintage and harvest, do not grudge the poor the gleaning of the grapes and corn. Not that He absolutely assigns to the poor whatever remains, so that they may seize it as their own; but that some small portion may flow gratuitously to them from the munificence of the rich. He mentions indeed by name the orphans, and widows, and strangers, yet undoubtedly He designates all the poor and needy, who have no fields of their own to sow or reap; for it will sometimes occur that orphans are by no means in want, but rather that they have the means of being liberal themselves; nor are widows and strangers always hungry; but I have explained elsewhere why these three classes are mentioned.

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