Deuteronomy 24:1-4. DIVORCE.
Some uncleanness.—Evidently mere caprice and dislike are not intended here. There must be some real ground of complaint. (See Margin.)
Let him write her a bill of divorcement.—“Moses, because of the hardness of your hearts, suffered you to put away your wives,” is the Divine comment upon this. It is a distinct concession to the weakness of Israel—not the ideal standard of the Law, but the highest which it was found practicable to enforce. (See Matthew 19:2 seq.) There are many other particular enactments in the Law of Moses of which the same thing may be said. The ideal standard of morality has never varied. There is no higher ideal than that of the Pentateuch. But the Law which was actually enforced, in many particulars fell short of that ideal.
(2) If the latter husband hate her.—Rashi says here that “the Scripture intimates that the end of such a marriage will be that he will hate her.” He makes a similar remark on the marriage with the captive in Deuteronomy 21. The result of the marriage will be a hated wife, and a firstborn son of her, who will be a glutton and a drunkard.
(4) Her former husband . . . may not take her again . . . and thou shalt not cause the land to sin.—The comment upon this, supplied by Jeremiah 3:1, is singularly beautiful. “They say, If a man put away his wife, and she go from him, and become another man’s, shall he return unto her again? Shall not that land be greatly polluted? But thou hast played the harlot with many lovers; yet return again to me, saith the Lord.”
VARIOUS PRECEPTS OF HUMANITY.
(5) He shall not go out to war, neither shall he be charged with any business.—He shall not go forth in warfare, neither shall warfare pass upon him in any form. In Numbers 4:23; Numbers 4:30 the service of the tabernacle is called its “warfare.”
He shall be free at home.—Literally, he shall be clear for his home; free from all charges, so as to belong to that.
A man’s life.—Literally, a soul. This word connects the two verses (6, 7).
(8,9) Take heed in the plague of leprosy. . . . Remember what the Lord thy God did to Miriam.—The point here seems to be that though Miriam was one of the three leaders of Israel (“I sent before thee Moses, Aaron, and Miriam”—Micah 6:4), yet she was shut out of the camp seven days (Numbers 12:14) when suddenly smitten with leprosy. There might be a tendency to relax the law in the case of great or wealthy persons. But this would be felt keenly by poorer lepers, who could obtain no exemption. Moses, whose own sister had suffered from the leprosy, and had been treated according to the strict letter of the law, would never consent to any relaxation of it.
The priests the Levites.—The law of leprosy was one of the laws which the “priests” in particular were ordered to administer. “Aaron looked on Miriam, and, behold, she was leprous” It seems impossible to maintain that the Levites in general are meant here. The writer evidently had personal knowledge of the case of Miriam. Had he or his first readers lived in later times, he would have explained his meaning more fully.
It shall be righteousness.—LXX., it shall be alms, or mercy. In other words, “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.”
The case of Achan, who “perished not alone in his iniquity,” falls under a different head. See Notes on Joshua 7.
In a very special way and for some special reason, all through the Old Testament, “the Lord careth for the stranger.” What the reason is, if we had the Old Testament only, we might find it hard to discover. But when we open the New Testament, we may see that this is one aspect of the love of God the Father to His Son Jesus Christ, who was one day to come among us as “a stranger,” when there was “no room for Him in the inn.” His coming hither as a stranger could not be unnoticed. And, therefore, the name and mention of the stranger all through the Old Testament is like a path strewn with flowers, in expectation of the coming of one that is greatly beloved. We see angels walking upon the earth, entertained as strangers. The wealthy patriarch, a “prince of God” among the Canaanites, confesses himself a “stranger and pilgrim on the earth.” Those that inherit the land are put in the same category, “Ye are strangers and sojourners with Me.” The stranger sits beside the Levite at Israel’s table. The second great commandment is rehearsed again for his especial benefit. “He shall be unto you as one born among you, and thou shalt love him as thyself.” There is only one key to all this combination of tenderness. “I was a stranger, and ye took me in.”
(18,22) Thou shalt remember that thou wast a bondman in Egypt.—An exhortation thoroughly in place here, in the writings of Moses. In this form it occurs repeatedly in the Pentateuch, but not elsewhere. It is not the language which would naturally suggest itself to the prophets of later times.
Deuteronomy 24:18But thou shalt remember that thou wast a bondman in Egypt, and the LORD thy God redeemed thee thence: therefore I command thee to do this thing.
Deuteronomy 24:19When thou cuttest down thine harvest in thy field, and hast forgot a sheaf in the field, thou shalt not go again to fetch it: it shall be for the stranger, for the fatherless, and for the widow: that the LORD thy God may bless thee in all the work of thine hands.
Deuteronomy 24:20When thou beatest thine olive tree, thou shalt not go over the boughs again: it shall be for the stranger, for the fatherless, and for the widow.
Deuteronomy 24:21When thou gatherest the grapes of thy vineyard, thou shalt not glean it afterward: it shall be for the stranger, for the fatherless, and for the widow.
Deuteronomy 24:22And thou shalt remember that thou wast a bondman in the land of Egypt: therefore I command thee to do this thing.