Series: Thru the Bible
Message – Murder & Marriage – Deut. 21-22
Murder & Marriage
Atonement for unsolved murders
Deut. 21:1-9, “(1) If a murder victim is found lying in a field in the land the LORD your God is giving you to possess, and it is not known who killed him, (2) your elders and judges must come out and measure the distance from the victim to the nearby cities. (3) The elders of the city nearest to the victim are to get a cow that has not been yoked or used for work. (4) The elders of that city will bring the cow down to a continually flowing stream, to a place not tilled or sown, and they will break the cow’s neck there by the stream. (5) Then the priests, the sons of Levi, will come forward, for the LORD your God has chosen them to serve Him and pronounce blessings in the LORD’s name, and they are to give a ruling in every dispute and case of assault. (6) All the elders of the city nearest to the victim will wash their hands by the stream over the heifer whose neck has been broken. (7) They will declare, ‘Our hands did not shed this blood; our eyes did not see it. (8) LORD, forgive Your people Israel You redeemed, and do not hold the shedding of innocent blood against them.’ Then they will be absolved of responsibility for bloodshed. (9) You must purge from yourselves the guilt of shedding innocent blood, for you will be doing what is right in the LORD’s sight.”
In everything God does, there is a lesson to be sure.
This is one however, is one of those instances where, God’s actions are to me a bit remarkable and hard to figure.
God has so much to say about living lives of character conformity to Him and a profound desire to impress upon them the need for cleansing from sin. Yet, here is an example of someone who was murdered and rather than God teaching them skills which would help them identify and apprehend the killer or even simply supernaturally reveal who it was – He simply impresses upon them the need to cleanse national guilt of it.
The only sense I can make of this is that even though God revealing to them by prophecy or Urim the identity of the killer and bringing them to justice would teach the need for sin to be dealt with AND the CERTAIN fact that no man can hide from God for He sees all. This must have been a lesson of lesser importance to God, than the need to teach them corporate responsibility for sin in their midst.
Like many of the prophets of old, who lamented and repented over the sins of Israel though they themselves were clean of any guilt.
Marrying Female Captives
Deut. 21:10-17, “(10) When you go to war against your enemies and the LORD your God hands them over to you and you take some of them prisoner, and (11) if you see a beautiful woman among the captives, desire her, and want to take her as your wife, (12) you are to bring her into your house. She must shave her head, trim her nails, (13) remove the clothes she was wearing when she was taken prisoner, live in your house, and mourn for her father and mother a full month. After that, you may have sexual relations with her and be her husband, and she will be your wife. (14) Then if you are not satisfied with her, you are to let her go where she wants, but you must not sell her for money or treat her as merchandise, because you have humiliated her.”
“(15) If a man has two wives, one loved and the other unloved, and both the loved and the unloved bear him sons, and if the unloved wife has the firstborn son, (16) when that man gives what he has to his sons as an inheritance, he is not to show favoritism to the son of the loved wife as his firstborn over the firstborn of the unloved wife. (17) He must acknowledge the firstborn, the son of the unloved wife, by giving him a double portion of everything that belongs to him, for he is the firstfruits of his virility; he has the rights of the firstborn.”
Ok, before I absolve this passage of offensive content through misunderstanding, let me first offend you a little more and then we will circle back to this.
Technically speaking, and as far as my research has been able to tell, there has never been a biblical prohibition against men having multiple wives – though no wife might have multiple husbands.
There are many reasons for this, but perhaps the clearest two are:
- Man – not woman, represents God the Father and specifically are His glory and representatives.
- 1Cor. 11:3 & 7, “(3) But I want you to know that Christ is the head of every man, and the man is the head of the woman, and God is the head of Christ. (7) A man, in fact, should not cover his head, because he is God’s image and glory, but woman is man’s glory.”
- He is speaking to all women not just wives. See – https://www.grace-life.org/2018/03/silent-women/
- Sexual fulfillment and pleasure as well as reproduction is part of the purpose of women. It is one of the meanings of helpmate.
- Rom. 1:26-27, “(26) This then is the reason why God gave them up to vile passions. For not only did the women among them exchange the natural use of their bodies for one which is contrary to nature, but the men also, (27) in just the same way–neglecting the natural intended use of the women–burned with passion towards one another, men practising shameful vice with men, and receiving in their own selves the reward which necessarily followed their misconduct.”
So, IF there were going to be polygamy it would not naturally be many men for one wife, but many wives for one man.
It is NOT uncommon for men to have eyes for more than one woman, and though this may be curbed by love and devotion to one, such cannot be claimed to be God’s requirement.
That having been said, polygamy was never largely practiced in Israel, the reasons of which can only be speculated.
Excerps from an article by Naftali Silberberg, entitled Does Jewish Law Forbid Polygamy?, the writer has this to say,
“The Torah does not forbid a man from having multiple wives. Abraham, Jacob, David and Solomon are notable examples of biblical figures who wedded more than one wife.
A close reading, however, reveals that in virtually all cases where our forefathers took multiple wives, it was for a specific reason.
Abraham married Hagar only after Sarah suggested that he do so because she and Abraham had no children together.
Another classic example is Jacob. He married Leah only because he was tricked into it by Laban.
Similarly, he took Bilhah and Zilpah at the advice of his first two wives, who wished to bear children through them.
Yet the Torah does not outlaw polygamy…
As far as Jewish thought is concerned, it would seem that polygamy is not, and never was, an ideal state. The mystical works are replete with references to husband and wife being two halves of one whole.
Practically speaking as well, polygamy is a big financial strain, as the husband is required to provide for all the needs of, as well as separate housing for, two households.
In all probability, polygamy was always considered a last-resort option for men who were married to barren women and who wished to have children without divorcing the wives they loved. Monarchs also routinely used polygamy to cement relationships with different tribal factions and families.”
So far as New Testament prohibitions against multiple wives, it is my opinion that one would have to stretch the boundaries of context and clear intent to say it is forbidden. Every place one could pick where it might be claimed that the teaching would naturally exclude polygmy has existed since creation and yet, God never said it was wrong, so that would be a hard sell!
For example, Paul says in 1 Cor. 7 that it would be better to not engage in sexual relations at all, but due to the fact that most humans desire such relations, marriage is FAR preferable to occasionally falling into sexual sin. So, “Let every man have his own wife and every wife her own husband”. That this is NOT saying the man can only have one wife seems clear since the intent given by Paul has existed since Creation and yet, many patriarchs had more than one wife.
The same holds true of “one flesh”. It simply means those two become one body. That this can happen with multiple people is made clear when Paul asks the rhetorical question, “don’t you know that WHOEVER has sex with a prostitute becomes one flesh with her?” The use of the word “whoever” would include married men who are already one flesh with their wives.
Finally, the notorious passage in the pastoral epistles which says that an elder should be the husband of one wife, was making use of a colloquialism of the day which is still around in a different arrangement of words – we would say, a “one woman kind of man” by which is meant he is devoted to his wife (or wives) and not a promiscuous, flirtatious ladies man.
Yet, the New Testament DOES offer a conditional sort of prohibition against polygamy and that is, obey the local laws! In today’s world, polygamy is not widely accepted or practiced and those faiths which do recognize it do so in the most base of ways, where women are little more than property like several sects of Islam though this is NOT always the case.
I want you to notice that even in nature, for the most part, what is morally right and part of our God-likeness as human beings, we have a tenancy to default to practices which are in accordance to God’s nature in regard to life roles and major issues of morality. Even among the lost, a committed relationship between a man and a woman is preferrable. Sex outside that union is typically called “cheating”. Murder is considered wrong, as is theft, pride, cruelty, substance abuse…etc. Also, OVERWHELMINGLY gender roles are excepted by default. Men traditionally are providers and protectors and women are keeper of the home and children. Men typically rule their households (whether in a loving, caring and self-sacrificial way or tyrannical) and women typically follow after their husbands, honoring them, respecting them and obeying them. This is SO universal in the majority of cultures that the very recent attitude developed in “privileged countries” appears out of place on a global scale.
Almost without exception, leanings towards the abolition of gender roles nearly always happens in societies of extreme privilege and decadence.
Now, what did this passage mean when saying he humbled her but let her go?
It is NOT consistent with Biblical thought to assume it means that if a man had sexual relations with her after her time of mourning and purification, but was not pleased with her – he was to let her go. In other words, humbling her – did not mean have sex with her. What it most probably meant was that, after a month of living with the woman during her time of mourning and purification, her ardor cooled for her and he no longer desired her as he had at first, he was to let her go.
This provision of a month served several purposes.
- It was a provision for the woman to allow her time to mourn her losses.
- It provided time to reconcile her heart to her new situation. To realize that Israel was not like other nations. She was not to be raped and abused and then left for dead. Israel had laws which protected even their captives.
- This also allowed her time to consider the wisdom of “playing along” rather than rebelling (which would rarely have happened anyway).
- In many cases, when a land was captured, the women of the land would clean themselves and put on their best attire in order to attract their captors. This would allow them the greatest defense against mistreatment, death or slavery.
- This would also allow her time to acclimate to the laws and “religion” of Israel – time to make a choice to make God – her god.
- Finally this would allow time for the man’s passion for her appearance to cool off, so that he might not act in haste.
If after this time period, he no longer desired her, he had forfeited his right to her as a servant and therefore as property. He could not sell her – she was a free woman. Now in Israel, she would have next to no prospects for provision other than the customary charity required of all Israel even to strangers among them, but she could marry in any tribe except Levi and could also, presumably leave Israel to go to another nation should she desire it – though again, this would be HIGHLY unlikely.
So how had he humbled her? Her head was shaved and she had lived before all her new neighbors as this man’s prospective wife and to loose that was a shame. She would bear the social mockery and belittling of other women, but God would lessen her social burden by giving her the status of a free woman!
“(18) If a man has a stubborn and rebellious son who does not obey his father or mother and doesn’t listen to them even after they discipline him, (19) his father and mother must take hold of him and bring him to the elders of his city, to the gate of his hometown. (20) They will say to the elders of his city, ‘This son of ours is stubborn and rebellious; he doesn’t obey us. He’s a glutton and a drunkard.’ (21) Then all the men of his city will stone him to death. You must purge the evil from you, and all Israel will hear and be afraid. (22) “If anyone is found guilty of an offense deserving the death penalty and is executed, and you hang his body on a tree, (23) you are not to leave his corpse on the tree overnight but are to bury him that day, for anyone hung on a tree is under God’s curse. You must not defile the land the LORD your God is giving you as an inheritance.”
Though the “hanging” referred to here is a brief form of gibbeting and NOT crucifixion, it was referred to in the New Testament as applying to Jesus on the cross since His dead body was on display until the end of the day (though had it not been Passover, it would likely have remained gibbeted until the following week).
Gal 3:13 “(13) Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law, having become a curse for us (for it is written, “CURSED IS EVERYONE WHO HANGS ON A TREE”),”
You ARE your brother’s keeper
“(1) If you see your brother’s ox or sheep straying, you must not ignore it; make sure you return it to your brother. (2) If your brother does not live near you or you don’t know him, you are to bring the animal to your home to remain with you until your brother comes looking for it; then you can return it to him. (3) Do the same for his donkey, his garment, or anything your brother has lost and you have found. You must not ignore it. (4) If you see your brother’s donkey or ox fallen down on the road, you must not ignore it; you must help him lift it up.”
Oh, so God’s not silent on transgender afterall!
“(5) A woman is not to wear male clothing, and a man is not to put on a woman’s garment, for everyone who does these things is detestable to the LORD your God.”
Now, what is or is not, masculine or feminine may change over time and location. God is NOT here defining what DOES and DOES NOT “appear” masculine or feminine, only that WHERE YOU LIVE you constrain yourself to that which is indicative of your gender. If your society has degraded enough that such distinctions are almost non-existent, then propriety would dictate to revert back to the most clear example of your gender’s fashion BEFORE those lines blurred!
Civil and domestic considerations
“(6) If you come across a bird’s nest with chicks or eggs, either in a tree or on the ground along the road, and the mother is sitting on the chicks or eggs, you must not take the mother along with the young. (7) You may take the young for yourself, but be sure to let the mother go free, so that you may prosper and live long.”
“(8) If you build a new house, make a railing around your roof, so that you don’t bring bloodguilt on your house if someone falls from it.”
“(9) Do not plant your vineyard with two types of seed; otherwise, the entire harvest, both the crop you plant and the produce of the vineyard, will be defiled.”
The word “defiled” here can be confusing because it is the Hebrew word for HOLY. The meaning is a little veiled, but in the end, it appears that what was meant was that if this was done, the entire field had to be burned to the ground. The result would be a cleansing or making holy of the field.
This was an example used in Jesus’ parable of the wheat and the tares – Matt. 13:30 and may offer a glimpse at the intended lesson of consecration, holiness and remaining separated from the world.
“(10) Do not plow with an ox and a donkey together.”
Different heights, strengths and temperaments. They do not blend well and one or the other is subject to injury.
“ (11) Do not wear clothes made of both wool and linen.”
A foreign practice that was connected with pagan and occultist customs of neighboring nations. However, it served a greater purpose as well which fits nicely into the context of separation.
Consider Paul’s warning of the same and see the comparison between the two, “Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers. For what fellowship has righteousness with lawlessness? And what communion has light with darkness?” (2Cor. 6:14)
But Jesus used a similar analogy between with wineskins (old with new). Wool shrinks more than flax based linen so the two would not launder well and might rip and both be ruined – like the wineskin.
“(12) Make tassels on the four corners of the outer garment you wear.”
We already know the color of them and reason why…Num. 15:38
A built-in lie detector
“(13) If a man marries a woman, has sexual relations with her, and comes to hate her, (14) and accuses her of shameful conduct, and gives her a bad name, saying, ‘I married this woman and was intimate with her, but I didn’t find any evidence of her virginity,’ (15) the young woman’s father and mother will take the evidence of her virginity and bring it to the city elders at the gate. (16) The young woman’s father will say to the elders, ‘I gave my daughter to this man as a wife, but he hates her. (17) He has accused her of shameful conduct, saying: ‘I didn’t find any evidence of your daughter’s virginity, but here is the evidence of my daughter’s virginity.’ They will spread out the cloth before the city elders. (18) Then the elders of that city will take the man and punish him. (19) They will also fine him 100 silver shekels and give them to the young woman’s father, because that man gave an Israelite virgin a bad name. She will remain his wife; he cannot divorce her as long as he lives. (20) But if this accusation is true and no evidence of the young woman’s virginity is found, (21) they will bring the woman to the door of her father’s house, and the men of her city will stone her to death. For she has committed an outrage in Israel by being promiscuous in her father’s house. You must purge the evil from you.”
“(22) If a man is discovered having sexual relations with another man’s wife, both the man who had sex with the woman and the woman must die. You must purge the evil from Israel.”
“(23) If there is a young woman who is a virgin engaged to a man, and another man encounters her in the city and has sex with her, (24) you must take the two of them out to the gate of that city and stone them to death–the young woman because she did not cry out in the city and the man because he has violated his neighbor’s fiancée. You must purge the evil from you. (25) But if the man encounters the engaged woman in the open country, and he seizes and rapes her, only the man who raped her must die. (26) Do nothing to the young woman, because she is not guilty of an offense deserving death. This case is just like one in which a man attacks his neighbor and murders him. (27) When he found her in the field, the engaged woman cried out, but there was no one to rescue her.”
“(28) If a man encounters a young woman, a virgin who is not engaged, takes hold of her and rapes her, and they are discovered, (29) the man who raped her must give the young woman’s father 50 silver shekels, and she must become his wife because he violated her. He cannot divorce her as long as he lives.”
It is important here to recall that no where does God assert that all of these laws are “fair”, but they are just – and there IS a difference! To grapple with this reality, one needs only consider the fall of man. No one in the history of the world placed the human race under the fall except ONE man. Yet, as a consequence, all men are born in sin and with a sin nature. Is this fair – NO! Is it just – absolutely!
God has proven time and again that He values both genders and gives both the full degree of latitude in terms of freedoms as He may without violating their purpose and the truths they represent of His character. However, there are times when justice does not meet eye to eye with fairness.
“(30) A man is not to marry his father’s wife; he must not violate his father’s marriage bed.”
That under the new covenant, such sins do not evoke the penalty of death is made clear by the example found in 1 & 2 Corinthians with the man who “had” his father’s wife. It was forgivable.
I hope this message will bless you richly…not because I taught it, but because it reveals Christ. He alone is our blessing and if in any way – whether big or small, 100% accurate or even just partially so – I have revealed our great God and Savior to you in a relationally knowable way, then this was time well spent on both our parts.
We at Living Grace Fellowship encourage you to place your trust in Jesus Christ, deliberately choosing Him and bowing the knee to Him as your Master and Lord, so as to come to realize Him as your Savior.
You have a special place in God’s family & kingdom. The fact that you exist… that you are His creation, says you were in His heart, you are His delight!
If you do not know Him, please reach out to us. Give us a call at the number located on every page of this website or use our ‘Contact Us‘ page. We would be deeply honored, if you gave us the privilege of introducing you to the Lord. Neither money nor attendance at our church will EVER be mentioned.
If you HAVE been spiritually fed by this ministry and WANT to give, we truly appreciate that and you may do so here, but please understand that all the outreaches of this ministry are FREE for you and anyone to enjoy at no cost.