The Word Made Fresh
1“If you see a kinsman’s ox or sheep astray, take it back to him. 2If you’re not sure whose it is, or if the owner lives far away, keep it until he lays claim to it. 3The same rule applies to stray donkeys, or articles of clothing you may find, or anything else for that matter. Don’t keep something that doesn’t belong to you. 4If you see a kinsman’s donkey or ox collapsed beside the road, help it get up.
5“Women shouldn’t wear men’s clothes and men shouldn’t wear women’s clothes. The LORD does not approve of anyone who does such a thing.
6“If you find a bird’s nest in a tree or on the ground, and the mother is sitting on the eggs or on hatchlings, 7you may take eggs or baby birds, but do not harm the mother, and you will have a long and happy life.
8“When you build a house, build it with a parapet for the roof. Otherwise, if anyone should fall from your roof you will bear the blame.
9“Don’t plant other crops in your vineyard. It won’t thrive and will harm the vines as well.
10 “Don’t yoke an ox and a donkey together behind your plow.
11“Don’t weave linen and wool together for your clothes.
12“Attach tassels to the corners of your blankets.
13“If a man marries a woman and takes her to his bed, but then decides he doesn’t like her 14and claims she wasn’t a virgin, 15the girls’ parents can go to the elders at the city gate. 16The father will tell them, ‘I gave our daughter to this man as his wife, but then he decided he doesn’t like her. 17And now he has slandered her and claimed that she was not a virgin, but here is the evidence,’ and then he will spread the sheet before them to show the elders the evidence of her virginity. 18The elders must then punish the man 19by making him give the girl’s father one hundred shekels of silver. He has slandered a virgin of Israel, and she will remain his wife and he can’t divorce her as long as he lives.
20“On the other hand, if the girl’s virginity cannot be proven, 21she must be brought to the door of her parent’s house and there the men of the town must stone her to death because she has prostituted herself while still in her parents’ house, and you must get rid of that kind of wickedness among you.
22“If a man is caught in bed with another man’s wife, both of them must be put to death. You must get rid of that kind of wickedness in Israel.
23“If a man meets a virgin in a town who is engaged to another man, and goes to bed with her, 24take both of them to the town’s gate and stone them to death; the girl because they were in a town and she didn’t scream, and the man because he violated another man’s betrothed. Get rid of that kind of wickedness in Israel.
25“On the other hand, if such a thing should happen out in the countryside, only the man should die. 26Let the girl go free; she cannot be accused of wrong. It is to be treated the same as if the man has murdered a neighbor 27because it happened in the open country, and she may have screamed but was not heard.
28“If a man meets a virgin girl who is not engaged to another and forces her to have sex with him and they are caught in the act, 29he must pay the girl’s father fifty shekels of silver and he must marry her. Because he forced her, he cannot divorce her as long as he lives.
30“A man must not be allowed to marry his father’s wife, for that would dishonor his father.”
1-4: It isn’t enough to not steal your neighbor’s livestock; you must also be willing to return livestock that has wandered off. A fair demand, I think.
5: The rule against cross-dressing protects strictly defined roles for men and women.
6-7: This rule sounds strange, but the simple purpose is to allow the adult bird to continue to propagate their species. Humans may take birds and eggs for food, but some precautions are to be observed to protect the ongoing availability of the source.
8: This rule about providing a parapet around the roof is an early recognition of public liability.
9-12: In a similar vein with verse 5, there is in the Bible a consistent avoidance of mixing things together that God created to be separate and distinct.
13-29: Various rules about sexual behavior are given here, designed to protect the institution of marriage and also the prevailing customs of courtship and betrothal. It is obvious that some of these rules are in place because of the strict inheritance laws.
30: This is an odd statement, until we remember that the man’s father may have had more than one wife, perhaps as young as his children. Moses does not intend here to say that a man may marry his own mother.
Women’s rights are protected in these rules in an odd sort of way. There is no awareness, apparently, that a woman being raped inside a town may have been gagged and unable to scream. And there is apparently no awareness that a virgin girl having sex with a man out in the country might have instigated the activity herself. In their defense, I think it is safe to say that human society 3500 years ago simply could not have absorbed anything like our understanding of male/female roles today.