The Word Made Fresh
1“If a man marries a woman, and after some time becomes displeased with her and writes a certificate of divorce and sends her away, she will leave his house 2and then she may marry another man. 3But if her second husband is displeased with her and writes her a divorce certificate, or if he should die, 4her first husband cannot remarry her. The LORD would not approve of it, so don’t do such things and bring guilt on the land the LORD is giving to you.
5“When a man has recently married, he is not to march with the army or be given any official duties. He must be allowed to spend the first year happily at home with his wife.
6“Don’t take as a pledge someone’s millstones; that would be almost like taking a life.
7“Any one of you who takes a fellow Israelite as a slave, or sells a fellow Israelite as a slave, must be put to death. You must not allow such an evil among you.
8“Be careful not to spread diseases of the skin. Do exactly what the priest tells you to do because I have given them instructions about such matters. 9Don’t forget what the LORD God did to Miriam after we had left Egypt.
10“When you lend something to a neighbor, don’t enter their house to take what they give you as surety for the loan. 11Wait outside for them to bring it to you. 12If your neighbor is poor, and gives you a coat for surety, don’t sleep in it, 13but give it back before sunset so they can use it for warmth overnight, and the LORD will give you credit for doing such a thing.
14“If you hire poor people, Israelite or foreign, don’t delay in paying them their wages. 15Pay them before sunset each day because they need it to survive. If you don’t, they will cry out to the LORD and the LORD will hold you guilty.
16“Never put parents to death for the crimes of their children. Never execute children for the crimes of their parents. A death sentence must only be carried out against the one who actually committed the crime.
17“Never withhold justice from a foreigner or an orphan. Never accept clothing as a pledge for a loan from a widow. 18Never forget that you were yourselves slaves in Egypt when the LORD rescued you; that is why you must abide by these rules.
19“When you gather the harvest from your fields, if you should accidentally leave a sheaf, don’t go back for it. Leave it for foreigners, orphans, and widows and the LORD will reward you in every way. 20When you shake your olive trees, don’t pick them bare; leave something for foreigners, orphans, and widows. 21“When you gather your grapes, don’t pick your vineyard bare; leave some for foreigners, orphans and widows. 22Never forget that you were slaves in Egypt. That’s why I’m giving you these rules.”
1-4: The concern here seems to be that allowing a remarriage after having been married to someone else introduces unwanted confusion in the area of sexual relations. In any case the woman’s rights are not protected by such laws as these. Beyond these verses, however, there is much more heed taken for women, for the poor, and the orphan, and the alien.
5: The blessing of children is so important that marriage trumps military service.
6: The millstone was a means of earning a living.
7: Capital punishment is extended to kidnapping a fellow citizen.
8-9: It was believed that the various skin conditions called “leprosy” could be avoided or healed by carefully obeying rules of sanitation, administered by the priests. The story of Miriam’s bout with leprosy is in Numbers 12.
10-15: Some very humane rules about loans and the treatment of the poor. Maybe these verses should be sent to all payday lenders.
16: Justice means taking responsibility for one’s own actions.
17-22: More laws protecting and providing for the poor, the alien, the orphan, and the widow.
God’s people always treat others fairly. God’s people always watch out for foreigners who often do not speak the language fluently and are at a disadvantage. God’s people always watch out for the poor. God’s people always protect orphans. God’s people always treat widows with kindness and generosity. This chapter (after verse 4) provides guidance for our dealing with those who are underprivileged and should be required study for all of us today.