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Scripture reading – Deuteronomy 21-22

Warning: You may find the content of today’s devotion inflammatory; however, its immediate relevance is undeniable.

Moses continued his charge to Israel in our Scripture reading. In Deuteronomy 21-22, fundamental principles establish the sanctity of human life, the basics of civil decency and human kindness, and the practical application of the command, “love thy neighbor.”

Deuteronomy 21 – Fundamentals of Civil Duty

“Thou Shalt Not Kill” (Deuteronomy 21:1-9)

In our study of the Pentateuch (the first five books of the Bible), we have considered several passages of Scripture that explain the sanctity of human life and the sixth commandment that reads, “Thou shalt not kill” (Exodus 20:13). Capital punishment, a “life for a life,” was God’s judgment upon the man who willfully, and deliberately took the life of another (19:11-13, 21). In addition, Deuteronomy 21:1-9 addressed the loss of human life, should a victim’s body be discovered, but there are no witnesses to the murder.

Concerning Women Taken as Spoil of Wartimes (21:10-14)

Ancient cultures considered women taken as prisoners in war to be nothing more than a possession, a spoil of battle. The God of Israel, however, established laws to protect women. Should a man desire to take a female prisoner as his wife, he was to allow her head to be shaved, an outward symbol of her purification, and give her thirty days to mourn her parents’ deaths before taking her as his wife (21:12-13). Should the man later decide to reject her, he was to set her at liberty and was commanded to neither sell nor humiliate her (21:14).

The Inheritance Rights of a Firstborn Son (21:15-17)

Some propose that the reference to “two wives” (21:15) suggested polygamy; however, I believe it is not. From our study of the Book of Genesis, we know that God defined marriage as “one flesh” (Genesis 2:24), meaning the union of one man and one woman. Therefore, polygamy cannot be the intent of Deuteronomy 21:15, for the Mosaic Law did not redefine what God Himself had designed and established.

In my opinion, the explanation for the reference to “two wives” (one being described as “beloved” and the other “hated”) implied that the first wife was dead. In this example, the first wife had given birth to a son; as the firstborn son, he was the husband’s heir (21:15-16). The second wife, the stepmother of the firstborn son, would perhaps be tempted to influence her husband to disown his firstborn; thereby choosing her son to be his heir (21:16). The LORD condemned that practice. He declared that the firstborn son would be given “a double portion” of all that was his father’s (21:17).

Capital Punishment of a Rebellious Son (21:18-21)

A disobedient son, defined as “stubborn and rebellious” (21:18), refused to hear and obey his father and mother. Such a son (described as “a glutton, and a drunkard”) would be brought before the city elders, who would sit in judgment of his character (21:19-20).

I understand that stoning a rebellious son is undoubtedly offensive to our 21st-century sensibilities. Yet, given the severity of the punishment, we can conclude that it was a rare event. Indeed, such a judgment required the consent of both the father and mother (21:19-20). Yet, should the city’s elders find the son guilty, he would have been stoned to death by the “men of his city” (21:21).

Deuteronomy 22 – Having a Good Conscience

Compassion for a Neighbor’s Livestock (22:1-4)

We are reminded that God’s people were to love their neighbors. That command applied to his person and was demonstrated practically in one’s duty to his neighbor’s livestock, clothes, and possessions (22:1-3). Should a man’s ox, sheep, or donkey be astray, his neighbor was to restore them to their owner. Should the owner not be readily known, an Israelite was commanded to take the animal to his home until its rightful owner was established (22:2). Once again, we are reminded that God is benevolent. He required compassion for the animals of His creation (22:4).

An Abomination: TransgenderTransexuals (22:5)

There is much ado about the “rights” of self-declared “Queers, “Transexuals,” and “Asexuals” in 21st-century society. Such people aspire to blend and distort the natural differences between males and females in their dress and manner. It may surprise you to learn that blurring the distinctiveness in the sexes is not a “new woke” (as some would have you believe). Indeed, it was declared an “abomination unto the LORD” in the Scriptures and condemned as a practice among ancient heathen societies (22:5).

Compassion and Affection for Nature (22:6-7)

From the beginning, humanity was commanded to be the “keeper” of God’s creation (Genesis 2:15). It follows, therefore, that even the smallest of creatures should arouse in man a natural affection and compassion (22:7).

Closing thoughts:

Several other laws and guidelines are given in Deuteronomy 22, but I conclude this devotion by inviting you to notice the LORD’s protection of womankind (22:13-29).

Unlike their heathen neighbors, Israelite women were protected and shielded from abuses that are even prevalent today. For example, a woman had the right to due process should her purity and testimony be questioned. Also, should a woman be forcefully taken and raped, the severity of the law would fall upon the man, and he would forfeit his life for his sin (22:25-27).

Tragically, our nation and world have rejected the authority of God’s Word and removed itself from the divine guiding principles for life and civil society. We have become a people with laws divorced from unalterable principles. As a result, we are governed by the whims of wicked, unprincipled men and women. Indeed, the prophet Isaiah’s condemnation of the wicked is applicable and relevant when we read:

Isaiah 5:20-21 – “Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter! 21  Woe unto them that are wise in their own eyes, and prudent in their own sight!”

Questions to consider:

1) How were captive, enslaved women to be treated in Israel? (21:10-14)

2) What might become of a rebellious son? (21:19-19)

3) Why would the adage “finders, keepers” not apply to God’s people? (22:1-3)

4) What was the law concerning a man dressing like a woman or a woman dressing like a man? (22:5)

Copyright © 2023 – Travis D. Smith

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