Category Archives: Morality

“Lawlessness Breeds Moral Degeneracy” (Judges 19-20)

Scripture reading – Judges 19-20

A familiar refrain in the latter chapters of the Book of Judges is: “It came to pass in those days, when there was no king in Israel” (19:1).

Consider the question, “When was there no king [literally, no ruler or judge] in Israel?” The answer gives us a different perspective for the events recorded in today’s Scripture reading. I believe Judges 17-21 falls chronologically between the death of Joshua (Joshua 24:29-33, Judges 1:1-2:15), and the beginning of the era of the judges (Judges 2:16), when “the Spirit of the LORD came upon [Othniel], and he judged Israel” (3:8-10).

A contemporary application: The tragic events that occur in today’s Scripture reading, Judges 19-20, are a reflection of the lawlessness, and moral degeneracy of a society when men reject the Law of the LORD, and His Commandments.

Lesson: When spiritual leaders fail to preach, and teach the Word of God, they not only fail the LORD, they fail their families, community, and nation. Consider with me a time of lawlessness, much like our day, “when there was no king [no judge, no ruler] in Israel” (19:1).

Judges 19 – The Levite, and His Unfaithful Concubine

A man of the priestly tribe of Levi, passed through Mount Ephraim (near the place where the Tabernacle was located), and took to wife “a concubine out of Beth-lehem-judah [Bethlehem of Judah]” (19:1). The woman was most likely a concubine, because she had come to the marriage without a dowry. She would have been considered a lesser wife, and her children would have had no right of inheritance.

Tragically, the Levite’s concubine played the harlot, and left the Levite and returned to her father’s house (19:2). Four months passed, and the Levite and his servant, determined to travel to Bethlehem, and with kind words, endeavor to “bring her again” to his home (19:3). The concubine’s father rejoiced when the Levite came to claim his daughter (19:3). The man pressed upon his son-in-law to accept his invitation to continue in his home, and “he abode with him three days: so they did eat and drink, and lodged there” (19:4).

For four days, the Levite, his concubine, and servant continued with his father-in-law, and on the fifth day, though the father protested, the Levite set out on his journey to Shiloh (where the Tabernacle was located, 19:18). Because the hour was late, the servant pressed the Levite to stay the night near “Jebus” (ancient Jerusalem, 19:10-11). The Levite, however, refused to spend the night in Jerusalem, for it was occupied by Jebusites, and not the children of Israel. Instead, they made their way to Gibeah, a city occupied by the tribe of Benjamin, and arrived in the city as “the sun went down upon them” (19:14).

The Tragedy of Depravity in Gibeah

Contrary to the Law’s injunction to show compassion to the sojourner, no man of Gibeah offered the Levite, and his concubine provision or lodging for the night, and he settled to spend the night in the city street (19:15). An old man, however, whose birthplace was Mount Ephraim, resided in Gibeah, and spied the Levite and his company. The old man offered them lodging for the night (19:16-20), and though the Levite resisted his invitation, he pressed upon him, saying, “lodge not in the street” (19:20).

The old man was entertaining his guests, when “the men of the city, certain sons of Belial [wicked, immoral men], beset the house round about, and beat at the door, and spake to the master of the house, the old man, saying, Bring forth the man that came into thine house, that we may know him” (19:22).

Like Lot, who found his household beset by the wicked men of Sodom (Genesis 19:4-9), the old man’s endeavor to reason with the sodomites of Gibeah proved futile (19:23). Though he defined their passions as wickedness, and folly (19:23), their immoral desire, and lust would not be assuaged. Following the manner of Lot, and to save the Levite from the violence of the mob, the old man offered his virgin daughter, and the Levite’s concubine to “do with them what seemeth good unto you” (19:24). Even that shameless attempt to pacify the lusts of the sodomites failed, and did not deter them from their debased objective (19:24).

Tragically, choosing to save himself, and his host from the degenerate mob, the Levite thrust his concubine out of the house. The men of Gibeah raped, and “abused her all the night until the morning: and when the day began to spring, they let her go” (19:25), and retreated to their households (19:26).

What a hideous thought, that a man would give his wife to a mob to be abused, while he sheltered in the security of a household! Nevertheless, we read, the Levite “rose up in the morning, and opened the doors of the house, and went out to go his way: and, behold, the woman his concubine was fallen down at the door of the house, and her hands were upon the threshold” (19:25).

Can you picture this tragic moment? With a callousness that defies love, the Levite opened the door, not to search for his wife, but to go on his journey (19:27). He knew the violence of the Sodomite culture, and what she would have suffered, and no doubt believed she would be dead. Instead, she had made her way to the threshold of the house; battered, bruised, bleeding, and demeaned, she found the door closed to her cries, and died (19:27).

What manner of man would give his beloved to suffer, and himself be spared? The same who would fail to stoop, and caress her, and say, “Up, and let us be going” (19:28). The abused woman did not stir, and she did not answer. Her life was gone, her soul departed. She had died from the violence of the mob that had made her the object of their lusts. Taking up her lifeless body from the threshold, the Levite placed her upon his donkey, and went to his house (19:28).

Remembering there was no king, judge, or ruler in Israel, the Levite had no place to appeal for justice.

The city of Gibeah, and the tribe of Benjamin had sheltered, and tolerated a great evil in their land, and the Levite determined to appeal to all Israel for justice. He “took a knife, and laid hold on his concubine, and divided her, together with her bones, into twelve pieces, and sent her [body parts] into all the coasts [boundaries, tribes] of Israel” (19:29). The Levite’s deed left Israel shaken, and the children of Israel gathered to weigh the spiritual state of their nation, and what must be done (19:30, 20:1).

Author’s note: In a later devotional, I hope to consider the events that follow in Judges 20, and their application to our own society, and world.

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

Samson and Delilah (Judges 16-17)

Scripture reading – Judges 16-17

Today’s study in the Book of Judges brings us to an event in the life of Samson that is as dramatic, as it is tragic.

Samson’s super-strength exploits, his infatuation with Delilah, her betrayal, and the tragic finale of his life has filled childhood imaginations, and been the inspiration for plays, operas, and Hollywood films. It might be said, never has a man been born with such promise, and died with such infamy. He was the hope of Israel, and his strength was legend; however, his moral failures shadowed his life, and ended inglorious.

This final chapter of Samson’s life opens with a reminder of his flawed character. Though set apart by the LORD, and dedicated by his mother when he was yet in her womb (13:3-5), Samson’s lusts eclipsed his calling as the judge of Israel (15:20+). While his physical acts of valor were renown, his unbridled lusts were ultimately his demise.

Judges 16 – Samson, Delilah, and the Philistines

The early verses of Judges 16 placed Samson in Gaza, a Philistine town fifty miles southwest of Jerusalem, and was only a short distance from his home. Unafraid of the Philistines, Samson visited with a harlot of Gaza (16:1), and the men of that city waited at the gate, plotting to kill him (16:2). Sensing the danger, he arose at midnight, and stormed out of the city, pulling the great gate up by its posts, and carrying them a distance of nine miles where he sat them at “the top of an hill that is before Hebron” (16:3).

Delilah, the Temptress, and Vixen (16:4-21)

The story of Samson and Delilah is well known, and I feel no need to be detailed in my commentary; however, let it serve as a warning to any who might trifle with sexual immorality.

Samson came to love Delilah (16:4), with whom he not only indulged his lusts, but trifled with his Nazarite vow, under which he had been born. When the Philistines offered Delilah a bribe of “eleven hundred pieces of silver” (16:5), she began to entice, and plot to betray Samson into the hands of his enemies (16:6-14). Three times she urged Samson to reveal the secret of his strength, and three times he deceived her, and foiled the plot to capture him (16:6-14).

Delilah’s unrelenting pleas for him to trust her with his secret, weakened Samson’s resolve, until he confessed “all his heart, and said unto her, There hath not come a razor upon mine head; for I have been a Nazarite unto God from my mother’s womb: if I be shaven, then my strength will go from me, and I shall become weak, and be like any other man” (16:17).

Knowing his secret, Delilah betrayed him, and as he slept she sent for a man to shave his head (16:18-19). With the locks of his hair shaved, Delilah awoke Samson, and “his strength went from him” (16:19). She lifted up her voice as she had in the past, and said, “The Philistines be upon thee, Samson” (16:20), and when he rose from his bed to face his enemy, “he wist not that the Lord was departed from him” (16:20).

Seized, Enslaved, and Scorned (16:21-31)

With the Spirit of the LORD no longer upon him, Samson was bound by the Philistines, his eyes gouged out, and like a dumb beast, he was forced to push the mill wheel to “grind in the prison house” (16:21). Days and weeks passed, and Samson’s hair began to grow (16:22). We know the disgrace he endured in prison; however, it was the humiliation he suffered when he was taken from prison that turned his thoughts to the LORD. Led by a boy to the temple of Dagon, the once mighty Samson become an object of buffoonery for the Philistine men and women (16:23-25).

Samson asked the boy to guide him to the main pillars that supported the roof of the temple, and there he prayed, “O Lord God, remember me, I pray thee, and strengthen me, I pray thee, only this once, O God, that I may be at once avenged of the Philistines for my two eyes” (16:28). Standing in the midst of the two pillars, Samson pushed against them, and prayed, “Let me die with the Philistines. And he bowed himself with all his might; and the house fell upon the lords, and upon all the people that were therein. So the dead which he slew at his death were more than they which he slew in his life” (16:30).

The story of Samson’s life ends with a sad scene, as his brethren (the tribe of Dan), and those of his father’s house, claimed his body from the rubble of the temple of Dagon, and buried him with his father (16:31).

Judges 17 – Wickedness, and Idolatry in Israel

To illustrate the wickedness and depravity that had taken hold in Israel, we are introduced to a man of the tribe of Ephraim named Micah.  Micah was a wicked sort, for he is introduced as one who had stolen eleven hundred shekels of silver from his mother! When he learned his mother had uttered a curse on the thief, he returned her silver, and excused his theft on the pretense of religious piety, claiming it was his desire to have an idol shaped from the silver and revered in his “house of gods” (17:3).

Micah’s mother, no doubt deluded by her son’s pretext of spirituality, rewarded him with two hundred shekels of silver, which he melted at a foundry, and poured into a mold of the image that would serve as one of his idols (17:4-5).  Increasing his wickedness further, Micah employed a Levite priest to serve him and his gods (17:7-13).

I close today’s devotional with a revelation of the sin problem that was present in Israel, for 6in those days there was no king [no ruler, no judge] in Israel, but every man did that which was right in his own eyes”(17:6).

Samson had been the hope of his nation, but his moral failures overshadowed his life, and ministry as Israel’s judge.

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

The Third Generation: A Tragic Rejection of Spiritual Leadership (Judges 3)

Scripture reading – Judges 3

Today’s Scripture introduces the beginning of a new era in Israel’s history, as the LORD began to raise up judges to rule the nation. Why judges, and not a king? Because the LORD Himself was to be the Sovereign Ruler of His people, and Israel, was bound by covenant to the LORD, and the people were to be ruled by His Law and Commandments.

After Joshua died, and the generation that followed had passed (2:6-10a), Israel turned from the LORD, and “knew not the Lord…[and] did evil in the sight of the Lord” (2:10-11). In His mercy, “the Lord raised up judges, which delivered [the children of Israel] out of the hand of those that spoiled [made spoil, or plundered]them” (2:16); however, when the judge died, the people “corrupted themselves more than their fathers, in following other gods to serve them” (2:19a).

Judges 3 – The LORD Raised Up Judges

Because Israel had broken covenant with Him, the LORD determined He would not drive out the enemies of His people, and left them in their midst to “prove [test; try] Israel by them” (3:1).

To what end was this testing? It was to test, and prove a generation that did not know the hardships, and trials of war as had their fathers before them. Longing for Israel to turn to Him, and obey His commandments, the LORD did not drive out those enemies with whom His people had compromised (3:2-7).

How far, and how wretched had the third generation become?

They allowed their sons and daughters to intermarry with idolaters, until they “served their gods…and forgat the LORD their God,” and committed whoredom in their groves (3:6-7). Thus, the sins of Israel provoked “the anger of the LORD” (3:8), and “He sold “them into the hand of Chushan-rishathaim king of Mesopotamia: and the children of Israel served Chushan-rishathaim eight years” (3:8).

Othniel, the First Judge in Israel (3:9-11)

When the people began to cry to the LORD, He heard their cry, and raised up “Othniel the son of Kenaz, Caleb’s younger brother” (3:9) who served as Israel’s first judge, and delivered the nation from their enemy (3:10). God blessed Othniel’s rule as judge, and Israel was at peace forty years (3:11).

Ehud, the Second Judge in Israel (3:12-30)

Judges 3:12-30 records a fascinating series of events. “The children of Israel did evil again in the sight of the Lord: and the Lord strengthened Eglon the king of Moab against Israel, because they [Israel] had done evil in the sight of the Lord” (3:12). Israel had strayed far from the law and commandments, and found themselves humbled, and enslaved by an enemy (3:12-13). For eighteen years, “the children of Israel served Eglon the king of Moab…15But when [they] cried unto the Lord, the Lord raised them up a deliverer, Ehud the son of Gera, a Benjamite, a man lefthanded” (3:14-15). (The men of Benjamin were known as an ambidextrous people, and skilled marksmen, Judges 20:16; 1 Chronicles 12:2).

It was Ehud’s skill with his left hand, that gave him an advantage when he plotted, and carried out his attack on Eglon, the king of Moab (3:16-22). Thrusting the dagger into the obese king, the blade went so deep that Ehud left the knife in the king’s intestines, when he fled the palace (3:21-22). Returning to mount Ephraim, Ehud blew the trumpet, and rallied Israel to go to battle against Moab, and they slew “about ten thousand men” (3:27-29).

Shamgar, the Champion of Israel (3:31)

Judges 3 concludes with the heroism of a man named Shamgar (3:31). He is not identified as a judge; however, he is noted for slaying six hundred Philistines “with an ox goad [a sharp metal point on the end of a pole]” (3:31).

An Invitation

You will observe the emerging of a spiritual cycle as you study the Book of Judges. A cycle that was not only true of Israel, but is also true of believers through the ages: Sin leads to Servitude [enslavement], that leads to Sorrow, and moves the hearts of men to turn to the LORD for Salvation (3:11-19).

Sin…Servitude…Sorrow…Salvation: We are, as the songwriter penned, “Prone to wander, Lord I feel it; Prone to leave the God I love.”

Where are you in that spiritual cycle?

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

Choices Always Have Consequences (Deuteronomy 26-27)

Scripture reading – Deuteronomy 26-27

Moses continues his charge to Israel, with laws and spiritual principles that were to guide the people as they became a nation in their own land (26:1).

Remembering the blessing of the harvest comes from the LORD (26:1-11), the first-fruits offering was to be taken to the place of worship (Tabernacle), and given to the LORD, thus supporting the priests, the Levites, and their households.

A special tithe was given in the third year, and one that coincided with the tither’s confession that he had honored the LORD’S commandments and obeyed them. The tithe of the third year, was used locally to meet the immediate needs of one’s own community, and to support “the Levite, the stranger, the fatherless, and the widow, that they may eat within thy gates, and be filled” (26:12-15).

The Benefit of Obeying the LORD, and Keeping His Commandments (26:16-19)

Beginning with Deuteronomy 26:16, and continuing to Deuteronomy 31:13, Moses expounded the benefits of obeying the LORD and keeping His commandments. Reminding the people that God had chosen Israel “to be His peculiar people…and to make thee high above all nations…” (26:16-19), Moses admonished the nation to “be an holy people unto the LORD thy God” (26:19b).

Renewing the Covenant (Deuteronomy 27)

Lest the people forget all the LORD had done for them, the elders of Israel were commanded to build a pillar of uncut stones on the west side of the Jordan River (27:2-8). The stones were to be plastered, and engraved upon them was to be the Commandments of the Lord, serving as a lasting memorial of the LORD’S promises and commandments.  An altar was to be built to sanctify the place (27:5-8).

Reminding the leaders of Israel that “Choices have Consequences,” Moses charged the people to remember that obedience to the Law would bring the LORD’S blessings (27:11-12), and disobedience would invite His judgments (27:14-26).

Should the people disobey the LORD, and reject His Law and Commandments, a series of twelve curses was pronounced (27:15-26), and all the people gave their assent by an oath:

1) Idolatry, a violation of the first and second commandments was cursed (27:15).

2) Dishonoring one’s parents was cursed (27:16), a violation of the fifth commandment (Ex. 20:12).

3) Stealing the property and possessions of another by deceit was cursed, a violation of the sixth commandment (27:17; Ex. 20:15).

4) Taking advantage of one infirmed or disabled was cursed (27:18).

5) The fifth curse was upon one who would treat “the stranger, fatherless, and widow” unjustly (27:19; Ex. 22:21-24).

The sixth through ninth curses addressed sexual purity, a violation of the  seventh commandment (27:20-23; Ex. 20:14).

6) Incest with one’s stepmother was cursed (27:20; Lev. 18:8-9, 17; 20:11).

7) Bestiality was cursed (27:21; Lev. 18:23).

8) Incest between siblings, and parents was cursed (27:22).

9) Incest with one’s mother was cursed (27:23).

The fifth commandment, “Thou shalt not kill” (Ex. 20:13), was the subject of the tenth and eleventh curses (27:24-25).

10) Intentional murder of one’s neighbor was cursed (27:24).

11) Hiring an assassin to kill another was cursed (27:25).

12) The twelfth and final curse is addressed to any child of Israel who failed God’s Law and Commandments (27:26).

Deuteronomy 27:26 – “Cursed be he that confirmeth not all the words of this law to do them. And all the people shall say, Amen.”

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

Moral Dilemmas: Divorce, Debt, and Human Trafficking (Deuteronomy 24-25)

Scripture reading – Deuteronomy 24-25

Our Scripture reading continues with Moses setting forward various laws that would guide Israel in matters of marriage, family, societal civility, business, and government.

Principles Regarding Marriage and Divorce (24:1-5)

The matter of divorce is raised, and it is indicative of the heart of man. Moses allowed for divorce in this passage; however, I remind you that was never God’s plan, or will. What is the will of the LORD? The sum of God’s will for marriage is this: “A man…shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh” (Genesis 2:24).

The Pharisees questioned Christ saying, “Is it lawful for a man to put away his wife [divorce] for every cause?” (Matthew 19:3) The LORD answered, citing the “one flesh” principle. and added, “What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder” (Matthew 19:6).

Displeased with His answer, the Pharisees pressed Him, asking, “Why did Moses then command to give a writing of divorcement, and to put her away?” (Matthew 19:7). The LORD answered the matter of divorce, and diagnosed the moral basis for Moses permitting divorce in Deuteronomy 24.

Matthew 19:8–98He saith unto them, Moses because of the hardness of your hearts suffered [allowed] you to put away your wives: but from the beginning it was not so.
9And I say unto you, Whosoever shall put away his wife, except it be for fornication, and shall marry another, committeth adultery: and whoso marrieth her which is put away doth commit adultery.

A Moral Guideline for the Borrower and Lender (24:6)

The matter of taking the upper millstone is foreign to most, until you understand Moses was talking of the stones used to grind grain into flour. A lender was warned, he could not take the “upper millstone,” for by it a family was able to grind grain into flour, and then bake bread for the family.

A Solution to Human Trafficking (24:7)

One of the great abominations of the 21st century is human trafficking. Forcefully taking children, women, and men and subjecting them to the darkness of moral depravity is an appalling wickedness. In the words of the Scripture, anyone found who “maketh merchandise…or selleth him” shall be put to death (24:7). Were the judgment of the Scriptures practiced today, innocent victims of human trafficking would receive justice, and human traffickers would be dispatched to swift judgment: “Thine eye shall not pity; but life shall go for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot” (Deuteronomy 19:21).

Charitable Obligations (24:10-22)

False teachers have led many to believe the laws of the Old Testament were lacking in grace, and boast that we live in an “Age of Grace.” Indeed, we do, but to characterize the Law and Commandments as “graceless,” is to suggest the LORD was the same.

Deuteronomy 24:10-22 give evidence that God was sensitive, and compassionate concerning the condition of the poor, the weak, the orphan, and the widow. For example, in ancient times the poor often had nothing more than the “clothes on their backs.” Robes were the attire, and men generally had an inner, and outer robe. The inner robe afforded modesty, the outer robe protection against the elements, and warmth in the night. Should a poor man borrow, it was his outer robe that might serve as the security or pledge of his debt (24:10-11). The lender was not to humiliate the borrower, and forcefully take the robe of a poor man while he was in his house (24:10-11), and in the evening the lender was to return the outer robe, that the man “may sleep in his own raiment, and bless thee” (24:13).

Admonitions Against Injustices (24:14-18)

Day laborers were to be paid their due at the end of the day (24:14). Everyone was to bear the consequences, and punishment for their sins. Therefore, a father was not to be punished for the sins of his children, nor were his children to be punished for the sins of their father (24:16).

Charity Was the Law (24:19-22)

There was no welfare system for the poor in ancient times, and they were a perpetual presence on the earth. Widows were forsaken by their children, orphans suffered neglect, and foreigners found themselves homeless. Moses reminded the people how Israel had suffered bondage in Egypt; therefore, they were to remember, and allow the poor to glean the leftovers from their fields, olive trees, and grapevines.

Time and space prevent a commentary on Deuteronomy 25; however, I suggest the following for an outline: I. Principles for Capital Punishment, and Civil Justice (25:1-4); II. Principles for Family Posterity (25:5-12); III. Principles Regarding Business and Commerce (25:13-16); IV. Principles Concerning the Offence of an Enemy (25:17-19).

I close, inviting you to ponder the Grace of God: Not only the grace we find expressed in Christ’s sacrifice for our sins, but also the grace of God we have seen throughout His laws, and commandments.

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

Feminization, Sanitation, and Compassion (Deuteronomy 23)

Scripture reading – Deuteronomy 23

We continue our study of Moses’ challenge to Israel, as he prepared that nation to go forward without him as its leader. Some of the principles in today’s Scripture may seem mundane; however, such was not the case for a nation that had suffered the humiliation of bondage for four centuries. Moses was teaching the children of Israel how they were to conduct themselves in the sight of the LORD, and preserve their sanctity as His people. We will consider the right of citizenship in ancient Israel, and the exclusion of some from “the congregation of the LORD” (23:1).

The Feminization, and Castration of Men Was Forbidden (23:1)

The topic of mutilation, or castration is one in which we shall use discretion; however, the LORD was clear in His instruction concerning honoring one’s vessel. There was to be no mutualization of a man’s private parts, for such was unnatural, and against God’s created order.

Illegitimate Sons (23:2)

Sons born of adultery, or incest, were to be excluded in Israel, unto the “tenth generation” (23:2). Sons borne of extra-marital relationships were excluded, for their conception was contrary to the will, and design of God’s order.

Ammonites and Moabites Were Not Permitted in Israel (23:3-6)

These nations were the offspring of Lot’s incestuous relationship with his daughters (Genesis 19:30-38). The Ammonites, and Moabites had made themselves adversaries of Israel, and hired Balaam to curse the people (23:4-6).

Edomites and Egyptians (23:7-8)

Though not friends of Israel, the Edomites and Egyptians had a history that prevented their being excluded entirely. The Edomites were of the lineage of Esau, and therefore distant kin of Israel through the lineage of Jacob, Esau’s brother (23:7). Egypt had been the host of Israel during their sojourn in that land.

Cleanness and Purity in Times of War (23:9-11)

Remembering the presence of the LORD was represented by the Tabernacle in the midst of the encampment, the people were reminded to keep themselves clean (23:9-10). A man who was not clean, was to remain outside the camp until the evening, and “wash himself with water” before entering the camp (23:11).

A Lesson in Sanitation (23:12-14)

The sanitation guidelines given by Moses to Israel placed that nation centuries ahead of other nations. The people were to practice cleanliness, and basic sanitation. They were not to answer nature’s call (i.e. to relieve themselves), within the camp. They were instructed to go outside the borders of the camp and “have a paddle” (a spade or shovel), and cover over their excrement.

We understand much about sanitation, and disease today; however, only in the past two centuries has the need for sanitation been fully appreciated. The sanitation commanded by the LORD was not only because He dwelt in the midst of His people, but also because it was proper, and good for the health of the people (23:14).

Compassion for a Fleeing Slave (23:15-16)

A slave that had fled from his master seeking refuge with another, was not to be returned to the former (23:15). Instead, he was to be given shelter in the land, and allowed to dwell where he chose (23:16).

Prostitution and Sodomy Condemned (23:17-18)

All manner of gross immorality accompanied the worship of idols in ancient times. Whoredom, and sodomy were ever present among the heathen nations. No daughter of Israel was to fall into whoredom, and no son was to be a homosexual (described as “the price of a dog,” thus graphically describing the debasement of sodomy, 23:18).

Usury: Charging Interest on Debts (23:19-20)

Israelite men were not to charge their fellow man (“thy brother”) interest for borrowing money (23:19). A “stranger;” however, a non-Hebrew, was charged interest on debts (23:20).

To Vow, Or Not to Vow (23:21-23)

Swearing an oath, or vowing a vow, was a serious matter with the LORD, and was not to be taken lightly (23:21). No man was to “vow a vow unto the LORD,” and fail to fulfil it without delay (23:21b). Indeed, it would be better to not have committed oneself to a vow, than to do so and fail to fulfill it (23:22-23).

To Eat, or Not to Eat (23:24-25)

Suppose a man is hungry, and lacks the means to feed himself. Should that man be permitted to take from another’s field or vineyard, and satisfy his hunger?

The answer is found in Deuteronomy 23:24-25, and reminds us again that the God of Israel was compassionate and merciful.

A hungry man was allowed to eat grapes from his neighbor’s vineyard, and take kernels of wheat into his hand from his neighbor’s field. He could not, however, go into his neighbor’s field with a vessel, and fill it. He was allowed take only what he needed to quench his hunger.

I close, trusting you are developing an appreciation for the judiciousness of the LORD, and the evidence of His grace and compassion in His Law and Commandments.

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With the heart of a shepherd,

Travis D. Smith

HeartofAShepherdInc@gmail.com

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

Civility, Sexual Perversity, and Women’s Rights (Deuteronomy 21-22)

Scripture reading – Deuteronomy 21-22

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

Deuteronomy 21 – Fundamentals of Civil Duty

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). Deuteronomy 21:1-9, addresses the loss of human life, should a victim’s body be discovered, but there are no witnesses to the murder.

Concerning a woman taken as a spoil of war (21:10-14)

Ancient cultures considered women who were taken prisoners to be nothing more than a possession, a spoil of war. The God of Israel, however, established laws to protect women. Should a man desire to take a female prisoner to wife, he was to allow her head to be shaved, an outward symbol of her purification, and give her thirty days to mourn the deaths of her parents, 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, or humiliate her (21:14).

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

Some suggest the reference to “two wives” (21:15) is a suggestion of polygamy; however, I believe it is not. In the beginning, God defined marriage as “one flesh” (Genesis 2:24), the union of one man and one woman. The Mosaic Law did not redefine what God Himself had designed, and established.

I believe the explanation for the reference of “two wives” (one being described as “beloved,” and the other “hated”), implies the first wife to be dead. The first wife had given birth to a son, and being the firstborn son, he was to be heir of the man (21:15-16). The second wife, the stepmother of the firstborn son, would be tempted to influence her husband to disown his firstborn son, and choose her son to be his heir (21:16). The LORD condemned that practice, and declared the firstborn son was to be given “a double portion” of all that was his father’s (21:17).

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

The stoning of a rebellious son is no doubt an offense to our 21st century sensibilities. This son of shame, described as “stubborn and rebellious” (21:18), refused to hear and obey his father and mother. Such a son was to brought before the elders of the city, where his character was described as “a glutton, and a drunkard” (21:19-20).

Given the severity of the punishment, we can conclude that the stoning of a rebellious son was a rare event. Such a judgment required the consent of both the father and mother (21:19-20). If found guilty by the elders of the city, the son 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 an Israelite was to love his neighbor, and that command was demonstrated in a man’s duty to his neighbor’s livestock, clothes, and any other possession that belonged to another (22:1-3). Should a man’s ox, sheep, or donkey be astray, a man was to restore them to their owner. Should the owner not be readily known, an Israelite was required to take the animal to his own home, until its rightful owner was found (22:2). Compassion for animals of God’s creation was commanded (22:4).

An Abomination: Transgender\Transexuals (22:5)

There is much ado about the “rights” of self-declared transexuals, who desire to blend, and distort the natural distinctions between male and female in both their dress, and manner. Such a blur of distinctives is not a “new woke” (as today’s society would have you believe), but was an ancient sin that God’s Word declared was an “abomination unto the LORD thy God” (22:5).

Compassion and Affection for Nature (22:6-7) – From the beginning, man was commanded to be the “keeper” of God’s creation (Genesis 2:15). It follows that even the smallest of animals should arouse in man a natural affection, and compassion (22:7).

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

Unlike their heathen neighbors, Israelite women were afforded protections, and shielded from abuses that are even prevalent in our own day. A woman had the right of due process, should her purity and testimony be questioned. Should a woman be forcefully taken, and raped, the severity of the law would fall upon the man, and he would forfeit his life (22:25-27).

Our world has rejected the LORD. The authority of God’s Word has been scuttled over the course of the past century. We have become a society with laws methodically divorced from unalterable principles, and been left a people given to the whims of wicked men.

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!”

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

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Only a Nation of Fools Eradicates Its History (Numbers 36; Deuteronomy 1)

Scripture reading – Numbers 36; Deuteronomy 1

Numbers 36 – Women’s Rights, and a Question of Inheritance

The Book of Numbers ended on an interesting note, as a concern regarding inheritance was raised once again. We considered in an earlier devotional the matter of a man’s inheritance, should he die without a son as heir (Numbers 27:7-11). A Hebrew man named Zelophehad had died without a son, and his five daughters had petitioned that they were their father’s heirs, and rightful heirs of his possession in the Promised Land (27:4-5). The LORD had directed Moses that Zelophehad’s daughters would be given their father’s inheritance (27:6-11).

Because the lands were assigned by tribes, and families, there was concern for what would become of tribal lands should a man’s heirs be his daughters (Numbers 36:1-4), and marry outside their tribe. It was contended that the lands would be lost to a tribe, should the daughters marry outside their tribe. The quandary was resolved, by the daughters being required to take a husband from their father’s tribe (36:5-9), thereby keeping the land within the tribe.

Numbers 36 concludes with the “daughters of Zelophehad,” submitting to the LORD’s will, and marrying men within their tribe. Thus, the land was secured for future generations of their tribal family (36:10-13).

An Introduction to the Book of Deuteronomy

Our chronological study of the Scriptures brings us to the Book of Deuteronomy, the fifth book, of the first five books of the Bible known as the Pentateuch. Exodus, Leviticus, and Numbers chronicled Israel’s journey in the wilderness, and gave us a record of God’s Law and Commandments.

The Book of Deuteronomy begins at the conclusion of Israel’s wilderness wanderings, with that nation encamped at the threshold of the Promised Land. With the exception of Moses, Joshua, and Caleb, the generation that had departed Egypt, and were twenty years old and older at that time, was dead.

Deuteronomy 1 – The Final Words and Exhortation of Moses to Israel

Deuteronomy records the final words, and exhortations of a man that had shepherded Israel forty years.  We read: “And it came to pass in the fortieth year, in the eleventh month, on the first day of the month, that Moses spake unto the children of Israel, according unto all that the LORD had given him in commandment unto them” (1:3).

It was important for Moses to rehearse with that generation who they were, from whence they came, and God’s plan for the nation. Moses challenged the people, “8Behold, I have set the land before you: go in and possess the land which the Lord sware unto your fathers, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, to give unto them and to their seed after them” (Deuteronomy 1:8).

Much as a man might research his ancestral family tree to know the history of his lineage, Moses sought to pass to the new generation a knowledge of not only their physical ancestry, but more importantly, their spiritualheritage as God’s chosen people.

The balance of the first chapter of Deuteronomy served as a recap of Israel’s forty years in the wilderness, and the previous generation’s refusal to trust the LORD. For any who might question why the generation before them had perished in the wilderness, Moses reminded them as a nation:

Deuteronomy 1:32–3832Yet in this thing ye did not believe the Lord your God,
33Who went in the way before you, to search you out a place to pitch your tents in, in fire by night, to shew you by what way ye should go, and in a cloud by day.
34And the Lord heard the voice of your words, and was wroth, and sware, saying,
35Surely there shall not one of these men of this evil generation see that good land, which I sware to give unto your fathers,
36Save Caleb the son of Jephunneh; he shall see it, and to him will I give the land that he hath trodden upon, and to his children, because he hath wholly followed the Lord.
37Also the Lord was angry with me for your sakes, saying, Thou also shalt not go in thither.
38But Joshua the son of Nun, which standeth before thee, he shall go in thither: encourage him: for he shall cause Israel to inherit it.

History is important, and only a doomed society dare deny its history, and fail to learn from its past. Eradicating the history, and symbols of a nation might pacify a few, but it will invariably destine its people to repeat its failures.

In the words of the British statesman, Winston Churchill: “Those that fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it.”

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

Evil Companions Corrupt Good Morals (Numbers 25)

Scripture Reading – Numbers 25

“Times have changed,” is an oft repeated adage; however, read the Scriptures and you will be reminded mankind has not changed! The sinful depravity of our world today is not to be outdone by ancient civilizations. When a people, and a nation reject God’s Law and Commandments, they inevitably unleash the abhorrent lusts of the flesh, and a precipitous moral decline follows. Few nations turn back from the brink of destruction, and escape the suffering and humiliation of God’s judgment.

Numbers 25 brings us to Shittim, the staging ground for Israel to cross the Jordan River and enter the Promised Land (25:1).

Shittim became the setting of a tragic event, for it was here that “the people began to commit whoredom with the daughters of Moab” (25:1). After the suffering, and toil of wandering in the wilderness for forty years, how could Israel, break her covenant with the LORD, and not only commit adultery with the heathen, but also worship and offer sacrifices to their gods? (25:1-3)

We read, “3And Israel joined himself unto Baal-peor: and the anger of the Lord was kindled against Israel” (25:3). Baal-peor was the place where Baal, the Canaanite god of fertility was worshipped. The Moabites, Midianites, and Ammonites all worshipped Baal (closely identified with Moloch). Portrayed as a bull, the Canaanites sacrificed their sons and daughters to Baal, and committed all manner of sexual deviancy in worshipping the idol.

God’s wrath was “kindled against Israel” (25:3), and He commanded Moses, “Take all the heads of the people, and hang them up before the Lord against the sun, that the fierce anger of the Lord may be turned away from Israel” (25:4).

The sins of the people was egregious, and God’s judgment was swift (25:4-5) as He placed the responsibility of the sins upon the “heads [leaders] of the people,” and demanded they be slain, and their bodies hanged in the sun as a warning to the people (25:5).

One Israelite was so brazen, that he “brought unto his brethren a Midianitish woman (the daughter of a Midianite tribal chief) in the sight of Moses, and in the sight of all the congregation of the children of Israel” (25:6).  Phinehas, the son of the high priest Eleazar, rose up and slew the man, and the Midianite woman, thrusting them both through with a javelin (25:6-8). God’s judgment fell upon Israel, and 24,000 perished (25:9).

Reminded that nothing escapes the notice of God, the LORD acknowledged Phinehas’ zeal for righteousness, and established a perpetual, binding covenant of the priesthood with him and his lineage (25:10-13).

So tragic was the sin committed at Shittim, that the names of the couple slain by Phinehas were recorded (25:14-15), and the LORD commanded Moses, “Vex the Midianites, and smite them” (25:17).

A closing thought: I could draw out several spiritual lessons from today’s Scripture reading; however, I limit myself to one: Be not deceived [led astray; drawn away]: evil communications [companions; associations] corrupt [ruins; destroys] good manners [morals] (1 Corinthians 15:33).

The Scriptures do not reveal how the men of Israel came to worship the god of Baal, and to commit whoredom. We can be certain, however, that the proximity of the “daughters of Moab” (25:1), provided the Israelites not only a familiarity with them, but also a tolerance of their wicked ways (25:1-3).

Today’s church is in desperate need for young men like Phinehas; men who have a love for God, and a zeal for godliness.

Will you commit yourself, and be a 21st century Phinehas?

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

Sin in the Camp? Put it Out! (Numbers 4-5)

Sin in the Camp? Put it Out! (Numbers 4-5)

Scripture reading– Numbers 4-5

Our study in the Book of Numbers continues with another census in today’s Scripture reading. The number of men in three Levite families, and their responsibilities regarding the Tabernacle and its vessels are considered.

Numbers 4 – The Levites, Their Number, and Responsibilities

The Lord commanded Moses and Aaron to take the sum of the males, thirty to fifty years old (4:2-3), who were of three Levite families, and charge them with responsibilities relating to their ministries as assistants of Aaron and his sons.

The Kohathites (4:2-20), whose males numbered 2,750 men between thirty and fifty years old (4:34-35), were assigned the most honorable duty of the Levite tribes.  It was their duty to transport the most holy items associated with the sacrifices and worship of the God of Israel. Before the Kohathites were allowed to carry vessels that were holy, and sanctified, the priests were to cover and protect them from being looked upon, or treated in an irreverent manner (4:5-6).

The Kohathites were charged with the care and transport of the veil of the Holy Place, the Ark of the Covenant (4:5), the table of shewbread (4:7) with its instruments and vessels (4:7-8), the golden lampstand, and its instruments (4:9-10), and the golden altar, its instruments, and vessels (4:11-15). Because those items represented the most holy tasks of the priests, none but Aaron and his sons could look upon them, and not die (4:20).

The males of Gershon, thirty to fifty years old, numbered 2.630 (4:38-41). Though their tasks were essential, their service to the Tabernacle was less honorable. They were charged with the care and transport of the draperies, hangings, and badger skins that covered the Tabernacle (4:21-28).

The males of the Merarites numbered 3,200 men, between thirty and fifty years old (4:42-45). Their duty was to transport the wood that made up the frame of the sanctuary, the boards, bars, pillars, and sockets (4:29-33).

The earlier census of the Twelve Tribes of Israel (Numbers 1-2) counted able-bodied men, twenty years old and older. In Numbers 4, Levite males, thirty to fifty years old were numbered. The difference in the census age of the Twelve Tribes, and the Levites is not explained.  I suppose it was because the LORD required both wisdom of years, and physical strength of those who served Him, and assisted the priests in their duties.

Numbers 5 – Disease, Restitution, and Adultery

The Commandments of the LORD were given and recorded in Exodus 20 and Deuteronomy 5. Numbers 5focuses on specific steps for addressing leprosy, disease, restitution when one had been harmed, and the sin of adultery (Exodus 20:14).

Leprosy and Disease (5:1-4)

God desired His people to be clean, holy, and free from disease. Leprosy, oozing skin issues, and touching a dead body were deemed unclean, and were put out of the camp until healing and cleansing occurred (5:1-4). This method of handling communicable skin sores, or being contaminated by disease from a dead body, kept disease from spreading through their families.

Fraud and Restitution (5:5-10)

Should a man or woman defraud another, restitution, and an additional “fifth part” (20%) of the loss that was suffered would be added (5:5-7). No sacrifice was acceptable to the LORD, without first confessing one’s sin, restoring the damage the other had suffered, and only then could a man bring an offering to the altar (5:8). In the case where a man had been harmed and died, and with no next of kin, the offender was to present the restitution of his wrong to the priest, and it would be his to keep (5:9-10).

The Sin of Adultery (5:11-31)

Because marriage was instituted by God, and is a holy covenant between a man and woman, God’s people were to be intolerant of adultery in their midst (5:11-13). Should a woman be suspected of adultery, and there be no witnesses (5:13), a jealous husband was compelled to bring his wife to the priest, along with a jealousy offering (5:14-15).

The priest was charged with the responsibility of setting the accused woman “before the LORD” (5:16), and he would question her guiltiness or innocence of adultery (5:17-21). Should the woman protest her innocence, the priest would warn her with “an oath of cursing,” which was, in essence, reminding her that she would bring a curse upon herself, should she be guilty. The priest would call for the LORD to “make [her] thigh to rot, and [her] belly to swell” (5:21b). The outward manifestation of abdominal distention was an evident sign she was guilty.  Likewise, if she was not guilty, she could drink the water and it would not affect her. Should the LORD allow her belly to swell from its impurities, she would be “a curse among her people” (5:27), “and the priest [would] execute upon her all this law” (5:30b).

How jealous was the LORD concerning marriage between one man and one woman?

Leviticus 20:10 – “10And the man that committeth adultery with another man’s wife, even he that committeth adultery with his neighbour’s wife, the adulterer and the adulteress shall surely be put to death.”

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith