BIBLE STUDY SERIES #515, 516 and 517

7 October, 2001

DEUTERONOMY 20: THE LAWS OF WAR

By Douglas C. Nesbit, B.A.

Our series of Bible Studies on the Great Plan by which The Almighty God is steadily drawing His Creation towards the perfection of His Kingdom reveals that this plan centres upon the formation of one selected line of people chronicled in The Scriptural Record, which descends through Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and thence through the whole history of the nation of Israel, and therein to provide, in the person of Jesus Christ, the focal point of His mighty purpose. This series has brought us from the call of Abram in Genesis 12, down to Deuteronomy 20, and the prospect of The Promised Land upon the borders of which Israel now stood. The great oration of Moses to the children of Israel continues in this chapter, carrying forward his last great sequence of addresses to the Tribes of Israel prior to their crossing of the Jordan River into that Promised Land, and concerning the new circumstances which Israel will encounter as they enter therein.

Deuteronomy 20 is a passage which relates further laws which are to have their more direct application when the nation of Israel actually comes into possession of the Land of Canaan. Deuteronomy 19 has dealt with matters relating to Levitical administration of cities of refuge. Today, as we move to the next chapter, we find further matters relating to the laws which are to apply in wartime.

There may still be a number in the ranks of our seniors who have personal experiences of war, and certainly, in the history of our people numerous wars have taken the lives of those involved as well as the innocent who cannot move from harm's way. In more recent years we have noted what appears to be an increasing number of smaller wars which have been fed by arms dealers on both sides of conflict. In our own day, we seem to be sensing that the prophetic scene as described in Scripture is moving towards a climax of some sort, as outbreak after outbreak comes to the fore in the mass-media news outlets. We know something of the dreadful losses in life and limb which continue to occur. We know that the name of war has tended to be changed to "police action", or to some other euphemism, which still brings armed men into situations of confrontation, with tensions and death. War memorials bearing swords on crosses mark the gift of life in defence of the realm. We look to Christ's Second Advent for the expected finality to such turmoil.

Let us now have a look at the rules of war which appear in the Holy Scriptures. Many do not, perhaps know that rules of righteous warfare are given for Israel's use by Moses, in Deuteronomy 20.

In introducing this chapter, Keil and Delitzsch state: "The instructions in this chapter have reference to the wars which Israel might wage in future against non-Canaanitish nations (vers. 15 sqq.), and enjoin it as a duty upon the people of God to spare as much as possible the lives of their own soldiers and also of their enemies. All wars against their enemies, even though they were superior to them in resources, were to be entered upon by them without fear in reliance upon the might of their God; and they were therefore to exempt from military service not only those who had just entered into new social relations, and had not enjoyed the pleasures of them, but also the timid and fainthearted (vers. 1-9). Moreover, whenever they besieged hostile towns, they were to offer peace to their enemies, excepting only the Canaanites; and even if it were not accepted, they were to let the defenceless (viz. women and children) live, and not to destroy the fruit-trees before the fortifications (vers. 10-20)." In moving to their more detailed examination, they draw attention to the use of horses and chariots as being, for those days, the principle strength of the enemies of Israel. The priest here mentioned is not the High Priest, but one who accompanied the army, like Phinehas in the war against the Midianites. Let us read Deuteronomy 20, beginning at verse 1.

1. When thou goest out to battle against thine enemies, and seest horses, and chariots, and a people more than thou, be not afraid of them: for the LORD thy God is with thee, which brought thee up out of the land of Egypt.
2. And it shall be, when ye are come nigh unto the battle, that the priest shall approach and speak unto the people,
3. And shall say unto them, Hear, O Israel, ye approach this day unto battle against your enemies: let not your hearts faint, fear not, and do not tremble, neither be ye terrified because of them;
4. For the LORD your God is he that goeth with you, to fight for you against your enemies, to save you.
5. And the officers shall speak unto the people, saying, What man is there that hath built a new house, and hath not dedicated it? let him go and return to his house, lest he die in the battle, and another man dedicate it.
6. And what man is he that hath planted a vineyard, and hath not yet eaten of it? let him also go and return unto his house, lest he die in the battle, and another man eat of it.
7. And what man is there that hath betrothed a wife, and hath not taken her? let him go and return unto his house, lest he die in the battle, and another man take her.
8. And the officers shall speak further unto the people, and they shall say, What man is there that is fearful and fainthearted? let him go and return unto his house, lest his brethren's heart faint as well as his heart.
9. And it shall be, when the officers have made an end of speaking unto the people, that they shall make captains of the armies to lead the people.
10. When thou comest nigh unto a city to fight against it, then proclaim peace unto it.
11. And it shall be, if it make thee answer of peace, and open unto thee, then it shall be, that all the people that is found therein shall be tributaries unto thee, and they shall serve thee.
12. And if it will make no peace with thee, but will make war against thee, then thou shalt besiege it:
13. And when the LORD thy God hath delivered it into thine hands, thou shalt smite every male thereof with the edge of the sword:
14. But the women, and the little ones, and the cattle, and all that is in the city, even all the spoil thereof, shalt thou take unto thyself; and thou shalt eat the spoil of thine enemies, which the LORD thy God hath given thee.
15. Thus shalt thou do unto all the cities which are very far off from thee, which are not of the cities of these nations.
16. But of the cities of these people, which the LORD thy God doth give thee for an inheritance, thou shalt save alive nothing that breatheth:
17. But thou shalt utterly destroy them; namely, the Hittites, and the Amorites, the Canaanites, and the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites; as the LORD thy God hath commanded thee:
18. That they teach you not to do after all their abominations, which they have done unto their gods; so should ye sin against the LORD your God.
19. When thou shalt besiege a city a long time, in making war against it to take it, thou shalt not destroy the trees thereof by forcing an axe against them: for thou mayest eat of them, and thou shalt not cut them down (for the tree of the field is man's life) to employ them in the siege:
20. Only the trees which thou knowest that they be not trees for meat, thou shalt destroy and cut them down; and thou shalt build bulwarks against the city that maketh war with thee, until it be subdued.

The New Bible Commentary yields some further extension to the ideas already expressed. Under the heading "Laws of Warfare" we read that "Every part of the life of Israel was to be hallowed by the consciousness of God's presence. The instructions given here are timely as they enter upon their further campaign, and remind them that 'the battle is the Lord's' (I Sa. xvii. 47)." The words "Be not afraid" draw these thoughts: "God's children constantly need this word of encouragement ... . The deliverance from Egypt, ever in Moses' mind ..., is used here as a motive for courage; elsewhere for wholehearted devotion,... for sabbath remembrance,... for reverential fear,... humility,... penitence,... kindness to strangers,... obedience, constancy, the emancipation of servants, mercy to the poor, and thanksgiving... ." Regarding the words "Hath not yet eaten of it" the reference notes "Hath not used the fruit thereof'" Lit. 'profaned, or put to common use." Mention of the Captains of the armies (9) draws the comment "The army was well ordered with priest, officers and captains." There are two contrary principles: "Jehovah's proclamation of peace and goodwill on the one hand, and the inevitable judgment of wickedness on the other." When "trees for meat" are mentioned, we find that "Fruit-bearing trees were to be spared because of the life-principle within them, and for future use."

I might add a few words of caution. these verses speak of the going forth to war of the Israel nation in a righteous bond of relationship to The LORD God of Israel. Should there be sin in the camp, as found after the taking of Jericho when Achan took forbidden booty in Joshua 22:20, God will not support his people. See also what happened when the Israelites took the Ark of the Covenant into battle against the Philistines, in I Samuel, chapters 4, 5 and 6. They were defeated, and the Ark taken by the enemy. That is not to say that the enemy had anything to be happy about with the resulting seven-months of plagues while the Ark stayed among them before they returned it to Israel! We shall continue with our Studies next week.

14 October, 2001

DEUTERONOMY 21: LAWS SHOWING LIFE AS SACRED

By Douglas C. Nesbit, B.A.

Our series of Bible Studies on the Great Plan by which The Almighty God is steadily drawing His Creation towards the perfection of His Kingdom reveals that this plan centres upon the formation of one selected line of people chronicled in The Scriptural Record, which descends through Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and thence through the whole history of the nation of Israel, and therein to provide, in the person of Jesus Christ, the focal point of His mighty purpose. This series has brought us from the call of Abram in Genesis 12, down to Deuteronomy 21, and the prospect of The Promised Land upon the borders of which Israel now stood. The great oration of Moses to the children of Israel continues in this chapter, carrying forward his last great sequence of addresses to the Tribes of Israel prior to their crossing of the Jordan River into that Promised Land, and concerning the new circumstances which Israel will encounter as they enter therein.

Introducing Deuteronomy 21, Keil and Delitzsch, list the sundry laws which have been grouped in this chapter. These, they list thus: "Expiation of an uncertain Murder. Treatment of a Wife who has been taken captive. Right of the First-born. Punishment of a refractory Son." and "Burial of a Man who had been hanged." They then explain "The reason for grouping together these five laws, which are apparently so different from one another, as well as for attaching them to the previous regulations, is to be found in the desire to bring out distinctly the sacredness of life and of personal rights from every point of view, and impress it upon the covenant nation.' Let us now read the first few verses of Deuteronomy 21, to see how the matter unfolds, as relating to the Expiation of a Murder committed by an unknown Hand.

1. If one be found slain in the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee to possess it, lying in the field, and it be not known who hath slain him:
2. Then thy elders and thy judges shall come forth, and they shall measure unto the cities which are round about him that is slain:

Here, if some person is slain, and their body is discovered lying in some field outside of any of the surrounding city limits, then the "elders and judges" of the neighbouring towns, the former as representatives of the communities, the latter as administrators of right, were to go out and measure to the towns which lay round about the slain man, to ascertain which town lay closest to the body."

3. And it shall be, that the city which is next unto the slain man, even the elders of that city shall take an heifer, which hath not been wrought with, and which hath not drawn in the yoke;
4. And the elders of that city shall bring down the heifer unto a rough valley, which is neither eared nor sown, and shall strike off the heifer's neck there in the valley:
5. And the priests the sons of Levi shall come near; for them the LORD thy God hath chosen to minister unto him, and to bless in the name of the LORD; and by their word shall every controversy and every stroke be tried:
6. And all the elders of that city, that are next unto the slain man, shall wash their hands over the heifer that is beheaded in the valley:
7. And they shall answer and say, Our hands have not shed this blood, neither have our eyes seen it.
8. Be merciful, O LORD, unto thy people Israel, whom thou hast redeemed, and lay not innocent blood unto thy people of Israel's charge. And the blood shall be forgiven them.
9. So shalt thou put away the guilt of innocent blood from among you, when thou shalt do that which is right in the sight of the LORD.

"This nearest town was then required to expiate the blood-guiltiness, not only because the suspicion of the crime or of participation in the crime fell soonest upon it, but because the guilt connected with the shedding of innocent blood rested as a burden upon it before all others. To this end the elders were to take a heifer (young cow), with which no work had ever been done, and which had not yet drawn in the yoke, i.e. whose vital force had not been diminished by labour ... and bring it down into a brook-valley with water constantly flowing, and there break its neck. ... The elders were to perform the act of expiation in the name of the city. As the murderer was not to be found, an animal was to be put to death in his stead, and suffer the punishment of the murderer. The slaying of the animal was not an expiatory sacrifice, and consequently there was no slaughtering and sprinkling of the blood; but, as the mode of death, viz. breaking the neck ... clearly shows, it was a symbolical infliction of the punishment that should have been borne by the murderer, upon the animal which was substituted for him. To be able to take the guilt upon itself and bear it, the animal was to be in the full and undiminished possession of its vital powers. The slaying was to take place in a ... valley with water constantly flowing through it, which was not worked (cultivated) and sown. This regulation as to the locality in which the act of expiation was to be performed was probably founded upon the idea, that the water of the brook-valley would suck in the blood and clean it away, and that the blood sucked in by the earth would not be brought to light again by the ploughing and working of the soil. -Ver. 5. The priests were to come near during this transaction; i.e. some priests from the nearest Levitical town were to be present at it, not to conduct the affair, but as those whom Jehovah had chosen to serve Him and to bless in His name ... and according to whose mouth (words) every dispute and every stroke happened ... i.e. simply as those who were authorized by the Lord, and as the representatives of the divine right, to receive the explanation and petition of the elders, and acknowledge the legal validity of the act. - Vers. 6-8. The elders of the town were to wash their hands over the slain heifer, i.e. to cleanse themselves by this symbolical act from the suspicion of any guilt on the part of the inhabitants of the town, in the murder that had been committed." The reference adds that, if subsequently, the murderer was found, then he would still suffer personally for his guilt.

A quotation in The New Bible Commentary points out that the yearling heifer, the place of beheading, and the murder victim, each bears no fruit. Moving to the second law of the list contained in Deuteronomy 21, we read:

10. When thou goest forth to war against thine enemies, and the LORD thy God hath delivered them into thine hands, and thou hast taken them captive,
11. And seest among the captives a beautiful woman, and hast a desire unto her, that thou wouldest have her to thy wife;
12. Then thou shalt bring her home to thine house; and she shall shave her head, and pare her nails;
13. And she shall put the raiment of her captivity from off her, and shall remain in thine house, and bewail her father and her mother a full month: and after that thou shalt go in unto her, and be her husband, and she shall be thy wife.
14. And it shall be, if thou have no delight in her, then thou shalt let her go whither she will; but thou shalt not sell her at all for money, thou shalt not make merchandise of her, because thou hast humbled her.

Here, The New Bible Commentary notes that this law "displayed consideration and respect for human personality." The shaving of the head was considered a sign of mourning as was also, Keil and Delitzsch note, the cutting of the nails. There might be thought some inconsistency between laws which stipulate that certain racial intermarriages are unlawful to Israel, yet a woman "taken in war" might be married. Perhaps priority forms the answer. The overall historic development of the family down the generations is to remain within a racial boundary composed of Israelite and related descent, and which excludes certain categories of intermarriage such as all Canaanites. However, some wars might be between those of essentially the same racial background and such wars might present a lawful opportunity for such a marriage while remaining consistent with the overall racial barrier. As a captive, the woman would be treated as a slave, but as wife, privileges pertaining to that state would be obtained.

15. If a man have two wives, one beloved, and another hated, and they have born him children, both the beloved and the hated; and if the firstborn son be hers that was hated:
16. Then it shall be, when he maketh his sons to inherit that which he hath, that he may not make the son of the beloved firstborn before the son of the hated, which is indeed the firstborn:
17. But he shall acknowledge the son of the hated for the firstborn, by giving him a double portion of all that he hath: for he is the beginning of his strength; the right of the firstborn is his.

The New Bible Commentary here notes that "the right of the firstborn ... is here protected from favouritism." The "right" is that of inheriting the double portion.

21 October, 2001

DEUTERONOMY 21 & 22: SUNDRY SOCIAL LAWS

By Douglas C. Nesbit, B.A.

Our series of Bible Studies on the Great Plan by which The Almighty God is steadily drawing His Creation towards the perfection of His Kingdom reveals that this plan centres upon the formation of one selected line of people chronicled in The Scriptural Record, which descends through Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and thence through the whole history of the nation of Israel, and therein to provide, in the person of Jesus Christ, the focal point of His mighty purpose. This series has brought us from the call of Abram in Genesis 12, down to the second portion of Deuteronomy 21.

Introducing Deuteronomy 21, Keil and Delitzsch, had listed the sundry laws which have been grouped in this chapter. These, they list thus: "Expiation of an uncertain Murder. Treatment of a Wife who has been taken captive. Right of the First-born. Punishment of a refractory Son." and "Burial of a Man who had been hanged." They then explain "The reason for grouping together these five laws, which are apparently so different from one another, as well as for attaching them to the previous regulations, is to be found in the desire to bring out distinctly the sacredness of life and of personal rights from every point of view, and impress it upon the covenant nation." We now pick up the last two of the above list of laws found in Deuteronomy 21 before continuing on to Deuteronomy 22:

18. If a man have a stubborn and rebellious son, which will not obey the voice of his father, or the voice of his mother, and that, when they have chastened him, will not hearken unto them:
19. Then shall his father and his mother lay hold on him, and bring him out unto the elders of his city, and unto the gate of his place;
20. And they shall say unto the elders of his city, This our son is stubborn and rebellious, he will not obey our voice; he is a glutton, and a drunkard.
21. And all the men of his city shall stone him with stones, that he die: so shalt thou put evil away from among you; and all Israel shall hear, and fear.

The New Bible Commentary explains "Seeing that parents stand towards their children as God's representatives ... obstinate rebellion is regarded as akin to blasphemy, and is condemned to the same punishment. It is assumed that the parents have tried in vain to reform him." Mentioning the elders of his city, it explains "the father is not despotic; both parents must bring the charge before the appointed judges." The "gate" is the traditional place of judgment. Keil and Delitzsch note that this law aims not only at the defence, but also at the limitation of parental authority.

There is, although to my knowledge it does not appear to have been observed, or at least detailed, by the generality of theologians, a most significant aspect to this law which I covered in my talks on October 15th and 29th, 2000, and which relates to the status of Jesus on The Cross. The remarks centered upon the fact that this law in Deuteronomy 21 requires that a rebellious son must be delivered by his father and mother over to the authorities for judgment, and then be stoned to death, whereas Jesus, as a sacrificial offering by Sinners, must meet death by being bled to death in their place. Jesus, on The Cross, must therefore combine within Himself two seemingly incompatible aspects. He must provide His Shed Blood for Atonement of humanity while at the same time be legally cloaked in the summation of all the sins and rebellion of humanity. Being, so to speak, openly "in Court", and in the judicial sense therefore deemed confrontationally rebellious when facing His Father, The Righteous Judge, He must immediately meet death by stoning, which is the Sentence, of the Righteous Judge, applying the Law of Deuteronomy 21:18-21. However that Stoning would invalidate His whole Mission as "The Lamb slain from the foundation of the world" (Revelation 13:8). The resolution of the legal dilemma was The Veil of Darkness over all the earth during the hours when He was shedding that Blood required for Atonement. The dying Christ must not, during those hours, be "in court", face to face with His Father, as He would have been, had darkness not intervened. His recitation of Psalm 22 makes it plain that (a) His Father's face was withdrawn from Him, behind the veil so that the rebellion which cloaked Him would thus not be "Seen" of God, the Father, acting as "Judge and Executioner" during the time which was needed in order to allow Him to die as The Atonement Sacrifice of Humanity. (b) The Psalm tells us the animal symbols of those who were putting Him to death, and for whom He was thus acting as Sacrifice. "Strong Bulls of Bashan" represented the Israelite tribes east of the Jordan like Manasseh and Gad. A "Lion" represents other tribes of Israel (Numbers 23:24), with the Lion and Unicorn, symbols of the British nations, specified separately. "Dogs" must represent non-Israel peoples as that designation was offered by one such to Christ personally, in Matthew 15:26-28. Now let us move to the next law, at verse 22:

22. And if a man have committed a sin worthy of death, and he be to be put to death, and thou hang him on a tree:
23. His body shall not remain all night upon the tree, but thou shalt in any wise bury him that day; (for he that is hanged is accursed of God;) that thy land be not defiled, which the LORD thy God giveth thee for an inheritance.

Here, The Companion Bible shows that the sense of the word "hang" is simply that of displaying the dead body, and does not mean that the method of execution was by hanging. Stoning was the means of execution. Defilement would be in part the sight of the corpse, and removal thereof would facilitate removal of its remembrance. We might consider whether a crucifix bearing a figure of the dead Christ might contravene the spirit of this law's intent, namely, that a corpse hung on "wood" should be buried, out of sight and out of mind thereafter!

We come now to a study of Deuteronomy 22, which Keil and Delitzsch introduce with the comment that the chapter covers "The Duty to love one's Neighbour; and Warning against a Violation of the Natural Order of Things, and Instructions to sanctify the Marriage State." They explain "Moses first of all explains in vers. 1-12 the attitude of an Israelite, on the one hand, towards a neighbour; and, on the other hand, towards the natural classification and arrangement of things, and shows how love should rule in the midst of all these relations. The different relations brought under consideration are selected rather by way of examples, and therefore follow one another without any link of connection, for the purpose of exhibiting the truth in certain concrete cases, and showing how the covenant people were to hold all the arrangements of God sacred, whether in nature or in social life.

Let us now read the first twelve verses of Deuteronomy 22:

1. Thou shalt not see thy brother's ox or his sheep go astray, and hide thyself from them: thou shalt in any case bring them again unto thy brother.
2. And if thy brother be not nigh unto thee, or if thou know him not, then thou shalt bring it unto thine own house, and it shall be with thee until thy brother seek after it, and thou shalt restore it to him again.
3. In like manner shalt thou do with his ass; and so shalt thou do with his raiment; and with all lost thing of thy brother's, which he hath lost, and thou hast found, shalt thou do likewise: thou mayest not hide thyself.
4. Thou shalt not see thy brother's ass or his ox fall down by the way, and hide thyself from them: thou shalt surely help him to lift them up again.
5. The woman shall not wear that which pertaineth unto a man, neither shall a man put on a woman's garment: for all that do so are abomination unto the LORD thy God.
6. If a bird's nest chance to be before thee in the way in any tree, or on the ground, whether they be young ones, or eggs, and the dam sitting upon the young, or upon the eggs, thou shalt not take the dam with the young:
7. But thou shalt in any wise let the dam go, and take the young to thee; that it may be well with thee, and that thou mayest prolong thy days.
8. When thou buildest a new house, then thou shalt make a battlement for thy roof, that thou bring not blood upon thine house, if any man fall from thence.
9. Thou shalt not sow thy vineyard with divers seeds: lest the fruit of thy seed which thou hast sown, and the fruit of thy vineyard, be defiled.
10. Thou shalt not plow with an ox and an ass together.
11. Thou shalt not wear a garment of divers sorts, as of woollen and linen together.
12. Thou shalt make thee fringes upon the four quarters of thy vesture, wherewith thou coverest thyself.

Keil and Delitzsch note that in verses 1-4 Moses shows how the property of a neighbour was to be regarded and preserved. They continue, noting at verse 5, stating that "As the property of a neighbour was to be sacred in the estimation of an Israelite, so also the divine distinction of the sexes, which was kept sacred in civil life by the clothing peculiar to each sex, was to be not less but even more sacredly observed."

We shall add a few further notes on this passage from The New Bible Commentary on the next Study.

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