Deuteronomy 22


Ordinances relative to strayed cattle and lost goods, 1-3.

Humanity to oppressed cattle, 4.

Men and women shall not wear each other's apparel, 5.

No bird shall be taken with her nest of eggs or young ones,

6, 7.

Battlements must be made on the roofs of houses, 8.

Improper mixtures to be avoided, 9-11.

Fringes on the garments, 12.

Case of the hated wife, and the tokens of virginity, and the

proceedings thereon, 13-21.

The adulterer and adulteress to be put to death, 22.

Case of the betrothed damsel corrupted in the city, 23, 24.

Cases of rape and the punishment, 25-27;

of fornication, 28, 29.

No man shall take his father's wife, 30.


Verse 1. Thou shalt not see thy brother's ox or his sheep go

astray] The same humane, merciful, and wise regulations which we

met with before, Ex 23:4, 5, well calculated to keep in

remembrance the second grand branch of the law of God, Thou shalt

love thy neighbour as thyself. A humane man cannot bear to see

even an ass fall under his burden, and not endeavour to relieve

him; and a man who loves his neighbour as himself cannot see his

property in danger without endeavouring to preserve it. These

comparatively small matters were tests and proofs of matters great

in themselves, and in their consequences.

See Clarke on Ex 23:4.

Verse 3. Thou mayest not hide thyself.] Thou shalt not keep

out of the way of affording help, nor pretend thou didst not see

occasion to render thy neighbour any service. The priest and the

Levite, when they saw the wounded man, passed by on the other side

of the way, Lu 10:31, 32. This was a notorious breach of the

merciful law mentioned above.

Verse 5. The woman shall not wear that which pertaineth unto a

man] keli geber, the instruments or arms of a

man. As the word geber is here used, which properly signifies

a strong man or man of war, it is very probable that armour is

here intended; especially as we know that in the worship of Venus,

to which that of Astarte or Ashtaroth among the Canaanites bore a

striking resemblance, the women were accustomed to appear in

armour before her. It certainly cannot mean a simple change in

dress, whereby the men might pass for women, and vice versa. This

would have been impossible in those countries where the dress of

the sexes had but little to distinguish it, and where every man

wore a long beard. It is, however, a very good general precept

understood literally, and applies particularly to those countries

where the dress alone distinguishes between the male and the

female. The close-shaved gentleman may at any time appear like a

woman in the female dress, and the woman appear as a man in the

male's attire. Were this to be tolerated in society, it would

produce the greatest confusion. Clodius, who dressed himself like

a woman that he might mingle with the Roman ladies in the feast of

the Bona Dea, was universally execrated.

Verse 7. Thou shalt-let the dam go, and take the young to thee;

that it may be well with thee] This passage may be understood

literally. If they destroyed both young and old, must not the

breed soon fail, and would it not in the end be ill with them; and

by thus cutting off the means of their continual support, must not

their days be shortened on the land? But we may look for a humane

precept in this law. The young never knew the sweets of liberty;

the dam did: they might be taken and used for any lawful purpose,

but the dam must not be brought into a state of captivity. They

who can act otherwise must be either very inconsiderate or devoid

of feeling; and such persons can never be objects of God's

peculiar care and attention, and therefore need not expect that it

shall be well with them, or that they shall prolong their days on

the earth. Every thing contrary to the spirit of mercy and

kindness the ever blessed God has in utter abhorrence. And we

should remember a fact, that he who can exercise cruelty towards a

sparrow or a wren, will, when circumstances are favourable, be

cruel to his fellow creatures. The poet Phocylides has a maxim in

his admonitory poem very similar to that in the sacred text:-



PHOCYL. ποιημανουθετ., ver. 80.

"Nor from a nest take all the birds away;

The mother spare, she'll breed a future day."

Verse 8. A battlement for thy roof] Houses in the East are in

general built with flat roofs, and on them men walk to enjoy the

fresh air, converse together, sleep, &c.; it was therefore

necessary to have a sort of battlement or balustrade to prevent

persons from falling off. If a man neglected to make a sufficient

defence against such accidents, and the death of another was

occasioned by it, the owner of the house must be considered in the

light of a murderer.

Verse 9. Divers seeds] See Clarke on Le 19:19.

Verse 10. Thou shalt not plough with an ox and an ass] It is

generally supposed that mixtures of different sorts in seed,

breed, &c., were employed for superstitious purposes, and

therefore prohibited in this law. It is more likely, however,

that there was a physical reason for this; two beasts of a

different species cannot associate comfortably together, and on

this ground never pull pleasantly either in cart or plough; and

every farmer knows that it is of considerable consequence to the

comfort of the cattle to put those together that have an affection

for each other. This may be very frequently remarked in certain

cattle, which, on this account, are termed true yoke-fellows.

After all, it is very probable that the general design was to

prevent improper alliances in civil and religious life. And to

this St. Paul seems evidently to refer, 2Co 6:14:

Be ye not unequally yoked with unbelievers; which is simply to be

understood as prohibiting all intercourse between Christians and

idolaters in social, matrimonial, and religious life. And to

teach the Jews the propriety of this, a variety of precepts

relative to improper and heterogeneous mixtures were interspersed

through their law, so that in civil and domestic life they might

have them ever before their eyes.

Verse 12. Fringes] See Clarke on Nu 15:38.

Verse 15. Tokens of the damsel's virginity] This was a

perfectly possible case in all places where girls were married at

ten, twelve, and fourteen years of age, which is frequent in the

East. I have known several instances of persons having had two or

three children at separate births before they were fourteen years

of age. Such tokens, therefore, as the text speaks of, must be

infallibly exhibited by females so very young on the consummation

of their marriage.

Verse 17. They shall spread the cloth, &c.] A usage of this

kind argues a roughness of manners which would ill comport with

the refinement of European ideas on so delicate a subject.

Attempts have been made to show that the law here is to be

understood metaphorically; but they so perfectly fail to establish

any thing like probability, that it would be wasting my own and my

reader's time to detail them. A custom similar to that above is

observed among the Mohammedans to the present day.

Verse 22. Shall both of them die] Thus we find that in the

most ancient of all laws adultery was punished with death in both

the parties.

Verse 25. And the man force her] A rape also, by these ancient

institutions, was punished with death, because a woman's honour

was considered equally as precious as her life; therefore the same

punishment was inflicted on the ravisher as upon the murderer.

This offence is considered in the same point of view in the

British laws, and by them also it is punished with death.

Verse 30. A man shall not take his father's wife] This is to

be understood as referring to the case of a stepmother. A man in

his old age may have married a young wife, and on his dying, his

son by a former wife may desire to espouse her: this the law

prohibits. It was probably on pretence of having broken this law,

that Solomon put his brother Adonijah to death, because he had

desired to have his father's concubine to wife, 1Ki 2:13-25.

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