Deuteronomy 25


Punishment by whipping not to exceed forty stripes, 1-3.

The ox that treads out the corn is not to be muzzled, 4.

The ordinance concerning marrying the wife of that brother who

has died childless, 5-10.

Of the woman who acts indecently in succouring her husband,

11, 12.

Of false weights and measures, 13-16.

Amalek is to be destroyed, 17-19.


Verse 1. They shall justify the righteous] This is a very

important passage, and is a key to several others. The word

tsadak is used here precisely in the same sense in which St. Paul

sometimes uses the corresponding word δικαιοω, not to justify or

make just, but to acquit, declare innocent, to remit punishment,

or give reasons why such a one should not be punished; so here the

magistrates hitsdiku, shall acquit, the

righteous-declare him innocent, because he is found to be

righteous and not wicked: so the Septuagint: καιδικαιωσουσιντον

δικαιον they shall make righteous the righteous-declare him free

from blame, not liable to punishment, acquitted; using the same

word with St. Paul when he speaks of a sinner's justification,

i. e., his acquittance from blame and punishment, because of the

death of Christ in his stead.

Verse 2. The judge shall cause him to lie down, and to be

beaten before his face] This precept is literally followed in

China; the culprit receives in the presence of the magistrate the

punishment which the law directs to be inflicted. Thus then

justice is done, for the magistrate sees that the letter of the

law is duly fulfilled, and that the officers do not transgress it,

either by indulgence on the one hand, or severity on the other.

The culprit receives nothing more nor less than what justice


Verse 3. Forty stripes he may give him, and not exceed]

According to God's institution a criminal may receive forty

stripes; not one more! But is the institution from above or not,

that for any offence sentences a man to receive three hundred,

yea, a thousand stripes? What horrible brutality is this! and what

a reproach to human nature, and to the nation in which such

shocking barbarities are exercised and tolerated! Most of the

inhabitants of Great Britain have heard of Lord Macartney's

embassy to the emperor of China, and they have also heard of its

complete failure; but they have not heard the cause. It appears

to have been partly occasioned by the following circumstance: A

soldier had been convicted of some petty traffic with one of the

natives, and he was sentenced by a court-martial to receive sixty

lashes! Hear my author:-

"The soldiers were drawn up in form in the outer court of the

place where we resided; and the poor culprit, being fastened to

one of the pillars of the great portico, received his punishment

without mitigation. The abhorrence excited in the breasts of the

Chinese at this cruel conduct, as it appeared to them, was

demonstrably proved by their words and looks. They expressed

their astonishment that a people professing the mildest, the most

benevolent religion on earth, as they wished to have it believed,

could be guilty of such flagrant inattention to its merciful

dictates. One of the principal Mandarins, who knew a little

English, expressed the general sentiment, Englishmen too much

cruel, too much bad."-Accurate account of Lord Macartney's Embassy

to China, by an attendant on the embassy, l2mo., 1797, p. 88.

The following is Mr. Ainsworth's note on this verse: "This

number forty the Scripture uses sundry times in cases of

humiliation, affliction, and punishment. As Moses twice humbled

himself in fasting and prayer forty days and forty nights,

De 9:9, 18.

Elijah fasted forty days, 1Ki 19:8; and our Saviour, Mt 4:2.

Forty years Israel was afflicted in the wilderness for their sins,

Nu 14:33, 34.

And forty years Egypt was desolate for treacherous dealing with

Israel, Eze 29:11-13. Forty days every woman was in purification

for her uncleanness for a man-child that she bare, and twice forty

days for a woman-child, Le 12:4, 5.

Forty days and forty nights it rained at Noah's flood, Ge 7:12.

Forty days did Ezekiel bear the iniquity of the house of Judah,

Eze 4:6.

Jonah preached, Yet forty days and Nineveh shall be overthrown,

Jon 3:4.

Forty years' space the Canaanites had to repent after Israel came

out of Egypt, and wandered so many years in the wilderness,

Nu 14:33.

And thrice forty years the old world had Noah preaching unto them

repentance, Ge 6:3.

It was forty days ere Christ ascended into heaven after his

resurrection, Ac 1:3, 9. And forty years' space he gave unto

the Jews, from the time that they killed him, before he destroyed

their city and temple by the Romans.

"By the Hebrews this law is expounded thus: How many stripes do

they beat (an offender) with? With forty, lacking one: as it is

written, (De 25:2, 3,)

by number forty, that is, the number which is next to forty,

Talmud Bab, in Maccoth, chap. iii. This their understanding is

very ancient, for so they practised in the apostles' days; as Paul

testified: Of the Jews five times received I forty (stripes) save

one; 2Co 11:24. But the reason which they give is not solid; as

when they say, If it had been written FORTY IN NUMBER, I would say

it were full forty; but being written IN NUMBER FORTY, it means the

number which reckons forty next after it, that is, thirty-nine.

By this exposition they confound the verses and take away the

distinction. I rather think this custom was taken up by reason

of the manner of their beating forespoken of, which was with a

scourge that had three cords, so that every stroke was counted for

three stripes, and then they could not give even forty, but either

thirty-nine or forty-two, which was above the number set of God.

And hereof they write thus: When they judge (or condemn) a sinner

to so many (stripes) as he can bear, they judge not but by strokes

that are fit to be trebled [that is, to give three stripes to one

stroke, by reason of the three cords.] If they judge that he can

bear twenty, they do not say he shall be beaten with one and

twenty, to the end that they may treble the stripes, but they give

him eighteen.-Maimon in Sanhedrin, chap. xvii., sec. 2. Thus he

that was able to bear twenty stripes, had but eighteen: the

executioner smote him but six times, for if he had smitten him the

seventh they were counted one and twenty stripes, which was above

the number adjudged: so he that was adjudged to forty was smitten

thirteen times, which being counted one for three, make

thirty-nine. And so R. Bechaios, writing hereof, says, The

strokes are trebled; that is, every one is three, and three times

thirteen are nine and thirty."

Thy brother be vile, or be contemptible.-By this God teaches us

to hate and despise the sin, not the sinner, who is by this

chastisement to be amended; as the power which the Lord hath given

is to edification, not to destruction, 2Co 13:10.

Verse 4. Thou shalt not muzzle the ox, &c.] In Judea, as well

as in Egypt, Greece, and Italy, they make use of beeves to tread

out the corn; and Dr. Shaw tells us that the people of Barbary

continue to tread out their corn after the custom of the East.

Instead of beeves they frequently made use of mules and horses, by

tying by the neck three or four in like manner together, and

whipping them afterwards round about the nedders, as they call the

treading floors, (the Libycae areae Hor,) where the sheaves lie

open and expanded, in the same manner as they are placed and

prepared with us for threshing. This indeed is a much quicker way

than ours, though less cleanly, for as it is performed in the open

air, (Ho 13:3,) upon any round level plot of ground, daubed over

with cow's dung to prevent as much as possible the earth, sand, or

gravel from rising; a great quantity of them all, notwithstanding

this precaution, must unavoidably be taken up with the grain, at

the same time that the straw, which is their chief and only fodder,

is hereby shattered to pieces; a circumstance very pertinently

alluded to in 2Ki 13:7,

where the king of Syria is said to have made the Israelites like

the dust by threshing.-Travels, p. 138. While the oxen were at

work some muzzled their mouths to hinder them from eating the corn,

which Moses here forbids, instructing the people by this symbolical

precept to be kind to their servants and labourers, but especially

to those who ministered to them in holy things; so St. Paul applies

it 1Co 9:9, &c.; 1Ti 5:18. Le Clerc considers the injunction as

wholly symbolical; and perhaps in this view it was intended to

confirm the laws enjoined in the fourteenth and fifteenth verses of

the former chapter. See Dodd and Shaw.

In Bengal, where the same mode of treading cut the corn is used,

some muzzle the ox, and others do not, according to the

disposition of the farmer.-Ward.

Verse 9. And loose his shoe] It is difficult to find the

reason of these ceremonies of degradation. Perhaps the shoe was

the emblem of power; and by stripping it off, deprivation of that

power and authority was represented. Spitting in the face was a

mark of the utmost ignominy; but the Jews, who are legitimate

judges in this case, say that the spitting was not in his face,

but before his face on the ground. And this is the way in which

the Asiatics express their detestation of a person to the present

day, as Niebuhr and other intelligent travellers assure us. It

has been remarked that the prefix beth is seldom applied to

peney; but when it is it signifies as well before as in the face.

See Jos 21:44; 23:9; Es 9:2; and Eze 42:12; which texts are

supposed to be proofs in point. The act of spitting, whether in

or before the face, marked the strong contempt the woman felt for

the man who had slighted her. And it appears that the man was

ever after disgraced in Israel; for so much is certainly implied

in the saying, De 25:10:

And his name shall be called in Israel, The house of him that hath

his shoe loosed.

Verse 13. Divers weights] eben vaaben, a stone and

a stone, because the weights were anciently made of stone, and some

had two sets of stones, a light and a heavy. With the latter

they bought their wares, by the former they sold them. In our own

country this was once a common case; smooth, round, or oval stones

were generally chosen by the simple country people for selling

their wares, especially such as were sold in pounds and half

pounds. And hence the term a stone weight, which is still in use,

though lead or iron be the matter that is used as a counterpoise:

but the name itself shows us that a stone of a certain weight was

the material formerly used as a weight. See the notes on

Le 19:35, 36.

Verse 14. Divers measures] Literally, an ephah and an ephah;

one large, to buy thy neighbour's wares, another small, to sell

thy own by. So there were knaves in all ages, and among all

nations. See Clarke on Ex 16:16,

and See Clarke on Le 19:35.

Verse 18. Smote the hindmost of thee]

See Clarke on Ex 17:8. It is supposed that this command had

its final accomplishment in the death of Haman and his ten sons,

Esther iii., vii., ix., as from this time the memory and name of

Amalek was blotted out from under heaven, for through every period

of their history it might be truly said, They feared not God.

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