Deuteronomy 25

1If controversy arises between people,
Heb “men.”
they should go to court for judgment. When the judges
Heb “they”; the referent (the judges) has been specified in the translation for clarity.
hear the case, they shall exonerate
Heb “declare to be just”; KJV, NASB “justify the righteous”; NAB, NIV “acquitting the innocent.”
the innocent but condemn
Heb “declare to be evil”; NIV “condemning the guilty (+ party NAB).”
the guilty.
Heb “and it will be.”
if the guilty person is sentenced to a beating,
Heb “if the evil one is a son of smiting.”
the judge shall force him to lie down and be beaten in his presence with the number of blows his wicked behavior deserves.
Heb “according to his wickedness, by number.”
3The judge
Heb “he”; the referent (the judge) has been specified in the translation for clarity.
may sentence him to forty blows,
Heb “Forty blows he may strike him”; however, since the judge is to witness the punishment (v. 2) it is unlikely the judge himself administered it.
but no more. If he is struck with more than these, you might view your fellow Israelite
Heb “your brothers” but not limited only to an actual sibling; cf. NAB) “your kinsman”; NRSV, NLT “your neighbor.”
with contempt.

4 You must not muzzle your
Heb “an.” By implication this is one’s own animal.
ox when it is treading grain.

Respect for the Sanctity of Others

5 If brothers live together and one of them dies without having a son, the dead man’s wife must not remarry someone outside the family. Instead, her late husband’s brother must go to her, marry her,
Heb “take her as wife”; NRSV “taking her in marriage.”
and perform the duty of a brother-in-law.
This is the so-called “levirate” custom (from the Latin term levir, “brother-in-law”), an ancient provision whereby a man who died without male descendants to carry on his name could have a son by proxy, that is, through a surviving brother who would marry his widow and whose first son would then be attributed to the brother who had died. This is the only reference to this practice in an OT legal text but it is illustrated in the story of Judah and his sons (Gen 38) and possibly in the account of Ruth and Boaz (Ruth 2:8; 3:12; 4:6).
Heb “and it will be that.”
the first son
Heb “the firstborn.” This refers to the oldest male child.
she bears will continue the name of the dead brother, thus preventing his name from being blotted out of Israel.
7But if the man does not want to marry his brother’s widow, then she
Heb “want to take his sister-in-law, then his sister in law.” In the second instance the pronoun (“she”) has been used in the translation to avoid redundancy.
must go to the elders at the town gate and say, “My husband’s brother refuses to preserve his brother’s name in Israel; he is unwilling to perform the duty of a brother-in-law to me!”
8Then the elders of his city must summon him and speak to him. If he persists, saying, “I don’t want to marry her,” 9then his sister-in-law must approach him in view of the elders, remove his sandal from his foot, and spit in his face.
The removal of the sandal was likely symbolic of the relinquishment by the man of any claim to his dead brother’s estate since the sandal was associated with the soil or land (cf. Ruth 4:7–8). Spitting in the face was a sign of utmost disgust or disdain, an emotion the rejected widow would feel toward her uncooperative brother-in-law (cf. Num 12:14; Lev 15:8). See W. Bailey, NIDOTTE 2:544.
She will then respond, “Thus may it be done to any man who does not maintain his brother’s family line!”
Heb “build the house of his brother”; TEV “refuses to give his brother a descendant”; NLT “refuses to raise up a son for his brother.”
10His family name will be referred to
Heb “called,” i.e., “known as.”
in Israel as “the family
Heb “house.”
of the one whose sandal was removed.”
Cf. NIV, NCV “The Family of the Unsandaled.”

11 If two men
Heb “a man and his brother.”
get into a hand-to-hand fight, and the wife of one of them gets involved to help her husband against his attacker, and she reaches out her hand and grabs his genitals,
Heb “shameful parts.” Besides the inherent indelicacy of what she has done, the woman has also threatened the progenitive capacity of the injured man. The level of specificity given this term in modern translations varies: “private parts” (NAB, NIV, CEV); “genitals” (NASB, NRSV, TEV); “sex organs” (NCV); “testicles” (NLT).
12then you must cut off her hand – do not pity her.

13 You must not have in your bag different stone weights,
Heb “a stone and a stone.” The repetition of the singular noun here expresses diversity, as the following phrase indicates. See IBHS 116 #7.2.3c.
a heavy and a light one.
Heb “a large and a small,” but since the issue is the weight, “a heavy and a light one” conveys the idea better in English.
14You must not have in your house different measuring containers,
Heb “an ephah and an ephah.” An ephah refers to a unit of dry measure roughly equivalent to five U.S. gallons (just under 20 liters). On the repetition of the term to indicate diversity, see IBHS 116 #7.2.3c.
a large and a small one.
15You must have an accurate and correct
Or “just”; Heb “righteous.”
stone weight and an accurate and correct measuring container, so that your life may be extended in the land the Lord your God is about to give you.
16For anyone who acts dishonestly in these ways is abhorrent
The Hebrew term translated here “abhorrent” (תּוֹעֵבָה, toevah) speaks of attitudes and/or behaviors so vile as to be reprehensible to a holy God. See note on the word “abhorrent” in Deut 7:25.
to the Lord your God.

Treatment of the Amalekites

17 Remember what the Amalekites
Heb “what Amalek” (so NAB, NRSV). Here the individual ancestor, the namesake of the tribe, is cited as representative of the entire tribe at the time Israel was entering Canaan. Consistent with this, singular pronouns are used in v. 18 and the singular name appears again in v. 19. Since readers unfamiliar with the tribe of Amalekites might think this refers to an individual, the term “Amalekites” and the corresponding plural pronouns have been used throughout these verses (cf. NIV, NCV, TEV, CEV, NLT).
did to you on your way from Egypt,
18how they met you along the way and cut off all your stragglers in the rear of the march when you were exhausted and tired; they were unafraid of God. 19So when the Lord your God gives you relief from all the enemies who surround you in the land he
Heb “ the Lord your God.” The pronoun has been used in the translation for stylistic reasons to avoid redundancy.
is giving you as an inheritance,
The Hebrew text includes “to possess it.”
you must wipe out the memory of the Amalekites from under heaven
Or “from beneath the sky.” The Hebrew term שָׁמַיִם (shamayim) may be translated “heaven(s)” or “sky” depending on the context.
– do not forget!
This command is fulfilled in 1 Sam 15:1–33.

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