Deuteronomy 25 commentary

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Henry, “Here is, I. A direction to the judges in scourging malefactors, Deu_25:1-3. 1. It is here supposed that, if a man be charged with a crime, the accuser and the accused (Actor and Reus) should be brought face to face before the judges, that the controversy may be determined. 2. If a man were accused of a crime, and the proof fell short, so that the charge could not be made out against him by the evidence, then he was to be acquitted: “Thou shalt justify the righteous,” that is, “him that appears to the court to be so.” If the accusation be proved, then the conviction of the accused is a justification of the accuser, as righteous in the prosecution.”

Text of Deuteronomy 25 commentary

  • 1. DEUTEROOMY 25 COMMETARYEDITED BY GLE PEASE1 When men have a dispute, they are to take it tocourt and the judges will decide the case,acquitting the innocent and condemning theguilty.1. Barnes, He quotes these verses to show how serious a matter this is with God. Pro17:15 He that justifieth the wicked, and he that condemneth the just, even they bothare abomination to the LORD. Exo 23:7 Keep thee far from a false matter; and theinnocent and righteous slay thou not: for I will not justify the wicked.2. Clarke, They shall justify the righteous - This is a very important passage, andis a key to several others. The word tsadak is used here precisely in the same sense inwhich St. Paul sometimes uses the corresponding word , not to justify or makejust, but to acquit, declare innocent, to remit punishment, or give reasons why such aone should not be punished; so here the magistrates hitsdiku, shall acquit, therighteous - declare him innocent, because he is found to be righteous and not wicked: sothe Septuagint: they shall make righteous the righteous -declare him free from blame, not liable to punishment, acquitted; using the same wordwith St. Paul when he speaks of a sinners justification, i. e., his acquittance from blameand punishment, because of the death of Christ in his stead.3. Gill, If there be a controversy between men,.... Between two or more:and they come unto judgment; into a court of judicature, bring their cause thither:that the judges may judge them; who were never less than three; the greatsanhedrim at Jerusalem consisted of seventy one, the lesser court was of twenty three,and the least of all three only:then they shall justify the righteous, and condemn the wicked: acquit the one,whose cause is good, and condemn the other to punishment, who is guilty of a crime,and as that deserves; which is to do righteous judgment; the contrary to this is anabomination to the Lord,

2. 4. Henry, Here is, I. A direction to the judges in scourging malefactors, Deu_25:1-3. 1.It is here supposed that, if a man be charged with a crime, the accuser and the accused(Actor and Reus) should be brought face to face before the judges, that the controversymay be determined. 2. If a man were accused of a crime, and the proof fell short, so thatthe charge could not be made out against him by the evidence, then he was to beacquitted: Thou shalt justify the righteous, that is, him that appears to the court to beso. If the accusation be proved, then the conviction of the accused is a justification ofthe accuser, as righteous in the prosecution.5. PULPIT COMM, This passage is an interesting illustration of the restraintswhich the Law of Moses puts on the Hebrews, as to the semi-barbarous customs ofother nations. It is well known that punishment by bastinado was common amongthe ancient Egyptians. It would be not unnaturally adopted by the Hebrews. Thereare here three matters to be noticed.1. Here is a principle to be recognized (Deuteronomy 25:1).2. The punishment3. The reason given is very impressive, lest thy brother should seem vile unto thee,i.e. lest he should be so excessively punished as to be afterwards unfit for service,and lest he should be the common butt of any one who chose to dishonor him.Human nature is to be respected, even in carrying out legal sentences on crime.Trapp says, The Turks, when cruelly lashed, are compelled to return to the judgethat commanded it, to kiss his hand, to give him thanks, and to pay the officer thatwhipped them!I. The sight of a human being coming under the sentence of criminal law is matterfor intense sadness.II. The punishment to be inflicted on him should be such in matter and degree as toassert right principle, but not such as needlessly to dishonor him. ForIII. Humanity, in spite of crime, has dignity about it still. Sin and the sinner are notinseparable. God can kill one and save the other!IV. With a view to a criminal's salvation, whatever of honor remains in his natureshould be carefully guarded and tenderly appealed to.6. KD, Corporal Punishment. - The rule respecting the corporal punishment to be 3. inflicted upon a guilty man is introduced in Deu_25:1 with the general law, that in adispute between two men the court was to give right to the man who was right, and topronounce the guilty man guilty (cf. Exo_22:8 and Exo_23:7).7. Calvin, Inasmuch as moderation and humanity are here enjoined, it is aSupplement of the Sixth Commandment. The sum is, that, if any one is judiciallycondemned to be beaten with stripes, the chastisement should not be excessive. Thequestion, however, is as to a punishment, which by lawyers is called a moderatecorrection, (43) and which ought to be such, as that the body torn by the whipshould not be maimed or disfigured. Since, therefore, God has so far spared theguilty, as to repress even just severity, much more would He have regard paid toinnocent blood; and since He prohibits the judge from using too great rigor, muchless will He tolerate the violence of a private individual, if he shall employ it againsthis brother. But it was necessary that zeal should be thus restrained, because judges,in other respects not unjust, are often as severe against lesser offenses (delicta) asagainst crimes. An equal measure of punishment is not indeed prescribed, as if allwere to be beaten alike; it is only prohibited that the judges should order more thanforty stripes in all to be inflicted for an offense. Thus the culprits were beatendeliberately, and not in such an indiscriminate manner as when it was not requisiteto count the stripes; besides, they were not so injured for the future as to bedeprived of the use of any of their limbs. With the same intent God would have thejudges themselves to be present, that by their authority they may prevent anyexcess: and the reason is added, lest thy brother should seem vile unto thee,because he had been beaten immoderately. This may be explained in two ways,either, lest his body should be disfigured by the blows, and so he should be renderedunsightly; or, lest, being stained for ever with ignominy and disgrace, he should bediscouraged in mind; for we know how grievous and bitter it is to be mocked andinsulted. A third sense, (44) which some prefer, is too far-fetched, viz., lest he shoulddie like some vile and contemptible beast; for God only provides that the wretchedman should be improved by his chastisement, and not that he should grow callousfrom his infamy. As the Jews were always ostentatious of their zeal in triflingmatters, they invented a childish precaution, in order that they might more strictlyobserve this law; for they were scrupulous in not proceeding to the fortieth stripe,but, by deducting one, they sought after an empty reputation for clemency, as if theywere wiser than God Himself, and superior to Him in kindness. Into such folly domen fall, when they dare out of their own heads to invent anything in opposition toGods word! This superstition already prevailed in Pauls time, as we gather fromhis words, where he reports that five times he received forty stripes save one. (2Corinthians 11:24.)8. PULPIT COMMENTARY, The first and second verses should be read as onesentence, of which the protasis is in Deuteronomy 25:1 and the apodosis in Deuteronomy25:2, thus: If there be a strife between men, and they come to judgment, and they (i.e. thejudges) give judgment on them, and justify the righteous, and condemn the wicked, thenit shall be, if the wicked deserve to be beaten (literally, be the son of blows), that the 4. judge, etc. It is assumed that the judges shall pronounce just judgment, and apportion tothe guilty party his due punishment; and then it is prescribed how that is to be inflicted. Inthe presence of the judge the man was to be cast down, and the adjudged number ofblows were to be given him, not, however, exceeding forty, lest the man should berendered contemptible in the eyes of the people, as if he were a mere slave or brute. Thispunishment was usually inflicted with a stick (Exodus 21:10; 2 Samuel 7:14, etc.), as isstill the case among the Arabs and Egyptians; sometimes also with thorns ( 8:7, 8:16);sometimes with whips and scorpions, i.e. scourges of cord or leather armed with sharppoints or hard knots (1 Kings 12:11, 1 Kings 12:14). Though the culprit was laid on theground, it does not appear that the bastinado was used among the Jews as it is now amongthe Arabs; the back and shoulders were the parts of the body on which the blows fell(Proverbs 10:13; Proverbs 19:29; Proverbs 26:3; Isaiah 1:6). According to his fault, by acertain number; literally, according to the requirement of his crime in number; i.e.according as his crime deserved. The number was fixed at forty, probably because of thesymbolical significance of that number as a measure of completeness. The rabbins fixedthe number at thirty-nine, apparently in order that the danger of exceeding the numberprescribed by the Law should be diminished (cf. 2 Corinthians 11:24); but another reasonis assigned by Maimonides, viz. that, as the instrument of punishment was a scourge withthree tails, each stroke counted for three, and thus they could not give forty, but onlythirty-nine, unless they exceeded the forty (Maimon; 'In Sanhedrin,' 17.2).HOMILIES BY J. ORRDeuteronomy 25:1-3The bastinado.Professor W. R. Smith regards this law of stripes as indicating a late date forDeuteronomy. He argues from the customs of the free Bedouins. But it is perilous toreason from the customs of the Bedouins to the punishments in vogue among a peoplewho had lived some centuries in Egypt, where, as is well-known, the bastinado was inconstant use. The sculptures at Beni-Hassan represent the very scene here described. WelearnI. THAT IT IS THE FUNCTION OF CIVIL MAGISTRATES TO PUNISH CRIME.(Verses 1, 2.) They bear the sword for this purpose (Romans 14:4; 1 Peter 2:14). Themodern humanitarian spirit tends to exalt the reformatory and preventive en