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.


<ul><li> 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,</li></ul><p> 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 ends ofpunishment, at the expense of the retributive. That every effort should be put forth for thereformation of the criminal which the case admits of, we cordially allow. But the dangeris, in these matters, that sentiment degenerate into sentimentalism. Crime deservespunishment, and on that ground alone, were there no other, ought to receive it. No theorycan be satisfactory which loses sight of retribution, and makes reformation and preventionthe all in all. 5. II. THAT PENALTIES OUGHT TO BE SUFFICIENTLY SEVERE. (Verse 2.) To beeffective in early stages of civilization, penalties must be severe, prompt, and specificenough to be vividly conceived (cf. H. Spencer's 'Essays:' 'Prison Ethics'). The progress ofsociety admits of the substitution of punishments appealing to a higher class ofsensibilities. But even these ought adequately to express the measure of the criminal'sdesert. If Mr. Spencer were right, the slightest restraint compatible with the safety of thecommunity, combined with compulsory self-support, would be punishment sufficient forthe greatest crimes. The sense of justice in mankind rejects such ideas. Carlyle's teachingin 'Model Prisons' is healthier than this.III. THAT PENALTIES OUGHT TO BE MEASURED. (Verse 3.) It is difficult tobelieve that in our own country, at the beginning of this century, the theft of five shillingsfrom the person was a crime punishable by death. Yet the statute-book bristled withenactments, of which, unhappily, this was not the worst. Such outrageous disproportionbetween crime and punishment must have robbed the law's sentences of most of theirmoral effect. Anomalies exist still, which it would be to any statesman's credit toendeavor to remove.IV. THAT PENALTIES SHOULD NOT BE UNDULY DEGRADING, (Vet, 3.) Lestthy brother should seem vile unto thee. The effect of excessive severity is to harden,degrade, dehumanize. It often drives the criminal to desperation. As a victim of the oldercriminal code expressed it, A man's heart is taken from him, and there is given to himthe heart of a beast. The tendency in modern feeling is toward the abolition of corporalpunishments entirely, as degrading alike to him who administers them, and to those bywhom they are endured.Observe:1. The profound idea on which the law rested. The body, part of human nature, andsharing its dignity as made in God's image.2. The best laws may be unjustly and cruelly administered (2 Corinthians 11:24, 2Corinthians 11:25).J.O.HOMILIES BY D. DAVIESDeuteronomy 25:1-3Earthly magistracy an argument for the heavenly. 6. It is not conceivable that God should have taken such pains, through Moses, to securepure administration of justice in earthly courts, unless he had established a like court ofjudicature in heaven. So far as the will of God is embodied in the judicial procedure onearth, it is copied from the pattern of heavenly things.I. A JUDICIAL COURT IS CREATED FOR THE DISCRIMINATION OF HUMANCHARACTER. The purpose of all examination and testimony is to separate the evil fromthe goodto bring to light the righteousness and the wickedness of men. Justice delightsmore in vindicating and commending the righteous than in censuring and condemning thewicked. Justice found a nobler occupation in marshalling Mordecai through the city, andproclaiming his innocence, than in erecting the gallows for the execution of Haman.Human judges, however, can discern only what is palpable and conspicuous. They havenot an organ of insight delicate enough to detect the lesser excellences and blemishes; norcan they penetrate into the interior nature of man. These institutions are only the shadowsof heavenly things. But every man stands before the tribunal of a higher Judge, where notonly actions, but motives, intentions, and feelings, are examined and weighed. Here,without the possibility of mistake, the righteous are justified, the wicked are condemned.Discrimination is perfect: separation will be complete.II. A JUDICIAL COURT IS ORDAINED FOR THE PUNISHMENT OF EVIL DEEDS.1. The true punishment is measured by the scale of demerit. It is enjoined to beaccording to his fault. In God's sagacious judgment, every degree of blameworthiness isnoted. Nothing appertaining to moral conduct is beneath the notice of God's eye. Wevalue far too little moral qualities. As we grow like God, we shall gain in that penetrativepower which discerns the beauty of goodness and the blackness of iniquity.2. Punishment is a loss of manliness. The judge shall cause him to lie down. His dignityshall be prostrate. Sin robs us of manliness, but the loss does not come into public viewuntil punishment follows. To be righteous throughout is to be a man.3. Punishment is to be public. The culprit is to be beaten before the judge's face. Thispublicity is part of the penalty. It is summaryto be inflicted at once. And publicity isalso a safeguard against cruelty and against excess. So God invites public recognition andpublic approval of his doings. The ransomed universe shall unite in the te...</p>