Deuteronomy 24-26
(Mishpats - Part II)
February 28th

Produced by The Listening for God Ministry
Copyright 2016

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Please refer to one or more Bible versions of your choice to read this section. We recommend that you read at least two versions for added understanding. For your convenience, we have provided six links below, each of which takes you directly to today's chapters in a specific version:

Key Verses

When you gather the grapes of your vineyard, do not glean what is left; it shall be for the alien, the orphan, and the widow. Remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt; therefore I am commanding you to do this.

- Deuteronomy 24:21-22 (NRSV)

Summary of Chapters

This trio of chapters concludes the Deuteronomic Code, which is the second of three parts in Moses’ second of three farewell speeches recorded in this book. The themes found in chapters 24-26 are similar to the ones found in yesterday’s set: Decrees for civil or social circumstances in human relationships, known in Hebrew as mishpats.

Many of the mishpats in this section have a humanitarian slant. Through these laws, God demonstrates that he cares for all people and is a protector of the poor, weak, and underprivileged. Other mishpats in these three chapters are practical ones, providing rules against behavior that could bring harm to oneself or the community.

Chapter 24 begins with a specific case of a woman who has been divorced twice. Moses decreed that the first man cannot re-claim her. This law protects the rights of the woman. God also looks out for the newly married couple, as noted in chapter 24. Men were exempt from military service during their first year of marriage so that the couple would have an opportunity to build their relationship and conceive children – which in turn strengthens the nation.

There are numerous examples of mishpats that address fairness and charity in commercial transactions and agricultural operations. Back in chapter 23 (verses 19, 20), Moses had explained that the Israelites were prohibited from charging interest to each other. They were allowed to accept collateral, but Moses explained that the collateral cannot be punitive. For example, the lender cannot take a millstone (24:6) because the borrower would need that to produce flour and bread to eat. Likewise, the lender could not keep the cloak of the borrower overnight (24:12-13) because the man would need it to stay warm.

Moses explained that when a land-master hires men he should pay them a fair wage at the end of each day. This scenario is not unfamiliar to modern people who have hired day laborers. Furthermore, the workers in the fields are instructed to leave some of the harvest for the poor. This rule was also described in Leviticus 23:22. The honoring of this rule enabled the survival of Ruth, a foreigner who returned to Israel with the mother of her dead husband, as described in the book of Ruth. This mishpat resulted in the marriage of Ruth to the field owner, Boaz. Together, they produced a family whose descendants included the second king of Israel (David), and Jesus, the Messiah.

Chapter 25 details additional mishpats to ensure fairness and survival of the nation. The concept of fairness is extended to animals in verse 25:4, in which Moses says “Do not muzzle an ox while it treads out the grain.” The treading of the grain by an ox is an important step in the transforming of grain into flour for creating bread. Treading of the grain means that the ox pulled a threshing sled with sharp stones that ground down the grain stalks. A person then tossed up the threshed material to separate the grain (the good stuff) from the chaff (the useless shell). To muzzle an ox means to prevent it from eating (1). This mishpat protects the ox by requiring that owners allow oxen to eat while working.

Chapter 25 also includes a mishpat relating to marriage. This one deals with the unmarried brother of a deceased man who was required to marry his widowed sister-in-law so that her children would remain in the the tribe. Moses also provided a specific example of rules for a fair fight between men.

In the final chapter of this section Moses reviews rules for tithes and offering. The chapter then ends with a statement that parallels the opening line of the Deuteronomic Code, from chapter 12. Both are shown below:

    These are the decrees and laws you must be careful to follow in the land that the LORD, the God of your ancestors, has given you to possess—as long as you live in the land.

    - Deuteronomy 12:1 (NIV)

    The LORD your God commands you this day to follow these decrees and laws; carefully observe them with all your heart and with all your soul. You have declared this day that the LORD is your God and that you will walk in obedience to him, that you will keep his decrees, commands and laws—that you will listen to him.

    - Deuteronomy 26:16-17 (NIV)

Reflection and Application

The mishpats in this section are good examples to remind us that God loves all his creatures: Men, women, animals, rich landholders, poor laborers, and all others. We honor God by showing the same love and care for the people and other creatures that we encounter.

The protection of the weak is a responsibility shared by all the people as noted in Leviticus 19:33 and described in several areas of today's reading, particularly those having to do with collateral and laborers. The day-laborer rule is referenced in the last book of the Old Testament: Malachi. The LORD spoke to Malachi regarding a future messenger and a future day of judgment against various types of sinners, including “those who defraud laborers of their wages (Malachi 3:5).”

Jesus also refers to the day-laborer system in a parable recorded in the Gospel of Matthew. In this parable, some laborers are hired early in the day, while others are hired later in day, but all received the same wages at the end of the day. The early birds complained that this system was unfair, but the master said they all got paid what he had promised to them (Matthew 20:1-16).

This parable illustrates God’s grace and mercy. Some of us will require more forgiveness than others, but we all have the opportunity to receive an equal share of the inheritance of eternal life. Therefore, we should be careful not to begrudge those who we believe have received more forgiveness than us.

This section of Deuteronomy was also familiar territory for the opponents of Jesus known as the Sadducees. They were “experts” in the law who did not believe in resurrection. They often tried to trick Jesus with questions that they thought were very clever. So, one day, they came to him and said:

    The Sadducees, who say there is no resurrection, came to him with a question: “Teacher,” they said, “Moses told us that if a man dies without having children, his brother must marry the widow and raise up offspring for him (Deuteronomy 25:5-10). Now there were seven brothers among us. The first one married and died, and since he had no children, he left his wife to his brother. The same thing happened to the second and third brother, right on down to the seventh. Finally, the woman died. Now then, at the resurrection, whose wife will she be of the seven, since all of them were married to her?”

    - Matthew 22:22-28

You can imagine the Cheshire Cat grin on the faces of Sadducees as they thought they had outsmarted Jesus on that one. But, they were always the foil in Jesus’ plans, because he wins every time:

    Jesus replied, “You are in error because you do not know the Scriptures or the power of God. At the resurrection people will neither marry nor be given in marriage; they will be like the angels in heaven. But about the resurrection of the dead—have you not read what God said to you, ‘I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? He is not the God of the dead but of the living.”

    When the crowds heard this, they were astonished at his teaching.

    - Matthew 22:29-33

This story is also found in Mark 12:18-27. We all have equal opportunities to become angels in heaven and live eternally with God. This is equally astonishing for us as it was for the people who first heard Jesus, but it’s true. We will be reconciled with God and with all of the people we have known who have gone before us.

The muzzle rule was also referenced in the New Testament. The Apostle Paul mentions it in 1 Corinthians 9:8 and in 1 Timothy 5:18. Paul’s point is that we ought to care for our spiritual workers in the same way (or better) than we care for our hard-working animals. If we have any say in the matter, we should ensure that our leaders and other church workers receive adequate pay and are not over-worked. Otherwise, they will no longer be able to serve us. It’s interesting to note that after declaring all of this Paul says that he is not asking for this right of being rewarded. He preached voluntarily and made a living with his hands while not preaching. Some may choose this path, but we should honor the needs of those in full time ministry by ensuring that they are cared for financially and physically.

Questions and Prayers for Further Reflection

    Related Questions
    1. What is your favorite animal?
    2. How well do the laws where you live protect the rights of the poor and underprivileged?
    3. How can we fill in the gaps where the law does not address all needs?
    Recommended Prayer
    Father in heaven, please help us to know how to protect the poor and underprivileged.

    Suggested Prayer Concerns
    People serving full-time in the ministry of God's word


    (1) Thompson, J.A., Deuteronomy, An Introduction and Commentary, Intervarsity Press, Leicester England, Downers Grove, IL, 1974, p 250

    Looking Ahead

    Tomorrow's reading: Deuteronomy 27-28 (Truth or Consequences)

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