Skip to main content

Beating the Trees: Deuteronomy 24

In Summary:

We’re still dealing with the various laws necessary for running a nation in Deuteronomy 24. This chapter gives us another look at family law, some finance law, criminal law, and health law. It’s a great mixture of items from everyday life in Israel.

First we have the instructions regarding divorce including the prohibition that a woman divorced by her first husband who then marries another cannot go back to the first husband. I’ll not pretend to know exactly how these laws fleshed out in reality, or even how often it was necessary to enforce them! But I know this: God took, and takes, marriage seriously. Even 3,500 years ago He put restrictions on divorce and the general idea of just trading partners for a time. We ought to remember that.

Then we see one of my favorite verses in Deuteronomy 24:5 where a newlywed is released from duty, both military and non-military, for the first year of marriage. Why? To give happiness to his wife. It’s worth remembering that the initial investment in a relationship will strengthen it later.

We then get various other laws, from constraints on lending practices to bans on kidnapping. All of these weave together to remind the people of Israel that other folks matter, too. Whether they are women, poor, hired help, aliens, orphans (wait, aliens? I still laugh…) people that were not the power holders were still worthwhile.

In Focus:

Trees, on the other hand, were apparently not that big a deal. Taking a look at 24:20, we see that it was considered appropriate to beat olive trees. That’s because there was no advocacy group in Ancient Israel for olive trees…or, perhaps, because the reference is to the process of knocking loose olives to harvest. The first pass was enough, after that anything left behind was for the needy.

In Practice:


What do we do with this in practice?

First, recognize that words have shades of meaning. “Beat” is one of those words—applied to a human being, it’s bad. Really bad. Applied to an olive tree? Not bad. I stand ready to be corrected by the first ent that comes along, but trees aren’t the same as people.

Second, be cautious not to make everything perfectly efficient. It was the inefficiency of manual harvesting, both of olives and grains, that enabled Old Testament Israel’s system of providing for the poor. Is it possible that our interest in efficiency has numbed our compassion? Or at least trimmed off our ability to show it?

Third, as we see constantly in the Israelite system, charity is not intended to become a simple handout. Instead, it was designed to keep an individual’s dignity intact and prevent society from looking down on them.

Therefore, let us remember those ideas. There are people that need help—find a way to help them. But over time, we must address the systems that dehumanize those in need and come back to treating people like people. Because even aliens are people :)

In Nerdiness: 


I’m really running short on nerd thoughts out of this. The reminder of Miriam refers back to Numbers 12. Also of note is the idea that “sons not be put to death for the sins of their fathers” and vice versa in v. 16. This echoes forward to Ezekiel 18 and addresses individual responsibility.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Book Review: The Heart Mender by @andyandrews (Andy Andrews)

The Heart Mender: A Story of Second ChancesEver read a book that you just kind of wish is true?  That's my take on The Heart Mender by Andy Andrews.  It's a charming story of love and forgiveness, and it's woven into the historical setting of World War II America.  For the narrative alone, the book is worth the read, but the message it contains is well worth absorbing as well.However, let's drop back a minute.  This book was originally published under the title Island of Saints.  I read Island of Saints and enjoyed it greatly.  Now, Andrews has released it under a new title, with a few minor changes.  All of this is explained in the Author's Note at the beginning, but should be noted for purchaser's sake.  If you read Island of Saints, you're rereading when you read The Heart Mender.  Now, go ahead and reread it.  It will not hurt you one bit.Overall, the story is well-paced.  There are points where I'd like more detail, both in the history and the geog…

Abraham Lincoln Quoted by Jesus! Mark 3

Mark records a curious event in his third chapter (link). If you look at Mark 3:25, you'll see that Jesus quotes the sixteenth President of the United States, Abraham Lincoln. After all, one of the highlights of the Lincoln years is his famous speech regarding slavery in the United States where he used the phrase that "a house divided against itself cannot stand." This speech was given in 1858 when he accepted the nomination to run against Stephen A. Douglas for Senate, but is still remembered as the defining speech regarding slaveholding in the United States. I recall being taught in school how brilliant and groundbreaking the speech was, how Lincoln had used such wise words to convey his thought. Yet the idea was not original to Lincoln. Rather, it was embedded in Lincoln from his time reading the Bible. Now, I have read varying reports about Lincoln's personal religious beliefs: some place him as a nearly completely committed Christian while others have him somewh…

Book: The Gospel Call and True Conversion

A quick note: This book, The Gospel Call and True Conversion, is currently available on Kindle for $4.99. This is the second in a series of 3, and the first, The Gospel’s Power and Message, is available for $2.99.The Gospel Call and True Conversion. The title of this book alone sounds intimidating, and adding that it’s written by one of the heavyweights of American Reformed Christianity, Paul Washer, does not lessen the intimidation factor. Washer is known to be a straightforward preacher—for good or for ill.What did I find in The Gospel call and True Conversion? I found some things to like:1. Paul Washer is passionate for the truth. He wants to know the truth. He wants to proclaim the truth. He wants the truth heard. He wants you to know the truth. This is good. It is good to see someone not try to base theology on popularity or as a response to modern events, but to base it clearly on truth. 2. There is a strong emphasis on the reality that true conversion (from the title) will resu…