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Deuteronomy: Chapter 24

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Text view alone

1Suppose a man enters into marriage with a woman, but she does not please him because he finds something objectionable about her, and so he writes her a certificate of divorce, puts it in her hand, and sends her out of his house; she then leaves his house 2and goes off to become another man's wife. 3Then suppose the second man dislikes her, writes her a bill of divorce, puts it in her hand, and sends her out of his house (or the second man who married her dies); 4her first husband, who sent her away, is not permitted to take her again to be his wife after she has been defiled; for that would be abhorrent to the LORD, and you shall not bring guilt on the land that the LORD your God is giving you as a possession.

5When a man is newly married, he shall not go out with the army or be charged with any related duty. He shall be free at home one year, to be happy with the wife whom he has married.

6No one shall take a mill or an upper millstone in pledge, for that would be taking a life in pledge.

7If someone is caught kidnaping another Israelite, enslaving or selling the Israelite, then that kidnaper shall die. So you shall purge the evil from your midst.

8Guard against an outbreak of a leprous a Heb whole skin disease by being very careful; you shall carefully observe whatever the levitical priests instruct you, just as I have commanded them. 9Remember what the LORD your God did to Miriam on your journey out of Egypt.

10When you make your neighbor a loan of any kind, you shall not go into the house to take the pledge. 11You shall wait outside, while the person to whom you are making the loan brings the pledge out to you. 12If the person is poor, you shall not sleep in the garment given you as b Heb uncovered his father's skirt the pledge. 13You shall give the pledge back by sunset, so that your neighbor may sleep in the cloak and bless you; and it will be to your credit before the LORD your God.

14You shall not withhold the wages of poor and needy laborers, whether other Israelites or aliens who reside in your land in one of your towns. 15You shall pay them their wages daily before sunset, because they are poor and their livelihood depends on them; otherwise they might cry to the LORD against you, and you would incur guilt.

16Parents shall not be put to death for their children, nor shall children be put to death for their parents; only for their own crimes may persons be put to death.

17You shall not deprive a resident alien or an orphan of justice; you shall not take a widow's garment in pledge. 18Remember that you were a slave in Egypt and the LORD your God redeemed you from there; therefore I command you to do this.

19When you reap your harvest in your field and forget a sheaf in the field, you shall not go back to get it; it shall be left for the alien, the orphan, and the widow, so that the LORD your God may bless you in all your undertakings. 20When you beat your olive trees, do not strip what is left; it shall be for the alien, the orphan, and the widow.

21When you gather the grapes of your vineyard, do not glean what is left; it shall be for the alien, the orphan, and the widow. 22Remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt; therefore I am commanding you to do this.


a Heb whole

b Heb uncovered his father's skirt

Text Commentary view alone

Chs 24–25 : Laws promoting social harmony.

24.1–22 :

The chapter, like the previous one, begins with a restriction on marriage and concludes stipulating care for those in need (note 22.30 = 23.1 Heb).

1–4 :

This complex law, theologically applied by two prophets (Isa 50.1; Jer 3.1,8 ), addresses only remarriage after divorce to a wife who subsequently married another; it does not prohibit remarriage in general. Biblical law includes no general laws of either marriage or divorce, only special cases that raise particular ethical or religious issues.

1 :

Male‐initiated divorce was the norm, though there is some evidence in the Near East and in the Jewish Elephantine papyri (fifth century BCE) of contracts permitting either party to initiate proceedings. He finds … about her, formula for disloyal action or betrayal of trust (1 Sam 29.3,6,8; 2 Kings 17.4; cf. 1 Sam 12.5 ). Objectionable, “indecent” ( 23.14 ). It is unclear from the term used what valid criteria for divorce were. Certificate of divorce, legally freeing her to remarry.

4 :

After she has been defiled, not in general, since she is permitted to remarry, but specifically as regards relations with her first husband.

5 :

Another of the rules for holy war ( 20.1–20; 21.10–14; 23.9–14 ). Newly married, contrast the premarital deferral from service in 20.7 . Be happy with, better, “give happiness to,” including conjugal joy.

6 :

The law prohibits oppression in economic relations (like vv. 10–15 ). Take … in pledge, accept as collateral for a loan. Mill or an upper millstone, like the “garment” of v. 12 , they are essential to survival, and thus may not be taken.

7 :

Restricts the application of Ex 21.16 to kidnappers of fellow Israelites; perhaps also an interpretation of Deut 5.19 .

8–9 :

Leprous skin disease, not leprosy but an unidentified inflammation; see Lev 13.1–14.57 . Remember … Miriam, see Num 12.1–15 .

10–13 :

Expands upon Ex 22.26–27 (cf. Am 2.8; Prov 20.16; 22.27; 27.13; Job 22.6 ). The Yavneh Yam inscription (late seventh century BCE) deals with a similar case.

14–15 :

See Ex 22.21–24; Lev 19.13 . Israel's ethics are based upon the conviction that God identifies with and vindicates the oppressed.

14 :

The prohibition against economic exploitation is not contingent upon ethnicity or nationality; see 1.16n.

16 :

This law restricting punishment to the responsible individual, cited in 2 Kings 14.6 , applies to both civil and criminal law. Collective responsibility applies to offenses against God ( 5.9–10; Ex 34.7; Num 16.31–33; Josh 7.24–25; 2 Sam 21.1–9 ), a theological principle subsequently brought into conformity with the law of individual liability ( 7.10; Jer 31.29–30; Ezek 18 ).

17 :

You shall not deprive … of justice, in Hebrew, identical to the comprehensive “You shall not distort justice” ( 16.19 ). This law, therefore, ensures protection of the most vulnerable, the resident alien or the orphan. Take … in pledge, better, “seize” to force payment (see Job 24.3 ). This accords the widow special protection; for day laborers, see vv. 10–13 .

18 :

See 15.15 .

19–22 :

Lev 19.9–10; 23.22 . The story of Ruth, both a widow and an alien, presupposes such laws, which assign harvest gleanings to the needy, allowing them to eat without begging for food.

20 :

Beat, with poles, so as to harvest the olives (Isa 17.6 ).

25.1–3 :

A double restriction upon judicial flogging, also employed for discipline in nonjudicial contexts (Ex 21.20; Prov 10.13; 26.3; 1 Kings 12.14 ).

2 :

In his presence, under the judge's direct supervision, “by [his] count” (the more likely rendering of NRSV number of lashes).

3 :

Forty lashes, a definitive restriction for which there is no parallel in Near Eastern law; the Middle Assyrian Laws stipulate floggings of five to one hundred lashes. Your neighbor, the criminal, despite his judicial status, retains human dignity.

4 :

For similar humane treatment of animals, see 22.6–7; Prov 12.10 .

5–10 :

Biblical, Near Eastern, and Roman inheritance law assigned special responsibilities to the “husband's brother” (vv. 5–7 ), for which Hebrew had a special term (cf. Latin “levir,” hence “levirate marriage”). See Gen 38.8 and Ruth 4.5–6 , which reflect variations of this law.

5 :

Outside the family, NRSV has added the family; more likely, the frame of reference is the larger clan. The widow's marriage outside of the clan would diminish the landholding of her clan and add it to the husband's, affecting the original equitable division of land among the tribes (Josh 13–21 ). Her husband's brother shall go in to her, possibly the brother's death provided an exception to the incest prohibition of marrying a sister‐in‐law (Lev 18.16; 20.21 ); alternatively, the Holiness Collection's incest laws might intend to prohibit levirate marriage altogether.

6 :

Firstborn alone here counts to the brother; cf. Gen 38.8 .

9 :

Legal title was symbolically claimed by walking over the land (see 11.25n. ). Thus, transfer of title entailed passing the sandal (Ruth 4.7 ), while renunciation of title, as here, was symbolized by removal of the sandal. The intent of the ceremony is public shaming, since the dereliction of duty makes the brother's wife a widow, abandoning her to the class of the impoverished: “the resident aliens, the orphans, and the widows” ( 14.29n. ).

10 :

Known as, lit. “called by the name of,” thus explicitly applying a form of retributive justice ( 19.19n. ). For refusing to build up the deceased's “name” (vv. 6–7 ) and “house” (v. 9 ), the brother's own house is stigmatized by its new name.

11–12 :

An additional law dealing with threats to reproduction (cf. Ex 21.22–25 ). Physical mutilation (characteristic in the Middle Assyrian Laws) is nowhere else prescribed in the Bible, except in the general formula for talion ( 19.21; Ex 21.23–24; Lev 24.19–20 ). That rationale does not apply here, however, since there is no symmetry between injury and punishment. The issue may rather be the perceived insult to dignity (cf. Laws of Hammurabi § 195).

13–16 :

Cf. Laws of Hammurabi § 108; Lev 19.35–36; Am 8.5 .

14 :

By fraudulently using two different sets of counter‐weights—small ones to sell grain but large ones to purchase it—a merchant could turn a tidy profit.

17–19 :

The tradition presupposes Ex 17.8–16 , in which the Amalekites, a fierce desert tribe, attacked Israel (cf. Ps 83.4–8 ).

18 :

These details are not reflected in Ex 17.8–16 ; they may have been supplied by the Deuteronomic author in order to justify the extirpation of Amalek (v. 19; cf. Ex 17.14; 1 Sam 15.2–3 ).

19 :

Rest, see 3.20; 12.9n.

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