This section of the Torah (Deut 21:10–25:19) contains 72 commandments, which is more than in any other Torah portion. In this passage there are rules pertaining to all aspects of human relations showing that the “Torah deals with the real world. It does not present a world where all people get along with one another or rush to take care of one another’s property. Instead, it ‘takes into account the grim reality that people do not achieve the desired observance of “you shall not hate others in your heart”’” (A Torah Commentary For Our Time vol. 3, p. 150).
In studying this portion, one can easily miss the point of a particular command if one views it strictly in its pashat (most literal) meaning. For these commands to have relevance in our day, one must view them as principles that have a broad range of applications. The specific examples Torah gives are merely representative of one of but many life situations to which the principle behind the example could apply. Keeping this in mind, this Torah portion will give you much to ponder pertaining to your day-to-day walk (or halakhah).
In these chapters we see a plethora of laws concerning many seemingly small details regarding human life. Many people in the church have the tendency to broadly sweep away these commandments with such dismissive cliches as, “We’re now under grace…,” or “We’re not under the law anymore….” But please observe how many of the civil laws of our nation regulating actions between various members of society are based upon YHVH’s laws found in the Torah.
As many of us make our way back to a more biblical truth-based lifestyle and orientation, we begin to see that (a) YHVH cares about the details of our lives, and (b) these laws, while sometimes hard to understand, are for our own well-being and blessing. Do you still nurse a “pick and choose” or “have it your own way” mentality with regard to YHVH’s biblical commandments choosing to follow the ones you want and making excuses why you can’t (or don’t want to) follow the rest? By doing so, what blessings are you depriving yourself of, and how are you hindering your love relationship with YHVH?
Some of the laws in these chapters may be hard to observe nowadays. With others, due to our church background, we may have the tendency to spiritualize them away, thus, in essence, rendering them of non‑effect in our lives and thereby placing ourselves above YHVH’s Torah-law thus becoming a law unto ourselves. Not a good thing! This is what Adam and Eve did in the garden at the tree of knowledge. Is this not humanism: every man doing what is right in his own eyes instead of obeying YHVH whatever the cost? Who is the Master of your life? You or YHVH? Let us not forget the words of Yeshua, “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven” (Matt 7:21), and “But why do you call Me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do the things which I say?” (Luke 6:46).
How do you view laws about women wearing men-type clothing, wearing fringes on the corners of your garments, mixing certain types of fibers in your clothing, lending money without interest, caring for the widows and orphans, personal hygiene, the family purity laws (e.g. men not having sexual relations with their wives during their monthly cycles), removing blood from all meat before eating it, men wearing beards, faithfully tithing, following the biblical dietary laws, and observing YHVH’s Sabbaths (weekly and annual), etc.? These are lifestyle-changing laws, many of which go contrary to the current mores of our society.
Are we not called to be a kadosh, set-apart, special and peculiar (i.e. treasured) people before YHVH? Following these laws to the best of our ability will help us to be the people that YHVH has called us to be. What progress are you making to bring your life into conformity to his standards of righteousness?
Pursue peace with all people, and holiness, without which no one will see the Lord. (Heb 12:14)
[B]ut as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, because it is written, “BE HOLY, FOR I AM HOLY.” (1 Pet 1:15–16)
Deuteronomy 21:18–21, Stubborn and rebellious son.Many of the laws of YHVH’s penal code are preventative in nature. Such is the case with the wayward and rebellious son. In ancient Israel, there were no prisons, since it was the goal of YHVH’s Torah-laws to root out evil before it spread like a cancerous disease endangering society. In the case of the law of the rebellious son, parents’ love for YHVH must supersede even that of their children. This will help to insure that children will remain on the straight and narrow path when they become adults. What steps are you taking with regard to your children to prevent them from going down the path of faithlessness and rebellion?
Deuteronomy 21:22, Put to death…hang him on a tree.A man condemned of a crime worthy of capital punishment is to be put to death, and then hung on a tree. He is not killed by hanging. According to S. A. Hirsch, for two crimes only (blasphemy and idol worship) was the command given to hang the bodies. Even though these crimes brought on such an ignominious and shameful end as being hanged, Elohim still requires that the corpse—even of a criminal—to be honored by burial because it was still the life a human, who was made in the image of Elohim. As Hirsch notes, an unburied corpse is to be considered a disgrace and a degradation to all living humans. It also defiles the land, as this verse says. This commandment gives us some insight into how YHVH views the sanctity of life. The abhorrent practice of abortion, for example, degrades life in many ways. This not only includes how the baby is murdered in the mother’s womb, but how it is disposed of afterwards.
Deuteronomy 21:23, For a hanging person is a curse of Elohim.Compare this passage with Paul’s statements in Galatians 3:13 and then consider both of these passages in light of Isaiah 53:4–10. Rashi, a medieval Jewish Bible commentator, has an interesting comment on Deuteronomy 21:23. “For a hanging person is an insult of God. It is a degradation of the King, for man is made in the likeness of His image, and Israel are His sons. This can be compared to two twin brothers who resembled each other. One became a king, while one became ensnared in banditry, and was hung. Whoever would see him hanging would say, ‘The king is hanging!’” The rabbinical commentary on Rashi’s commentary ponders the meaning of Rashi’s statement as follows: “[Rashi’s] parable seems difficult. Could people really look at a hanging corpse and think that the King of kings [sic] is hanging? Also, what does Rashi add by noting that ‘Israel are his sons’? And finally, why does Rashi say that ‘one became a king,’ rather than ‘one was a king’ After all, God cannot be said to ‘have become’ a king” (The ArtScroll Sapirstein Edition Rashi/Deuteronomy, p. 227). These comments are curious in light of the fact that these Jewish sages were not believers in Yeshua the Messiah. How would you answer the commentator’s question from a Messianic perspective as pertaining to Yeshua?