Laws about used wives and kindness
Don’t remarry a used wife1Let’s say you marry a woman but live to regret it. Because she’s disgusting. So, you write her up. You give her a note that says you divorce her. And you send her away. For good. 2Well, let’s say she gets married again to another man. 3And let’s say that guy agrees with the first husband. This woman is not likable. He gives her a written declaration of his independence, divorcing her and sending her away. Or, maybe that second husband dies, instead. 4Suddenly, the woman is available again. Now let’s say her first husband wants to remarry her. Don’t go there. They’re not allowed to remarry. As far as that first husband is concerned, she’s polluted—ritually defiled. The LORD would consider a marriage like that despicable. Don’t bring that kind of behavior into the good land the LORD your God is giving you.
Marital leave5Newly married men should not go to war. Give them one year of marital leave. Give them the freedom and time to make their new wives happy.
Laws about loans, kidnapping, disease6Let’s say you make a loan to someone, and you insist on keeping something of theirs as collateral, to make sure they’ll pay you back. Don’t keep something they need to survive, like the stone they use to grind grain into flour for bread. 7If someone kidnaps a fellow Israelite and sells that person as a slave, the kidnaper needs executed. You’ve got to eliminate that kind of evil from the community. 8Watch out for those serious skin diseases. Follow the advice that Levite priests give you. They’re following orders I gave them. Be careful about this. 9Don’t forget what the LORD your God did to Miriam when we left Egypt.
Give the needy a break10If you give your neighbor a loan, don’t insist on going into your neighbor’s house and taking something as collateral. 11If you need collateral to ensure your neighbor will pay you back, wait outside. Let your neighbor decide what to give you as collateral and then bring it out to you. 12If your neighbor is poor and you take his cloak as collateral, don’t keep it overnight. 13Give it back to him by sundown so he can use the cloak as a blanket. God will see what you’re doing and give you credit for getting it right.
Treat your workers kindly14Don’t take advantage of needy folks who work for you. It doesn’t matter if they’re fellow Israelites or immigrants living in your communities. 15They depend on the salary they earn from you, from one day to the next. So, pay them at the end of every workday. If you don’t, they’ll ask the LORD to do something about you, and you’ll be guilty of sin. 16Don’t execute parents because of something their kids did. And don’t execute children for the sins of their parents. We’re accountable for ourselves. If we’re executed, it’s because we sinned.
Practice justice17Don’t rob justice from immigrants who are new to your land or from orphans. And don’t take clothing from a widow as a security deposit or as collateral. 18Keep this in mind: You were once slaves in Egypt. The LORD your God saved you and freed you. So, show compassion to needy folks.
Leave some crops for the hungry19When you harvest the crops in your fields, don’t make a second pass at it. Let the overlooked crops go to immigrants new to the land, along with orphans and widows. Do this and the LORD your God will bless the work you do. 20When you shake olives off trees, don’t make a second pass at that by picking through the branches. Leave the last of the olives for immigrants, orphans, and widows. 21When you pick your way through the vineyard harvest, don’t go back and pick at it again. Leave the last of the grapes for immigrants, orphans, and widows. 22Remember what it was like to live at the mercy of others, when you were slaves in Egypt. So, go ahead and show compassion to people who need it.
The Hebrew word for “disgusting” is ʽerwâ. It can refer to many kinds of complaints. The woman might be sexually unfaithful, indecent, dishonorable, sexually unsatisfying, ugly, mean, nagging. Just about any husband or wife could probably continue this list for quite a while. But we get the point. In Hebrew, the setup for that word is a phrase that lawyers in ancient times used when they drew up contracts or formal complaints. The phrase is “He finds [fill in the complaint] about her. In this case, the fill in the blank is “something indecent” or “something obnoxious” or any other similar complaint based on the original Hebrew word. In the time of Jesus, Jews were split over how to interpret this. Some taught that a man could divorce a woman for any complaint. Others taught that the “indecency” intended referred to infidelity. Jesus rocked both boats when he said God didn’t want husbands and wives to divorce for any reason (Mark 10:9). The implication is that if a marriage was in trouble, the couple needed to figure it out, forgive, and get back to living and loving. Apostle Paul later acknowledged that some marriages can’t be saved. He told women abandoned by their husband that they “should no longer feel obligated to that marriage. God wants us to live in peace” (1 Corinthians 7:15).
See Leviticus 13 for more details about the related laws. The original Hebrew word for “skin diseases,” nega, has often been translated as leprosy. But writers used that same Hebrew word to talk about a lot of different skin disorders, most of which are far less critical than leprosy, known today as Hansen’s disease. Hansen’s disease is an infection caused by bacteria, which produces light patches on the skin and numbs the nerves to pain. Lepers sometimes injure themselves and fail to get treatment because they can’t feel the pain. Infection sets in and body parts are amputated. Skin diseases reported in the Bible may often have been what we know today as a simple rash or perhaps eczema or psoriasis.
Miriam’s skin was suddenly diseased and white (Numbers 12:10).
This law is opposite from one reported in the famous Code of Hammurabi, which allowed a son to die for a father’s mistake. Law 230 of 282 says that if a builder builds a house that collapses and kills a man’s son, then “they should put to death a son of the builder.” These normally common-sense laws were popular in Bible times throughout what is now the Middle East. Hammurabi was a king in what is now Iraq. His laws are engraved into a seven-foot-high (2 meters) black stone pillar made in the 1700s BC. That’s several centuries before Moses. The stone is on display in the Louvre Museum, in Paris.
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