Deuteronomy 21:10
When you go forth to war against your enemies, and the LORD your God has delivered them into your hands, and you have taken them captive,
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
Deuteronomy 21:10-14. MARRIAGE OF CAPTIVE WOMEN.

(10, 11) When thou . . . seest among the captives a beautiful woman.—This could not be among the seven nations, of whom it is said (Deuteronomy 20:1-6), “thou shalt save alive nothing that breatheth.” But it may well apply to the recent case of the Midianitish maidens (Numbers 31:15-18), who had been taken captive in great numbers, and would naturally be reduced to slavery. It is clear from this passage that they could not be treated as concubines.

(12) Shall shave her head, and pare her nails.—Rashi’s view is that the object of this order is to spoil the beauty of the captive. The long hair is to be cut off, and the nails pared. On this last point the Targums differ; one taking the view that they are to be left to grow and the other the opposite interpretation. In 2Samuel 19:24, there are two examples of the use of the word in the sense of attending to the person. The correct interpretation in this place depends upon the purpose for which the thing was to be done. If the intention was any kind of purification, and long or taper nails were considered an ornament (as by some Eastern nations), it is more probable that the nails were to be cut short.

(13) The raiment of her captivity.—Rashi takes this to mean the beautiful raiment put on for the purpose of attracting her captors. (Compare Jezebel’s attempt to captivate Jehu, 2Kings 9:30.) Whatever may be the precise intent of these several instructions, it is clear that the law is intended to encourage lawful marriage, and no other form of union. In this view it throws an important light upon the treatment of the Midianitish captives in Numbers 31

(14) Thou shalt not make merchandise of her.—This shows that, in ordinary cases, these captives would be sold as slaves, without the restrictions imposed on Israelitish slavery. (See Leviticus 25:44-46.)

21:10-14 By this law a soldier was allowed to marry his captive, if he pleased. This might take place upon some occasions; but the law does not show any approval of it. It also intimates how binding the laws of justice and honour are in marriage; which is a sacred engagement.The regulations which now follow in the rest of this and throughout the next chapter bring out the sanctity of various personal rights and relations fundamental to human life and society.

Deuteronomy 21:10-14. The war supposed here is one against the neighboring nations after Israel had utterly destroyed the Canaanites (compare Deuteronomy 7:3), and taken possession of their land.

De 21:10-23. The Treatment of a Captive Taken to Wife.

10-14. When thou goest to war … and seest among the captives a beautiful woman … that thou wouldest have her to thy wife—According to the war customs of all ancient nations, a female captive became the slave of the victor, who had the sole and unchallengeable control of right to her person. Moses improved this existing usage by special regulations on the subject. He enacted that, in the event that her master was captivated by her beauty and contemplated a marriage with her, a month should be allowed to elapse, during which her perturbed feelings might be calmed, her mind reconciled to her altered condition, and she might bewail the loss of her parents, now to her the same as dead. A month was the usual period of mourning with the Jews, and the circumstances mentioned here were the signs of grief—the shaving of the head, the allowing the nails to grow uncut, the putting off her gorgeous dress in which ladies, on the eve of being captured, arrayed themselves to be the more attractive to their captors. The delay was full of humanity and kindness to the female slave, as well as a prudential measure to try the strength of her master's affections. If his love should afterwards cool and he become indifferent to her person, he was not to lord it over her, neither to sell her in the slave market, nor retain her in a subordinate condition in his house; but she was to be free to go where her inclinations led her.

Thine enemies, of other nations, but not of the Canaanites, for they might not spare their women, and much less marry them, Exodus 34:16 Deu 7:3. When thou goest forth to war against thine enemies,.... This refers to an arbitrary war, as Jarchi remarks, which they entered into of themselves, of choice, or through being provoked to it by their enemies; and not a war commanded by the Lord, as that against the seven nations of Canaan, and against Amalek; since there were to be no captives in that war, but all were to be destroyed:

and the Lord thy God hath delivered them into thine hands; given them the victory over their enemies, so that they were obliged to surrender themselves to them prisoners of war:

and thou hast taken them captive, or "led his or their captivity (b) captive"; led them captive who used to lead others, denoting their conquest of victorious nations; see a like phrase in Psalm 68:18.

(b) "et captivam duxerit captivitatem ejus", Pagninus, Montanus, Vatablus.

When thou goest forth to war against thine enemies, and the LORD thy God hath delivered them into thine hands, and thou hast taken them captive,
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
10. When thou goest forth, etc.] see on Deuteronomy 20:1. Read enemy (sing.) because of the following: and the Lord thy God delivereth him into thine hands (see on Deuteronomy 1:27); and thou takest captives from him (lit. capturest his captives).

10–14. Of Marriage with a Captive of War

If a woman taken in war is desired for a wife (Deuteronomy 21:11 f.), she may be brought home, but the marriage shall not take place till she has shaved her hair, pared her nails, put away her former garments, and mourned her parents for a month (Deuteronomy 21:12 f.). If her husband’s love for her fades he may let her go out free (Deuteronomy 21:14).—In the Sg. address, with no feature incompatible with D’s authorship, and impressed by his spirit both of humanity and of caution against infection by foreign idolatries. Yet in the light of Deuteronomy 7:3, forbidding marriage with the people of the land, and Deuteronomy 20:16 commanding that in war they shall all be put to death, this law can only refer to captives taken in distant wars, Deuteronomy 20:10-15. See further general note, introd. to ch. 20. There is no parallel in any other codes.

Mohammed permitted a female captive (though previously married) to become at once the concubine of her captor. But this is not Arab custom. ‘Women are not taken captive in the Arabian warfare, though many times a poor valiant man might come by a fair wife thus without his spending for bride-money’ (Doughty Ar. Des. ii. 148).Verses 10-14. - If an Israelite saw among captives taken in war a woman, fair of aspect, and loved her, and took her to be his wife, he was to allow her a full month to mourn her lost kindred, and become accustomed to her new condition, before he consummated his union with her. This refers to captives from other nations than those of Canaan, with whom the Israelites were to form no alliance, and whom they were not to take captive, but either wholly destroy or render tributary (cf. Deuteronomy 7:3; Numbers 21:1, etc.; Joshua 11:19). This nearest town was then required to expiate the blood-guiltiness, not only because the suspicion of the crime or of participation in the crime fell soonest upon it, but because the guilt connected with the shedding of innocent blood rested as a burden upon it before all others. To this end the elders were to take a heifer (young cow), with which no work had ever been done, and which had not yet drawn in the yoke, i.e., whose vital force had not been diminished by labour (see at Numbers 19:2), and bring it down into a brook-valley with water constantly flowing, and there break its neck. The expression, "it shall be that the city," is more fully defined by "the elders of the city shall take." The elders were to perform the act of expiation in the name of the city. As the murderer was not to be found, an animal was to be put to death in his stead, and suffer the punishment of the murderer. The slaying of the animal was not an expiatory sacrifice, and consequently there was no slaughtering and sprinkling of the blood; but, as the mode of death, viz., breaking the neck (vid., Exodus 13:13), clearly shows, it was a symbolical infliction of the punishment that should have been borne by the murderer, upon the animal which was substituted for him. To be able to take the guilt upon itself and bear it, the animal was to be in the full and undiminished possession of its vital powers. The slaying was to take place in a איתן נחל, a valley with water constantly flowing through it, which was not worked (cultivated) and sown. This regulation as to the locality in which the act of expiation was to be performed was probably founded upon the idea, that the water of the brook-valley would suck in the blood and clean it away, and that the blood sucked in by the earth would not be brought to light again by the ploughing and working of the soil.
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