Deuteronomy 24:5
When a man hath taken a new wife, he shall not go out to war, neither shall he be charged with any business: but he shall be free at home one year, and shall cheer up his wife which he hath taken.
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Deuteronomy 24:5—end of Deuteronomy 25


(5) He shall not go out to war, neither shall he be charged with any business.—He shall not go forth in warfare, neither shall warfare pass upon him in any form. In Numbers 4:23; Numbers 4:30 the service of the tabernacle is called its “warfare.”

He shall be free at home.—Literally, he shall be clear for his home; free from all charges, so as to belong to that.

Deuteronomy 24:5. Business — Any public office or employment, which may cause an absence from or neglect of his wife. One year — That their affections may be firmly settled, so as there may be no occasion for the divorces last mentioned.

24:5-13 It is of great consequence that love be kept up between husband and wife; that they carefully avoid every thing which might make them strange one to another. Man-stealing was a capital crime, which could not be settled, as other thefts, by restitution. The laws concerning leprosy must be carefully observed. Thus all who feel their consciences under guilt and wrath, must not cover it, or endeavour to shake off their convictions; but by repentance, and prayer, and humble confession, take the way to peace and pardon. Some orders are given about pledges for money lent. This teaches us to consult the comfort and subsistence of others, as much as our own advantage. Let the poor debtor sleep in his own raiment, and praise God for thy kindness to him. Poor debtors ought to feel more than commonly they do, the goodness of creditors who do not take all the advantage of the law against them, nor should this ever be looked upon as weakness.In this and the next chapter certain particular rights and duties, domestic, social, and civil, are treated. The cases brought forward have often no definite connection, and seem selected in order to illustrate the application of the great principles of the Law in certain important events and circumstances.

These four verses contain only one sentence, and should be rendered thus: If a man hath taken a wife, etc., and given her a bill of divorcement and Deuteronomy 24:2 if she has departed out of his house and become another man's wife; and Deuteronomy 24:3 if the latter husband hates her, then Deuteronomy 24:4 her former husband, etc.

Moses neither institutes nor enjoins divorce. The exact spirit of the passage is given in our Lord's words to the Jews', "Moses because of the hardness of your hearts suffered you to put away your wives" Matthew 19:8. Not only does the original institution of marriage as recorded by Moses Genesis 2:24 set forth the perpetuity of the bond, but the verses before us plainly intimate that divorce, while tolerated for the time, contravenes the order of nature and of God. The divorced woman who marries again is "defiled" Deuteronomy 24:4, and is grouped in this particular with the adulteress (compare Leviticus 18:20). Our Lord then was speaking according to the spirit of the law of Moses when he declared, "Whoso marrieth her which is put away doth commit adultery" Matthew 19:9. He was speaking too not less according to the mind of the prophets (compare Malachi 2:14-16). But Moses could not absolutely put an end to a practice which was traditional, and common to the Jews with other Oriental nations. His aim is therefore to regulate and thus to mitigate an evil which he could not extirpate.

5. When a man hath taken a new wife, he shall not go out to war—This law of exemption was founded on good policy and was favorable to matrimony, as it afforded a full opportunity for the affections of the newly married pair being more firmly rooted, and it diminished or removed occasions for the divorces just mentioned. Any business, i.e. any public office or employment, which may cause an absence from or neglect of his wife.

He shall be free at home one year, that their affections newly engaged may be firmly settled, so as there may be no occasions for the divorces last mentioned.

When a man hath taken a new wife,.... A wife he has lately married, new to him, though a widow, as Jarchi observes; but the Targum of Jonathan says a virgin; however this is opposed to his old wife, and divorced; for this, as Jarchi and Ben Melech say, excepts the return of a divorced wife, who cannot be said to be a new one:

he shall not go out to war; this is to be understood of a man that had not only betrothed, but married a wife; a man that had betrothed a wife, and not married her, who went out to war, might return if he would, Deuteronomy 20:7; but one that had married a wife was not to go out to war:

neither shall be charged with any business; as betrothed ones were; they, though they had a liberty of returning, yet they were to provide food and drink for the army, and to prepare or mend the highways, as Jarchi observes; but these were not obliged to such things, nor even to keep watch on the walls of the city, or to pay taxes, as Maimonides (b) writes:

but he shall be free at home one year; not only from all tributes and taxes, and everything relative to the affairs of war, but from public offices and employments, which might occasion absence from home. Jarchi remarks, that his house or home comprehends his vineyard; and so he thinks that this respects his house and his vineyard, that if he had built a house and dedicated it, or planted a vineyard and made it common, yet was not to remove from his house because of the necessities of war:

and shall cheer up his wife which he hath taken; or rejoice with his wife which he hath taken, and solace themselves with love; and thereby not only endear himself to her, but settle his affections on her, and be so confirmed in conjugal love, that hereafter no jealousies may arise, or any cause of divorce, which this law seems to be made to guard against. So it is said (c), that Alexander after the battle of Granicus sent home to Macedonia his newly married soldiers, to winter with their wives, and return at spring; which his master Aristotle had taught him, and as he was taught by a Jew.

(b) Hilchot Melachim, c. 7. sect. 10, 11. (c) Arrian. Expedit Alex. l. 1.

When a man hath taken a new wife, he shall not go out to war, {c} neither shall he be charged with any business: but he shall be free at home one year, and shall cheer up his wife which he hath taken.

(c) That they might learn to know one another's conditions, and so afterward live in godly peace.

5. Exemption of the Newly Married. He shall not go out with the army, nor be under other (public) obligation for a year, for the sake of his house and wife.—See introd. to Deuteronomy 20:1-9, and on Deuteronomy 20:7, which refers to military service alone. The addition here recalls such royal levies as in 1 Samuel 8:16, 1 Kings 5:13 ff; 1 Kings 15:22. Cp. the Babylonian levies which were for service both with the army and on public works (Johns, op. cit. ch. 19). The position of the law just here may be due to its having the same opening as the previous law.

charged with any business] Lit nor shall there pass over upon him [obligation] with regard to any thing, LXX (omitting preposition before any thing) nor shall any business be thrown upon him.

free for his own household, etc.] free, Heb. naḳî (1 Kings 15:22) LXX ἀθῷος. One year, till the child be born. For cheer his wife Vulg. (with different Heb. points) read be happy with his wife.

Deuteronomy 24:5 to Deuteronomy 25:4. Thirteen Laws of Equity and Humanity

Besides the humane temper common to most of them, and a few cue-words, there are no apparent reasons for their being grouped or for the order in which they occur. They have various openings, mostly conditional, otherwise negative. Three are not in the direct form of address, and two only close with this; the rest are in the Sg. form, except one mixed of Sg. and Pl. Some are peculiar to D, others have parallels in E and H. In particular note the separation of the three laws on pledges, and their use of two different terms for ‘pledge.’ All this suggests a compilation from different sources.

Verse 5. - A man newly married was to be exempt from going to war, and was not to have any public burdens imposed on him for a year after his marriage. Charged with any business; literally, there shall not pass upon him for any matter; i.e. there shall not be laid on him anything in respect of any business. This is explained by what follows. Free shall he be for his house for one year; i.e. no public burden shall be laid on him, that he may be free to devote himself entirely to his household relations, and be able to cheer and gladden his wife (comp. Deuteronomy 20:7). "By this law God showed how he approved of holy wedlock (as by the former he showed his hatred of unjust divorces) when, to encourage the newly married against the cumbrances which that estate bringeth with it, and to settle their love each to other, he exempted those men from all wars, cares, and expenses, that they might the more comfortably provide for their own estate" (Ainsworth). Deuteronomy 24:5Deuteronomy 24:1-5 contain two laws concerning the relation of a man to his wife. The first (Deuteronomy 24:1-4) has reference to divorce. In these verses, however, divorce is not established as a right; all that is done is, that in case of a divorce a reunion with the divorced wife is forbidden, if in the meantime she had married another man, even though the second husband had also put her away, or had died. The four verses form a period, in which Deuteronomy 24:1-3 are the clauses of the protasis, which describe the matter treated about; and Deuteronomy 24:4 contains the apodosis, with the law concerning the point in question. If a man married a wife, and he put her away with a letter of divorce, because she did not please him any longer, and the divorced woman married another man, and he either put her away in the same manner or died, the first husband could not take her as his wife again. The putting away (divorce) of a wife with a letter of divorce, which the husband gave to the wife whom he put away, is assumed as a custom founded upon tradition. This tradition left the question of divorce entirely at the will of the husband: "if the wife does not find favour in his eyes (i.e., does not please him), because he has found in her something shameful" (Deuteronomy 23:15). ערוה, nakedness, shame, disgrace (Isaiah 20:4; 1 Samuel 20:30); in connection with דּבר, the shame of a thing, i.e., a shameful thing (lxx ἄσχημον πρᾶγμα; Vulg. aliquam faetiditatem). The meaning of this expression as a ground of divorce was disputed even among the Rabbins. Hillel's school interpret it in the widest and most lax manner possible, according to the explanation of the Pharisees in Matthew 19:3, "for every cause." They no doubt followed the rendering of Onkelos, פתגם עבירת, the transgression of a thing; but this is contrary to the use of the word ערוה, to which the interpretation given by Shammai adhered more strictly. His explanation of דּבר ערות is "rem impudicam, libidinem, lasciviam, impudicitiam." Adultery, to which some of the Rabbins would restrict the expression, is certainly not to be thought of, because this was to be punished with death.

(Note: For the different views of the Rabbins upon this subject, see Mishnah tract. Gittin ix. 10; Buxtorf, de sponsal. et divort. pp. 88ff.; Selden, uxor ebr. l. iii. c. 18 and 20; and Lightfoot, horae ebr. et talm. ad Matth. v. 31f.)

כּריתת ספר, βιβλίον ἀποστασίου, a letter of divorce; כּריתת, hewing off, cutting off, sc., from the man, with whom the wife was to be one flesh (Genesis 2:24). The custom of giving letters of divorce was probably adopted by the Israelites in Egypt, where the practice of writing had already found its way into all the relations of life.

(Note: The rabbinical rules on the grounds of divorce and the letter of divorce, according to Maimonides, have been collected by Surenhusius, ad Mishn. tr. Gittin, c. 1((T. iii. pp. 322f. of the Mishnah of Sur.), where different specimens of letters of divorce are given; the latter also in Lightfoot, l.c.)

The law that the first husband could not take his divorced wife back again, if she had married another husband in the meantime, even supposing that the second husband was dead, would necessarily put a check upon frivolous divorces. Moses could not entirely abolish the traditional custom, if only "because of the hardness of the people's hearts" (Matthew 19:8). The thought, therefore, of the impossibility of reunion with the first husband, after the wife had contracted a second marriage, would put some restraint upon a frivolous rupture of the marriage tie: it would have this effect, that whilst, on the one hand, the man would reflect when inducements to divorce his wife presented themselves, and would recall a rash act if it had been performed, before the wife he had put away had married another husband; on the other hand, the wife would yield more readily to the will of her husband, and seek to avoid furnishing him with an inducement for divorce. But this effect would be still more readily produced by the reason assigned by Moses, namely, that the divorced woman was defiled (הטּמּאה, Hothpael, as in Numbers 1:47) by her marriage with a second husband. The second marriage of a woman who had been divorced is designated by Moses a defilement of the woman, primarily no doubt with reference to the fact that the emissio seminis in sexual intercourse rendered unclean, though not merely in the sense of such a defilement as was removed in the evening by simple washing, but as a moral defilement, i.e., blemishing, desecration of the sexual communion with was sanctified by marriage, in the same sense in which adultery is called a defilement in Leviticus 18:20 and Numbers 5:13-14. Thus the second marriage of a divorced woman was placed implicite upon a par with adultery, and some approach made towards the teaching of Christ concerning marriage: "Whosoever shall marry her that is divorced, committeth adultery" (Matthew 5:32). - But if the second marriage of a divorced woman was a moral defilement, of course the wife could not marry the first again even after the death of her second husband, not only because such a reunion would lower the dignity of the woman, and the woman would appear too much like property, which could be disposed of at one time and reclaimed at another (Schultz), but because the defilement of the wife would be thereby repeated, and even increased, as the moral defilement which the divorced wife acquired through the second marriage was not removed by a divorce from the second husband, nor yet by his death. Such defilement was an abomination before Jehovah, by which they would cause the land to sin, i.e., stain it with sin, as much as by the sins of incest and unnatural licentiousness (Leviticus 18:25).

Attached to this law, which is intended to prevent a frivolous severance of the marriage tie, there is another in Deuteronomy 24:5, which was of a more positive character, and adapted to fortify the marriage bond. The newly married man was not required to perform military service for a whole year; "and there shall not come (anything) upon him with regard to any matter." The meaning of this last clause is to be found in what follows: "Free shall he be for his house for a year," i.e., they shall put no public burdens upon him, that he may devote himself entirely to his newly established domestic relations, and be able to gladden his wife (compare Deuteronomy 20:7).

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