Deuteronomy 25:11
When men strive together one with another, and the wife of the one draws near for to deliver her husband out of the hand of him that smites him, and puts forth her hand, and takes him by the secrets:
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25:5-12 The custom here regulated seems to have been in the Jewish law in order to keep inheritances distinct; now it is unlawful.The house ... - Equivalent to "the house of the barefooted one." To go barefoot was a sign of the most abject condition; compare 2 Samuel 15:30. 5-10. the wife of the dead shall not marry without unto a stranger: her husband's brother … shall take her to him to wife—This usage existed before the age of Moses (Ge 38:8). But the Mosaic law rendered the custom obligatory (Mt 22:25) on younger brothers, or the nearest kinsman, to marry the widow (Ru 4:4), by associating the natural desire of perpetuating a brother's name with the preservation of property in the Hebrew families and tribes. If the younger brother declined to comply with the law, the widow brought her claim before the authorities of the place at a public assembly (the gate of the city); and he having declared his refusal, she was ordered to loose the thong of his shoe—a sign of degradation—following up that act by spitting on the ground—the strongest expression of ignominy and contempt among Eastern people. The shoe was kept by the magistrate as an evidence of the transaction, and the parties separated. No text from Poole on this verse. When men strive together, one with another,.... Quarrel with one another, and come to blows, and strive for mastery, which shall beat, and be the best man:

and the wife of the one draweth near for to deliver her husband out of the hand of him that smiteth him; perceiving that his antagonist has more skill or strength, or both, for fighting, and is an more than a match for her husband, who is like to be much bruised and hurt; wherefore, to save him out of the hands of the smiter, she goes up to them to part them, or take her husband's side:

and putteth forth her hand, and taketh him by the secrets; or privy parts; in Hebrew his "shameful" parts (x), which through shame are hidden, and modesty forbids to express in proper terms; and such is the purity of the Hebrew language, that no obscene words are used in it; for which reason, among others, it is called the holy tongue. This immodest action was done partly out of affection to her husband, to oblige his antagonist to let go his hold of him; and partly out of malice and revenge to him, to spoil him, and make him unfit for generation, and therefore was to be severely punished, as follows.

(x) "verenda ejus", V. L. Pagninus, Montanus, Tigurine version; "pudenda ejus", Piscator.

{e} When men strive together one with another, and the wife of the one draweth near for to deliver her husband out of the hand of him that smiteth him, and putteth forth her hand, and taketh him by the secrets:

(e) This law imputes that godly shamefacedness is preferred: for it is a horrible thing to see a woman past shame.

11, 12. Of Reckless Assault

The woman who, even to help her husband, grasps the secrets of another Israelite wrestling with him shall have her hand cut off.—Peculiar to D, and in the Sg. address with brother as in other Sg. passages; but with an opening, and an accumulation of conditions similar to those in other laws probably borrowed by D. The additions may be the superfluous a man and his brother (Deuteronomy 25:11, R.V. one with another) and thine eye shall not pity (Deuteronomy 25:12, cp. Deuteronomy 7:16). Strive, rather are wrestling (as in E, Exodus 21:22; cp. Exodus 2:13, Leviticus 24:10, 2 Samuel 14:6). Secrets, lit. pudenda, only here. The position of the law just here may be due to the catchword his brother, cp. Deuteronomy 25:9.

This very special case is probably meant to be typical of others (cp. Deuteronomy 19:5). The punishment is the only mutilation prescribed by D apart from the jus talionis (Deuteronomy 19:21). It is usually supposed to have had its origin at a time when such an act was the violation of a very sacred taboo. In Ḫammurabi, §§ 202–205, there are (if the translation can be relied on) parallel crimes. Mutilation is also decreed there for other crimes.Verses 11, 12. - But though the childless widow might thus approach and lay hold on the man, no license was thus granted to women to pass beyond the bounds of decency in their approaches to the other sex. Hence the prohibition in these verses. The severe sentence here prescribed was by the rabbins commuted into a fine of the value of the hand. On Levirate Marriages. - Deuteronomy 25:5, Deuteronomy 25:6. If brothers lived together, and one of them died childless, the wife of the deceased was not to be married outside (i.e., away from the family) to a strange man (one not belonging to her kindred); her brother-in-law was to come to her and take her for his wife, and perform the duty of a brother-in-law to her. יבּם, denom. from יבם, a brother-in-law, husband's brother, lit., to act the brother-in-law, i.e., perform the duty of a brother-in-law, which consisted in his marrying his deceased brother's widow, and begetting a son of children with her, the first-born of whom was "to stand upon the name of his deceased brother," i.e., be placed in the family of the deceased, and be recognised as the heir of his property, that his name (the name of the man who had died childless) might not be wiped out or vanish out of Israel. The provision, "without having a son" (ben), has been correctly interpreted by the lxx, Vulg., Josephus (Ant. iv. 8, 23), and the Rabbins, as signifying childless (having no seed, Matthew 22:25); for if the deceased had simply a daughter, according to Numbers 27:4., the perpetuation of his house and name was to be ensured through her. The obligation of a brother-in-law's marriage only existed in cases where the brothers had lived together, i.e., in one and the same place, not necessarily in one house or with a common domestic establishment and home (vid., Genesis 13:6; Genesis 36:7). - This custom of a brother-in-law's (Levirate) marriage, which is met with in different nations, and as an old traditional custom among the Israelites (see at Genesis 38:8.), had its natural roots in the desire inherent in man, who is formed for immortality, and connected with the hitherto undeveloped belief in an eternal life, to secure a continued personal existence for himself and immorality for his name, through the perpetuation of his family and in the life of the son who took his place. This desire was not suppressed in Israel by divine revelation, but rather increased, inasmuch as the promises given to the patriarchs were bound up with the preservation and propagation of their seed and name. The promise given to Abraham for his seed would of necessity not only raise the begetting of children in the religious views of the Israelites into the work desired by God and well-pleasing to Him, but would also give this significance to the traditional custom of preserving the name and family by the substitution of a marriage of duty, that they would thereby secure to themselves and their family a share in the blessing of promise. Moses therefore recognised this custom as perfectly justifiable; but he sought to restrain it within such limits, that it should not present any impediment to the sanctification of marriage aimed at by the law. He took away the compulsory character, which it hitherto possessed, by prescribing in Deuteronomy 25:7., that if the surviving brother refused to marry his widowed sister-in-law, she was to bring the matter into the gate before the elders of the town (vid., Deuteronomy 21:19), i.e., before the magistrates; and if the brother-in-law still persisted in his refusal, she was to take his shoe from off his foot and spit in his face, with these words: "So let it be done to the man who does not build up his brother's house."

The taking off of the shoe was an ancient custom in Israel, adopted, according to Ruth 4:7, in cases of redemption and exchange, for the purpose of confirming commercial transactions. The usage arose from the fact, that when any one took possession of landed property he did so by treading upon the soil, and asserting his right of possession by standing upon it in his shoes. In this way the taking off of the shoe and handing it to another became a symbol of the renunciation of a man's position and property, - a symbol which was also common among the Indians and the ancient Germans (see my Archologie, ii. p. 66). But the custom was an ignominious one in such a case as this, when the shoe was publicly taken off the foot of the brother-in-law by the widow whom he refused to marry. He was thus deprived of the position which he ought to have occupied in relation to her and to his deceased brother, or to his paternal house; and the disgrace involved in this was still further heightened by the fact that his sister-in-law spat in his face. This is the meaning of the words (cf. Numbers 12:14), and not merely spit on the ground before his eyes, as Saalschtz and others as well as the Talmudists (tr. Jebam. xii. 6) render it, for the purpose of diminishing the disgrace. "Build up his brother's house," i.e., lay the foundation of a family or posterity for him (cf. Genesis 16:2). - In addition to this, the unwilling brother-in-law was to receive a name of ridicule in Israel: "House of the shoe taken off" (הנּעל חלוּץ, taken off as to his shoe; cf. Ewald, 288, b.), i.e., of the barefooted man, equivalent to "the miserable fellow;" for it was only in miserable circumstances that the Hebrews went barefoot (vid., Isaiah 20:2-3;

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