Laws About Various Human Rights — continued
These verses discuss the matter of assisting others, namely, fellow countrymen. Moses declared that each person had a responsibility to help his neighbor. If a person saw one of his neighbor’s animals straying off, he had a responsibility to secure and return the animal to his neighbor. If a person found a straying animal and was uncertain to whom the animal belonged, he had a responsibility to take the animal home and care for it until its owner claimed the animal. If a neighbor’s animal had fallen, a person had a responsibility to assist his neighbor to raise it up. The theme of these verses is: Don’t withhold your help from others.
Practical Consideration: We should not withhold our help from others. The Israelites were charged with the responsibility of assisting and watching out for one another as well as one another’s possessions. The parable of the good Samaritan reminds us of our responsibility to help others in need (Luke 10:30-37). Paul reminded the Philippians regarding the importance of looking beyond our own personal interests to the interests of others (Philippians 2:3-4).
Scholars have variously interpreted this verse of Scripture. Some feel that the prohibition is against practices of cross-dressing associated with aspects of Canaanite worship. Others feel that this verse is a prohibition against a woman dressing like a man in order to participate in military service and a man dressing like a woman to avoid it. Still others feel that the prohibition is against obscuring the distinction between the sexes by wearing things pertaining to the opposite sex. Others believe it was a prohibition against practices associated with homosexuality that found expression in the cults of certain pagan deities.
These verses deal with the importance of game management. A mother bird was not to be taken from its nest so that it could continue to produce food for the Israelites.
This verse deals with safety at home. It emphasizes the value of human life and the importance of protecting it. The roofs of homes were used for a variety of purposes. Home-owners were to insure the safety of others by building a parapet or railing around the roofs of their homes lest someone fall and injure themselves, or worse, die from a fall.
The reasons for the prohibitions in these verses is uncertain (see also Leviticus 19:19). Perhaps these practices were associated with pagan cultic practices.
This verse is more fully explained in Numbers 15:37-41. The practice apparently had a pedagogical value in that the tassels reminded the wearer of the garment to follow God’s commandments. As with the instructions of Deuteronomy 6:8-9, the tassels were but another visual reminder of the importance of obeying God’s commandments.
Laws About Sexual Immorality
These verses deal with six sexual situations, three of which deal with married women and three of which deal with unmarried women.
First, Moses discussed the matter of a wife falsely accused by her husband of not being a virgin (22:13-19). The girl’s parents were responsible for her legal defense. They could clear their daughter’s name by producing evidence (perhaps a blood-stained sheet from the wedding night) that she was indeed a virgin on the night of her wedding. The man found guilty of so falsely accusing his wife was to be punished (22:18), fined (22:19), and deprived of divorce rights (22:19).
Second, Moses discussed the course of action that was to be pursued if a husband’s charges against his wife’s virginity were found to be true (22:20-21). In such cases the woman was to be stoned outside her father’s house. Maxwell notes, “The location of the execution points to responsibility of the family to uphold God’s law.”
Third, in the case of adultery, both the man and woman involved were to be put to death (22:22).
Fourth, in the case of a man having sexual intercourse in the city with a woman who was engaged, both were to be stoned (22:23-24). If the sexual immorality occurred within the city it was assumed that the woman could have cried out for help if she was indeed being raped.
Fifth, if a man forced himself upon an engaged woman outside of the city, only the man was to be put to death (22:25-27). The woman was given the benefit of the doubt. She could have screamed for help without anyone to hear and come to her defense.
Sixth, a man guilty of raping a woman who was not engaged had to marry the woman and forfeit his divorce rights (22:28-29).
Deuteronomy 22:30 (see also Leviticus 18:8) is likely a reference to a man marrying his stepmother after the death of his father.