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1st March

Deuteronomy 21-23; Psalm 60

Bible in a Year
6 minutes
In this article
1st March

Deuteronomy 21-23; Psalm 60

Bible in a Year
6 minutes


So far in Deuteronomy, we’ve read through the beginning of Moses’ sermons to the new generation of Israelites. We noted how the perspective shifts, so now it seems like the narrator is looking back at this time in Israel’s history from their future and from the other side of the river.

aWe read as Moses recapped how the Israelites got here from Egypt, reminding the people where they've come from and what God has done.

He then moved on to his sermons, challenging the Israelites to avoid idolatry and to follow the Lord's command. He reminded the people that they are a chosen people. Not because of their might or righteousness, but because of his faithfulness and goodness. They were to be obedient if they wanted to experience his blessings.

And so Moses moved on to recap and restating the laws, starting with Israel’s worship. They were to avoid idolatry, dealing harshly with those who suggested otherwise. They were to continue in ritual purity, and in practices like the tithe. Justice was to be a key part of their worship. They were to look after the poor and to judge rightly.

This led us to the instructions guiding Israel's leaders; judges, priests, kings, and prophets. We looked at some of the criteria and guidelines for these leaders.

We then started the final section of Deuteronomy's laws, looking at its civil laws. Yesterday we looked at the cities of refuge and laws concerning warfare.

Deuteronomy 21-23

We open on some complicated instructions on what to do about unsolved murders. It was believes that murders polluted and contaminated the land.

Normally the way to deal with this contamination was to punish the murderer, but that obviously wasn't possible for murders where the murderer wasn't known, and so the priest took an animal gave it as an offering to cleanse the land instead.

We then get instructions protecting the rights of women who were from foreign lands that had been conquered.

Typically, women who were captured were to be treated as slaves, but some may be taken as wives. In a culture where people didn’t marry for love but for mutual benefit, these women would be provided for and cared for in a way they otherwise wouldn’t.

These men who would choose such a woman were to honour them and give them time to process. They also couldn’t marry these women just so they could sleep with them and then discard them.

As always, we do the Bible disservice when we compare these practices to our modern sensibilities, as to use they seem barbaric and cruel.

Instead, we have to compare them to their cultural counterparts, and see that compared to other cultures, there were many rules and guidelines that protected women.

The women mentioned here must have been non-Canaanite women, as we’ve already had many instructions not to intermarry with Canaanite women.

Next are instructions on firstborn sons. If you had multiple wives, you couldn’t prefer one son over the other because you loved his mother more.

This is followed by some very strict rules for rebellious sons. If a son is particularly rebellious, then his parents are to take him to the elders of the town and are to have him stoned.

This seems incredibly excessive, but the point is that this son would need to be incredibly rebellious, not just refusing to tidy their room. This was to reinforce the strength of the family unit. Anyone seeking to weaken that had to be removed.

Next is a varied collection of rules, from dealing with lost animals, where clothes of the opposite sex, health and safety of building railings round your flat roof so people don’t fall and die, and more.

After that comes a whole collection of rules on sexual immorality. The key focus of these rules is what happens when a man finds his new wife is not a virgin.

It seemed like a man could, with very little evidence, claim that his new wife had lied to him and was not a virgin, and her parents had to prove him wrong (which is really hard to do) otherwise she would be stoned.

However, this new rule also fits into all the rules that have come before. One key rule we've already read multiple times is that a crime can only be convicted on the witness of two people.

So what this section is describing is that a man can marry a woman, and if after marrying he suspects that she lied and wasn't a virgin, he would go and research this. Then if he found witnesses that can genuinely say 'yep, she had someone she used to sleep around with when she was younger', he can bring these witnesses forward.

The parents then get an opportunity to disprove these other witnesses. If a man falsely accuses a woman of lying about her virginity, he is also severely fined, which is aimed at protecting women from false accusations.

Here are some more ways these rules that seem offensive to us but were actually there to protect women. If a man rapes a woman who is married or betrothed in a field, she is assumed to be innocent, as there are no witnesses.

If she is in a city and screams for help, she’s also presumed to be innocent. These cities are not like our modern cities with noise pollution. A scream would have carried.

Are these laws perfect? No. But do they go much further than any other culture of the time to protect women? Yes. By a long way.

This is then followed by a list of people considered unclean or unworthy to come close to the tabernacle and how to keep the camp clean from contamination.

We’ve read many of these rules before, and they are focused on ritual purity and wholeness, not moral purity.

Finally, we get a range of other rules from prostitution, lending money, fulfilling vows, and eating from your neighbours crops.

Psalm 60

This psalm is attributed to king David, those its explanation is a little confusing. It refers to David’s victories over other nations found in 2 Samuel 8:1-14, but the content of the psalm is focused on lamenting over lost battles.

It may be that David and his men faced initial losses against their enemies, they prayed the prayer of this psalm, and then God led them to ultimate victory.

The psalm fits into the category of corporate lament psalm, and as mentioned, was sung after losing a battle.

Psalm 60:1-3 - Complaint to God

Psalm 60:4-5 - Trust that God will make a way

Psalm 60:6-9 - God responds

Psalm 60:10-12 - Request and trust

The psalmist starts complaining that God has rejected them. The psalmist assumes that their loss has been brought about by God.

God is the one who broke their defences. Who shook the land and tore it open. God forced his people to see this difficulty and deal with it.

But despite that, the psalmist is also confident that God has made a way for those who still fear him. And so they request that God provide his people with salvation and answer them.

God responds. He starts by saying he will divide up Shechem and the Vale of Succoth. These are both place that Jacob/Israel visited as entered back into the land of Canaan (Genesis 33:17-19).

He then lists places in Israel from north to south. Gilead, Manasseh, Ephraim, and Judah all belong to him. In short, God is in control over his land.

God then turns to Israel’s enemies and discredits them. Moab, Edom, and Philistia will all submit to his authority. Who could defeat God and lead him to submit to these nations?

The psalm then turns back to the psalmist. They still call out to God. He has still rejected them, refusing to go out with their armies.

And so the psalmist leans into their request. Help us defeat our enemies because we can’t do it in our own strength. If God was to go with them, they would see victory and defeat their enemies.

In this lament psalm the lesson is clear, victory is found in God. To go without God will lead to defeat, but to go with God is to be victorious.

Anything you think I've missed? Maybe you've got a question that still needs answering. Send me a message over on my Instagram (@brynjoslin). I'd love to talk it through with you some more.

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