Notes & Commentary:
Ver. 1. Pass by. Hebrew, “hide thyself,” pretending not to see it. — Brother. Any fellow creature, Exodus xxiii. 4., and Luke x. 30. (Calmet) — “We are very inhuman, not to shew as much concern for a man, as the Jews do for a beast of burden.” (St. Chrysostom, ser. 13.) (Du Hamel)
Ver. 2. Not nigh, either in blood or in place, (Calmet) though the latter signification seems more applicable; as, if the person lived at too great a distance, it would suffice to inform him where he might find what he had lost; and, if the owner was unknown, the thing must be taken care of by him who finds it, till he be discovered. (Du Hamel)
Ver. 3. If, &c. Hebrew, “thou must not hide thyself,” so as to pass it by, nor yet conceal it from the right owner. When a thing is certainly abandoned by him, it belongs to the person who seizes it first; but if it be only lost, it must surely be restored, if possible, (Grotius, Jur. ii. 10,) as nature forbids us to take advantage of another’s misfortune. (Cicero) — The Rabbins have corrupted this law, like so many others, by their evil interpretations. They pretend that a Jew must restore what he has found belonging to another true believer, if it have certain marks by which it may be known, but not if it belonged to a prevaricator or infidel. In the former supposition, they got the thing cried on a high stone near Jerusalem four times, and if the owner did not then claim his property, the finder might keep it. (Selden, Jur. vi. 4.) — The inhabitants of Cumę condemned the next neighbour to restore what had been lost; as Hesiod (op. 348,) very well remarks, that things would not easily be lost, if the neighbours were not ill-disposed.
Ver. 4. With him. Hebrew, “thou shalt not hide thyself, but help him to lift up,” Exodus xxiii. 4.
Ver. 5. God. Some take this literally, as the contrary practice is contrary to decency, and might be attended with very pernicious consequences. All know what noise was occasioned by the action of Clodius, who put on women’s apparel, that he might be present with the Roman ladies at the feast of the good goddess. Yet others think that Moses here forbids some superstitious practice. St. Ambrose (ep. 69,) remarks, that in some of the mysteries of the idols, it was requisite for those present to change clothes in this manner, sacrum putatur. Lucian testifies, that men put on women’s clothes at the feasts of Bacchus. They did the like in those of Venus, while the women took men’s clothes in the festivals of Mars. (Jul. Hirmic. c. 4.) (Maimonides) — In the East, people honoured the moon, to which they attributed both sexes, and Venus in like manner. Josephus ([Antiquities,?] iv. 8,) believes that women are here prohibited to engage in warfare. Hebrew, “the vessels (armour) of man shall not be upon a woman.” Semiramis gained a great name by her martial exploits, and commanded all her subjects to dress like herself. (Justin., i) — The Amazons were likewise very famous in war, and it is said that half the army of Bacchus was composed of women. Alb. Gentil maintains that Moses here condemns an abominable crime, which he did not wish to mention, at which the Book of Wisdom hints, (chap. xiv. 26,) and which St. Paul condemns more explicitly, Romans i. 26. Moses had already denounced death against the perpetrators of it; and surely the manner in which he now speaks, seems to forbid something more than simply putting on the garments of the other sex, for he, &c. (Calmet) — Yet that disorderly conduct deserved to be reprobated in strong terms, (Haydock) when it was not excused by some necessity or proper motive, such as actuated some holy virgins, St. Theodora, &c. (Tirinus)
Ver. 6. Thou shalt not take, &c. This was to shew them to exercise a certain mercy even to irrational creatures; and by that means to train them up to a horror of cruelty; and to the exercise of humanity, and mutual charity one to another. (Challoner) — Some were of opinion that the person who could take the old bird on the nest, might assure himself of good fortune, fecundity, &c. (St. Thomas Aquinas, i. 2, q. 102, a. 6.) Such superstition is reprehensible. Phocilides advises not to take all the young ones, nor the hen, in consideration of one’s having more birds. (Calmet)
Ver. 7. Time. Those who refrain from cruelty, even towards beasts, will be induced more easily to shew mercy to their fellow creatures, (Tertullian, contra Marc. ii.) and will draw down the blessings of God upon themselves. (Menochius)
Ver. 8. Battlement. This precaution was necessary, because all their houses had flat tops; and it was usual to walk and to converse together upon them. (Challoner) — King Ochozias had the misfortune to fall from the top of his house, (4 Kings i. 2,) and David saw Bethsabee when he was walking on the roof of his palace, 2 Kings xi. 2. Saul slept at the top of Samuel’s house, 1 Kings ix. 25. See Josue ii. 6., and Matthew x. 27. (Haydock)
Ver. 9. Together. If wheat was sown in a vineyard, it would ripen much sooner than the grapes; and as the first-fruits of both were offered to the Lord, the owner would lose the profit which he had too greedily sought after, the place being esteemed both pure and impure at the same time. This mixture of seeds would also impoverish the land, so that it would be like a place defiled, and unfit for cultivation. (Jansenius in Leviticus xix. 19.) Maimonides supposes that the practice of the Zabians is here reprobated. They sowed the land with corn and dry grapes, in honour of Ceres and Bacchus, (More. Nev. p. 3. c. 37,) who presided over the harvest and vintage among the pagans. (Wm. of Paris. Leg. 13.) — Moses might also, by this symbolical language, condemn unnatural connexions, as he perhaps does, ver. 10.
Ver. 10. Plough. In Leviticus xix. 19, this law is expressed, so as to forbid the procreation of mongrels. See Judges xiv. 18. People who have treated on agriculture observe, that it is a pernicious practice to make animals of unequal size and speed work together. (Colum. vi. 2.) — St. Paul explains to us the mystical sense of this passage. Bear not the yoke together with infidels, 2 Corinthians vi. 14. (Calmet) — Marry not with such. (Haydock) — Employ not in the sacred ministry the imprudent and wicked with those of a virtuous disposition. (St. Gregory, Mor. i. 16.)
Ver. 11. Together. This is now lawful. But a virgin consecrated to God, must not dress like a married woman: the different states of life must not be confounded. (St. Augustine, contra Faustus vi. 9.) (Du Hamel)
Ver. 12. Strings, probably to gird the outer garment round the loins. See Numbers xv. 38.
Ver. 14. Name. Hebrew, “and occasion reports against her to bring an evil name upon her,” (Haydock) that he may not have to return her dowry. For, according to many of the Rabbins, he might give her a bill of divorce, simply if he did not like her. (Selden, Uxor. iii. 1, &c.) — They allow the proof here specified, only with respect to a Hebrew woman between twelve and twelve and a half years old, during the period of her being espoused, but not taken home by her husband. The cause was to be tried before the 23 judges. Oftentimes only witnesses, probably matrons, were examined in defence of the woman. (Josephus, [Antiquities?] iv. 8.) St. Ambrose (ep. 8. 64. ad Syagr.) highly disapproves of such unsatisfactory methods. The marks assigned by the law were commonly observed in Syria, Persia, &c. The Arab physicians speak of them. See Valesius, c. xxv. The age in which women were then married, the climate, &c., caused these indications to be more clear, and deposed for or against the fidelity of the bride. The mother had them entrusted to her care by the friends of the husband, who had kept watch at the door on the wedding night. (M.[Menochius;?] Nachman, ap. Fagium.)
Ver. 15. Her. It does not appear that the woman was present at the trial: she remained at her father’s, or rather at her husband’s house, till sentence was passed. (Calmet) — Hebrew, “then shall the father of the damsel and her mother take and produce the damsel’s virginity,” or the tokens of it.
Ver. 18. Beat him. Hebrew, “chastise.” Septuagint may signify also, “reprimand him.” But (Haydock) Josephus says the husband was to receive 39 lashes; and Philo informs us that the woman might leave him, if she thought proper, though, if she were willing to stay, he had not the power to divorce her, ver. 19.
Ver. 19. A hundred. Josephus only mentions 50. As it was presumed that the false accusation proceeded from a desire to defraud the woman of her dowry, the law obliged the husband to allow her double (Calmet) the usual sum. Yet this punishment, together with the scourging, was very inadequate to what the woman would have had to suffer if she had been condemned. (Haydock) — St. Augustine (q. 33,) is surprised at this decision, as in other cases calumny was subjected to the law of retaliation, or punished with death. This shews also that wives, among the Jews, were considered as little more than servants. (Calmet)
Ver. 21. Die. It was concluded that she had committed the sin after her espousal. If it had happened before, she was to receive only 25 sicles for a dowry; though, if she took an oath that violence had been offered to her, she was entitled to 50: which opinion of the Rabbins seems very equitable. Ęschines (in Timarch.) relates, that a man at Athens punished the transgression of which his daughter had been guilty, while she was at home, by shutting her up with a horse, in order that she might be torn in pieces by the famished animal. (Calmet)
Ver. 22. Die. The man was to be strangled as well as the married woman; if she were espoused only, she was to be stoned. The daughter of a priest was burnt alive. (Rabbins) (Calmet) See Leviticus xx. 10.
Ver. 24. Wife. After the woman was espoused, (ver. 23,) she was called a wife, and punished accordingly, if she proved unfaithful.
Ver. 25. Hold. Septuagint, “offering violence,” as also [in] ver. 28. (Haydock) — Die. Moses supposes that the woman in the field had made all possible resistance, and that the one in the city had, by silence at least, consented. But if the case were otherwise, the judges were to make all necessary enquiries, and pass sentence accordingly. (Calmet)
Ver. 29. Life. A law nearly similar occurs, Exodus xxii. 16, (Haydock) only there Moses speaks of seduction. (Menochius) — If the father or the woman refused their consent to the marriage, the person had only to pay 50 sicles; which the woman received, if her father was not alive. But if they consented, the person who had been condemned by the judge, was bound to marry the woman, how deformed soever. (Selden, Uxor. i. 16.) (Calmet)
Ver. 30. Covering. See Leviticus xx. 11. A wife should be hidden from all but her husband. (Haydock)
Bible Text & Cross-references:
Humanity towards neighbours. Neither sex may use the apparel of the other. Cruelty to be avoided, even to birds. Battlements about the roof of a house. Things of divers kinds not to be mixed. The punishment of him the slandereth his wife, as also of adultery and rape.
1 Thou *shalt not pass by if thou seest thy brother’s ox, or his sheep go astray: but thou shalt bring them back to thy brother.
2 And if thy brother be not nigh, or thou know him not: thou shalt bring them to thy house, and they shall be with thee until thy brother seek them, and receive them.
3 Thou shalt do in like manner with his ass, and with his raiment, and with every thing that is thy brother’s, which is lost: if thou find it, neglect it not as pertaining to another.
4 If thou see thy brother’s ass or his ox to be fallen down in the way, thou shalt not slight it, but shalt lift it up with him.
5 A woman shall not be clothed with man’s apparel, neither shall a man use woman’s apparel: for he that doth these things is abominable before God.
6 If thou find, as thou walkest by the way, a bird’s nest in a tree, or on the ground, and the dam sitting upon the young, or upon the eggs: thou shalt not take her with her young:
7 But shalt let her go, keeping the young which thou hast caught: that it may be well with thee, and thou mayst live a long time.
8 When thou buildest a new house, thou shalt make a battlement to the roof round about: lest blood be shed in thy house, and thou be guilty, if any one slip and fall down headlong.
9 Thou shalt not sow thy vineyard with divers seeds: lest both the seed which thou hast sown, and the fruit of the vineyard, be sanctified together.
10 Thou shalt not plough with an ox and an ass together.
11 Thou shalt not wear a garment, that is woven of woollen and linen together.
12 *Thou shalt make strings in the hem at the four corners of thy cloak, wherewith thou shalt be covered.
13 If a man marry a wife, and afterwards hate her,
14 And seek occasions to put her away, laying to her charge a very ill name, and say: I took this woman to wife, and going in to her, I found her not a virgin:
15 Her father and mother shall take her, and shall bring with them the tokens of her virginity to the ancients of the city that are in the gate:
16 And the father shall say: I gave my daughter unto this man to wife: and because he hateth her,
17 He layeth to her charge a very ill name, so as to say: I found not thy daughter a virgin: and behold these are the tokens of my daughter’s virginity. And they shall spread the cloth before the ancients of the city:
18 And the ancients of that city shall take that man, and beat him,
19 Condemning him besides in a hundred sicles of silver, which he shall give to the damsel’s father, because he hath defamed by a very ill name a virgin of Israel: and he shall have her to wife, and may not put her away all the days of his life.
20 But if what he chargeth her with be true, and virginity be not found in the damsel:
21 They shall cast her out of the doors of her father’s house, and the men of the city shall stone her to death, and she shall die: because she hath done a wicked thing in Israel, to play the whore in her father’s house: and thou shalt take away the evil out of the midst of thee.
22 *If a man lie with another man’s wife, they shall both die, that is to say, the adulterer and the adulteress: and thou shalt take away the evil out of Israel.
23 If a man have espoused a damsel that is a virgin, and some one find her in the city, and lie with her,
24 Thou shalt bring them both out to the gate of that city, and they shall be stoned: the damsel, because she cried not out, being in the city: the man, because he hath humbled his neighbour’s wife. And thou shalt take away the evil from the midst of thee.
25 But if a man find a damsel that is betrothed, in the field, and taking hold of her, lie with her, he alone shall die:
26 The damsel shall suffer nothing, neither is she guilty of death: for as a robber riseth against his brother, and taketh away his life, so also did the damsel suffer:
27 She was alone in the field: she cried, and there was no man to help her.
28 If a man find a damsel that is a virgin, who is not espoused, and taking her, lie with her, and the matter come to judgment,
29 *He that lay with her, shall give to the father of the maid, fifty sicles of silver, and shall have her to wife, because he hath humbled her: he may not put her away all the days of his life.
30 No man shall take his father’s wife, nor remove his covering.
1: Year of the World 2553.; Exodus xxiv. 4.
12: Numbers xv. 38.
22: Leviticus xx. 10.
29: Exodus xxii. 16.