Deuteronomy xv.

Notes & Commentary:

Ver. 2. Down, tying him to a low pillar; (Menochius) (Grotius) though many assert, that the criminal was forced to lie prostrate on the ground, as the Jews still do, in Germany, when they undergo this punishment. (Buxtorf, Syn. 20.) The Jews do not commonly give above 39 strokes, and double the number is inflicted on the back, from what fall upon the breast.

Ver. 3. Eyes. Hebrew, “depart covered with confusion (or more vile) before thy eyes.” Hence the Jews do not consider this chastisement as ignominious. (Calmet)

Ver. 4. Not muzzle, &c. St. Paul understands this of the spiritual labourer in the church of God, who is not to be denied his maintenance, 1 Corinthians ix. 8, 9, 10. (Challoner) — Other labourers, and even beasts, must likewise be treated with humanity. It was formerly the custom in Egypt, Judea, Spain, &c., to have a clean spot in the field, round a tree, where during the heat of the day, they spread the sheaves, and made oxen continually go round, to tread out the corn. Some had the ill nature to muzzle them, or to cover their mouths with dung; (Æliian iv. 25,) whence arose the proverb, “an ox in a heap” of corn, to denote a miser, who amidst plenty will not eat. (Suidas.) — Moses condemns this cruelty; as it is not just, says Josephus, to refuse these animals so small a recompence for the assistance which they afford us in procuring corn. (Calmet) — Besides this literal sense, God had principally in view the mystical one, which St. Paul unfolds to us. (Menochius) — Paine hence takes occasion to ridicule priests, who, he says, “preach up Deuteronomy, for Deuteronomy preaches up tithes.” But this book enjoins them no more that other books of Scripture, and common reason dictates that the labourer is worthy of his hire. If the artizan, &c., will not work for nothing, why should priests spend their lives and fortunes, for the benefit of the people, without deriving any advantage from them? Who has served in the wars at his own charge at any time? (1 Corinthians ix. 7.) Whether the mode of paying tithes be the most eligible, for the support of God’s ministers, is a question of smaller importance. It may at least plead a very high antiquity, (Haydock) as it was in force 400 years before the law of Moses. Abraham paid tithes to Melchisedeck, who was both king and priest; and Pisistratus received tithes from the people of Athens, to be expended in the public sacrifices, and for the general good. (Laert. in Solone.; Watson, let. 2.)

Ver. 5. Together, as the sons of Juda did: (Genesis xxxviii. 8,) though custom (Calmet) and analogy extend this to other brothers, at least to those who live in the promised land, and have the inheritance in common, as appears from the history of Ruth, Ruth i. 13, &c. Noemi supposes that all the sons whom she might have had, would have been under the same obligation towards her daughter-in-law. The Rabbins restrain this law as much as they can, asserting that if the deceased left an adopted or natural child, the brother need not marry his widow, nor was any obliged but the next in age, and not married. St. Justin (q. 132,) teaches the reverse. (Calmet) — Half-brothers were included, (Menochius) and indeed every relation, in order, who, upon the refusal of the next heir, wished to take possession of the deceased person’s land, Ruth iv. (Haydock) — The Jews no longer observe this law, as they have not possession of Chanaan. (Cuneus i. 7.) — Fagius asserts that it was neglected after the captivity of Babylon, because the inheritances were confounded. (Calmet) — This, however, does not seem to have been the opinion of those who have undertaken to reconcile the genealogy of our Saviour, given by Sts. Matthew and Luke, by supposing that St. Joseph was the son of Jacob by birth, and of Heli according to the law. (St. Hilary) Africanus says, (Ep. to Aristides) that “Heli dying without issue, Jacob was obliged to marry his widow, by whom he had Joseph, a descendant of Solomon by Jacob, and of Nathan by Heli,” as their common mother, Esta, had married successively Mathan and Melchi, (or rather Mathat) who sprung from those two branches of David’s family. (Dupin) (Haydock) — The Athenians followed a similar regulation with respect to orphan young women, whom the next of kin were bound to marry and to endow. The Tartars assert their right to marry the widows of their brethren. The Egyptians did not consider the marriage as real, nor any relationship contracted, in case the woman had no issue, on which principle there was no impediment to prevent the brother from marrying the widow of his brother. On other occasions such contracts were declared illegal, Leviticus xviii. 16. (Calmet) — This was a positive law, (Worthington; Genesis xxxviii.) which admitted of an exception.

Ver. 6. Name. Josephus ([Antiquities?] iv. 8,) takes this literally, as St. Augustine once did, though afterwards he retracted that opinion, (B. ii. 12,) on considering that Booz called his son Obed, and not Mahalon, which was the name of the first husband of Ruth, Ruth iv. 17. (Calmet) — Houbigant thinks some omissions have taken place in the very short genealogy of David, mentioned in that chapter, and instead of Obed, he would substitute Jachin, as the first-born of Ruth. He thinks that Solomon alluded to two of his ancestors, when he styled the two pillars before the temple Jachin and Booz. “In strength it shall stand or establish,” 3 Kings vii. 21. Hebrew, “the first-born which she beareth shall arise (or succeed) in the name (or by the right and title) of his brother.” See Numbers xxiv. 3. (Haydock) — Name is sometimes put for succession, (Calmet) or instead of another. (Menochius)

Ver. 9. In his face, or presence, upon the ground, as appears from the Gemarra of Jerusalem, where we read this form: (Haydock) “In our presence, (the three judges are specified) N, widow of N, hath taken off the shoe of N, son of N. She brought him before us, and took off the shoe from his right foot, and spat in our presence, so that we saw her spittle upon the ground; and she said to him, So shall he be treated who will not establish the house of his brother.” Before this ceremony took place, the widow was obliged to wait three months, to prove that she was not in a state of pregnancy; for if she were, the brother could not marry her. He was never obliged to do it, but if he refused he was deemed infamous. The taking off the shoe was intended to humble him, as well as to shew that he relinquished all his claim to the inheritance. Josephus ([Antiquities?] v. 11,) says, that Ruth gave the relation who would not marry her, a slap on the face, or rather as it ought to be printed “she spat in his face,” which was a mark of the greatest ignominy, chap. xii. 14., Isaias l. 6., and Matthew xxvi. 67. (Calmet)

Ver. 10. Unshod. Those who have no consideration for their brethren, or for the commonwealth, deserve to be despised. Much more do they who are appointed pastors of the Church, if they do not zealously endeavour to increase the number of God’s servants, whom they must attach to him, and not to themselves. Thus the disciples of St. Paul were known by the general name of Christians. (St. Augustine, contra Faustus xxxii. 10.) (Worthington)

Ver. 12. In her regard: words supplied also by the Septuagint conformably to the context. (Calmet) — The indecency and impudence of the woman, left her no excuse; (Haydock) though the Rabbins falsely maintain, that she might transgress this law in case of necessity, and might cut off the hand of her husband’s antagonist. (Grotius) (Calmet) — She would thus put the man in danger of having no posterity. (Menochius) — If even the imminent danger of her husband would not authorize her to act in this manner, when the person was stripped to fight, how severely will God punish all wanton liberties!

Ver. 16. Injustice. Proverbs xx. 10. To have a greater weight for buying, and a less one for selling, is the way to grow rich here, or to obtain the mammon of iniquity; though, when such mean practices are detected, the man who cheats often loses more than he had gained; and at any rate, must either make restitution, if possible, or receive the wages of his unjust labour and craft in the world to come. (Haydock)

Ver. 17. Amalec. This order for destroying the Amalecites, in the mystical sense, sheweth how hateful they are to God, and what punishment they are to look for from his justice, who attack and discourage his servants when they are but just come out, as it were, of the Egypt of this wicked world, and being yet weak and faint-hearted, are but beginning their journey to the land of promise.

Ver. 18. God. This circumstance is not mentioned, Exodus xvii. 14.

Ver. 19. Heaven. Destroy him entirely, a sentence which Saul was ordered to put in execution, 1 Kings xv. (Haydock)

Bible Text & Cross-references:

Stripes must not exceed forty. The ox is not to be muzzled. Of raising seed to the brother. Of the immodest woman. Of unjust weight. Of destroying the Amalecites.

1 If *there be a controversy between men, and they call upon the judges: they shall give the prize of justice to him whom they perceive to be just: and him whom they find to be wicked, they shall condemn of wickedness.

2 And if they see that the offender be worthy of stripes: they shall lay him down, and shall cause him to be beaten before them. According to the measure of the sin shall the measure also of the stripes be:

3 Yet so, *that they exceed not the number of forty: lest thy brother depart shamefully torn before thy eyes.

4 *Thou shalt not muzzle the ox that treadeth out thy corn on the floor.

5 *When brethren dwell together, and one of them dieth without children, the wife of the deceased shall not marry to another: but his brother shall take her, and raise up seed for his brother:

6 And the first son he shall have of her, he shall call by his name, that his name be not abolished out of Israel.

7 But if he will not take his brother’s wife, who by law belongeth to him, the woman shall go to the gate of the city, and call upon the ancients, and say: *My husband’s brother refuseth to raise up his brother’s name in Israel: and will not take me to wife.

8 And they shall cause him to be sent for forthwith, and shall ask him. If he answer: I will not take her to wife:

9 The woman shall come to him before the ancients, and shall take off his shoe from his foot, and spit in his face, and say: So shall it be done to the man, that will not build up his brother’s house:

10 And his name shall be called in Israel, The house of the unshod.

11 If two men have words together, and one begin to fight against the other, and the other’s wife, willing to deliver her husband out of the hand of the stronger, shall put forth her hand, and take him by the secrets:

12 Thou shalt cut off her hand, neither shalt thou be moved with any pity in her regard.

13 Thou shalt not have divers weights in thy bag, a greater and a less:

14 Neither shall there be in thy house a greater bushel and a less:

15 Thou shalt have a just and a true weight, and thy bushel shall be equal and true: that thou mayst live a long time upon the land which the Lord thy God shall give thee.

16 For the Lord thy God abhorreth him that doth these things, and he hateth all injustice.

17 *Remember what Amalec did to thee in the way when thou camest out of Egypt:

18 How he met thee: and slew the hindmost of thy army, who sat down, being weary, when thou wast spent with hunger and labour, and he feared not God.

19 Therefore when the Lord thy God shall give thee rest, and shall have subdued all the nations round about in the land which he hath promised thee: thou shalt blot out his name from under heaven. See thou forget it not.



1: Year of the World 2553.

3: 2 Corinthians xi. 24.

4: 1 Corinthians ix. 9.; 1 Timothy v. 18.

5: Matthew xxii. 24.; Mark xii. 19.; Luke xx. 28.

7: Ruth iv. 5.

17: Exodus xvii. 8.