The laws of this chapter provide,
I. For the preservation of charity and good neighbourship, in the care
of strayed or fallen cattle,
II. For the preservation of order and distinction, that men and women
should not wear one another's clothes
and that other needless mixtures should be avoided,
III. For the preservation of birds,
IV. Of life,
V. Of the commandments,
VI. Of the reputation of a wife abused, if she were innocent
but for her punishment if guilty,
VII. For the preservation of the chastity of wives,
or not betrothed,
And, lastly, against incest,
|Kindness and Humanity.
||B. C. 1451.|
1 Thou shalt not see thy brother's ox or his sheep go astray,
and hide thyself from them: thou shalt in any case bring them
again unto thy brother.
2 And if thy brother be not nigh unto thee, or if thou know
him not, then thou shalt bring it unto thine own house, and it
shall be with thee until thy brother seek after it, and thou
shalt restore it to him again.
3 In like manner shalt thou do with his ass; and so shalt thou
do with his raiment; and with all lost thing of thy brother's,
which he hath lost, and thou hast found, shalt thou do likewise:
thou mayest not hide thyself.
4 Thou shalt not see thy brother's ass or his ox fall down by
the way, and hide thyself from them: thou shalt surely help him
to lift them up again.
The kindness that was commanded to be shown in reference to an enemy
&c.) is here required to be much more done for a neighbour,
though he were not an Israelite, for the law is consonant to natural
1. That strayed cattle should be brought back, either to the owner or
to the pasture out of which they had gone astray,
This must be done in pity to the very cattle, which, while they
wandered, were exposed; and in civility and respect to the owner, nay,
and in justice to him, for it was doing as we would be done by, which
is one of the fundamental laws of equity. Note, Religion teaches us to
be neighbourly, and to be ready to do all good offices, as we have
opportunity, to all men. In doing this,
(1.) They must not mind trouble, but, if they knew who the owner was,
must take it back themselves; for, if they should only send notice to
the owner to come and look after it himself, some mischief might befal
it ere he could reach it.
(2.) They must not mind expense, but, if they knew not who the owner
was, must take it home and feed it till the owner was found. If such
care must be taken of a neighbour's ox or ass going astray, much more
of himself going astray from God and his duty; we should do our utmost
to convert him
and restore him, considering ourselves,
2. That lost goods should be brought to the owner,
The Jews say, "He that found the lost goods was to give public notice
of them by the common crier three or four times," according to the
usage with us; if the owner could not be found, he that found the goods
might convert them to his own use; but (say some learned writers in
this case) he would do very well to give the value of the goods to the
3. That cattle in distress should be helped,
This must be done both in compassion to the brute-creatures (for a
merciful man regardeth the life of a beast, though it be not his
own) and in love and friendship to our neighbour, not knowing how soon
we may have occasion for his help. If one member may say to another, "I
have at present no need of thee," it cannot say, "I never shall."
||B. C. 1451.|
5 The woman shall not wear that which pertaineth unto a man,
neither shall a man put on a woman's garment: for all that do so
are abomination unto the LORD thy God.
6 If a bird's nest chance to be before thee in the way in any
tree, or on the ground, whether they be young ones, or eggs,
and the dam sitting upon the young, or upon the eggs, thou shalt
not take the dam with the young:
7 But thou shalt in any wise let the dam go, and take the
young to thee; that it may be well with thee, and that thou
mayest prolong thy days.
8 When thou buildest a new house, then thou shalt make a
battlement for thy roof, that thou bring not blood upon thine
house, if any man fall from thence.
9 Thou shalt not sow thy vineyard with divers seeds: lest the
fruit of thy seed which thou hast sown, and the fruit of thy
vineyard, be defiled.
10 Thou shalt not plow with an ox and an ass together.
11 Thou shalt not wear a garment of divers sorts, as of
woollen and linen together.
12 Thou shalt make thee fringes upon the four quarters of thy
vesture, wherewith thou coverest thyself.
Here are several laws in these verses which seem to stoop very low, and
to take cognizance of things mean and minute. Men's laws commonly do
not so: De minimis non curat lex--The law takes no cognizance of
little things; but because God's providence extends itself to the
smallest affairs, his precepts do so, that even in them we may be in
the fear of the Lord, as we are under his eye and care. And yet the
significancy and tendency of these statutes, which seem little, are
such that, notwithstanding their minuteness, being fond among the
things of God's law, which he has written to us, they are to be
accounted great things.
I. The distinction of sexes by the apparel is to be kept up, for the
preservation of our own and our neighbour's chastity,
Nature itself teaches that a difference be made between them in
(1 Corinthians 11:14),
and by the same rule in their clothes, which therefore ought not to be
confounded, either in ordinary wear or occasionally. To befriend a
lawful escape or concealment it may be done, but whether for sport or
in the acting of plays is justly questionable.
1. Some think it refers to the idolatrous custom of the Gentiles: in
the worship of Venus, women appeared in armour, and men in women's
clothes; this, as other such superstitious usages, is here said to be
an abomination to the Lord.
2. It forbids the confounding of the dispositions and affairs of the
sexes: men must not be effeminate, nor do the women's work in the
house, nor must women be viragos, pretend to teach, or usurp
1 Timothy 2:11,12.
Probably this confounding of garments had been used to gain opportunity
of committing uncleanness, and is therefore forbidden; for those that
would be kept from sin must keep themselves from all occasions of it
and approaches to it.
II. In taking a bird's-nest, the dam must be let go,
The Jews say, "This is the least of all the commandments of the law of
Moses," and yet the same promise is here made to the observance of it
that is made to the keeping of the fifth commandment, which is one of
the greatest, that it may be well with thee, and that thou mayest
prolong thy days; for, as disobedience in a small matter shows a
very great contempt of the law, so obedience in a small matter shows a
very great regard to it. He that let go a bird out of his hand (which
was worth two in the bush) purely because God bade him, in that made it
to appear that he esteemed all God's precepts concerning all things
to be right, and that he could deny himself rather than sin against
God. But doth God take care for birds?
1 Corinthians 9:9.
Yes, certainly; and perhaps to this law our Saviour alludes.
Are not five sparrows sold for two farthings, and not one of them is
forgotten before God? This law,
1. Forbids us to be cruel to the brute-creatures, or to take a pleasure
in destroying them. Though God has made us wiser than the fowls of
heaven, and given us dominion over them, yet we must not
abuse them nor rule them with rigour. Let go the dam to breed
again; destroy it not, for a blessing is in it,
2. It teaches us compassion to those of our own kind, and to abhor the
thought of every thing that looks barbarous, and cruel, and
ill-natured, especially towards those of the weaker and tender sex,
which always ought to be treated with the utmost respect, in
consideration of the sorrows wherein they bring forth children. It is
spoken of as an instance of the most inhuman cruelty that the mother
was dashed to pieces upon her children
and that the women with child were ripped open,
3. It further intimates that we must not take advantage against any,
from their natural affection and the tenderness of their disposition,
to do them an injury. The dam could not have been taken if her concern
for her eggs or young (unlike to the ostrich) had not detained her upon
the next when otherwise she could easily have secured herself by
flight. Now, since it is a thousand pities that she should fare the
worse for that which is her praise, the law takes care that she shall
be let go. The remembrance of this may perhaps, some time or other,
keep us from doing a hard or unkind thing to those whom we have at our
III. In building a house, care must be taken to make it safe, that none
might receive mischief by falling from it,
The roofs of their houses were flat for people to walk on, as appears
by many scriptures; now lest any, through carelessness, should fall off
them, they must compass them with battlements, which (the Jews say)
must be three feet and a half high; if this were not done, and mischief
followed, the owner, by his neglect, brought the guilt of blood upon
his house. See here,
1. How precious men's lives are to God, who protects them, not only by
his providence, but by his law.
2. How precious, therefore, they ought to be to us, and what care we
should take to prevent hurt from coming to any person. The Jews say
that by the equity of this law they were obliged (and so are we too) to
fence, or remove, every thing by which life may be endangered, as to
cover draw-wells, keep bridges in repair, and the like, lest, if any
perish through our omission, their blood be required at our hand.
IV. Odd mixtures are here forbidden,
Much of this we met with before,
There appears not any thing at all of moral evil in these things, and
therefore we now make no conscience of sowing wheat and rye together,
ploughing with horses and oxen together, and of wearing linsey-woolsey
garments; but hereby is forbidden either,
1. A conformity to some idolatrous customs of the heathen. Or,
2. That which is contrary to the plainness and purity of an Israelite.
They must not gratify their own vanity and curiosity by putting those
things together which the Creator in infinite wisdom had made asunder:
they must not be unequally yoked with unbelievers, nor mingle
themselves with the unclean, as an ox with an ass. Nor must their
profession and appearance in the world be motley, or party-coloured,
but all of a piece, all of a kind.
V. The law concerning fringes upon their garments, and memorandums of
the commandments, which we had before
is here repeated,
By these they were distinguished from other people, so that it might be
said, upon the first sight, There goes an Israelite, which taught them
not to be ashamed of their country, nor the peculiarities of their
religion, how much soever their neighbours looked upon them and it with
contempt: and they were also put in mind of the precepts upon the
particular occasions to which they had reference; and perhaps this law
is repeated here because the precepts immediately foregoing seemed so
minute that they were in danger of being overlooked and forgotten. The
fringes will remind you not to make your garments of linen and woollen,
|The Punishment of Fornication.
||B. C. 1451.|
13 If any man take a wife, and go in unto her, and hate her,
14 And give occasions of speech against her, and bring up an
evil name upon her, and say, I took this woman, and when I came
to her, I found her not a maid:
15 Then shall the father of the damsel, and her mother, take
and bring forth the tokens of the damsel's virginity unto the
elders of the city in the gate:
16 And the damsel's father shall say unto the elders, I gave my
daughter unto this man to wife, and he hateth her;
17 And, lo, he hath given occasions of speech against her,
saying, I found not thy daughter a maid; and yet these are the
tokens of my daughter's virginity. And they shall spread the
cloth before the elders of the city.
18 And the elders of that city shall take that man and chastise
19 And they shall amerce him in a hundred shekels of silver,
and give them unto the father of the damsel, because he hath
brought up an evil name upon a virgin of Israel: and she shall be
his wife; he may not put her away all his days.
20 But if this thing be true, and the tokens of virginity be
not found for the damsel:
21 Then they shall bring out the damsel to the door of her
father's house, and the men of her city shall stone her with
stones that she die: because she hath wrought folly in Israel, to
play the whore in her father's house: so shalt thou put evil away
from among you.
22 If a man be found lying with a woman married to a husband,
then they shall both of them die, both the man that lay with
the woman, and the woman: so shalt thou put away evil from
23 If a damsel that is a virgin be betrothed unto a husband,
and a man find her in the city, and lie with her;
24 Then ye shall bring them both out unto the gate of that
city, and ye shall stone them with stones that they die; the
damsel, because she cried not, being in the city; and the man,
because he hath humbled his neighbour's wife: so thou shalt put
away evil from among you.
25 But if a man find a betrothed damsel in the field, and the
man force her, and lie with her: then the man only that lay with
her shall die:
26 But unto the damsel thou shalt do nothing; there is in the
damsel no sin worthy of death: for as when a man riseth against
his neighbour, and slayeth him, even so is this matter:
27 For he found her in the field, and the betrothed damsel
cried, and there was none to save her.
28 If a man find a damsel that is a virgin, which is not
betrothed, and lay hold on her, and lie with her, and they be
29 Then the man that lay with her shall give unto the damsel's
father fifty shekels of silver, and she shall be his wife;
because he hath humbled her, he may not put her away all his
30 A man shall not take his father's wife, nor discover his
These laws relate to the seventh commandment, laying a restraint by
laying a penalty upon those fleshly lusts which war against the
I. If a man, lusting after another woman, to get rid of his wife
slander her and falsely accuse her, as not having the virginity she
pretended to when he married her, upon the disproof of his slander he
must be punished,
What the meaning of that evidence is by which the husband's accusation
was to be proved false the learned are not agreed, nor is it at all
necessary to enquire--those for whom this law was intended, no doubt,
understood it: it is sufficient for us to know that this wicked
husband, who had thus endeavoured to ruin the reputation of his own
wife, was to be scourged, and fined, and bound out from ever divorcing
the wife he had thus abused,
Upon his dislike of her he might have divorced her if he had pleased,
by the permission of the law
but then he must have given her her dowry: if therefore to save that,
and to do her the greater mischief, he would thus destroy her good
name, it was fit that he should be severely punished for it, and for
ever after forfeit the permission to divorce her. Observe,
1. The nearer any are in relation to us the greater sin it is to belie
them and blemish their reputation. It is spoken of as a crime of the
highest nature to slander thy own mother's son
who is next to thyself, much more to slander thy own wife, or thy own
husband, that is thyself: it is an ill bird indeed that defiles its own
2. Chastity is honour as well as virtue, and that which gives occasion
for the suspicion of it is as great a reproach and disgrace as any
whatsoever: in this matter therefore, above any thing, we should be
highly tender both of our own good name and that of others.
3. Parents must look upon themselves as concerned to vindicate the
reputation of their children, for it is a branch of their own.
II. If the woman that was married as a virgin was not found to be one
she was to be stoned to death at her father's door,
If the uncleanness had been committed before she was betrothed it would
not have been punished as a capital crime; but she must die for the
abuse she put upon him whom she married, being conscious to herself of
being defiled, while she made him believe her to be a chaste and modest
woman. But some think that her uncleanness was punished with death only
in case it was committed after she was betrothed, supposing there were
few come to maturity but what were betrothed, though not yet married.
1. This gave a powerful caution to young women to flee fornication,
since, however concealed before, so as not to mar their marriage, it
would very likely be discovered afterwards, to their perpetual infamy
and utter ruin.
2. It is intimated to parents that they must by all means possible
preserve their children's chastity, by giving them good advice and
admonition, setting them good examples, keeping them from bad company,
praying for them, and laying them under needful restraints, because, if
the children committed lewdness, the parents must have the grief and
shame of the execution at their own door. That phrase of folly
wrought in Israel was used concerning this very crime in the case
All sin is folly, uncleanness especially; but, above all, uncleanness
in Israel, by profession a holy people.
III. If any man, single or married, lay with a married woman, they were
both to be put to death,
This law we had before,
For a married man to lie with a single woman was not a crime of so high
a nature, nor was it punished with death, because not introducing a
spurious brood into families under the character of legitimate
IV. If a damsel were betrothed and not married, she was from under the
eye of her intended husband, and therefore she and her chastity were
taken under the special protection of the law.
1. If her chastity were violated by her own consent, she was to be put
to death, and her adulterer with her,
And it shall be presumed that she consented if it were done in the
city, or in any place where, had she cried out, help might speedily
have come in to prevent the injury offered her. Qui tacet,
consentire videtur--Silence implies consent. Note, It may be
presumed that those willingly yield to a temptation (whatever they
pretend) who will not use the means and helps they might be furnished
with to avoid and overcome it. Nay, her being found in the city, a
place of company and diversion, when she should have kept under the
protection of her father's house, was an evidence against her that she
had not that dread of the sin and the danger of it which became a
modest woman. Note, Those that needlessly expose themselves to
temptation justly suffer for the same, if, ere they are aware, they be
surprised and caught by it. Dinah lost her honour to gratify her
curiosity with a sight of the daughters of the land. By this law
the Virgin Mary was in danger of being made a public example, that is,
of being stoned to death, but that God, by an angel, cleared the matter
2. If she were forced, and never consented, he that committed the rape
was to be put to death, but the damsel was to be acquitted,
Now if it were done in the field, out of the hearing of neighbours, it
shall be presumed that she cried out, but there was none to save her;
and, besides, her going into the field, a place of solitude, did not so
much expose her. Now by this law it is intimated to us,
(1.) That we shall suffer only for the wickedness we do, not for that
which is done to us. That is no sin which has not more or less of the
will in it.
(2.) That we must presume the best concerning all persons, unless the
contrary do appear; not only charity, but equity teaches us to do so.
Though none heard her cry, yet, because none could hear it if she did,
it shall be taken for granted that she did. This rule we should go by
in judging of persons and actions: believe all things, and hope all
(3.) That our chastity should be as dear to us as our life when that is
assaulted, it is not at all improper to cry murder, murder, for,
as when a man riseth against his neighbour and slayeth him, even so
is this matter.
(4.) By way of allusion to this, see what we are to do when Satan sets
upon us with his temptations: wherever we are, let us cry aloud to
heaven for help (Succurre, Domine, vim patior--Help me, O Lord, for
I suffer violence), and there we may be sure to be heard, and
answered, as Paul was, My grace is sufficient for thee.
V. If a damsel not betrothed were thus abused by violence, he that
abused her should be fined, the father should have the fine, and, if he
and the damsel did consent, he should be bound to marry her, and never
to divorce her, how much soever she was below him, and how unpleasing
soever she might afterwards be to him, as Tamar was to Amnon after he
had forced her,
This was to deter men from such vicious practices, which it is a shame
that we are necessitated to read and write of.
VI. The law against a man's marrying his father's widow, or having any
undue familiarity with his father's wife, is here repeated
And, probably, it is intended (as bishop Patrick notes) for a short
memorandum to them carefully to observe all the laws there made against
incestuous marriages, that being specified which is the most detestable
of all; it is that of which the apostle says, It is not so much as
named among the Gentiles,
1 Corinthians 5:1.