Sunday, 3 June 2018
The Bible: A Very Grim Fairytale: Deuteronomy: Chapter 25: Husbands and Brothers
God is obsessed with details, or at least the people who wrote all of the rules in Deuteronomy purporting to be handed down by God were. And some of the details they were obsessed with were seriously weird. Anyone reading this should really hope that they were written by flawed and slightly odd humans. Because if this was God, then he's not very divine at all.
This chapter is especially abstruse even by the standards of the Old Testament. We can only assume that they were based on real cases that were then transplanted into the laws.
Firstly though we are told that the law and disputes were to be handled by judges. Anyone found guilty of various offences might for instance be punished with up to 40 lashes. That was the maximum.
God then let it be known that oxen must not be prevented from eating while they were out working in the fields. Details, you see. Details.
If a man married a woman, said God, but he then died without his wife giving birth then she had the right then to marry his brother. With typical delicacy the Bible then tells us that this brother should go into her and get her pregnant and that the resultant child would be considered to be the child of the dead brother. This was to carry on his name.
And if you think that all sounds a bit creepy and strange, wait for the next part. The brother was entitled to say no to this arrangement but if he did she was entitled to take him before the town's elders and, if he persisted in his refusal, she could take off one of his shoes and spit in his face. And he would be known throughout the land as the man who had lost his shoe and would not do his duty by his dead brother.
Not that women had it all their own way of course. If two men fought and a woman got involved in the fight alongside her husband she had to take care not to hit a man in his privates, or his 'secrets' as described here. If she did this, once the man had stopped talking in a high voice he could have the woman's hand that had touched his 'secrets' cut off. It's not mentioned what would happen if he had secretly enjoyed having them touched.
The people were told that they had to be honest in their dealings with one another and were not to give false weights of commodities like grain and so on.
Finally God told them once again how much they had to hate the Amalekites. These were the eternal enemies of the Israelites and they therefore invoked their God in their cause too. He obligingly told them that they must wage war on these heathens who had treated them so badly in the past. Clearly this is not a God who cares too much about turning the other cheek and forgiveness.