If there be a controversy between men, and they come unto judgment, that the judges may judge them; then they shall justify the righteous, and condemn the wicked.Deuteronomy 25:1. If there be a controversy between men — Having made provision for the security of private right in some such remarkable cases as might be sufficient standards whereby to regulate all others, and having fixed punishments to the breach of the most capital laws, Moses now comes to such criminal matters as deserved only corporal penalties, and directs the inferior courts to be just and impartial in their proceedings upon all such complaints. They shall justify the righteous — Acquit him from guilt and false accusations, and free him from punishment. Condemn the wicked — Declare him guilty, and pass sentence of condemnation upon him to suitable punishment.
And it shall be, if the wicked man be worthy to be beaten, that the judge shall cause him to lie down, and to be beaten before his face, according to his fault, by a certain number.Deuteronomy 25:2. Worthy to be beaten — Which the Jews say was the case of all those who had committed crimes which the law commands to be punished, without expressing the kind or degree of punishment. Before his face — That the punishment might be duly inflicted, without excess or defect. And from this no person’s rank or quality exempted him, if he were a delinquent.
Forty stripes he may give him, and not exceed: lest, if he should exceed, and beat him above these with many stripes, then thy brother should seem vile unto thee.Deuteronomy 25:3. Forty stripes he may give him — The law of Moses very wisely limited the number of stripes, lest severe judges should order delinquents to be lashed to death, as was often done among the Romans, than which, perhaps, a more cruel kind of death can hardly be devised. And it seems not to have been superstition, but prudent caution, in the Jews, when they would not exceed thirty-nine stripes, lest, through mistake or forgetfulness, they should go beyond the bounds which they were commanded to keep. Thy brother should seem vile — Lest the judges, by exceeding the bounds of humanity, and that compassion which was due to a brother, a partaker of human nature in common with themselves, and one of the same nation and community, civil and religious, should be accustomed to think despicably of their poor brethren, and set their lives at naught. Or lest he should be made contemptible to his brethren, either by this cruel usage of him, as if he were a brute beast; or by some deformity or infirmity of body, which excessive beating might produce.
Thou shalt not muzzle the ox when he treadeth out the corn.Deuteronomy 25:4. When he treadeth out the corn — Which they did in those parts, either immediately by their hoofs, or by drawing carts or other instruments over the corn. Hereby God taught them humanity, even to their beasts that served them, and much more to their servants, or other men who laboured for them, especially to their ministers, 1 Corinthians 9:9.
If brethren dwell together, and one of them die, and have no child, the wife of the dead shall not marry without unto a stranger: her husband's brother shall go in unto her, and take her to him to wife, and perform the duty of an husband's brother unto her.Deuteronomy 25:5-6. If brethren dwell together — In the same town, or, at least, country. For if the next brother had removed his habitation into remote parts, or were carried thither into captivity, then the wife of the dead had her liberty to marry the next kinsman that lived in the same place with her. One — Any of them, for the words are general, and the reason of the law was to keep up the distinction of tribes and families, that so the Messiah might be discovered by the family from which he was appointed to proceed; and also of inheritances, which were divided among all the brethren, the firstborn having only a double portion. A stranger — To one of another family. That his name be not put out — That a family be not lost. So this was a provision that the number of their families might not be diminished.
And it shall be, that the firstborn which she beareth shall succeed in the name of his brother which is dead, that his name be not put out of Israel.
And if the man like not to take his brother's wife, then let his brother's wife go up to the gate unto the elders, and say, My husband's brother refuseth to raise up unto his brother a name in Israel, he will not perform the duty of my husband's brother.
Then the elders of his city shall call him, and speak unto him: and if he stand to it, and say, I like not to take her;
Then shall his brother's wife come unto him in the presence of the elders, and loose his shoe from off his foot, and spit in his face, and shall answer and say, So shall it be done unto that man that will not build up his brother's house.Deuteronomy 25:9-10. Loose his shoe — As a sign of his resignation of all his right to the woman, and to her husband’s inheritance; for as the shoe was a sign of one’s power and right, (Psalm 60:8; Psalm 108:9,) so the parting with the shoe was a token of the alienation of such right; and as a note of infamy, to signify that by this disingenuous action he was unworthy to be among free men, and fit to be reduced to the condition of the meanest servants, who used to go barefoot, Isaiah 20:2; Isaiah 20:4. His name — That is, his person, and his posterity also. So it was a lasting blot.
And his name shall be called in Israel, The house of him that hath his shoe loosed.
When men strive together one with another, and the wife of the one draweth near for to deliver her husband out of the hand of him that smiteth him, and putteth forth her hand, and taketh him by the secrets:
Then thou shalt cut off her hand, thine eye shall not pity her.
Thou shalt not have in thy bag divers weights, a great and a small.Deuteronomy 25:13. Divers weights, great and small — The great to buy with, the small for selling. This law taught them to be so far from practising deceit, that they were not even to have the instruments of it by them. Would to God that there was no need to enforce the same law in our days!
Thou shalt not have in thine house divers measures, a great and a small.
But thou shalt have a perfect and just weight, a perfect and just measure shalt thou have: that thy days may be lengthened in the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee.
For all that do such things, and all that do unrighteously, are an abomination unto the LORD thy God.
Remember what Amalek did unto thee by the way, when ye were come forth out of Egypt;Deuteronomy 25:17-18. Out of Egypt — Which circumstance greatly aggravated their sin, that they should do thus to a people who had been long exercised with sore afflictions, to whom pity was due by the laws of nature and humanity, and for whose rescue God had in so glorious a manner appeared, which they could not be ignorant of. And he feared not God — Though they feared Israel, whom they durst not look in the face, but cut them off behind, yet they feared not God, but acted a base and inhuman part, in contempt of the divine authority, and of all the miraculous interpositions of the divine providence in behalf of that chosen nation. So that while their conduct was barbarous to Israel, they set the great Jehovah at defiance.
How he met thee by the way, and smote the hindmost of thee, even all that were feeble behind thee, when thou wast faint and weary; and he feared not God.
Therefore it shall be, when the LORD thy God hath given thee rest from all thine enemies round about, in the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee for an inheritance to possess it, that thou shalt blot out the remembrance of Amalek from under heaven; thou shalt not forget it.