Matthew Poole's Commentary
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.Judges must do justly, Deu 25:1,2. Stripes not to exceed forty, Deu 25:3. The threshing ox not to be muzzled, Deu 25:4. The duty of raising seed unto a brother, Deu 25:5-10. The punishment of an immodest woman, Deu 25:11,12. A just weight and measure, Deu 25:13-16. The memory of Amalek is to be blotted out, Deu 25:17-19.
A controversy about criminal matters, as it follows. They shall justify, i.e. acquit him from guilt and false accusations, and free him from punishment.
Condemn the wicked; declare him guilty, and pass sentence of condemnation to suitable punishments upon him.
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.Worthy to be beaten; which the Jews say was the case of all those crimes which the law commands to be punished, without expressing the kind or degree of the punishment.
Before his face; that the punishment may be duly inflicted, without excess or defect, which otherwise might easily happen through the executioner’s passion or partiality.
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.Not exceed: it seems not superstition, but prudent caution, when the Jews would not exceed thirty-nine stripes, 2 Corinthians 11:24, lest through mistake or forgetfulness or eagerness they should go beyond their bounds, which they were commanded to keep, but they were not obliged to go to the utmost extent of them. Thy brother, who, though faulty and chastised, yet still is thy brother by nation, and probably by religion too.
Should seem vile unto thee, i.e. should be made contemptible to his brethren, either by this cruel usage of him, as if he were a slave or brute beast; or by the deformity or infirmity of body which excessive beating might produce.
Thou shalt not muzzle the ox when he treadeth out the corn.As the Gentiles used to do, having divers devices to keep them from eating when they trod out the corn, which they did in those parts and times by oxen, Hosea 10:11, either immediately by their hoofs, Isaiah 28:28 Micah 4:13, or by drawing carts or other instruments over the corn, Isaiah 25:10 28:27 41:15 Amos 1:3. Hereby God taught them humanity and kindness, even to their beasts that served them, Proverbs 12:10, and much more to their servants or other men who laboured for them, and 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.Brethren; strictly so called, as is evident from Deu 25:7 Genesis 38:8 Ruth 1:13 Matthew 22:24,25. Dwell together; either,
1. Strictly, in the same house or family; which is not probable, because the married brother may be presumed to have left his father’s house, and set up a family of his own. Or,
2. More largely, in the same town or city, or, at least, country. This is added for a relief of their consciences, that if the next brother had removed his habitation into remote parts, or were carried thither into captivity, which God foresaw would be their case, then the wife of the dead had her liberty to marry to the next kinsman that lived in the same place with her. One of them; either,
1. The first and eldest of them, as it was practised, Genesis 38:6, &c., and expounded, Matthew 22:25; one being oft put for the first, as Genesis 1:5 2:11 Haggai 1:1 Mark 16:2. And the chief care was about the first-born, who were invested with singular privileges, and were types of Christ. Or,
2. Any of them, for the words are general, and so the practice may seem to have been, Rth 3; and the reason of the law may seem to be in a great measure the same, which was to keep up the distinction, as of tribes and families, that so the Messias might be discovered by the family from which he was appointed to proceed, so also of inheritances, which were divided among all the brethren, the first-born having only a double portion.
Have no child, Heb. no son. But son is oft put for any child, male or female, both in Scripture and other authors; and therefore the Hebrew no son is rendered no child here, as it is in effect, Matthew 22:24 Mark 12:19 Luke 20:28. And indeed this caution was not necessary when there was a daughter, whose child might be adopted into the name and family of its grandfather.
Unto a stranger, i.e. to one of another family, as that word is oft used.
Her husband’s brother shall go in unto her, except he was married himself, as may appear by other scriptures, and by the reason of the thing, and, as some add, from the phrase of dwelling together, to wit, in their father’s family.
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.In the name of his brother; shall be called and reputed his son. See Ruth 4:17.
That his name be not put out of Israel; that a family be not lost. So this was a provision that the number of their families might not be diminished.
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.To raise up unto his brother a name; to revive his brother’s name and memory.
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;Speak unto him, to convince him of the duty, and persuade him to it.
If he stand to it; if he obstinately refuse it.
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.Loose his shoe; partly 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 60:8 108:9; so the parting with the shoe was a token of the alienation of such right, and that he would not, and henceforth might not, enter upon his brother’s land; and partly as a note of infamy, to signify that by this unnatural and disingenuous action he was unworthy to be amongst free-men, and fit to be reduced to the condition of the meanest servants or captives, who used to go barefoot, Isaiah 20:2,4.
Spit in his face, as a return of his contempt upon himself. See Numbers 12:14 Isaiah 1:6 Matthew 26:67 27:30. This was not done, Rth 4, either because he was not a brother, but a remoter kinsman, and so deserved less shame; or because Ruth did not prosecute him to the utmost, but freely consented to this exchange.
Build up; a phrase oft used for the procreation of children, and the increase of a family. See Genesis 16:2 Exodus 1:21 1 Kings 11:38 1 Chronicles 17:25.
And his name shall be called in Israel, The house of him that hath his shoe loosed.i.e. His person, names being oft put for persons, and his posterity also. So it was a lasting blot.
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:No text from Poole on this verse.
Then thou shalt cut off her hand, thine eye shall not pity her.Partly because of the great mischief she did to him, both to his person and posterity, and partly to deter all women from all immodest and impudent carriages, and to secure that modesty which is indeed the guardian of all the virtues, as immodesty is an inlet to all vices, as the sad experience of this degenerate age shows; and therefore it is not strange that it is so severely restrained and punished.
Thine eye shall not pity her, which thou wilt be very apt to do, because of the infirmity of her sex, and the urgency of the occasion, this being done for the necessary preservation of her husband.
Thou shalt not have in thy bag divers weights, a great and a small.The
great, either to buy with, or openly to make show of; the
small, for their private use in selling.
Thou shalt not have in thine house divers measures, a great and a small.No text from Poole on this verse.
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.No text from Poole on this verse.
For all that do such things, and all that do unrighteously, are an abomination unto the LORD thy God.No text from Poole on this verse.
Remember what Amalek did unto thee by the way, when ye were come forth out of Egypt;Which circumstance greatly aggravates their sin, that they should do thus to a people, who had been long exercised with sore afflictions, to whom pity and help 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. So this was barbarousness to Israel, and setting 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.Smote the hindmost of thee; which God permitted, both for the punishment of Israel’s sins, and to harden and prepare them for the difficulties of their expedition.
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.Blot out the remembrance of Amalek; which was in great measure done afterward. See 1Sa 15 27:8 30:1,17 1 Chronicles 4:43 Esther 9:12,13.