Deuteronomy 22: Lessons From the Sundry Laws Regarding Biblical Duties that God Expects From Every Believer

God’s Sundry Laws contain wisdom for how to love others1

Introduction: Jesus repeatedly confronted the Pharisees for hypocrisy and for their misplaced priorities. On one occasion, He accused them of ignoring the “weightier” matters of the Law: “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cummin, and have neglected the weightier provisions of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness; but these are the things you should have done without neglecting the others.” (Matt. 23:23; Lk. 11:41). There is wisdom in all the Law. Before Jesus’ death, it all had to be kept. But Jesus’ comments reveal that a hierarchy of importance exists within God’s Law. Laws that pertain to justice, mercy, and faithfulness are at the top of God’s Law. What then is at the bottom? Some rabbis claimed that it is a requirement to protect mother birds found in Deuteronomy Chapter 22. Deuteronomy Chapter 22 is often labeled in Bibles as the “Sundry Laws,” suggesting that it is a miscellaneous collection of unrelated laws that don’t fit anywhere else. Yet, it is unique amongst the chapters in the Torah because it also contains some of the most important laws regarding sexual purity. What can be learned from studying a seemingly unrelated collection of laws ranging from the purportedly least important and most important matters? From the individual examples of requirements that God provides, He reveals seven broad duties that a believer owes to others and to Him. First, you have a duty to preserve and return misplaced property to its rightful owner. More broadly stated, you have a duty to do unto others as you would have them do to you. Second, you have a duty not to dress like a person of the opposite gender. More broadly stated, you have a duty to preserve the identity that God has given you. Third, you have a duty not to kill a mother bird and its young at the same time. More broadly stated, you have a duty to preserve the resources and environment that God has given you to manage. Fourth, you have a duty to build protective walls on roofs. More broadly stated, you have a duty to protect those under your control from harm. Fifth, Jews had a duty not to mix seeds in their fields or fibers in their clothes. More broadly stated, you have a duty to separate yourself from the things of the world to stay pure. Sixth, the Jews were required to wear tassels to remind themselves to keep their thoughts on God. More broadly stated, you have an ongoing duty to keep your mind focused on the things of the Spirit and not the flesh. Finally, you have a duty to stay pure from any sexual immorality. That duty did not disappear with Christ’s death (Acts 15:29; 21:25).

1. Your Duty to Preserve and Return Another’s Property. Dt. 22:1-4.

  • Return a brother or sister’s lost property. Among the many duties that God places upon each individual is the duty to preserve and return another person’s lost property: “ You shall not see your countryman’s ox or his sheep straying away, and pay no attention to them; you shall certainly bring them back to your countryman. If your countryman is not near you, or if you do not know him, then you shall bring it home to your house, and it shall remain with you until your countryman looks for it; then you shall restore it to him. Thus you shall do with his donkey, and you shall do the same with his garment, and you shall do likewise with anything lost by your countryman, which he has lost and you have found. You are not allowed to neglect them. You shall not see your countryman’s donkey or his ox fallen down on the way, and pay no attention to them; you shall certainly help him to raise them up.” (Dt. 22:1-4). “If you meet your enemy's ox or his donkey wandering away, you shall surely return it to him. If you see the donkey of one who hates you lying helpless under its load, you shall refrain from leaving it to him, you shall surely release it with him.” (Ex. 23:4-5). A person sins if he fails to return “the lost thing which he found.” (Lev. 6:2-3). Many people today believe that each person should mind their own business. Likewise, modern law imposes no duty to help another person in distress. Yet, God’s ways are not our ways: ‘“For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways,’ declares the LORD.” (Is. 55:8). Instead, “‘[i]n everything, therefore, treat people the same way you want them to treat you, for this is the Law and the Prophets.”’ (Matt. 7:12; 22:40; Lk. 6:31; Gal. 5:14; Ja. 2:8). Have you ever stumbled across lost property and kept it? Or have you ever found a lost animal and ignored it? Or, have you ever simply looked the other way when another person needed help? If so, you are guilty of a crime of omission under God’s Law.

Restore those whom you have hurt and help restore God’s sheep who are lost to sin2

  • Return Jesus’ lost sheep. God has also lost His sheep: “My people have become lost sheep; their shepherds have led them astray. They have made them turn aside on the mountains; they have gone along from mountain to hill and have forgotten their resting place.” (Jer. 50:6). You were once part of God’s lost sheep until Jesus found you: “All of us like sheep have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; but the LORD has caused the iniquity of us all to fall on Him.” (Is. 53:6). “For you were continually straying like sheep, but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Guardian of your souls.” (1 Pet. 2:25). God is looking for people to help Him restore His lost sheep all over the world who are separated from their Master: “My flock wandered through all the mountains and on every high hill; My flock was scattered over all the surface of the earth, and there was no one to search or seek for them.” (Ez. 34:6). Sheep are not the smartest animals. They have trouble finding their homes on their own. Will you help God find and restore His lost sheep?

2. Your Duty to Preserve the Identity God Gave You. Dt. 22:5.

  • God’s prohibition against transvestitism. Another duty that God imposes upon believers is to preserve the identity that God gave them. This includes a person’s gender identity: “5 A woman shall not wear man’s clothing, nor shall a man put on a woman’s clothing; for whoever does these things is an abomination to the Lord your God.” (Dt. 22:5). In the New Testament, cross-dressing would fall within the prohibition against those whom Paul calls “effeminate:” “Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals,” (1 Cor. 6:9). Although Jesus’ death fulfilled the sacrificial and dietary laws, He did not relieve believers from following laws that proscribed conduct that God defined as immoral: “But immorality or any impurity or greed must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints;” (Eph. 5:3). “Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are: immorality, impurity, sensuality,” (Gal. 5:19). “Flee immorality. Every other sin that a man commits is outside the body, but the immoral man sins against his own body.” (1 Cor. 6:18). If you teach others that God’s Law against transvestitism no longer applies, you may be called least in heaven: “Whoever then annuls one of the least of these commandments, and teaches others to do the same, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever keeps and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.” (Matt. 5:19). In the 21st Century, Western countries have adopted legal protections against employment discrimination for persons who cross-dress or undergo sex change operations. A believer should comply with laws against employment discrimination (Ro. 13:1-7). Yet, outside of work, a believer should never be afraid of defending God’s standards of morality (Ro. 1:16). A believer should, however, always defend God’s laws on morality with a loving heart. Remember to love the sinner while hating the sin. Finally, a believer must ensure that he or she teaches their children God’s definition of morality (Dt. 4:9-10; 6:7; 11:19; Prov. 22:6; Ps. 78:4-6; Eph. 6:4). Are you willing to defend God’s morality, even when others ridicule you? Are you teaching God’s morality to your kids?

3. Your Duty to Preserve and Protect God’s Animals. Dt. 22:6-7.

  • God’s prohibition against killing a mother bird and her young at the same time. Another duty that God places upon believers is the duty to protect animals under their custody or control from unnecessary harm:  6 If you happen to come upon a bird’s nest along the way, in any tree or on the ground, with young ones or eggs, and the mother sitting on the young or on the eggs, you shall not take the mother with the young; you shall certainly let the mother go, but the young you may take for yourself, in order that it may be well with you and that you may prolong your days.” (Dt. 22:6-7). “But, whether it is an ox or a sheep, you shall not kill both it and its young in one day.” (Lev. 22:28). God’s rules had two purposes. First, He taught believers the importance of managing the natural resources under their control. Killing a mother at the same time as her young would prohibit a believer’s ability from obtaining further food from the mother. In that way, “you may prolong your days.” (Dt. 22:7). Second, His prohibition showed His compassion for the animals that He created. In Hebrew, the words: “you shall certainly let the mother go,” carry more of an imperative to drive the mother away than the English translation suggests. In the 12th century, the famous Jewish rabbi Maimonides taught that these verses showed that God did not want a mother bird to experience the sorrow of watching a person kill her young. Although some Jewish scholars have called this the least important of God’s Law (First Fruits of Zion, Torah Club, Deuteronomy Vol. I. p. 782, Vol. II. p 695-6), it still carries great wisdom, comfort, and guidance in society. If God is concerned about the feelings of a mother bird, is there any concern of yours that is too small for God? This rule also provides the moral authority for protecting ecosystems in the land and sea, endangered species, and other types of environmental protections. Many Evangelical Churches correctly weigh in on matters of morality. But is it consistent with Scripture to ignore environmental matters?

Be a good steward over the environment that God created3

  • Your duty to protect God’s resources. God gave Adam and Eve “dominion” as stewards over the animals (Gen 1:28). He provides a number of examples where believers have a duty to protect the environment. For example, even during war, believers have a duty to protect the environment: “For is the tree of the field a man, that it should be besieged by you?” (Dt. 20:19). Likewise, believers have to protect the land from overuse by letting crop lands lie fallow every seventh year (Ex. 23:11; Lev. 25:3; Neh. 10:31). As another example, Jesus stated that saving a trapped or hurt animal is so important that it warrants breaking the Sabbath to save the animal (Lk. 14:5). Believers should therefore not lose sight of their responsibility to protect the environment. Are you being a good steward with God’s resources? Are you teaching your kids that it is a sin to pollute or litter?

4. Your Duty to Protect Others From Danger. Dt. 22:8.

  • God’s requirement that roofs have “parapets”. Another part of a believer’s duty toward others is the duty to protect others from harm. This is symbolized by the requirement that believers build protective walls to prevent guests or residents from falling from roofs, balconies or terraces: “ When you build a new house, you shall make a parapet for your roof, so that you will not bring bloodguilt on your house if anyone falls from it.” (Dt. 22:8). A parapet is a barrier at the edge of a roof, balcony, terrace, or other structure. In the book of Acts, Eutychus’ death was largely the result of a homeowner’s failure to install adequate protections to prevent guests from falling from the third floor: “And there was a young man named Eutychus sitting on the window sill, sinking into a deep sleep; and as Paul kept on talking, he was overcome by sleep and fell down from the third floor and was picked up dead.” (Acts 20:9). Acting with the power of the Holy Spirit, Paul then brought Eutychus back to life (Acts. 20:10). Believers should look at this rule as only one example of the kind of protection that they should offer to others. Other examples can include maintaining a safe home, a safe car, locked firearms, a safe work environment, and restraining dangerous animals. In other words, a believer owes a duty of care and protection toward others in any place where the believer has the ability to control or mitigate risks. This is similar to modern laws of negligence and premises liability. These laws all stem from the Law that God has written in our hearts (Jer. 31:33; Ro. 2:15). These laws also provide the moral authority for laws requiring building codes and permits, workplace safety laws, and consumer protection laws. In God’s eyes, failing to mitigate against risks puts the victim’s “bloodguilt” on your shoulders (Dt. 22:8). Are you keeping your home, car, animals, personal property, and workplace free from hazards where others might hurt themselves?

5. Your Duty to Separate from the World - “Sanctification” Dt. 22:9-12.

  • Don’t mix God’s Word with the word of man. Another duty imposed upon every believer is the duty to stay separate from the world. This is symbolized by the duty not to plant two kinds of seeds together in the same field: “9  You shall not sow your vineyard with two kinds of seed, or all the produce of the seed which you have sown and the increase of the vineyard will become defiled.” (Dt. 22:9). “[Y]ou shall not sow your field with two kinds of seed,” (Lev. 19:9(b)). From the parable of the sower, Jesus reveals that the seed symbolizes the Word of God (Matt. 13:18-19). Jesus warns that we cannot place the doctrines of mankind (which includes human tradition) over the Word of God: ‘“But in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the precepts of men.”’ (Matt. 15:9; Mk. 7:7; Col. 2:22). “Then the Lord said, ‘Because this people draw near with their words and honor Me with their lip service, but they remove their hearts far from Me, and their reverence for Me consists of tradition learned by rote,”’ (Is. 29:13). If you love the doctrines and things of the world more than the Word, the truth is not within you (1 Jo. 2:15; Jam. 4:4; 7-8). Does God’s Word get equal billing with the world when it comes to your reading list? Has your church adopted practices based upon tradition or public opinion that are contrary to God’s Word?

Be set apart from the world to serve God

  • Don’t be unequally yoked. Another part of being separated from the world involves keeping yourself free of emotional or intimate business partnerships with non-believers: “10  You shall not plow with an ox and a donkey together.” (Dt. 22:10). “Do not be bound together with unbelievers; for what partnership have righteousness and lawlessness, or what fellowship has light with darkness?” (2 Cor. 6:14). “If we say that we have fellowship with Him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth;” (1 Jo. 1:6). Many believers marry non-believers expecting them to change. The result is typically sorrow. Likewise, a family member who refuses to walk with God or attend church can pull others off their walk as well. Are you entangling yourself in emotional or business partnerships with non-believers? Are you giving clear guidance to your kids about dating?

  • Don’t mix Godly motivations for your acts with worldly desires. Another part of staying separate from the world is symbolized by the duty not to wear clothes made with two kinds of material: “ 11 You shall not wear a material mixed of wool and linen together.” (Dt. 22:11). “[N]or wear a garment upon you of two kinds of material mixed together.” (Lev. 19:19(c)). Today, Orthodox Jews still adhere to this commandment with chemical tests to make sure that their clothes don’t contain mixed fabrics. But this rule means something more than prohibiting mixed fabrics like polyester. Like the seed, the clothing fabric is also a symbol. God revealed to Isaiah that clothing is a symbol of a person’s outward acts. He called the purported righteous acts of believers to be filthy “rags” to God (Is. 64:6). The fabrics are what make up your clothes. And if your clothes symbolize your actions, the fabrics symbolize the motives behind your actions. If your motivations in serving God are partly selfish in nature they are likely to have little use to God. For example, if you are attending church or a Bible study merely to date others, the value of your worship to God is diminished. With God, the ends never justify the means, even when it involves worship. In the areas where you are serving God, is there any selfish ambition behind your actions?

6. Your Duty to Stay Focused on God. Dt. 22:9-12.

  • God’s requirement that the Jews wear tassels on their garments. As part of their duties to stay separate from the world, the Jews were also told to wear tassels on the corners of their clothes: “12 You shall make yourself tassels on the four corners of your garment with which you cover yourself.” (Dt. 22:12). “Speak to the sons of Israel, and tell them that they shall make for themselves tassels on the corners of their garments throughout their generations, and that they shall put on the tassel of each corner a cord of blue.” (Nu. 15:38). God had people circumcise their foreskins and then their hearts as their hidden symbol of identity with Him (Dt. 10:16; 30:6). Yet, the Jews did a number of visible things to be set apart. As stated above, they did not wear clothes with mixed fabrics (Lev. 19:9). They also could not cut the “corners” of their heads or their beards in mourning “for the dead.” (Lev. 19:27-28; 21:4-5; Dt. 14:1-2). Orthodox Jews today also wear a yarmulke to remind themselves that God is above them. They also wore rectangle shaped garments with a hole for their head and with tassels on each corner (Nu. 15:38). By making the tassels blue, the color of heaven, they were reminded to have their thoughts dwell on God (Nu. 15:38). The four tassel cords also symbolized having the Law tied to each part of a believer’s life. We know that the Jews wore tassels in Jesus’ day because Jesus criticized those who wore excessively long tassels to be noticed: “But they do all their deeds to be noticed by men; for they broaden their phylacteries and lengthen the tassels of their garments.” (Matt. 23:5). Because Jesus came to fulfill the Law (Matt. 5:17), He would have worn a tassel as well. The woman who touched His cloak to be healed most likely grabbed a tassel (Matt. 9:20). The tassels symbolized the connection between all the parts of God’s Law. Each believer had a duty to tie themselves to all the different laws and keep his or her thoughts on God.

A woman grabs Jesus’ tassels in faith4

  • Let the Holy Spirit keep you set apart for God. Christians are also told to be holy (1 Pet. 2:9). Yet, Christians should not do pious things just to have others notice you (Matt. 23:5). Because of Christ’s death, you are no longer required to wear a tassel. It is not one of the requirements imposed upon gentiles who decided to accept Christ (Acts 15:29; 21:25). Yet, without tassels, others still need to know that you are a light of the world (Matt. 5:14). You also still need to be reminded to keep your thoughts on the things of the Spirit and not the flesh: “For the mind set on the flesh is death, but the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace,” (Ro. 8:6). To keep your thoughts focused on God, Jesus has given you the Holy Spirit to remind you at all times that you are tied to Him and set apart for Him (Jo. 14:16-17, 26). Are your thoughts focused on the flesh or the Spirit? If not, are you seeking to renew your mind and the Spirit’s guidance in prayer on a daily basis? (Ro. 12:1-2).

7. Your Duty to Abstain from Sexual Immorality. Dt. 22:13-30.

  • God’s prohibition against sex before marriage. As a final and most important duty, God required that believers keep themselves pure by abstaining from sex outside of marriage. To demonstrate the importance of sexual purity, He proscribed severe punishments for a person who had sex before marriage: “ 13 If any man takes a wife and goes in to her and then turns against her, 14 and charges her with shameful deeds and publicly defames her, and says, ‘I took this woman, but when I came near her, I did not find her a virgin,’ 15 then the girl’s father and her mother shall take and bring out the evidence of the girl’s virginity to the elders of the city at the gate. 16 The girl’s father shall say to the elders, ‘I gave my daughter to this man for a wife, but he turned against her; 17 and behold, he has charged her with shameful deeds, saying, “I did not find your daughter a virgin.” But this is the evidence of my daughter’s virginity.’ And they shall spread the garment before the elders of the city. 18 So the elders of that city shall take the man and chastise him, 19 and they shall fine him a hundred shekels of silver and give it to the girl’s father, because he publicly defamed a virgin of Israel. And she shall remain his wife; he cannot divorce her all his days. 20 But if this charge is true, that the girl was not found a virgin, 21 then they shall bring out the girl to the doorway of her father’s house, and the men of her city shall stone her to death because she has committed an act of folly in Israel by playing the harlot in her father’s house; thus you shall purge the evil from among you.” (Dt. 22:13-20). The human customs from that day suggest that a new bride would keep her bedding from her wedding night to prove the presence of blood from a broken hymen membrane in the event of a chastity challenge from a husband. Yet, a groom would never make a challenge if blood was present. The more troublesome confrontation might come when no blood was present. A hymen can break before marriage from physical exercise, injury, disease or other factors. Thus, according to Jewish interpretive texts, it was both a rare and a discouraged event for a groom to challenge a bride’s virginity after marriage. A charge of impurity was typically made based on some factor like a pre-marriage pregnancy or allegations made by another. These rules provide an important backdrop to show how Mary could have been stoned for being pregnant with Jesus before being married. These rules also show Joseph’s righteousness in protecting Mary from public ridicule: “And Joseph her husband, being a righteous man and not wanting to disgrace her, planned to send her away secretly.” (Matt. 1:19). Although most have learned today that a hymen is not a viable test for purity, the principle of pre-marriage purity still applies. For an unsaved person, the penalty for fornication is also still death in heaven. “Marriage is to be held in honor among all, and the marriage bed is to be undefiled; for fornicators and adulterers God will judge.” (Heb. 13:4; 1 Cor. 6:9). While others may not know about your past, there are no secrets from God in heaven (Heb. 4:13). These laws also symbolize one part of Jesus’ future marriage in heaven to the Church (Eph. 5:22-23; Rev. 19:9; 21:2). Satan is the accuser of the brethren (Rev. 12:10). He will accuse those promised to Jesus in marriage with spiritual infidelity. Jesus, however, will present His blood to show the purity of His bride. If you engaged in premarital sex, have you given thanks for the penalty that Jesus paid for you? (Ro. 4:25). If you continue to engage in immoral acts, how grateful are you for what Jesus did for you? If you have kids, are you teaching them the importance of purity before marriage?

  • God’s prohibition against adultery. In addition to premarital sex, God also prohibited adultery:  22 If a man is found lying with a married woman, then both of them shall die, the man who lay with the woman, and the woman; thus you shall purge the evil from Israel.” (Dt. 22:22). “If there is a man who commits adultery with another man’s wife, one who commits adultery with his friend’s wife, the adulterer and the adulteress shall surely be put to death.” (Lev. 20:10; 18:20; Mal. 2:15). The prohibition against adultery is also the Seventh Commandment: “You shall not commit adultery.” (Ex. 20:14; Dt. 5:18; Ro. 13:9). Jesus did not come to repeal the Seventh Commandment. Instead, He raised the bar on the type of conduct that He expects from believers. He warns that even a lustful look is an act of adultery in God’s eyes: “but I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” (Matt. 5:28). Lustful looks can also break the Tenth Commandment against coveting (Ex. 20:17; Dt. 5:21). For the unsaved, the penalty for adultery is exclusion from heaven (Rev. 21:8; 22:15). If you are engaged in adultery, you also risk removing God’s blessings and protection from your marriage. You may also bring a curse upon your children through family conflict and divorce. Adultery also sets a trend in families with children who know no respect for the value of covenant, commitment, selfless love, and God’s Law. Yet, while exhorting us to even higher standards of moral conduct, Jesus also used the example of the woman caught in adultery to urge believers not to judge or condemn others who have sinned in the past (Jo. 8:7). Every believer must take this sin seriously by taking steps to guard their eyes from lust by avoiding situations that may lead to adultery and by being accountable to others.

  • Adultery can include persons who are engaged. In Old Testament times, a person was promised or engaged to another for a long time before marriage. If a person had consensual sex while promised to another, it was treated no differently than adultery: “23 If there is a girl who is a virgin engaged to a man, and another man finds her in the city and lies with her, 24 then you shall bring them both out to the gate of that city and you shall stone them to death; the girl, because she did not cry out in the city, and the man, because he has violated his neighbor’s wife. Thus you shall purge the evil from among you.” (Dt. 22:23-24). The silence of the promised woman was a presumed indication that the sexual act was consensual. Yet, God prescribed trials for any person who was accused falsely of a crime. Thus, a woman who was raped inside of a city and who stayed silent out of fear, shock, or due to being bound would have an opportunity to provide a defense. The accuser would also need to present two witnesses (Dt. 17:6). We were promised to Jesus at birth. The Ten Commandments are the wedding contract. As stated above, Satan will seek to accuse you of impurity during the long period of time when you were promised to Him. Yet, if you repent of your sins, Jesus promises to cleanse you of any sins: “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1 Jo. 1:9). Once you repent, there is no condemnation for your sins (Ro. 8:1). Are you being held back by any old sin that you have repented of? If so, your guilt is not from God.

  • God’s punishment for rape (100 % of 4.2 years in wages or six years of servitude). As part of God’s requirement that a believer stay pure, He prohibited all forms of rape. A person who was found guilty of rape was required to pay a fine that was worth more than four years in wages or six years of indentured servitude: “25 But if in the field the man finds the girl who is engaged, and the man forces her and lies with her, then only the man who lies with her shall die. 26 But you shall do nothing to the girl; there is no sin in the girl worthy of death, for just as a man rises against his neighbor and murders him, so is this case. 27 When he found her in the field, the engaged girl cried out, but there was no one to save her.” 28 If a man finds a girl who is a virgin, who is not engaged, and seizes her and lies with her and they are discovered, 29 then the man who lay with her shall give to the girl’s father fifty shekels of silver, and she shall become his wife because he has violated her; he cannot divorce her all his days.” (Dt. 22:25-29). “If a man seduces a virgin who is not engaged, and lies with her, he must pay a dowry for her to be his wife.” (Ex. 22:16). What was the value of 50 silver shekels? According to one Old Testament scholar, the average male laborers in Biblical times earned approximately one silver shekel per month (Wenham, Gordon, The Book of Leviticus (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1979), p. 338). Thus, for the average male laborer aged 20 to 60 earning 1 shekel a month, it would take 50 months or four years and two months to pay for a rape. But that assumed that the person had 4.2 years of wages on hand to pay the fine. Few would have those kinds of resources. Installment payments were also not an option. Even if they were, payments amounting to 50% of the person’s wages would take 8.3 years to pay off. We can see the high cost of 50 silver shekels when David bought a threshing floor from Araunah centuries later for the hefty price of 50 silver shekels (2 Sam. 24:24). What would happen to the rapist who could not pay up front 50 months of gross wages? The person would be sold into indentured servitude (not slavery) for six years. The rapist would be freed only on the seventh year: “12 If your kinsman, a Hebrew man or woman, is sold to you, then he shall serve you six years, but in the seventh year you shall set him free.” (Dt. 15:12). Yet, his freedom did not release him from the requirement to pay restitution. His sale price and any wages earned while working as a servant would go toward the 50 silver shekels. Thus, God provided for severe punishment for rapists. For the unsaved rapist, he was further barred from heaven. These penalties would have served as a heavy deterrent against rapists.

  • God’s prohibition against incest. As a final rule for being sexually pure, believers were also expected not to engage in incest or marry other family members: “30 A man shall not take his father’s wife so that he will not uncover his father’s skirt.” (Dt. 22:30; 27:20). “If there is a man who lies with his father’s wife, he has uncovered his father’s nakedness; both of them shall surely be put to death, their blood guiltiness is upon them.” (Lev. 20:11; 18:8). These bizarre immoral acts continued in Corinth and were also condemned by Paul (1 Cor. 5:1). We also see two examples in the Old Testament of persons who either slept with his father’s wife or had incest. Reuben slept with his mother-in-law, Bilhah, Rachel’s maid servant (Gen. 35:22). He was jealous of his father’s affection for his other sons. Also, he took Bilhah as an act that was symbolic of the perceived right to rule over the family. Under the Law, the penalty for sleeping with Bilhah was death (Lev. 20:11). Yet, out of mercy and grace, God instead removed his firstborn status (Gen. 49:3-4; 1 Chron. 5:1-2). The generations that followed paid for the father’s sins. They forever lost their firstborn status. The daughters of Lot also committed incest by sleeping with their father (Gen. 19:30-38). As detailed in the next chapter, their descendants, the Moabites and the Amorites, were cursed and barred from God’s assembly (Dt. 23:2-6). If you are engaging in sexual sins while married, you also risk bringing curses upon your children from divorce.