Deuteronomy 19 – 22
Today’s post is a mixed bag, there’s great stuff like sending a guy home from war so he can get married; eat from his new vineyard; dedicate his house, and so on. Also stuff about looking out for other people’s animals. For environmental extremists, there’s even a bit about sparing trees when you conquer a city.
On the other hand, there’s stuff about stoning your son because he didn’t listen to you (I suppose the most severe hiding is mild compared to this). The instructions about taking over cities seems to be very much what you’d expect during that period, but that doesn’t make it pleasant. Including a bit about marrying women you’ve conquered.
The Israelites were forbidden from marrying foreigners, which we’ll see is quite significant post exile (Ezra, Nehemiah). The thing is, here it seems as though it’s ok, she’s foreigner, change her clothes, shave her head, let her mourn, and marry her. Surely she’s a foreigner. The Book of Ruth presents a similar problem, but it is even worse, because she’s from Moab (covers mouth in shock and horror). I’ll get to Ruth once we get there, but at the moment we have this problem.
While her people have (most likely) been exterminated, like the Midianites in Numbers, she has survived, she can’t belong to a non-existent nation, so she’d be nationless. Stripping her of her old garments and shaving her head strips her of her visible cultural identity, and may be a symbol of her nationless status. Once marrying into the Israelite nation, she’s absorbed and is an Israelite. I wouldn’t expect such an explanation to satisfy a critic, but it’s what I’ve been able to come up with. Any more thoughts from readers would be appreciated.
Please give the reading through the Bible page a look if you haven’t already, there are some background posts and the index to this reading plan. Share it with others who you think can benefit from Reading the Bible.