Deuteronomy 24:1-4 Israel was to be a model for a Kingdom that would one day available to all. Just as it took a second Adam (Yeshua 1 Cor. 15:45) to accomplish what Adam failed to do, so it would take a second Israel (Yeshua Hos. 11:1 Matt. 2:15) to create God’s Kingdom on earth as it is in heaven. These laws were given to prevent abusive behavior. An essential element of a healthy nation is how they treat each other. As we are seeing today a nation will not thrive if there are not healthy relationships among its people. Fragmented relationships lead to ill will, anger, strife, lawlessness, violence, and killing. Chicago is an example and what is happening nationally demonstrates this truth as well. The greatest threat to a nation’s survival is not from without but from within. The first law in this section deals with one of the essential foundations of a healthy society, marriage. The example given by Moses here illustrates this. A man marries a woman who becomes, in his opinion indecent. He decides he will divorce her. After divorce, the woman remarries and the second husband either dies or divorces her. The first husband is forbidden from remarrying her because she has become defiled through intercourse with a second man. Two reasons are cited first, such a remarriage was detestable to God and would bring sin on the land. Second, it would condone “cheap marriage,” and demonstrate approval of divorce and abuse the covenant of marriage. Marriage and divorce would become so easy that it would become a legal form of adultery. God is not condoning divorce in this passage. He is giving a law that will address the abuses of divorce and remarriage that existed. From almost the very beginning of human history, the covenant of marriage was abused. Divorce is a result of sin but divorce itself is not sin. Sometimes divorce is justified due to adultery and abuse. God hates divorce, but He loves the divorced person.
Deuteronomy 24:5 Affirming marriage further Israel received this additional command. There are times when normal rules and responsibilities need to be set aside. In this case a man who has recently married must not be sent to war or have other obligations for the first year of his marriage. Marriage as we have pointed out is the foundation of a healthy nation and this law affirms that. Newlyweds were to be free to nurture their love and relationship through their first year of marriage. They were to focus on their bond seeking the happiness that only marriage can bring.
Deuteronomy 24:6 This law protected a man’s livelihood. When a loan was made collateral or security was given to the lender. This was done to assure repayment however a lender could not take away essential tools as security. The reason is that those tools would take away his ability to earn a livelihood. The example given was a millstone that was used to grind grain to make flour for bread. The millstone was a basic tool needed to provide bread. This too was essential to a healthy nation and good relations.
Deuteronomy 24:7 Kidnapping a brother Israelite was a capital offense subject to the death penalty. Whether the intent was to enslave or sell into slavery such acts were not to be tolerated. This was and is a common crime even to this day with human trafficking. God keeps an account of such behavior and will judge kidnappers as this law makes clear.
Deuteronomy 24:8-9 Public health is another essential element of a godly nation. Here are laws regarding leprous diseases. This verse links with what the Lord did to Miriam on their way from Egypt. Numbers 12:1-15 describes how Miriam and Aaron challenged Moses’ authority and Miriam was disciplined with leprosy because of her rebellion to God’s authority. While dealing with the guidelines for containing an infectious disease it also serves as a reminder of one of the consequences for rebellion. While Moses was noted as being meek (Num. 12:3) in defending himself, God was not. Leprosy is a symbol of sin throughout the Bible. The infectious disease gives us a picture of how terrible sin is. Sin like leprosy spreads and contaminates leaving behind isolation, hopelessness and death. This law gave the responsibilities of diagnosing cases of leprous diseases to the priests (Lev. 13-14). Their findings were not to challenged, their decisions were to be followed otherwise there would be consequences for both the individual and nation.
Deuteronomy 24:10-13 Although an Israelite might make a loan, he was to respect the dignity of his borrower by not entering his home to demand a pledge of collateral. Instead, he was to stay outside the home of the debtor allowing him to bring the pledge to the lender. By this instruction, Moses related a principle that gave high regard to the self-worth over the assumed prerogatives of the creditor. In the case of the poor collateral was limited. If his pledge was a cloak or outer garment, it was to be received only symbolically and had to be returned by sunset so he could sleep in it. This kind of respect for a fellow Israelite would bring both blessings and thanksgiving from the debtor and be regarded as a righteous act of the creditor by God.
Deuteronomy 24:14-15. This law states you must not take advantage of the poor and needy worker, no matter who he is, even if an alien or foreigner. You must pay full wages and pay on time. Within Israel wages were to be paid each day before sunset. This was necessary so a person could purchase enough food to feed their family for that day. The poor would might not have enough money to buy food ahead of time, many survived day by day. Disobeying this law was considered sin and lead to God’s judgment. The poor person cheated out of his wages will cry out to God against his oppressor, and God will hear his cry. The poor man’s only resource is God. God hears the cry of the poor who are oppressed. The needs and feelings of the poor and needy were to be taken into account. This law and God’s response applied to both citizens and aliens. We would do well to take heed to this in our dealings with the poor and needy for God is the same today, this law is an eternal insight into God’s heart for mankind.
Deuteronomy 24:16 Each person is responsible for their own transgressions and the punishment for them. Moses gives an example of a father or a child who might offer himself to bear the punishment for the other. There is a tendency among parents to protect their children or older children to protect their parents when they face the consequences for sin. God is clear that each of us are to be accountable for our own behavior and its penalties. Justice is to be upheld and the guilty are to be held responsible for their actions.
Deuteronomy 24:17-18 Torah teaches that God, and His people are to protect the defenseless which includes the foreigner, orphan, and widow. The foreigner was compromised since he was not part of the covenant community. The orphan and poor widows would not have the resources or influence that the more established had. These people were dependent on the law and compassion of the community. God’s law instructed his people to grant justice and compassion to those deemed by society to be second- or third-class people. God calls Israel to remember their history when they were in the same position and were slaves in Egypt. They found mercy from God who defended and delivered them from Egyptian oppression and slavery. We all need to remember God’s mercy on us as a motivation to be merciful and gracious to both believers and unbelievers (the Lord’s prayer – forgive us our debts as we forgive debtors).
Deuteronomy 24:19-22 This law stipulated that a landowner must leave some grain for the poor. When harvesting, the landowner was not to pick his fields, olive trees and grape vines clean. He could not go back over them a second time. Whatever was missed was to be left. God promised the landowner that obedience would bring God’s blessing. This law made provision for the poor to work and be able to eat. It gave them a sense of purpose and fulfillment. It made provision for their self-worth avoiding the shame of begging and welfare. The classic example is Ruth providing for her mother-in-law Naomi, and the blessing and provision of God through Boaz. The reason given again for obeying this law is that it was God who had blessed the landowner. God had compassion on the landowner saving him from slavery and poverty in Egypt. Therefore, the landowner was to show God’s compassion on him to deprived people. This too is instructional for us and our government’s policies toward the poor and needy. We should include provision for employment as part of our programs of welfare for the poor and underprivileged.