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The Bible Slam: Deuteronomy Chapter 24 (How to Dump Your Wife and Some Humanitarian Teaching)

We are still on the long speech by Moses which dictates law and morality.  You have to wonder about the 'family values' preached by today's social conservatives who claim that their family values are based on the Bible. Among other things, Moses commands:

  • No Fault Divorce. It's okay to divorce your wife if you decide you don't like her.  Simply write her a note of divorce and send her away.  She can remarry, but if her second husband isn't satisfied and divorces her, you can't remarry her.  Apparently, women do not have the ability to ask for divorce.  This law contradicts the New Testament (see discussion points below).
  • Marriage Leave.  A newly married man cannot be drafted in the army or given other responsibilities because he is to spend a year at home "bringing happiness" to his wife.
  • Slavery. It's wrong to kidnap, sell and enslave fellow Israelites (but it's okay to do it to other ethnic and cultural groups – see discussion points).
  • Leprosy.  The laws of leprosy are to be obeyed.  Moses is reminded of his sister Miriam, who God struck with leprosy for telling Moses that he had broken the marriage laws.  Miriam was telling the truth, but that didn't matter.
  • Good Stuff. Do not oppress the poor, whether they are strangers, neighbors or servants.
  • Employment Law. Pay your workers at the end of each day.
  • The Death Penalty. People are put to death for their own sins, not other people's sins.
  • Good Stuff. Be kind to widows, orphans and strangers.  Share what you have with them.

Note: The narrator occasionally uses language that some would find offensive. See the alternate links in the narration section below.

Discussion Points.

Deuteronomy 24 (SAB, King James Version) expresses some compassion and humanitarian views toward the poor, widows, orphans and servants.  Married women, however, do not receive the same respect according to the "no fault divorce laws" listed in verses 1 through 4.  These Mosaic divorce laws conflict with the New Testament:

Luke 16:18 – Whosoever putteth away his wife, and marrieth another, committeth adultery: and whosoever marrieth her that is put away from her husband committeth adultery.

Throughout the Old Testament, marrying non-virgin women is essentially taboo.  The likelihood of a divorced woman finding a new husband is slim in the Old Testament.

In Chelev's video reading, he is reading from a newer translation of the Bible that talks about skin conditions.  This is a bit different from the King James version that specifically discusses leprosy.  Both versions briefly mention Miriam in the context of skin conditions/leprosy.  As pointed out in Skeptics Annotated, in Numbers 12, Moses' sister Miriam questioned the marriage laws that were being handed down because Moses did not practice what he preached.  The Israelites were only to marry their own kind  and were expressly told to not take wives from other ethnic groups and countries.  For pointing out the fact that Moses broke this law by marrying a woman from another tribe, the Lord was so angry that Mariam was punished with a sudden onset of leprosy and kicked out of camp.

The issue of "marrying" women of other countries "evolved" by the time we reached the present book of Deuteronomy.  In chapter 21, we learn that in war, the Israelites could take women hostages, rape them and force them to live with them.   They could kick them out of their homes if for some reason the woman was not pleasurable enough.  Although this wasn't called "marriage" in Deuteronomy 21, it doesn't seem much different from how "real married women" were treated … at least after the first year of pleasure.

In light of the religious right's constant demonizing of gays and lesbians, Al Mohler, President of the Southern Baptist Seminary, admitted that churches were hypocritical about their stance on gays destroying "family values" and the "sanctity of marriage" when their own divorce rates are so high.  In a literalistic interpretation of the Bible, perhaps divorce is a perfectly acceptable family value that meets the standards of Deuteronomy 24.

As far as being punished for other people's sins are concerned — and even receiving the death penalty for those sins — the Bible is filled with examples of generations having to suffer due to the "sins of their forefathers."  The first few chapters of Deuteronomy were devoted to rules of war, where men, women and children were to be killed indiscriminately for a number of reasons, ranging from Yahweh's proclamation that their lands were part of the "Israelite's promised lands" or because some among the slaughtered worshiped false gods.  By the time we got to Deuteronomy 20, we learned that one of Yahweh's rules of war was to slaughter the humans but spare the trees.  One Bible book ago, in Numbers 16, a group of people were complaining about Moses making them wander around in circles in the desert instead of heading straight for the promised land, so Yahweh got mad and killed all of the complainers, their wives, and their children by burying them alive in a pit.  When complaints circulated amongst the camp about this Godly killing spree, another 14,700 people are killed as punishment.

Slavery appears to be condoned more than it is condemned in the Bible, but the rules surrounding it are sometimes conflicting and confusing.  Here's a list of the conflicts from Skeptics Annotated Bible.

Cathy Grossman, columnist for USA Today, angrily opined that the American Humanist Association's 2010 advertising campaign was similar to the sign campaigns of Fred Phelps and the Westboro Baptist Church because the humanists chose some of the uglier verses of the Bible such as slavery and treatment of women and compared them with humanist values. Perhaps the humanists could have chosen some of the nicer verses such as those in Deuteronomy 24, but those verses, in the context of what we've been reading so far in the Old Testament, are few and far between.

Quick Tips & Navigation.

  • About the Bible Slam – If you are new here, please read the "about" page to understand the choice of the word "slam" and to read the Important Disclaimer about swear words. In the about section, we have provided a link to biblical reading without colorful commentary on the about page, just in case swear words are offensive to you.  Briefly, the "Bible Slam" is intended to be like a poetry slam, where you can defend the literal interpretation of the Bible, add translation notes, or add any other comment.  We've just provided a starting point to get the discussion going.
  • Do we hate the Bible?  No.  But we dislike what is done in the name of the Bible.  We don't believe this book is the literal word of a deity that created the universe.
  • To fully comprehend the Bible philosophy, we suggest you start at the very beginning and work your way through, other than skipping around through it.

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