King James Bible
with Catholic Commentary by George Leo Haydock

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Deuteronomy 25

Extent of punishment. (1-3) The ox that treadeth the corn. (4) Marriage of a brother’s wife. (5-12) Of unjust weights. (13-16) War against Amalek. (17-19)

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Extent of punishment

1 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.

2 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.

3 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.

The ox that treadeth the corn

4 Thou shalt not muzzle the ox when he treadeth out the corn.

Marriage of a brother’s wife

5 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.

6 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.

7 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.

8 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;

9 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.

10 And his name shall be called in Israel, The house of him that hath his shoe loosed.

11 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:

12 Then thou shalt cut off her hand, thine eye shall not pity her.

Of unjust weights

13 Thou shalt not have in thy bag divers weights, a great and a small.

14 Thou shalt not have in thine house divers measures, a great and a small.

15 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.

16 For all that do such things, and all that do unrighteously, are an abomination unto the LORD thy God.

War against Amalek

17 Remember what Amalek did unto thee by the way, when ye were come forth out of Egypt;

18 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.

19 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.

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G Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary

Ver. 2. Down, tying him to a low pillar; (M. Grot.) though many assert, that the criminal was forced to lie prostrate on the ground, as the Jews still do, in Germany, when they undergo this punishment. Buxtorf, Syn. 20. The Jews do not commonly give above 39 strokes, and double the number is inflicted on the back, from what fall upon the breast.

Ver. 3. Eyes. Heb. “depart covered with confusion (or more vile) before thy eyes.” Hence the Jews do not consider this chastisement as ignominious. C.

Ver. 4. Not muzzle, &c. S. Paul understands this of the spiritual labourer in the church of God, who is not to be denied his maintenance. 1 Cor. ix. 8. 9. 10. Ch. — Other labourers, and even beasts, must likewise be treated with humanity. It was formerly the custom in Egypt, Judea, Spain, &c. to have a clean spot in the field, round a tree, where, during the heat of the day, they spread the sheaves, and made oxen continually go round, to tread out the corn. Some had the ill nature to muzzle them, or to cover their mouths with dung; (Ælian iv. 25,) whence arose the proverb, “an ox in a heap” of corn, to denote a miser, who amidst plenty will not eat. Suidas. — Moses condemns this cruelty; as it is not just, says Josephus, to refuse these animals so small a recompence for the assistance which they afford us in procuring corn. C. — Besides this literal sense, God had principally in view the mystical one, which S. Paul unfolds to us. M. — Paine hence takes occasion to ridicule priests, who, he says, “preach up Deuteronomy, for Deuteronomy preaches up tithes.” But this bok enjoins them no more that other books of Scripture, and common reason dictates that the labourer is worthy of his hire. If the artizan, &c. will not work for nothing, why should priests spend their lives and fortunes, for the benefit of the people, without deriving any advantage from them? Who has served in the wars at his own charge at any time? 1 Cor. ix. 7. Whether the mode of paying tithes be the most eligible for the support of God’s ministers, is a question of smaller importance. It may at least plead a very high antiquity, (H.) as it was in force 400 years before the law of Moses. Abraham paid tithes to Melchisedeck, who was both king and priest; and Pisistratus received tithes from the people of Athens, to be expended in the public sacrifices, and for the general good. Laert. in Solone. Watson, let. 2.

Ver. 5. Together, as the sons of Juda did: (Gen. xxxviii. 8,) though custom (C.) and analogy extend this to other brothers, at least to those who live in the promised land, and have the inheritance in common, as appears from the history of Ruth, i. 13, &c. Noemi supposes that all the sons whom she might have had, would have been under the same obligation towards her daughter-in-law. The Rabbins restrain this law as much as they can, asserting that if the deceased left an adopted or natural child, the brother need not marry his widow, nor was any obliged but the next in age, and not married. S. Justin (q. 132,) teaches the reverse. C. — Half-brothers were included, (M.) and indeed every relation, in order, who, upon the refusal of the next heir, wished to take possession of the deceased person’s land. Ruth iv. H. — The Jews no longer observe this law, as they have not possession of Chanaan. Cuneus i. 7. — Fagius asserts that it was neglected after the captivity of Babylon, because the inheritances were confounded. C. — This, however, does not seem to have been the opinion of those who have undertaken to reconcile the genealogy of our Saviour, given by SS. Matthew and Luke, by supposing that S. Joseph was the son of Jacob by birth, and of Heli according to the law. S. Hilary Africanus says (Ep. to Aristides) that “Heli dying without issue, Jacob was obliged to marry his widow, by whom he had Joseph, a descendant of Solomon by Jacob, and of Nathan by Heli,” as their common mother, Esta, had married successively Mathan and Melchi, (or rather Mathat) who sprung from those two branches of David’s family. Dupin. H. — The Athenians followed a similar regulation with respect to orphan young women, whom the next of kin were bound to marry and to endow. The Tartars assert their right to marry the widows of their brethren. The Egyptians did not consider the marriage as real, nor any relationship contracted, in case the woman had no issue, on which principle there was no impediment ot prevent the brother from marrying the widow of his brother. On other occasions such contracts were declared illegal. Lev. xviii. 16. C. — This was a positive law, (W. Gen. xxxviii.) which admitted of an exception.

Ver. 6. Name. Josephus (iv. 8) takes this literally, as S. Aug. once did, though afterwards he retracted that opinion, (B. ii. 12,) on considering that Booz called his son Obed, and not Mahalon, which was the name of the first husband of Ruth. C. iv. 17. C. — Houbigant thinks some omissions have taken place in the very short genealogy of David, mentioned in that chapter, and instead of Obed, he would substitute Jachin, as the first-born of Ruth. He thinks that Solomon alluded to two of his ancestors, when he styled the two pillars before the temple Jachin and Booz. “In strength it shall stand or establish.” 3 K. vii. 21. Heb. “the first-born which she beareth shall arise (or succeed) in the name (or by the right and title) of his brother.” See Num. xxiv. 3. H. — Name is sometimes put for succession, (C.) or instead of another. M.

Ver. 9. In his face, or presence, upon the ground, as appears from the Gemarra of Jerusalem, where we read this form: (H.) “In our presence, (the three judges are specified) N, widow of N, hath taken off the shoe of N, son of N. She brought him before us, and took off the shoe from his right foot, and spat in our presence, so that we saw her spittle upon the ground; and she said to him, So shall he be treated who will not establish the house of his brother.” Before this ceremony took place, the widow was obliged to wait three months, to prove that she was not in a state of pregnancy; for if she were, the brother could not marry her. He was never obliged to do it, but if he refused he was deemed infamous. The taking off the shoe was intended to humble him, as well as to shew that he relinquished all his claim to the inheritance. Josephus (v. 11) says, that Ruth gave the relation, who would not marry her, a slap on the face, or rather, as it ought to be printed, “she spat in his face,” which was a mark of the greatest ignominy. C. xii. 14. Isai. l. 6. Mat. xxvi. 67. C.

Ver. 10. Unshod. Those who have no consideration for their brethren, or for the commonwealth, deserve to be despised. Much more do they who are appointed pastors of the Church, if they do not zealously endeavour to increase the number of God’s servants, whom they must attach to him, and not to themselves. Thus the disciples of S. Paul were known by the general name of Christians. S. Aug. c. Faust. xxxii. 10. W.

Ver. 12. In her regard: words supplied also by the Sept. conformably to the context. C. — The indecency and impudence of the woman, left her no excuse; (H.) though the Rabbins falsely maintain, that she might transgress this law in case of necessity, and might cut off the hand of her husband’s antagonist. Grotius. C. — She would thus put the man in danger of having no posterity. M. — If even the imminent danger of her husband would not authorize her to act in this manner, when the person was stripped to fight, how severely will God punish all wanton liberties!

Ver. 16. Injustice. Prov. xx. 10. To have a greater weight for buying and a less one for selling, is the way to grow rich here, or to obtain the mammon of iniquity; though, when such mean practices are detected, the man who cheats often loses more than he had gained; and at any rate, must either make restitution, if possible, or receive the wages of his unjust labour and craft in the world to come. H.

Ver. 17. Amalec. This order for destroying the Amalecites, in the mystical sense, sheweth how hateful they are to God, and what punishments they are to look for from his justice, who attack and discourage his servants when they are but just come out, as it were, of the Egypt of this wicked world, and being yet weak and faint-hearted, are but beginning their journey to the land of promise.

Ver. 18. God. This circumstance is not mentioned, Ex. xvii. 14.

Ver. 19. Heaven. Destroy him entirely, a sentence which Saul was ordered to put in execution, 1 K. xv. H.