Today we reach the end of the command section of the Deuteronomy covenant. We’re listening to the longest of Moses’ three speeches at the border of the Promised Land, just before he dies. This is how the children of Israel are to give thanks for the gift they’ve been given and set themselves apart as the LORD’s holy people.
The instructions in chapter 24 about granting a woman a divorce need to be considered in the context of everything else we’ve read about marriage. Remember Genesis 2: “Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.” This gets upended in Genesis 3, and through all of our stories thus far, this ideal never materializes. It’s an indication of how far things have fallen that God would here give instructions about divorce protections.
The remainder of chapters 24 and 25 have to do with justice. Listen, again, to the repetition of sojourners, widows and orphans. This is again connected to Israel’s story: they too were sojourners in Egypt. Even the passage about providing offspring for a deceased brother’s wife is about economics. Listen to the scenario: if two brothers live together, and one dies, who gets the estate? If the deceased has children, then they do. If he does not, then his brother does. As strange as this practice might seem to us, this passage is a defense against greed.
Chapter 26 is all about promise and gratitude. “When you come into the land the LORD your God is giving you…you shall make a response before the LORD your God.” And that response is not only an offering of first fruits but a canned speech. Since the LORD doesn’t need to be reminded of His mighty deeds, this is about aligning the heart of the giver, affirming (as in chapters 8 and 9) that it was not by their strength or their righteousness that they inherited the land.
Our verse for this week is Matthew 22:39: And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.
Deuteronomy chapters 24 to 26. Now let’s read it!
And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.