Our God is a God of truth. To be more like Him, we must learn to like truth – or so I think. So, I’m making a list of Bible verses that make my heart pound and my eyes water, verses I have no idea what to do with. I’ll read them and re-read them, try to find some context and pray about them. I know that God will help.
Deuteronomy 25:11, 12: If two men are fighting and the wife of one of them come to rescue her husband from his assailant, and she reaches out and seizes him by his private parts, you shall cut off her hand. You shall show her no pity.
Step 1: Make notes and questions:
- Was the woman’s action deliberate or accidental? Does that matter in the execution?
- What exactly was the implication of her action? Why does this matter? I do not think that women were not allowed to touch their husband’s private parts at all – partly because I can think of certain situations in which that may be desirable. Was it only in public?
- Why Did God specifically instruct them not to pity her? It seems to suggest that they might have pitied her in which case it would seem that they had a higher tolerance for her action than God which would argue against this being a cultural thing (e.g. “men did not like their wives touching their private parts in public and so made this law” or something like that).
- If they people may have tolerated it, then it would seem that God is the one who has a problem with her action and not the people.
- It says, “…and she reaches out and seizes him by his private parts…” Who does ‘him’ refer to? Previously, I’ve assumed that it was the husband and the whole thing seemed to be a shame matter but what if it was her husband’s assailant that she was seizing? That would cast a different light on the issue. She may be attacking him to save her husband in which case this law could be about improper methods of defense.
- As for the punishment, “…cut off her hand. Show her no pity”. Assuming that this really was a serious offense, how just is the punishment? I can make no argument against punishments such as this and it does not scream against my moral sensibilities in the same way as the idea that the woman is being punished for no crime at all but someone else might have a problem with it.
- Why such a punishment, anyway? I have a vague idea what capital punishments are meant to suggest. Punishments could also involve fines, beating or retaliation. But why maim her specifically? I don’t suppose she could have been whipped. I suppose it may be that maiming her is a punishment that is suitably harsh but is not as bad as the death penalty.
Step 2: Read a commentary or other source on issue and note findings.
Commentary: New Interpreters Bible
- This is the only prescription of mutilation as a legal punishment in the OT laws.
- My commentary suggests that the woman’s action could have prevented the man from bearing children – a horrible fate, it would seem which may have bothered the community enough to institute such a law but I am yet to see why it would be of such concern to God. However, this would explain the harshness of the prescribed punishment
Step 3: Look for examples of God’s love and care for his community
- God obviously cared enough about the welfare of the men in the community and their ability to procreate (If my commentary is right) – even if they were violent men.
Step 4: Play the skeptic. Use the passage to argue against God
This is an example of the cruelty of the OT laws. A woman grabs the private part of a man in the community and is maimed in retaliation even though her intentions were noble (saving her husband).
Step 5: Answer the skeptic
The motives behind an action do not determine its morality. If her action was wrong (as the lawmaker seems to believe), then she should be punished regardless of her motives.
Step 6: Summarize
There isn’t even really much to say about this. The woman has done something which may or may not be wrong depending on the reasons behind the judgment and a suitable punishment is handed her. I don’t know why I was so scared of this before. This six-step process is so much fun! I still have one question that has not been answered to my satisfaction, though. Why was the woman’s action considered wrong? I want some answers, not speculation like the NIB provides.