Tuesday, 24 May 2011

Deuteronomy 22: It's a man's world

Brothers and Sisters, today's lesson will be taken from chapter 22 of Deuteronomy which begins with instructions on looking after your neighbour's lost property, to some questionable advice about animal husbandry:

1Thou shalt not see thy brother's ox or his sheep go astray, and hide thyself from them: thou shalt in any case bring them again unto thy brother. / 2And if thy brother be not nigh unto thee, or if thou know him not, then thou shalt bring it unto thine own house, and it shall be with thee until thy brother seek after it, and thou shalt restore it to him again. / 3In like manner shalt thou do with his ass; and so shalt thou do with his raiment; and with all lost thing of thy brother's, which he hath lost, and thou hast found, shalt thou do likewise: thou mayest not hide thyself. / 4Thou shalt not see thy brother's ass or his ox fall down by the way, and hide thyself from them: thou shalt surely help him to lift them up again. / 5The woman shall not wear that which pertaineth unto a man, neither shall a man put on a woman's garment: for all that do so are abomination unto the LORD thy God. / 6If a bird's nest chance to be before thee in the way in any tree, or on the ground, whether they be young ones, or eggs, and the dam sitting upon the young, or upon the eggs, thou shalt not take the dam with the young: / 7But thou shalt in any wise let the dam go, and take the young to thee; that it may be well with thee, and that thou mayest prolong thy days.

And so on to verse ... no wait ... hang on what's with verse 5? ...
Amongst the various livestock tips is a non sequitur warning of the perils of cross dressing... Did God's fingers slip on the keyboard perhaps? Put it done to an accidental clipboard paste. Well we've all done it (not cross dressing! I mean keyboard accidents!).

8When thou buildest a new house, then thou shalt make a battlement for thy roof, that thou bring not blood upon thine house, if any man fall from thence.

Watch those building regs!

9Thou shalt not sow thy vineyard with divers seeds: lest the fruit of thy seed which thou hast sown, and the fruit of thy vineyard, be defiled.

... is some advice about making the best of your wine crop. Perhaps God likes a quality tipple? ...
On to the next verse:

10Thou shalt not plow with an ox and an ass together.

Hmmm ... perhaps God is softening up his audience here with some surreal humour, for there are grim things to come, but not quite yet:

11Thou shalt not wear a garment of divers sorts, as of woollen and linen together.

... is some advice with which Trinny and Susannah might well concur ... no advice on colour coordination though

12Thou shalt make thee fringes upon the four quarters of thy vesture, wherewith thou coverest thyself.

... and some advice that the fashionistas might argue with: Well fringes are so 1970s aren't they?
Next we have another of those jarring changes of direction (perhaps God should have taken a course in creative writing before setting out on such an ambitious work?)
Anyway, It's going to be hard to find humour in the next few verses:

13If any man take a wife, and go in unto her, and hate her, / 14And give occasions of speech against her, and bring up an evil name upon her, and say, I took this woman, and when I came to her, I found her not a maid: / 15Then shall the father of the damsel, and her mother, take and bring forth the tokens of the damsel's virginity unto the elders of the city in the gate: / 16And the damsel's father shall say unto the elders, I gave my daughter unto this man to wife, and he hateth her; / 17And, lo, he hath given occasions of speech against her, saying, I found not thy daughter a maid; and yet these are the tokens of my daughter's virginity. And they shall spread the cloth before the elders of the city. / 18And the elders of that city shall take that man and chastise him; / 19And they shall amerce him in an hundred shekels of silver, and give them unto the father of the damsel, because he hath brought up an evil name upon a virgin of Israel: and she shall be his wife; he may not put her away all his days. 20But if this thing be true, and the tokens of virginity be not found for the damsel: / 21Then they shall bring out the damsel to the door of her father's house, and the men of her city shall stone her with stones that she die: because she hath wrought folly in Israel, to play the whore in her father's house: so shalt thou put evil away from among you.

... So if a man accuses his wife of not being a virgin on her wedding night -- and she can't prove she was a virgin (ah-hum! as this is a family show best not to dwell on the "tokens of virginity" I feel), then she is to be stoned to death.
I'm afraid that is going to be something of a theme from here:

22If a man be found lying with a woman married to an husband, then they shall both of them die, both the man that lay with the woman, and the woman: so shalt thou put away evil from Israel.

... some rare even-handedness there at least!

23If a damsel that is a virgin be betrothed unto an husband, and a man find her in the city, and lie with her; / 24Then ye shall bring them both out unto the gate of that city, and ye shall stone them with stones that they die; the damsel, because she cried not, being in the city; and the man, because he hath humbled his neighbour's wife: so thou shalt put away evil from among you.

... really should have screamed "rape!" louder, sweetheart!

25But if a man find a betrothed damsel in the field, and the man force her, and lie with her: then the man only that lay with her shall die. / 26But unto the damsel thou shalt do nothing; there is in the damsel no sin worthy of death: for as when a man riseth against his neighbour, and slayeth him, even so is this matter: / 27For he found her in the field, and the betrothed damsel cried, and there was none to save her.

... Ah! Not the girl's fault for once!

28If a man find a damsel that is a virgin, which is not betrothed, and lay hold on her, and lie with her, and they be found; / 29Then the man that lay with her shall give unto the damsel's father fifty shekels of silver, and she shall be his wife; because he hath humbled her, he may not put her away all his days.

... The rapist must pay! (But only if he's caught? Otherwise it's okay?)
And another fixed penalty notice ... doesn't God understand about inflation? The punishment gets less with the passing years.
And what if the rapist is already married? Polygamy allowed presumably.
Oh yes, and the girl's feelings in the matter seem irrelevant ... perhaps she wouldn't want to marry her rapist?

And finally:

30A man shall not take his father's wife, nor discover his father's skirt.

... which begins with some good public health advice ... but I'm at a loss to explain the last bit: "nor discover his father's skirt"? Whatever could that mean...?