Words from the Weary Wilderness - Lenten Journey Day 26
Day Twenty-Six Thursday, March 31
Disputes, Assaults, and Other Troubles
Read: Deuteronomy 21:1-17
21 If, in the land that the Lord your God is giving you to possess, a body is found lying in open country, and it is not known who struck the person down, 2 then your elders and your judges shall come out to measure the distances to the towns that are near the body. 3 The elders of the town nearest the body shall take a heifer that has never been worked, one that has not pulled in the yoke; 4 the elders of that town shall bring the heifer down to a wadi with running water, which is neither plowed nor sown, and shall break the heifer’s neck there in the wadi. 5 Then the priests, the sons of Levi, shall come forward, for the Lord your God has chosen them to minister to him and to pronounce blessings in the name of the Lord, and by their decision all cases of dispute and assault shall be settled. 6 All the elders of that town nearest the body shall wash their hands over the heifer whose neck was broken in the wadi, 7 and they shall declare: “Our hands did not shed this blood, nor were we witnesses to it. 8 Absolve, O Lord, your people Israel, whom you redeemed; do not let the guilt of innocent blood remain in the midst of your people Israel.” Then they will be absolved of bloodguilt. 9 So you shall purge the guilt of innocent blood from your midst, because you must do what is right in the sight of the Lord.
Female Captives10 When you go out to war against your enemies, and the Lord your God hands them over to you and you take them captive, 11 suppose you see among the captives a beautiful woman whom you desire and want to marry, 12 and so you bring her home to your house: she shall shave her head, pare her nails, 13 discard her captive’s garb, and shall remain in your house a full month, mourning for her father and mother; after that you may go in to her and be her husband, and she shall be your wife. 14 But if you are not satisfied with her, you shall let her go free and not sell her for money. You must not treat her as a slave, since you have dishonored her.
The Right of the Firstborn
15 If a man has two wives, one of them loved and the other disliked, and if both the loved and the disliked have borne him sons, the firstborn being the son of the one who is disliked, 16 then on the day when he wills his possessions to his sons, he is not permitted to treat the son of the loved as the firstborn in preference to the son of the disliked, who is the firstborn. 17 He must acknowledge as firstborn the son of the one who is disliked, giving him a double portion[a] of all that he has; since he is the first issue of his virility, the right of the firstborn is his.
Today’s Word from the Weary Wilderness: When you go out to war against your enemies, and the Lord your God hands them over to you and you take them captive, suppose you see among the captives a beautiful woman whom you desire and want to marry, and so you bring her home to your house… (Deuteronomy 21: 10-12a)
Reflection: There are some very difficult, but real-life justice issues in the wilderness. What to do when a dead body is discovered? What to do with female prisoners of war? What to do when the firstborn is not the child of the beloved wife? The people had to develop some regulations for propriety in the wilderness, since there were no external regional laws keeping them civilized. While we see these rules as antiquated and completely unjust, they must have seen them as a way through the weary wilderness. How does your spirit respond to the laws above, especially as a tender-hearted person who may love animals, or as a woman, or as a child in your family of origin? How do you respond to the Bible being okay with men seeking satisfaction in prisoners of war, or in the concept of multiple wives in general?
Prayer: God of the Weary Wilderness, we look for timeless justice in your word. We see among these stories methods that the people of Israel used to keep order as they moved towards the promised land. We ask that you would help us to see that they were striving for the good, even though these practices seem inhumane to us. Help us to understand your word in context, to see that these practices were ways of providing closure, offering sanctuary, and seeking peace and justice within families. Amen.
Blessings of Peace and Health,
Rev. Beverly B. Coppley
& Chief Missional Strategist