Several Laws for a Holy People

Deuteronomy 23:10-24:13

The next lengthy stretch of the portion deals with a variety of brief laws. We have broken it up into two sections for manageability.


To keep the camp holy, anyone impure due to a nocturnal emission must sit outside the camp until he is purified. Among a soldier’s equipment, he must also keep a shovel to bury his bodily waste.


If a slave escapes his master, you may not turn him in.


Promiscuity and prostitution is forbidden, and the wages from improper behavior may not be brought to the Temple.


One may not charge interest from his fellow Israelite, though it is permitted to charge interest to a foreigner.


If you make a vow to contribute something to God, you must pay up on time. It is preferable to offer your gift without a vow, because if something interferes you will not be held accountable by God for sinning. In fact, any oath taken must be fulfilled in a timely fashion.


A worker is permitted to eat from the produce he is reaping for the landowner as he works, but may not harvest a portion for himself.


If a marriage ends in divorce and the wife remarries, she becomes forbidden to her first husband, even if the second marriage ends in another divorce or widowhood.


A bridegroom shall not go out to war in the first year of his marriage.


A millstone may not be taken as surety for a pledge, as it is needed to sustain the owner’s life.


Kidnapping is a capital offense.


Moses warns the people to beware the tzaraat affliction by following the teachings of the priests and Levites. He reminds the people of what happened to Miriam in the desert as a cautionary tale.


Finally, Moses tells the people to treat a borrower with dignity: the lender may not enter his home to take collateral, nor may he hold that collateral overnight if the borrower is poor and in need of the item.


Virtual Classroom Discussion

Is there a common thread among these laws? Why do you think Moses groups these commandments together in his speech (remember, the whole book of Deuteronomy is Moses’s farewell address to the people)?

Comments ( 5 )

The comments below do not necessarily reflect the beliefs and opinions of The Israel Bible™.

  • Israel will soon be in the promised land en become there a holy nation: a light set out unto the peoples to shine the holiness of the Eternal One. Therefore Moshe pointed out all these personal guidelines. Holiness of a nation is produced through holiness of the individual citizens.

  • I agree, Moshe is preparing them for nation building and nation building requires all the three aspects: kindness, righteousness and justice, hence it matters not if they are all mixed up in the same portion or chapter.

  • Thank you for sharing. In addition to what both Diana and Magda have pointed out, regarding the holiness of the nation and emulating God through Kindness, righteousness, and justice, these laws all pertain to the new situation in which the people are about to find themselves: living sovereign in their own land. These (and many other laws Moses discusses particularly in Deuteronomy) are about to take on a new significance as the Children of Israel settle in, work the land, wage wars, build a Temple, etc.

  • Diana Brown

    Israel is becoming a nation for the purpose of being a light unto the pagan nations. To represent the Light, they must learn how to a light-bearer. They must be different in how they live in society to show respect for HaShem and the neighbors. Also, they are warned by Moses to purify their character so that paganism won’t ensare them as they enter the Land. Traps and Snares impede the Plan of God but ultimately He will bring everything together in His Time.

  • Magda

    In Jeremiah 9 around v 23/24 (depending on translation) the Holy One says:”But only in this should one glory: In his earnest devotion to Me(that he knows me). For I the Lord act with kindness(chesed), Justice (Mishpat), and equity (tzedekah) in the world; For in these I delight – declares the Lord”. In our early discovering of the richness of meaning of the whole of God’s Word / His Torah (coming from a Christian/church background myself), a friend pointed out this verse. Ever since, through learning all the new guidelines, little miracles and lessons in the Provision of the Creator for us through His guidelines/ Torah/ Word/ Law , this summary of the character of the Holy One forms (to me) the backdrop. I believe in all His guidelines/ all His Torah (the above-mentioned included of course) He teaches us to be kind, just and fair as He is kind, just and fair. But kindness comes first. Would you point out some other, extra common denominator among these Tzivya? Many thanks.

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