Deuteronomy 22 Study Notes


22:1-4 Brotherly responsibility in Israel was a further application of the principle of oneness inherent in a covenant community. If a person saw a fellow citizen’s ox or sheep straying, he was obligated to return it if the owner was known. Otherwise he must keep it as one of his own until the owner came to claim it. The principle here is that all lands and properties in a sense belonged to all the people collectively as the inheritance of the Lord. The early church adopted this spirit, at least for a time (Ac 4:32).

22:5 For a woman to wear male clothing and a man a woman’s garment (cross-dressing or transvestitism) is wrong because, among other things, it violates the principle of separation that God has built into the created order.

22:6-7 The principle here seems to be that of not mixing life with death. Thus, a mother bird, the source of life, must not be taken along with her chicks and eggs because she would no longer be able to generate new life.

22:8 The prescriptions concerning preservation of life (21:22-22:8) and indeed the entire section on life and death (19:1-22:8) conclude with this instruction to home builders to build a guard rail around the perimeter of the rooftop to prevent persons from accidentally falling off.

22:9 To plant a vineyard with two types of seed makes the point even more clearly that the mixture of unlike things is harmful. Similarly, Israel would be defiled if she mingled with the pagan nations (7:3-4).

22:10 To hitch an ox and a donkey up as a team was to invite all kinds of difficulty because of their different natures and habits. Paul chose this law to illustrate how Christians must not marry outside the faith (2Co 6:14-18).

22:11 The occurrence of a similar law in Lv 19:19 in a context that stresses the importance of holiness suggests that the law was symbolic. Some have suggested a mixture of wool and linen was worn by prostitutes (J. G. McConville).

22:12 See the parallel passage in Nm 15:37-41.

22:13-20 Nowhere was purity of life expected more in ancient Israel than in the realm of sex and marriage, not only because of its inherent rightness but because Israel’s relationship to the Lord was often described with the metaphor of marriage (Hs 2:2). The breaking of the covenant that secured marriage was tantamount to divorce brought about by spiritual adultery (Hs 2:3-13). One hundred shekels was a considerable amount of money, indicating that damage to the reputation of the girl and her family by false accusations was not to be taken lightly.

22:21-22 The harsh penalty of stoning to death underscores the principle of purity and separation addressed in this section of the book. Israel collectively must be pure before God, with every member of the community responsible for maintaining that holy standard.

22:23-29 If an engaged . . . virgin had sex with a man in the city, it was presumed that she had done so willingly since no one heard her cry out in protest. The community must stone him for adultery and her for complicity. If the act took place in the open country, however, the presumption was that the young woman screamed but there was no one to rescue her. She must be exonerated in such a case. The requirement that she become his wife (v. 29) assumes the condition that she is willing.

22:30 Father’s wife refers to a foster mother. For a man to do such a thing is to be intimate with a woman with whom the father himself has been intimate, thus “exposing his father’s nakedness” (a literal rendering; cp. 27:20; Ru 3:9).