On-Line Bible Lessons

Deuteronomy - Chapter 21, Lesson 2

Sorry, but time prohibits correcting the grammar in these lessons, Pastor Ovid Need


"Honor thy father and thy mother." Now we come to another aspect of family law. Our last lesson (vv. 10-14) fell not only within the law, "Thou shalt not covet", but within this one, also. Three of these five covered in chp. 21 fall within family law.

Here we have a man with two wives. At this point we probably should mention polygamy. Scripture seems to tolerate polygamy, more than one wife, and yet has a total intolerance of adul­tery, which in the OT has the death penalty against it. Today we tolerate, even approve, adultery, yet prohibit polygamy. Strange! In no way do we condone polygamy, but just recently the law en­forcement agencies laid siege to a polgyamous family and people were killed in Utah. How many sieges like this do we read about against adultery?

Again referring to "The Institutes of Biblical Law", pg. 362-362.

"First of all, very clearly the purpose of God in creation was that monogamy be the standard for man.-- Eve, one woman, for Adam, one man (Gen. 2:18-24). The normative marriage is clearly monogamous. Second, polygamy clearly appears as a product of the fall, in a world of sin. The first recorded bigamous marriage is that of Cain's descendant--- (Gen. 4:23). Third, the prohibi­tion of polygamy is implied in Genesis 2:23, 24, and is stated in one reading of Leviticus 18:18,--- Fourth, I Timothy 3:2 makes clear that polygamy was forbidden to church officers:--- Fifth, there is at least an implied condemnation of polygamy in Deuteronomy 17:17,--- (Lev. 21:13, 14). Sixth, it is clearly stated by Jesus Christ that marriage is the union of one man and one woman,--- (Matt. 19:5). Seventh, St. Paul spoke of marriage in monogamous terms:--- (I Cor. 7:2).
In passage after passage, monogamy, is assumed to be the God-ordained standard. On the other hand, in many passages, polygamy is a recognized and accepted fact,---
The law did recognize and regulate concubine and polygamy. First, a man could not simply use a concubine -- (Ex. 21:10, 11) (Deut. 21:10-14). Second, a "bondmaid betrothed to a husband" (Lev. 19:20), i.e., a girl who has been secured as a concubine, could not be put to death for adultery; (Lev. 19:20).--- since a concubine receives a limited status and receives less dignity in the mar­riage, only a limited loyalty can be expected -- Third, it is thus apparent that the law tolerated polygamy while establishing monogamy as the standard. The reason for this toleration was the fact that the polygamous family was still a family, a lower form of family life, but a tolerable one---. Biblical law thus protects the family and does not tolerate adultery, which threatens and destroys the family -- Polygamy, thus is tolerated in Biblical law, but the standard established by the creation ordinance and laid down by St. Paul for members (I Cor. 7:2) and for officers (I Tim. 3:2) of Christ's kingdom is monogamy."

Back to our text, Deut. 21:15-17. The man has two wives, maybe even as a result of the war­fare from v. 10. He may think more highly of one than the other as Jacob did Rachel over Leah. He has children born to him by each wife.

1. The double portion went to the oldest. What was the man prohibited from doing here when he divided the inheritance, vv. 16- 17?


The responsibility of the oldest was to care for his parents. We have already looked at this in a previous lesson as we saw that this inheritance was based upon the son being a godly son. If the son was not a godly person, then the inheritance, as well as the responsibility for the parents, went to the next oldest who was godly.

a. If there were no godly sons within the children, where did the inheritance go, Num. 27:1-8?

b. If there were no godly children, where did the inheritance go, Num. 27:9-11?

c. Our Lord underscored this requirement of the inheritance from the cross as He passed the responsibility for His mother not to James, His half brother, but to whom, Jn. 19:26?

This man was Christ's cousin, and, evidently, the closest godly relative. It was not until after the resurrection that His half-brothers believed on Him.

The parents are to provide an inheritance for the children, II Cor. 12:14; Prov. 13:22, yet it can only be used in a godly manner. The children are to provide for their parents, Mk. 7:6-13, not the state. When these two principles are ignored, the family is weakened and society falls apart.

As we have already pointed out, for a parent to pass on their inheritance to an ungodly child (unbelieving or rebellious) is to bless evil (8-1).

(1) What did Jacob do with his ungodly children, Gen. 49:2-7? ___________________

(2) Which ones did he curse? ____________________________________________________
(3) Why? ________________________________________________________________________

Deut. 21:15, we see, once again, that emotions are not allowed to govern our actions. Every action is to be aligned with God's Word. A person might say, "But I love that child." The decision cannot be made upon this emotion. Every aspect of the family is to be submitted to God if we expect to be His disciples, Lk. 14:26-33.

This brings us to the next part, Deut. 21:18-21.

2. What is the sin or lawlessness addressed here, v. 18? ____________________________

a. Whose responsibility is it to see that this lawlessness is accounted for, v. 19?

b. What is to be done, v. 19-21? _____________________________________________________
c. Who is to do it? __________________________________________________________________

Here we have at least two things. First, continuing on with the thought started in v. 10, we see, again, that personal ties, emotions and feelings must all be subjected to the Lord God. God does not allow decisions to be made upon any other basis. Every area, including the most basic, the family, is to be brought into conformity to God's Word.

Second, we see the family could not enforce the death penalty. This had to be done by the civil authorities. The family could not allow personal feelings and attachments to hinder the civil authorities from enforcing even the death penalty against the guilty child. This is a reason there was no death penalty before Noah. Society was all one big family. The nations were formed after the flood.

This is also a demand for respect of the child toward his parents. This is reaffirmed by Paul in Eph. 6 and Col. 3:20. We have an exception back in Deut. 13:9 where the family participates in the killing of a child who attempts to influence them away from the Lord God. We see again that God emphasizes what we tend to de-emphasize. What is minor in our eyes is major in His. To us the rebellious drunkard is much worse than the moral child who is serving a false god and trying to influence others to serve that god, such as a Mormon or J.W..

Yet, our God is harsher against the good moral person who tries to influence others away from HIM than He is against the drunken bum. Of course, the "moral" person will have more of an in­fluence than the drunkard. We can easily see the drunkard is a sinner, yet, the moral person can be passed off as a "good Christian". People will listen to his false doctrine and follow him away from God because he's such a "good person".

3. Both required death. What was the purpose of this harsh penalty, Deut. 13:11; 21:21?

This is reflected in the NT. First, the propagator of a false god is not allowed in the home with his doctrine, II Jn. 10. This would include children. Second, we have the requirement of separation from the ungodly, I Cor. 5:10-13; II Cor. 6:14-18. "But I love my child and am I to cut them off because they are not what they should be; how can I help them if I do?" This is a very hard question and one we cannot answer. We must make some very hard choices in accordance with God's Word as we search it for those answers. All we do know for sure is a parent cannot support a child either emotionally or financially in their rebellion against God and His Word without being partakers of their evil deeds.

Notice something as we study the book of Deut.

First, Deut. 13:9-11, the family is required to take part in the putting away of the child who seeks to influence the family after another god, namely after the gods of the heathen around them.

This would include any offer of another way to victory; success other than God's way as revealed in His Word, vv. 1-11. This would be anything which would influence us away from God's way and word.

Second, Deut. 21:18-21. Here is a drunken rebellious child. The family is responsible to see that it is dealt with, yet they do not take part in the punishment. Different requirements being placed upon the parents show us that God is more concerned that His people absolutely avoid anyone which would try to influence them away from His Word and way. That person is to be treated as a dead person. This person who offers anything contrary to God's Word is to be avoided.

Deut. 13:1-11 shows us this person will offer some things that might work, but one reason these might work (on the surface) could be God permitting them to work to try His people; to see if His people will still do it His way in the face of all temptation and offers to have victory otherwise, vv. 6-7. The offer is to either serve the Lord God or to seek success after the manner of the world around us.

We cannot permit any follower or propagator of anything unscriptural to influence us in any way. The rest of Deut. 13 confirms this.

God is more tolerant of the drunken, rebellious bum than He is of this good moral person who offers ANYTHING contrary to His Word. Can we tolerate, permit and even encourage this person who offers something to God's people other than 13:4, 18 and avoid the chastening hand of God?

This person rose up from among God's people (chp. 13:6, brother, sister, son, wife, or very close friend) and he offered another god as their answer. Can we allow anyone of these loved ones to try to offer us the humanist god of education, science and knowledge, or any of a multi­tude of gods, and avoid the results? Does 13:17 still apply today? This seems to be confirmed in II Jn. 10. The false doctrine of II Jn. 10 would include humanism, not just false religions as we think of them.

Then, last of all, we have the law regarding the burial of the dead, vv. 22-23. We see this requirement, as well as this curse, reflected in the NT. It would be good to examine these NT references, particularly as they refer to our Lord, some of which are: Matt. 26:66; Jn. 19:31, and, especially, Gal. 3:13 where Christ became a curse for us. We owe Him our loyal service and obedience.