“If one be found slain in the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee to possess it, lying in the field, and it be not known who hath slain him: Then thy elders and thy judges shall come forth, and they shall measure unto the cities which are round about him that is slain: And it shall be, that the city which is next unto the slain man, even the elders of that city shall take an heifer, which hath not been wrought with, and which hath not drawn in the yoke; And the elders of that city shall bring down the heifer unto a rough valley, which is neither eared nor sown, and shall strike off the heifer's neck there in the valley: And the priests the sons of Levi shall come near; for them the LORD thy God hath chosen to minister unto him, and to bless in the name of the LORD; and by their word shall every controversy and every stroke be tried: And all the elders of that city, that are next unto the slain man, shall wash their hands over the heifer that is beheaded in the valley: And they shall answer and say, Our hands have not shed this blood, neither have our eyes seen it. Be merciful, O LORD, unto thy people Israel, whom thou hast redeemed, and lay not innocent blood unto thy people of Israel's charge. And the blood shall be forgiven them.
So shalt thou put away the guilt of innocent blood from among you, when thou shalt do that which is right in the sight of the LORD.” (Deuteronomy 21:1-9)
Israel would not be able to solve every murder or accidental death. In such cases the administration of the city having jurisdiction over the crime scene was take an houng cow who had never been used and kill her as a sacrifice to God in a unfarmed valley, where they will stand before God, with the priests standing as judges. The administrators were there to wash their hands, indicating they had no part in the person’s death while stating that as a fact and asking God to forgive the people of the city for being unable to punish the guilty party.
If this procedure was followed, God would not hold the city accountable for letting an innocent man be killed without penalty. God would honor their effort to do what was right.
Treatment of a Captive Woman
“When thou goest forth to war against thine enemies, and the LORD thy God hath delivered them into thine hands, and thou hast taken them captive, And seest among the captives a beautiful woman, and hast a desire unto her, that thou wouldest have her to thy wife; Then thou shalt bring her home to thine house; and she shall shave her head, and pare her nails; And she shall put the raiment of her captivity from off her, and shall remain in thine house, and bewail her father and her mother a full month: and after that thou shalt go in unto her, and be her husband, and she shall be thy wife.” (Deuteronomy 21:10-13)
Sexual attraction is not limited to members of the same race or culture. While God forbade the Jews marrying the Canaanite people because of the probability of being led into idolatry and false religion, the prohibition was not universal. They were free to marry women of races they had conquered, but they were not to rape or take advantage of those women’s being captives. They were to respect her grief over the loss of her family, allowing her to grieve naturally. Once the grieving was over they were allowed to take her as their wife with all the rights and privileges of a wife, not as a captive or slave.
“And it shall be, if thou have no delight in her, then thou shalt let her go whither she will; but thou shalt not sell her at all for money, thou shalt not make merchandise of her, because thou hast humbled her.” (Deuteronomy 21:14)
All marriages have points of conflict but interracial and inter cultural marriages have built in conflicts. If the marriage wasn’t satisfactory, they could separate, but the wife was to be allowed to go as a free woman. The husband could not return her to slavery or make a profit off her after sexual relations with her. While divorce is never the preferred choice, there are times when it is the only option. I Corinthians 7:10-11 make it clear that while it is not to be lightly undertaken, it is not absolutely forbidden. It does not free one to marry someone else. Matthew 5:31-32 and 19:9 both stress that is adultery.
In both England and early America, slave women were sometimes viewed as sex slaves and used accordingly. Under God’s law such practices were absolutely forbidden.
"If a man have two wives, one beloved, and another hated, and they have born him children, both the beloved and the hated; and if the firstborn son be hers that was hated: Then it shall be, when he maketh his sons to inherit that which he hath, that he may not make the son of the beloved firstborn before the son of the hated, which is indeed the firstborn: But he shall acknowledge the son of the hated for the firstborn, by giving him a double portion of all that he hath: for he is the beginning of his strength; the right of the firstborn is his.” (Deuteronomy 21:15-17)
Contrary to what many believe, polygamy is never forbidden in the Bible, in either the Old or New Testament, although it is clearly discouraged, and a man who desires to lead a church is forbidden to have more than one wife. If he doesn’t control himself in that area, he isn’t qualified to teach others how they should live.
The first born child usually doesn’t have to compete for his parents attention like younger siblings, but he often ends up taking undue responsibility for them, and thus deserves a little more than the others. If a man had more than one wife, and favored one over the other, he would tend to favor her children as well. The man could not ignore the efforts of the eldest if he were the child of the least liked wife, but was to give him a double portion as the one who took on those responsibilities. Unlike many other cultures, everything did not automatically accrue to the oldest son.
Parents Responsibility for Children
“If a man have a stubborn and rebellious son, which will not obey the voice of his father, or the voice of his mother, and that, when they have chastened him, will not hearken unto them: Then shall his father and his mother lay hold on him, and bring him out unto the elders of his city, and unto the gate of his place; And they shall say unto the elders of his city, This our son is stubborn and rebellious, he will not obey our voice; he is a glutton, and a drunkard. And all the men of his city shall stone him with stones, that he die: so shalt thou put evil away from among you; and all Israel shall hear, and fear.” (Deuteronomy 21:18-21)
People were to take responsibility for their livestock and pets, and they were to take responsibility for their children’s behavior. If a child living at home refused to listen to his parents, after every effort to correct his behavior, they were to publicly accuse him before the elders of the city, to be executed for his rebelliousness. This was a serious indictment of the parenting skills of the parents and would result in every effort to correct the behavior, but some children, and teenagers refuse to obey. Executing such a one relieved the parents of responsibility for damage he might do and ensured that he would not influence others to act the same way.
How much would our juvenile crime level be reduced if the parents were held accountable for their failure to properly teach their underage children?
Punishment Is To End when Finished
“And if a man have committed a sin worthy of death, and he be to be put to death, and thou hang him on a tree: His body shall not remain all night upon the tree, but thou shalt in any wise bury him that day; (for he that is hanged is accursed of God;) that thy land be not defiled, which the LORD thy God giveth thee for an inheritance.” (Deuteronomy 21:22-23)
Many cultures have left executed bodies on public display to try to discourage others from committing the same crimes. Far too often the result is desensitizing to suffering of others instead. God said that leaving the body on display would lead to the land being defiled. People forget what the crime was and only remember the penalty.
In our day grounding or forbidding a child to participate in and activity is often used as punishment. Unfortunately the child soon forgets the crime and only remembers the punishment. Before long he becomes rebellious, feeling he is being unfairly punished, and further misbehavior results. A punishment which makes it clear the behavior is unacceptable then ends is far more effective.