The law of Moses, was given by the Lord to the Israelites, in order to give them the way to be the Lord’s chosen people. Through these many laws and statutes, they would be able to learn how to love God and love others. If they lived the law, and did not turn back to the ways of some of their ancestors, they would be greatly blessed by God. Moses continued to teach the newer generation, all that had been given to him, in preparation for their entrance into the promised land. His sermon continues with the following:
1 If there be a controversy between men, and they come unto judgment, that the judges may judge them; then they shall justify the righteous, and condemn the wicked.
2 And it shall be, if the wicked man be worthy to be beaten, that the judge shall cause him to lie down, and to be beaten before his face, according to his fault, by a certain number.
3 Forty stripes he may give him, and not exceed: lest, if he should exceed, and beat him above these with many stripes, then thy brother should seem vile unto thee.
A punishment for the wicked, was explained by Moses. Judges were to decide the cases brought before them, and then do right by the innocent and condemn the wicked. Next, they were to give a punishment worthy of their wrong-doing. If a condemned man was worthy of being beaten, they were to charge him with up to 40 stripes, and no more. Anything over that, was cruel and unnecessary for any man. Our works will determine our own reward as well. God is our ultimate judge and eventually we will face him. In the most perfect and just way, He will determine if we have done righteous works or wicked works. After the Savior has mediated for us, if have repented and turned to the Lord, we will receive the punishment or blessings we deserve, according to the demands of justice. No punishment will be greater than is necessary according to the law.
4 Thou shalt not muzzle the ox when he treadeth out the corn.
My understanding, is that this means that in that day, they would place a muzzle on an ox, so that it would not eat as it worked the field of grain. The law here is, that they were not to place the muzzle on the ox. This is one of those laws that does not give its explanation and may seem strange to include in the law of Moses. I am sure there is a deeper meaning in its use, though I am not sure what it is. I don’t know that it really was about whether or not they stopped the animal from eating while working, but rather that they were to take care of those that worked for them and allow them their due.
5 If brethren dwell together, and one of them die, and have no child, the wife of the dead shall not marry without unto a stranger: her husband’s brother shall go in unto her, and take her to him to wife, and perform the duty of an husband’s brother unto her.
6 And it shall be, that the firstborn which she beareth shall succeed in the name of his brother which is dead, that his name be not put out of Israel.
7 And if the man like not to take his brother’s wife, then let his brother’s wife go up to the gate unto the elders, and say, My husband’s brother refuseth to raise up unto his brother a name in Israel, he will not perform the duty of my husband’s brother.
8 Then the elders of his city shall call him, and speak unto him: and if he stand to it, and say, I like not to take her;
9 Then shall his brother’s wife come unto him in the presence of the elders, and loose his shoe from off his foot, and spit in his face, and shall answer and say, So shall it be done unto that man that will not build up his brother’s house.
10 And his name shall be called in Israel, The house of him that hath his shoe loosed.
In the law of marriage, a widow who was without children, was to be taken as a wife by any living brothers of her late husband. If she was to have a son by her second husband, that son was to represent her first husband by name. If the widow was refused by the brother, she could take her plea to the elders of her city. The elders were to talk to the man. If he confirmed her claim, and would not take her as his wife, then the widow was to remove his shoe, and spit in his face. Then he would be known throughout the nation as one who had denied this duty to his family.
11 When men strive together one with another, and the wife of the one draweth near for to deliver her husband out of the hand of him that smiteth him, and putteth forth her hand, and taketh him by the secrets:
12 Then thou shalt cut off her hand, thine eye shall not pity her.
If a woman defended her husband during a fight he had with another man, she was not to grab him in any indecent way. If she did, she would be punished by loosing her hand.
13 Thou shalt not have in thy bag divers weights, a great and a small.
14 Thou shalt not have in thine house divers measures, a great and a small.
15 But thou shalt have a perfect and just weight, a perfect and just measure shalt thou have: that thy days may be lengthened in the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee.
16 For all that do such things, and all that do unrighteously, are an abomination unto the Lord thy God.
All things were to be done justly, including how they handled measurements and weights. I think that this referred to how they handled the giving and receiving of money and payments.
17 Remember what Amalek did unto thee by the way, when ye were come forth out of Egypt;
18 How he met thee by the way, and smote the hindmost of thee, even all that were feeble behind thee, when thou wast faint and weary; and he feared not God.
19 Therefore it shall be, when the Lord thy God hath given thee rest from all thine enemies round about, in the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee for an inheritance to possess it, that thou shalt blot out the remembrance of Amalek from under heaven; thou shalt not forget it.
The Israelites were called to remember how the Amlekites had been wicked and attacked them in their journey to the land of inheritance. This was the time, when Moses held up the rod and with the power of God, the Israelites were successful against them. God had promised Moses then, that the nation of Amalek would be destroyed. In Exodus 17:14 we read, “And the Lord said unto Moses, Write this for a memorial in a book, and rehearse it in the ears of Joshua: for I will utterly put out the remembrance of Amalek from under heaven.” Therefore, because the Amlekites had done wrong to the Israelites, they were not going to be peace between their nations. When the Israelites had settled in the land, and were no longer fighting against those that had inhabited it before them, they were to destroy the remaining Amalekites and remember how and why they had been called to do it.
We are shown example after example, throughout the scriptures, of how important it is to take care of widows. The manual I am studying, Scripture Study for the Latter-Day Saint Families: The Old Testament, places a focus on this, based on the Lord’s law found in this chapter. This custom is not one that is heard of today in the society I live in, but there is evidence of just how important this is to the Lord. It is never an easy thing, for a woman to loose her husband. In ancient times, a widow would have been left without the means to provide for her own needs, and I believe it was much less likely for them to remarry, than it would be today. It has always been a god-given duty for men to provide for the women in their lives, especially those who loose their husbands. This applies also, to supporting their mothers, grandmothers, and even extended family members. When the responsibility exists, it should not be taken lightly by anyone. Our first priority, should be to take care of our families to the best of our ability. If we truly intend for families, even extended families, to be eternal in nature, we need to do all that is needed to nurture them in this life.
The church, as it was established after the Savior’s resurrection, included the idea of taking care of the widows of their human family. In James 1:27 it reads, “Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world.” This teaches us that we cannot be true disciples of Christ, if we do not do what we can to help the widows we know. Likewise, in modern times, the Lord has commanded that all faithful members of His church, do what they can to provide for those who are widows or who have lost their fathers. In Doctrine and Covenants 136:8 we read, “Let each company bear an equal proportion, according to the dividend of their property, in taking the poor, the widows, the fatherless, and the families of those who have gone into the army, that the cries of the widow and the fatherless come not up into the ears of the Lord against this people.”
It seems that the higher law, does not extend only to family members, or even strictly to those whose husbands or fathers have died. This law to care for these women and children, even applies to those who are without their husbands and fathers for a season of time, such as happens when men serve in the armed forces. Moreover, it is a law to provide for those who are in need, to the best of our ability. I know that this is a good reason, for all those who are able to give generous offerings. In the case of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, we have this opportunity through our fast offerings and donations. There are many opportunities for us to visit and provide the support of our company as well. I think of the great example of President Thomas S. Monson, who has taken care of so many widows in his life. He has blessed their lives, and I know they have blessed his as well. I am grateful for the opportunity to do what we can, to help others in need.