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This violation of the Fifth Commandment requires execution and, as noted by Richard Nelson, forms a topical connection and lead in to 21:22-23. 25 The Lord will cause you to be defeated(T) before your enemies. In order to understand the significance of Deuteronomy 21:22-23 for Israel, it must first be seen in its covenant context.  At Shittim on the plains of Moab, many of the Israelites accept the invitation of the Moabite women to worship Baal and commit sexual immorality with them. The emphasis is on the hanged person as one cursed by God. Thus, in this case, the act of publicly displaying the representative covenant breakers by hanging functions as a vehicle to appease Yahweh’s anger. Instead of being harmful, obedience to Gods holy law yields many benefits. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1992. Examples of this kind of hanging unfortunately included members of the covenant community of Israel as well. One might then ask, how do the Gentiles operate under this economy since they technically were not a part of Yahweh’s covenant and therefore not under law? (BC) They will be the head, but you will be the tail.(BD). “Curse,” In New Bible Dictionary, edited by J.D. Biddle, Mark E. Deuteronomy. Joshua, as representative of Yahweh and leader of covenant Israel, has divine authority to execute the pagan kings of Canaan. Leicester, EN: Inter-Varsity Press, 1982. Translated by Dorothea Barton. However there is some disagreement as to what form of hanging is meant. Through the death of Jesus and the missionary activity of the New Israel, Yahweh fulfills His promise to bless the nations through Abraham’s descendants. However, Yahweh does not respond to the plea for the land until both the bones of Saul’s hanged sons and the bones of Saul and Jonathan are buried. It seems that particular name might have risen from a mistranslation in the Septuagint (the Greek translation of the Old Testament), but the title fits because much of Deuteronomy is Moses explaining the Law, also given in other books of the Torah, to a new generation of Israelites. 33 A people that you do not know will eat what your land and labor produce, and you will have nothing but cruel oppression(AG) all your days. Jim rejoices that God chooses insignificant people to bring glory to Himself. Motyer, J. However those who sought to curse Abram would be cursed. The argument that follows will begin with interpreting the meaning of the law in its original context, examining events in ancient Israel that illuminate concepts mentioned in the law (particularly cursing, hanging, and land defilement), recognizing the connections between the death of Jesus and the law, and how the law relates to modern Christians through Christ. Caneday, Ardel B. Vol. What does the curse of this obscure law buried in the book of Deuteronomy have to do with Jesus’ death on the cross? 19 You will be cursed when you come in and cursed when you go out. 2 (1989): 185-209. 21:23): A Study in Early Jewish Exegesis.” The Jewish Quarterly Review 74, no. Instead, the law revealed the sinfulness of humanity and the need for a redeemer from the curses brought through the law. God is the “Greatest Good.” There is nothing better for a person than God. Scholars recognize that the original Hebrew phrase “a curse of God” can be translated in both an objective genitive and subjective genitive sense. Instead he hangs as a representative in the place of sinful, covenant-breaking Israel. But Christ has rescued us from the curse pronounced by the law. (BX) 56 The most gentle and sensitive(BY) woman among you—so sensitive and gentle that she would not venture to touch the ground with the sole of her foot—will begrudge the husband she loves and her own son or daughter(BZ) 57 the afterbirth from her womb and the children she bears. Dunn, James D. G. The Epistle to the Galatians. By understanding the original meaning of Deuteronomy 21:22-23 and observing its outworking in ancient Israel, Christians today can come to a deeper understanding of what Jesus accomplished at the cross and how he turns a curse upon himself into a blessing for others. Deuteronomy 27:15 Cursed be the man that maketh any graven or molten image, an abomination unto the LORD, the work of the hands of the craftsman, and putteth it in a secret place . In Deuteronomy 27:15-26 we then have the detailed instructions for the Covenant Ceremony. It will be all he has left because of the suffering your enemy will inflict on you during the siege of all your cities.  Such curse bearing effectively removes the wrath of Yahweh against those Jesus redeems. (AI) 35 The Lord will afflict your knees and legs with painful boils(AJ) that cannot be cured, spreading from the soles of your feet to the top of your head. It was only because Ramban was reading the Deuteronomic law in conjunction with the laws of Leviticus that he had to discard a perfectly logical inference. Vol. Operating under divine mandate, the Canaanite kings must be destroyed if Joshua is to faithfully carry out his mission of judgment and conquest. (AX) 40 You will have olive trees throughout your country but you will not use the oil, because the olives will drop off. [a] 21 The Lord will plague you with diseases until he has destroyed you from the land you are entering to possess. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1970. Grand Rapids: Wm. The consequence is not only that the “curse of God” will come down upon Alō, but also “the curses of the the Law (perhaps in this context not just divine law, but specifically the legal strictures given in the books of Exodus, Leviticus, and Numbers) and Deuteronomy” do so too. As noted earlier in the incident of Baal worship at Peor, Yahweh ordered the chiefs of the people hung to turn away His anger at their covenant-breaking sins of idolatry and immorality. Their task, given by the victorious Jesus, is delivering the gospel of salvation through Christ to the corners of the earth. In Yahweh’s salvific economy, someone must bear the curse demanded under the law for the breaking of His covenant. With its destruction of both nation and temple, it is possible that Israel is thus “vomited” out of the land they have defiled through the murder of the innocent and divine Son of God. The goal is that through a careful examination of the curse of Deuteronomy 21:22-23 and its application to Jesus, contemporary Christian believers can better understand how the curse contained in this particular law actually provides the blessing of salvation. The application of the law by Joshua to an enemy outside the covenant shows that he saw the king of Ai as one cursed by God. (BG) 47 Because you did not serve(BH) the Lord your God joyfully and gladly(BI) in the time of prosperity, 48 therefore in hunger and thirst,(BJ) in nakedness and dire poverty, you will serve the enemies the Lord sends against you. 21:18-21, the passage preceding the one we will examine, addresses the issue of an unrepentant, rebellious child who must be put to death by stoning. Additionally, as Jesus’ “New Israel” redeemed from under the law, the Twelve Apostles form a reconstituted Israel, washed clean from their covenant-breaking sin via faith in the death of Jesus on their behalf.  Similarly, allowing a corpse to hang overnight defiled the land and risked divine retribution. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001. (Y) 27 The Lord will afflict you with the boils of Egypt(Z) and with tumors, festering sores and the itch, from which you cannot be cured. . (CP) There you will worship other gods—gods of wood and stone, which neither you nor your ancestors have known. However, neither of these methods properly shows how the Mosaic law finds its ultimate fulfillment in the work of Jesus Christ, illuminates the glory of his death, and helps Christians gain a deeper understanding of the cost of their salvation. Additionally, they also partake in the missionary mandate of the New Israel. McConville, J. G. Deuteronomy. Although the rejection of Jesus as rightful king is tragic, it is that very act that brings about his victory, one that is greater than Joshua’s conquest of the Promised Land. The curse of the Law The following is a key, pinnacle Scripture for interpreting all of the Bible. (CV) There you will offer yourselves for sale to your enemies as male and female slaves, but no one will buy you. Young, Norman H. “Who’s Cursed – And Why? The law reads. After failing to trust Yahweh’s promised victory over the Canaanites, Yahweh doomed Israel to wander 40 years in the wilderness until the entire generation 20 years and older who failed to trust at Kadesh-barnea have died. (AC) You will build a house, but you will not live in it. 61 The Lord will also bring on you every kind of sickness and disaster not recorded in this Book of the Law,(CF) until you are destroyed. However, the shedding of innocent blood can only be atoned under the Mosaic covenant through the execution of the perpetrators.  The pattern of putting to death, hanging, and taking the bodies down at the evening of the same day follows the pattern of Deuteronomy 21:22-23 exactly.  Bernstein, כי קללת אלחים תלױ” (Deut. In response, the Lord commands Moses to “Take all the chiefs of the people and hang them in the sun before the Lord, that the fierce anger of the Lord may turn away from Israel.”  Although 24,000 of the offenders die by divine plague, Yahweh singles out the chiefs of the peoples as representative offenders for hanging. (CG) 62 You who were as numerous as the stars in the sky(CH) will be left but few(CI) in number, because you did not obey the Lord your God. . “And if a man has committed a crime punishable by death and he is put to death, and you hang him on a tree, his body shall not remain all night on the tree, but you shall bury him the same day, for a hanged man is cursed by God. Even though Jesus followed a divine mandate to be executed on behalf of his people, it is hard to imagine Yahweh not holding Israel faultless for the murder of His innocent Son. This could either be as an Israelite covenant-breaker or, as we will see in Joshua’s case, foreign rulers considered cursed by Yahweh as enemies of Israel. The corpse of an executed person put to death under the covenant that hangs past sundown pollutes the land of Israel’s inheritance. You shall not defile your land that the Lord your God is giving you for an inheritance.”, “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, ‘Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree.’”. 4:44-28:68) which looks forward to how Israel should govern itself under the covenant once it enters the Promised Land. 31 And so, the curse of Deut 21:23 reaches ultimate fulfillment in Christ, the cosmic vicarious curse bearer. We screen all third party content for suitability. (Galatians 3:10-14).” Journal of Biblical Literature 117, no. 28 The Lord will afflict you with madness, blindness and confusion of mind. Thus, since the body itself was cursed by God, allowing it to hang for a time past sunset transmitted the effects of that curse via imputation to the land and rendered it defiled in the sight of God. 1 of The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, edited by Geoffrey W. Bromiley. This is the land promised to Abraham and his descendents and is the land where Yahweh’s presence will dwell. (F), 19 You will be cursed when you come in and cursed when you go out.(G). Yet the nation of Israel in Jesus’ day, in contrast to the nation under Joshua, failed to recognize the true authority over them and their land. And according to Paul, it falls on everyone: “Cursed be everyone who does not abide by all things written in the Book of the Law, and do them” (Galatians 3:10; Deuteronomy 27:26). (AK), 36 The Lord will drive you and the king(AL) you set over you to a nation unknown to you or your ancestors. As enemies of Israel, both the king of Ai and the Amorite kings were cursed under the Abrahamic covenant. “And if a man has committed a crime punishable by death and he is put to death, and you hang him on a tree, his body shall not remain all night on the tree, but you shall bury him the same day, for a hanged man is cursed by God.  Some see the prophecy of Jesus in Matthew 24 finding a near-fulfillment in the destruction of Jerusalem and an ultimate fulfillment at his second coming. THE THEOLOGY OF DEUTERONOMY 27 Paul A. Barker Summary The problems of unity in Deuteronomy 27 are usually treated diachronically resulting in an impoverished theological appreciation of the chapter. 49 The Lord will bring a nation against you(BM) from far away, from the ends of the earth,(BN) like an eagle(BO) swooping down, a nation whose language you will not understand,(BP) 50 a fierce-looking nation without respect for the old(BQ) or pity for the young. As noted, Jesus’ curse-bearing work on the cross accomplished the salvation of those cursed under the law. Deuteronomy: A Commentary. This idea of hanging after execution is foreign to modern readers.  Christians today receive the blessing of salvation through faith in Christ. By death on a cross, Jesus vicariously receives both covenant execution and the curse for the actual covenant breakers. happiness and contentment) of their promised inheritance. 9 of Luther’s Works. 45 All these curses will come on you. By dying under the law, Jesus redeems those trapped under the law and unleashes the blessing of Abraham upon any who place their faith in him. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1976. A. For in her dire need she intends to eat them(CA) secretly because of the suffering your enemy will inflict on you during the siege of your cities. Second ed. While the entire list of verses will not be repeated here, the following concepts stand out as curses upon God’s people, Israel, for when they disobeyed His laws: 1. Grand Rapids: Wm. Jim is Founder, Editor, and Author at 4Elect. Deciding upon the correct meaning of the curse requires interpreters to look for clues in the rest of Scripture. Harman, Allan M. Commentary on Deuteronomy. At this point in redemption history, Yahweh has delivered Israel from its Egyptian oppression, ratified the covenant with them at Sinai, established worship and sacrifice, and led them to the edges of the Promised Land. By showing that justification cannot happen under the law, Paul demonstrates that the only way one can avoid the curse of the law is through faith in Jesus as substitute curse bearer.  As Joshua leads the armies of Israel to take the Promised Land, the king of Ai and the Amorite kings rise up to oppose Israel and therefore Yahweh Himself as their divine judge. 1 of The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, edited by Geoffrey W. Bromiley. St. Louis: Concordia House Publishing, 1960. The core of Paul’s argument in Galatians 3:14-29 consists of showing his readers that Yahweh’s promises to Abraham came far before the Mosaic law and were not nullified by the law. Therefore, Israel must take caution that it does not repeat the errors of the Canaanites and fall under similar judgment. Our focus is on the curse of sickness. Therefore, the law was never meant as a salvific device.  As recompense, David allows the Gibeonites to hang seven of Saul’s sons. 18 “Cursed shall be the [ a]fruit of your body and the produce of your land, the increase of your cattle and the offspring of your flocks. 30 You will be pledged to be married to a woman, but another will take her and rape her. Josh. 43 The foreigners who reside among you will rise above you higher and higher, but you will sink lower and lower. They will besiege all the cities throughout the land the Lord your God is giving you.(BV). Finally, it is important to note how the blessing of Abraham flows to the Gentiles through Israel. (BT) 52 They will lay siege(BU) to all the cities throughout your land until the high fortified walls in which you trust fall down. 1 of The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, edited by Geoffrey W. Bromiley. Brown, Raymond E., Joseph A. Fitzmeyer, and Roland E. Murphy, eds. 38 You will sow much seed in the field but you will harvest little,(AS) because locusts(AT) will devour(AU) it. Since the apostle Paul, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, understood the curse phrase in a subjective genitive sense, that interpretation must be preferred. And the condition of your relationship with God determines your eternal destiny. (BW) 54 Even the most gentle and sensitive man among you will have no compassion on his own brother or the wife he loves or his surviving children, 55 and he will not give to one of them any of the flesh of his children that he is eating. The final option, the subjective genitive, means that God curses the one who is hanged and is the meaning the apostle Paul uses in Galatians 3:13. 16 “Cursed shall you be in the city, and cursed shall you be in the country. Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, Inc., 1996. Instead, in both an ironic and tragic exchange, they demand the execution of Jesus, rejecting him as rightful king and proclaiming their allegiance instead to the pagan Caesar. Your sheep will be given to your enemies, and no one will rescue them. Conversely, Jesus bears a divine mandate to be executed on behalf of his people. Merril, Eugene H. Deuteronomy. 10:26-27), apparently designed to show that he was under the curse of God.” , Jeffrey Tigay offers an alternate explanation from Jewish tradition: “According to the Mishnah a gibbet (a pole with a horizontal beam) was erected and the dead man’s hands were bound and slung over the beam, leaving his body suspended. 32 Your sons and daughters will be given to another nation,(AF) and you will wear out your eyes watching for them day after day, powerless to lift a hand. The relationship between Deuteronomy 21:22-23, its outworking within ancient Israel, and the death of Jesus is one of comparison and contrast. However, since Jesus’ death on the cross is the means of execution, the concepts of capital punishment for covenant breaking and public hanging as a curse become united in one event. The Bible Student’s Commentary. Through the rejection of Jesus as rightful king leading to his curse-bearing work on the cross, the blessing of Abraham is able to flow to the Gentiles. In 2 Samuel 21, David inquires of the Lord as to why the land was experiencing famine for three years. After the eventual fall of Ai to the Israelite forces, Joshua takes the body of the king of Ai, presumably dead already since the text reads that all the inhabitants had been struck by the sword, and hangs him on a tree until evening. The procedure of same-day burial is also seen in Joseph of Arimathea’s request to bury Jesus when evening arrived. The main concern of the Deuteronomy 21:22-23 law is maintaining the purity of the land the Lord is giving to Israel.
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