Can we really learn anything from such ancient passages as Deuteronomy 22:1-12?

Dad is slowly taking us through Deuteronomy on Wednesday evenings and it always surprises me how much wisdom we can draw from such passages. So even though with Jesus, we are under a new covenant, these passages are still relevant. Here are my notes on: Principles for maintaining life today.

Deuteronomy 22:1-4

1 If you see your brother’s ox or sheep straying, do not ignore it but be sure to take it back to him. 2 If the brother does not live near you or if you do not know who he is, take it home with you and keep it until he comes looking for it. Then give it back to him. 3 Do the same if you find your brother’s donkey or his cloak or anything he loses. Do not ignore it.

4 If you see your brother’s donkey or his ox fallen on the road, do not ignore it. Help him get it to its feet.

A Helpfulness Principle.

If we profess to be Christians we must always be helpful citizens. It reminds me of a poem we studied in school, it’s Not My Business and is by Niyi Osundare.

They picked Akanniup one morning
Beat him soft like clay
And stuffed him down the belly
Of a waiting jeep.

What business of mine is it
So long they don’t take the yam
From my savouring mouth?

They came one night
Booted the whole house awake
And dragged Danladi out,
Then off to a lengthy absence.

What business of mine is it
So long they don’t take the yam
From my savouring mouth?

Chinwe went to work one day
Only to find her job was gone:
No query, no warning, no probe –
Just one neat sack for a stainless record.

What business of mine is it
So long they don’t take the yam
From my savouring mouth?

And then one evening
As I sat down to eat my yam
A knock on the door froze my hungry hand.
The jeep was waiting on my bewildered lawn
Waiting, waiting in its usual silence.

It’s very easy for us to ignore our brothers and sisters when they are clearly in need. The Bible clearly shows us that this is wrong.

Deuteronomy 22:5

5 A woman must not wear men’s clothing, nor a man wear women’s clothing, for the LORD your God detests anyone who does this.

A Gender Principle.

This has become quite a hotly debated topic in our current social climate. This has become, and I guess was always a very complex issue.

Why are some people born with tendencies in a certain direction?

How far one way or the other is too far?

All I know is that from this passage we can see that God does not see these issues as irrelevant, appearance is not irrelevant to God.

Deuteronomy 22:6 & 7

6 If you come across a bird’s nest beside the road, either in a tree or on the ground, and the mother is sitting on the young or on the eggs, do not take the mother with the young. 7 You may take the young, but be sure to let the mother go, so that it may go well with you and you may have a long life.

A Conservation Principle.

This verse has obvious enironmental connotations. It is very practical in confirming to us that we must take care in what we consume on this earth.

For example:

Scottish fishermen have become the first in Europe to implement a new voluntary scheme to conserve North Sea cod stocks.

Notice that at the end of these verses, we are told to do this that we ‘may have a long life’. This reminds us of the need to keep in mind the world to come, as well as where we are now.

Deuteronomy 22:8

8 When you build a new house, make a parapet around your roof so that you may not bring the guilt of bloodshed on your house if someone falls from the roof.

A Health & Safety Principle.

Clearly the idea of keep things healthy and safe is not a bad one. This is something that is beginning to affect us all more and more.

This point is as always, not purely practical – there are also spiritual applications. In the context of telling unbelievers of the spiritual dangers, as Christians we have a duty to this. I always remember a preacher saying once that we must never be able to stand before God on the last day, and faced with all our friends and acquaintances someone say ‘Why didn’t you tell me? You knew of a way out of this, and you didn’t tell me?’. This is an all important reminder of our imminent future.

Deuteronomy 22:9-11

9 Do not plant two kinds of seed in your vineyard; if you do, not only the crops you plant but also the fruit of the vineyard will be defiled.

10 Do not plow with an ox and a donkey yoked together.

11 Do not wear clothes of wool and linen woven together.

A Separation Principle.

A bit of a strange one it seems on the surface of things. Making us thankful that we are no longer bound to such ceremonial laws! This is because with Christ we are free from these laws, they are fulfilled in him.

This section also reminds Christians of this verse in the New Testament:

2 Corinthians 6:14

14Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness?

Paul probably took inspiration from these very verses when he wrote this to the Corinthian believers

Deuteronomy 22:12

12 Make tassels on the four corners of the cloak you wear.

If you are in any Jewish part of the world, if you look carefully they still follow this law, they have tassels on the corners of their garments called Tzitzit or tzitzis (Hebrew: Biblical ציצת Modern ציצית).


Jesus would have worn them, and it is probably what the woman touched in this passage:

Matthew 9:20

20Just then a woman who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years came up behind him and touched the edge of his cloak.

Jesus followed all these laws in his perfect life. What a challenge to us as Christians. We have such an abundance principles in the word of God. Are we using them?


2 thoughts on “Can we really learn anything from such ancient passages as Deuteronomy 22:1-12?

  1. Why can some of the laws be dismissed as less literal and others not? Verses 9-11 seem to be taken as vague metaphor for general guidance, when on the surface they appear to be equally plain and literal as 1-5 which are still taken as such.

  2. No, I think that with each verse it is the outlying principle that should be taken on board. For example, the majority of people in this current society do not have troubles with their oxen or any other farmyard animal, neither do they plant vineyards or own donkeys. As Mentioned it is the overarching principle that is taken into account.

    However my research on old/new covenant theology is by no means advanced; I have not yet reached a conclusion as to how exactly each verse is to be interpreted.

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