Bible Readings for June 20th
From Deuteronomy 25, we can make an observation that will help us overcome a major cultural barrier we have in reading and understanding the Bible. To put it simply, our own culture has an obsession with sex that the people we read about in the Bible did not necessarily share. This isn’t to say that lust was never a problem for the biblical figures. We can read many stories in the Bible where lust was the driving force behind sin that had devastating consequences for the people of God.
But on the other hand, we have a tendency to read far too much sex into the Bible. Much of what the Bible teaches about sexuality has more to do with begetting children than the act of sex itself, because child-bearing was far more important in ancient cultures than for us today. Today, people put off marriage to later in their lives than at any point in history (age 27 for women and age 29 for men),1 and we have fewer children than in the past (2013 marked the lowest U.S. birthrate ever recorded).2 Our culture is preoccupied with sex but relatively uninterested in marriage and child-bearing.
For ancient peoples, however, marriage and child-bearing were everything. Your children were crucial for helping you with all the work necessary for survival. Your children would carry on your name (Deut. 25:7), and your children would inherit your property. Even your social standing depended on your children.
This helps us understand why God would command a man to marry his dead brother’s wife (Deut. 25:5–10). If the dead man had no son, his brother would be able to help the woman conceive a son who could carry on the dead man’s name. This was an important provision for that social structure, and the widow could spit in the face of her brother-in-law (an act of shame) if he refused to do his duty (Deut. 25:8–10).
Also, this is why a woman who tried to stop someone from beating her husband by grabbing the other man’s testicles was to have her hand cut off (Deut. 25:11–12). Damaging a man’s reproductive capabilities was considered catastrophic.
This also helps us understand God’s covenant promises. The sign of circumcision was a mark on the male reproductive organ that served as a perpetual reminder that God had promised to be God not only to Abraham but also to Abraham’s children, throughout their generations (Gen. 17:1–14). And ultimately, Israel’s hope was that their child-bearing would eventually lead to the promised offspring of the woman who would crush the head of the serpent (Gen. 3:15), restoring the original goodness of creation that was lost at the fall.
Today, if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, and you stand to inherit the whole world, according to promise (Gal. 3:29).
1 “Knot Yet: The Benefits and Costs of Delayed Marriage in America,” 2013 by the National Marriage Project at the University of Virginia, the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy, and the Relate Institute. <http://twentysomethingmarriage.org/>
Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.