Deut 25:11-12, woman gets hand cut off for grabbing enemy private parts?

Discussion in 'OT Historical Books' started by Pergamum, Jan 19, 2019.

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  1. Pergamum

    Pergamum Ordinary Guy (TM)

    Deut 25:11-12:

    11 “When men strive together one with another, and the wife of the one draweth near to deliver her husband out of the hand of him that smiteth him, and putteth forth her hand and taketh him by the secret parts,
    12 then thou shalt cut off her hand; thine eye shall not pity her.

    Any light on this?

    Is this talking about two Israelites fighting? Or a non-Israelite. Why the severe penalty? Jael caught off an enemy's head and was hailed, but a woman here grabs the privates of an enemy and is punished?

    What is the context? Domestic dispute between two Israelites? Otherwise, it doesn't make much sense.
  2. Reformed Bookworm

    Reformed Bookworm Puritan Board Junior

    From John Gill:
    "When men strive together, one with another,.... Quarrel with one another, and come to blows, and strive for mastery, which shall beat, and be the best man:

    and the wife of the one draweth near for to deliver her husband out of the hand of him that smiteth him; perceiving that his antagonist has more skill or strength, or both, for fighting, and is an more than a match for her husband, who is like to be much bruised and hurt; wherefore, to save him out of the hands of the smiter, she goes up to them to part them, or take her husband's side:

    and putteth forth her hand, and taketh him by the secrets; or privy parts; in Hebrew his "shameful" partsF24במבשיו "verenda ejus", V. L. Pagninus, Montanus, Tigurine version; "pudenda ejus", Piscator. , which through shame are hidden, and modesty forbids to express in proper terms; and such is the purity of the Hebrew language, that no obscene words are used in it; for which reason, among others, it is called the holy tongue. This immodest action was done partly out of affection to her husband, to oblige his antagonist to let go his hold of him; and partly out of malice and revenge to him, to spoil him, and make him unfit for generation, and therefore was to be severely punished, as follows.
    Then thou shall cut off her hand,.... Which was to be done not by the man that strove with her husband, or by any bystander, but by the civil magistrate or his order. This severity was used to deter women from such an immodest as well as injurious action, who on such an occasion are very passionate and inconsiderate. Our Lord is thought to refer to this law, Matthew 5:30; though the Jewish writers interpret this not of actual cutting off the hand, but of paying a valuable consideration, a price put upon it; so Jarchi; and Aben Ezra compares it with the law of retaliation, "eye for eye", Exodus 21:24; which they commonly understand of paying a price for the both, &c. lost; and who adds, if she does not redeem her hand (i.e. by a price) it must be cut off:

    thine eye shall not pity her; on account of the tenderness of her sex, or because of the plausible excuse that might be made for her action, being done hastily and in a passion, and out of affection to her husband; but these considerations were to have no place with the magistrate, who was to order the punishment inflicted, either in the strict literal sense, or by paying a sum of money."
  3. Pergamum

    Pergamum Ordinary Guy (TM)

    If somebody assaulted me and my wife stepped in and helped, she ought to be thanked rather than punished.

    Is there anything in the text to assume that this is a mutally-consented to fight between two men? What if a person is attacked on the street and the wife tries to help her husband who is being assaulted?

    There must be more to this. Gill's explanation is no good.

    Again, Jael let a man sleep in her tent and then cut off his head sort of deceitfully (playing the host and then turning on him). And blesed among women is Jael, a title only given elsewhere to Mary.

    What if Jael had only cut off his privates?
  4. BayouHuguenot

    BayouHuguenot Puritan Board Doctor

    My own thoughts are that the covenant seed and prioritizing one's house in ancient Israel was so strong that any threat to it must be suppressed. Since if she crushed his testicles, she threatened his covenant line forever.

    But yeah, it shouldn't be applied today. Laws like this are one of the reasons I am no longer a theonomist. Good luck applying the general equity of that today.
  5. Jack K

    Jack K Puritan Board Professor

    I don't see anything in the passage to suggest it is a mugging, either. Perhaps we can deduce what kind of fight it is by looking at the penalty imposed for this type of interference, rather than assume what kind of fight it is and deduce that the penalty is wrong.
  6. Scott Bushey

    Scott Bushey Puritan Board Doctor

  7. Pergamum

    Pergamum Ordinary Guy (TM)

  8. py3ak

    py3ak They're stalling and plotting against me Staff Member

    Here's Daniel Block (NIVAC):

    Maintaining righteousness in the face of shameful female behavior (vv. 11– 12).
    This short paragraph is linked to the preceding by vocabulary, characters, and motif. However, whereas the previous paragraph concerns shameful behavior by the brother-in-law, this fragment involves shameful behavior by a wife. On the surface, this text recalls Exodus 21: 18– 19 and 22– 25. However, while in Exodus 21: 22– 25 she was an innocent and passive victim caught in the crossfire of struggling men, here the woman interferes in the fight. The NIV obscures the likelihood that the men in this scenario are brothers, probably living in the family compound (cf. v. 5). The text offers no cause for the altercation, but in light of the preceding they may have been fighting over inheritance or their respective roles on the estate. The paragraph opens by drawing attention to the men fighting, but the primary interest is in the wife of one of the combatants, who tries to intervene. Her intention is explicitly declared: She wants to rescue her husband from the “hand” of the person who is beating him up. The scene seems strange, since women would hesitate to intervene in such circumstances. However, the primary issue here is not the fact that she would defend her husband, but her tactics: She reaches out and grabs his genitals. From the grammar and syntax of the passage as well as the severity of the punishment, this is no innocent gesture; her action is deliberate. The punishment prescribed seems harsh, and the demand to cut off the woman’s hand (v. 12) is shocking and unparalleled in the Old Testament. Since yād may be used euphemistically for genitalia, some view this as a form of the lex talionis, the woman’s hand representing a counterpart to the man’s sexual organ. However, the physiological differences between men and women preclude a literal application of the talion, and in any case the man has not been injured physically. The reference to the man’s genitals as “his appendage of shame” suggests the issue is the woman’s shamelessness and immodesty. Whereas verses 5– 10 had involved a man who had wrongfully withheld his genitals from a woman, this case involves a man whose genitals have been shamelessly grabbed, perhaps with the intent of injury so he cannot have children. The admonition “show her no pity” highlights the seriousness of the crime and the importance of carrying out the punishment against one who threatens the integrity of the branch of the family tree represented by the man whose genitals were attacked.​

    Block, Daniel I.. Deuteronomy (The NIV Application Commentary) (pp. 584-585). Zondervan. Kindle Edition.
  9. Ed Walsh

    Ed Walsh Puritan Board Junior

    There is a recent case for a translation error in this passage.

    Below is the first sentence of RJ’s traditional interpretation of Deut. 25:11-12
    This is a startling law because it is the only instance in biblical law where mutilation is mandatory. - Rushdoony

    At this point there is a Note by the publisher.

    Publisher’s note:
    Dr. Rushdoony commented that the words translator and traitor have a common root, and that a translation of the Hebrew or Greek can fail to do justice to a text’s original meaning. He was not averse to adjusting his work in terms of the best conservative scholarship available. Three years after his death, a strong case for correcting the translation of Deuteronomy 25:12a was finally put forward. It is possible that Dr. Rushdoony would have embraced the newer translation and adjusted his comments accordingly. While we do not have the benefit of his having done so, given the time frame involved, the nature of the translation change is important enough to warrant mention here.

    The words “cut” and “hand” in the translation “cut off her hand” are somewhat unusual (“hand” in particular). The word normally used for “hand” is the Hebrew yad, used in verse 11 immediately before this verse, but in verse 12 we find the more rare word kaph. Kaph, derived from kaphaph (“curve”), denotes the bowl of a dish, or the leaves of a palm tree, or even the socket of the thigh (used twice in this sense in Genesis 32), as well as the palm of a hand. Recent scholarship points out that this word is a circumlocution for the groin. The word “cut” (kawtsats, from kawtsar) is used in Jeremiah 9 and 25 for cutting off the beard, being based on an Arabic root for cutting the nails or hair, in addition to other ranges of meaning (including the reaping of a field). In sum, a defensible translation for Deut. 25:12a, in lieu of “cut off her hand,” would be “shave [the hair of] her groin.” As Semitic scholar Jerome T. Walsh phrased it, “She has humiliated a man publicly by an assault on his genitalia (presumably without serious injury to them); her punishment is public genital humiliation, similarly without permanent injury.” This translation, as Walsh points out, reduces “the severity of the punishment from the permanency of amputation to the temporary humiliation of depilation.” Consequently, the punishment addresses both the principle of the lex talionis (proportionality of punishment) and “the shameful nature of the woman’s deed.” Had actual injury ensued, the assault would have been covered by the well-known biblical laws concerning compensation for injury rather than this passage.

    If Walsh’s thesis is borne out, there would remain no scriptural support for the idea that the Bible teaches mutilation as punishment anywhere. If Walsh’s view (despite very strong support on lexical and philological grounds) is ultimately rejected by conservative scholarship, the position Dr. Rushdoony advanced in the relevant two chapters of this commentary would stand as is. In either case, Dr. Rushdoony’s thesis that pity must always be subordinate to God’s law remains perpetually true: false pity always promotes lawlessness.[5]

    5 For further research on the translation of this phrase, see the Journal of Semitic Studies 2004 49(1): 47–58, copyright 2004 by the University of Manchester: the article entitled “You Shall Cut Off Her … Palm? A Reexamination of Deuteronomy 25:11–12” by Jerome T. Walsh.
    Rushdoony, R. J. (2008). Commentaries on the Pentateuch: Deuteronomy (p. 426). Vallecito, CA: Ross House Books.
  10. Taylor Sexton

    Taylor Sexton Puritan Board Junior

    Why? Because no general equity of this law exists, or because we wouldn’t like it?
  11. BayouHuguenot

    BayouHuguenot Puritan Board Doctor

    I am almost certain there is no equity for this law and the only way someone could pull it off is to abstract the most generic ethical principles to which no one would object.
  12. Taylor Sexton

    Taylor Sexton Puritan Board Junior

    Okay, that’s fair. I wasn’t trying to sound aggressive by my question. I’m just shocked at how common this general attitude and ethic of “I don’t like this so I ain’t doing it” is today among professing Bible believers regarding areas where the Old Testament is binding on us.
  13. BayouHuguenot

    BayouHuguenot Puritan Board Doctor

    I know it sounds shocking, but if a guy picks a fight with me and for some bizarre reason my wife gets in the middle of it and crushes his genitals, sorry. I am not cutting her hand off.

    But actually, this law is a great example of why theonomy dies the death of a million qualifications once you enter general equity into the picture.
  14. Edward

    Edward Puritan Board Doctor

    Am I alone in thinking that 25:11 should be read in connection with 23:1? If the wife injures the other man's testicles, what then would be the result? He is excommunicated from the body: "He that is wounded in the stones, or hath his privy member cut off, shall not enter into the congregation of the LORD."
  15. Kinghezy

    Kinghezy Puritan Board Freshman

    It seems so far removed from each other. I think at least one commentary quoted above stated the gentalia was not crushed. For what it is worth, Matthew Henry takes it to be connected to the preceding law (5-10) and says the "... woman that by the foregoing law was to complain against her husband's brother for not marrying her, and to spit in his face before the elders, needed a good measure of assurance; but, lest the confidence which that law supported should grow to an excess unbecoming the sex, here is a very severe but just law to punish impudence and immodesty".

    Calvin also has a take about immodesty. It seems like that is a fairly strong theme among the commentators reviewed.
  16. Pergamum

    Pergamum Ordinary Guy (TM)

    But then we'd have to believe the bible has been unreliably translated for centuries, right? I like the explanation above (although who would carry out that punishment, a bunch of priests shaving the perpetrator, which doesn't sound appropriate to the duties of a priest). But this opens the door to not trusting the bible (just blame the translation).
  17. Pergamum

    Pergamum Ordinary Guy (TM)

    The text never says she crushes his testicles, only that she grabs them. Even in brutal fights between men it is very difficult to crush the testicles so that the man cannot have kids. I wish there was a connection, because it would make this passage easier to accept. This verse is a favorite used by atheists because it seems so strange.
  18. BayouHuguenot

    BayouHuguenot Puritan Board Doctor

    There wasn't one single bible translations for centuries. And some translations were unreliable for centuries. Jerome's Vulgate didn't understand what Justification was about. The Syriac Peshitta translated *east of eden* as miqqdem, "From the beginning."
  19. Taylor Sexton

    Taylor Sexton Puritan Board Junior

    That has been the case before, and rather than removing trust in the Bible, it sparked reformation. Remember “do penance”?

    This should be of no concern to any of us. What is actually strange is the atheist who actually believes they have the appropriate worldview to make moral judgments to begin with. (Answer: They don’t.)
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  20. OPC'n

    OPC'n Puritan Board Doctor

    It sounds to me that the husband already has the man pinned down (is winning the battle) and the woman comes up and grabs his genitals to inflict shame or injury whatever the case maybe. Have you ever seen two men fighting? They are moving about so fast there's no way anyone much less a woman could step into the fight and grab his genitals. I could be wrong maybe they fought differently than men do today.
  21. Pergamum

    Pergamum Ordinary Guy (TM)

    By the way,

    What's the penalty for a Purple Nurple?
  22. NaphtaliPress

    NaphtaliPress Administrator Staff Member

    With that .... given the Lord's Day, let's give this a rest. Focus on something else.
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