Proper Conduct

Open Your Bible

Deuteronomy 21:1-23, Deuteronomy 22:1-30, Hebrews 13:1-4

Scripture Reading: Deuteronomy 21:1-23, Deuteronomy 22:1-30, Hebrews 13:1-4

Any set of rules that involves locating a young cow and a continually flowing stream definitely has my attention. We live in a mostly sterile and sanitary world, and the bloody brutality of sin payment in the Old Testament is shocking. For example, many of us eat beef, but few of us have killed a cow ourselves to make the meal. The modern world insulates us from a lot of stinky, dirty messes.

The case laws of the Old Testament are a tough read. Some of the injunctions sound strange and offensive (why must that poor woman shave her head?), and some feel like a huge overreaction (we have to stone our stubborn son?). When we’re reading the Bible, it can be much nicer to find a psalm of praise than a code outlining what to do with a bird’s nest or a bloody cloth. So, how does one tackle the more difficult parts of Old Testament law?

Briefly—Scripture is its own interpreter. Use the context of Scripture to read Scripture. Interpret difficult passages based on clear passages. And remember, Christ is the central figure of all Scripture. These principles help us make sense of a lot of difficult passages. In this particular passage, the context sets our sight on the main points: Look at verses 18–21. This is not easy advice. 

Because no example of this being carried out is ever found in Scripture, some argue this is a law of principle and pedagogy rather than practice. It is a hedge against sin, not a free ticket to haul away your naughty kids. This isn’t a passage about child-rearing practices. 

The language in the passage indicates this is a young adult, and that his actions are not simply dishonoring, but destructive to his whole family—not one-time offenses, but a habitual lifestyle of destruction. 

This isn’t an impulsive accusation, followed by violence. This is a case brought to court. The final verdict of the trial is also executed by the court, not by vindictive parents. Both the mother and the father are involved in this case, serving as the two witnesses required by law. This is an orderly and lawful proceeding.

The big picture is the same as the fourth commandment: Honor your father and your mother (Exodus 20:12). The aim is the preservation of the family, and of the original created order. Satan is always out to destroy the family. He took his first aim at the marriage of Adam and Eve, then tempted Cain to murder his own brother. Where sin is let alone, the family is destroyed.

However, the central character is Christ. Who are the disobedient sons? We are. Beginning with Adam, we have continually rebelled, destroying our families, our communities, and the whole world. But whose son bore the final judgment of that rebellion? Christ, the only obedient Son. The flowing stream of His righteous blood puts in perspective not only the holiness of God, but also His unfathomable grace!

Written by Rebecca Faires

(51) Comments

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51 thoughts on "Proper Conduct"

  1. Sophia Ayres says:

    I have been payed for and brought into God’s people.

  2. Gwen Dunn says:

    I find myself focusing on the punishment not the sin. Thank you Jesus for accepting the punishment when it is I who deserve it.

  3. Sarahbeth Howes says:

    Really enjoyed this devotion! The clarity was super helpful in developing insight on both the justice implemented and the central theme of Christ Jesus. Thank you!

  4. Angie Guimaray says:

    Your comment stuck out to me. I noticed that too and did the same. Trash reality shows are something I need to purge too.

  5. Bekah Hoye says:

    First time posting here but today’s reading was tough. Especially the parts regarding rape and sexual immorality. But what I think is so important to remember is that God was actually providing for the women in these situations. Israel and the surrounding communities were a patriarchal setting. A young woman who had been sexually assaulted had no prospects for income, a home, a way to live. Through these rules God was actually setting up a way for this woman to be provided for to ensure she wasn’t cast out by society and forced to live a life of poverty and isolation. This was a radical restructuring of the way women were to be treated.

    always praying for eyes to see and ears to hear the context of all this. And to any woman reading this who has been through anything like this, know you have a God who sees, loves and desires to protect you ❤️

  6. Victoria Fowlkes says:

    God really wanted his people to love each other. Help each other and to be accountable for each other so that their community could thrive and flourish without sin running rampant. Look at societies like Sodom and Gomorrah and even society today. Rape, prostitution, murder, violence, drug use, racism, sex trafficking. Imagine if we had a society that instead of being corrupt and basing punishment and doling out justice based on how good of a lawyer you can afford was based on true righteous justice and accountability.

  7. Victoria Fowlkes says:

    This article was so good well done. Really helped to put the passages in perspective !

  8. Alexandra Dent says:


  9. Erica Chiarelli says:

    I love that while our society cannot understand those days, God was being loving. There were no laws, and like it was said, these laws were to deter, not something just to do “willy nilly”. God wanted His people to be different, holy, set apart, not like or even mingling with the other nations.

  10. Allison Bentley says:

    Purge the evil from among you- I underlined every use of purge (5) from today’s reading and it got me wondering- what evil do I need to purge? Is it my trash reality TV shows ? Friends whom bring me down? Family members who don’t believe ?? A lot to think about today- Jesus show me the way!!

  11. Adrienne says:

    I am very much looking forward to this week’s podcast. My phone must be screwed up… I went to press play and another podcast started instead. So weird! Deleted it and re-installed it. Hope I can enjoy it later!

  12. Tara Workman says:

    Hope, thank you for some clarity on that passage about the rapist and the woman. You helped me better understand that!

  13. K Swenson says:

    Thank you, SRT ladies, for not glossing over the hard stuff! I appreciate your perspectives and research. These are some difficult passages and it is easy to feel like these commands are unfair, when, in reality, they were meant to make God’s people set apart. I’m so thankful that God sets us apart now through Christ!

    I would appreciate your prayers! I’m still battling PTS(D) and it’s been a long road with very slow progress. It can feel easy to lose hope. Thank you and God bless!

  14. K Swenson says:

    Thank you, SRT ladies, for not glossing over the hard stuff! I appreciate your perspectives and research. These are some difficult passages and it is easy to feel like these commands are unfair, when, in reality, they were meant to make God’s people set apart. I’m so thankful that God sets us apart now through Christ!

  15. Kimberly Flores says:

    Praise God for making a way when in my own fumbling and sinful ways I had none. It hurts knowing that my sin has caused Jesus to suffer so – but I am always and eternally grateful as well because I have not the ability to save my self. Jesus is Lord and King is my life, my home my everything. Grateful, deeply grateful.

  16. Dorothy says:

    Being a single parent to two AD/HD boys was a handful, but I was lucky in that I had help. During most of the time I lived with my parents, so they had the influence of them. My ex-husband’s family was also part of their influence, even though my ex wasn’t. My boys grew up with their cousins being more like siblings than like cousins. So the saying, “It takes a village to raise a child”. I was fortunate enough to have one.
    Be blessed sisters. Those of you who are single mothers look for your village to help raise your child(ren).

  17. Mari V says:

    Thank you Kelly. I went to work only to be sent home because I need a doctors modification note in order to work. As a single parent, I have to work. Hopefully I can get that modification out today.

  18. Mari V says:

    Jesus paid the ultimate price with His own life for our freedom. Thank you Jesus! We didn’t deserve it. But you did it anyway because you don’t want to heaven without us.

  19. PamC says:

    Thank you all for your insight. It really helped on this tough read.
    Angie so grateful for you to be back & doing better (your students too!).
    Saying my prayers for everyone.

  20. Krysta Orona says:

    Thanking God for providing the perfect, complete and everlasting payment for all sin.

  21. Mandy Ferrugia says:

    Some tough passages to read this morning, but I’m so thankful for this SRT community to help me dive deeper and understand things a bit more clearly. At first glance, a lot of these laws seem extremely harsh and unfair. However, with more context of the culture in these times, it’s easy to see God’s love and provision within each rule. I think it’s also important to remember (as others have said this morning) that the harshness of many of these laws were likely created to deter the criminal acts from happening in the first place. A son was probably much more likely to honor his father and mother if he knew that his destructive rebellion would lead to him being stoned to death by everyone in the city. Also, a rapist would be far less willing to rape a women if he knew he would then have to marry and financially provide for her (and any offspring) for the rest of his life. I’m thankful to be living in the grace of the New Covenant, while still being able to see God’s goodness to those that were living under the old laws.

  22. Victoria E says:

    Really great comments and devotional today. Indeed this reading is hard, and when I read this when I was younger I took away the conclusion that the OT God was scary and would strike me down for doing wrong. I recently re-read Deuteronomy and my husband explained to me that though some of these laws sound horrible, in truth they are radically different from what would have happened in surrounding societies. Note especially the dealings with a rapist, or a man who takes a woman where there is no witness to hear whether or not she cried out (in the country). Even today some don’t believe women when they come forward, this law automatically assigns blame to the man in that instance. Nads I will continue to pray for Danny. Sometimes recovery is up and down in these situations. Angie I am glad you have recovered from COVID

  23. Chris Swan says:

    I think it might also have made the soldier think twice before he raped a beautiful woman if he knew the law required him to marry her and take care of her.

  24. Maura says:

    Wow, some harshness in this scripture. Hope I loved your comment. And it also strikes me that once again the old testament shows that we all fall short of the glory of God. We can not atone for the sins of the world except by the blood of the Lamb, and Jesus himself taking the curse, His death, nailed to a tree. Amen and Amen. I appreciate all of the comments putting in to perspective some of the laws about women when we’re raped. In reading your comments I also thought, maybe the shame of having to face the person who they so sinned against daily would cause repentance, but my heart really cries for the women stuck in a marriage with someone who had so wronged them. Tough tough things. Anyway appreciate the comments addressing these things. Praying for Danny, continued miracles from our Jesus, our Creator who knows our bodies, Lord we pray your healing, and your glory in it. Angie, praying for continued healing for you. Glad you are okay. Praying for all of you my Sisters, His good, His peace this day. May we sing the song He puts in our hearts today. ERB, I did not get an email. But know He is answering my prayers, I am trusting. Hugs dear friend xoxo

  25. Mandy Clark says:

    Yes!!!! The podcast was so so helpful in navigating the harshness of these passages. “Justice is woven together with mercy to create a pattern where God is breaking the standard of the fallen world”. The Israelites were set apart (as we believers are today) and Moses was reminding them that they COULD NOT be like the world around them.

  26. Nads says:

    So many great comments today and a VERY helpful meditation by @REBECCA re: Scripture hard for us to understand. (I agree that that those “rules” were more about protection and a possibility of restoration rather than punishment.)

    SOOOO, DANNY! Lord, help!!! The doctor was encouraged yesterday by his following the command of squeezing his hand and they saw some miraculous things. God is most certainly working!! STILL, please, please continue to pray. They have been increasing / decreasing the sedation to give him best scenario for healing…but, His organs are struggling, his heart is still NOT beating without the help of the machine, he has still not woken today after removing sedation, his blood oxygen hasn’t been satisfactory,…

    Lord, we trust Your perfect will but/AND ask that Your name be glorified!!

    ANGIE – Sorry to hear that but, so happy you are doing better; please take care of yourself. Happy to have you back.

  27. Rhonda J says:

    Thank you for all the comments that help us with a better understanding of these passages! So good for us that have never read through it to dissect it!

    1. Gwendolyn Vincent says:


  28. Margaret W says:

    That’s what I was thinking. At that time, marriage was far more about economic provision for women than a love relationship of equals. Women were, after all, property. In some societies even today, an “honor killing” would have been the solution for a rape victim.

  29. Deb Ireland says:

    Totally! I struggle with these passages and that helped put it into perspective.

  30. hope says:

    Also, thoughts regarding the laws pertaining to women. They’re hard to read and it’s easy to get angry. However, these laws are protective of the women. The spoils of war? Instead of just raping her, which would have been common at the time, he had to marry her. He couldn’t sell her into slavery and that would have been common too. A woman having to marry her rapist is horrible for us to read. Flip it though, they’re making the man responsible for his actions and forcing him to provide for the woman he defiled. Women had no prospects outside of marriage. Shamed and poverty stricken would have been her fate at best. It’s not fair from our perspective, but it is protective. I try to see the goodness of God working with an evil humanity when I read these laws. They’re meant to deter the actions in the first place.

  31. Sharon, Jersey Girl says:

    As I read through today’s scripture and devotional, the “bottom line” thought that comes to mind – God hates sin! Truth #1: we are a sinful people, there are consequences for our sin. Truth #2: Jesus paid the price for our sin, rescuing us from eternal consequences! Reading through the law is a tough read but it makes it so much more clear that our God is a holy God and can not tolerate sin. Praise God for His Son that through His death on the cross, covers all my sin – past, present, and future!

    Praying for your requests today! @Angie – glad to hear you are recovered from covid and heading back to work today!

  32. hope says:

    Deuteronomy is difficult for me to read. Especially some if today’s passages, which frankly read a little bit like Sharia law. That isn’t surprising as they’re both legal systems based in an honor shame culture. But I gleaned some tragically beautiful thoughts from today’s reading. Humanity is truly twisted and evil for it to be necessary for these laws to be laid out for them. I physically turn my face away while reading. However in the middle of it all, there’s Jesus.
    Deuteronomy 21:22-23 “If anyone is found guilty of an offense deserving the death penalty and is executed, and you hang his body on a tree, 23 you are not to leave his corpse on the tree overnight but are to bury him that day, for anyone hung on a tree is under God’s curse. You must not defile the land the Lord your God is giving you as an inheritance.
    We all sinned and fell short. We all committed sins worthy of death and yet Jesus, without sin, took the curse and hung on the tree. These verses today were a light in the dark. Yes, the world is a messy and brutal place, but there is Jesus. Thanks be to God.

  33. ERB says:

    Tough read today…but the thing that I noticed and what stood out to me wasn’t all the rules and punishments… it was “purge yourself from evil”
    …God wants His people to live holy and blameless lives, because by choosing to live our lives in this way (holy & blameless) we subject ourselves to Him, His statutes and His ways.. we can/will find deep and fulfilling fellowship with God by living a life subjected to Him alone. Living a life like this also shows that we KNOW and trust who God is. He is HOLY. Holiness is Light. Sin is darkness. And darkness cannot dwell (or even survive) within the light, the light actually destroys darkness!!
    I loved the “slippery slope” questions and analogies that ANGIE & LAURA talked about, it really helped me!! And I also loved Rebecca’s take on scriptures like this… “Scripture is its own interpreter. Use the context of Scripture to read Scripture. Interpret difficult passages based on clear passages. And remember, Christ is the central figure of all Scripture.” SO important to remember and so wise to use this as our guide. God desires that NONE should perish… and I love the way the KJ21 version puts it… 2 Peter 3:9 “The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some men count slackness, but is LONGSUFFERING toward us, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.”
    SO thankful for Jesus!!! He came to fulfill the law (in the RIGHT way) not to abolish it. So thankful for the boundaries and the example He gave us. His life was FULLY subjected and submitted to God, His Father & to the Holy Spirit. A very sobering and good reminder… my life is not my own, it is God’s.

    Praying for each and every one of your requests (spoken and unspoken) …very thankful to hear that Danny was able to squeeze the doctors hand when prompted and that his wife’s presence is making a difference!! What an AMAZING example for all of us here at SRT!!!! May he continue to improve and may God be glorified (& be made known) through every step of this incredible journey!!! Amen!! Many Blessings to you dear sisters!!

  34. Ariel R says:

    If you haven’t listened to this week’s SRT podcast, I highly recommend this one! It was so so helpful to think about these commands as “for example” instances of how the 10 commandments play out in their own cultural context. I was also reminded that many of these things that seem brutal to us are actually great mercies in light of what other nations would have done during war or justice, etc

  35. Jennifer Wing says:

    @Sydney S — when I’ve studied these passages before I learned that they were deeply merciful and protective of the women in that culture (although it makes little sense to us). The forced marriage seems cruel but I believe in that time the women would have been shunned and no one else would have married her — which likely would have meant a life of poverty.

  36. Diane Mom says:

    Wow! Love this explanation!

  37. Lauren Whitham says:

    “The aim is the preservation of family.” This helped put so many of these laws into perspective. Bringing it back to Jesus is so important and helpful, and I sometimes forget to do that on my own.

  38. Sydney S says:

    I definitely had a hard time with this one today.. for me it was chapter 22:13-21 .. the part about the unattached woman having to marry her rapist? These are the passages of scripture which distress my soul.. it makes me thankful for the New Covenant. Nevertheless, I’m fighting my own mind because I hear the adage “All Scripture is God-breathed and true.” It’s really easy to believe that when studying the NT but this part right here makes it hard to keep that frame of mind.

  39. SarahJoy says:

    ANGIE – glad you are on the mend! Thankful that you get to go back to your students. Also, I appreciated your comment about how every life is precious to God. It’s easy when reading ancient biblical law to think that God flippantly requires punishment. However, God sees the whole picture, and He knew what the people needed in order to have an undivided heart.

    Help us God to have an undivided heart. Shine your light on our sin, Holy Spirit. Thank you for your forgiveness and sacrifice, Jesus!

  40. Laura says:

    I say Amen to this statement: “Where sin is let alone, the family is destroyed.” I believe that in the spirit of “showing love to family members,” Christians have watered down the consequences of sin. And I know many Christian families that do not look or act any differently than non-Christian families. Although these passages are hard to read, I think that God is instructing His people to live lives centered on Him and not sin. I echo what Angie said that if these had been followed, would we have the slippery slope we have now? I think the pervasiveness of sin that we witness today is the very thing that God was warning His people against! Yet here we are! We have taken a very hard stance against our daughter’s sin because it is indeed destructive. And we are not in relationship with her now because she does not want to hear the truth, nor does she want to change. But I fully believe that we have done the right thing. Because if we had watered down her sin, we would be promoting it and lying to her. I pray every day that God’s voice will get through to her. I believe it with my whole heart. And when she does turn one day from her sin, she will know that it was God who pursued her and brought her back to Him. That day will be a tremendous day of rejoicing!

  41. Melanie says:

    A bit deep early this morning. So glad Jesus died for our sins and wayward hearts. Thank you for your continued prayers for my family’s healing. It was a long week and we are emotionally and physically drained. Praying for all who are returning to school. Angie- glad you are feeling better

  42. Angie says:

    Greetings SRT ladies! I have been away. The 2nd day of school a student threw up on me and I got Covid. I had not had it yet. It was painful, as it attacked my nervous system, but also, praise God I am on this side of it and heading back today with most of my students also returning. I am excited to see them.
    These are very hard scriptures, if you are in the situation. At the same time I look at them and think, if they had been followed, would we have the slippery slope we presently have in our world today?
    The broken-neck of the calf seems weird in our day, and yet I couldn’t help but thank God that it exemplified that every life has value. There may not be a way to determine the murderer, but atonement had to be made for shedding innocent blood. God’s love and value for each person is shown in the details. Captured women, firstborn rights, burying executed people, and even the stoning of the rebellious son. The pain in these situations for people involved would be tremendous. God sees the big picture and seeks the best for all.

  43. Ellen says:

    Thank you so much for your explanation, Rebecca. Others have tried but this really settled in. Christ, the only obedient Son, died for us, the rebellious ones!! Thank you God, for your unfathomable grace.
    Requesting prayers this morning-today is our first day back to school. Please lift up our students, teachers, staff and administrators. Always such an exciting day, but also full of concern! Have a blessed day!

  44. Dianna Zampelli says:

    Thank you for going over this. Having a young adult child that is deciding to turn away from God, those verses hit hard.

    Lord thank You for loving us and forgiving our sins!

  45. Dianna Zampelli says:

    Thank you for going over this. Having a young adult child that is deciding to turn away from God, those verses hit hard.

  46. Kelly says:

    So many shadows of the NT here. Cursed is every man who hangs on a tree…the punishment Mary faced for being with child before she and Joseph were married…the woman caught in adultery (how unjust since she was the only one brought before Jesus)…
    So thankful for Jesus’ provision for our sins. No one could fulfill all of these.
    NADS – praying for Danny
    MELANIE – praying for your dad
    KAITLIN SCHROEDER – How’s Derrick? Praying for his full recovery.
    MARI V – praying for your ankle

  47. Searching says:

    Praying for each request, especially Danny and his family.

  48. Morgan Wall says:

    Thank you for that explanation of verses 18-21. It helped me to go back through the days reading and refocus my thoughts on looking for Christ. Still a tough read, but isn’t that exactly what sin and it’s consequences are? Tough and uncomfortable? I’m so grateful to be loved by the King who bore my sin.

  49. Mary Ann Graves says:

    Thank you Lord for your grace, forgiveness,and love

  50. Shannon Lowry says:

    Indeed a rough read, I’m going to bed a little heated lol