Day 16

Proper Conduct

from the Deuteronomy reading plan

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

BY Rebecca Faires

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

Post Comments (50)

50 thoughts on "Proper Conduct"

  1. 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!

  2. 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.

  3. 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 ❤️

  4. 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.

  5. Victoria Fowlkes says:

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

  6. Alexandra Dent says:


  7. 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.

  8. 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!!

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