This chapter deals with a lot of God’s commands for our world today. From the injustices involved with an unsolved murder (v. 1-9), to the rights of children concerning an inheritance (v. 15-17), to the discipline that is needed for a rebellious son (v. 18-21; for more on this one for it is concerning when first read, read this: https://www.gotquestions.org/stone-rebellious-children.html ). In almost all of these cases there is a mentioning of the purging of the guilt or evil from within because that is what God does in atonement and for justice. It reveals His holiness and our sinfulness.
However it’s easy to also compare such hard commands to the Gospel where we see the atonement of Jesus to take away our sins that killed him, the inheritance we receive as heirs with Christ as brothers and sisters adopted into His family and one of Jesus’ most famous parables, the parable of the Prodigal Son where the rebellious son is received in grace and love instead of being stoned. We know that Jesus’ justice is balanced by His love and grace demonstrated in the Gospel and that Deuteronomy 21 must be taken into account with the rest of Scriptures and the Messiah to come to fulfill such laws in Himself and the New Covenant He gives us.
Lastly, I always try to explain or give a link to tough, troubling passages of scripture and in case you didn’t notice, there’s a big one in this chapter that I did not mention a lot about in the above text. Many people have used Deuteronomy 21:10-14 to accuse God of condoning rape and slavery which is certainly not the case. On that accusation, apologetics blogger, Kyle Butt (I hope no middle schoolers are reading this) says:
“It is important to understand that God has never condoned any type of sexual activity outside of a lawful marriage. The only way that an Israelite would be morally justified in having sexual intercourse with a female captive was if he made her his wife, granting to her the rights and privileges due to a wife. Notice that the Israelite male could not “go in to her” (a euphemism for sexual intercourse) until she had observed a period of mourning and cleansing, and he could only “go in to her” with the intent of being her husband.
When the skeptics’ allegations about God condoning rape are demolished by the very clear instructions in Deuteronomy 21, the attack is usually shifted, and God is accused of being unjust for allowing war prisoners or slavery of any kind, regardless of whether or not rape was permitted. While these allegations about slavery have been dealt with decisively in other places (Butt, 2005a), it is important not to lose sight of the fact that shifting the argument to slavery is a red herring to draw attention away from the original accusation that God condoned rape.”
By: Erik Koliser — West Campus Pastor