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A Decent Proposal

Deuteronomy 21:10-14 :

When you go out to battle against your enemies, and Yahweh your God delivers them into your hands, and you carry them away captive, and see among the captives a beautiful woman, and you have a desire to her, and desire to take her as your wife; then you shall bring her home to your house. She shall shave her head and trim her nails. She shall take the clothing of her captivity off of herself, and shall remain in your house, and bewail her father and her mother a full month. After that you shall go in to her and be her husband, and she shall be your wife. It shall be, if you have no delight in her, then you shall let her go where she desires; but you shall not sell her at all for money. You shall not deal with her as a slave, because you have humbled her.

It takes a lot of work to maintain a civil society when there is so much sin to deal with. That's the way it was for Israel too. God made rules that counteracted the common practices in the world at that time. One of these practices was how women were treated during a time of war. My understanding is that they would frequently be raped and taken as slaves, or worse.

Just because a group of people are taken captive in war, did not mean that they weren't human, or subject to God's protection. God demonstrates that human life is valuable, even if those lives were taken in battle. Additionally, mankind is valuable because they were made in the image of God, both male and female.

God was dealing with the desire that a man of war may have for a woman that was taken captive. God made sure that nothing even remotely close to rape would occur in Israel by making these rules. If a man wanted to have sex with a captive, He had to take her as a wife. He couldn't just marry her on a whim either. He had to wait for a whole month while the woman was given a decent amount of time to morn for her parents. Not only that, the man was required to clean her by cutting her hair and doing her nails. Very interesting, isn't it?

On top of all of this, God makes sure that it hurt if the man decided to divorce her afterwards. He says that she automatically becomes a free woman. Since she was taken as a wife and humbled, she can no longer be considered a slave. By becoming a wife, whether divorced or not, she automatically becomes a free woman.

This is one of those amazing systems that God creates. The slave woman had an opportunity, and so did the man. The man could take a woman from among the slaves to be his wife, and the woman had a reason to try for it. The woman also had a reason to try to keep the marriage working because that would be much easier for her economically. The man had a reason to keep her as well. It would be shameful for him to take a wife like that and just throw her away. Everyone would know because this foreign woman would be free and walking around Israel without a man. On the other hand, if she started sinning by following the evil ways of her own people, and the man wanted to have mercy on her, he could still divorce her and people wouldn't talk and it may keep her from being killed according to the law. I say this because, if you remember, Joseph was planning to divorce Mary before the angel told him that Mary hadn't committed adultery. Divorce was an act of mercy, because the legal penalty for adultery is death by stoning.

God's rules took horrible things like rape and war and turned them around into something that could quickly become beautiful and productive again.

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