MISCELLANEOUS LAWS REQUIRE ISRAEL TO ENFORCE GOD’S FAIR STANDARD OF RIGHTEOUSNESS WHILE INFLICTING SHAME ON THOSE WHO OFFEND
Duane Christensen: The laws in Deut 25 are in two parts of unequal length: a group of five laws on humanitarian concerns and social ethics (vv 1–16) and the concluding injunction to remember to hate the Amalekites (vv 17–19) for their aggression against the people of Israel in the wilderness, as recorded in Exod 17:8–15. Though the first two of these laws, putting limits on flogging (vv 1–3) and not muzzling an ox when it threshes grain (v 4), make up a single literary unit from a prosodic point of view, they are also separate laws within a five-part concentric structure:
A Limits on flogging (Joseph sold into slavery) 25:1–3
B Not muzzling an ox (Joseph in Egypt) 25:4
X Levirate marriage (Judah and Tamar) 25:5–10
B´ Immodest intervention in a fight (Joseph in Egypt) 25:11–12
A´ Honest weights and measures (Israel in the wilderness) 25:13–16
The figurative nuance of the forgotten sheaf in the previous law, where Joseph himself becomes the sheaf of grain forgotten for awhile and then remembered, is carried over into the law about the ox as well. An Israelite hearer would have puzzled over the requirement as it applies to a treading ox, for if a treading ox is not muzzled or driven by a whip, it will merely consume the seed it is supposed to be producing in the process of treading. “The oddness of a literal reading of the requirement is the clue that the meaning is to be displaced. In switching from one reading to the other, it is crucial to observe that a third party will have to be involved in getting the unmuzzled ox to produce seed. . . . A man, left to himself like the ox with the grain, dies without producing offspring. As with the unmuzzled ox, a third party has to be involved. A relative, like the person responsible for attending to the ox, is under an obligation to ensure that seed [progeny] is forthcoming” (Carmichael, LNB, 294).
David Whitcomb: The right conclusion after reading these laws is that God is just. Regardless of the opinion of mere humans, God will always do what conforms to His righteousness (which is essentially the same idea). Therefore, we can be confident that His law is just and results in the application of justice when we obey Him. While many of these unique laws do not apply to us or our circumstances, we can be sure that it is still good and right to adhere to His standard of justice.
Peter Pett: Doing what is right and avoiding shame –
This chapter continues with the idea of fairness, and the thought of consideration and doing right and runs throughout, commencing with the requirement for true justice and a fair hearing with a limitation on beatings, and dealing with not muzzling the ox, surrogate motherhood, decency and right behaviour when quarrelling, and correct weights and measures. There is an emphasis on shaming for those who fail (‘vile’ -Deuteronomy 25:3; ‘spit in his face’ – Deuteronomy 25:9; ‘cut off her hand’ -Deuteronomy 25:12; ‘abomination’ Deuteronomy 25:16). Thus a beating shames the recipient, and must not therefore be too heavy (Deuteronomy 25:3). The woman refused her Levirate rights shames her brother-in-law by spitting in his face (Deuteronomy 25:9-10). The violent and unscrupulous woman is to openly bear her shame before all, for they would be able to tell from the mutilation what she had done (Deuteronomy 25:12). False weights and measures are an abomination, they bring shame on those who use them (Deuteronomy 25:16). It concludes with the fate of Amalek on which comes the greatest shame of all.
I. (:1-3) FLOGGING LIMITATIONS – HUMANE TREATMENT OF CONVICTED CRIMINALS [“PAIN WITHOUT DEGRADATION”]
A. (:1) Decision of the Court
“If there is a dispute between men and they go to court,
and the judges decide their case,
and they justify the righteous and condemn the wicked,”
Earl Kalland: When a dispute arises between persons, they are to take the matter to court (v. 1). The alternative would be to take matters into their own hands, and that is not acceptable in a nation governed by law. Moreover, the judge has been given the responsibility and the authority to make decisions and to make sure that the punishment, if any, is inflicted on the guilty party.
B. (:2-3) Description of the Appropriate Punishment
“then it shall be if the wicked man deserves to be beaten, the judge shall then make him lie down and be beaten in his presence with the number of stripes according to his guilt. 3 He may beat him forty times but no more, lest he beat him with many more stripes than these, and your brother be degraded in your eyes.”
Daniel Block: To ensure the executioner does not overstep the bounds of the sentence, the punishment must be administered in the presence of the judge, and the number of lashings must be correlated with the severity of the crime. To protect the dignity of the accused and to prevent excessive public humiliation, Moses sets forty lashes as the absolute maximum sentence. While it is unclear what constitutes excessive public degradation, the identification of the convicted person as “your brother” suggests that even though justice was to be administered by objective standards, floggings were never to be carried out heartlessly. After all, even guilty persons are members of the community.
Gerald Gerbrandt: Flogging was not unusual in the ancient world and could be imposed on those guilty of offenses like vandalism, nonpayment of debt, fraud, theft, and so forth (Tigay: 230). Paying restitution may also be part of the settlement. Enforced confinement or jail, the most common form of punishment in the Western world today, is absent from Israel’s system of justice.
This regulation then controls the punishment the guilty party receives by
(1) having it take place in the presence (lit., unto his face) of the judge,
(2) having the number of lashes proportionate to the offense, and
(3) placing an upper limit on the number of lashes permitted: forty.
These restrictions sharply limit the punishment someone could receive in a non-Israelite culture, where some crimes could be assigned up to one hundred strokes (Tigay: 230). .
The goals of punishment are restitution and reestablishing community.
Charlie Garrett: The Hebrew reads l’phanav – “to his face,” and thus before the face of the judge. The GNT incorrectly translates this as, “If the guilty one is sentenced to be beaten, the judge is to make him lie face downward and have him whipped.” In other words, they take the words “to his face” as meaning, “with his face to the ground.” That is not the intent, even if that is what the man does. The words “to his face,” mean “before him,” or “in his presence.” The judge was to personally watch over the beating to ensure that it was carried out as determined. Otherwise, he could be overbeaten, mistreated in how the beating was given, not punished enough, and so on. . .
It obviously became an accepted rule in Israel to take away one blow as the maximum penalty in order to ensure the law was never violated. In other words, if the maximum of forty was the sentence, and the punisher miscounted, he would violate the law. Hence, the maximum number of thirty-nine was set to avoid this ever occurring.
Duane Christensen: On “lest . . . your brother is degraded in your eyes,” Tigay says, “Perhaps the person being flogged would humiliate himself further by crying or begging hysterically for mercy, or by soiling himself from fright or from the severity of the beating” ( 230).
David Whitcomb: The whole process seems barbaric to us. Our laws of punishment for crimes are far more humane. Yes, but it would also appear that modern crime rates all over our humane world are the highest in history. Maybe God who created people understands the nature of people better than people do.
Michael Grisanti: This law does not focus on preventing this person’s death but preserving his dignity. As with other Deuteronomic laws (e.g., regarding forgiveness of debt and release of slaves), this law envisions the restoration of an offending member of the covenantal community to a dignified place among his people (McConville, 368).
John Schultz: Israel knew only four forms of punishment: The death penalty, fines, flogging, and restitution. Imprisonment was only practiced in cases where judgment was delayed. Whether our modern way of applying justice is any improvement on the biblical paradigm is a matter of debate. . . But the question here is whether flogging is an acceptable form of punishment. The fact that it is incorporated in Scripture gives it a divine fiat, which ought to close the argument for us. From a practical viewpoint it is probably the best deterrent and a very economical form of punishment.
II. (:4) PROHIBITION AGAINST MUZZLING THE THRESHING OXEN –
HUMANE TREATMENT OF PRODUCTIVE ANIMALS
[“FEED THE BEAST” REGULATION]
“You shall not muzzle the ox while he is threshing.”
Charlie Garrett: The reason it is placed here is because it adds importance to the law just stated in the previous verse. If an ox is to be tended to, even though it is an ox, how much more should a man not be degraded as if he were an animal by beating him beyond what is decent.
Daniel Block: The ordinance assumes the ancient practice of threshing grain by having oxen trample the stalks or pull rock-studded sledges over the stalks spread out on the threshing floor. Greedy farmers muzzled their oxen or donkeys to prevent them from eating instead of working, or simply eating that which he hoped to harvest for himself (cf. Prov. 14:4).
Gerald Gerbrandt: Twice in the New Testament this law is mentioned in relationship to proper payment of Christian workers (1 Cor 9:8–12; 1 Tim 5:17–18). If oxen working the threshing floor are to receive fair payment, then those working for the church also should receive this consideration.
Pulpit Commentary: This prohibition, therefore, was dictated by a regard to the rights and claims of animals employed in labor; but there is involved in it the general principle that all labor is to be duly requited, and hence it seems to have passed into a proverb, and was applied to men as well as the lower animals.
III. (:5-10) LEVIRATE MARRIAGE – HUMANE TREATMENT OF WIDOWS WHO LACK A FAMILY LEGACY [“NEXT MAN UP” REGULATION]
A. (:5-6) Consummation of the Levirate Marriage
“When brothers live together and one of them dies and has no son, the wife of the deceased shall not be married outside the family to a strange man. Her husband’s brother shall go in to her and take her to himself as wife and perform the duty of a husband’s brother to her. 6 And it shall be that the first-born whom she bears shall assume the name of his dead brother, that his name may not be blotted out from Israel.”
Duane Christensen: On the basis of Gen 13:6 and 36:7, Tigay says “dwelling together” means living close enough to share the same pastureland, and that “this may mean that in biblical times the marriage was obligatory only if the levir’s home, where the widow and her future child would reside, was close to that property” ( 231).
Charlie Garrett: The code is silent on whether this brother is already married or not, and so reading into it that he must be single [cf. MacArthur] is therefore not a reliable thought. It simply states as a point of law that a brother in such a matter is to perform this function.
Daniel Block: As we have observed in earlier texts, verses 5–10 subdivide into a main case (vv. 5–6) and a corollary issue (vv. 7–10). Both concern the social institution of “levirate marriage.” A levirate marriage is a legally sanctioned union between a widow, whose husband has died without having fathered offspring, and the brother of the deceased. Although Deuteronomy 25:5–10 provides the only formal instruction on the institution in the Old Testament, variations of this type of marriage are widely attested in the ancient world (cf. Gen. 38; Ruth 4).
The levirate institution actually addressed two problems arising from the death of a man without an heir.
(1) By marrying the deceased’s widow, the yābām (“brother-in-law”; Lat. levir) offered her economic security and physical protection.
(2) However, the primary concern here is not the material well-being of the widow, but securing progeny for her deceased husband. Grounded in the conviction that parents lived on in their children and children perpetuate the “name” of their fathers, the levirate addressed the worst curse imaginable—to have one’s “seed” cut off and one’s name forgotten.
Michael Grisanti: The purpose of this legislation is not simply to provide an heir for the deceased brother (the heir’s legal father), but also to ensure the welfare of his (otherwise economically destitute) widow; for the heir fathered by the deceased man’s brother and born to the man’s widow would not be able to care for the landed inheritance for many years. That task was left to the brother (the heir’s biological father) in the interim.
B. (:7-10) Rejection of the Levirate Marriage
“But if the man does not desire to take his brother’s wife, then his brother’s wife shall go up to the gate to the elders and say, ‘My husband’s brother refuses to establish a name for his brother in Israel; he is not willing to perform the duty of a husband’s brother to me.’ 8 Then the elders of his city shall summon him and speak to him. And if he persists and says, ‘I do not desire to take her,’ 9 then his brother’s wife shall come to him in the sight of the elders, and pull his sandal off his foot and spit in his face; and she shall declare, ‘Thus it is done to the man who does not build up his brother’s house.’ 10 And in Israel his name shall be called, ‘The house of him whose sandal is removed.’”
Charlie Garrett: Despite this being a precept of law, Moses does not make it mandatory. On the other hand, he does make the consequences for not following through with it repugnant enough so that a person in such a position would carefully consider the repercussions…
Eugene Merrill: Modern scholarship refers to the practice in view as “levirate [from Latin levir, “brother-in-law”] marriage,” for it not only allowed but prescribed that a widow whose deceased husband had died without male heir marry one of his brothers, presumably the next eldest one who was himself unmarried. The first son born of that relationship would take the name of the first husband, thus assuring the latter of an ongoing remembrance by the community. For this reason the widow was to marry within the family (lit., “not to the outside, to a stranger”). . .
The sandal, again, represented forfeiture by the derelict brother of any claims he might have had to his departed brother’s estate. The act of spitting displays the utmost disdain or contempt. In the only other instance with this verb (y raq) recorded in the Old Testament, the Lord asked Moses if Miriam would be ostracized from the camp if her father had spit in her face (Num 12:14). If so, how much worse that she had contracted leprosy because of her insolence toward Moses. The same sense of disgust is communicated by the terms tûp (Job 17:6) and r q (Job 30:10; Isa 50:6). The levirate duty might not have been mandatory, but it certainly was expected.
Daniel Block: The instructions for the corollary case (vv. 7–10) assume the possibility of exemption for men who prefer not to perform the duties of a levir, though this refusal was not to be taken lightly and involved the stigma of shame. . . Described in considerable detail, the procedure for dealing with an unwilling “brother” allows for a virtuous and assertive response by an aggrieved widow.
Gerald Gerbrandt: The custom has three purposes:
(1) The widow is served: she is provided a place in her husband’s home, receiving financial security and the prospect of having children with her husband’s brother.
(2) The family is served, although exactly what the widow’s inheritance rights are is not clear: her marriage to someone in the same family assures them that the husband’s land remains with the larger family.
(3) The deceased man is served: through his brother his own name and posterity are preserved.
Michael Grisanti: Various scholars posit that the removal of a sandal signifies the forfeiture of some right or authority (cf. Pss 60:8 ; 108:9 , where putting a sandal over something indicates ownership; HALOT, 705). It may indicate that the brother-in-law has no right to conjugal relations with the widow (McConville, 370) or may emphasize her right to freedom, i.e., full control of her destiny (Hamilton, ABD, 4:567). The man has shirked his responsibility to his brother (Craigie, 315; Driver, 283; Tigay, Deuteronomy, 233). Kruger (“The Removal of the Sandal,” 536) suggests that the removal of the sandal represents a sort of bill of divorce providing protection of the widow by freeing her from any obligations to her dead husband’s family. . .
The other primary interpretation views both the sandal’s removal and the spitting as acts of derision (Hall, 376–77). Since no property changes hands and the following statements emphasize the despicable nature of the man’s choice, it may be that no legal notion is in mind. Hoffner (“Some Contributions of Hittitology to Old Testament Study,” TynBul 20 : 44) has pointed out a Hittite parallel in which the removal of a sandal “constitutes a public stigmatization.” Several scholars suggest that the sandal imagery and the spitting may carry sexual overtones (and they link this law with the next one; C. Carmichael, “A Ceremonial Crux: Removing a Man’s Sandal as a Female Gesture of Contempt,” JBL 96 : 329–32; L. Eslinger, “More Drafting Techniques in Deuteronomic Law,” VT 34 : 222–25; Wright, Deuteronomy, 269).
Duane Christensen: Some translate it “in his face,” and others interpret it as spitting on the ground in front of the man. Support for the latter reading is found in Carmichael’s conclusion: “The shoe represents the female genitals, the foot the male organ, and the spitting semen” (LNB, 296), for Onan spilled his semen on the ground. The name “house of the unsandaled one” is a pejorative title to degrade the brother.
The purpose of the law was to keep the inheritance separate and to preserve the genealogies distinct, as well as to provide for the destitute widow when the estate devolved on the next heir. Though the Sadducees cited their law to Jesus in a dispute about resurrection (Matt 22:23–33), the law of the levirate marriage concerns matters of social and economic justice in this world brought on by premature death, not in relationships in another world beyond death.
Charlie Garrett: Here the woman is given the right to forcibly take off his shoe, demonstrating first that her hand now has the power over his right. Secondly, it is a contemptible way of saying that he no longer has any claim to, or right in, the matter henceforth. And more, to be unshod is a sign of a miserable and shameful existence. . .
The word is yaraq, to spit. This is its third and last use. It was used twice in Numbers 12:14 where it is clearly recognized as a sign of derision
IV. (:11-12) UNFAIR FIGHTING PRACTICES – HUMANE TREATMENT OF BRAWLERS [MMA OR WWE REGULATION]
A. (:11) Improper Intervention
“If two men, a man and his countryman, are struggling together, and the wife of one comes near to deliver her husband from the hand of the one who is striking him, and puts out her hand and seizes his genitals,”
Daniel Block: 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.
B. (:12) Extreme Penalty
“then you shall cut off her hand; you shall not show pity.”
Michael Grisanti: The penalty for this act is the removal of her hand. This law appears to be a somewhat broad application of the principle of lex talionis. Since she, as a woman, did not have the same anatomy as a man (hence no exactly corresponding penalty), the removal of her hand (which had seized the man’s private parts) serves as the appropriate penalty (Craigie, 316; Phillips, Ancient Israel’s Criminal Law, 94–95).
Peter Craigie: It may be that this very particular piece of casuistic law is intended as an example of how lex talionis was able to be interpreted when it could not be applied literally.
Daniel Block: 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.
Gerald Gerbrandt: The concluding phrase, show no pity, suggests that even in ancient times the verdict seemed extreme. Perhaps we simply need to admit that in this case we are unsure what the regulation is about. The detailed uniqueness of the case—along with the harshness of the penalty, especially when compared with the usual Deuteronomic tendencies—undercut any clear explanation.
Eugene Merrill: Besides the shame of this, especially in the ancient Eastern world, there was the real possibility that the woman could effectively have emasculated her victim so as to remove any hope of his siring children. This, of course, would have rendered his plight nearly as serious as that of the brother mentioned above who died with no male heir. That this was the implication is supported by the fact that the guilty woman had to lose her offending hand as punishment (v. 12).
Jack Deere: This is fourth time in Deuteronomy Moses told the people to show . . . no pity in executing punishment for wrongdoing (cf. 13:8; 19:13, 21).
V. (:13-16) HONEST WEIGHTS – INTEGRITY IN BUSINESS DEALINGS
A. (:13-14) Don’t Cheat
“You shall not have in your bag differing weights,
a large and a small.
You shall not have in your house differing measures,
a large and a small.”
Daniel Block: The temptation to cheat in business deals by reducing or enlarging measuring instruments to one’s own advantage (vv. 13–16) afflicts every generation. The book of Proverbs raises the issue three times. In 16:11 the sage declares that no one—not even kings—may tinker with balances and scales because Yahweh owns them and establishes the definitions of “honest” instruments. In 20:10 and 23 the sage picks up the Deuteronomic expression of something that “the LORD detests”; but instead of applying the expression to the person who cheats this way, he applies it to the instruments used to cheat others.
B. (:15) Practice Integrity
“You shall have a full and just weight;
you shall have a full and just measure,
that your days may be prolonged in the land
which the LORD your God gives you.”
Michael Grisanti: Regardless of the precise measuring tool in use at a given place, the professed unit of measurement and the actual unit of measurement are to be identical. A person should receive the exact amount he expects and pay only what he has agreed to. (Money was also weighed out.)
Ancient merchants used weights (“stones”) and measures (baskets or jars for liquids or grains) when buying and selling goods; they could use these tools to their own financial advantage. When buying, they could use a heavier stone or a larger container measure in order to receive more than the fair amount. When selling, they could use a lighter stone or smaller container so that the customer received less than expected for the price paid. God’s people only need one set of weights and measures—a set that is precise and full.
In addition to the fact that using false weights represented deception (a practice condemned by various biblical passages), it was primarily done to take advantage of those who had nowhere else to turn: the poor and needy, the fatherless and widows, and aliens. Yahweh consistently condemns mistreating people at the fringe of Israelite society; he regards such conduct as detestable. Moreover, to use accurate and honest weights is part of a life of covenantal conformity and will bring to the honest merchant longevity in the Promised Land.
C. (:16) Take Sin Seriously
“For everyone who does these things, everyone who acts unjustly
is an abomination to the LORD your God.”
VI. (:17-19) REMEMBER AMALEK AND DO NOT FORGET
A. (:17-18) Remember
“Remember what Amalek did to you along the way when you came out from Egypt, 18 how he met you along the way and attacked among you all the stragglers at your rear when you were faint and weary; and he did not fear God.”
Duane Christensen: Chiastic structure:
A “Remember what Amalek did to you” 25:17a
B “when you went forth from Egypt” 25:17b–18a
X “And he did not fear God” 25:18b
B´ “When YHWH grants rest . . . in the land” 25:19a
A´ “Blot out the remembrance of Amalek . . . do not forget” 25:19b
In the center of this structure we find the simple statement that Amalek did not fear God (v 18b). The “fear of God” in wisdom literature is synonymous with wisdom (Prov 1:7; 9:10; 15:33; Job 28:28; Ps 111:10). In light of Deut 10:12, we know what it means to fear YHWH—it means to love him and to walk in his ways. The inner frame moves from a description of the experience of the people of Israel when they “went forth from Egypt” and faced the treachery of Amalek “on the way” (vv 17b–18a) to a glimpse into the future when YHWH grants them rest and they possess their inheritance in the promised land (v 19a). The outer frame reminds the people to remember what Amalek did in times past (v 17a) and to blot out the remembrance of Amalek from under heaven in times to come: “you shall not forget!” (v 19b). . .
The reference to the fact that the Amalekites “did not fear God” indicates that they had no fear of divine punishment.
Eugene Merrill: Though this closing paragraph may loosely be associated with the idea of interpersonal relationships elaborated throughout the lengthy section 23:19–25:19, its radically different subject matter (foreigners rather than fellow Israelites) and its apparent lack of reference to the Decalogue pose major problems about its present text location. . . It seems best, however, to view it as a transitional piece between the past and the future, between the experience of Israel in the desert, where attack by Amalek was rather paradigmatic of the years of wandering, and the hope of life in the land of promise, where God’s people would enjoy peace and prosperity (26:1-19).
The Amalekites, whom the Old Testament traces back to Eliphaz, son of Esau, and his concubine Timna (Gen 36:12), lived in the Arabian deserts east and south of the Dead Sea (Gen 36:16; Num 13:29; 14:25). They were a fierce nomadic people, hostile to Israel as their flagrant attack on the weak and elderly of the Exodus wanderers makes clear (Exod 17:8-16). Because of this cowardly act, the Lord placed them under his judgment (Exod 17:14), promising to bring them to utter ruin (Num 24:20). Eventually this came to pass but long after Israel’s settlement in Canaan. Saul was first commissioned to do so (1 Sam 15:1-3); but when he failed, the task fell to David, who appears to have been at least largely successful in achieving the long-sought objective (2 Sam 8:12). At the best, however, Israel failed to do what the law here commanded—to “blot out” (m â) Amalek’s very memory “from under heaven” (v. 19).
Matthew Henry: Amalek’s attack upon Israel was considered an attack upon God. Amalek must have known under what circumstance Israel had left Egypt. They countered God’s miracles with a cold-blooded and dastardly atrocity. . . If they had had any reverence for the majesty of the God of Israel, which they saw a token of in the cloud, or any dread of his wrath, which they lately heard of the power of over Pharaoh, they durst not have made this assault upon Israel. Well, here was the ground of the quarrel: and it shows how God takes what is done against his people as done against himself, and that he will particularly reckon with those that discourage and hinder young beginners in religion, that (as Satan’s agents) set upon the weak and feeble, either to divert them or to disquiet them, and offend his little ones.
Daniel Block: He cites three actions by the Amalekites against Israel that demand response.
(1) They opportunistically “cut off” the Israelites along the way when they came out of Egypt. The attack signified unprovoked and malicious intervention in Israel’s pilgrimage to Horeb for their appointment with Yahweh.
(2) The Amalekites committed barbaric and cowardly atrocities. Fearing to engage the Israelites in a frontal attack, they let the Israelites pass by; then, when they were famished and weary, they attacked powerless stragglers at the rear. These probably involved the weak and the sick, who could not keep up with the main camp and proved easy targets for marauders.
(3) The Amalekites did not fear God. Although “to fear God” sometimes bears an ethical sense, the expression should not be limited to the ethical sphere. Moses would never speak of the Amalekites fearing Yahweh, but with this comment he suggests the Amalekite attack involved direct interference in the plan of God. . .
Moses insists on eliminating the Amalekites because they defied God, not only by stifling the fear of divinity that is common to all civilized people, but also by daring to interfere with God at a critical moment in the history of salvation. Yahweh had just rescued the Israelites and was leading them to Sinai, where he would formally confirm them as his covenant people. All this was preparatory to delivering into their hands the land of Canaan so they could flourish there and become his agent of blessing to the whole world. Moses hereby in effect declares, “Woe to any who interfere with the plan of God.”
B. (:19) Do Not Forget
“Therefore it shall come about when the LORD your God has given you rest from all your surrounding enemies, in the land which the LORD your God gives you as an inheritance to possess, you shall blot out the memory of Amalek from under heaven; you must not forget.”
Daniel Block: Stylistically, verses 17–19 do not exhibit the qualities of “law,” which reminds us again to classify Moses’ entire second address as pastoral instruction rather than legislation. Here Moses admonishes the people to take care of some unfinished business. Two imperatives frame this paragraph (v. 17a; 19c), which divides into two parts almost equal in length. In the first Moses charges the Israelites to “remember” the Amalekites’ past hostilities (vv. 17–18), and in the second he charges them to “blot out” their memory from human history (v. 19).
Duane Christensen: The words “remember” and “do not forget” form an envelope around 25:17–19. The people are to remember what Amalek did, and they are to remember what Moses has commanded them to do about it—“you shall blot out the name of Amalek from under heaven.”
Michael Grisanti: This exhortation to remember (and not forget) past events or realities always had some resultant conduct in view. The remembrance was to motivate (and enable) the Israelites to put into practice some aspect of what Yahweh expected of them. In this instance, the extermination of the Amalekites represents “unfinished business” for Israel, a backward-looking perspective. It provides a transition to 26:1–15, which looks forward to Israel’s living out their God-given identity as the people of Yahweh once they are established in the land he has sworn to give them.