Deuteronomy 25:11-12 – Oh No She Did-unt! (Even in Conflicts, There Are Boundaries Not To Cross)

Posted: April 12, 2017 in Book of Deuteronomy

Deuteronomy 25:11-12

Grabbing a Man’s Testicles

Oh, you have got to love Deuteronomy! It’s got stuff in it that most pastors will avoid preaching on. And this passage, pardon the contextual pun, a pastor would “really have to have balls” to preach on it. It is an oddity and very much against modern sensibilities. It is a peculiar passage and a tough one to deal with. It leaves us scratching our modern heads. On the one hand, you would like to think it is honorable for a wife to defend her husband and what does she get for it – to have violence done to her. It leaves us moderners shaking our head. Then, as a biblical blogger, my earmark of all my blogs is to illustrate a biblical passage by something from my personal life or a commentary on modern life in general that gets to the point of the passage. Can I do that this morning was my first thought? What in the world could be an illustration of this biblical principle.

 

The only things that I can come up with are some things that I have observed when in high school when physical violence is more prevalent than in adult society. I have seen a couple of things involving violence by a young man toward a woman and vice versa. In each case, it involved relationships gone wrong and retaliation. In the case of violence of a young man toward a young woman, there was a time when I saw a confrontation between two girls about one losing her boyfriend to the other girl. It was an ugly scene in the courtyard of what once was Travelers Rest High School (TRHS) when it was located on William Winter Blvd. (back in my day the street was named something else but I can’t remember the name now). The girls were beating on each other without mercy. Scratching, clawing, you name. Nothing was out of bounds. Finally, the boyfriend that was the center of this “debate” stepped and right in front of everyone grabbed his ex-girlfriend by the right boob and twisted it as hard as he could. This of course ended the fight. The ex-girlfriend was not only writhing in pain but she had been publicly humiliated by her ex. It also caused physical damage to his ex-girlfriend’s right breast that caused her to have to seek medical attention for it. I always wondered if that act caused her any problems down the line. I always wondered if she was ever able to nurse a child from that breast. I know she was in severe pain that day.

 

The other situation was where two boys were in a fight over a girl who just happened to be the cousin of the TRHS girl that would become my first wife and the mother my children. One of the two boys was the cousin’s boyfriend. The other was a guy that had been getting a little too close to my future cousin-in-law. During the struggle, Jill being the independent, quirky girl she was at that age, got so enraged by the other boy challenging her boyfriend, that she hauled off and kick the challenger boy right square in the crotch as hard as she could. She packed such a wallop that they boy began bleeding from his penis and had to be transported to the hospital. From what I understand from Jill, this boy was permanently damaged by the events of that day and was never able to father children.

 

These two events from the gauntlet that is high school life from back in the day (somehow I think high school is still a landmine of fights and potential fights to this day – some things about growing up never change)  are what came to mind as I thought about this passage that is about as quirky as my ex-cousin-in-law Jill. Let’s read through it now:

 

 

11 If two men are fighting and the wife of one of them comes to rescue her husband from his assailant, and she reaches out and seizes him by his private parts, 12 you shall cut off her hand. Show her no pity.

 

What is the meaning of this verse? What can we take away today?

 

First, in the context of ancient Middle Eastern culture, the act of a woman grabbing a man’s genital was a shameful act. God gave high regard to limiting sexual contact solely in the confines of marriage. So, for a woman to publicly grab the sex organs of a man in public was a shameful act regardless of the circumstances. It would not only bring shame to her but also to the man. While the surrounding cultures had a very low view of sexual modesty, the Israelites were to be different and to hold sexual relations in high regard. Grabbing sex organs publicly violated this modesty requirement.

 

Second, a woman’s intervention into a dispute between her husband and another man would bring dishonor to her husband. In ancient Middle Eastern society, she would have shamed her husband by intervening and particularly winning a fight that she perceived he was losing. It is no different now, how would you feel as a husband if your wife stepped into a man vs. man fight that you were involved in – particularly if it was in public. Thus, and in particular in the ancient Middle East, even though her motives might have been pure, she was shaming her husband. He would be publicly ridiculed from that point on as the man who had to be defended by a woman. It would forever taint his view of his wife as a result. In effect, her intervention would have caused long-term trouble for their marriage. Was it more important to win the fight for the husband or for him to maintain his dignity and honor as a man?

 

Third, I think that this passage teaches us that “all is NOT fair in love and war.” In other words, it is an admonition against gaining victory through any means necessary. We cannot resolve conflicts by any means necessary. There are boundaries of civility that we just cannot cross. That’s why war crimes against non-combatant women and children are outlawed. Even though war is heinous and should be avoided at all costs, there are certain boundaries that shouldn’t be crossed. Raping of women and children for example is never acceptable in war regardless of how heinous the war itself its. There are just certain boundaries that we should not cross to gain victory. In conflicts with others, we want to win but win with honor. We should never want to humiliate or degrade our enemies when we defeat them. That’s why World War I was actually the cause of World War II. Germany was so thoroughly punished after World War I and basically stripped of all her cash and wealth by the victor nations that Germany was sent into a economic deprivation that led to desperate lives and ultimately to the rise of the Nazi Party and Adolph Hitler. Thus, humiliation of the vanquished should never be our goal. Settle the conflict in such a way that everyone walks away with some sense of dignity. For example, when you think about the Alabama vs. Clemson national championship games of the last two years. Each team walked away both years whether victor or vanquished with their heads held high knowing that they gave their best in a game between the two best teams for the last two years. Both had honor as they walked away.

 

Fourth and finally, I think this was hyberbolic language to emphasize all the above points. Let us remember that hyperbole was often used in the Jewish culture (and still is) to emphasize a point. Jesus used hyperbole for shock value to get people to listen to what He had to say and to emphasize the points He was making. For example, I don’t think Jesus expected us to gouge our own eyes out for having lustful thoughts about a pretty woman passing by. He was making the point that we need to take such thoughts captive before the eyes lead us to lust and lust leads us to adultery or fornication. He did not literally want us to cut off body parts that were involved in acts of sin. He wanted us to take heed that we needed to capture our mind and change it so that our body parts won’t become involved in sinful acts. Thus, I think this is the same thing. It was an admonition against doing acts that violate civility. Fines would have been more likely in this case with the cutting off of the hand being the ultimate extreme of the enforcement and that being a place no one was really willing to go.

 

Thus, these are the things I take away from these two short verses. There are applications for us today in today’s world in these four points about the passage in context of the ancient Middle Eastern society. May God guide you to the point that particularly applies to your life as it stands today.

 

Amen and Amen.

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