The Bible gives some strange commands, like In Deuteronomy 21:10-14, “When you go to war against your enemies and you take captives, if you notice a beautiful woman and are attracted to her, you may take her as your wife. Bring her into your home and have her shave her head. After she has lived in your house and mourned her father and mother for a full month, then you may go into her and be her husband and she shall be your wife. If you are not pleased with her, let her go wherever she wishes. You must not sell her or treat her as a slave.”
Yikes! This passage seems so barbaric. How can anyone who cherishes women believe that this comes from a gracious God? Well, there is a lot more going on here than first meets the eye. The world in 1450 B.C. was a primitive culture. But what you learn about God is He meets people at a real place in real time in history and pushes culture forward.
This passage concerns the spoils of war. It was typical for victorious Late Bronze Age armies to walk off with the spoils, including people. Humans were mere property. You could do with them whatever you wanted.
But the Bible says otherwise! If a soldier felt drawn to a captive woman, he was to bring her into his home and respect her grief. Notice she is given a month to acclimate to her new reality. He is to provide for her and give her a new life. She is a human being and not mere property. Her emotions are to be respected. To identify her as a wife was to grant her the privileges of a fully functioning member of the household. She now has rights and position in the family.
Finally, she could not be abandoned. A woman treated as an object and then thrown away was common. She would then be in a desperate situation. But the Bible says she has dignity and can choose her own next steps. These were revolutionary words, a quantum leap forward towards a more civil society!
Why doesn’t God just advance His people to the pinnacle of social enlightenment? The sinful mindset takes time to understand grace. But He’s always pushing us forward.
-Rev Dr William Lewis