Like some sections of the book of Proverbs, here we see verse after verse of distinct, practical teaching.

A certificate of divorce (24:1-4) – Jesus said that it was not God’s original intent for divorce to take place, but because of the hardness of the Israelites’ hearts, it was permitted under the old law (Matthew 19:6-8).

Under Moses’ law, a man was allowed to divorce a wife in whom he found “some uncleanness” (24:1). Many have debated this expression’s meaning. Since adultery was to be punished by death (Leviticus 20:10), then would not the unnamed “uncleanness” in Deuteronomy 24:1 be something different than adultery? Before a man gave a certificate of divorce to a wife from whom he wanted to part, he should think seriously about such a decision. One reason for that is this: once he divorced her, if she went on to marry another man, the first husband could never take her back to be his wife (24:2-4).

A one-year honeymoon (24:5) – A man with a new wife was not to “go out to war or be charged with any business.” Instead, he was to be free at home for a full year and bring happiness to his wife. While many modern-day couples do not have the opportunity to have such a lengthy time “off,” it goes without saying that everything possible ought to be done to help marriages “get off on the right foot.”

Dealing in a civilized and respectful way with the poor, including those who owed debts (24:10-22):

– Do not go into a brother’s house to take back a loaned item by force (24:10,11).

– Do not keep a poor person’s pledge overnight (24:12,13).

– Do not oppress a hired, poor servant (24:14).

– Give a poor, hired servant his wages each day (24:15).

– Do not pervert justice in dealing with strangers, fatherless, and widows (24:17).

– Do not re-harvest your crops: leave whatever you did not get the first time to the widows, fatherless, and strangers (24:19-21).

– In showing fairness and kindness to others, the Israelites ought to remember how they had faced hard times in their lives in Egypt, but the Lord delivered them (24:18,22).

Personal accountability for actions taken – Fathers were not to be put to death for their children, nor were children to be put to death for their fathers. Why not? “. . . a person shall be put to death for his own sin” (24:16). We call that “personal accountability.” One might influence the thinking of others, but we all are responsible for our own choices (cf. 2 Corinthians 5:10).

— Roger D. Campbell