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Deuteronomy 21:10-14

Laws Concerning Wives

21:10 When you go out to do battle with your enemies and the Lord your God allows you to prevail 1  and you take prisoners, 21:11 if you should see among them 2  an attractive woman whom you wish to take as a wife, 21:12 you may bring her back to your house. She must shave her head, 3  trim her nails, 21:13 discard the clothing she was wearing when captured, 4  and stay 5  in your house, lamenting for her father and mother for a full month. After that you may have sexual relations 6  with her and become her husband and she your wife. 21:14 If you are not pleased with her, then you must let her go 7  where she pleases. You cannot in any case sell 8  her; 9  you must not take advantage of 10  her, since you have already humiliated 11  her.

1 tn Heb “gives him into your hands.”

2 tn Heb “the prisoners.” The pronoun has been used in the translation for stylistic reasons, to avoid redundancy.

3 sn This requirement for the woman to shave her head may symbolize the putting away of the old life and customs in preparation for being numbered among the people of the Lord. The same is true for the two following requirements.

4 tn Heb “she is to…remove the clothing of her captivity” (cf. NASB); NRSV “discard her captive’s garb.”

5 tn Heb “sit”; KJV, NASB, NRSV “remain.”

6 tn Heb “go unto,” a common Hebrew euphemism for sexual relations.

7 sn Heb “send her off.” The Hebrew term שִׁלַּחְתָּה (shillakhtah) is a somewhat euphemistic way of referring to divorce, the matter clearly in view here (cf. Deut 22:19, 29; 24:1, 3; Jer 3:1; Mal 2:16). This passage does not have the matter of divorce as its principal objective, so it should not be understood as endorsing divorce generally. It merely makes the point that if grounds for divorce exist (see Deut 24:1-4), and then divorce ensues, the husband could in no way gain profit from it.

8 tn The Hebrew text uses the infinitive absolute for emphasis, which the translation indicates by the words “in any case.”

9 tn The Hebrew text includes “for money.” This phrase has not been included in the translation for stylistic reasons.

10 tn Or perhaps “must not enslave her” (cf. ASV, NAB, NIV, NRSV, NLT); Heb “[must not] be tyrannical over.”

11 sn You have humiliated her. Since divorce was considered rejection, the wife subjected to it would “lose face” in addition to the already humiliating event of having become a wife by force (21:11-13). Furthermore, the Hebrew verb translated “humiliated” here (עָנָה, ’anah), commonly used to speak of rape (cf. Gen 34:2; 2 Sam 13:12, 14, 22, 32; Judg 19:24), likely has sexual overtones as well. The woman may not be enslaved or abused after the divorce because it would be double humiliation (see also E. H. Merrill, Deuteronomy [NAC], 291).

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