"I went to Jerusalem to become acquainted (Gk. istoria) with Cephas" - Paul's words from Galatians 1:18.

Do You Mock Jesus Christ and His Cross of Shame? An Exposition of Deuteronomy 25:11-12

We live in a time when many would rather ridicule the Bible than read it. Even in America, a country that has every possible advantage for its citizens to know the Scriptures, American people will take to social media to mock the Bible and God Himself. For example, yesterday an anti-Christian cartoon appeared on Facebook (see left) with the comment, "This is the God that Christians worship. Does it sound like a god you want to serve?"

The verses being mocked (Deuteronomy 25:11-12) in the cartoon and the comment above are from the Law of Moses. The New American Standard English Version of the Bible seems to me to come the closest to the actual Hebrew.
“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, then you shall cut off her hand; you shall not show pity."
These two verses are often chosen by atheists, agnostics, and scoffers as the denouement for their written treatises that mock Christianity and our God. In subsequent Facebook comments I read that discussed the cartoon, there were two groups of commentators: (1). Those anti-Christian in their beliefs who seemed smug in denigrating the Bible and those who believe it, and (2). Christians who had no idea how to explain Deuteronomy 25:11-12.

This short post is compassionate warning to the former group (non-believers in Christ) and an encouraging explanation to the latter group (believers in Christ).

Types in Scripture

The first five books of the Bible are called The Law of Moses and they are filled with types. Types are symbols of something else, like a "typewriter" is a symbol machine that strikes a piece of paper to represent something else (e.g. "the thoughts of the typist"). Typology in the Old Testament is simply a "picture language" in which the important thoughts of God are presented in symbols. A type is like the shadow of a person; when you see a shadow, you know that the shadow only represents the reality of a person. So too, when Israel brought their lambs for sacrifices before God, they were prefiguring (like a shadow) and representing the true Lamb of God (Jesus Christ) who takes away the sin of the world.

The woman who  grabs the "shameful parts" of the man who is wrestling with her husband serves as a type. In this Law passage (Deuteronomy 25:11-12), a very specific situation is described:
There's a fight (between 'brothers' or 'countrymen'), with a perpetrator (the wife of one of the brothers), involved in an action (seizing the opponent's "shameful parts"), with a resulting punishment (cutting off her hand) and a closing exhortation ("show no mercy.").
There are probably only a few pastors who would risk teaching from this Law text on a Sunday morning. There could be a number of interesting titles to choose from ... but I digress. The problem is people will read Deuteronomy 25:11-12 and only get tickled or troubled. There is an incredible gospel truth from this text that comes through the type that the two men, the actions of the woman, and the pronounced judgment all represent.

The Type Explained

In the recorded history of Israel, there is not one occasion where a Jewish woman loses her hand for violating this Law.  Think about it! Why would anyone Jewish woman "grab" the crotch of a kinsman fighting her husband? If you were defending your husband, you'd go for the head of his opponent, or the neck, or incapacitate in a much more efficient manner. Nevertheless, this Law is in the Pentateuch. I believe so many get lost in an attempt to explain the literal application of the Law (e.g. talionis lex) that that they miss the spiritual application.

When Jesus walked with the two men on the road to Emmaus, He began "with the Law and all the Prophets and explained to them what was said in the Scriptures concerning Himself"  (Luke 24:27). Deuteronomy 25:11-12 are two verses that describe Jesus Christ and and what our reaction to His "shameful" death should and should not be.

(1). The two men in Deuteronomy 25:11-12 remind us of the first wrestling match in the Bible.

In the science of Bible interpretation (e.g. hermeneutics), there is the Law of First Mention which states, "the first mention of a subject in Scripture establishes an unchangeable pattern, with that subject remaining unchanged in God's mind throughout Scripture."

The first time "two men" wrestle in Scripture is when Jacob wrestlers with God (e.g. Jesus Christ). The story is found in Genesis 32:22-32. John Gill says of Jacob's wrestling match:
"No doubt, the Son of God in an human form is wrestling with Jacob. Christ frequently appeared in Old Covenant days as a token and pledge of His future incarnation. This "wrestling" was real and physical on the part of both" 
During the wrestling match, things don't go well for Jacob. The Son of God strikes Jacob in the "socket (Hebrew: kaph) of Jacob's thigh." The Hebrew word "kaph" is used throughout the Old Testament for either the sole of a foot or the palm of a hand or the socket of the thigh. It conveys the idea of "strength" or "swiftness." People with strong sockets, swift soles, and strong grips are people of strength and independence. But a person who loses their kaph, loses their self-sufficiency. So during Jacob's wrestling match, he lost his self-sufficiency (that's always the first thing Christ does when He saves person), and only after he loses his "kaph" does Jacob plead for blessing from Christ - and receives it! This reminds me of Paul's words in II Corinthians 12:10:
And Christ has said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in your weakness." Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ's sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong."
(2). The woman of Deuteronomy 25:11-12 has her "kaph" removed without mercy.

The women uses her "hand" to grab "the shameful parts" of the man wrestling her husband (v. 11), and as a consequence of her action, she is to have her "hand" cut off. Unfortunately, in the English translation of these two verses, the word "hand" translates two Hebrew words. The word translated as "hand" in verse 11 is not the same word translated "hand" in verse 12:
  • Verse 11: Hand = יָדָ֔הּ (yad)
  • Verse 12: Hand = כַּפָּ֑הּ (kaph)
The best translation of "hand" in verse 12 is probably "palm." Of course, to get rid of the "strength of the grip" (e.g. palm), one must cut off the hand. This woman has her "kaph" removed. In essence, just like Jacob in the original wrestling match with Christ, this woman wrestles with Christ with her physical hand (yad), and like Jacob, she has her "kaph" (strength) taken.

However, unlike Jacob in the original wrestling match, this woman in Deuteronomy 25 "finds no mercy." Instead of pleading for and receiving "blessing" from the One with power to take her kaph, this woman mocks the man's "shame," and she finds herself without any recourse. She loses her kaph permanently. Why the severe, irreversible punishment for this woman in Deuteronomy 25:11-12?

(3). The woman of Deuteronomy 25:11-12 mocks the Man's "shame." 

Just as the lambs of the Old Testament represented the Lamb of God in the New Testament, the "kinsman" wrestling with the woman's husband represents her"Kinsman Redeemer."  What the woman "grabs" with her hand is the Man's "shame" - the literal Hebrew word is "shame" - translated "secret parts" in the KJV, "genitals" in the NAS, and "private parts" in the NIV. This woman mocks the man's shame.

When Jesus Christ died on the cross bearing our sins, He died naked. When Jesus Christ died on the cross bearing our sins, He died "wrestling" with us over our sin. When Jesus Christ died bearing our sins, He died enduring the open shame of a public crucifixion.  Notice what the Scripture says about Christ's death:
"Let's fix our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of our faith. Who, for the joy set before Him, endured the cross, despising its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God." (Hebrews 12:2). 
For  the joy of saving us through His death, Jesus withstood the shame of the cross. "He could have called ten thousand angels" says the old song, but Christ endured the cross for the "joy" of saving us from our righteous judgment. Christ's bearing the punishment due sinners through His substitutionary death is a truth "mocked and scorned" by many. It's foolish, it's tasteless, it's "moronic" to those who "grab hold of Christ's shame" and mock it to the world. Just as the woman in Deuteronomy 25 grabbed the "shameful parts" of the kinsman wrestling with her husband, many take hold of Christ's shame and mock it.

Mock the shame of Christ at your own peril. There is coming a day when your "strength" (kaph) will be cut off with no mercy.

(4). Jesus Christ refers to Deuteronomy 25:11-12 and issues a warning.

There are only two places in the entire Bible (both Old Testament and New Testament) where a "cutting off of a hand" is referenced; Deuteronomy 25:11-12 and Matthew 5:30. In the latter text, I believe Jesus Christ makes a specific reference to the Deuteronomy passage. Listen to Jesus' words:
"If your hand makes you stumble, cut it off and throw it from you; for it is better for you to lose one of the parts of your body, than for your whole body to go into hell."
In other words, it would be better for you to deal with anything in your life that leads you to mock and scorn the cross - the very shame of Christ - than to have your entire body be cast into hell, bearing God's righteous judgment for your mockery of Christ and His cross.

I don't know if the person who posted the cartoon above on Facebook and then mocked the God of the Bible and the cross of Christ will read this post.... but if he or she does, I hope my compassionate warning is heard.

You vulgarly grab at the shame of Christ and mock Him. The day of your being cut off without mercy is nearing. Plead with Him, as did Jacob, for His mercy and His blessing before it is too late.


Gordon said...

"An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth". Not two eyes to be taken for the loss of one; nor four teeth in return for one being knocked out .

I can see an element of mercy and proportionality in the punishment for the female co-assailant. The normal reaction of an enraged man in a fight for survival would to be to turn his survival instinct and strength against the woman immediately, with almost near fatal results for her. Should she be pulled away in time and survive his wrath, the punishment for her dangerous intervention would be the losing of a limb but not the whole body. The punishment fits her crime of having seriously and unfairly disadvantaged her husband's opponent in a fight for life.

Would the mockers allow ISIS to continue acting outside the rules with impunity or is there some punishment for those who kill and maim ? Is all fair and permissible in love and war ? NO! Does the end justify the means so that we turn a blind eye to the perpetrators of wrong? NO!

Bob Cleveland said...

Good post. I have often told my class that lots of stuff in the Old Testament can only be seen properly in the context of the New Testament. And the opposite is true also .. the Old Testament surely affirms lots of what we read in the New Testament.

Good stuff. I'm really glad you faithfully reported things in the BOT of the IMB, back in 2005/6. It's what got me involved, and the effects of that grow in my life every day, yet today.

So thanks.

Christiane said...

some of the worst mocking of Christ I've witnessed in my life has been when politicians pursued the teachings of Ayn Rand and presented themselves as Christians . . . if they had been able to incorporate the Ayn Rand philosophy into our nation's economic system, the effects on our poor, our elderly, our working poor, our disabled, and our mentally challenged citizens would have been devastating, not to say what would have happened to our families with single moms . . .

But even in our modern day, I have trouble when it's okay to save money for 'the state' by cutting off a healthy water supply to a whole city of one hundred thousand people and making them use a river's polluted waters that corrode old pipes and release lead into the water to poison their children . . . that kind of evil was not 'a mistake' . . . it was just evil . . . contempt for living children born is also a great sin against the Good Shepherd

RRR said...

This interpretation is interesting but surely seems weak. I do not argue that all Scripture is related to God's eternal, redemptive plan, but asserting such specific interpretation to this judgment regarding a woman's grabbing a man's crotch to protect her husband seems pretty far-fetched. Mostly the merit of the post, for me at least, is its motivation for us to consider various messages lying under the surface. Thanks for that.

Dave Panzera said...

I often get a bit spun up when folks, today, mock my faith. I oft times take it too personally. As soon as I do I realize that my inner Peter is showing and I start swinging my sword and cutting off ears if you know what I mean.

Satan gets his best mileage out of little bits of truth mixed in with a purposeful lie. Eve was confidently told she would not surely die! Fast forward to the time of the tempting of Christ and again our enemy tried spinning the truth to a lie in the hopes Jesus would fall for it. However, in that instance, unlike what Eve experienced and chose to do, Jesus responded each time with the same three words “…It is written!...” And it was His command of the truth that so easily defeated the devil and his schemes. It was the armor of God in His heart and mind that made it easy to make the stand, even in the weakest of condition of having not had food in 40 days.

How much easier is it, then, to lead further astray those who are his to begin with when speaking of the devil and his schemes? I can’t count the number of times I have had people tell me how “The God of Christianity wants to kill all Homosexuals…. After all God called for it in the Old Testament, didn’t He?” The short answer is no, the expanded and educated answer is it happened and the context is very important. Who was God talking to? What was the instruction? Why was it given? Without the knowledge, the hermeneutical approach and analysis we could go on misinterpreting that for a very long time. Exactly what our enemy wants.

Most important is how we approach correction. I appreciate Pastor Wade’s commitment to warning in love. Here it is yet one more place for the devil to do his evil in that he will make you feel or experience guilt or the accusation of guilt (from others) all in an effort for you either become and sin-enabler or a muted and ineffective believer. Jesus did it best (as always) in His approach to the adulterous women He was careful to show us how it is that we do not condemn…but it is His last words to her that show us how not to enable when He said “…Now go and SIN NO MORE!”

Oh that I could, that we all could, make effective, learned, committed yet fully loving stands for when it is our God is mocked that we may be used as vessels of truth in a world full of deception and half-truths.

Ramesh said...

A little off topic that this blog started on Dec 6th 2005. Ten years! For another 10 years. Cheers.

Wade Burleson said...

Ramesh, thank you!

Christiane said...

I often think about how, if we wanted to live as fully human persons, as we were meant to be before the Fall, we should look to Christ Who modeled this Way for us so perfectly. And how when He WAS on the Cross, and being reviled, He offered no hate, nor contempt in return, nor threats, nor curses . . . but He said something important that sometimes gets lost in meaning to us . . . He said 'for they know not what they do'

that gets lost . . . 'forgive them, for they know not what they do' . . . He knew that to be true, and we in judging others cannot know their hearts as He knew the hearts of those who persecuted Him

But when one of us uses his 'cred' as a Christian to get votes to gain political power, and then uses that power to knowingly and harm innocent people, withholding help from them for a long period of time after the reports come in of medical evidence that their children are being poisoned,
then I do wonder if we can say of this politician 'he knew not what he did' . . . ?

There is a God Who is just, but His anger-wrath is aimed towards making what is unjust right again . . . He wants to heal what is in need of His care. I don't see this as a 'negative' anymore. . .

A black minister with little funding began to collect water and distribute it in Flint Michigan. He had a very small operation going, and often ran out of supplies quickly each day . . . but still he worked to do what he could, and he shamed others into helping . . . pretty soon, even the ones who caused the poisoning to happen were worked upon to declare an emergency and make some visible (if incompetent) effort to assist the people of Flint. It's too late of course for the poisoned children who will bear the scars of lead poisoning their whole lives, but IF the work of one black minister could change hearts and minds, then maybe there is a different kind of power against evil that we can tap into . . . a positive source that doesn't curse the darkness, but keeps doing what is right even with little help, and fewer resources.

some thoughts . . .

Johnny D. said...

Thank you Wade for your commitment to the Scriptures.

Johnny D. said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Dave said...

Missed the most interesting aspect of this passage - LXX translation is grab his "didimus" (twins) - who says those translators in Alexandria did not have a sense of humor. In the context of this passage, it quite possibly is referring to damage caused from the blow that would cripple the man's ability to have children. Just a thought.