Notes & Commentary:
Ver. 1. Pass
by. Hebrew, "hide thyself," pretending not to see it. --- Brother. Any fellow creature, Exodus xxiii. 4., and Luke
x. 30. (Calmet) --- "We are very inhuman, not to shew as much concern for a man, as the Jews do for a beast of burden." (St.
Chrysostom, ser. 13.) (Du Hamel)
Ver. 2. Not
nigh, either in blood or in place, (Calmet) though the latter signification seems more applicable; as, if the person lived
at too great a distance, it would suffice to inform him where he might find what he had lost; and, if the owner was unknown,
the thing must be taken care of by him who finds it, till he be discovered. (Du Hamel)
Ver. 3. If,
&c. Hebrew, "thou must not hide thyself," so as to pass it by, nor yet conceal it from the right owner. When a thing is
certainly abandoned by him, it belongs to the person who seizes it first; but if it be only lost, it must surely be restored,
if possible, (Grotius, Jur. ii. 10,) as nature forbids us to take advantage of another's misfortune. (Cicero) --- The Rabbins
have corrupted this law, like so many others, by their evil interpretations. They pretend that a Jew must restore what he
has found belonging to another true believer, if it have certain marks by which it may be known, but not if it belonged to
a prevaricator or infidel. In the former supposition, they got the thing cried on a high stone near Jerusalem four times,
and if the owner did not then claim his property, the finder might keep it. (Selden, Jur. vi. 4.) --- The inhabitants of Cumę
condemned the next neighbour to restore what had been lost; as Hesiod (op. 348,) very well remarks, that things would not
easily be lost, if the neighbours were not ill-disposed.
Ver. 4. With
him. Hebrew, "thou shalt not hide thyself, but help him to lift up," Exodus xxiii. 4.
Ver. 5. God.
Some take this literally, as the contrary practice is contrary to decency, and might be attended with very pernicious consequences.
All know what noise was occasioned by the action of Clodius, who put on women's apparel, that he might be present with the
Roman ladies at the feast of the good goddess. Yet others think that Moses here forbids some superstitious practice. St. Ambrose
(ep. 69,) remarks, that in some of the mysteries of the idols, it was requisite for those present to change clothes in this
manner, sacrum putatur. Lucian testifies, that men put on women's clothes at the feasts of Bacchus. They did the like
in those of Venus, while the women took men's clothes in the festivals of Mars. (Jul. Hirmic. c. 4.) (Maimonides) --- In the
East, people honoured the moon, to which they attributed both sexes, and Venus in like manner. Josephus ([Antiquities,?] iv.
8,) believes that women are here prohibited to engage in warfare. Hebrew, "the vessels (armour) of man shall not be upon a
woman." Semiramis gained a great name by her martial exploits, and commanded all her subjects to dress like herself. (Justin.,
i) --- The Amazons were likewise very famous in war, and it is said that half the army of Bacchus was composed of women. Alb.
Gentil maintains that Moses here condemns an abominable crime, which he did not wish to mention, at which the Book of Wisdom
hints, (chap. xiv. 26,) and which St. Paul condemns more explicitly, Romans i. 26. Moses had already denounced death against
the perpetrators of it; and surely the manner in which he now speaks, seems to forbid something more than simply putting on
the garments of the other sex, for he, &c. (Calmet) --- Yet that disorderly conduct deserved to be reprobated in
strong terms, (Haydock) when it was not excused by some necessity or proper motive, such as actuated some holy virgins, St.
Theodora, &c. (Tirinus)
Ver. 6. Thou
shalt not take, &c. This was to shew them to exercise a certain mercy even to irrational creatures; and by that means
to train them up to a horror of cruelty; and to the exercise of humanity, and mutual charity one to another. (Challoner) ---
Some were of opinion that the person who could take the old bird on the nest, might assure himself of good fortune, fecundity,
&c. (St. Thomas Aquinas, i. 2, q. 102, a. 6.) Such superstition is reprehensible. Phocilides advises not to take all the
young ones, nor the hen, in consideration of one's having more birds. (Calmet)
Ver. 7. Time.
Those who refrain from cruelty, even towards beasts, will be induced more easily to shew mercy to their fellow creatures,
(Tertullian, contra Marc. ii.) and will draw down the blessings of God upon themselves. (Menochius)
Ver. 8. Battlement.
This precaution was necessary, because all their houses had flat tops; and it was usual to walk and to converse together upon
them. (Challoner) --- King Ochozias had the misfortune to fall from the top of his house, (4 Kings i. 2,) and David saw Bethsabee
when he was walking on the roof of his palace, 2 Kings xi. 2. Saul slept at the top of Samuel's house, 1 Kings ix. 25. See
Josue ii. 6., and Matthew x. 27. (Haydock)
Ver. 9. Together.
If wheat was sown in a vineyard, it would ripen much sooner than the grapes; and as the first-fruits of both were offered
to the Lord, the owner would lose the profit which he had too greedily sought after, the place being esteemed both pure and
impure at the same time. This mixture of seeds would also impoverish the land, so that it would be like a place defiled,
and unfit for cultivation. (Jansenius in Leviticus xix. 19.) Maimonides supposes that the practice of the Zabians is here
reprobated. They sowed the land with corn and dry grapes, in honour of Ceres and Bacchus, (More. Nev. p. 3. c. 37,) who presided
over the harvest and vintage among the pagans. (Wm. of Paris. Leg. 13.) --- Moses might also, by this symbolical language,
condemn unnatural connexions, as he perhaps does, ver. 10.
Ver. 10. Plough.
In Leviticus xix. 19, this law is expressed, so as to forbid the procreation of mongrels. See Judges xiv. 18. People who have
treated on agriculture observe, that it is a pernicious practice to make animals of unequal size and speed work together.
(Colum. vi. 2.) --- St. Paul explains to us the mystical sense of this passage. Bear not the yoke together with infidels,
2 Corinthians vi. 14. (Calmet) --- Marry not with such. (Haydock) --- Employ not in the sacred ministry the imprudent and
wicked with those of a virtuous disposition. (St. Gregory, Mor. i. 16.)
Ver. 11. Together.
This is now lawful. But a virgin consecrated to God, must not dress like a married woman: the different states of life must
not be confounded. (St. Augustine, contra Faustus vi. 9.) (Du Hamel)
Ver. 12. Strings,
probably to gird the outer garment round the loins. See Numbers xv. 38.
Ver. 14. Name.
Hebrew, "and occasion reports against her to bring an evil name upon her," (Haydock) that he may not have to return her dowry.
For, according to many of the Rabbins, he might give her a bill of divorce, simply if he did not like her. (Selden, Uxor.
iii. 1, &c.) --- They allow the proof here specified, only with respect to a Hebrew woman between twelve and twelve and
a half years old, during the period of her being espoused, but not taken home by her husband. The cause was to be tried before
the 23 judges. Oftentimes only witnesses, probably matrons, were examined in defence of the woman. (Josephus, [Antiquities?]
iv. 8.) St. Ambrose (ep. 8. 64. ad Syagr.) highly disapproves of such unsatisfactory methods. The marks assigned by the law
were commonly observed in Syria, Persia, &c. The Arab physicians speak of them. See Valesius, c. xxv. The age in which
women were then married, the climate, &c., caused these indications to be more clear, and deposed for or against the fidelity
of the bride. The mother had them entrusted to her care by the friends of the husband, who had kept watch at the door on the
wedding night. (M.[Menochius;?] Nachman, ap. Fagium.)
Ver. 15. Her.
It does not appear that the woman was present at the trial: she remained at her father's, or rather at her husband's house,
till sentence was passed. (Calmet) --- Hebrew, "then shall the father of the damsel and her mother take and produce the damsel's
virginity," or the tokens of it.
Ver. 18. Beat
him. Hebrew, "chastise." Septuagint may signify also, "reprimand him." But (Haydock) Josephus says the husband was to
receive 39 lashes; and Philo informs us that the woman might leave him, if she thought proper, though, if she were willing
to stay, he had not the power to divorce her, ver. 19.
Ver. 19. A
hundred. Josephus only mentions 50. As it was presumed that the false accusation proceeded from a desire to defraud the
woman of her dowry, the law obliged the husband to allow her double (Calmet) the usual sum. Yet this punishment, together
with the scourging, was very inadequate to what the woman would have had to suffer if she had been condemned. (Haydock) ---
St. Augustine (q. 33,) is surprised at this decision, as in other cases calumny was subjected to the law of retaliation, or
punished with death. This shews also that wives, among the Jews, were considered as little more than servants. (Calmet)
Ver. 21. Die.
It was concluded that she had committed the sin after her espousal. If it had happened before, she was to receive only 25
sicles for a dowry; though, if she took an oath that violence had been offered to her, she was entitled to 50: which opinion
of the Rabbins seems very equitable. Ęschines (in Timarch.) relates, that a man at Athens punished the transgression of which
his daughter had been guilty, while she was at home, by shutting her up with a horse, in order that she might be torn in pieces
by the famished animal. (Calmet)
Ver. 22. Die.
The man was to be strangled as well as the married woman; if she were espoused only, she was to be stoned. The daughter of
a priest was burnt alive. (Rabbins) (Calmet) See Leviticus xx. 10.
Ver. 24. Wife.
After the woman was espoused, (ver. 23,) she was called a wife, and punished accordingly, if she proved unfaithful.
Ver. 25. Hold.
Septuagint, "offering violence," as also [in] ver. 28. (Haydock) --- Die. Moses supposes that the woman in the field
had made all possible resistance, and that the one in the city had, by silence at least, consented. But if the case were otherwise,
the judges were to make all necessary enquiries, and pass sentence accordingly. (Calmet)
Ver. 29. Life.
A law nearly similar occurs, Exodus xxii. 16, (Haydock) only there Moses speaks of seduction. (Menochius) --- If the father
or the woman refused their consent to the marriage, the person had only to pay 50 sicles; which the woman received, if her
father was not alive. But if they consented, the person who had been condemned by the judge, was bound to marry the woman,
how deformed soever. (Selden, Uxor. i. 16.) (Calmet)
Ver. 30. Covering.
See Leviticus xx. 11. A wife should be hidden from all but her husband. (Haydock)