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Deuteronomy 21

Deuteronomy 21:18-21

18. If a man have a stubborn and rebellious son, which will not obey the voice of his father, or the voice of his mother, and that, when they have chastened him, will not hearken unto them;

18. Quum quis habuerit filium perversum et rebellem, non obedientem voci patris sui et matris suae, et castigaverint illum, nec paruerit illis:

19. Then shall his father and his mother lay hold on him, and bring him out unto the elders of his city, and unto the gate of his place:

19. Tum apprehendent cum pater eius et mater eius, educentque ad seniores urbis suae et portam loci sui:

20. And they shall say unto the elders of his city, This our son is stubborn and rebellious, he will not obey our voice; he is a glutton and a drunkard.

20. Dicentque senioribus urbis, Filius iste noster perversus et rebellis est, non obediens voci nostrae, epulo est ac comessator.

21. And all the men of his city shall stone him with stones, that he die: so shalt thou put evil away from among you; and all Israel shall hear, and fear.

21. Tunc lapidabunt eum omnes homines urbis suae lapidibus, et morietur: atque ita auferes malum e medio tui, universusque Israel audiet, et timebit.


18. If a man have a stubborn. What God had previously adverted to in two clauses, tie now embraces in a general law, for it cannot be doubted but that by rebellious children all are designated who are abusive or insulting to their father and mother. For if it be a capital crime to be disobedient to parents, much more is it to strike, or beat them, and to assail them with reproachful words. In sum, Moses declares that those are deserving of death who are of such a stubborn and intractable disposition as to reject the authority of their father and mother, and to hold them in contempt. Whence also we infer what it is to honor our father and mother, for the punishment is only denounced for the transgression of the Commandment. When, therefore, the law delivers over to death all who contumaciously rebel against the discipline of their parents, it follows that they have refused them their due honor. An admirable means, however, of moderating the severity of the law is introduced, when God requires the case to be decided on the evidence of the father and mother; and commands that it should be publicly heard, so that none may be condemned at the will of private individuals. By the Roman law the power of life and death over his children 1111     “A father among the Romans had the power of life and death over his children. He could not only expose them when infants, but, even when his children were grown up, he might imprison, scourge, send them bound to work in the country, and also put them to death by any punishment he pleased, if they deserved it. Sall. Cat., 39.; Liv., 2:41; 8:7; Dionys., 8:79.” — Adam’s Rom. Antiq. was given to the father, because it was not probable that fathers would be carried away by such senseless inhumanity as to deal cruelly with their own bowels; but, since sometimes fathers are found who are not unlike wild beasts, and examples show us that many, blinded by hate or avarice, have not spared their own children, this concession of the Roman law is justly to be repudiated. I allow, indeed, that those who desired to inflict punishment on their children called their friends into council; but, whereas, the walls of a private dwelling conceal many disgraceful things, God imposed a much better restraint on parents when He did not suffer them to go further than to lay the information and to give their testimony. For, although he would have credit given to their testimony, still, when the children were brought to the tribunal of the judges, a legal trim undoubtedly ensued; and this form of proceeding is prescribed, viz., that the father and mother should bring their son and make their complaint before the judges of his incorrigible stubbornness. It is true that the sentence is immediately subjoined; yet we must infer, nevertheless, that the judges pronounced it before the criminal was stoned, else it would have been ridiculous that they should sit there like cyphers. The very mention of a trial, therefore, implies that the son was heard in his defense, so as to clear himself of the crime, if he was not guilty of it: for, suppose the moroseness of the father and mother were notorious; or that the father accused the son by the instigation of a stepmother; or that any unworthy spite were discovered; or that the father and mother had conspired to destroy their son in a fit of passion: the defense of the cause is, therefore, implied in the adverb then, 1212     The particle ו sometimes has this force, but is here translated in A V and for it would have been more than absurd that the son should be condemned without being heard. Especially, when he was to be stoned by the whole people, it was necessary that he should be first convicted; and on this ground he was brought forth publicly, that he might be allowed to plead his cause. But although those were condemned who were addicted to other vices also, yet Moses expressly mentions gluttons and drunkards, to show that, although no capital crime were alleged, still, dissolute profligacy was sufficient, if the son could not be corrected by his parents; for it is plain that those are in a desperate state who have so east away submissiveness and shame as to receive no profit from the admonitions of their parents. From the end of the verse we gather what was the twofold object of the punishment — that the earth should be purged of the sins whereby it was in a manner, polluted, and that the death of him who had transgressed might be an example to all.

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