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Deuteronomy 25

Deuteronomy 25:1-3

1. If there be a controversy between men, and they come unto judgment, that the judges may judge them; then they shall justify the righteous, and condemn the wicked.

1. Si fuerit lis inter aliquos, et accesserint ad judicium, et judicaverint eos: justificaverintque justum, et impium condemnaverint:

2. And it shall be, if the wicked man be worthy to be beaten, that the judge shall cause him to lie down, and to be beaten before his face, according to his fault, by a certain number.

2. Si quidem caedendus fuerit impius, tunc prosternet eum judex, et caedere jubebit illum coram se secundum iniquitatem ejus ad numerum.

3. Forty stripes he may give him, and not exceed: lest, /f he should exceed, and beat him above these with many stripes, then thy brother should seem vile unto thee.

3. Quadraginta plagis caedere jubebit illum, non addet: ne forte si addat caedere eum ultra plagis multis, vilescat frater tuus in oculis tuis.


Inasmuch as moderation and humanity are here enjoined, it is a Supplement of the Sixth Commandment. The sum is, that, if any one is judicially condemned to be beaten with stripes, the chastisement should not be excessive. The question, however, is as to a punishment, which by lawyers is called a moderate correction, 4343     “Ce que les jurisconsultes appellent une reprimande moyenne.” — Fr. and which ought to be such, as that the body torn by the whip should not be maimed or disfigured. Since, therefore, God has so far spared the guilty, as to repress even just severity, much more would He have regard paid to innocent blood; and since He prohibits the judge from using too great rigor, much less will He tolerate the violence of a private individual, if he shall employ it against his brother. But it was necessary that zeal should be thus restrained, because judges, in other respects not unjust, are often as severe against lesser offenses (delicta) as against crimes. An equal measure of punishment is not indeed prescribed, as if all were to be beaten alike; it is only prohibited that the judges should order more than forty stripes in all to be inflicted for an offense. Thus the culprits were beaten deliberately, and not in such an indiscriminate manner as when it was not requisite to count the stripes; besides, they were not so injured for the future as to be deprived of the use of any of their limbs. With the same intent God would have the judges themselves to be present, that by their authority they may prevent any excess: and the reason is added, lest “thy brother should seem vile unto thee,” because he had been beaten immoderately. This may be explained in two ways, either, lest his body should be disfigured by the blows, and so he should be rendered unsightly; or, lest, being stained for ever with ignominy and disgrace, he should be discouraged in mind; for we know how grievous and bitter it is to be mocked and insulted. A third sense, 4444     This exposition is attributed to Vatablus in Poole’s Synopsis. which some prefer, is too far-fetched, viz., lest he should die like some vile and contemptible beast; for God only provides that the wretched man should be improved by his chastisement, and not that he should grow callous from his infamy. As the Jews were always ostentatious of their zeal in trifling matters, they invented a childish precaution, in order that they might more strictly observe this law; for they were scrupulous in not proceeding to the fortieth stripe, but, by deducting one, they sought after an empty reputation for clemency, as if they were wiser than God Himself, and superior to Him in kindness. Into such folly do men fall, when they dare out of their own heads to invent anything in opposition to God’s word! This superstition already prevailed in Paul’s time, as we gather from his words, where he reports that “five times he received forty stripes save one.” (2 Corinthians 11:24.)

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