Deut. 21 notes


וְהֵסִירָה אֶת־שִׂמְלַת שִׁבְיָהּ מֵעָלֶיהָ וְיָשְׁבָה בְּבֵיתֶךָ וּבָכְתָה אֶת־אָבִיהָ וְאֶת־אִמָּהּ יֶרַח יָמִים וְאַחַר   21:13

כֵּן תָּבֹוא אֵלֶיהָ וּבְעַלְתָּהּ וְהָיְתָה לְךָ לְאִשָּׁה

Deut. 21:13  and she shall remove the raiment of her captivity from her and remain in your house and mourn her father and her mother a full month.  Then after this you may go in to her and be her husband, and she can be for a wife to you.”

Two remarks are appropriate at this point.  First, in v. 21:12, the verb translated as “prepare” appears to be a loose use of the word.  The Hebrew is probably an idiom known to the scribe.  As this action is part of the mourning process, as revealed in v. 21:13, the commandment is more likely to be to cut or pare her nails or remove any polish from them, not to polish them. 

Second and of more important consequences, this series of four verses (21:10 to 21:13) indicates that intermarriage was permitted.  What does this mean?  It seems to contradict Deut. 7:3.  Yet if we reexamine Deut. 20:14 to 20:16, we will find a reasonable answer.  There we are told that we may take wives from distant cities, those not in the land given to us.  We may not, however, take wives from the women of the cities situated within the land.  The people we dispossess from our inheritance must be driven out or completely destroyed.  We can not take wives from them.

As a result of this recognition, I might hastily question the past and present objections to intermarriage by Jews.  After all, the commandments prohibiting marriage with others apply only to the peoples in the land of the Israelites.  As we are in the Diaspora, they should not be applicable.  But I would be wrong.  I can readily see how they would still be applicable to us.  In my view, the laws expressed in Deut. 7:3 and 21:10 to 21:13 that prohibit certain intermarriages are intended for one and only one purpose:  To prevent us from being lured to turn to other gods.  Because we live in a culture that is strongly influenced by Christianity, by intermarrying we could be tempted to turn to Jesus.  And Jesus is god to most Christians. 

The conclusion?  In Israel we should be permitted to marry non-Jewish men or women from other countries as long as we brought them to live with us in Israel.  Thus the influence to stray would be directed away from the home born and toward the foreign spouse.  That would not be a violation of the commandments.  But in the Diaspora we should not condone intermarriage unless the spouse is willing to convert  However, neither should we condemn it, for it can lead to good results also.  See the next paragraph.

At this point I have to offer a personal confession.  I am married to a Christian woman who believes fervently in Jesus as God.  And as it turns out, she and her Christian friends are responsible for my coming to God -- not Jesus, but the holy God of Israel and the world.  Before I met my wife, I was an agnostic, although I had often wished there were a God.  So I am somehow an exception to the generally accepted rule that a female believer in other gods would lure a Jew to them.                                                                     [Back]