What does it say?
Moses continues expanding societal applications of the sixth commandments by instructing concerning unsolved murders (Deu 21). Not as immediately obvious, the commandments about how to treat women surviving the conquests of war is also an issue concerning the preservation of human life in contrast to the atrocities often committed by pagan armies at this time. Likewise, the rules of inheritance and children has overlap with the fifth commandment and parental authority, these cultural situations that often led to killing rival heirs as evidence several times in scripture. Even the section on respecting the corpses of condemned criminals is in the sense of reverence for human life.
Respect for life and preventing unnecessary death is the thread of Deu 22:1-8
The seventh commandment is to abstain from adultery, illicit mixing of what is not meant to be mixed. This theme occupies the rest of the chapter, beginning with illustrations from nature that would be obvious in this culture. Following, Moses speaks into a variety of situations that relate to maintaining the purity of marriage.
Having dealt with the importance of purity and faithfulness in marriage, Moses next moves to expand the seventh commandment principle of purity in relationships to membership in the nation itself (Deu 23). Marriage is sometimes used to illustrate the relationship between God and his people, so the same truths related to the seventh commandment apply to the nation itself. From 23:19 the discussion moves to the application of the eighth commandment against theft.
What does it mean?
The rather obscure discussion about manslaughter and cities of refuge becomes riveting when we see this in the future context of dealing with the death of Christ. Who killed Jesus? The Jewish leaders? The Romans? Our sin? A case can be made for all. Here is instruction on how to cleanse the people of innocent blood (21:1-9). Pilate washed his hands of innocent blood before the angry mob of Jews. Had Israel’s religious leaders followed these instructions, they would have been the ones washing their hands.
Amidst the many culturally strange elements in this passage, the overriding emphasis is to respect human life in every way possible because we are created in the image and likeness of God. The second emphasis is on the purity of our relationships, whether marriage, the assembly of believers or with God.
How will I respond?
Is there something in my speech, attitudes or actions that could be considered disrespectful of human life? What must I do today in response? Likewise, am I faithful in my relationships as God is faithful with me? Even if not married, I should be a faithful friend, a faithful member of my immediate and extended family, a faithful part of the assembly of believers where I congregate and faithful in my relationship with God? Is there impurity in any of my relationships that I need to resolve?