Baby Steps

Michael Wittmer

READ : Deuteronomy 21:10-14

Suppose you see among the captives a beautiful woman whom you desire and want to marry . . . (v. 11)

This is another difficult passage which seems offensive today. How are we to understand God allowing Israelite soldiers to take attractive captives for their wives? Isn’t this a barbaric way to find a spouse?

It is by contemporary standards, where women often are granted full equality with men and Geneva Conventions limit the atrocities of war. But God’s command here was a large improvement over what typically occurred during ancient wars. Rather than rape and murder captive women, God instructed Israelite soldiers to treat them with respect, giving them time to mourn their parents and taking care to treat them as honored wives rather than slaves.

God wisely brings his children along with baby steps, only teaching them what they are able to digest but always remaining several notches above what their surrounding, sinful culture suggests. How has our culture advanced beyond the ancient world’s wanton abuse of helpless people? Where does our culture continue to promote such violence? If God were writing his covenant today, what rules might he include to help his children live better than our fallen world? What would he say about how we treat the powerless: the poor, the weak, the elderly, and the unborn?


May I never determine right and wrong by what others are doing.