Previously: deuteronomy 26:1-15, firstfruits and tithe
(Please review the teaching tools of scripture, especially the Hebrew paragraph divisions and chiastic structures. The paragraphs marked by an “s” at their close are weak paragraphs, which indicate a change of facet but not a change of theme or topic. The paragraphs marked by a “p” at their close are strong paragraphs, which indicate the completion of a theme or topic. The paragraph divisions reveal the chiastic structures: narratives which zero in on the main point of the narrative at its center, like a bull’s eye at the center of a target. The main point is revealed, because the narrative elements before the main point (or central axis) are repeated after the central axis, in reverse order, while the central axis itself is not repeated.)
The Tenth Commandment, Do not covet, is explained in Deu 24:10-26:15. It turns out that the explanation for the entire Tenth Commandment forms a single chiastic structure:
Deu 24:10-26:15 sx9+p+p+s+s
1a) Deu 24:10-13 s, Do not covet the pledge of the poor;
1b) Deu 24:14-15 s, Do not withhold the wages that are justly due the needy among your hired men;
1c) Deu 24:16 s, Do not covet revenge so that you put to death the innocent for the guilty;
1d) Deu 24:17-18 s, Do not pervert justice for the stranger, fatherless, or widow;
1e) Deu 24:19-25:4 s+s+s, Do not withhold the gleanings of the harvest or punishment that is justly due;
– 1e.1) Deu 24:19-22 s+s, Do not glean your harvest, but it shall be for the stranger, fatherless, and widow;
– 1e.2) Deu 25:1-4 s, Do not withhold what is justly due the wicked or the ox;
central axis) Deu 25:5a, “If brothers dwell together;”
2e) Deu 25:5b-12 s+s, Do not withhold the seed or punishment that is justly due;
– 2e.1) Deu 25:5b-10 s, Do not withhold seed that is justly due your brother’s widow;
– 2e.2) Deu 25:11-12 s, Do not withhold just punishment;
2d) Deu 25:13-16 p, Do not pervert the true weights and measures;
2c) Deu 25:17-19 p, Do not withhold vengeance that is justly due to guilty Amalek;
2b) Deu 26:1-11 s, Do not withhold the firstfruits that are justly due the priest for the Lord;
2a) Deu 26:12-15 s, Do not covet the tithe of the 3rd year that is for the poor.
The central axis of the structure teaches us that we make it possible for brothers to dwell together in unity when we are careful to not covet, pervert justice, or do any of the other things we have been forbidden to do, that we have been studying. Obeying God’s commandments, or another way to say the same thing, walking in God’s ways, promotes unity among brethren because these commandments define for us what loving our neighbor looks like. Love does no harm to our neighbor, therefore love – God’s definition of love and not man’s – is the fulfilling of the Torah (Rom 13:10).
Jesus taught us the same thing:
“Moreover if your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone. If he hears you, you have gained your brother. But if he will not hear, take with you one or two more, that ‘by the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established.’ And if he refuses to hear them, tell it to the church. But if he refuses even to hear the church, let him be to you like a heathen and a tax collector.” Mat 18:15-17
“If your brother sins against you …” i.e., if your brother has broken one of these commandments and used unjust weights and measures with you, or harvested your standing grain, or spread malicious talk about you behind your back. Sinning against our brothers is prohibited, because it harms someone. Sin causes harm to others, that is why God’s commandments prohibit those actions which harm.
Can you continue to dwell in unity with your brother, when he has sinned against you and refuses to repent of it? No! If you cannot gain your brother, you can no longer dwell in unity. He has made himself an outcast by his unrepentant sin, and brothers are no longer dwelling together. The purpose of the tenth commandment, then, and every commandment, is to promote peace and unity among men. It is not those who promote tolerance for every sin who are promoting peace and unity among men, but those who promote treating each other with justice and righteousness according to the commandments, who are promoting peace and unity among men.