Why was a woman punished who touched another man’s genitals while trying to save her husband?


Greetings! I have a question about Deuteronomy 25:11-12. I read some explanations online that refer to sexual purity, but I see things differently. Two men quarrel, fight… the wife of one of them intervenes to save her husband. Intentionally or unintentionally, she grabs the other by the…, but not with sexual thoughts, but with the idea of moving him away from her husband. For this “let her hand be cut off,” but why? I’m waiting for a possible answer. I wish you all the best!

I also don’t think it refers only to sexual purity, it’s something more. My opinion is that it is about respecting a person’s dignity, and to explain my point of view I will place the text you referred to in the context of the whole chapter.

To respect the dignity of man when punishment is applied

The first paragraph of Chapter 25 reads as follows:

“If there is a dispute between people and they go to court, and the judges decide their case, and they declare the righteous innocent and pronounce the wicked guilty, then it shall be if the wicked person deserves to be beaten, the judge shall then make him lie down and have him beaten in his presence with the number of lashes according to his wrongful act. He may have him beaten forty times, but not more, so that he does not have him beaten with many more lashes than these, and that your brother does not become contemptible in your eyes. (Deuteronomy 25: 1-3 )(NASB)

The number of blows to be inflicted on the culprit had to be limited not for health reasons or to avoid death, but not to be humiliated before other people.

Don’t humiliate animals either

The following text from the same chapter 25 reads:

“You shall not muzzle the ox while it is threshing. (Deuteronomy 25:4)( NASB)

He who does so with animals shows not only exaggerated stinginess, but also a lack of mercy and any sense of justice. In the New Testament the apostle Paul referred twice to this commandment and says that here God not only considered the oxen, but also those who toil in the Gospel, and the saints who do not care for their pastors and elders by giving them financial support, thereby degrading them. Here is the text that says this:

The elders who lead well are to be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who work hard at preaching and teaching. For the Scripture says, “You shall not muzzle the ox while it is threshing,” and “The laborer is worthy of his wages.” (1 Timothy 5:17-18)( NASB)

And it is also written:

For it is written in the Law of Moses: “You shall not muzzle the ox while it is threshing.” God is not concerned about oxen, is He? Or is He speaking entirely for our sake? Yes, it was written for our sake, because the plowman ought to plow in hope, and the thresher to thresh in hope of sharing in the crops. (1 Corinthians 9:9-10)( NASB)

May God help us to give due honor to those who sow spiritual goods in our souls and to share with them out of our temporary goods.

The one worthy of contempt to be despised

About this is the following law which we find in the same chapter 25, namely:

“When brothers live together, and one of them dies and has no son, the wife of the deceased shall not be married outside the family to a strange man. Her husband’s brother shall have relations with her and take her to himself as his wife, and perform the duty of a husband’s brother to her. It shall then be that the firstborn to whom she gives birth shall assume the name of his father’s deceased brother, so that his name will not be wiped out from Israel. But if the man does not desire to take his brother’s widow, then his brother’s widow shall go up to the gate to the elders, and say, ‘My husband’s brother refuses to establish a name for his brother in Israel; he is not willing to perform the duty of a husband’s brother to me. Then the elders of his city shall summon him and speak to him. And if he persists and says, ‘I do not desire to take her, then his brother’s widow shall come up to him in the sight of the elders, and pull his sandal off his foot and spit in his face; and she shall declare, ‘This is what is done to the man who does not build up his brother’s house!’ And in Israel his family shall be called by the name, ‘The house of him whose sandal was removed. (Deuteronomy 25:5-10)( NASB)

If in the two laws that preceded it it was written how not to humiliate, here it is said how to humiliate a man who behaves dishonorably and does not want to build up the name of his brother. However, this law sets limits on this measure which should have been taught to all so that no one should do so. Then we come to the law in question.

The woman should not humiliate a man

What could be more degrading to a person than being grabbed in public by the genitals? This is a shame for both men and women. That is why the following commandment read:

If two men, a man and his countryman, have a fight with each other, and the wife of one comes up to save her husband from the hand of the one who is hitting him, and she reaches out with her hand and grasps that man’s genitals, then you shall cut off her hand; you shall not show pity. (Deuteronomy 25:11-12)( NASB)

The context in which this law is placed shows that the purpose of this woman is not only to get her husband out of the fight, but also to humiliate the other man. This was the reason why she went so far as to grab his genitals, not to mention that a strong blow to the scrotum could have drastic consequences for this man and for his further relationship with his wife.

It may seem to us that the punishment for the woman in question is too much, but God, who is sovereign, qualifies this as something serious and which no one should ever do. What concerns the genitals does not only refer to sexual intercourse, but also to procreation, that is, to the lives of others.

I’m curious to know what the reader’s opinion is about this law? I invite you to write it in the comments. 

Translated by Didina Vicliuc