Deuteronomy 20:7
And what man is there that hath betrothed a wife, and hath not taken her? let him go and return unto his house, lest he die in the battle, and another man take her.
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Deuteronomy 20:7-8. Hath betrothed a wife — The time allowed in this case was a year, Deuteronomy 24:5. This was a law of great humanity, that conjugal love might not be disturbed, but have time to knit into a firm and lasting affection. What man is fearful and faint-hearted — This fearfulness is to be understood, say the Jews, not only of a natural timorousness, which is incident to some constitutions, and makes a man tremble at every danger, but of the adventitious terrors of a guilty conscience. For they did not, as in the modern fashion, send the wickedest and most worthless into the wars; but if they knew any man to be a notorious villain, they thrust him out of the army, lest his example should corrupt and discourage the rest of the soldiery.

20:1-9 In the wars wherein Israel engaged according to the will of God, they might expect the Divine assistance. The Lord was to be their only confidence. In these respects they were types of the Christian's warfare. Those unwilling to fight, must be sent away. The unwillingness might arise from a man's outward condition. God would not be served by men forced against their will. Thy people shall be willing, Ps 110:3. In running the Christian race, and fighting the good fight of faith, we must lay aside all that would make us unwilling. If a man's unwillingness rose from weakness and fear, he had leave to return from the war. The reason here given is, lest his brethren's heart fail as well as his heart. We must take heed that we fear not with the fear of them that are afraid, Isa 8:12.See the margin and references. The fruit of newly-planted trees was set apart from common uses for four years. 5-8. And the officers shall speak unto the people—literally, Shoterim, who are called "scribes" or "overseers" (Ex 5:6). They might be keepers of the muster-roll, or perhaps rather military heralds, whose duty it was to announce the orders of the generals (2Ch 26:11). This proclamation (De 20:5-8) must have been made previous to the priest's address, as great disorder and inconvenience must have been occasioned if the serried ranks were broken by the departure of those to whom the privilege was granted. Four grounds of exemption are expressly mentioned: (1) The dedication of a new house, which, as in all Oriental countries still, was an important event, and celebrated by festive and religious ceremonies (Ne 12:27); exemption for a year. (2) The planting of a vineyard. The fruit of the first three years being declared unfit for use, and the first-fruits producible on the fourth, the exemption in this case lasted at least four years. (3) The betrothal of a wife, which was always a considerable time before marriage. It was deemed a great hardship to leave a house unfinished, a new property half cultivated, and a recently contracted marriage; and the exemptions allowed in these cases were founded on the principle that a man's heart being deeply engrossed by something at a distance, he would not be very enthusiastic in the public service. (4) The ground of exemption was cowardice. From the composition of the Israelitish army, which was an irregular militia, all above twenty years being liable to serve, many totally unfit for war must have been called to the field; and it was therefore a prudential arrangement to rid the army of such unwarlike elements—persons who could render no efficient service, and the contagion of whose craven spirit might lead to panic and defeat. Betrothing was done by a solemn and mutual promise, but not by an actual contract. See Genesis 19:14 Deu 22:23.

And what man is there that hath betrothed a wife, and hath not taken her?.... Home to his house and bedded with her; has only betrothed her, but is not properly married to her, the nuptials are not completed; this the Jews understand of anyone betrothed to him, whether a virgin or a widow, or the wife of a deceased brother (yea, they say, if his brother is dead in war, he returns and comes home), but not of a former wife divorced and received again (m):

let him go and return unto his house, lest he die in battle, and another man take her; or marry her.

(m) Misn. Sotah, ib. sect. 2.

And what man is there that hath betrothed a wife, and hath not taken her? let him go and return unto his house, lest he die in the battle, and another man take her.
7. that hath betrothed, etc.] Cp. Deuteronomy 24:5, exempting the newly-married from service for a year. The reason can hardly be that he was unclean for, as in the case of other married men, this obstacle could be removed (2 Samuel 11:6 f.). Evidently the motive is humane, in the wife’s interests, or in order to secure descendants to the man himself.

Deuteronomy 20:7Moreover, the shoterim, whose duty it was, as the keepers of the genealogical tables, to appoint the men who were bound to serve, were to release such of the men who had been summoned to the war as had entered into domestic relations, which would make it a harder thing for them to be exposed to death than for any of the others: for example, any man who had built a new house and had not yet consecrated it, or had planted a vineyard and not yet eaten any of the fruit of it, or was betrothed to a wife and had not yet married her, - that such persons might not die before they had enjoyed the fruits of what they had done. "Who is the man, who," i.e., whoever, every man who. "Consecrated the house," viz., by taking possession and dwelling in it; entrance into the house was probably connected with a hospitable entertainment. According to Josephus (Ant. iv. 8, 41), the enjoyment of them was to last a year (according to the analogy of Deuteronomy 24:5). The Rabbins elaborated special ceremonies, among which Jonathan in his Targum describes the fastening of slips with sentences out of the law written upon them to the door-posts, as being the most important (see at Deuteronomy 6:9 : for further details, see Selden, de Synedriis l. iii. c. 14, 15). Cerem is hardly to be restricted to vineyards, but applied to olive-plantations as well (see at Leviticus 19:10). חלּל, to make common, is to be explained from the fact, that when fruit-trees were planted (Leviticus 19:23.), or vines set (Judges 19:24), the fruit was not to be eaten for the first three years, and that of the fourth year was to be consecrated to the Lord; and it was only the fruit that was gathered in the fifth year which could be applied by the owner to his own use, - in other words, could be made common. The command to send away from the army to his own home a man who was betrothed but had not yet taken his wife, is extended still further in Deuteronomy 24:5, where it is stated that a newly married man was to be exempt for a whole year from military service and other public burdens. The intention of these instructions was neither to send away all persons who were unwilling to go into the war, and thus avoid the danger of their interfering with the readiness and courage of the rest of the army in prospect of the battle, nor to spare the lives of those persons to whom life was especially dear; but rather to avoid depriving any member of the covenant nation of his enjoyment of the good things of this life bestowed upon him by the Lord.
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