Leading the Captivity Captive
Recall from Deut. 20:10-14 we are told that all wars must start with a declaration of peace, so that the offending nation may know the verdict from the Divine Court and what must be done to restore the lawful order between nations. War was used only to enforce God’s decision in the Divine Court in order to restore the rights of the victim nation.
If the offending nation refuses to abide by the decision of the court, that nation is guilty of contempt of court and given the death penalty. The nation itself was to die, along with the men—but the women and children were to be absorbed into the Kingdom of God. That is where Deut. 20:14 ends, but the final portion of Moses’ speech is given in Deut. 21:10-14. This gives the rest of the law and completes the thought:
10 When you go out to battle against your enemies, and the Lord your God delivers them into your hands, and you take them away captive, 11 and see among the captives a beautiful woman, and have a desire for her and would take her as a wife for yourself, 12 then you shall bring her home to your house, and she shall shave her head and trim her nails. 13 She shall also remove the clothes of her captivity and shall remain in your house, and mourn her father and mother a full month; and after that you may go in to her and be her husband and she shall be your wife. 14 And it shall be, if you are not pleased with her, then you shall let her go wherever she wishes; but you shall certainly not sell her for money, you shall not mistreat her, because you have humbled her.
We are given an example of this in the war against Shechem in Genesis 34. We are told that Simeon and Levi destroyed Shechem on account of their sister Dinah, who was taken forcibly by Shechem, the son of Hamor, the chief of that city. The book of Jasher tells us (chapter 34) that after the city was destroyed Simeon married one of the women of that city. The Jasher account reads this way:
35 And the number of women whom Simeon and Levi took captives from the city of Shechem, whom they did not slay, was eighty-five who had known man. 36 And amongst them was a young damsel of beautiful appearance and well favored, whose name was Bunah, and Simeon took her for a wife….
If this account is true, perhaps Moses had this in mind while giving his speech regulating marriage of war-captives. In essence, this example shows how Israelites could absorb the foreign women and children into the Kingdom either as slaves or as wives.
Our concern, of course, is how to apply this law under the New Covenant. Because we have been given the Sword of the Spirit by which to conquer the world, our weaponry is far greater, though we do not fight against flesh and blood. The same laws of war apply to either covenant, but the results are vastly different.
The Laws of War Applied Equally
As I have already shown, war itself was not to be employed for the reasons of self-interest, but in the enforcement of peace and restoring the lawful order when one nation harms another or in international disputes. The law applied to both Israel and to other nations, for God is sovereign over all nations, and all are required to submit to the same standard of behavior. God requires that all nations love God and their neighbors as themselves.
When Israel refused to abide by the law, God then made war on Israel, raising up the Assyrians to destroy the nation and to deport them to “Halah and Habor, on the river of Gozan, and in the cities of the Medes” (2 Kings 17:6). Although King Shalmanezer did the actual war on the ground, God took credit for it in verse 18, saying,
18 So the Lord was very angry with Israel, and removed them from His sight; none was left except the tribe of Judah.
A century later, God raised up King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon to deport Judah to Babylon, saying in Jeremiah 25:9,
9 … I will send to Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon, My servant, and will bring them against this land and against its inhabitants….
The point is that both Israel and Judah were taken as captives to foreign lands, and it is apparent that the laws of war applied in these situations, as far as God was concerned. Once Israel and Judah became captives in foreign lands, they were no longer nations as such, but were incorporated into the life and culture of their captors. When Judah was released seventy years later, the tribe was a mere province of Persia, then Greece, and finally of Rome.
Christ then came to institute the New Covenant and equip the saints with the Sword of the Spirit and with other spiritual gifts. They became the new army of God in the work of taking the captivity captive, as Paul says in Eph. 4:8,
8 Therefore it says [quoting Psalm 68:18], “When He ascended on high, He led captive a host of captives, and He gave gifts to men.”
The “captives,” in this case were the Israelites and Judahites, but the prophecy is extended to include all of the citizens of Babylon and of all ungodly nations, for all such citizens are held captive by the power of sin. Hence, the laws of war allow Christ, the Conqueror, to marry any of the war-captives that please Him.
The Bride in Isaiah 62:5 is seen in terms of Israel being restored and reconstituted after their Assyrian captivity, yet Isaiah is also clear in 56:8 that Israel’s regathering (to Christ) will include many others as well. The Bride is an entire body of people who have one thing in common: Faith in Jesus Christ, the Husband.
The Wives of Jacob’s Sons
It is important to understand that the laws of war allow the conqueror to marry a foreign wife. Simeon did this by marrying Bunah, who was of Shechem, a Canaanite city. Judah also married a Canaanite woman named Shua (Genesis 38:2). The Bible does not condemn this marriage, and the recorded marital problem occurs only because Judah refused to follow the law of marriage in regard to his sons and his daughter-in-law.
Likewise, the book of Jasher reports in chapter 45 that “Reuben the son of Jacob went to Timnath and took unto him for a wife Eliuram, the daughter of Avi the Canaanite.” Levi and Issachar went east and took as wives the daughters of Jobab, who was of the family of Heber, the first “Hebrew.”
Gad and Naphtali went to Haran, where they were born, and married wives descended from Nahor, Abraham’s brother. Asher married a great granddaughter of Ishmael. However, she died childless, so he remarried a granddaughter of Heber.
Zebulun went to Midian (as Moses did many years later) and married a woman named Merishah. Benjamin married Mechalia who was of the line of Zoba, son of Terah, Abraham’s father.
The Bible says little about the wives of Jacob’s sons, other than telling us of the wives of Judah and Joseph, but we know that they must all have been married in order to beget tribes.
Where did they get their wives? The only Israelite wife among them is Dinah, because Jasher 45:2 tells us that Jacob’s daughter, Dinah, was eventually taken by her older brother Simeon. (Such brother-sister marriages were later banned under Moses.) All of the other sons of Jacob-Israel of necessity married non-Israelites, some Hebrews, but others of Canaan, Midian, or Ishmael. Joseph married Asenath, daughter of the high priest of Egypt. Presumably, all of these wives were believers or at least came to believe in the God of Israel.
Only in the case of Bunah, the Canaanite from Shechem, do we see a specific application of the law permitting marriage of captive women. Yet as a whole, the laws of marriage, when applied to the New Covenant, give us insight as to the nature of the Bride of Christ, because the two covenants were marriage covenants. This Bride is a body of people who enjoy a collective marriage relationship with Jesus Christ. This collective body is Israel, but only because all are required to become citizens of Israel by adhering to the covenant.
The law in Deut. 21:12 also sets forth the requirements necessary to prepare for marriage: “she shall shave her head and trim her nails.” Shaving her head denotes a change of covering, as Paul says, “a woman’s hair is given to her for a covering” (1 Cor. 11:15). When applied to the laws of war and marriage, it is presumed that the woman came from an ungodly or rebellious city/nation, for if it were not so, there would have been no need for war. Therefore, she was to change from having an ungodly covering to a godly covering.
Fingernails cover the points of one’s fingers, and so paring one’s fingernails represents another aspect of covering in relation to the works of one’s hands. One’s works ought to change when one comes under the covering of Christ. When anyone wishes to be part of the Bride company and come under the covering of Christ in a New Covenant marriage, one must give up man’s covering in favor of Christ’s covering and agree to a new way of life.
Likewise, Deut. 21:13 says, “She shall also remove the clothes of her captivity.” Isaiah refers to this as well in 61:10, saying,
10 I will rejoice greatly in the Lord, My soul will exult in my God; for He has clothed me with the garments of salvation [yesha, a form of Yeshua], He has wrapped me with a robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decks himself with a garland, and as a bride adorns herself with jewels.
To be clothed with the garments of Yeshua (Jesus) is to receive the promise of the Tabernacle from above, for Paul says in 2 Cor. 5:1-3,
1 For we know that if the earthly tent which is our house is torn down, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. 2 For indeed in this house we groan, longing to be clothed with our dwelling from heaven; 3 inasmuch as we, having put it on, shall not be found naked.
The clothing of our captivity is the present body, the earthly tabernacle, which is pictured as clothing. Our goal is to be clothed with the garments of salvation in order that we might receive the same spiritual body that Jesus Christ received when He was raised from the dead. This is prophesied in this aspect of the law that speaks of marrying a captive bride.
For this reason, we see that when Christ conquers a city or nation, He captures the captive population, taking the captivity captive. His purpose is not to enslave them, but to set them free, “that the creation itself also will be set free from its slavery to corruption into the freedom of the glory of the children of God” (Rom. 8:21).
This is the mind of God when we contemplate the laws of war and spiritual warfare. The laws of war, even when it is necessary to apply those laws with physical force, come from the mind of a God of Love, who is not willing to leave people in their present state of corruption. War of every kind, when accomplished by the mind of God, is designed to release all men from their captivity to flesh and corruption and to clothe them with the garments of salvation by which they may come into union with Christ.
This concludes Moses fifth speech on Kingdom Government. We are told of the authority of priests and of kings. We are shown how God created earthly courts and judges who are responsible to administer the laws of God according to the mind of Christ.
We are shown that the earthly court, when administered correctly, has the duty to sentence to death those guilty of capital crimes. The court also upholds the right of the victims to extend mercy even for capital crimes. The kinsman redeemer, who represents the victim, is responsible to be led by the Spirit to do as Christ would do.
Moses also delineates between premeditated murder and accidental homicide, and he reveals the laws of righteous warfare. The principles of justice within the Kingdom is the foundation of international justice when dealing with relationships between nations. Above all, the law of God is impartial, not only when dealing with individuals but with whole nations, including Israel.
All the people of the earth have groaned under the burden of unjust governments of men. But when Christ comes to establish Kingdom Government in a Universal Kingdom, then the Song of Moses and of the Lamb will be fulfilled. Revelation 15:3, 4 says,
3 And they sang the Song of Moses the bond-servant of God and the Song of the Lamb, saying,
“Great and marvelous are Thy works,
O Lord God, the Almighty;
Righteous and true are Thy ways,
Thou King of the nations.
4 Who will not fear, O Lord, and glorify Thy name?
For Thou alone art holy;
For all the nations will come and worship before Thee,
For Thy righteous acts have been revealed.”