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Chapter 21:18-23 (ESV)

Posted on March 24, 2024  - By Chris LaBelle  

Chapter 21:18-23 (ESV) - “If a man has a stubborn and rebellious son who will not obey the voice of his father or the voice of his mother, and, though they discipline him, will not listen to them, then his father and his mother shall take hold of him and bring him out to the elders of his city at the gate of the place where he lives, and they shall say to the elders of his city, ‘This our son is stubborn and rebellious; he will not obey our voice; he is a glutton and a drunkard.’ Then all the men of the city shall stone him to death with stones. So you shall purge the evil from your midst, and all Israel shall hear, and fear.

“And if a man has committed a crime punishable by death and he is put to death, and you hang him on a tree, his body shall not remain all night on the tree, but you shall bury him the same day, for a hanged man is cursed by God. You shall not defile your land that the LORD your God is giving you for an inheritance.”

Question to consider: Where else in scripture do we see the phrase ‘a glutton and a drunkard’ being used to describe someone?

As I mentioned in yesterday’s study, some of the things that Moses stated are difficult to understand in light of modern culture. Of course, we live at a time when God’s command to honor father and mother is no longer the highest command pertaining to our neighbor. If you remember our study from chapter 5, I pointed out that all of the commandments describing love of neighbor seem to stem from honoring our parents. Those who violated this commandment to the point where they had to be taken before the elders of the community meant that they had no regard for the LORD and didn’t deserve to live in the land. Obviously, there were no juvenile detention centers at this time, and the LORD provided no option for exile.

The chapter ends with the curious idea that the man who is hung on a tree is cursed by God and should therefore not remain all night on the tree but buried the same day. The Apostle Paul ties today’s passage with Christ’s crucifixion in Galatians 3:13, “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, ‘Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree’”. Whenever one of the New Testament writers points to a particular verse in the Old Testament, we consider not just the quoted verse but the context of it as well.

In Matthew 11:19, when Jesus was describing the work of John the Baptist, He said the following of how the elders viewed Himself at that time, “The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Look at him! A glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’ Yet wisdom is justified by her deeds.” 

If we consider all of today’s passage in light of Christ, we could say that He was dragged before the elders of Jerusalem as the Son of God who had allowed the sin of all mankind to be laid upon Himself even though He personally never violated the Law. Rather than taking Him out and stoning Him as Moses called for them to do, the elders took Him to Pilate in order for Rome to hang Him on the man-made tree. Merely stoning Jesus would have made Him a martyr, for the people would have always wondered how the miracles He performed and the message He taught could be worthy of death. Instead they wanted the whole world to see that He was cursed by God. This also explains how Joseph of Arimathea could have convinced everyone that he should take Jesus’ body and bury it that day, especially since it was before the Passover Sabbath. 

To the Jews, Jesus could not have been the Messiah if He was cursed by God in this way. However, the Apostle Paul told the Corinthian church that, “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” (2 Corinthians 5:21) Christ took our curse upon Himself as the suffering servant from Isaiah, “Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed.” (Isaiah 53:4-5)

Even though the Jerusalem elders perpetrated the worst injustice in human history by their actions, they inadvertently fulfilled the words of Moses, “So you shall purge the evil from your midst, and all Israel shall hear, and fear.”


Dear heavenly Father, thank You for purging the evil from our hearts through the sacrifice of Christ Jesus. Please help us to understand that the curse He bore was our own so that we may receive His righteousness and be reconciled to You. For we know that in ourselves, we have failed to keep Your commandments. Amen.