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Have You Ever Wondered about Deuteronomy 25:11-12?

Submitted by Linda Lawler, Pittsburg, PA

A passage that has been deeply troubling to me for years is Deuteronomy 25:11-12 where OT law calls for the cutting off of a woman’s hand for trying to break up a fight between her husband and another man. The passage is quoted on the atheist websites as a reason to reject Christianity. I’ve look through commentaries and could find no satisfactory explanation for this. It’s totally out of character with the rest of OT law which is based on making restitution.

Recently I came across an interpretation which finally makes sense. Paul Copan, in his book, “Is God a Moral Monster?”, argues that this is a mistranslation. He points out that the word translated “hand” is actually the word for “palm,” and was also used to refer to the groin. He says the word for “cut off” is not the word for “amputation,” but the word for “cutting, clipping and shaving hair.” He argues that the punishment is a humiliation for the woman humiliating the man–that it calls for the shaving off of the pubic hair, not for the cutting off of her hand. He concludes, “There’s just no linguistic reason to translate the weaker form, i.e, “shave,” as a stronger form, i.e., “amputation.” In this particular case, we’re talking about the open concave region of the groin, and thus a shaving of pubic hair. In short, the woman’s punishment is public humiliation for publicly humiliating the manů.” (P. Copan, “Is God a Moral Monster?”, pp. 121-122.)

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