Why does Deuteronomy 25:11-12 make it sound like it is wrong for a wife to protect her husband?



I am confused about Deuteronomy 25:11-12. Why is it wrong for a wife to protect her husband from an attacker? Is it because she grabs him by the testicles? But won't that be a wise move, seeing that a "low blow" will be her best chance at overcoming a stronger opponent? I understand that if her husband is in the wrong in the conflict she would be wrong to help him, but what if the man her husband was fighting with was a burglar or attempting to murder him? Wouldn't self-defense be OK?

Thanks in advance for your response. God bless.


You aren't the only one confused by this passage. I found commentaries regarding the passage taking many different positions.

"If two men, a man and his countryman, are struggling together, and the wife of one comes near to deliver her husband from the hand of the one who is striking him, and puts out her hand and seizes his genitals, then you shall cut off her hand; you shall not show pity" (Deuteronomy 25:11-12).

There are other laws that need to be considered, which might shed light on this situation.

When there is a fight between two people, the general rule is that what damage is done to one person is done to the other when the matter goes to court and the injurer is shown to be in the wrong. "If a man injures his neighbor, just as he has done, so it shall be done to him: fracture for fracture, eye for eye, tooth for tooth; just as he has injured a man, so it shall be inflicted on him" (Leviticus 24:19-20). If the injury is temporary, then the punishment is altered: "If men contend with each other, and one strikes the other with a stone or with his fist, and he does not die but is confined to his bed, if he rises again and walks about outside with his staff, then he who struck him shall be acquitted. He shall only pay for the loss of his time, and shall provide for him to be thoroughly healed" (Exodus 21:18-19).

This law is extended to damage to someone nearby. "If men struggle with each other and strike a woman with child so that she has a miscarriage, yet there is no further injury, he shall surely be fined as the woman's husband may demand of him, and he shall pay as the judges decide. But if there is any further injury, then you shall appoint as a penalty life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, burn for burn, wound for wound, bruise for bruise" (Exodus 21:22-25). An unborn child becomes the example of the ultimate non-participant in a fight. Using this law as a basis, it could be argued that others injured as two men fought should be punished in a similar way.

Deuteronomy 25:11-12 takes this in the other direction and someone not involved in the fight tries to intervene and injures one of the fighters. The example used is of someone strongly interested in protecting one of the fighters -- his wife. Because of the other laws regarding fights, it is generally assumed that the wife caused permanent damage by her action. If a man had done this and caused injury, the law in Leviticus 24:19-20 would set the punishment to an equivalent amount of damage to the person who did this. However, a woman doesn't have external genitals, so what would be considered equivalent damage? God set it at the loss of a hand. Even people intervening in a fight have a responsibility to not cause harm.

Now, what about a man struggling against a burglar or a murderer? Can't someone defend himself? Shouldn't he use all means possible to stop the wicked? Remember that all of these laws were written for a judge to determine a sentence. Each deals with two men fighting, but the cause of the fight or who was in the right or who was in the wrong is not stated. There are passages that state that evil needs to be dealt with and in those cases, these passages would not apply. These passages deal with matters where you can't determine who is right and who is wrong or where both parties are equally at fault.

Consider this: helping a wicked man in a fight is wrong. It doesn't matter if he is losing. It doesn't matter if you like the wicked man more than his opponent. Promoting evil remains evil. Even when you don't know who is in the right or in the wrong, causing harm to a person is not right. Sure, break up the fight if you can, but don't hurt people in the process.

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