Deuteronomy 25

Deuteronomy 25

Deuteronomy 25 Commentary

by Brad Boyles

“Do not muzzle an ox when you are using it to thresh grain.”

Deuteronomy 25:4 GNB

On the surface, this seems like a straightforward passage. In that time, an ox would break the grain away from the husk by walking in a circle and trampling on it. It would have been inhumane to make this animal work and also muzzle it so that it could not eat the grain as well. But, there is another application that Paul uses in the New Testament.

“What soldiers ever have to pay their own expenses in the army? What farmers do not eat the grapes from their own vineyard? What shepherds do not use the milk from their own sheep? 8 I don’t have to limit myself to these everyday examples, because the Law says the same thing. 9 We read in the Law of Moses, “Do not muzzle an ox when you are using it to thresh grain.” Now, is God concerned about oxen? 10 Didn’t he really mean us when he said that? Of course, that was written for us. Anyone who plows and anyone who reaps should do their work in the hope of getting a share of the crop. 11 We have sown spiritual seed among you. Is it too much if we reap material benefits from you?”

1 Corinthians 9:7-11 GNB

Warren Wiersbe hilariously writes that oxen cannot read, so this verse was not really written for them…

“Paul quoted Deu 25:4 to prove his point. (He quoted this same verse when he wrote to Timothy and encouraged the church to pay their ministers adequately, 1Ti 5:17-18.) Since oxen cannot read, this verse was not written for them. Nor was it written only for the farmer who was using the labors of the ox. It would be cruel for the farmer to bind the mouth of the ox and prevent him from eating the available grain. After all, the ox was doing the work.

Paul correctly saw a spiritual principle in this commandment: The laborer has the right to share in the bounties. The ox had plowed the soil in preparation for sowing, and now he was treading out the grain that had been harvested. Paul had plowed the soil in Corinth. He had seen a harvest from the seed he had planted. It was only right that he enjoyed some of the fruits of that harvest.”

Warren Wiersbe

Basically, the law regarding oxen had a bigger principle, though, John Calvin rightly argues we shouldn’t make a habit of reading into every verse of the Bible this way and changing its meaning. In this case, Paul correctly explains the allegory. He is making the point that a minister has the right to be supported by the people he is ministering to. Although this is not always, the case, Paul is explaining that this is one way God provided for those who served in ministry.

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