What is the meaning of Deuteronomy 25:11-12?

Explaining Deuteronomy 25: 11-12

What is the meaning of Deuteronomy 25:11-12?

This precept is clearly gender-specific in that it makes no mention of the husband defending himself by crushing his attackers family jewels and so is a reflection of Moses/Gods sexism. The precept is a reminder that a woman, even if trying to save her husbands life must never treat a mans genitalia without great reverence. The pragmatism of such and act is overshadowed by the societal order. This is what today is called a taboo:

There is no record of this law being enforced and historically it may be rationalized as an improvement over similar laws of other cultures. For example, Middle Assyrian (1100 BC) law states a womans finger is to be amputated if she injures a mans testicle during a quarrel and if she injures both they are to gouge out both of her […]2 (likely “eyes”). However, where the Assyrian law specifies the man was injured, Deuteronomy is silent. It is possible to assume permanent damage, but the text states the offense is simply “seizing the genitals.” As it is reads, the issue is straightforward, the womans punishment is for improperly touching a man who was not her husband. This has always been problematic:

The Law requires “cutting off” a womans hip or pelvic area. So rather than shave her pubic hair, a judge could rule she forfeits her right to the levirate marriage. Since she attempted to preserve her husbands life by improperly touching another man, her right to levirate marriage under the Law must be cut off and she shall not be pitied. In this way the principle of talion is upheld as both the man and the woman only lose the potential of a future child.

Summary Its possible to presume the man suffered the serious injury of being unable to father children and so the woman should be punished severely. However, even in the event of serious injury (which is not explicit), there is a significant legal conflict if the punishment is to “cut off her hand” as it is nearly universally translated:

The passage immediately follows the codification of levirate marriage, which says if a man dies childless, his brother is to carry on his brothers name by having a child with the widowed wife. It also addresses the situation where the brother refuses to perform this duty, a reality that some men will fail to comply with the Law (see Genesis 38). This fact of life raises a question: how far can a woman go to preserve her husbands life to avoid the potential problems in levirate marriage? Immediately following is the passage which describes a woman trying to save her husbands life.

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