New Defender's Study Bible Notes
25:3 Forty stripes. Compare II Corinthians 11:24. Corporal punishment, as well as capital punishment, was permitted, or even commanded, when appropriate for punishment of specified crimes. Other nations at the time were far more ruthless in this regard than Israel, and the practice could clearly be abused, as it certainly was in Paul’s case.
25:4 not muzzle the ox. Animals should be treated with due consideration and kindness, as God’s creatures (note Proverbs 12:10). The Apostle Paul also used this verse to show that every laborer is worthy of his hire, especially those in God’s service (I Corinthians 9:9,10; I Timothy 5:18).
25:5 her husband’s brother. Deuteronomy 25:5-10 describes the rules applicable to so-called “Levirate marriages”; the word “levirate” is derived from a Latin word meaning “brother-in-law.” If the brother either would not or could not fulfill this responsibility, the right and responsibility passed to the nearest kinsman (see Ruth 2:20; 4:1-10).
25:9 spit in his face. Even if the brother-in-law was married, it was then considered acceptable for a man to have more than one wife. It was also considered almost tragic for a man to die without an heir to carry on his name. The Levirate marriage was the accepted way of giving him an appropriate heir, and for a brother to refuse to take on this responsibility was considered shameful, warranting this display of contempt by the widow.