The conclusion of Moses’ exposition of the prohibition of theft may strike modern ears somewhat oddly. But understanding the laws in this context brings additional light to the question. "When a man hath taken a wife, and married her, and it come to pass that she find no favour in his eyes, because he hath found some uncleanness in her . . ." (Dt. 24:1-7).
A man who has married a wife becomes displeased with her because of uncleanness. He writes her a bill of divorce, and sends her away (v. 1). She is legally free to remarry (v. 2). But if the second husband divorces her, or if he dies (v. 3), her first husband may not marry her again (v. 4). This would be an abomination, and would cause the land to sin, which God gave as an inheritance (v. 4). A man was exempt from military service, or any other form of public service, for a year after his marriage, so that might "cheer up" his wife (v. 5). A man’s livelihood cannot be taken in pledge for a debt (v. 6). Kidnapping an Israelite in order to sell him incurred the death penalty (v. 7).
The first thing to note is that this requirement concerning marriage and divorce is what we call a "case law." There are particular conditions attached, and then the actual requirement of the law. The three conditions are, first, that a man give a bill of divorce to his wife for uncleannness, second, that she marries again, and third, she is freed from that union without moral reproach. Under these conditions, her first husband may not marry her again.
Before considering what this actually means, we need to take note our Lord’s teaching on what it does not mean. First, He rebuked the Pharisees for thinking the law commanded divorce (Matt. 19:3-9). Regulated legal permission is not the same as moral approval. Second, the Lord says that for His followers the ideal for marriage is Eden, not Sinai. And third, Jesus approves of what Moses permitted—hard hearts are a sad reality as any pastor can tell you.
So what is addressed in this law? In order to understand this, there are several features of marriage practice in ancient Israel that we must understand first. First, a man who put his wife away "for just cause" incurred no financial loss in doing so. This would be the case with our first divorce here. Second, a man who divorced his wife "at will" had to provide his wife with a financial settlement. And of course, if the second husband died, his assests belonged to his wife. So this law is a prohibition of a man profitting twice off the same woman, first by rejecting her, and second by accepting her. This is a prohibition of unjust enrichment, which is why it falls under the commentary on this commandment. In modern law, this is called estoppel—the rule that a person who has profitted once by asserting one thing cannot profit a second time by conceding that his first assertion was false—his first assertion binds him at law.
First, this interpretation does justice to the details of this law. Second, the law is found in the exposition of the eighth commandment, and not the seventh. And third, disobedience to the law causes the land to sin, the land of Israel’s inheritance. The woman is defiled here, not so much because of "legalized adultery," as because of "legalized prostitution."
As we have seen earlier, every Israelite male of the right age could be legally mustered for battle. But he could not be coercively drafted. He could admit he was a coward and just go home. But here is an honorable exemption. God wanted the bride not to be left a widow after three weeks of marriage. So the duty of a newly-wed husband is to cheer her up (v. 5).
A man in debt could not be required to give up his life for it. And this being the case, he could not have his livelihood seized (v. 6). The rights of a creditor are never absolute. And if a man stole a fellow citizen in order to profit by him at all—and this would include slavery, ransom, or slave trading, then he was to be executed for stealing. The thief shall die (v. 7). So we see your views of money touch everything you do. Are those views honorable and scriptural? Or are they tainted with lust, or thoughtlessness, covetousness, or cruelty?