Chapter 25 continues the third section of Deuteronomy, an elaboration of the ten commandments, specifically having to do with the treatment of fellow Israelites. Other than dealing with this very broad subject, it is difficult to see the correlation between the laws mentioned in this chapter.
This is the only place in the law where you find directions for what we now call the “levirate marriage” (from the Latin levir, “brother-in-law”). Israel was not the only nation to have such a law, but the question is, “why have it?” We are not given a specific answer. We may conclude that it had to do with love for family; a brother would do what was necessary so that the name of his deceased brother would not die out. Refusal showed such a huge lack of brotherhood that it brought shame in the community upon not only the guilty brother, but upon his whole house. Connected with this would also be care for the widow involved so that she would not be bereft of support. The sensual element was somewhat mitigated. The living brother did not get another sexual partner, but was giving up what might well become his (the deceased brother’s estate) in order to preserve the line and estate of his brother.
Care for others is also illustrated in cases involving disputed matters between brethren. One is hard pressed to understand what particular dispute would merit a beating, but perhaps it was not the dispute itself, but the unwillingness to resolve a dispute. In an attempt to mediate a dispute, if the judges felt that one party was particularly intransigent, that party might well receive a beating.
But the beating could not be vicious or vindictive. Respect for the offending brother must be maintained by limiting the number of lashes he received. Jesus said that a brother unwilling to resolve a difference should be treated as someone outside the community of the faithful. It’s not just the disagreements we have that condemn us, it is that we allow disagreements to persist that also condemns.