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Calvin's Commentaries, Vol. 5: Harmony of the Law, Part III, tr. by John King, [1847-50], at

A Political Supplement

Deuteronomy 25  96

Deut. 25:11, 12

11. When men strive together one with another, and the wife of the one draweth near for to deliver her husband out of the hand of him that smiteth him, and putteth forth her hand, and taketh him by the secrets;

11. Quum rixati fuerunt viri simul alter cum altero, et accesserit uxor unius ut eruat maritum suum e manu percutientis eum, et immiserit manum suam, apprehenderitque pudenda ejus:

12. Then thou shalt cut off her hand, thine eye shall not pity her

12. Tunc abscindes manum illius, nec oculus tuus parcet.


This Law is apparently harsh, but its severity skews how very pleasing to God is modesty, whilst, on the other hand, He abominates indecency; for, if in the heat of a quarrel, when the agitation of the mind is an excuse for excesses, it was a crime thus heavily punished, for a woman to take hold of the private parts of a man who was not her husband, much less would God have her lasciviousness pardoned, if a woman were impelled by lust to do anything of the sort. Neither can we doubt but that the judges, in punishing obscenity, were bound to argue from the less to the greater. A threat is also added, lest the severity of the punishment should influence their minds to be tender and remiss ill inflicting it. It was indeed inexcusable effrontery, willfully to assail that part of the body, from the sight and touch of which all chaste women naturally recoil.

Deuteronomy 22

Deut. 22:12, 5

12. Thou shalt make thee fringes upon the four quarters of thy vesture, wherewith thou coverest thyself

12. Fimbrias facies tibi in quatuor oris operimenti tui quo operies te.

5. The woman shall not wear that which pertaineth unto a man, neither shall a man put on a woman’s garment: for all that do so are abomination unto the Lord thy God.

5. Mulier non feret arma viri, nec induet vir muliebre vestimentum: quia abominatio Jehovae Dei tui est quicunque haec facit


12. This also was a part of, or accessory to, chastity, to have regard to modesty in dress; for since the thighs were then without covering, a door was thus opened to many improprieties, if the upper garments were not closed, and many, as if by accident, would have abused this, if it had been allowed, as an incentive to licentiousness; for we see that many rush into such excesses of lasciviousness, as to glory in their shame. God, therefore, would have the flaps of their gowns thus drawn together by ties or latchets, that not even by chance could those parts be uncovered, which cannot be decently or modestly looked upon. But if divine provisions were made even with respect to their garments, so that the elect people should cultivate decency, and diligently guard against everything immodest, it is abundantly clear that not only were adulteries condemned, but whatever is repugnant to purity and chastity. This passage is improperly referred to the fringes which were sewed to their garments to renew the recollection of the Law, since decency and delicacy are here alone regarded.

5. This decree also commends modesty in general, and in it God anticipates the danger, lest women should harden themselves into forgetfulness of modesty, or men should degenerate into effeminacy unworthy of their nature. Garments are not in themselves of so much importance; but as it is disgraceful for men to become effeminate, and also for women to affect manliness in their dress and gestures, propriety and modesty are prescribed, not only for decency’s sake, but lest one kind of liberty should at length lead to something worse. The words of the heathen poet are very true:  97

“What shame can she, who wears a helmet, show,
sex deserting?”

Wherefore, decency in the fashion of the clothes is an excellent preservative of modesty.



Considered in Fr., under the General Supplements.


The quotation is from Juvenal, Sat. 6:252:

“Quem praestare potest mulier galeata pudorem,
Quae fugit a sexu.”

The Fr. translation is forcible: “qu’une femme, qui contrefait le gendarme, et fuit son sexe, ne gardera nulle honte.”

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