DEUTERONOMY CHAPTER 17.
Instructions Regarding Judgments and the Office of a King.
PUNISHMENT OF IDOLATRY. — V.1. Thou shalt not sacrifice unto the Lord, thy God, any bullock or sheep wherein is blemish, or any evil-favoredness; for that is an abomination unto the Lord, thy God. The offering of an imperfect animal as sacrifice, one infected with any of the evils mentioned Lev. 22, 20-24, is just as much an insult to Jehovah as the erecting of pillars to Asherah and Baal; hence the authorities were to watch carefully over these matters. V.2. If there be found among you, within any of thy gates, in any city, that is, anywhere in the entire country, which the Lord, thy God, giveth thee, man or woman that hath wrought wickedness in the sight of the Lord, thy God, in transgressing His covenant, in setting aside any of the fundamental terms of the alliance which was in force between Jehovah and His people, v.3. and hath gone and served other gods, and worshiped them, thus overthrowing the basic precept of the covenant Law, either the sun, or moon, or any of the host of heaven, the worship which was the curse of the heathen nations, chap. 4, 19, which I have not commanded; v.4. and it be told thee, announcement being made to the proper authorities, and thou hast heard of it, and enquired diligently, made a most careful investigation, and, behold, it be true, and the thing certain, that such abomination is wrought in Israel, chap. 13, 12-14, v.5. then shalt thou bring forth that man or that woman which have committed that wicked thing unto thy gates, to the open space within the city gates where court was held, even that man or that woman, and shalt stone them with stones till they die. The execution was made outside the gates of the city, Lev. 24, 14; Num. 15, 36; Acts 7, 58; Heb. 13, 12. V.6. At the mouth of two witnesses or three witnesses, that is, on the basis of their testimony, shall he that is worthy of death be put to death; but at the mouth of one witness he shall not be put to death, Num. 35, 30. Cp. Matt. 18, 16; 2 Cor. 13, 1; 1 Tim. 5, 19. V.7. The hands of the witnesses shall be first upon him to put him to death, chap. 13, 9, in order thus openly to manifest their firm conviction of the guilt of the accused, and afterward the hands of all the people, for the transgression was one affecting the entire nation. So thou shalt put the evil away from among you, chap. 13, 5. The same holy zeal should be found in every Christian congregation in putting flagrant sinners out of their midst.
DIFFICULT QUESTIONS TO BE DECIDED BY THE PRIEST. — V.8. If there arise a matter too hard for thee in judgment, one beyond the ability of the ordinary judge or officer to decide, between blood and blood, between plea and plea, and between stroke and stroke, where the legal enactments concerning a bodily injury, Ex. 21, 12 ff., concerning civil cases, and concerning quarrels are not clear enough for the officers before whom the matter is brought, being matters of controversy within thy gates, then shalt thou arise, namely, the men in authority in the individual cities or towns, and get thee up into the place which the Lord, thy God, shall choose, for there would always be priests on duty at the central Sanctuary; v.9. and thou shalt come unto the priests, the Levites, the children of Levi, and unto the judge that shall be in those days, a sort of chief justice by the side of the high priest, and enquire; and they shall show thee the sentence of judgment, interpret the law which would find its application in that case, if necessary, after consulting the Lord directly, 1 Sam. 28, 6; v.10. and thou shalt do according to the sentence which they of that place which the Lord shall choose shall show thee; and thou shalt observe to do according to all that they inform thee, the priests here corning into consideration as teachers of the Law; v.11. according to the sentence of the Law which they shall teach thee, and according to the judgment which they shall tell thee, thou shalt do, conform exactly to the decision of the supreme court; thou shalt not decline from the sentence which they shall show thee, to the right hand nor to the left, since the decision would rest upon the Law of Jehovah, with which the priests were to have a perfect acquaintance. V.12. And the man that will do presumptuously, act with haughty insolence, and will not hearken unto the priest that standeth to minister there before the Lord, thy God, acting as mediator between Jehovah and His worshipers whenever a sacrifice was made, or unto the judge, even that man shall die, for the rebellious behavior was in reality an offense against God, in whose name judgment had been given; and thou shalt put away the evil from Israel. V.13. And all the people shall hear, and fear, and do no more presumptuously, be deterred from choosing a similar insolent course. Christian pastors should remember that it is their duty to teach their congregation the Word of God, to make Holy Writ both the norm of doctrine and the rule of life.
OF THE OFFICE OF AN EVENTUAL KING. — V.14. When thou art come unto the land which the Lord, thy God, giveth thee, and shalt possess it, and shalt dwell therein, and shalt say, I will set a king over me, like as all the nations that are about me, a thing which actually came to pass afterward, 1 Sam. 8, 5, v.15. thou shalt in any wise, by all means, set him king over thee whom the Lord, thy God, shall choose, 1 Sam. 9, 15; one from among thy brethren shalt thou set king over thee; thou mayest not set a stranger over thee, which is not thy brother. The ideal which God had in mind for Israel was a theocracy, a direct government of the people by the Lord; but He was willing to modify that to the extent of letting a man chosen by Him, from among the children of Israel, be king as His representative. V.16. But he shall not multiply horses to himself, make their raising his special avocation or even vocation, nor cause the people to return to Egypt, to the end that he should multiply horses, for the Egyptian lowlands were much better fitted for the rearing of horses than the mountainous Palestine; forasmuch as the Lord hath said unto you, Ye shall henceforth return no more that way, chap. 28, 68. V.17. Neither shall he (the king) multiply wives to himself, after the manner of the luxury-loving, voluptuous Oriental monarchs, that his heart turn not away, as that of Solomon in after-years, when his wives seduced him to idolatry, 1 Kings 11, 3. 4; neither shall he greatly multiply to himself silver and gold, another dangerous practice of the Oriental kings. V.18. and it shall be, when he sitteth upon the throne of his kingdom, having reached the summit of human greatness, where everything would be moving according to his will, that he shall write him a copy of this Law in a book out of that which is before the priests, the Levites, made for him by the priests of the tribe of Levi; v.19. and it shall be with him, and he shall read therein all the days of his life, thus keeping the will of the Most High before him, as his aim and standard, that he may learn to fear the Lord, his God, to keep all the words of this Law and these statutes, to do them, bound by the laws and institutions of the Lord and of the nation which was God’s covenant people; v.20. that his heart be not lifted up above his brethren, in unwarranted pride and haughtiness, and that he turn not aside from the commandment to the right hand or to the left, making it his aim at all times to adhere to the Law of God, a copy of which was in his possession, with the utmost strictness; to the end that he may prolong his days in his kingdom, he and his children, in the midst of Israel; for the Lord rewards obedience to His Law with earthly blessings. We Christians pray for our government and for all those that are in authority, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty, 1 Tim. 2, 2.