|<< Deuteronomy 17 >>|
Barnes' Notes on the Bible
1Thou shalt not sacrifice unto the LORD thy God any bullock, or sheep, wherein is blemish, or any evilfavouredness: for that is an abomination unto the LORD thy God.
This verse belongs in subject to the last chapter. It prohibits once more (compare Deuteronomy 15:21) that form of insult to God which consists in offering to Him a blemished sacrifice.
Any evil-favoredness - Render any evil thing. The reference is to the faults or maims enumerated in Leviticus 22:22-24.
2If there be found among you, within any of thy gates 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,
Compare Deuteronomy 13:1 ff. Here special reference is made to the legal forms to be adopted, Deuteronomy 17:5-7. The sentence was to be carried into effect at "the gates" (compare Genesis 19:1 note) of the town in which the crime was committed; because, as "all the people" were to take a part, an open space would be requisite for the execution. Note the typical and prophetical aspect of the injunction; compare Acts 7:58; Hebrews 13:12.
3And hath gone and served other gods, and worshipped them, either the sun, or moon, or any of the host of heaven, which I have not commanded;
4And it be told thee, and thou hast heard of it, and inquired diligently, and, behold, it be true, and the thing certain, that such abomination is wrought in Israel:
5Then shalt thou bring forth that man or that woman, which have committed that wicked thing, unto thy gates, even that man or that woman, and shalt stone them with stones, till they die.
6At the mouth of two witnesses, or three witnesses, 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.
7The hands of the witnesses shall be first upon him to put him to death, and afterward the hands of all the people. So thou shalt put the evil away from among you.
8If there arise a matter too hard for thee in judgment, between blood and blood, between plea and plea, and between stroke and stroke, being matters of controversy within thy gates: then shalt thou arise, and get thee up into the place which the LORD thy God shall choose;
The cases in question are such as the inferior judges did not feel able to decide satisfactorily, and which accordingly they remitted to their superiors (compare Exodus 18:23-27).
The Supreme court Deuteronomy 17:9 is referred to in very general terms as sitting at the sanctuary Deuteronomy 17:8. "The judge" would no doubt usually be a layman, and thus the court would contain both an ecclesiastical and a civil element. Jehoshaphat 2 Chronicles 19:4-11 organized his judicial system very closely upon the lines here laid down.
9And thou shalt come unto the priests the Levites, and unto the judge that shall be in those days, and inquire; and they shall shew thee the sentence of judgment:
10And thou shalt do according to the sentence, which they of that place which the LORD shall choose shall shew thee; and thou shalt observe to do according to all that they inform thee:
11According to the sentence of the law which they shall teach thee, and according to the judgment which they shall tell thee, thou shalt do: thou shalt not decline from the sentence which they shall shew thee, to the right hand, nor to the left.
12And the man that will do presumptuously, and will not hearken unto the priest that standeth to minister there before the LORD thy God, or unto the judge, even that man shall die: and thou shalt put away the evil from Israel.
13And all the people shall hear, and fear, and do no more presumptuously.
14When 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;
No encouragement is given to the desire, natural in an Oriental people, for monarchical government; but neither is such desire blamed, as appears from the fact that conditions are immediately laid down upon which it may be satisfied. Compare the marginal references.
15Thou shalt in any wise set him king over thee, whom the LORD thy God shall choose: 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 king, like the judges and officers (compare Deuteronomy 16:18), is to be chosen by the people; but their choice is to be in accordance with the will of God, and to be made from among "their brethren." Compare 1 Samuel 9:15; 1 Samuel 10:24; 1 Samuel 16:1; 1 Kings 19:16.
Thou mayest not set a stranger over thee - The Jews extended this prohibition to all offices whatsoever (compare Jeremiah 30:21); and naturally attached the greatest importance to it: from where the significance of the question proposed to our Lord, "Is it lawful to give tribute to Caesar?" Matthew 22:17. A Gentile head for the Jewish people, which it was a principal aim of the Law to keep special and distinct from others, was an anomaly.
16But he shall not multiply horses to himself, nor cause the people to return to Egypt, to the end that he should multiply horses: forasmuch as the LORD hath said unto you, Ye shall henceforth return no more that way.
The horse was not anciently used in the East for purposes of agriculture or traveling, but ordinarily for war only. He appears constantly in Scripture as the symbol and embodiment of fleshly strength and the might of the creature (compare Psalm 20:7; Psalm 33:16-17; Psalm 147:10; Job 39:19 ff), and is sometimes significantly spoken of simply as "the strong one" (compare Jeremiah 8:16). The spirit of the prohibition therefore is that the king of Israel must not, like other earthly potentates, put his trust in costly and formidable preparations for war (compare Hosea 1:7).
Egypt was the principal source from where the nations of western Asia drew their supplies of this animal (compare Exodus 14:5 ff; 1 Kings 10:28-29; 2 Kings 7:6); but contact, traffic, or alliance which would "cause the people to return to Egypt" would be to reverse that great and beneficent wonderwork of God which inaugurated the Mosaic covenant, the deliverance from the bondage of Egypt; and to bring about of set purpose that which God threatened Deuteronomy 28:68 as the most severe punishment for Israel's sin.
17Neither shall he multiply wives to himself, that his heart turn not away: neither shall he greatly multiply to himself silver and gold.
Multiplication of wives would lead to sensuality, and so to an apostasy no less fatal in effect than downright idolatry (compare Exodus 34:16). This rule, like the others, abridges to the ruler of Israel liberties usually enjoyed without stint by the kings of the East. The restriction was in the days of Moses unprecedented; and demanded a higher standard in the king of Israel than was looked for among his equals in other nations.
Neither shall he greatly multiply to himself silver and gold - In this third prohibition, as in the other two, excess is forbidden. Vast accumulation of treasure could hardly be effected without oppression; nor when effected fail to produce pride and a "trust in uncertain riches" 1 Timothy 6:17.
18And it shall be, when he sitteth upon the throne of his kingdom, that he shall write him a copy of this law in a book out of that which is before the priests the Levites:
It is in striking consistency with the dignity which everywhere throughout the Mosaic legislation surrounds the chosen people of God, that even if they will be "like as all the nations about" Deuteronomy 17:14, and be governed by a king, care should nevertheless be taken that he shall be no Oriental despot. He is to be of no royal caste, but "one from among thy brethren" Deuteronomy 17:15; he is to bear himself as a kind of "primus inter pares," his heart "not being lifted up above his brethren" Deuteronomy 17:20; he is, like his subjects, to be bound by the fundamental laws and institutions of the nation, and obliged, as they were, to do his duty in his station of life with constant reference thereto. The spirit of the text is that of Matthew 23:9.
A copy of this law - The whole Pentateuch, or, at any rate, the legal portion of the Pentateuch.
A book ... before the priests the Levites - Compare the marginal reference.
19And it shall be with him, and he shall read therein all the days of his life: that he may learn to fear the LORD his God, to keep all the words of this law and these statutes, to do them:
20That his heart be not lifted up above his brethren, and that he turn not aside from the commandment, to the right hand, or to the left: to the end that he may prolong his days in his kingdom, he, and his children, in the midst of Israel.