Deuteronomy 17

 

 

SACRIFICES TO BE OF ANIMALS UNBLEMISHED (v. 1)

 

1 “Thou shalt not sacrifice unto the LORD thy God any bullock, or sheep,

wherein is blemish, or any evilfavoredness: for that is an abomination unto the

LORD thy God.”  Not only was the setting up of idols an offence to be punished by

the judge, but also all profanation of the service of Jehovah, such as the offering in

sacrifice of any animal, bullock or sheep, that had any blemish or defect (compare

Leviticus 22:19-24). Evil-favoredness; literally, any evil thing, i.e. any vice or

maim (Ibid. v.22).

 

 

        The Blemished (v. 1)

 

God is to be served with our best. He rejects the blemished for His service.

 

o       He is entitled to our best.

o       He requires it of us.

o       Withholding it argues unworthy views of God and of

what is due to him.

 

It usually implies contempt of God and hypocrisy in His service

(Malachi 1:12-13).

 

  • APPLICATIONS OF THE PRINCIPLE. God is to receive from us:

 

Ø      The best of our time — when the head is clearest, the energies most

vigorous, the capacity for service greatest, and when there is least

distraction. We offer the blemished when we engross these portions of

our time for self, and give to God only our late hours, or hurried

snatches of a day crowded with unspiritual and exhausting

occupations.

 

Ø      The best of our age — youth, the prime of manhood and womanhood,

with all the service these can render. We offer the blemished when we

conceive the purpose of dedicating to God, in old age, powers

already worn out in the service of the world.  “Remember now

thy Creator in the days of thy youth, while the evil days come

not, nor the years draw nigh, when thou shalt say, I have no

pleasure in them.”  (Ecclesiastes 121:1)

 

Ø      The heartiest of our service. Service performed half-heartedly

And grudgingly falls under the category of blemished sacrifices.

Work done in this spirit will never be well done. Services of devotion

will be huddled through, sermons will be ill prepared, the class in the

Sunday school wilt be badly taught, visitation duties will be inefficiently

and unpunctually performed. It is the presentation to God of the

 torn, lame, and sick  (Malachi 1:13).  “My son, give me thy heart”

(Proverbs 23:26)

 

Ø      The first of our givings. Givings should be hearty, liberal, of our first

and best, and in a spirit of consecration. To give what “will never be

missed” is a poor form of service. It is little to give to God what costs us

nothing. Still more conspicuously do we offer the blemished when

 we devote to God but the parings of a lavish worldly expenditure,

 or give for His service far below our ability.

 

 

IDOLATERS TO BE SOUGHT OUT, CONVICTED, AND PUT TO DEATH

                                                      (vs. 2-7)

 

2 “If 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,” In ch.13., Moses enacts what is to be done to

those who seduce into idolatry. Here he declares what is to be done to those who

are so seduced. - wrought wickedness; literally, done the evil. The definite article is

prefixed; it is not any kind of wickedness that is here denounced, but the special sin

 of idolatry, - kat ejxo>chn kat exochaen - the wickedness.  All idolatry was

to be strictly suppressed — those convicted of it to be put to death by stoning.

 

3 “And hath gone and served other gods, and worshipped them, either the sun,

or moon, or any of the host of heaven (compare ch. 4:19),  which I have not

commanded; - i.e. have forbidden, a meiosis (understatement), as in Jeremiah 7:31.

 

4 And 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:  5 “Then shalt thou bring forth that man or that woman, which have

committed that wicked thing, unto thy gates,” -  judicial proceedings were

conducted at the gates of the city, and in some place outside the walls the sentence was

executed on the condemned criminal (Nehemiah 8:1, 3; Job. 29:7; ch. 22:24; Acts 7:58;

Hebrews 13:12), just as, during the journey through the wilderness, it had been outside

the camp that transgressors were punished (Leviticus 24:14; Numbers 15:36) - “even

that man or that woman,  and shalt stone them with stones, till they die.”

 

6 “At 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.  7 The 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.”  Only on the testimony of more than one witness could the

accused be condemned (compare Numbers 35:30); and the hand of the witnesses

was to be first against him to put him to death — a rule which would tend to prevent

accusations being lightly adduced, as none would venture to witness against any one

unless so deeply convinced of his guilt that they were willing to assume the responsibility

of inflicting on him the last penalty with their own hands. Worthy of death be put to

death; i.e. adjudged or appointed to death; literally, the dead man shall die. tme,

the part. of tWm, to die, is here equivalent to tw,m; ˆB,, son of death (I Samuel 20:31),

or tw,m; vyai, a man of death (I Kings 2:26), i.e. one assigned to death, already the

property of death, and so as good as dead.  Put the evil away; literally, consume or

sweep away the evil. The verb r["B; means primarily to consume by burning.

 

 

The Guarding of Personal Reputation in the Regulations

Concerning Human Testimony (vs. 2-7)

 

As God so guarded His own honor that it might not be sullied with impunity, so He

guarded the reputation of the people that it might not be assailed or impeached on

any frivolous pretext or any unproven report. The exactitude in the order of expression

in the fourth verse is very noticeable: If it be so — and it be told thee — and thou hast

inquired — diligently — and, behold, it is true — and the thing certain — then, and

not till then, may the penalty be inflicted. Observe:

 

o       Every one was held to be innocent till he was proved otherwise.

o       No one’s character was put at the mercy of any one unattested witness.

o       He who reported with his tongue should be the one to smite with his

hand! (v. 7).  A mighty stroke of policy this, to guard personal honor

from assailment! It might sometimes make crime more difficult of proof,

but it gave the innocent a wondrous guard against unjust accusation.

Many would be ready to backbite who would shrink from stoning another.

Men by thousands may be found who would not break bones, but who

think nothing of breaking hearts.

o       The people were to cooperate in putting away the evil when once it

was proven to exist. “Slow to suspect, but quick to put down evil,” was

to be the moral rule of their conduct in such cases. Now, of course, it is

not our province to deal with all this from the purely legal point of view,

as a matter of jurisprudence; but we cannot fail to indicate the moral

principles which are here involved; and which a Christian teacher would

do well to set in the light of Jesus’ words, “Judge not, that ye be not

judged.  For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged:

and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you

again.” Matthew 7:1-2. Observe:

 

  • OUR GOD WOULD ENLIST THE SYMPATHIES OF HIS PEOPLE

IN PUTTING DOWN EVIL. We are to be workers together with Him. He

has redeemed us that we may be zealous of good works.

 

  • HE WOULD WAVE US VERY SENSITIVE to the honor of His

Name, but also very sensitive to the spotlessness of each others name

And fame. This passage is quite as remarkable for the guard it throws around

man, as it is for the concern it would evoke for the honor of God (see Leviticus

19:16; Psalm; 15:1-3; Psalm 34:13; I Peter 3:10).

 

  • WE MAY NOT REGARD ANOTHER AS GUILTY ON THE

BARE EVIDENCE OF RUMOR. Each one’s reputation is too sacred in

God’s eye and ought to be too precious in ours for this. It is humiliating to

think such precepts as these should be needed. “The Law is not made for a

righteous man” (I Timothy 1:9), And it is a sad proof of how much

unrighteousness there is in the world that such a law should be needed still.

Every one is to be regarded as innocent till he is proved guilty.  (I have

read where someone said, “a man should live in such a way, if someone

accused him of doing wrong, no one would believe it” – also – It takes a

lifetime to build a reputation but only a moment to lose it!  - CY – 2012)

 

  • IF THE PUBLIC GOOD REQUIRES IT, ILL REPORTS SHOULD

BE EXAMINED. It may be painful work, but it has to be done sometimes.

But we are tempted to think it would be a mighty safeguard against ill

reports being raised on any light or frivolous pretext, if he who first moved

secretly with his tongue were always required to be the first to smite

openly with the hand!

 

  • SUCH REPORTS ARE TO BE PROVEN TRUE ERE ACTION IS

TAKEN THEREON. No man’s repute is to be smitten at a venture. To all

men it is precious as life. The best men value it more than life. They would

rather give up their breath than part with their honor. And the legislation of

high heaven upholds them!

 

  • PROVEN EVIL IS TO BE PUT AWAY. We are to be very slow to

believe ill of another; but when such ill is proved beyond doubt, then it

behooves us to censure, to expose, to condemn it, and to put

it away. We are to stand by a brother till he is shown to be guilty, but that

once done, regard both for God and man requires us to disavow all

sympathy with wrong, and to cooperate with God, the Supreme Judge

of all the earth, in the extirpation of evil!

 

 

Idolatry a Crime Against Society (vs. 2-7)

 

Whether the fact be obvious to all men or not, it is fact that sin against God is also sin

against human society. The relation of the Hebrew nation to God, is a type of the relation

which God sustains to every nation. He is the Creator of individual life and of

 individual endowments. He is the Source of all the moral forces which bind men

together in civil society. He has appointed to each nation its habitation, and has enriched

it with more or less of material good. Hence every nation is under obligation to

acknowledge and honor THE ONE CREATING AND REIGNING GOD!

 

  • THE CRIME. The crime consisted in esteeming the creature above the

Creator. This was a direct breach of treaty between God and the nation.

On God’s side the engagement was to bring them into the land of Canaan,

and secure them against foes. On Israel’s side the engagement was to

worship no other Deity but Jehovah. Hence the violation of a covenant so

openly made and frequently ratified was a flagrant sin. Yet with every

nation such a covenant is made by implication. If life is obtained from the

invisible God, it is held on conditions imposed by Him, and every item of

conduct which is contrary to His known will is an act of rebellion. If

rebellion against an earthly king is counted highest crime, incomparably

greater is a deed of OPEN REBELLION AGAINST THE KING

OF KINGS!   Idolatry is the root-stem of grossest immorality.

 

  • THE DETECTION AND PROOF OF THIS CRIME. In proportion to

the greatness of the crime must be the carefulness of investigation, No

punishment is to be inflicted on the ground of suspicion or prejudice.

Human life is to be accounted precious, but the interests of righteousness

are more precious still. On both these grounds, the scrutiny must be

thorough. To prevent any injury to the sacred cause of justice, through

error, or incompetence, or malice, one witness must be incompetent to

obtain a verdict. Security against injustice comes from corroborated

testimony and from independent witnesses. While every man is bound, in

his sphere, to think and act righteously towards his neighbors, he must

safeguard himself against hasty judgments and against the

whispers of slanderers. In many positions in life we are called to act

in the place of God.

 

  • THE PUNISHMENT DECREED. It was death by stoning. In that

early age, and especially in the desert, there were no mechanical

contrivances for suddenly extinguishing life. They were largely the children

of nature, and possessed but few inventions of civilized life. The sagacity of

Supreme Wisdom had placed frail man among natural forces, which might

easily be employed in terminating bodily life. This arrangement impresses

men with a sense of dependence. His bodily life succumbs to a stone. The

unit must be sacrificed to the well-being of the community. “No  man lives

for himself.”

 

  • THE INSTRUMENTS OF THE EXECUTION. The chief witness

against an offender, became, by God’s appointment, executor of the

judicial sentence. This secured economy in the administration of law. It

secured, to a large extent, veracity among witnesses, and moral

certainty of the rightness of the verdict. Yet, that obloquy might

not attach itself to one man alone, THE WHOLE COMMUNITY WAS

CHARGED TO TAKE PART IN THE EXECUTION OF THE

SENTENCE  (Thus, the great guilt in the United States, not only for

not carrying out God’s will but think of our neglect since Roe v. Wade,

1973, to the tune of neglecting the deaths of 50,000,000 babies –

I recommend Numbers ch. 32 v. 23 - Spurgeon Sermon  - The Great Sin

of Doing Nothing, and Abortion Rationale 2012  # 7 – this web site – CY

        2012)  The deed would thus be the common deed of all.  This practice

would foster oneness of sentiment, oneness of purpose, and would

promote harmonious national life.  (On the negative side, public neglect

 would bring ONENESS IN PUBLIC JUDGMENT!  Unless we

repent, this is what America has to face down the road and soon. 

It should be both interesting and instructive how that OUR ECONOMIC

 WOES ARE CORRELATED WITH THE TIMING OF OUR

DEPARTURE FROM GOD, speedily implemented, in of all places,

THE JUDICIARY OF THE UNITED STATES – the very ones;

heavy ladened with the responsibility of “representing”  THE

GOD OF ALL THE EARTH WHO ONLY DOETH RIGHT! -

CY– 2012)

 

 

THE HIGHER JUDICIAL COURT AT THE SANCTUARY (vs. 8-13)

 

So long as Moses was with the people, they had in him one to whom, in the last resort,

cases might be brought for decision which were found too difficult for the ordinary

judges (Exodus 18:19-26). But, as he was not to be always with them, it was needful

to provide a supreme court, to which such cases might be carried when they could no

longer be decided by him; and such a court is here appointed to be held at the

SANCTUARY!

 

8 “If there arise a matter too hard for thee” - literally, too marvelous;

something extraordinary, and which could not be decided by the ordinary rules of the

judicature - “in judgment, between blood and blood, between plea and plea,

and between stroke and stroke,” -  i.e. in cases where blood had been shed and

death had ensued, either accidentally or from murderous intent (compare Exodus

21:13; Numbers 35:9-34); in cases of disputed rights and claims (compare

II Chronicles 19:10); and in cases where corporeal injury had been suffered, whether

in strife or from assault (Exodus 21:18-27); and, in general, “being matters of

controversy” – disputes as to what was lawful and right, might arise in their towns

and villages. In all such cases recourse was to be had to the court at the sanctuary —

to the priests the Levites,” i.e. the priests who were of the tribe of Levi, and

to the judge presiding there — the lay judge associated with the high priest

as president. It is not intended by this that an appeal was to lie from the lower

court to the higher, or that the parties in a suit might carry it at once to the supreme

judge; the meaning rather is that, when the ordinary judges found a case too difficult

for them to deal with, they were themselves to transmit it to the supreme court for

decision - “within thy gates: then shalt thou arise, and get thee up into the

place which the LORD thy God shall choose;”

 

9 “And thou shalt come unto the priests the Levites, and unto the judge

that shall be in those days, and inquire;” - what, namely, is “the sentence

of judgment;” and this the judge should declare -“and they shall shew

thee the sentence of judgment:” - literally, word of right - verbum juris,

declaration of what was legally right.

 

10 “And 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:  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: thou shalt not decline

from the sentence which they shall shew thee, to the right hand, nor to the

left.  12 And 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.”  This sentence, being founded on the Law, the

suitors were to accept and implicitly obey. If any through pride or arrogance

should refuse to accept the interpretation of the Law given by the priests, or to

submit to the sentence pronounced by the judge, he was to be regarded as

a rebel against God, and to be put to death, that others might be deterred

from the like presumption (ch. 13:11). [I should think that only people

who are unbelievers should think that enforcement of the law does not

have a deterrent. Down deep, it is wishful thinking, hoping too, that they will

go unpunished and that their own sins, IN THE END WILL NOT FIND

THEM OUT!  - CY  - 2012) 

 

13 “And all the people shall hear, and fear, and do no more

presumptuously.”  (God says “ALL THE PEOPLE SHALL HEAR

AND FEAR” – now perhaps, in our age, men choose to take their

philosophy  which flies in the face of God.  This will not stand as we

are finding out in a very liberal culture, that leniency is not working, and

is one of the loosened nails that is bringing the house down!  – CY –

2012)

 

 

Religion is the Guard of Justice (vs, 8-13)

 

The average secular citizen of the United States would probably do a double-

take at this heading, however, justice is outside the realm of their interest or

ability to execute, in a secular state [the reason being, God gives them up to

what they want – [see Romans 1:24, 26,28] -  The devil has neither the interest

nor the ability to carry justice out, therefore, TO DEPART FROM GOD IS

A GREAT TRAGEDY IN A NATION – {Psalm 9:17} - We are finding

this out in the rapid growth of evil in our land and nothing being done about

it! – CY – 2012)

 

In the preceding chapter, vs. 18-20, judges and officers are specified as

appointed by God to be the guardians of justice and right. The Hebrew is

very emphatic in v. 20, “Justice, justice, shalt thou follow!” Manifold

complications, however, would be sure to arise as the nation advanced, and

as the primitive simplicity of their first settlement passed into more fixed

arrangements as to property, etc. In such difficult cases, it might not be

easy, and perhaps it would not always be possible, for the judges and

shoterim to determine what was just. The legislator is here bidden,

therefore, to make provision in case such perplexities should arise. When

the people should come to the land which the Lord their God gave them,

there would be one place which the Lord would choose to put his Name

there. There should “thrones of judgment” sit. The priests, who would

have to offer sacrifices and to intercede for the people before God, would

also be expected to be so versed in the Law of God, that they could

appropriately be regarded as the highest court of appeal, by whose decision

the highest sanctions of religion would be brought to declare and enforce

justice, justice.” Their decision was held to be given them by light from on

High.  And when such decision was in accordance with the Divine will, the

people were bound by it. To resist it was “a presumptuous sin;” and,

withal, it was one of so deep a dye, that it was not safe for Israel that any

man should continue among them, who spurned the highest decisions

which could possibly be given. (This is a true barometer of the condition

of things in the United States – It would be interesting to have an opinion

poll, as to how many liberal or progressive Americans would be under a

ban, by v. 12, by their own confession of their revulsion to this law!  -

CY – 2012)  At the same time, there were sundry checks and counter-checks

against the abuse of this law. The authority of this highest court was relative or

conditional, not absolute. If priests became unfaithful, and their judgments unjust,

then the sin of presumption was chargeable upon them (ch. 18:20; Jeremiah,

Ezekiel, and Malachi made similar charges against such unfaithful expounders).

Note, further, that as early as the time of the Judges, when the priests

profaned their office, God set them aside, and wrought and taught by

means of the prophet Samuel. (Consider the very interesting and informative case

study of Eli and his sons – I Samuel 2:12-4:22).  So that the supreme court bound

the people only so far as it was what it was designed to be, even God’s

appointment for securing justice, by investing it with the sublime sanctions

of  religion.  (Therefore, the Supreme Court of the United States which has

had a role in the turning of the United States Constitution on its head, is subject

to judgment in that a majority of sitting judges of the last half century, have been a

poor and unfaithful example of  “THE JUDGE OF ALL THE EARTH WHO

ONLY DOETH RIGHT  - Genesis 18:25 – CY - 2012)  But when it was that,

and so far as it answered its end, its utterances were to the people as the voice of

God. Now, we all know that, as a formal institution, this court of appeal has long

since passed away. But we greatly mistake if there are not couched here sundry

momentous principles, of which no age, country, or race can afford to lose sight.

These principles are:

 

  • THAT RELIGION IS THE TRUE GUARANTEE OF JUSTICE

BETWEEN MAN AND MAN. That in the course of time the essence of

religion may have so evaporated, and its place be so taken up by forms and

ceremonies, that the connection between religion and justice may seem to

be lost, must be admitted to be a possibility, but it does not alter the

principle here enunciated. The guarantee of justice between man and man is

found in a power of appeal on both sides to a law of immutable right

mutually acknowledged. To such a law conscience, the regulative faculty,

points with steady finger. Such law obeyed, she approves the obedience,

and when disobeyed, she condemns the disobedience. Both the approval

and the condemnation of the voice within are witnesses to the existence

and government of a Great Judge of all, who, seated on the throne of

universal empire, issues His mandates to the world! And in the appeal from

human acts to the judgment of the Great Supreme, lies the safeguard of

justice between man and man.  In a word, RELIGION IS THE SOLE

ADEQUATE GUARANTEE OF MORALITY!   Both are comprehended

under the one word, “righteousness.” Religion is righteousness towards

God; morality is righteousness towards man. If man ever comes to regard

himself as the supreme existence, (AS ESPOUSED BY SECULAR

HUMANISM) empowered to make right right, and wrong wrong, instead

of regarding himself as subject to the everlasting laws of right, the best and

dearest privileges of the human family will be in imminent peril,

and at best can endure but for a while!  (THUS THE TRUE

DANGER OF THE POPULARITY OF POLLS IN OUR CULTURE?

            Remember, that during the decline and near the end of Israel’s existence as

            a nation, “Then were the people of Israel divided into two parts,

half of the people followed Tibni the son of Ginath, to make him

king; and half followed Omri.”  - I Kings 16:21 – This is very

significant as in our day we hear so much about red states and blue states!

- CY – 2012)

 

  • RELIGIOUS SANCTIONS FIND THEIR EXPRESSION IN THE

LAW OF GOD. See Psalm 19:7-12, in which the Psalmist extols the pure and

holy Law of Jehovah, as being the written expression of perfect right. In

the Ten Commandments the various phases of the right in act or thought

are set forth. And according to the ordinance alluded to in this paragraph,

when a case arose which was too difficult to be solved by the lower

authorities, it might be taken up to a higher court, that the will of the Lord

might thereby be discovered by the most trustworthy exposition of the

bearings of God’s Law on each particular case.

 

  • GOD’S HOUSE IS TO BE THE SEAT AND CENTER WHERE

RIGHTEOUSNESS IS ENTHRONED, EXPOUNDED, AND

ENFORCED. If in Israel a poor man could not get justice elsewhere, he

was to be sure of it in God’s house. It was a pious Hebrew’s delight to

inquire in God’s temple (Psalm 27:4).  And we do not think adequately of

the temple service if we merely regard it as consisting of sacrifice and

mediation; the holy house was also a place where men could learn THE

MIND AND WILL OF GOD in their bearing on the life of man both

in general and in specific cases.  And one of the delights of the Psalmist’s

heart was this: “there are set thrones of judgment” (Ibid. 122:5). 

And so now, in God’s house, not only are we bidden to “behold the

Lamb of God,” but “to live soberly, righteously, and godly in this

present world.” (Titus 2:12)

 

  • GOD’S MINISTERS ARE TO BE THE EXPOUNDERS OF

RIGHTEOUSNESS. There are no priests now, as of yore. But the Church

of God has a ministry, and by this ministry the truth of God is to be

opened up” and “commended to every man’s conscience as in the

sight of God.”  (II Corinthians 4:2)

 

  • WHEN GOD’S HOLY AND RIGHTEOUS LAW IS EXPOUNDED

TO THE PEOPLE, THEY ARE LOYALLY TO ACCEPT IT, SUBMIT

TO IT, AND OBEY IT. And this, not because of him whose voice speaks,

but because of Him in whose behalf the preacher speaks. Men are to receive

the truth, not as the word of man, but as the Word of God.

 

  • REFUSAL TO OBEY THE WILL OF GOD, WHEN CLEARLY

EXPOUNDED, IS A PRESUMPTUOUS SIN. (See passages where

Same Hebrew word is used which is here rendered “presumptuous,”

Specially Psalm 19:13.) The epithet indicates the greatness of the sin. It is one

which Jehovah specially hates, severely rebukes, and utterly condemns. He

resisteth the proud” (James 4:6).  He hides things from the wise and

prudent but reveals them unto babes (Matthew 11:25).   He scorneth the

scorners (Proverbs 3:24).  He taketh the wise in their own craftiness.

(I Corinthians 1:19).  First pride, then shame. “What shall the end

be of them that obey not the  gospel of God?”  (I Peter 4:17)

 

 

ELECTION AND DUTY OF A KING (vs. 14-20)

 

Israel, being under a theocracy, did not need an earthly king; but neither was this thereby

precluded, provided the king chosen by the people were one whom Jehovah would

approve as His vicegerent. In case, then, of their coming to desire to have a king over

them like the nations (the heathen) around them, Moses gives instructions here as to the

choice of a king, and as to the duties and obligations resting upon those who might be

elevated to that office. The form in which these are conveyed clearly indicates that, at

the time this was uttered, the existence of a king in Israel was contemplated as only a

distant possibility.

 

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;”

This phraseology, which is common to the laws which respect the affairs of the

Hebrews after they should be settled in Canaan, implies that this law was given

whilst they were yet outside the Promised Land. It is plain also, from the tenor of the

whole statement in this verse, that the legislator in this case is providing for what he

supposes may happen, is likely to happen, but which he by no means desires should

happen. Moses foresaw that the people would wish to be as the nations around

 them — governed by a king — and he legislates accordingly, without approving of

that wish.

 

15 “Thou 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 prohibition to choose a foreigner indicates that the

people had the right of election. In what way this was to be exercised, and

how it was subject to the Divine choice, is not declared. Judging from what

actually happened in subsequent history, it would appear that only on special

occasions, such as the election of the first king or a change of dynasty, did God

take the initiative, and through a prophet direct the choice of the people; ultimately

the monarchy became hereditary, and it was understood that the prince who

succeeded to the throne did so with the Divine approval, unless the opposite was

expressly intimated by a message from God.

 

16 “But 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.”

 

 

Burning Bridges Behind Us (v. 16)

 

“Ye shall henceforth return no more that way.” In these words, Moses

reminds the people that Egypt once quitted was quitted forever. If they

should come in the course of time to desire and to choose a king, he must

by no means take them back to Egypt; their dark experience of Egyptian

bondage was never to be repeated. They should return that way no more.

The only course open to them was to go onward to the realization of their

destiny as a free people, for the gate behind them was closed, never to be

opened again. The text may naturally be regarded as God’s voice to His

emancipated host, saying, “No retreat!” We shall apply this to the life of

believers. It is true in two spheres:

 

  • IT IS TRUE IN THE SPHERE OF BEING. With regard to the old state

of sin, out or’ which the children of God have been brought by the

redemption which is in Christ Jesus and by the power of the Holy Ghost,

it is true, “ye shall henceforth return no more that way.”

 

Ø      They may not if they would. They have quitted the broad road which

leadeth to destruction, and, through the gateway of repentance, have

entered on “the King’s highway of holiness.” Having once come

over from Satan to Christ, it is altogether forbidden them to dream of a

return.  Whosoever he be who has avowedly quitted the service of sin

for that of the living God, never must he think of returning to the world

he has left.  It would be like a dog eating his own vomit or a sow that

is washed, returning to the mud!  (II Peter 2:22) -   Back to his old life

of sin? Never! He is to reckon himself henceforth as  dead indeed

 unto sin, but alive unto God,” (Romans 6:11,13) and, whether

living or dying, he is to be the Lord’s.

 

Ø      They would not if they might. Not only is it the Law of God that

they must not retreat, but the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus

leads them to say, “We will not, by the help of God.” And herein

is the blessed freedom of the new creature in Christ Jesus. What

God wills, he wills. He has voluntarily left the world, and voluntarily

he remains out of its camp  (I John 2:15-17).    The very thought of

returning any more that way” is anguish to him. He has said to

earth, once for all, farewell; to sinful pleasures, farewell; to the

pride of life, farewell. He has cast in his lot with Christ, and, like

Moses, he esteems reproach for Him greater riches than the

treasures in Egypt  (Hebrews 11:26).  He would not move a

step that is not towards God and heaven. He has done with the

vanities of earth, and can return no more that way!

 

  • IT IS TRUE IN THE SPHERE OF TIME. We can neither retrace the

steps we have already trodden, nor recall nor reproduce the circumstances

of bygone days or years.

 

Ø      We cannot recall, or change, or obliterate the past, even if

we would.  The trials and cares of bygone years are gone, never to

be repeated. The actions of past years are done, and however we

may desire it, they cannot be undone. There is no such thing as

recalling a single moment, to correct what has been amiss, nor

erasing a single word or deed so as to prevent its issues traveling

on to eternity! (Jesus said, “Every idle word that men shall

speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of

judgment  (Matthew 12:36).  We may do something now to

shape future years, but — to alter past years — nothing. For good

or ill they have been lived and left their mark. We can alter

nothing. We can “return no more that way.”

 

Ø      The pilgrim, Zionward, would not retreat if he could. The child

of God who has been, however imperfectly, endeavoring in Divine

strength to serve and please his Father in heaven, reviewing his years

with their trials, afflictions, and cares, feels it to be a great joy to him

that he can return no more that way. He would not linger here.

He wants to speed him onward. He oftentimes sings at eventide, with

thankful heart, “a day’s march nearer home.” The goal of his being

is ahead. To serve God here is blissful. But he longs, not to repeat

past imperfections, but to go on unto perfection” (Hebrews 6:1),

to press forward towards the higher service of the heavenly world

(Philippians 3:13:14).  He feels and knows that all the Divine

arrangements for him are mercy and truth - “goodness and mercy

shall follow me all the days of my life:  and I will dwell in

the house of the Lord for ever” – (Psalm 23:6).  GOD IS

ABUNDANT IN GOODNESS AND TRUTH – (Exodus

34:6).  He would not  change them. Mercy shuts off the past beyond

 recall. Mercy opens  the future.

 

“Then, welcome, each declining day,

     Welcome each closing year!”

 

17  Neither shall he multiply wives to himself, that his heart turn not away:

neither shall he greatly multiply to himself silver and gold.” Certain rules are

prescribed for the king. It is forbidden to him to multiply horses, to multiply wives,

and to amass large treasures of silver and gold, and he must have a copy of the

Law written out for him from that kept by the priests, that he might have

 it BY HIM, AND READ IT ALL THE DAYS OF HIS LIFE!   The multiplying

of horses is prohibited, because this would bring Israel into intercourse and friendly

relations with Egypt, and might tend to their going back to that country from which

they had been so marvelously delivered; a prohibition which could only have been

given at an early stage in the history of the people, for at a later period, after they

had been well established in Canaan, such a prohibition for such a reason

would have been simply ridiculous. The prohibition to multiply wives and

to amass large treasures has respect to the usage common from the earliest

period with Oriental monarchs to have vast harems and huge accumulations of the

precious metals, as much for ostentation as for either luxury or use; and as there

was no small danger of the King of Israel being seduced to follow this usage,

and so to have his heart turned away from the Lord, it was fitting that such

a prohibition should be prospectively enacted for his guidance. Both these

prohibitions were neglected by Solomon, and probably by others of the

Jewish kings; but this only indicates that the law was so ancient that it had

come in their time to be regarded as obsolete.  (Much like society in the

21st century considering the Bible to be obsolete, however, it did not

work for Israel, who went eventually into captivity AND IT WILL NOT

WORK FOR US! – CY – 2012)  The rule that the king was to write him a

copy of the Law for his own constant use does not necessarily imply that he

was to write this with his own hand; (although that would be a good thing

for anyone who refuses to read or heed God’s Word – CY – 2012) - he might

cause it to be written by some qualified scribe for him.

 

18 “And it shall be, when he sitteth upon the throne of his kingdom,

that he shall write him a copy of this law” - literally, a double of this Law,

i.e. a duplicate or copy of the Pentateuchal Law. The Jews understand by

double” that two copies of the Law were to be made by the king;  but this is

unnecessary: every copy of a law is a double of it -“in a book out of that

which is before the priests the Levites:”  The priests were the custodians

of the written Law (ch. 31:26); and from the text of their codex was the king’s

copy to be written.

 

19 “And it shall be with him,” - It was to be carefully kept by him, but not as

a mere sacred deposit or palladium; it was to be constantly with him wherever

he was, was to be the object of his continual study, and was to be the

directory and guide of his daily life (compare “thou shalt meditate

therein day and night, that thou mayest observe to do according to all

that is written therein” -Joshua 1:8; Psalm 1:2; 119:15-16, 24, 97-99) –

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:”

 

20 “That his heart be not lifted up above his brethren,” -  Not imagining

himself to be above all laws, nor slighting his subjects, as unworthy of his notice,

but taking a due care to promote their happiness - “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,” – properly,

his sons (wyn;b;). The legislator anticipated not an elective monarchy, but one

hereditary in the same family - “in the midst of  Israel.”

 

 

 

 

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