Deuteronomy 17

Deuteronomy 17

17 “You shall not sacrifice to the LORD your God an ox or a sheep in which is a blemish, any defect whatever, for that is an abomination to the LORD your God.

“If there is found among you, within any of your towns that the LORD your God is giving you, a man or woman who does what is evil in the sight of the LORD your God, in transgressing his covenant, and has gone and served other gods and worshiped them, or the sun or the moon or any of the host of heaven, which I have forbidden, and it is told you and you hear of it, then you shall inquire diligently, and if it is true and certain that such an abomination has been done in Israel, then you shall bring out to your gates that man or woman who has done this evil thing, and you shall stone that man or woman to death with stones. On the evidence of two witnesses or of three witnesses the one who is to die shall be put to death; a person shall not be put to death on the evidence of one witness. The hand of the witnesses shall be first against him to put him to death, and afterward the hand of all the people. So you shall purge the evil from your midst.

Legal Decisions by Priests and Judges

“If any case arises requiring decision between one kind of homicide and another, one kind of legal right and another, or one kind of assault and another, any case within your towns that is too difficult for you, then you shall arise and go up to the place that the LORD your God will choose. And you shall come to the Levitical priests and to the judge who is in office in those days, and you shall consult them, and they shall declare to you the decision. Then you shall do according to what they declare to you from that place that the LORD will choose. And you shall be careful to do according to all that they direct you. According to the instructions that they give you, and according to the decision which they pronounce to you, you shall do. You shall not turn aside from the verdict that they declare to you, either to the right hand or to the left. The man who acts presumptuously by not obeying the priest who stands to minister there before the LORD your God, or the judge, that man shall die. So you shall purge the evil from Israel. And all the people shall hear and fear and not act presumptuously again.

Laws Concerning Israel’s Kings

“When you come to the land that the LORD your God is giving you, and you possess it and dwell in it and then say, ‘I will set a king over me, like all the nations that are around me,’ you may indeed set a king over you whom the LORD your God will choose. One from among your brothers you shall set as king over you. You may not put a foreigner over you, who is not your brother. Only he must not acquire many horses for himself or cause the people to return to Egypt in order to acquire many horses, since the LORD has said to you, ‘You shall never return that way again.’ And he shall not acquire many wives for himself, lest his heart turn away, nor shall he acquire for himself excessive silver and gold.

“And when he sits on the throne of his kingdom, he shall write for himself in a book a copy of this law, approved by the Levitical priests. And it shall be with him, and he shall read in it all the days of his life, that he may learn to fear the LORD his God by keeping all the words of this law and these statutes, and doing them, that his heart may not be lifted up above his brothers, and that he may not turn aside from the commandment, either to the right hand or to the left, so that he may continue long in his kingdom, he and his children, in Israel.


Deuteronomy 17 Commentary

by Brad Boyles

There are many times that the Old Testament rituals and rules can seem odd and misplaced under our New Covenant relationship with Jesus. It is imperative that when we go back through the Old Testament, we look at how it corresponds with New Testament truth. In other words, these chapters are not irrelevant for our lives today, they just take a little bit more digging in order to draw out what it means for us in this age.

The end of Deuteronomy 17 is a great example of this. It speaks of the qualifications for Israel’s future king. Moses had predicted that the people would eventually desire and elect a king to rule over them (see Gen 17:16; Gen 35:11; Gen  49:9-12; Num 24:7, Num 24:17). In preparation for that time, God prescribed a set of rules for Israel’s future king.

Verses 15-20 can be summarized with five main points.

  1. The king was to be a man chosen by God and an Israelite.
  2. The king was forbidden to have a large number of horses, and never to return to Egypt.
  3. The king was forbidden from taking many wives.
  4. The king was forbidden to acquire large amounts of gold and silver.
  5. And finally, the king was to keep an original copy of God’s laws and teachings and follow it with all his heart.

When you think about the practicality of these points, they really mirror a believer’s life today. A large army of horses would have tempted the king to trust in his military power instead of God. Having many wives would have tempted the king to pursue foreign gods, drawing his heart away from God. Acquiring a great amount of wealth was dangerous for the same reason because the love of money has the ability to steal our hearts. Finally, God required that the king saturate his heart and mind in the Word of the Lord which would keep Him accountable with truth and wisdom.

Ironically, King Solomon is a prime example of a man who started out so well but was pulled away by all of these desires. These may seem obvious, but as a person of power and prestige, the temptations are stronger than ever. This is why God gave such practical wisdom ahead of time.

All of this is true for us. If we are not rooted in His Word and guarding our hearts against temptation, we too will fall in this same way.

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