Lectionary Calendar
Wednesday, May 22nd, 2024
the Week of Proper 2 / Ordinary 7
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Bible Commentaries
Deuteronomy 12

Bridgeway Bible CommentaryBridgeway Bible Commentary

Verses 1-28


In keeping with the pattern of ancient covenant documents, the basic requirements and principles of the covenant (Chapters 5-11) are now followed by the detailed regulations (Chapters 12-26). However, Moses does not lay down these requirements with the harshness or impersonality of a formal law code. He announces them rather in the pastoral spirit of a preacher, appealing to God’s covenant family to respond to God’s grace with lives of loyalty to him and justice to others.

The central place of worship (12:1-28)

God’s covenant with Israel required the people to worship him only. Therefore, when they entered Canaan they were to remove all trace of foreign religion. In particular they were to destroy the local Canaanite holy places, lest they be tempted to use them in the worship of Yahweh (12:1-4).
The Israelites were to carry out their religious exercises only at the place where the tabernacle (or later the temple) was set up. This centralized worship would help preserve the unity of the people and the purity of their worship (5-7). In contrast to their current circumstances, life in Canaan was to be orderly. There would not be the disorganization at present being experienced because of recent battles and the rushed settlement program for the two and a half tribes east of Jordan (8-14).

During the journey through the wilderness, there had been a simple law concerning the killing of animals for meat. In the case of an animal unsuitable for sacrifice, the people could kill it and eat it anywhere, but in the case of an animal suitable for sacrifice, they could kill it only as a sacrifice at the altar and eat it only as a peace offering (Leviticus 17:1-7). That was a workable rule as long as the people were all camped close to the tabernacle, but once they were scattered throughout Canaan they would find it impractical to have to take their animals long distances to the tabernacle just to kill them for meat. Moses therefore adjusted the law to suit the new circumstances.

The new law was that, once the people had settled in Canaan, animals suitable for sacrifice could be killed for meat locally the same as animals not suitable for sacrifice, such as gazelles and deer. Killing for sacrifice, however, along with certain other ceremonial practices, had to be carried out at the central place of worship as formerly taught. As usual, the people were not to eat or drink the blood (15-28; see Leviticus 17:8-16).

Verses 29-32

Warnings against idolatry (12:29-13:18)

In Canaan the Israelites would meet many new temptations. Moses therefore warned them not to be curious about the religious practices of the former inhabitants, lest they copy them and corrupt their own religion (29-32). They were also to beware of the person who could apparently perform miracles and predict events. The test of the genuineness of the person was not whether his predictions came true, but whether he led people in the ways of God (13:1-5).
Another danger was one that could arise in the family circle when a person developed wrong ideas about God and tried to lead others in the household astray. Like the false prophet he had to be stoned to death. As usual, the person making the accusation had to throw the first stone (6-11).
A danger with much wider consequences could come from open enemies of God who set out deliberately to turn a whole community against him. If careful investigation proved that they had been successful, they and their followers had to be executed, and all trace of their evil removed (12-18).

Bibliographical Information
Flemming, Donald C. "Commentary on Deuteronomy 12". "Fleming's Bridgeway Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/bbc/deuteronomy-12.html. 2005.
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