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Bible Commentaries
Deuteronomy 17

Barnes' Notes on the Whole BibleBarnes' Notes

Verse 1

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.

Verses 2-7

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.

Verses 8-13

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.

Verse 14

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.

Verse 15

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; 1Sa 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.

Verse 16

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 Psalms 20:7; Psalms 33:16-17; Psalms 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.

Verse 17

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.

Verse 18

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.

Bibliographical Information
Barnes, Albert. "Commentary on Deuteronomy 17". "Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/bnb/deuteronomy-17.html. 1870.
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