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Bible Commentaries

Gaebelein's Annotated Bible

Deuteronomy 17

Verses 1-20

13. Justice and the Choice of a King

CHAPTERS 16:18-17:20

1. Appointment of judges and their instruction (Deuteronomy 16:18-22 ; Deuteronomy 17:1 )

2. The higher court at the place He chooses (Deuteronomy 17:8-13 )

3. The choice and right of the king (Deuteronomy 17:14-20 )

This chapter leads us upon new ground. The obligations of the religious life of Israel were stated in the first part of chapter 16 and now the government of the people in the land is commanded. “Just as in its religious worship the Israelitish nation was to show itself to be the holy nation of Jehovah, so was it in its political relations also. This thought forms the link between the laws already given and those which follow. Civil order, that indispensable condition of the stability and prosperity of nations and states, rests upon a conscientious maintenance of right, by means of a well-ordered judicial constitution and an impartial administration of justice” (F. Delitzsch). Judges and officials were to be appointed and a higher judicial court for more difficult cases to be established, the latter at the place of the sanctuary. Idolatry is prominently mentioned again because it is the most serious matter, both individually and nationally, to forsake the one Jehovah. Apostasy from Jehovah and His covenant is wickedness. Chapter 16:21-22 also has reference to idolatry. The idolatrous altars and images were set up under, or, beside green trees. See 1 Kings 14:23 ; 2 Kings 17:10 ; Jeremiah 17:2 . Then there is provision made for the choice of a king. The Lord foresaw Samuel’s time, when the people would reject Him as their King and desire to be like other nations; and foreseeing their failures He made provision for this emergency.

“And yet the wisdom and grace of God are only the more, not the less, conspicuous in this provision. True, of Saul it was said, ‘I gave thee a king in Mine anger, and took him away in My wrath’ (Hosea 13:11 ). But this only brings out God’s real choice--David, ‘the beloved,’ type of One who is indeed that, and in whom a King is found who reigns forever. He is the One of whom the king that Deuteronomy announces is the shadow. Brought forth when priesthood has failed in Eli, and prophet in Samuel, the true king is God’s resource for Israel and the earth. For neither priesthood nor prophecy alone will set right the earth, or bring in the time when it shall be filled with the glory of the Lord. He must come to whom the throne belongs, and who shall bring back judgment to righteousness; He in whom Prophet, Priest, and King are one,--a threefold cord that never shall be broken” (Numerical Bible).

A comparison of verse 16 and 17 with 1 Kings 9-11 is most interesting. What failure man is in himself. And Solomon was the wisest and most influential of all the kings. This fact that Solomon did the very opposite from what the king should do has led the critics to say that this passage was written after Solomon. As if God did not know all this beforehand! But there is not allusion to Solomon’s kingdom at all in the words Moses spoke.

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Bibliographical Information
Gaebelein, Arno Clemens. "Commentary on Deuteronomy 17". "Gaebelein's Annotated Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/gab/deuteronomy-17.html. 1913-1922.