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Bible Commentaries
Deuteronomy 17

Garner-Howes Baptist CommentaryGarner-Howes

Verse 1


Verse 1:

This is a repetition of the regulation given in Leviticus 22:17-24.

"Evil-favoredness," dabar ra, "evil thing," a defect or blemish of any kind. To offer such upon the altar of Jehovah would profane His service, and thus be an abomination before Him.

Verses 2-7

Verses 2-7:

In chapter 13, Moses defines the penalty for one who would lead any in Israel into the practice of idolatry. In this text, he defines the penalty for arty person who allows himself to be led into the worship and service of any false god.

Judgment must not be based upon rumor. First, there must be a thorough judicial inquiry. At least two or three witnesses must be given testimony to corroborate the charge, Numbers 35:30. But if the charge of idolatry be true, there must be no favoritism shown. The guilty person must be put to death. The witnesses themselves must cast the first stones, then the "hands of all the people" must join in carrying out the judicial sentence of death by stoning.

Verses 8-13

Verses 8-13:

This text gives the provision Israel was to follow when Moses would no longer be with them to render judgment. Some legal cases might prove to be too difficult to be settled by the ordinary rules of the judicial system:

(1) "Between blood and blood," in cases where there was bloodshed, and one was killed, either deliberately or accidentally, see Exodus 21:12-14; Numbers 35:9-25.

(2) "Between plea and plea," disputes concerning rights and claims, see 2 Chronicles 19:10.

(3) "Between stroke and stroke," cases of bodily injury, whether it be in strife between two parties, or in cases of assault, Exodus 21:18-25.

"Matters of controversy," disputes over what might be legally right and just. All such matters which could not be resolved in the local community should be brought before the priests in the place which Jehovah appointed. This was the "court of appeals." The implication is that the high priest was to be the presiding judge. Counsel would be given from among the body of the priests. In any case, their judgment was final. All parties to the legal dispute, of whatever kind the dispute might be, must accept and abide by the decisions of this court.

Any person who refused to accept the decision of the priests was considered to be acting presumptuously against Jehovah Himself, and the penalty was death, likely by stoning.

Verses 14-20

Verses 14-20:

God intended that Israel be a theocracy, not a monarchy. Jehovah Elohim was to be their King. However, the text provides for the selection of a king when Israel should be settled in their Land. It would not be in their best interest to demand a king. But God provided that they should have a king if they so desired. The text lists some of the regulations which should govern the selection of the king:

(1) He must be God’s choice, not their own. Israel ignored this provision in the selection of Saul as their king, and it proved disastrous, see 1Sa chapter 8.

(2) He must be a native-born Israelite, not a stranger or foreign-born.

(3) He must not rely upon conventional military armaments, such as war-horses, cavalry, and chariots, etc.

(4) He must not purchase war-horses from Egypt, nor lead Israel to make any kind of military alliance with Egypt. Solomon violated this provision, 1 Kings 10:26-29.

(5) He must not have a large harem of many wives. This would cause him to be led astray into idolatry. Solomon demonstrated the need for this warning, 1 Kings 11:1-8.

(6) He must not amass a personal fortune.

(7) He must not exalt himself above his fellow-Israelites.

(8) He must make for himself a copy of the laws of God, and study it carefully as a guide to his actions and leadership as king.

(9) He must not deviate the Law of God, in any way.

History reveals that none of Israel’s king’s met these standards fully.

These criteria reflect the ideal standards for those who govern, whether king, president, governor, magistrate, or any other government official. Civil government is of Divine institution, Romans 13:1-7; Daniel 4:34-35. Its purpose: the enforcement of righteous principles, and the maintaining of justice for all citizens. All true righteousness is of God, and all true justice comes from Him. It is not the prerogative of government to determine what is right or wrong. Tyranny and oppression and wickedness are the inevitable result when government leaders deviate from Divine Law and set their own rules and their own standards of what is right or wrong.

Government officials today may find direction in determining right and just only in the Word of God and its righteous principles. When they refuse to do so, injustice and oppression characterize their administration.

Bibliographical Information
Garner, Albert & Howes, J.C. "Commentary on Deuteronomy 17". Garner-Howes Baptist Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/ghb/deuteronomy-17.html. 1985.
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