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Bible Commentaries
Deuteronomy 17

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Verse 1

Not Sacrifice an Animal with a Blemish

The spiritual application of this verse is that God does not want anything from us that affects the preciousness of the Lord Jesus. That would testify of indifference (Malachi 1:7-Ruth :). For example, if we say to God that the Lord Jesus could sin, but that He did not sin, it is a detestable thing for God.

Such a thought wrongs the perfection of the Lord Jesus, for He could not and cannot sin. Such a superficiality in sacrificing must not happen to God’s people. If someone says something like this in ignorance, he will like to be corrected if he is made aware of it. All sacrifices offered to God are types of the sacrifice of Christ. He is the perfectly spotless sacrifice, without defect, completely without sin, free from even the appearance of it.

Verses 2-7

Penalty for Idolatry

Deuteronomy 13 is about those who want to seduce others to idolatry (Deuteronomy 13:1-Job :). In these verses it is about those who are seduced. If the accusation is made that someone has been tempted to engage in idolatry, inquiry must first take place. The same happens also in Matthew 18 when someone is accused of sin. Only after there are two or three witnesses justice can be done (Matthew 18:16; Numbers 35:30).

If someone sees that someone else is sinning, he should not talk about it with others, but speak about it himself first with the person in question. If I’m the only one who knows anything bad about someone, I must not talk about it with others. There may be no case brought before the church if we have not first spoken to the brother and then we have been with him with witnesses.

If the charge is well-founded, the hand of the witnesses will be first against him. This gives the witnesses a great responsibility and urges great caution when making an accusation about evil. This rule will therefore ensure that witnesses are extremely certain of their case and of the seriousness of the crime committed.

When the hand of the witnesses turns against the culprit, the death sentence is actually exercised. Deuteronomy 17:7 states that they “put him to death”. Afterward the hand of the all people must be against him. In this way they make it clear that they join the witnesses and confirm their testimony. This is how the evil must be removed from the church. Evil may not have a place in the people of God. This applies both to Israel then and to the church now.

Before the church reaches a decision on a case brought to it, the person who does so must be convinced of the case. If a case is brought before the church, it is not the same as a decision by the church. The church has yet to reach a verdict, a decision. This stadium corresponds to what read then in Matthew 18: “If he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector” (Matthew 18:17). This means that the individual believer must see someone as a Gentile and a tax collector, even before the church removes such a person as an evil one from among themselves.

Conversely, this also applies to a brother’s or sister’s proposal to receive a believer who is unknown to others at the Lord’s Table. The brother or sister must himself be convinced of the correctness of the proposal. But only when two or three witnesses make clear to the church the correctness of this proposal, the church will receive such a person at the Table of the Lord.

Verses 8-13

Jurisdiction in Difficult Cases

This section concerns a penalty imposed by a competent authority. Where one revolts against it, a spirit of rebellion, of recalcitrance becomes visible. There is a spirit of contradiction and rebellion against God. It is the evil of disobedience to God or to those who are vested with authority under Him. With this principle of contempt and self-will, must be dealt in the same way as is done with sorcery and idolatry.

The purpose of the punishment is that others will hear and fear and not fall into the same evil. Some will be wise enough to refrain from crime. Others, if they have committed a crime and are punished, will rather submit to the judgment than sin against themselves and forfeit their lives by going against it. From this law the writer of the letter to the Hebrews deduces how severe is the punishment they will deserve who has trampled under foot the Son of God and therewith His authority (Hebrews 10:28-Joel :).

If a local authority makes a decision, it is the highest authority on earth. “Whatever you bind on earth shall have been bound in heaven” (Matthew 18:18). The scope of the decision is the whole earth. This is because the Lord Jesus connects His counter-speech to that local church: “For where two or three have gathered together in My name, I am there in their midst” (Matthew 18:20).

In Deuteronomy 17:9 the priest comes to the fore. Priests know God’s thoughts best because they are used to being in His presence. This determines the spiritual mind. Any brother or sister can be that priest. It is not about the gift that someone has, but about the mind that someone has through his or her dealings with God.

Verses 14-20

Setting a King

After the laws for subjects laws for the king follow. The appointment of a king is not ordered, as is the case with judges. God foresees the demand for a king and already gives His directions for it. He rules over kings. Those who rule over others must remember that they themselves are also under the authority of a Superior.

The question God expects of the people when it is in the land is not that of 1 Samuel 8. There “all the elders of Israel” come to Samuel and say to him, “Behold, you have grown old, and your sons do not walk in your ways. Now appoint a king for us to judge us like all the nations” (1 Samuel 8:4-Deuteronomy :; cf. Hosea 8:4). God has always had a King in His mind. He expects from his people that they will come with this question, because He has spoken about it, in the words he puts Jacob in his mouth when he blesses his sons (Genesis 49:10). In 1 Samuel 8 they want a king to their own heart and not a king to the heart of God. They want a king there instead of the LORD.

The king after the heart of God is a picture of the Lord Jesus. He is one “from among your countrymen” (cf. Hebrews 2:14). A king is also a picture of the believers of the church, for they are made “a kingdom” (Revelation 1:6). Soon we will rule as such (1 Corinthians 6:2). What we will do openly in the future must already be done now in the interpersonal matters that may exist between believers.

However, we are not only members of the church, but also subjects in the kingdom, not rulers. Brothers with ‘royal dignity’ we recognize in brothers who have the gift of government. They are given by the Lord and do not pretend that place themselves. The aspire being a supervisor is recommended, but at the same time it is also stated which conditions must be met (1 Timothy 3:1-Judges :).

The king must be a countryman, or brother, and as such a servant and not a ruler. A man like Diótrefes, about whom John writes in his third letter, doesn’t care for this. He does not receive the brothers and behaves like a ruler, claiming the first place: “I wrote something to the church; but Diotrephes, who loves to be first among them, does not accept what we say. … and not satisfied with this, he himself does not receive the brethren, either, and he forbids those who desire [to do so] and puts [them] out of the church” (3 John 1:9; 3 John 1:10).

The king is warned of three things: horses, women and richesses (silver and gold).
1. ‘Horses’ speak of natural strength and violence. The king may not boast on this, but he must trust the LORD: “Some [boast] in chariots and some in horses, But we will boast in the name of the LORD, our God” (Psalms 20:7; Psalms 33:17; Hosea 14:3). We can compare it to, for example, reliance on fluent speech. If we don’t master that, we can learn it. An acquired speaking ability does it well in the world. But we should not use verbal violence in the church to manipulate the opinion of the whole.
2. “Wives” in this context speak of temptations by which a deviation from the LORD comes. To this is connected the arousal of false desires, which together with greed leads to idolatry (Colossians 3:5).
3. The third commandment is that he shall not “greatly increase silver and gold”. When this happens, it shows the search for the material as the true fulfillment of life. It will also lead to independence from God.

The three dangers mentioned can be summed up in the words power, pleasure and richesses. For the three dangers mentioned above, the king, and we as kings, can only be preserved by constantly reading “a copy of this law”. If this is in the heart, he abides in the right track and in the right mind. He will not then rise above his brothers. Such brothers and sisters can exercise justice among the believers in the right way.

In order to preserve himself from these dangers and to be a good king for his people, the king himself must write a copy of the law. He is expected to read it daily. It will make him aware of the fact that indeed he rules over a people, but is also ruled over himself. It will keep him humble among his people. It will keep him from deviations in his kingship, so that it will be balanced and serving. The Lord Jesus points this out to His disciples: “And He said to them, “The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them; and those who have authority over them are called ‘Benefactors.’ But [it is] not this way with you, but the one who is the greatest among you must become like the youngest, and the leader like the servant. For who is greater, the one who reclines [at the table] or the one who serves? Is it not the one who reclines [at the table]? But I am among you as the one who serves” (Luke 20:25-Daniel :).

Bibliographical Information
de Koning, Ger. Commentaar op Deuteronomy 17". "Kingcomments on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/kng/deuteronomy-17.html. 'Stichting Titus' / 'Stichting Uitgeverij Daniël', Zwolle, Nederland. 2021.
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