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Bible Commentaries
Deuteronomy 14

Utley's You Can Understand the BibleUtley Commentary


Deuteronomy 14:0


Improper MourningThe Lifestyle of a Holy PersonA Forbidden Mourning PracticeAgainst An Idolatrous Practice
Deuteronomy 14:1-2Deuteronomy 14:1-2Deuteronomy 14:1-2Deuteronomy 14:1-2
Clean and Unclean Meat Clean and Unclean AnimalsClean and Unclean Animals
Deuteronomy 14:3-8Deuteronomy 14:3-8Deuteronomy 14:3-8Deuteronomy 14:3-8
Deuteronomy 14:9-10Deuteronomy 14:9-10Deuteronomy 14:9-10Deuteronomy 14:9-10
Deuteronomy 14:11-20Deuteronomy 14:11-20Deuteronomy 14:11-18Deuteronomy 14:11-20
Deuteronomy 14:19-20
Deuteronomy 14:21Deuteronomy 14:21aDeuteronomy 14:21aDeuteronomy 14:21a
Deuteronomy 14:21bDeuteronomy 14:21bDeuteronomy 14:21b
Tithing Principles The Law of the TitheThe Annual Tithe
Deuteronomy 14:22-27Deuteronomy 14:22-27Deuteronomy 14:22-26Deuteronomy 14:22-23
Deuteronomy 14:24-27
Deuteronomy 14:27-29The Third-year Tithe
Deuteronomy 14:28-29Deuteronomy 14:28-29 Deuteronomy 14:28-29

READING CYCLE THREE (see “Guide to Good Bible Reading”)


This is a study guide commentary which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

Read the chapter in one sitting. Identify the subjects (reading cycle #3). Compare your subject divisions with the four modern translations above. Paragraphing is not inspired, but it is the key to following the original author's intent, which is the heart of interpretation. Every paragraph has one and only one subject.

1. First paragraph

2. Second paragraph

3. Third paragraph

4. Etc.

CONTEXTUAL INSIGHTS TO Deuteronomy 14:1-17

A. Deuteronomy 14:1-2 is a preliminary affirmation that Israel, as YHWH's unique people (cf. Exodus 19:5-6), must live like it!

B. Deuteronomy 14:3-17 is a recapitulation of some main covenant requirements of God's people set forth in Exodus - Numbers

1. Clean vs. unclean food in Deuteronomy 14:1-21 is originally found in Leviticus 11:1-23.

2. Tithes in Deuteronomy 14:22-29 are originally given in Numbers 18:21-29.

3. Debt cancellation in Deuteronomy 15:1-11 is originally given in Lev. 28:8-38.

4. Freeing Hebrew slaves in Deuteronomy 15:12-18 is originally given in Leviticus 25:38-55.

5. Redeeming the firstborn in Deuteronomy 15:19-23 is originally given in Exodus 13:1-16.

6. The three annual pilgrim feasts in Deuteronomy 16:1-17 are originally given in Leviticus 23:4-8 and alsoNumbers 28:16-40; Numbers 28:16-40.

(Outline from Old Testament Theology, by Paul R. House, p. 184)

7. The summary nature of Deuteronomy is clearly seen. Often the laws are slightly changed for the new setting.

It must be stated again that moderns do not know the how, when, or why of the structure of OT books.

Verses 1-2

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Deuteronomy 14:1-2 1”You are the sons of the LORD your God; you shall not cut yourselves nor shave your forehead for the sake of the dead. 2For you are a holy people to the LORD your God, and the LORD has chosen you to be a people for His own possession out of all the peoples who are on the face of the earth.”

Deuteronomy 14:1 “You are the sons of the LORD” Notice the family metaphors used as covenant terminology (cf. Deuteronomy 1:31; Deuteronomy 8:5; Deuteronomy 32:5). See , see Special Topic: Fatherhood of God. Note the three special titles for the Israelites used in Deuteronomy 14:1-2.

“cut yourselves” The VERB is BDB 151, KB 177, Hithpoel (a rare variant of the Hithpael stem) IMPERFECT and is often found in “gashing” or “cutting” texts. This was a pagan worship practice (either to get the attention of the deity or cause feelings of mourning for the dead, cf. Leviticus 19:28; Leviticus 21:5; 1 Kings 18:28; Jeremiah 16:6; Jeremiah 41:5; Jeremiah 47:5; Jeremiah 48:37).


“shave your forehead” This (“making baldness, BDB 901) also refers to the mourning rites of surrounding nations (cf. Jeremiah 16:6; Jeremiah 41:5; Ezekiel 27:31; Ezekiel 44:20). In contrast (1) Israeli priests were not allowed to shave at all (cf. Leviticus 21:5) and (2) Israelites were not even allowed to trim their beards (cf. Leviticus 19:27). Many of the laws of Israel were given in direct opposition to regular Canaanite practices!

“for the sake of the dead” The mourning rites described are connected to:

1. ancestor worship

2. Ba'al worship (the dying [winter] and rising [spring] nature god of the Canaanite pantheon)

Deuteronomy 14:2 “holy people” The concept relates to Israel's task of revealing YHWH and His Messiah (cf. Exodus 19:6; Deuteronomy 7:6). See Special Topic: YHWH's Eternal Redemptive Plan.

Deuteronomy typifies covenant language, which describes deity as “the LORD your God” and His “holy,” “chosen,” “special treasure” people (cf. Deuteronomy 4:20; Deuteronomy 7:6; Deuteronomy 14:2; Deuteronomy 26:18; Deuteronomy 28:9; Deuteronomy 29:12-13). Also notice Jeremiah (cf. Jeremiah 7:23; Jeremiah 11:4; Jeremiah 13:11; Jeremiah 24:7; Jeremiah 30:22; Jeremiah 31:1, Jeremiah 31:33; Jeremiah 32:38). And of course, who can forget Hosea 1-3!

“the LORD has chosen you” The VERB (BDB 103, KB 119, Qal PERFECT) is used of God's sovereign choice of:

1. Abraham, Genesis 12:1; Genesis 12:1; Nehemiah 9:7

2. the Patriarchs, Deuteronomy 7:8

3. the descendants of the Patriarchs, Deuteronomy 4:37; Deuteronomy 10:15

4. Israel, Deuteronomy 7:6; Psalms 135:4; Isaiah 44:1, Isaiah 44:8; Isaiah 43:10; Ezekiel 20:5

5. Jeshurun (Israel or Jerusalem), Deuteronomy 32:15; Deuteronomy 33:5, Deuteronomy 33:26; Isaiah 44:2

6. an Israeli king (a symbol of YHWH's rule, which would foreshadow David [cf. 1 Samuel 10:24; 1 Samuel 16:8, 1 Samuel 16:9, 1 Samuel 16:10; 2 Samuel 6:21], who became a Messianic figure), Deuteronomy 17:14-17

7. place for His name to dwell (i.e., central sanctuary), Deuteronomy 12:5, Deuteronomy 12:11, Deuteronomy 12:14, Deuteronomy 12:18, Deuteronomy 12:21, Deuteronomy 12:26; Deuteronomy 14:24; Deuteronomy 15:20; Deuteronomy 16:2, Deuteronomy 16:6, Deuteronomy 16:7, Deuteronomy 16:11, Deuteronomy 16:15; Deuteronomy 17:8, Deuteronomy 17:10; Deuteronomy 31:11

God's sovereignty and purpose is expressed in His choice of Israel. God's “choice” in the OT is always related to service, not necessarily salvation, as it is in the NT. Israel was to reveal YHWH to the whole world, so that all the world might be saved (cf. Genesis 12:3; quoted in Acts 3:25 and Galatians 3:8). See Special Topic: YHWH's Eternal Redemptive Plan.

“a people for His own possession out of all the peoples who are on the face of the earth” The term “possession” (BDB 688) means a special treasure (cf. Exodus 19:5; Psalms 135:4; Malachi 3:17). This phrase is recurrent in Deuteronomy (cf. Deuteronomy 7:6; Deuteronomy 14:2; Deuteronomy 26:18). Please read the Special Topic: YHWH's ETERNAL REDEMPTIVE PLAN! From this you will see the way I view the interpretation of Scripture! It shows the integrating center of my worldview (i.e., the Great Commission)!

Verses 3-8

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Deuteronomy 14:3-8 3”You shall not eat any detestable thing. 4These are the animals which you may eat: the ox, the sheep, the goat, 5the deer, the gazelle, the roebuck, the wild goat, the ibex, the antelope and the mountain sheep. 6Any animal that divides the hoof and has the hoof split in two and chews the cud, among the animals, that you may eat. 7Nevertheless, you are not to eat of these among those which chew the cud, or among those that divide the hoof in two: the camel and the rabbit and the shaphan, for though they chew the cud, they do not divide the hoof; they are unclean for you. 8The pig, because it divides the hoof but does not chew the cud, it is unclean for you. You shall not eat any of their flesh nor touch their carcasses.”

Deuteronomy 14:3 “You shall not eat” Verses Deuteronomy 14:3-21 reflect Leviticus 11:2-19, but with differences. It is differences like this which are so hard to explain that have caused the speculation of numerous sources. Notice the VERB “eat” (BDB 37, KB 46) is used 17 times in this chapter. See Special Topic below.



“detestable things” This phrase (BDB 481 CONSTRUCT 1072) is also used in Deuteronomy 14:3.

Deuteronomy 14:5 “the deer, the gazelle, the roebuck” These are wild animals unclean for sacrifice but not for food. They are not mentioned in Leviticus 11:0 because they were unknown in Egypt. Several are difficult for moderns to identify specifically.

Deuteronomy 14:6 “Any animal that divides the hoof and. . .chews the cud” This is the basic guideline for a sacrificially clean animal given in Leviticus 11:4.

The phrase, “divides the hoof,” is an intensified form (VERB BDB 828, KB 969, Hiphil PERFECT CONSTRUCT with the NOUN BDB 828) as in Deuteronomy 14:7. To this description is combined a second intensified form (VERB BDB 1042, KB 1608, Qal ACTIVE PARTICIPLE CONSTRUCT with the NOUN (BDB 1043). This description is very specific and clear.

Some animals which only partially fulfill the two requirements (“divides the hoof” and “chews the cud”) are listed in Deuteronomy 14:7.

Deuteronomy 14:7

NASB“shapshan” NKJV“rock hyrax” NRSV, TEV“rock badger” LXX, NJB, NJB, NIV“the coney” JPSOA“the daman”

This animal (BDB 1050 I) is apparently mentioned in Leviticus 11:6 as “hare” or “rabbit.” It is interesting that Leviticus says (as assumed here) that the rabbit chews the cud. This is a good place to remind readers that the Israelites based their knowledge of nature on observable characteristic (phenomenological language). Rabbits do not, in actuality, chew the cud, but the rapid movement of their noses look as if they do. This is not an error in the Bible, but the recognition the ancients based their knowledge on observation, not modern, scientific methods.

Deuteronomy 14:18 “pig” The pig was eaten and used in sacrificial ritual by the Canaanites (cf. Isaiah 65:4; Isaiah 66:3, Isaiah 66:17). It was classified as unclean because of its eating habits (the same is true for dogs) and preferred resting places (mud holes). Pigs were sacrificed regularly in Hittites, Greek, and Roman cultures. They were also eaten (by some groups) in all of the Mediterranean cultures. For an extended discussion of food and sacrifices of the ancient Near East see ABD, vol. 6, “Zoology,” pp. 1109-1167, for pigs, see pp. 1130-1135.

Verses 9-10

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Deuteronomy 14:9-10 9”These you may eat of all that are in water: anything that has fins and scales you may eat, 10but anything that does not have fins and scales you shall not eat; it is unclean for you.

Deuteronomy 14:9 “anything that has fins and scales” This is the basic guideline of Leviticus 11:9-12. Again the exact reasons for the prohibitions are not given anywhere in the OT. See note at Deuteronomy 14:3.

Verses 11-20

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Deuteronomy 14:11-20 11”You may eat any clean bird. 12But these are the ones which you shall not eat: the eagle and the vulture and the buzzard, 13and the red kite, the falcon, and the kite in their kinds, 14and every raven in its kind, 15and the ostrich, the owl, the sea gull, and the hawk in their kinds, 16the little owl, the great owl, the white owl, 17the pelican, the carrion vulture, the cormorant, 18the stork, and the heron in their kinds, and the hoopoe and the bat. 19And all the teeming life with wings are unclean to you; they shall not be eaten. 20You may eat any clean bird.”

Deuteronomy 14:11 This parallels Leviticus 11:13-19. The reason for the “uncleanness” is not stated, but it seems obvious that the listed birds ate carrion.

Deuteronomy 14:18 “hoopoe” This type of bird (BDB 189) eats all kinds of insects, including dung beatles. It became known for its eating in unclean places and having a dung-filled nest, therefore, it became an “unclean” migratory bird.

Deuteronomy 14:19 “teeming life” This phrase (BDB 481 CONSTRUCT 1056 & 733, cf Genesis 7:14, Genesis 7:21) refers to flying insects. This is paralleled in Leviticus 11:20-23, where some insects are clean to eat (i.e., locusts, cf. Matthew 3:4; Mark 1:6). These insects are the food for many of the unclean birds listed.

Verse 21

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Deuteronomy 14:21 21”You shall not eat anything which dies of itself. You may give it to the alien who is in your town, so that he may eat it, or you may sell it to a foreigner, for you are a holy people to the LORD your God. You shall not boil a young goat in its mother's milk.

Deuteronomy 14:21 “You shall not eat anything which dies of itself This may reflect Exodus 22:31. One reason was because the blood was still in it (cf. Deuteronomy 12:16, Deuteronomy 12:23-25; Genesis 9:4). This law did not apply to everyone in the Promised Land (i.e., aliens and foreigners were exempt, but note Leviticus 17:15). These food laws were meant to separate Israel from Canaanite society and worship practices.

“You shall not boil a kid in its mother's milk” The Ras Shamra (see Cyrus H. Gordon, Ugaritic Handbook, p. 174) texts show that this was done in other cultures as a symbol of fertility. Judaism developed strict dietary rules (separate cooking vessels and plates for meat and dairy products) based on this verse. However, the thrust seems to relate to Canaanites' sacrificial worship (cf. Exodus 23:19; Exodus 34:26). It has little or nothing to do with disease or hygiene.

Verses 22-27

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Deuteronomy 14:22-27 22”You shall surely tithe all the produce from what you sow, which comes out of the field every year. 23You shall eat in the presence of the LORD your God, at the place where He chooses to establish His name, the tithe of your grain, your new wine, your oil, and the firstborn of your herd and your flock, so that you may learn to fear the LORD your God always. 24If the distance is so great for you that you are not able to bring the tithe, since the place where the LORD your God chooses to set His name is too far away from you when the LORD your God blesses you, 25then you shall exchange it for money, and bind the money in your hand and go to the place which the LORD your God chooses. 26You may spend the money for whatever your heart desires: for oxen, or sheep, or wine, or strong drink, or whatever your heart desires; and there you shall eat in the presence of the LORD your God and rejoice, you and your household. 27Also you shall not neglect the Levite who is in your town, for he has no portion or inheritance among you.”

Deuteronomy 14:22 “tithe” Numbers 18:0 discusses the tithes for the local Levites as well as the priests at the central shrine.

However, this passage parallels chapter 12 and deals mostly with local agricultural tithing issues. See notes at chapter 12.

Deuteronomy 14:23 “at the place where He chooses to establish His name” See full note at Deuteronomy 12:5.

Deuteronomy 14:26 “You may spend the money for whatever your heart desires” This refers to items to be tithed at the central sanctuary. This is parallel to Deuteronomy 12:20. This phrase must drive “legalists” crazy! YHWH desires our happiness! He just wants to share it with us (cf. Deuteronomy 12:7, Deuteronomy 12:18; Deuteronomy 16:14; Deuteronomy 27:7; 1 Chronicles 29:22; Psalms 104:15; Ecclesiastes 2:24; Ecclesiastes 3:12, Ecclesiastes 3:13, Ecclesiastes 3:22; Ecclesiastes 5:18; Ecclesiastes 8:15; Ecclesiastes 9:7-9; Isaiah 22:13). The NT even widens this concept by clearly stating that nothing in the physical creation is unclean in and of itself (e.g., Acts 10:15; Romans 14:2, Romans 14:14, Romans 14:20; 1 Corinthians 6:12; 1 Corinthians 10:23-33; 1 Timothy 4:4). This is not meant to give humans a license to sin, but to encourage Christian freedom from legalism and judgmentalism (cf. Colossians 2:16-23). However, the mature believer will be careful while in this fallen world to do nothing that might offend a weaker brother for whom Christ died (cf. Romans 14:1-13)!

“strong drink” This (BDB 1016) was wine to which other natural fermented juices were added to make the percentage of alcohol higher (i.e. more intoxicating). See Special Topic below.

SPECIAL TOPIC: ALCOHOL (fermentation) AND ALCOHOLISM (addiction)

“there you shall eat in the presence of the LORD” This refers to the peace offering whereby God and the offerer and his family symbolically ate together. In the ancient East, eating together was the sign of covenant.

Verses 28-29

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Deuteronomy 14:28-29 28”At the end of every third year you shall bring out all the tithe of your produce in that year, and shall deposit it in your town. 29The Levite, because he has no portion or inheritance among you, and the alien, the orphan and the widow who are in your town, shall come and eat and be satisfied, in order that the LORD your God may bless you in all the work of your hand which you do.”

Deuteronomy 14:29 “the alien, the orphan and the widow” Deuteronomy is emphatic in its care of all who lived in the Promised Land (cf. Deuteronomy 10:18; Deuteronomy 26:12-15)! This third-year tithe was for the Levite and the local poor.


This is a study guide commentary which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

These discussion questions are provided to help you think through the major issues of this section of the book. They are meant to be thought provoking, not definitive.

1. What criteria was used to decide what was clean and what was not?

2. Are these laws from God? If so, why don't we observe them today?

3. What was the purpose of the tithe?

Bibliographical Information
Utley. Dr. Robert. "Commentary on Deuteronomy 14". "Utley's You Can Understand the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/ubc/deuteronomy-14.html. 2021.
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