Things Sacrificed Must Be Sound.
1. Thou shalt not sacrifice … any bullock,
or sheep, wherein is blemish—Under the name of bullock were
comprehended bulls, cows, and calves; under that of sheep, rams, lambs,
kids, he- and she-goats. An ox, from mutilation, was inadmissible. The
qualifications required in animals destined for sacrifice are described
12:5; Le 1:3).
Idolaters Must Be Slain.
2-7. If there be found among you … man or
woman, that hath wrought wickedness—The grand object
contemplated in choosing Israel was to preserve the knowledge and
worship of the one true God; and hence idolatry of any kind, whether of
the heavenly bodies or in some grosser form, is called "a transgression
of His covenant." No rank or sex could palliate this crime. Every
reported case, even a flying rumor of the perpetration of so heinous an
offense, was to be judicially examined; and if proved by the testimony
of competent witnesses, the offender was to be taken without the gates
and stoned to death, the witnesses casting the first stone at him. The
object of this special arrangement was partly to deter the witnesses
from making a rash accusation by the prominent part they had to act as
executioners, and partly to give a public assurance that the crime had
met its due punishment.
De 17:8-13. The Priests and
Judges to Determine Controversies.
8-13. If there arise a matter too hard for thee in
judgment—In all civil or criminal cases, where there was any
doubt or difficulty in giving a decision, the local magistrates were to
submit them by reference to the tribunal of the Sanhedrim—the
supreme council, which was composed partly of civil and partly of
ecclesiastical persons. "The priests and Levites," should rather be
"the priests—the Levites"; that is, the Levitical priests,
including the high priest, who were members of the legislative
assembly; and who, as forming one body, are called "the judge." Their
sittings were held in the neighborhood of the sanctuary because in
great emergencies the high priest had to consult God by Urim (Nu 27:21). From their judgment there was no
appeal; and if a person were so perverse and refractory as to refuse
obedience to their sentences, his conduct, as inconsistent with the
maintenance of order and good government, was then to be regarded and
punished as a capital crime.
De 17:14-20. The Election
and Duty of a King.
14. When thou … shalt say, I will set a king
over me—In the following passage Moses prophetically
announces a revolution which should occur at a later period in the
national history of Israel. No sanction or recommendation was
indicated; on the contrary, when the popular clamor had effected that
constitutional change on the theocracy by the appointment of a king,
the divine disapproval was expressed in the most unequivocal terms
8:7). Permission at length
was granted, God reserving to Himself the nomination of the family and
the person who should be elevated to the regal dignity (1Sa 9:15; 10:24; 16:12; 1Ch 28:4). In short, Moses foreseeing that his
ignorant and fickle countrymen, insensible to their advantages as a
peculiar people, would soon wish to change their constitution and be
like other nations, provides to a certain extent for such an emergency
and lays down the principles on which a king in Israel must act. He was
to possess certain indispensable requisites. He was to be an Israelite,
of the same race and religion, to preserve the purity of the
established worship, as well as be a type of Christ, a spiritual king,
one of their brethren.
15. thou mayest not set a stranger over thee,
which is not thy brother—that is, by their free and voluntary
choice. But God, in the retributions of His providence, did allow
foreign princes to usurp the dominion (Jer 38:17; Mt 22:17).
16. he shall not multiply horses to
himself—The use of these animals was not absolutely
prohibited, nor is there any reason to conclude that they might not be
employed as part of the state equipage. But the multiplication of
horses would inevitably lead to many evils, to increased intercourse
with foreign nations, especially with Egypt, to the importation of an
animal to which the character of the country was not suited, to the
establishment of an Oriental military despotism, to proud and pompous
parade in peace, to a dependence upon Egypt in time of war, and a
consequent withdrawal of trust and confidence in God. (2Sa 8:4; 1Ki 10:26; 2Ch 1:16; 9:28; Isa 31:3).
17. Neither shall he multiply wives to himself,
that his heart turn not away—There were the strongest reasons
for recording an express prohibition on this point, founded on the
practice of neighboring countries in which polygamy prevailed, and
whose kings had numerous harems; besides, the monarch of Israel was to
be absolutely independent of the people and had nothing but the divine
law to restrain his passions. The mischievous effects resulting from
the breach of this condition were exemplified in the history of Solomon
and other princes, who, by trampling on the restrictive law, corrupted
themselves as well as the nation.
neither shall he greatly multiply … silver
and gold—that is, the kings were forbidden to accumulate
money for private purposes.
18-20. he shall write him a copy of this law in a
book—The original scroll of the ancient Scriptures was
deposited in the sanctuary under the strict custody of the priests (see
on De 31:26; 2Ki 22:8).
Each monarch, on his accession, was to be furnished with a true and
faithful copy, which he was to keep constantly beside him, and daily
peruse it, that his character and sentiments being cast into its
sanctifying mould, he might discharge his royal functions in the spirit
of faith and piety, of humility and a love or righteousness.
20. that he may prolong his days in his kingdom,
he and his children—From this it appears that the crown in
Israel was to be hereditary, unless forfeited by personal crime.