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17. Law Courts

Thou shalt not sacrifice unto the Lord thy God any bullock, or sheep, wherein is blemish, or any evilfavouredness: for that is an abomination unto the Lord thy God.

2If there be found among you, within any of thy gates which the Lord thy God giveth thee, man or woman, that hath wrought wickedness in the sight of the Lord thy God, in transgressing his covenant, 3And hath gone and served other gods, and worshipped them, either the sun, or moon, or any of the host of heaven, which I have not commanded; 4And it be told thee, and thou hast heard of it, and enquired diligently, and, behold, it be true, and the thing certain, that such abomination is wrought in Israel: 5Then shalt thou bring forth that man or that woman, which have committed that wicked thing, unto thy gates, even that man or that woman, and shalt stone them with stones, till they die. 6At the mouth of two witnesses, or three witnesses, shall he that is worthy of death be put to death; but at the mouth of one witness he shall not be put to death. 7The hands of the witnesses shall be first upon him to put him to death, and afterward the hands of all the people. So thou shalt put the evil away from among you.

8If there arise a matter too hard for thee in judgment, between blood and blood, between plea and plea, and between stroke and stroke, being matters of controversy within thy gates: then shalt thou arise, and get thee up into the place which the Lord thy God shall choose; 9And thou shalt come unto the priests the Levites, and unto the judge that shall be in those days, and enquire; and they shall shew thee the sentence of judgment: 10And thou shalt do according to the sentence, which they of that place which the Lord shall choose shall shew thee; and thou shalt observe to do according to all that they inform thee: 11According to the sentence of the law which they shall teach thee, and according to the judgment which they shall tell thee, thou shalt do: thou shalt not decline from the sentence which they shall shew thee, to the right hand, nor to the left. 12And the man that will do presumptuously, and will not hearken unto the priest that standeth to minister there before the Lord thy God, or unto the judge, even that man shall die: and thou shalt put away the evil from Israel. 13And all the people shall hear, and fear, and do no more presumptuously.

14When thou art come unto the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee, and shalt possess it, and shalt dwell therein, and shalt say, I will set a king over me, like as all the nations that are about me; 15Thou shalt in any wise set him king over thee, whom the Lord thy God shall choose: one from among thy brethren shalt thou set king over thee: thou mayest not set a stranger over thee, which is not thy brother. 16But he shall not multiply horses to himself, nor cause the people to return to Egypt, to the end that he should multiply horses: forasmuch as the Lord hath said unto you, Ye shall henceforth return no more that way. 17Neither shall he multiply wives to himself, that his heart turn not away: neither shall he greatly multiply to himself silver and gold. 18And it shall be, when he sitteth upon the throne of his kingdom, that he shall write him a copy of this law in a book out of that which is before the priests the Levites: 19And it shall be with him, and he shall read therein all the days of his life: that he may learn to fear the Lord his God, to keep all the words of this law and these statutes, to do them: 20That his heart be not lifted up above his brethren, and that he turn not aside from the commandment, to the right hand, or to the left: to the end that he may prolong his days in his kingdom, he, and his children, in the midst of Israel.

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22. Neither shalt thou set thee up. Hence also it more clearly appears what is the meaning and tendency of the Second Commandment. God elsewhere commands, 100100     Deuteronomy 27:2-3. See vol. 1, p. 369. (as we have seen,) that statues 101101     A.V, image. Margin, statue, or pillar. should be erected on the borders of the land, on which the sum of the Law should be inscribed. At first sight this prohibition seems to be contradictory; and indeed it would be so, unless you understand “statue” to be a false image of God, in which men set Him before them in bodily form; and, therefore, it is added, that He hates such statues. But I have preferred translating 102102     C makes the relative refer, not to the image set up, but to the act of setting it up. So also V. and Dathe, though the relative is plural with them. the relative in the neuter gender, that the sentence might be fuller; i.e., that the erecting of statues is an abomination to the Lord; because in this way His glory is dishonored, when He is transfigured into a body, or when anything corporeal is mixed with His spiritual nature.

2. If there be found among you. The same punishment is here decreed against idolaters, to which apostates had been before condemned; and thus either transgression is declared a capital crime. Hence we gather that it is accounted before God no less weighty a sin to violate His worship by gross and impure superstitions, than openly and professedly to fall away from religion altogether. Thus in Ezekiel 20:39, He bids farewell to the Jews, and as it were emancipates them, that they may go every one after his idols, when they are no longer contented with Him alone. Whilst God, however, is so rigid an exactor of punishment, He would not have judgment pronounced precipitately. These are tokens of severity, that a woman as well as a man is to be slain; that the whole people should unite in stoning them; that the evil should be removed from the midst of the land, lest the abomination should continue unpunished. On the other hand moderation is to be observed, since diligent inquiry is to be made, nor is sentence to be pronounced unless the matter is fully proved; and again, that the trial may be lawful, the accusation of one man is not to convict the accused. God therefore would not have the judges, under pretext of zeal, shed blood inconsiderately; but only, after mature inquiry, the criminal was to be punished in proportion to his transgression. By synecdoche he speaks of their cities under the name of “gates,” and alludes to the land having been “given” them, that they might not shew their want of gratitude to God by profaning it. He marks too the heinous nature of the offense, by calling it the “transgressing of God’s covenant;” as much as to say that all who go aside unto idols are covenant-breakers. For the thief, and the fornicator, and the drunkard, and such like transgress the Law indeed, but still are not placed in this category. In fine, it is not simple impiety which is here punished, but the perfidy whereby true religion is forsaken, after men have devoted themselves to God, and professed themselves to be of the number of His people. The repetition of the words “that man or that woman,” more fully confirms what I have said, viz., that although the weakness of the female sex may extenuate their guilt, yet must they not be pardoned in such a case as this, where God’s worship is directly violated. Although mention is only made of the sun, and moon, and stars, the same thing applies to images also; nay, inasmuch as it is baser to transfer God’s honor to dead stones or stocks, than to those constellations in which something divine shines forth, so much more detestable are they who plunge themselves into such stupidity.

4. Then three shalt inquire 307307     A.V., translates this word in the past tense, “and hast inquired." diligently. Although this moderation here refers only to the present matter, yet should it always be maintained in judicial proceedings, lest innocent persons should be treated with undue severity. Again, we must remember what I have said elsewhere, that judges are here not only restrained from precipitate condemnation, but also stimulated to beware of passing over, in idleness or negligence, anything that was necessary to be known. For they often fail in their duty, because they wilfully connive at guilt; and thus that which would be manifest if they would be at the pains to make more diligent inquiry, does not come to light. God, then, would not have them slumber nor take no notice of sinister reports, but rather inquire diligently as to things which may have come to their cars, so that no crime may remain unpunished. The same is the case as to witnesses; for whilst it would be unjust to pronounce sentence on the testimony of one man, still, if two or three will not suffice, there would be no end to litigation. Fitly, then, has God prescribed to judges both that they shall not be rashly credulous, and yet that they shall be content with the lawful number of witnesses; but this point will be more largely treated of elsewhere in commenting both on the Sixth and Ninth Commandments.

As His severity in exacting punishment, where murder has been unquestionably committed, shows how highly God rates the life of men, so the qualification, which we find here, declares, that he takes equal care for the preservation of innocent blood. For, since too great credulity would often impel the judges to condemn the guiltless, He here applies a remedy to this evil, forbidding that the crime should be punished unless proved by sure testimony. Although He has naturally inscribed this law upon every heart, yet he would have it written down, that its observance amongst the Israelites might be more sacred; for nothing is more dangerous than to expose men’s lives to the tongue of a single individual; but, where the consent of two or three is carefully weighed, any lurking falsehood is for the most part detected.

Lest, therefore, any one should be rashly condemned, and so innocence should be oppressed by any light conjectures, or insufficient accusations, or unjust prejudices, God here interferes, and does not allow any to be harshly dealt with, unless duly convicted.

7. The hands of the witnesses shall be first. It was not without reason that God would have criminals put to death by the hand of those by whose testimony they were condemned. The ancient people did not employ public executioners, that there might be more solemnity, modesty, and reverence in the infliction of punishments. This office he peculiarly enjoins upon the witnesses, because the tongue of many is too hasty, not to say worse of it, so that they do not hesitate to stab people verbally, when they would not dare to lay a finger upon them. This, then, was an excellent remedy for the repression of light accusations, not to admit the testimony of any, whose hand was not prepared to execute the sentence. Stoning was indeed a sad and horrible kind of punishment; but it is probable that God made choice of it because it required the application of many hands. If hanging had not been in use, God would have commanded in vain that the corpse of a man who had been hanged should be taken down from the tree before sunset. (Deuteronomy 21:23.) There were, therefore, other kinds of capital punishment; but when the land was to be purged, as by a propitiation, by the death of the sinner, he was to be stoned by the hands of the whole people, since it would have been cruel for him to be slain by a lingering death, which would have been the case if they had stoned him one after another. The reason why the people were commanded to cast the stones with one consent was, that they might give proof of their zeal, and manifest their great indignation that God’s worship had been violated.

8 If there arise a matter too hard for thee. The principal office of the priests is here described under a single head, viz., that they should declare what was right in doubtful and obscure matters out of the Law of God; for although God seems only to refer to civil controversies, yet there is no doubt but that by synecdoche He appoints them to be interpreters of the doctrine of the Law. That their authority might be more reverenced in general, He commands the people to acquiesce in their judgment even on the most disagreeable points: for if their sentence is to be submitted to where a man’s life is in question, or when any disputes are to be settled, much more is all exception taken away with respect to God’s worship and spiritual doctrine. I confess that the priests are not the sole judges here appointed, but that others of the people are associated with them as colleagues, yet the dignity of the priesthood is especially exalted. The opinion which some hold, that the high priest alone is intended by the word judge, is easily refuted; because Moses distinctly enumerates the priests, the Levites, and the judge. But it is probable that there is by enallage a change of number in it; for it appears from the sacred history that several were appointed, where Jehoshaphat is related to have chosen “of the Levites, and of the priests, and of the chief of the fathers of Israel” to preside at Jerusalem in judgment. (2 Chronicles 19:8.) Assuredly the pious king would have been unwilling to depart in the very least degree from the rule of the Law, and his zeal is praised by the Holy Spirit Himself: but this was the arrangement made, as appears a little further on, that the high priest held the primacy “in matters of the Lord,” and the king’s governor attended to civil causes and earthly affairs. And thus again is confirmed what I have lately adverted to, i.e., that the office of teaching was entrusted to the priests, that they might solve any difficult questions, which is also supported by the words of Jehoshaphat, when he says, “And what cause soever shall come to you of your brethren — between blood and blood, between law and commandment, statutes and judgments, ye shall even warn them that they trespass not against the Lord.” (2 Chronicles 19:10.)

Certainly, as the cognisance of capital crimes properly belonged to judges of the other tribes, so determinations as to precepts and statutes, and the interpretation of the whole Law, was the peculiar province of the priests; nor can we doubt but that the words of Malachi, (Malachi 2:7,) “the priests’ lips should keep knowledge, and they should seek the law at his mouth: for he is the messenger of the Lord of hosts,” were taken from this passage. Now, to come to the sum of this, God appoints the seat of judgment to be at the sanctuary; for, although in the first verse He seems to nominate the priests and judges indiscriminately to the decision of earthly quarrels, yet in the fourth verse from this He sufficiently shews that another province is committed to the priests, i.e., to keep the people in sound and pure doctrine, and to expound what is right — in a word, to be the teachers of the Church. But, although the people were to assent to whatever they should decide, so that it would be sinful for them to decline from it to the right hand or the left, yet a tyrannical power was not thus put into their hands, as if, when they had arbitrarily changed light into darkness, their perverted decisions were to be deemed oracular. Their interpretation was to be received without appeal; yet, on the other hand, this rule was prescribed to them, that they should speak as from the mouth of God. It is true that the word here used is, תורה, 206206     על-פי תורה, ver. 11. “According to the sentence of the law,” A. V. The noun תורה is avowedly formed from the verb, ירה whose most ordinary meaning in Hiphil is to teach. Hence the noun in its primary meaning signifies teaching. פי is the mouth, and hence the voice, which proceeds from it. על-פי according to the word, or declaration. . W. thorah; which, although it means teaching, yet undoubtedly signifies that teaching which is comprised in the Law, nay, it is equivalent to the word law. And of this Jehoshaphat is a faithful interpreter, when he enumerates the divisions, of which Scripture everywhere shews the Law of Moses to consist. Although פי, phi, taken metaphorically, is equivalent in Hebrew to discourse, yet it here emphatically expresses the sentence which shall be taken from the pure teaching of the Law. The children of Israel, therefore, are commanded to do what the priests shall have taught them; but how? according to the sentence taken from the Law. Nor can it be doubted but that God at the same time furnished those, whom He desired to exalt to such a high dignity, with the spirit of understanding and rectitude, that they might not deliver any improper sentence. And this also is conveyed by the promise, “They shall shew thee the sentence of judgment:” since it would have been absurd that the people should have obeyed God in vain, and to their own destruction. Since now one sole Priest, who is also our Master, even Christ, is set over us, wo be unto us if we do not simply submit ourselves to His word, and are not ready to obey Him, with all the modesty and teachableness that becomes us.

He pronounces a similar punishment on those who shall have contumaciously rejected the judgment of the priests. We have already seen that the prophetical office was united with the priesthood; since, according to Malachi 2:4, the covenant of God was with Levi, that his descendants might be the guardians of His knowledge, and the interpreters of His law: yet God often punished the laxity of the priests, by setting other teachers over his people. At any rate, both were ambassadors for Him. Since, therefore, the authority of the prophets had been sanctioned above, the same rights are now conferred upon the priests; nor is this surprising, for it was no trifling crime to despise God, the appointer of this order. Yet we must remember what I have elsewhere stated, that the priests were not armed with tyrannical authority, so that it was sinful to reject whatever they might have decreed according to their own fancy. For neither did God dethrone Himself when He appointed them, nor did He bind men’s consciences to obey their ordinances without distinction, but only would put reins on the audacity of those who have no scruple in undervaluing the government of the Church. For this must be considered, that foul and horrible would be the disorder, if men were promiscuously permitted to reject whatever the rulers of the Church may have appointed; and it would be ridiculous that persons should be called to govern, to whom no dignity should be accorded; and, therefore, natural reason itself shews and dictates, that the reverence, which is here demanded, is due to all lawful commands. God was the author of the priesthood: He, too, ordained judges. What could be more absurd than that they should be despised and laughed at with impunity, who presided in the name and by the command of God? But He has never exalted a mortal man so high as to abdicate His own rights; nay, it was often necessary boldly to reject what the priests had commanded. Urijah the priest built a profane altar in the fashion of that at Damascus, which Ahaz had sent, and offered a sacrifice thereon, 5555     “Ce vilein traistre Urie y offroit;” that vile traitor Urijah offered on it. — Fr. (2 Kings 16:12,) was it necessary that Isaiah should acquiesce in this? Nay, detestable was the adulation of all who assented to the decree of a wicked and perfidious priest. Moreover, we see that the prophets were very often so far from agreeing with the priests, that they waged open war with them. But the whole of this matter is decided by the words of Moses, for he does not unreservedly condemn all who should not obey, but restricts his law by the addition of a special mark, viz., if the contempt should arise from presumption or arrogance. Therefore it was not else a capital crime to disobey the priest or the judge, unless any one should insolently and proudly oppose himself to the ordinance established by God. Otherwise this exception would have been interposed without reason. In fine, the priests of old were to be obeyed, as far as it concerned the public peace that the pastors ordained by God should be reverently honored; yet so as that there should be no departure from God Himself, the one Head and Prince of all pastors. We have elsewhere seen how foolishly the Papists take this to themselves 5656     “Combien les Papistes sont sots et badins, voulant faire leur profit de ce passage;” how silly and trifling the Papists are, in seeking to make their profit of this passage. — Fr.

13. And all the people. He shews from the object of the enactment why the proud despisers (of the priests) were not to be spared; for punishments have reference to common example, whilst, on the other hand, impunity is a bait to sin, and the nurse of unbridled licentiousness. And, assuredly, when He commands that the whole people should be inspired with terror, it is a hint that, unless presumption should be corrected, and the bold and wicked should be restrained by severe discipline, the door would be opened to them to destroy the Church.

14. When thou art come unto the land. In this passage God sets forth the merits of that sacerdotal kingdom, of which mention is made elsewhere; for, since the splendor of the royal name might dazzle their eyes, so that they should forget that God retained the sovereignty over them, they are thus early admonished how unjust it would be if the majesty of God should be diminished by the rule of a mortal man. In sum, the power of kings is here put beneath that of God; and kings themselves are consecrated unto obedience to Him, lest the people should ever turn to ungodliness, whatever change of government might take place. But although under the judges religion was often subverted, yet it was not without a cause that a special law was enacted with respect to kings, because nothing is more likely than that earthly pomps should draw men away from piety. Now we understand the design of God in this matter, let us proceed to examine its several parts. He passes over (as I have said) all the intermediate time until the beginning of the kingdom, because this new state of things brought with it an increase of danger: for as long as the judges were in power, their different form of government separated the Jews from heathen nations. All the surrounding neighbors were subject to kings; and God always retained the preeminence, whilst He raised up judges from amongst the people; but when they began to choose kings for themselves, they were so mixed up with the Gentiles, that it was easy for them to fall into other corruptions. For the very similarity (of their governments) united them more closely; wherefore, it is expressly said, When thou shalt set a king over thee “like as all the nations that are about” thee. For God signifies that the example of the nations would be an evil snare to them, that they should desire to have a king, and thus their condition would in future be identical, though by divine decree it had been distinct. In short, their rebellion is here indirectly condemned, when God foretells that they would wantonly shake off their yoke; as indeed actually took place, when they rejected Samuel, and tumultuously required a king. On which point God elsewhere complains that He was despised. But the question arises, how these two things can be reconciled, that kings should reign over them from the lust or foolish desire of the people, and yet that the kingdom was the chief glory of the people, a special pledge of God’s favor, and consequently of their welfare and full felicity. The prophecy of Jacob is well known,

"The scepter shall not depart from Judah, — until Shiloh come.” (Genesis 49:10.)

Whence it appears that a king was promised to the children of Abraham as an inestimable blessing. Why, then, does not God declare Himself its author? I reply that, although it was God’s design from the beginning to set up David as a type of Christ, yet, because their unseemly haste disturbed the order of things, the commencement of the kingdom is ascribed to the people’s fault, when they were impelled by their perverse emulation to wish to be like the Gentiles. God appears then to have designedly censured their wilfulness, as if He had said, “Although by appointing a king, you approach more nearly to the Gentiles, beware lest your perverse desire should altogether turn you away from true religion.

15. Thou shalt in any wise set him king over thee. First of all, God maintains His own supremacy in the appointment of a king, and does not consign the matter to the people’s own suffrages; that thus He may chastise their audacity in demanding a king in accordance with a hasty impulse. Secondly, He commands that he should be taken from the people themselves, and excludes foreigners, because, if they had been admitted, a door was opened to apostasy; for each would have tried to force upon them his native gods, and true religion would have been persecuted by the force and threatenings of the royal power. Behold why God would not suffer a king to be sought elsewhere but from the bosom of His Church; in order that he might cherish and maintain that pure worship which he had imbibed from his childhood.

16 But he shall not multiply horses. The royal power is here circumscribed within certain limits, lest it should exalt itself too much in reliance on the glory of its dignity, 7070     Addition in Fr,Et face du cheval eschappe;” and act like a runaway horse For we know how insatiable are the desires of kings, inasmuch as they imagine that all things are lawful to them. Therefore, although the royal dignity may be splendid, God would not have it to be the pretext of unrestrained power, but restricts and limits it to legal bounds. 7171     “Le mot que nous avons translate au reste ” In the Latin, verum; A. V., but. רק, rak, is an adversative particle which some construe only; almost with the same meaning, because this exception was added to restrain the passions of their kings. The first prohibition is, that he should not collect for himself a multitude of horses; but, since it is twice repeated, we must consider why it is so. Many thus translate it, “He shall not multiply horses, nor cause the people to return to Egypt, to multiply horses;” but this manner of speaking is harsh and obscure. Now, since the particle למען lemagnan, signifies “for the sake of (propter), it may be properly translated to the letter, “for the sake of multiplying horses,” (propter multiplicare, vel propter ad multiplicandum.) I have no doubt, then, but that God condemns an immoderate number of horses from the consequences which might ensue; because it might excite the minds of the kings rashly to undertake expeditions against the Egyptians. This, therefore, I consider to be the genuine meaning, that the king should not provide himself with horses in too great numbers, lest, when he was in possession of many horses, he should lead his army into Egypt. Thus, amongst other evils which might arise from a multitude of horses, Moses mentions this, that the king’s mind will be puffed up with pride, so as to invade Egypt with an army of horse. Now, the question is, why God forbade His people to return by that way? Some explain it, that the horses would be brought contrary to God’s command, who had forbidden them to trade (with that people;) 7272     Addition from Fr. but this does not seem appropriate. Others think that the people were prohibited from passing the desert, lest in their curiosity they should be ungrateful to God; but this, too, is far-farfetched. To me it seems probable, that this journey was prohibited them, in order that, being mindful of their deliverance, they should be content with their own boundaries. They had been rescued from a thousand deaths: if they had voluntarily gone thither to provoke an adversary, their confidence would have been a sign of their despising and forgetting God’s grace. Therefore, in order that the recollection of their redemption should be deeply impressed upon their minds, God would have the honor put upon His miracles, that they should avoid those regions like the abysses of death. Unless perhaps this reason may be preferred, that a handle for those wicked alliances was cut off, which we see were audaciously contracted, because the kings of Israel gloried in the abundance of their cavalry. But the former explanation is most suitable. This law, however, was not obeyed by their best kings; and hence it appears that the wilfulness and pride of their kings could scarcely be repressed by any restraints.

17 Neither shall he multiply wives to himself. Polygamy at that time had generally prevailed, so that the very humblest of the people violated the marriage vow with impunity; and therefore it was necessary that the kings should be bound with closer restrictions, lest by their example they should give greater countenance to incontinency. And thus their ignorance is easily refuted who conclude that what was specially interdicted to the kings was permitted to private individuals, whereas the law of chastity was imposed upon the former, because without this remedy there would be no bounds to their lasciviousness. Besides, the people would have been subjected to great expense on their account, since such is the ambition of women, that they would all have desired to receive royal treatment, and would have even vied with each other in finery, as actually came to pass. David transgressed this law, and in some degree excusably on account of his repudiation by Michal; still it appears that lust had more power over him than the continency prescribed by God. What follows is so connected by some as if it were the reason of the foregoing sentence, in this way, “that kings were not to multiply wives to themselves, lest their heart should turn away from what was right,” as was the case with Solomon; for, from being too devoted to his wives, and being deceived by the snares of women, he fell into idolatry. And assuredly it can scarcely fail to happen, that when many wives beset a man, they must render his mind effeminate, and stifle in him all his manly good sense. Yet I prefer taking the clause separately, that kings must beware lest the splendor of their dignity should affect the soundness of their judgment, for nothing is more difficult than for one in great power to continue disposed to temperance. Therefore God does not in vain enjoin that they should constantly persevere in their duty, and not lose their understanding. Moreover, He forbids kings to heap up treasures, because it cannot be done without rapine and violent exactions; whilst, at the same time, wealth encourages them audaciously to undertake unjust wars, incites them to gross dissipation, and at length hurries them forward to tyrannical excesses. First, therefore, God would have kings beware, lest in their pursuit of riches they should exhaust the blood of the people, and lest they should lavish their ill-gotten money in superfluous expenses, and be extravagant with what belongs to others; and lastly, lest they should be tempted by the pride of wealth to attempt unlawful things.

18. And it shall be, when he sitteth upon the throne. It would not be enough to correct their errors unless kings were also instructed in the fear of God, and properly taught their duty; now, therefore, a system of discipline is added, whereby it was profitable for them to be grounded in the study of religion and justice, viz., that they should take the Law from the priests and Levites, which was to be the rule of all their actions. Because the demonstrative pronoun is used, 7373     “Pource qu’il dit, de ceste loy;” because he says, of this law.Fr. The LXX. translation is, Καὶ γράψει ἑαυτῷ τὸ Δευτερονόμιον τῦτο εἰς βιβλίον παρὰ τῶν ἱερέων τῶν Λευιτῶν C. seems to overlook the command that it should be transcribed by the king himself, of which, notwithstanding the opinion of some ancient commentators, the words appear to leave no doubt. some think that only the book of Deuteronomy is referred to, but without good reason. I make no doubt but that the whole sum of doctrine is included, which is delivered both here and in Exodus and Leviticus. But although it was without exception to be common to all, yet in order that kings might be more assiduously attentive in reading it, God would have a copy peculiarly dedicated to their use by the priests and Levites, and given into their hands in a solemn ceremony; that kings might know that they required greater wisdom and counsel for ruling the people than private persons. When, therefore, the priests and Levites presented them with this book, it was as if God deposited this treasure with the king. He then enjoins that they should exercise themselves in the doctrine of the Law through the whole course of their lives, because kings are usually supplied with books only out of ostentation and pomp, and when they have tasted of what is taught in them, straightway grow tired and cease to read them. Finally, the object of their reading is subjoined: first of all, in general, that they may learn to fear God and keep His statutes; and, secondly, lest, being lifted up with pride and vanity, they should despise and oppress their brethren. And the word brethren is used designedly, lest they should imagine that the law of brotherhood was abolished, because they were set over the whole people; but rather that they should study to cherish all as members (of themselves.) Again, it is afterwards repeated, lest they should “turn aside to the right hand or the left;” because, when men have much liberty of action, their lusts can never be sufficiently restrained. But, lest it should be grievous to them to be thus reduced to order, finally God reminds them that this moderation would be useful to them, for that they thus would prolong their reigns; whereas the tyranny of kings is often their destruction; as the Lacedemonian king replied, when his wife was annoyed that the Ephori were appointed to restrain him, “that he should indeed leave less power to his children, but that it would be the more lasting. 7474     This anecdote of Theopompus is mentioned by Aristotle, Pol. v. 11; Plutarch, in vita Lycurgi, Section 7; and Valerius Max., lib. 4. cap. 1. Section 8. But, here a long succession is promised by God’s favor, if they were willing to guide themselves aright.




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