March 18, 2023
Deuteronomy chapters 17 through 20 teach us about sacrifices made without defects, law courts, whether Israel wants a king, practices in the occult, and the prophets God raises up.
Chapter 17 –
Since the proper worship of God was the most serious issue in Israel, judging the cases of those accused of violating it was a serious matter. Moses had already established a system of justice in the wilderness to hear and rule on cases so what he laid out here was not entirely new.
The accused could not be condemned based on the testimony of a single person. It would take the testimony of two or three witnesses who not only stood by their testimony but were the first to execute punishment. If a local judge felt the case was to difficult the case would be heard by the religious and civil leaders, the Levitical priests and the judge who presided (who presided in the given) time. The judge’s decision was final – no appeals.
Next God provided instructions when Israel would become a monarchy, which was to be a momentous day in their history. God would still bless them as long as the king obeyed God. He cannot be a foreigner, cannot acquire many horses which require going back to Egypt which God forbid. Later will see Solomon, although wise, broke all the commandments given.
Chapter 18 –
Levitical priests were those men in the tribe set apart by the Lord to offer sacrifices and administer other duties of the tabernacle (and later the temple). Moses then turns from teaching about true worship to warning against false worship. The most horrific practice of the nations was to sacrifice one’s child in the fire to the gods (18:10). The rest of the occult practices are seen in divination (the attempt to get secret information through by interpreting omens or looking at astrology. The second category was sorcery and spells. Moses here is talking about witchcraft, the attempt to reach a spiritual realm what human power alone cannot pull off. The third one being spiritism which involves the attempt to get in touch with spiritual intermediaries through hypnotic trance.
All of these are detestable to God. Previously, when God gave Moses the law the people were so terrified of His voice and His fire, they thought they would die. God told them he would hold accountable anyone who did not listen to the prophet.
Chapter 19 –
There were numerous regulations covering every aspect of life that Moses wanted to review before crossing the Jordan into Canaan. He commands them to establish three cities as cities of refuge. He then offers an example of who might go to one of these cities – someone who had accidentally killed a fellow man. Moving a neighbor’s boundary was another serious offense. Anyone doing this was placed under God’s curse.
He had already established the rule of two or three witnesses as a necessary to convict a man. Testimony had to be corroborated.
Chapter 20 –
Moses’ next message for Israel concerned how to conduct themselves during war, especially in light of their upcoming battles. This message was as much for Joshua as for any member of the community. The priest was to lead them into battle and give the troops a divine talk before the battle reminding to not fear their enemy. The Lord would fight the battle for them.
God permitted soldiers exemptions for a given battle if they met any of the four conditions:
- If the had built a house and had not lived in it,
- If the planted a vineyard but had not been able to enjoy it’s fruit,
- If they were engaged and waiting to be married,
- If they were a coward.
The first three had to do with a lack of fulfillment in pursuing life’s basic pleasures. The fourth was so they would not discourage other soldiers in battle.
Enemy cities outside the promised land were offered terms of peace which they could accept on the condition they become forced laborers to Israel, if they refused then that led to siege by the Israelites. But no such offer of peace was to be made to the Canaanites. Israel was to completely destroy every living thing among them. They were not to decimate the land since it was the promised land.