December 14, 2015.
Daily Reading: Deuteronomy 16-19.
Background: Deuteronomy 13-15.
Concepts and Connections.
The Passover, Feast of Weeks and Feast of Booths: The main body of this passage deals with three feasts that the children of Israel were to hold each year as memorials and religious ceremonies to the Lord God. The first is the Passover, which is dealt with extensively throughout the Law (see Exodus 12). Here it would seem that Moses focuses on the non-use of leaven during these seven days (as all the leaven was not even to be seen during this time) to remember how the children of Israel had to go out of Egypt in haste, and the command that the children of Israel could not hold the Passover anywhere they wanted, but only in the place where the Lord their God would choose to make His name dwell. The second feast described here is the Feast of Weeks, which was to be kept seven weeks after the first harvest (see Leviticus 23:15-22). This was a time of celebration and freewill offering, remembering that they were once slaves in Egypt. The third feast discussed here is the Feast of Booths, which was to last seven days, beginning when the produce from the threshing floor and winepress was gathered. This was again a time of rejoicing and the blessing of God. These three feasts were a time when all the men of the children of Israel would appear before the Lord in the place of his choosing, which would eventually be Jerusalem. The ending of this chapter deals with two different subjects. The first is about justice, setting up a court system to ensure justice in the towns. They were to uphold justice and not show partiality or accept bribes. The second subject was the command not to plant a tree next to the altar of the Lord for the purpose of using it as an Asherah, which was a foreign god made of wood.
Wickedness, court and laws concerning kings: This chapter can be divided into three sections, each dealing with a different aspect of law. The first deals with wickedness that is found within Israel. After a short mention of sacrificing only animals with out blemish to God, Moses tells the people that if any is found in one of their cities that does what is evil in the sight of the Lord and it is proven to be true after inquiring diligently, that person was to be stoned outside the camp. However, a death sentence could only be issued on the account of two to three witnesses, and never on one witness alone. The purpose of this stoning was to purge the evil from their midst, so that they would not be carried away into wickedness. Paul uses this concept in I Corinthians 5:12-13 to warn the church about continuing to associate with a so called brother who continues in sin.
Then Moses talks about deciding between legal and criminal cases that are too difficult for the justice system set up in each city, telling them to take these difficult cases to the place where God chose to make His name dwell (Jerusalem) and put the case before the Levitical priests to make the judgment. They would have the final say in the matter, and the people who brought the case before them were to be careful to do all that they said about the matter, not turing to the right or left. If they did not listen, they would be sentenced to death, similarly to what was said in the first section.
Finally, there is an interesting section about laws concerning the kings of Israel. Israel at this time did not have a king, nor would then until they called for one in I Samuel 8. But here, some laws and wisdom is laid out for when they do decide to put a king over them, whom the Lord would choose. It was to be someone from the children of Israel, not a foreigner, and he was not to gather supplies to return to Egypt. He was also not to acquire many wives or much wealth, lest he become prideful or his wives turn his heart away. He was to write a copy of the law and read it all the days of his life, learning to fear the Lord and keep the statues and commands. The point was to keep his heart focused on the Lord, that it may be well with him and the kingdom. This would be good advise that wasn’t always taken.
The Levites, abominable practices and the Prophet: This chapter, similar to the previous, can be divided into three sections. The first deals with the provisions for the priests and Levites who were among the children of Israel. The tribe of Levi was to receive no physical land inheritance as the other tribes did because their inheritance was the Lord, the priesthood. Thus, they were to take their inheritance from the sacrifices and offerings made to the Lord, for this was their portion. Levites were always to be given the portion laid out here.
Next, Moses deals with the abominations of the inhabitants of the land that the children of Israel were about to enter into. He warns the people not to follow after these practices, including offering their children to a false god, fortune-tellers, diviners, necromancers, etc.. These were all abominations in the sight of the Lord, and the children of Israel were not to partake in these whatsoever.
Finally, the last section in this chapter deals with the Prophet that God would raise up in the future who would be like Moses. This is a reference to Jesus, who would establish a new covenant and bring salvation to the world (see Acts 3:22, 7:37, Hebrews 8-10). This was a key passage for the Jews, as we see they were actively awaiting this prophet in Jesus’ time (see John 1:21). Then Moses goes on to give a little more insight about how to test a prophet, for any prophet who spoke in the name of the Lord when the Lord had not given him a word to speak would be in trouble. Moses said that if a prophet predicted something, and it did not come to pass, then they could know for sure that this was not the word that the Lord had spoken and the prophet had spooking presumptuously. They shouldn’t, then, listen to his words or threats.
Cities of refuge and laws concerning witnesses: For notes on the cities of refuge, see Numbers 35 and Joshua 20. In brief, the cites of refuge were designated cites where someone who had accidentally killed someone (without intent to kill them) could flee to and be safe from the avenger of blood, who would likely be a close relative of the person who died. This was for unintentional killing, not murder. If someone killed another with intent, the elders of the city of refuge were to give the murderer over to the avenger of blood that he might die for his guilt. Then there is a law given that said no one was to move a neighbor’s landmark marking their inheritance. Finally, Moses expounds on the multiple witness law, affirming that a charge could only be established on the basis of 2-3 witnesses. The priests and judges were to inquire diligently to see if the witness was had accused his brother falsely, and if this was found to be the case, the false witness was to receive any punishment that the one he was charging would have received.
Tomorrow’s Reading: Ezra 5-10.
Be bold in the Lord.