Reading: Deuteronomy 17
1 “You shall not sacrifice to the LORD your God an ox or a sheep in which is a blemish, any defect whatever, for that is an abomination to the LORD your God. 2 “If there is found among you, within any of your towns that the LORD your God is giving you, a man or woman who does what is evil in the sight of the LORD your God, in transgressing his covenant, 3 and has gone and served other gods and worshiped them, or the sun or the moon or any of the host of heaven, which I have forbidden, 4 and it is told you and you hear of it, then you shall inquire diligently, and if it is true and certain that such an abomination has been done in Israel, 5 then you shall bring out to your gates that man or woman who has done this evil thing, and you shall stone that man or woman to death with stones. 6 On the evidence of two witnesses or of three witnesses the one who is to die shall be put to death; a person shall not be put to death on the evidence of one witness. 7 The hand of the witnesses shall be first against him to put him to death, and afterward the hand of all the people. So you shall purge the evil from your midst.
8 “If any case arises requiring decision between one kind of homicide and another, one kind of legal right and another, or one kind of assault and another, any case within your towns that is too difficult for you, then you shall arise and go up to the place that the LORD your God will choose. 9 And you shall come to the Levitical priests and to the judge who is in office in those days, and you shall consult them, and they shall declare to you the decision. 10 Then you shall do according to what they declare to you from that place that the LORD will choose. And you shall be careful to do according to all that they direct you. 11 According to the instructions that they give you, and according to the decision which they pronounce to you, you shall do. You shall not turn aside from the verdict that they declare to you, either to the right hand or to the left. 12 The man who acts presumptuously by not obeying the priest who stands to minister there before the LORD your God, or the judge, that man shall die. So you shall purge the evil from Israel. 13 And all the people shall hear and fear and not act presumptuously again.
14 “When you come to the land that the LORD your God is giving you, and you possess it and dwell in it and then say, ‘I will set a king over me, like all the nations that are around me,’ 15 you may indeed set a king over you whom the LORD your God will choose. One from among your brothers you shall set as king over you. You may not put a foreigner over you, who is not your brother. 16 Only he must not acquire many horses for himself or cause the people to return to Egypt in order to acquire many horses, since the LORD has said to you, ‘You shall never return that way again.’ 17 And he shall not acquire many wives for himself, lest his heart turn away, nor shall he acquire for himself excessive silver and gold.
18 “And when he sits on the throne of his kingdom, he shall write for himself in a book a copy of this law, approved by the Levitical priests. 19 And it shall be with him, and he shall read in it all the days of his life, that he may learn to fear the LORD his God by keeping all the words of this law and these statutes, and doing them, 20 that his heart may not be lifted up above his brothers, and that he may not turn aside from the commandment, either to the right hand or to the left, so that he may continue long in his kingdom, he and his children, in Israel.
We learned in Deuteronomy 16:18-20 that Israel would need honest judges who will not take bribes. In Deuteronomy 17 Moses continues teaching about justice. Justice is scarce in this world, today as much as ever. You can hear people crying out for it, but no one seems to know what it ought to look like.
In Deuteronomy 17:1-13 we learn principles of criminal justice that remain foundational in the best justice systems in the world today. The founding fathers of our nation got their ideas about justice from Deuteronomy 17. What should people do when there is an accusation of wrongdoing?
- Investigate thoroughly.
- To ascertain guilt, there must be two eyewitnesses, not just one or none. These people must have seen the offence firsthand, not just heard about it.
- The witnesses should throw the first stones at his execution.
- If you cannot decide the charge, ask the priesthood (the religious lawyers) and be content with their judgment. The proper charge is not for the injured person to decide.
Deuteronomy 17:14-20 Moses teaches Israel about the kind of king they will need in the Promised Land. Leadership is always of the highest importance for nations, states, cities, churches, and families. The world is starving for leaders of godly character who are committed to truth.
What is curious here is that God’s people have never had a king nor have ever asked for one. What is God doing? This is the beginning of one of the most important themes in the Bible. God plans to set a king on the throne of Israel who will lead His people in the right way to the right end. A king over the people of God is God’s idea. Ultimately this king will be Jesus the Messiah (which means God’s Savior King).
But we learn here the qualifications of the right kind of king. King David will come close. He will fit the description until he doesn’t. What should the king of the people of God be like?
- He will be chosen by God.
- He will be from Israel.
- He shall not build a big army (horses).
- He shall not multiply wives to himself.
- He shall not gather riches for himself.
- He is himself to read Torah and write a copy of Torah for himself.
- He is to fear God and be humble and keep God’s commandments so that he and his sons will live long in his kingdom.
How does Jesus fulfill each of these qualities?