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Bible Commentaries

John Dummelow's Commentary on the Bible

Deuteronomy 17

 

 

Verses 1-20


The Punishment of Idolatry. Controversies to be Settled by Priests and Judges. Election and Duties of a King

1. Cp. Leviticus 22:17-25.

2. Wickedness] idolatry, as in Deuteronomy 4:25.

5. Unto thy gates] see on Genesis 19:1.

7. The hands of the witnesses] This regulation, by throwing the responsibility of the execution upon the witnesses, would act as a safeguard against false evidence: see on Leviticus 24:14.

8-13. Difficult cases are to be referred to a supreme court of judicature, consisting of the priests and the chief magistrate, whose decision is final. This court is to sit at the central sanctuary: see 2 Chronicles 19:8-11.

10. Inform thee] rather, 'direct thee.' The common Heb. word for 'law' is derived from this verb and means really 'direction.'

14-20. The Law of the Kingdom. It is to be observed that the people are not commanded to appoint a king, as in the case of the judges (Deuteronomy 16:18). But the desire for a king is anticipated and is not disapproved. The kingdom is theocratic, i.e. the king is the vice-gerent or representative of God and is chosen by Him. The law of the kingdom is the law of God (Deuteronomy 17:18-20). The Church and the State are identical.

14. Like as all the nations] cp. the actual words of the people in 1 Samuel 8:20.

15. Not a stranger] i.e. a foreigner, a non-Israelite: because Israel is the peculiar people of Jehovah. The Jews were always intolerant of foreign authority: cp. Matthew 22:17. Messiah when He came was to rid them of the foreign yoke: see Acts 1:6.

16. Not multiply horses] The horse is here forbidden, not as an article of luxury but as an instrument of warfare, in which the kings of Israel are not to trust: cp. Psalms 20:7; Psalms 33:16-17; Psalms 147:10. Canaan was not suitable for cavalry, and the conquest of the country was effected by infantry, whose superiority was due to the hilly nature of the country. Solomon imported horses from Egypt (1 Kings 10:26, 1 Kings 10:28), and similar reliance upon Egypt was a frequent snare to the Israelites against which the prophets raised a warning voice: see Isaiah 31:1; Ezekiel 17:15. Horses were also dedicated to the sun-god by the idolatrous kings of Israel: see 2 Kings 23:11, and on Exodus 9:8.

17. Solomon transgressed this commandment with precisely the result here fore-told: 1 Kings 11:1-4, and cp. Nehemiah 13:26.

18. A copy of this law] i.e. not merely the law of the kingdom contained in Deuteronomy 17:14-20, but the entire Deuteronomio law which is in the custody of the priests: see on Deuteronomy 31:9, Deuteronomy 31:24-26. At the coronation of Josiah the 'testimony' was put into his hands (2 Chronicles 23:11); and to this day, when a Christian monarch is crowned, the Bible is delivered to him with the words: 'We present you with this book, the most valuable thing that the world affords. Here is wisdom; this is the royal law: these are the lively (i.e. living) oracles of God,' signifying that the law of God is to be the rule of his kingdom. In LXX the words a copy of this law are represented by the single word 'deuteronomion,' from which the title of the whole book is derived: see Intro. § 1.

20. And his children] an indication that a hereditary dynasty is not inconsistent with divine choice.

 


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Bibliography Information
Dummelow, John. "Commentary on Deuteronomy 17:4". "John Dummelow's Commentary on the Bible". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/dcb/deuteronomy-17.html. 1909.

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