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Bible Commentaries

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged

Deuteronomy 12

 

 

Verse 1

These are the statutes and judgments, which ye shall observe to do in the land, which the LORD God of thy fathers giveth thee to possess it, all the days that ye live upon the earth.

Deuteronomy 12:1-4. MONUMENTS OF IDOLATRY TO BE DESTROYED.

These are the statutes and judgments ... Having in the preceding chapter inculcated upon the Israelites the general obligation to fear and love God, Moses here enters into a detail of some special duties they were to practice on their obtaining possession of the promised land.


Verse 2

Ye shall utterly destroy all the places, wherein the nations which ye shall possess served their gods, upon the high mountains, and upon the hills, and under every green tree:

Ye shall utterly destroy all the places wherein the nations ... served their gods. This divine command was founded on the tendencies of human nature; because, to remove out of sight everything that had been associated with idolatry, that it might never be spoken of, and no vestige of it remain, was the only effectual way to keep the Israelites from temptations to it.

It is observable that Moses does not make any mention of temples, because such buildings were not in existence at that early period. The "places" chosen as the scene of pagan worship were situated either on the summit of a lofty mountain, or on some artificial mound, or in a grove planted with green trees, such as oaks, white poplars, and elms-probably terebinths (Isaiah 57:5-7; Hosea 4:13 : cf. 1 Kings 14:23; 2 Kings 17:10-11; Ezekiel 20:28). The reason for the selection of such sites was both to secure retirement and to direct the attention upward to heaven; and the 'place' was nothing else than a consecrated enclosure, or at most a canopy or screen from the weather, though they were often prostituted to the horridly cruel and licentious rites that characterized the worship of the Syrian goddess Astarte.


Verse 3

And ye shall overthrow their altars, and break their pillars, and burn their groves with fire; and ye shall hew down the graven images of their gods, and destroy the names of them out of that place.

Overthrow their altars - piles of turf or small stones.

Break their pillars. Before the art of sculpture was known, the statues of idols were only rude blocks of coloured stones (see the note at Deuteronomy 7:5).


Verse 4

Ye shall not do so unto the LORD your God.

No JFB commentary on this verse.


Verse 5

But unto the place which the LORD your God shall choose out of all your tribes to put his name there, even unto his habitation shall ye seek, and thither thou shalt come:

Unto the place which the Lord ... shall choose out of ... They were forbidden to worship either in the impure superstitious manner of the pagan, or in any of the places frequented by them. A particular place for the general rendezvous of all the tribes would be chosen by God Himself; and the choice of one common place for the solemn rites of religion was an act of divine wisdom for the security of the true religion. It was admirably calculated to prevent the corruption which would otherwise have crept in from their frequenting groves and high hills, to preserve uniformity of worship, and keep alive their faith in Him to whom all their sacrifices pointed.

The place was successively Shiloh, and especially Jerusalem, at the front door of the national sanctuary; but in all the references made to it by Moses the name is never mentioned; and this studied silence was maintained partly lest the Canaanites, within whose territory it lay, might have concentrated their forces to frustrate all hopes of obtaining it; partly lest the desire of possessing a place of such importance might have become a cause of strife or rivalry among the Hebrew tribes, as about the appointment to the priesthood, (Numbers 16:1-50.)


Verse 6

And thither ye shall bring your burnt offerings, and your sacrifices, and your tithes, and heave offerings of your hand, and your vows, and your freewill offerings, and the firstlings of your herds and of your flocks:

No JFB commentary on this verse.


Verse 7

And there ye shall eat before the LORD your God, and ye shall rejoice in all that ye put your hand unto, ye and your households, wherein the LORD thy God hath blessed thee.

There ye shall eat - of the things mentioned (Deuteronomy 12:6), but of course none of the parts assigned to the priests.

Before the Lord - in the place where the sanctuary should be established, and in those parts of the holy city which the people were at liberty to frequent and inhabit.


Verse 8-9

Ye shall not do after all the things that we do here this day, every man whatsoever is right in his own eyes.

Ye shall not do after all the things that we do here this day. Many of the injunctions of the law respecting sacrifices and other ritual observances were allowed to lie in abeyance, or were but partially observed, during the protracted wanderings in the wilderness (Jeremiah 7:21; Amos 5:25-26 : cf. Exodus 4:24-25 with Joshua 5:7). But that period of indulgence was drawing to a close; and as soon as they should be fully settled in the occupation of Canaan, the ceremonial of the legal dispensation would be strictly enforced.


Verse 10-11

But when ye go over Jordan, and dwell in the land which the LORD your God giveth you to inherit, and when he giveth you rest from all your enemies round about, so that ye dwell in safety;

No JFB commentary on these verses.


Verse 12

And ye shall rejoice before the LORD your God, ye, and your sons, and your daughters, and your menservants, and your maidservants, and the Levite that is within your gates; forasmuch as he hath no part nor inheritance with you.

Ye shall rejoice ... ye, and your sons, and your daughters ... Hence, it appears that although males only were commanded to appear before God at the annual solemn feasts (Exodus 23:17), the women were allowed to accompany them (1 Samuel 1:3-23).


Verse 13-14

Take heed to thyself that thou offer not thy burnt offerings in every place that thou seest: Take heed to thyself that thou offer not thy burnt offerings in every place that thou seest:

No JFB commentary on these verses.


Verse 15

Notwithstanding thou mayest kill and eat flesh in all thy gates, whatsoever thy soul lusteth after, according to the blessing of the LORD thy God which he hath given thee: the unclean and the clean may eat thereof, as of the roebuck, and as of the hart.

Notwithstanding thou mayest kill and eat flesh in all thy gates. Every animal designed for food, whether ox, goat, or lamb, was during the abode in the wilderness ordered to be slain as a peace offering at the door of the tabernacle; its blood to be sprinkled, and its fat burnt upon the altar by the priest (see the notes at Leviticus 17:1-7). The encampment, being then round about the altar, made this practice, appointed to prevent idolatry, easy and practicable (see Michaelis, 'Commentary,' art. 244). But on the settlement in the promised land, the obligation to slay at the tabernacle was dispensed with, and the people left at liberty to prepare their meat in their cities or homes.

According to the blessing of the Lord thy God which he hath given thee - i:e., the style of living should be accommodated to one's condition and means: profuse and riotous indulgence can never secure the divine blessing.

The unclean and the clean. The unclean here are those who were under some slight defilement, which, without excluding them from society, yet debarred them from eating any of the sacred meats (Leviticus 7:20). They were at liberty freely to partake of common articles of food.

Roebuck - the gazzelle.

Hart - the Syrian deer (Cervus barbatus) - is a species between our red and fallow deer, distinguished by the lack of the bisantler, or second branch on the horns, reckoning from below, and by a spotted livery, which is effaced only in the third or fourth year ('Biblical Cyclopaedia').


Verse 16

Only ye shall not eat the blood; ye shall pour it upon the earth as water.

Ye shall not eat the blood; ye shall pour it upon the earth as water. The prohibition against eating or drinking blood, as an unnatural custom, accompanied the announcement of the divine grant of animal flesh for food (Genesis 9:4); and the prohibition was repeatedly renewed by Moses with reference to the great objects of the law (Leviticus 17:4) - the prevention of idolatry (Wilkinson's 'Ancient Egypt.,' 2:, p. 375) and the consecration of the sacrificial blood to God.

In regard, however, to the blood of animals slain for food, it might be shed without ceremony, and poured on the ground as a common thing, like water; only, for the sake of decency, as well as for preventing all risk of idolatry, it was to be covered over with earth (Leviticus 17:13), in opposition to the practice of pagan sportsmen, who left it exposed as an offering to the god of the chase.


Verse 17

Thou mayest not eat within thy gates the tithe of thy corn, or of thy wine, or of thy oil, or the firstlings of thy herds or of thy flock, nor any of thy vows which thou vowest, nor thy freewill offerings, or heave offering of thine hand:

No JFB commentary on this verse.


Verse 18

But thou must eat them before the LORD thy God in the place which the LORD thy God shall choose, thou, and thy son, and thy daughter, and thy manservant, and thy maidservant, and the Levite that is within thy gates: and thou shalt rejoice before the LORD thy God in all that thou puttest thine hands unto.

Thou must eat them ... thy man-servant, and thy maid-servant ... Servants, even foreign slaves, had many rights and privileges among the Israelites. One of these was that they participated in the public rejoicings on the great festivals, and were specially invited to certain feasts (cf. Deuteronomy 16:11).


Verses 19-21

Take heed to thyself that thou forsake not the Levite as long as thou livest upon the earth.

No JFB commentary on these verses.


Verse 22

Even as the roebuck and the hart is eaten, so thou shalt eat them: the unclean and the clean shall eat of them alike.

Even as the roebuck and the hart is eaten, so thou shalt eat ... Game when procured in the wilderness had not been required to be brought to the door of the tabernacle. The people were now to be as free in the killing of domestic cattle as of wild animals. The permission to hunt and use venison for food was doubtless a great boon to the Israelites, not only in the wilderness, but on their settlement in Canaan, as the mountainous ranges of Lebanon, Carmel, and Gilead, on which deer abounded in vast numbers, would thus furnish them with a plentiful and luxurious repast.


Verses 23-25

Only be sure that thou eat not the blood: for the blood is the life; and thou mayest not eat the life with the flesh.

No JFB commentary on these verses.


Verse 26

Only thy holy things which thou hast, and thy vows, thou shalt take, and go unto the place which the LORD shall choose:

Only thy holy things which thou hast. The tithes mentioned, Deuteronomy 12:17, are not to be considered ordinary tithes, which belonged to the Levites, and of which private Israelites had a right to eat; but they are other extraordinary tithes or gifts, which the people carried to the sanctuary to be presented as peace offerings, and on which, after being offered, and the allotted portion given to the priest, they feasted with their families and friends (Leviticus 27:30).


Verses 27-29

And thou shalt offer thy burnt offerings, the flesh and the blood, upon the altar of the LORD thy God: and the blood of thy sacrifices shall be poured out upon the altar of the LORD thy God, and thou shalt eat the flesh.

No JFB commentary on these verses.


Verse 30

Take heed to thyself that thou be not snared by following them, after that they be destroyed from before thee; and that thou inquire not after their gods, saying, How did these nations serve their gods? even so will I do likewise.

Take heed to thyself that thou be not snared ... saying, How did these nations serve their gods? The Israelites, influenced by superstitious fear, too often endeavoured to propitiate the deities of Canaan. Their Egyptian education had early impressed upon their minds the bug-bear notion of a set of local deities, who expected their dues of all who came to inhabit the country which they honoured with their protection and severely resented the neglect of payment in all new comers (Warburton). Taking into consideration the prevalence of this idea among them, we see that against the seductive influences both of Egyptian and of Canaanite idolatry was directed the full force of the wholesome caution with which this chapter closes (cf. Deuteronomy 18:10; Deuteronomy 19:10; Psalms 106:38).

 


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Bibliography Information
Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Deuteronomy 12:4". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/jfu/deuteronomy-12.html. 1871-8.

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