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Bible Commentaries

L. M. Grant's Commentary on the Bible

Deuteronomy 14

 

 

Verses 1-29

THE VAIN SHOW OF MOURNING

(vs.1-2)

The dignity of Israel's outward relationship to God as sons required them to act with proper dignity. The ungodly nations practiced such things as cutting themselves and shaving the front of their head to show how they respected people who had died. This was vain hypocrisy, a show of religiousness intended to draw attention to themselves. The Lord Jesus reproved even the loud weeping and wailing of people around the house of Jairus at his daughter's death (Mark 5:38-39). Cutting oneself, shaving the hair, weeping and wailing, can do nothing for the person who has died. In fact, if it is a believer who has died, this is really cause for quiet thankfulness that he or she is with the Lord. If an unbeliever, it is too late then to be of any help, though hearts should be subdued before God. It is perfectly right that one should weep in feeling the loss of a loved one, as the Lord Jesus wept in sympathy with Mary and Martha (John 11:32-35), but to put on an outward show is repulsive.

Israel ought to specially regard this instruction for they were a holy people, chosen by God, a special treasure above all other people (v.2). The Church of God today has a higher dignity than this, for she is invested with heavenly blessings, her inheritance being in heaven (Ephesians 1:3).

CLEAN MEATS CONTRASTED TO UNCLEAN

(vs.3-21)

Leviticus 11:1-47 has before laid down laws concerning this subject, and these verses reinforce them. A number of animals are listed as being clean and therefore fit for meat for Israel (vs.4-5). These included animals that had cloven hooves and also chewed the cud. Any animal that lacked one of these were not fit for Israel's consumption (v.6). A list of some of these is found in verses 7 and 8.

As to water creatures, all having fins and scales were permitted for food: if not, they were not to be eaten (vs.9-19) No particular feature is mentioned as to birds, however, that were to be refused. Yet those that are mentioned are those that feed on carrion (vs.12-19). In all of these things there is vital spiritual significance. For though under grace there is no longer any restriction as to eating these creatures (1 Timothy 4:4-5), yet if we feed on what is spiritually unclean, we shall be badly affected by it. The believer has so much excellent spiritual food that he should fully avoid what is harmful. How well it is that we take to heart the Lord's words, "As the living Father sent Me, and I live because of the Father, so he who feed on Me will live because of Me" (John 6:57). Can we dare to make room for a diet that is contrary to this pure and living food?

Clean animals chewed the cud, speaking of the character of meditation, which is vital to every believer. Having cloven hooves speaks of a balanced walk, which preserves from being trapped in mud and enables a more sure-footed walk in rocky paces. We need this in a world of adversity. As to water creatures, fins propel the fish through the waters, a contrast to the inert settling down that unbelievers prefer. Scales are a protection also which we need from the elements of the world. The unclean birds teach us that we are not to accept that which feeds on corruption.

Israel was not to eat anything that died of itself. Yet they were allowed to give it to an alien or sell it to a foreigner, for these were not under the same laws as Israel, and could decide for themselves what they would eat. There is no indication that such things would be harmful physically. Of course one should be cautious in case of animal died of poisoning.

An interesting note is added here that a young goat was not to be boiled in its mother's milk, for the milk is intended as nourishment, just as the Word of God is intended to nourish young believers (1 Peter 2:2), not to boil them! We should be careful how we use the Scriptures, for young believers need the nourishment and encouragement of God's Word. If we use the Word against them in a harsh, critical way, this is like boiling a kid in its mother's milk.

TITHING

(vs.22-29)

We read of Abram tithing all the spoils of his victory in battle, giving this to Melchizedek, a priest of the Most High God (Genesis 14:18-20). This tithe was totally voluntary, not because of any law. Jacob promised to give a tithe (one tenth) of all that the Lord would give him (Genesis 28:22), but there is no record in Scripture of his every paying it.

But the law in Israel required everyone to tithe all the increase of whatever kind, whether grain, wine or oil, or the firstborn of their flocks and herds. In Numbers 18:21 we read of all the tithes in Israel being given to the Levites for their support, and of the Levites being required to give a tithe of the tithes to the Lord (v.26). Yet it seems here in Deuteronomy 14:1-29 that the people were allowed to eat of their tithes "before the Lord your God," sharing those tithes with the Levites (vs.27-29).

If they lived a long distance from Jerusalem, they were allowed to sell the tenth of their produce for money and bring that money to Jerusalem, where they would spend it for whatever food they desired to eat "before the Lord" (vs.24:26). For the Lord desired them to rejoice before Him rather than to consume their produce with selfish greed, apart from God's presence.

However, their providing for the Levites was to be every third year, when they were to store up the tenth of their produce. The Levites were entitled to this, along with strangers, fatherless and widows who might be with them. When comparing this with Numbers 18:21-24, we may not clearly see the exact way in which all this was done, but Numbers 18:24 speaks of the tithes the children of Israel "offered as a heave offering to the Lord" as being given to the Levites. This may explain why there seems to be a contradiction in these accounts. For we know God never contradicts Himself.

In the New Testament, rather than being commanded to give tithes, believers are encouraged to give only as they may purpose in their hearts, in appreciation of the pure grace of God. How good to be reminded that "God loves a cheerful give" (2 Corinthians 9:7).

 


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Bibliography Information
Grant, L. M. "Commentary on Deuteronomy 14:4". L.M. Grant's Commentary on the Bible. http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/lmg/deuteronomy-14.html. 1897-1910.

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