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Bible Commentaries

L. M. Grant's Commentary on the Bible

Deuteronomy 17

 

 

Verses 1-20

RIGHTEOUS GOVERNMENT

(This Continues the subject of)

(chap.16:13 to 17:11)

This continues the subject of righteous government. The guilt of offering a blemished sacrifice to the Lord must incur severe judgment (vs.1-2) for transgressing God's covenant, as was true in the case of any who worship other gods, whether the sun or moon or the stars which may seem to men on such a high level that worshiping them would be permissible.

If a report came of any such abuses, then Israel was to inquire diligently to be absolutely certain that the report was true (v.4). When this was established without question, then the offender, whether man or woman, must be brought to the gates and stoned to death (v.5). In the present day idolatry is no less abhorrent to God, but in grace He is delaying His judgment until the future. Yet any such guilt on the part of one who professes to be a Christian requires us to firmly refuse him any fellowship (2 Corinthians 6:14-18; 2 Timothy 2:16-21).

However, the testimony of one witness would not be sufficient to pass a death sentence: there must be two or three witnesses (v.6). Also the witness would be required to be first in putting the offender to death (v.7). This would make people slow to witness if they were not persuaded fully of the guilt of the accused.

There may also be cases that were too involved to enable a prompt decision, cases too hard to discern. At the end of the dispensation of grace we are warned that the times would be difficult (2 Timothy 3:1). "Perilous times" (KJV) is rightly rendered "difficult times," implying hard to bear with and hard to deal with. If such a case arose in Israel, the matter was to be taken to God's center, Jerusalem (v.8) and submitted to the priests, Levites and to the judges in authority at the time, and their judgment of the case was to be final and binding (vs.10-11). In the Church of God today there is no such earthly center of human authority, but Christ is the Center, and His own presence alone will settle such things. We need concerted, united dependence upon Himself, for He is the one Judge we may depend on. The priests would answer today to those believers who act in genuine priestly capacity in intercession for the saints of God. In communion with the Lord (the Judge) they may then communicate His answer to the people. This will always be properly guarded by consulting and obeying the Word of God.

One might act presumptuously, asserting his own will as being superior to the decision of the judges, and such a person must be put to death. Sadly, there are many today who have this proud, self-assertive attitude which can work havoc among the saints of God. Though we cannot put them to death, we can and should publicly rebuke them (1 Timothy 5:20), that others also may fear, as Israel would fear in the death sentence passed on one of them. If the rebuke is not effective in restraining this haughty attitude, it may become necessary to refuse the offender all practical fellowship (Matthew 18:17).

A KING MUST BE SUBJECT

(vs.14-20)

Though God knew that Israel would only aggravate their difficulties rather than solve them through having a king, yet He knew too that they were so self-willed that they would eventually demand a king "like all the nations" (v.14). Thus, God would allow them their way, just as He often allows us our way in order that we may learn the end results of our folly.

Yet God would not allow them to choose their own king, but rather accept one whom God chose (v.15). Government "for the people, of the people and by the people" was never God's way. Nor was Israel to have a king from any foreign nation. In spite of this the Herod who ruled at the time of the Lord Jesus was an Edomite. Yet believers today are to submit to whatever government God sees fit to allow, to thank God for those in authority and to pray for them (1 Timothy 2:1-2). We are like those who are ambassadors in a foreign country (2 Corinthians 5:20), not interfering in their politics, but subject to their authority. "For our citizenship is in heaven, from which also we eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ" (Philippians 3:20).

But a warning is given to any king who might arise: he was not to multiply horses nor send his people to bring horses from Egypt (v.16). Of course war horses were considered necessary for the protection of the kingdom. Could faith not depend on God for such protection rather than on horses? See Psalms 33:17; Hosea 14:3. In spite of this warning, Solomon, wealthy king as he was, "had horses imported from Egypt." as well as chariots (1 Kings 10:28-29), So that it is reported he had 40,000 stalls of horses (1 Kings 4:26). These did not protect the kingdom from division soon after the death of Solomon (1 Kings 12:1-33). Depending on these things is not depending on God.

Nor was a king to "multiply wives for himself" (v.17), for this would turn away his heart from the Lord. In this also Solomon grossly disobeyed God, having 700 wives as well as 300 concubines, and "his wives turned his heart after other gods" (1 Kings 11:4). Not only did this Scripture (Deuteronomy 17:1-20) warn him, but he reports himself that his mother warned him, "Do not give your strength to women, nor your ways to that which destroys kings" (Proverbs 31:1-3). His great wisdom did not preserve him from sin.

Also a king was not to "greatly multiply silver and gold for himself" (v.17). The Lord promised Solomon that He would give him "riches and wealth and honor" (2 Chronicles 1:12), but this was not sufficient for Solomon, just as other wealthy men grasp after more and more. For Solomon fitted merchant ships to greatly increase his wealth (1 Kings 10:22-23), and he laid heavy taxes on the people (1 Kings 12:3-4; 1 Kings 11:1-43). In fact, Solomon's mother had also urged him to show kindness to the poor (Proverbs 31:8-9) but Solomon showed the opposite. Sad comment on the influences of prominence, wealth and wisdom!

Whether Solomon obeyed verse 18 and 19 may be a question, but it would seem that if he had written a copy of the law and had read it every day of his life, this might have preserved him from the sad failure and disobedience that caused him such grief in his later years. For the reading of God's Word would have such effect that it might keep him from having his heart lifted above his brethren (v.20), for the pride that comes from prominence can work severe havoc with a king, as it sadly did with Solomon. In all of this we are taught that if one is to rule rightly, he must first learn to be fully subject to the rule of the Lord.

In beautiful contrast to Solomon, the Lord Jesus, in all His life on earth, has shown perfect subjection to God. Though He is God's appointed King, yet in all His wondrous life of sorrow and love, He took no place of prominence, but displayed rather a perfect spirit of subjection as a Servant, not taking authority, but obeying the authority of God. This lowly subjection has qualified Him to eventually take the throne as King of kings and Lord of lords. What confidence too believers can have in Him, having seen Him tested in His lowly life of sorrow and obedience. He is the only One worthy to be given the place of supreme honor and dignity, for He has proven Himself in humiliation.

 


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Bibliography Information
Grant, L. M. "Commentary on Deuteronomy 17:4". L.M. Grant's Commentary on the Bible. http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/lmg/deuteronomy-17.html. 1897-1910.

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