BIBLE STUDY SERIES #506, 507 and 508

5 August, 2001

DEUTERONOMY 12: STATUTES & JUDGMENTS - PART III

By Douglas C. Nesbit, B.A.

Our series of Bible Studies on the Great Plan by which The Almighty God is steadily drawing His Creation towards the perfection of His Kingdom reveals that this plan centres upon the formation of one selected line of people chronicled in The Scriptural Record, which descends through Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and thence through the whole history of the nation of Israel, and therein to provide, in the person of Jesus Christ, the focal point of His mighty purpose. This series has brought us from the call of Abram in Genesis 12, and the formation of a national entity through which it has pleased Almighty God to work in accomplishing that task, down to Deuteronomy 12, and the prospect of The Promised Land upon the borders of which Israel now stood. The aged Prophet, Moses, is, in this chapter, carrying forward his last great sequence of addresses to the Tribes of Israel prior to their crossing of the Jordan River into the Promised Land. We are presently at about the mid-point of Moses' Second Discourse which began at Deuteronomy 4:44 and continues onward to Deuteronomy 26:19

In the previous two Studies, we had read to verse 14 of Deuteronomy 12, which continued Moses' focus upon his review of how all had thus far been accomplished, from Egypt, through The Exodus and subsequent experiences in the arid wilderness, from which they of this younger generation are now to go in and to possess that Land of Canaan. We are now approaching for today's study, Deuteronomy 12:15-32, a portion of a passage which relates the statutes and judgments which now follow on after the review which Moses has been covering to this point, and which will have their more direct application when the nation of Israel actually comes into possession of the Land of Canaan. Verses 13 and 14 which lead into today's Scripture passage had stated: "Take heed to thyself that thou offer not thy burnt offerings in every place that thou seest: But in the place which the LORD shall choose in one of thy tribes, there thou shalt offer thy burnt offerings, and there thou shalt do all that I command thee." Continuing, Deuteronomy 12:15-32 reads:

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.
16. Only ye shall not eat the blood; ye shall pour it upon the earth as water.
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:
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.
19. Take heed to thyself that thou forsake not the Levite as long as thou livest upon the earth.
20. When the LORD thy God shall enlarge thy border, as he hath promised thee, and thou shalt say, I will eat flesh, because thy soul longeth to eat flesh; thou mayest eat flesh, whatsoever thy soul lusteth after.
21. If the place which the LORD thy God hath chosen to put his name there be too far from thee, then thou shalt kill of thy herd and of thy flock, which the LORD hath given thee, as I have commanded thee, and thou shalt eat in thy gates whatsoever thy soul lusteth after.
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.
23. 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.
24. Thou shalt not eat it; thou shalt pour it upon the earth as water.
25. Thou shalt not eat it; that it may go well with thee, and with thy children after thee, when thou shalt do that which is right in the sight of the LORD.
26. Only thy holy things which thou hast, and thy vows, thou shalt take, and go unto the place which the LORD shall choose:
27. 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.
28. Observe and hear all these words which I command thee, that it may go well with thee, and with thy children after thee for ever, when thou doest that which is good and right in the sight of the LORD thy God.
29. When the LORD thy God shall cut off the nations from before thee, whither thou goest to possess them, and thou succeedest them, and dwellest in their land;
30. Take heed to thyself that thou be not snared by following them, after that they be destroyed from before thee; and that thou enquire not after their gods, saying, How did these nations serve their gods? even so will I do likewise.
31. Thou shalt not do so unto the LORD thy God: for every abomination to the LORD, which he hateth, have they done unto their gods; for even their sons and their daughters they have burnt in the fire to their gods.
32. What thing soever I command you, observe to do it: thou shalt not add thereto, nor diminish from it.

The Companion bible notes include the point that at verse 21, the word "kill" means "kill in sacrifice" and at verse 23, "the blood is the life" is, in Hebrew, "the blood it (is) the soul" Heb. (nephesh). The Canaanite sons and daughters "burnt" in the fire means "burnt up"

The New Bible Commentary develops its thoughts on this Scripture portion under the heading "ii. The killing of animals for food and sacrifice." It explains, at verse 15 "Whatsoever thy soul lusteth after" means "After all the desire of thy soul (RV), and connects a reference at Deuteronomy xviii. 6. It comments: "Meat was not commonly an element in the daily food of the people, but was eaten when there were sacrifices or occasions for feasting. Some revision of the former rules (see Lv. xvii. 3-7n) was required by the new conditions. The principle underlying those now issued is the sacredness of all life, as the direct gift of God (see v. 17n.). A distinction is made between 'holy things' (26), which are offered in sacrifice or dedicated to a religious purpose, and that which is killed simply for food (15, 20, 21). The roebuck ... the hart (15). The hart and roebuck (RV 'gazelle') are species of game belonging to mountainous districts and noted for elegance and lightness of foot. At the time these words were spoken, they were evidently plentiful; at a later period, and in the city, they were counted a delicacy (I Ki. iv. 23)."

The Commentary continues, of the words: "Ye shall not eat the blood (16)", "See Lv. xvii. 11n. Blood, as the vital element and symbol of life, is treated with great reverence in the Old Testament (cf. Gn. ix. 4-6) and most particularly in connection with covenant and sacrifice, a noteworthy foreshadowing of Christ's atonement." At that point they refer to "Lv. xvi; Heb. ix. 12-14; I Pet. i. 18, 19." The last portion of their note on this passage takes up the words "When the Lord ... shall enlarge thy border (20)" in the words "Verses 20-25 expand the permission in verses 15, 16. Moses' faith anticipates a large territory. (See xix. 8, 9.)" They note the repeat usage of the words "Right in the sight of the Lord (25)" and add "The Lord watches over all His people ... . The words "Upon the altar (27)" draw a reference to Deuteronomy xvi. 21n. At the words "The blood of thy sacrifices (27)" they note "See xii. 6n." At "How did these nations serve their gods? (30)." the reference is to Deuteronomy "vi. 14n." with the addition "Among the heathen a close connection is conceived to exist between a land and the gods which its people served. (See 2 Ki. xvii. 26, 27.) The Israelites would be tempted to think the same, and to fear the gods of Canaan." Their note ends at "Thou shalt not add thereto (32). See iv. 2n."

Keil and Delitzsch have some clear descriptive writing on the whole of Deuteronomy 12, and we might cull some of their sentences. "The laws relating to the worship of the Israelites commence with a command to destroy and annihilate all places and memorials of the Canaanitish worship ... and then lay it down as an established rule, that the Israelites were to worship the Lord their God with sacrifices and gifts, only in the place which He Himself should choose ... . On the other hand, in the land of Canaan cattle might be slain for eating and the flesh itself be consumed in any place; though sacrificial meals could only be celebrated in the place of the sanctuary appointed by the Lord ... . Moreover, on the extension of the borders of the land, oxen, and sheep, and goats could be slaughtered for food in any place; but the blood was not to be eaten, and consecrated gifts and votive sacrifices were not to be prepared as meals anywhere, except at the altar of the Lord... . Lastly, the Israelites were not to be drawn aside by the Canaanites, to imitate them in their worship." Keil and Delitzsch explain that the law in Leviticus 17:3, which restricted all slaughtering to the place of the sanctuary in the wilderness needed to be repealed for cases where, as the borders in Canaan were extended, the distances to the centre of worship became too great for convenient travel. We will move ahead to Deuteronomy 13 on the next Bible Study.

12 August, 2001

DEUTERONOMY 13: STATUTES & JUDGMENTS - PART IV

By Douglas C. Nesbit, B.A.

Our series of Bible Studies on the Great Plan by which The Almighty God is steadily drawing His Creation towards the perfection of His Kingdom reveals that this plan centres upon the formation of one selected line of people chronicled in The Scriptural Record, which descends through Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and thence through the whole history of the nation of Israel, and therein to provide, in the person of Jesus Christ, the focal point of His mighty purpose. This series has brought us from the call of Abram in Genesis 12, and the formation of a national entity through which it has pleased Almighty God to work in accomplishing that task, down to Deuteronomy 13, and the prospect of The Promised Land upon the borders of which Israel now stood. The aged Prophet, Moses, is, in this chapter, carrying forward his last great sequence of addresses to the Tribes of Israel prior to their crossing of the Jordan River into the Promised Land. We are presently at about the mid-point of Moses' Second Discourse which began at Deuteronomy 4:44 and continues onward to Deuteronomy 26:19

In the previous three Studies, we had read to the end of Deuteronomy 12, which continued Moses' focus upon his review of how all had thus far been accomplished, from Egypt, through The Exodus and subsequent experiences in the arid wilderness, from which they of this younger generation are now to go in and to possess that Land of Canaan and of the new circumstances which Israel will encounter as they enter that land. We are now approaching for today's study, Deuteronomy 13, a passage which relates further statutes and judgments which will have their more direct application when the nation of Israel actually comes into possession of the Land of Canaan. We will read the passages from Deuteronomy 13 with comments at appropriate verse breaks. However we must take note of Keil and Delitzsch first as they give a paragraph leading to verse 1 which states "The admonition to observe the whole law, without adding to it or taking from it (Chapter 12:32) is regarded by many commentators as the conclusion of the previous chapter. But it is more correct to understand it as an intermediate link, closing what goes before, and introductory to what follows. Strictly speaking, the warning against inclining to the idolatry of the Canaanites (chap. xii. 29-31) forms a transition from the enforcement of the true mode of worshipping Jehovah to the laws relating to tempters to idolatry and worshippers of idols (chap. xiii.). The Israelites were to cut off not only the tempters to idolatry, but those who had been led astray to idolatry also." They then proceed to list the three different cases in our present chapter. The Companion Bible simply states that verse 1 is the beginning of Moses' fourth address. Let us read to verse 5:

1. If there arise among you a prophet, or a dreamer of dreams, and giveth thee a sign or a wonder,
2. And the sign or the wonder come to pass, whereof he spake unto thee, saying, Let us go after other gods, which thou hast not known, and let us serve them;
3. Thou shalt not hearken unto the words of that prophet, or that dreamer of dreams: for the LORD your God proveth you, to know whether ye love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul.
4. Ye shall walk after the LORD your God, and fear him, and keep his commandments, and obey his voice, and ye shall serve him, and cleave unto him.
5. And that prophet, or that dreamer of dreams, shall be put to death; because he hath spoken to turn you away from the LORD your God, which brought you out of the land of Egypt, and redeemed you out of the house of bondage, to thrust thee out of the way which the LORD thy God commanded thee to walk in. So shalt thou put the evil away from the midst of thee.

The Companion Bible states that in verse 3, God's name is, in Hebrew, Jehovah Elohim, and "proveth" is an Hebrew idiom meaning "suffereth you to be proved." When we reach verse 13, and the mention of Belial, we will note with that reference that "Belial. First occurrence. A word denoting all that is wicked and worthless; hopeless, as to character and destiny." ... It is used "for the Evil One as the instigator of all the uncleanness of heathenism."

Keil and Delitzsch give the first of the three cases as one we find in verses 1-5. Here, the prophet uses signs and wonders which appear as true indicators of divine revelation to lend credibility to a false message, which is realised as he calls Israelites to worship a false deity. The signs are Satanic. Here they refer us to two scriptural examples. The first is 2 Thessalonians 2:9, which states, concerning the "mystery of iniquity" that his "coming is after the working of Satan with all power and signs and lying wonders." The second is Matthew 24:24, in which Jesus prophesies "For there shall arise false Christs and false prophets, and shall shew great signs and wonders; insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect." Here, the word "Christs" should have been translated. It means "anointeds." (the words actually are saying that there would arise those who were false claimants to status as "the anointed ones", which is what "Christs" in this context actually means). Keil and Delitzsch discuss the distinction and point to received scriptures as the true guiding source for a test which exceeds such "signs and wonders." It is of the greatest importance to note, however, that, as they explicitly explain, "The execution of seducers to idolatry is enjoined upon the people ..." (corporately, and officially), "... i.e. the whole community, not upon single individuals."

The New Bible Commentary contains a rather concise summation for the chapter, which we will consult after the chapter is read, although possibly that will have to await the next Bible Study. Continuing at verse 6:

6. If thy brother, the son of thy mother, or thy son, or thy daughter, or the wife of thy bosom, or thy friend, which is as thine own soul, entice thee secretly, saying, Let us go and serve other gods, which thou hast not known, thou, nor thy fathers;
7. Namely, of the gods of the people which are round about you, nigh unto thee, or far off from thee, from the one end of the earth even unto the other end of the earth;
8. Thou shalt not consent unto him, nor hearken unto him; neither shall thine eye pity him, neither shalt thou spare, neither shalt thou conceal him:
9. But thou shalt surely kill him; thine hand shall be first upon him to put him to death, and afterwards the hand of all the people.
10. And thou shalt stone him with stones, that he die; because he hath sought to thrust thee away from the LORD thy God, which brought thee out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage.

This is Keil and Delitzsch's second case. Even a close relative cannot be shielded from official condemnation and punishment.

11. And all Israel shall hear, and fear, and shall do no more any such wickedness as this is among you.
12. If thou shalt hear say in one of thy cities, which the LORD thy God hath given thee to dwell there, saying,
13. Certain men, the children of Belial, are gone out from among you, and have withdrawn the inhabitants of their city, saying, Let us go and serve other gods, which ye have not known;
14. Then shalt thou enquire, and make search, and ask diligently; and, behold, if it be truth, and the thing certain, that such abomination is wrought among you;
15. Thou shalt surely smite the inhabitants of that city with the edge of the sword, destroying it utterly, and all that is therein, and the cattle thereof, with the edge of the sword.
16. And thou shalt gather all the spoil of it into the midst of the street thereof, and shalt burn with fire the city, and all the spoil thereof every whit, for the LORD thy God: and it shall be an heap for ever; it shall not be built again.
17. And there shall cleave nought of the cursed thing to thine hand: that the LORD may turn from the fierceness of his anger, and shew thee mercy, and have compassion upon thee, and multiply thee, as he hath sworn unto thy fathers;
18. When thou shalt hearken to the voice of the LORD thy God, to keep all his commandments which I command thee this day, to do that which is right in the eyes of the LORD thy God.

Here we see the third case mentioned by Keil and Delitzsch. It concerns a situation wherein inhabitants of an Israelite city have collectively followed such false religious pathways. The larger number involved does not find a legitimate defence by reference to "democratic choice" for such activities, as The Almighty God's ultimate judgment does not take its authority from democratic theories. The "ban" was to be officially proclaimed and executed in all its severity as upon an idolatrous city. If the nation did not follow the process completely, (perhaps by holding some spoils back from the flames) all the rest of Israel would suffer God's wrath for such reluctance. The case of Achan in Joshua vii is cited as an example. We shall continue next week.

19 August, 2001

DEUTERONOMY 13-14: FOOD LAWS & TITHES - PART I

By Douglas C. Nesbit, B.A.

Our series of Bible Studies on the Great Plan by which The Almighty God is steadily drawing His Creation towards the perfection of His Kingdom reveals that this plan centres upon the formation of one selected line of people chronicled in The Scriptural Record, which descends through Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and thence through the whole history of the nation of Israel, and therein to provide, in the person of Jesus Christ, the focal point of His mighty purpose. This series has brought us from the call of Abram in Genesis 12, and the formation of a national entity through which it has pleased Almighty God to work in accomplishing that task, down to Deuteronomy 13, and the prospect of The Promised Land upon the borders of which Israel now stood. The aged Prophet, Moses, is, in this chapter, carrying forward his last great sequence of addresses to the Tribes of Israel prior to their crossing of the Jordan River into the Promised Land, and concerning the new circumstances which Israel will encounter as they enter that land. We are presently at about the mid-point of Moses' Second Discourse which began at Deuteronomy 4:44 and continues onward to Deuteronomy 26:19

We are now in the process of concluding our study, of Deuteronomy 13, a passage which relates further statutes and judgments which are to have their more direct application when the nation of Israel actually comes into possession of the Land of Canaan. We have read the passages from Deuteronomy 13 with comments at appropriate verse breaks on our last Study, and taken note of the insights of Keil and Delitzsch as they pointed to the true mode of worshipping Jehovah, in connection with the laws relating to tempters to idolatry and worshippers of idols in this chapter. The Israelites were to cut off not only the tempters to idolatry, but those who had been led astray to idolatry also. They then proceeded to list the three different cases in our present chapter.

The New Bible Commentary has some pertinent comments on this chapter, which we had held over for today's study. Under the heading "iii. Enticement to idolatry (xiii. 1-18)" that reference states "Moses now deals with the negative side of the first commandment. If the laws seem severe, it should be remembered that if the land was to be purged of idolatry by the extermination of the Canaanites, those Israelites who partook of their sins must also share in their punishment. The New Testament is equally severe. See 2 Thes. ii. 8; Rev. xiv. 9-11." [The Thessalonian reference reads "And then shall that wicked be revealed, whom the Lord shall consume with the spirit of his mouth, and shall destroy with the brightness of his coming." while Revelation 14:9-11 speaks of an angelic statement concerning those who receive the mark of the beast and his image, in his forehead, or his hand, being tormented "in the presence of the holy angels, and in the presence of the Lamb..."] The Commentary continues: "The false prophet is an all too familiar figure in the Old Testament, and re-appears in the New, as a minister of Satan, seducing to evil (Mt. xxiv. 24; Rev. xix. 20)."

At this point, with reference to the statement in verse 5, "So shalt thou put the evil away from the midst of thee", the Commentary makes a point regarding the time when these passages of Deuteronomy were actually written. Obviously having regard to the theories of a later origin of the book, the Commentary sets before us good reason for the Mosaic authorship. It states "These stringent measures were necessary at that time; they belong essentially to the Mosaic period, and it is hardly conceivable that they should have been promulgated later when prophets had so much power and influence. The phrase is repeated in connection with other heinous sins in xvii. 7, 12, xix. 13, 19, xxi. 9, 21, xxii. 22, 24, xxiv. 7."

Explaining that the Hebrew of the word "brother" in verse 6, can mean any relation, the Commentary mentions that "Modern missionary experience illustrates how heathen priests and family entanglements drag many back into apostacy. Temptation may assail us even in the family circle." Moving to verse 8, they note that "Neither shall thine eye pity" is a phrase also repeated in xix. 13, 21 and xxv. 12. At verse 11 "All Israel shall hear, and fear" are words repeated in chapter 17:13, 19:20, 21:21 and 31:12-13. "These words express the important principle that punishment should be publicly administered, so as to act as a deterrent; and they help to account for its severity at the commencement of a new dispensation. Cf. Acts v. 11." [That passage speaks of the early church gathering at which a man, Ananias, with Sapphira, his wife, sought to receive praise for a gift, from which they had secretly conspired to keep back a portion. Each died for that sin before Peter and in the presence of the congregation.]

At verse 13, the words "Children of Belial" is explained in the RV as "base fellows", literally 'sons of unprofitableness', 'good-for nothings'. The word recurs in Jdg. xix. 22, xx. 13, where the story of Gibeah supplies a case in point." Moving to the words in verse 14, "Then shalt thou inquire, and make search", the Commentary notes "A further principle of justice is here enunciated, namely that the fullest investigation should precede punitive action. Much of our British common law can be traced back to the Mosaic legislation." At verse 17, "the cursed thing", it notes "Devoted (RV)...", and it adds "The story of Achan in Jos. vii illustrates the application of this law resulting in the Lord's turning from 'the fierceness of his anger'."

We now move on to Deuteronomy 14, wherein Moses reviews laws which apply to Israelites in particular, as they are "the children of the LORD." Keil and Delitzsch, in their heading for the notes on this chapter neatly summarise its contents in the words "Avoidance of the Mourning Customs of the Heathen, and Unclean Food. Application of the Tithe of Fruits", to which they elaborate thus on verses 1-21: "The Israelites were not only to suffer no idolatry to rise up in their midst, but in all their walk of life to show themselves as a holy nation of the Lord; and neither to disfigure their bodies by passionate expressions of sorrow for the dead (vers. 1 and 2), nor to defile themselves by unclean food (vers. 3-21). Both of these were opposed to their calling. To bring this to their mind, Moses introduces the laws which follow with the words, "ye are children to the Lord your God." The divine sonship of Israel was founded upon its election and calling as the holy nation of Jehovah. Regarding cutting themselves, The New Bible Commentary explains "As sons of God they must not deface His image." Let us read and consider Deuteronomy 14 to verse 21:

1. Ye are the children of the LORD your God: ye shall not cut yourselves, nor make any baldness between your eyes for the dead.
2. For thou art an holy people unto the LORD thy God, and the LORD hath chosen thee to be a peculiar people unto himself, above all the nations that are upon the earth.
3. Thou shalt not eat any abominable thing.
4. These are the beasts which ye shall eat: the ox, the sheep, and the goat,
5. The hart, and the roebuck, and the fallow deer, and the wild goat, and the pygarg, and the wild ox, and the chamois.

The Companion Bible notes "roebuck = gazelle", "fallow deer = roebuck", "pygarg = mountain goat", "wild ox = antelope" and "chamois = mountain sheep."

6. And every beast that parteth the hoof, and cleaveth the cleft into two claws, and cheweth the cud among the beasts, that ye shall eat.
7. Nevertheless these ye shall not eat of them that chew the cud, or of them that divide the cloven hoof; as the camel, and the hare, and the coney: for they chew the cud, but divide not the hoof; therefore they are unclean unto you.

Here again, The Companion Bible notes "coney" is called "Hyrax Syriacus" or rock-badger.

8. And the swine, because it divideth the hoof, yet cheweth not the cud, it is unclean unto you: ye shall not eat of their flesh, nor touch their dead carcase.
9. These ye shall eat of all that are in the waters: all that have fins and scales shall ye eat:
10. And whatsoever hath not fins and scales ye may not eat; it is unclean unto you.
11. Of all clean birds ye shall eat.
12. But these are they of which ye shall not eat: the eagle, and the ossifrage, and the ospray,
13. And the glede, and the kite, and the vulture after his kind,
14. And every raven after his kind,
15. And the owl, and the night hawk, and the cuckow, and the hawk after his kind,
16. The little owl, and the great owl, and the swan,
17. And the pelican, and the gier eagle, and the cormorant,
18. And the stork, and the heron after her kind, and the lapwing, and the bat.

Again, revealing the difficulty in translations, The Companion Bible equates ossifrage to gier eagle, glede is "probably = vulture", while "kite = falcon, vulture = kite, owl = ostrich, cuckow = sea-gull, swan = horned owl, gier eagle = vulture or bittern, heron (doubtful), probably = parrot, and lapwing = hoopoe."

19. And every creeping thing that flieth is unclean unto you: they shall not be eaten.
20. But of all clean fowls ye may eat.

Most of these have received detailed attention in the Bible Study which covered the listings of "clean and unclean" foods in Leviticus 11. However, The Companion Bible states that Deuteronomy contains eleven animals not contained in Leviticus and Numbers. As a generalization, we might say that scavengers appear to be avoided in the listings. We shall complete our review of Deuteronomy 14 on the next Bible Study.

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