|Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary|
16:18-22 Care is taken for the due administration of justice. All personal regards must be laid aside, so that right is done to all, and wrong to none. Care is taken to prevent following the idolatrous customs of the heathen. Nothing belies God more, or tends more to corrupt the minds of men, than representing and worshipping, by an image, that God, who is an almighty and eternal Spirit, present every where. Alas! even in gospel days, and under a better dispensation, established upon better promises, there is a tendency to set up idols, under one form or another, in the human heart.
Verses 21, 22. - In all states, the highest crime of which the judge has to take note is that of treason against the supreme Rower; and, under the theocracy, the act most distinctly treasonable was idolatry. In proceeding, therefore, to give some practical admonitions as to the things to be observed in the administration of justice, Moses begins by denouncing and forbidding this most flagrant form of iniquity. Verse 21. - Thou shalt not plant thee a grove of any trees; thou shalt not plant, i.e. place or set up, an asherah of any wood. The asherah was an idol of wood in the form of a pillar, usually placed by the side of the altars of Baal. It was the symbol of Astarte, the great Canaanitish goddess, the companion and revealer of Baal. The two are usually associated in the Old Testament (cf. Judges 2:13; Judges 6:28; 1 Kings 18:19; 2 Kings 23:4). The rendering "grove" has been taken from the LXX. and the Vulgate; but that it is an error is evident from 1 Kings 14:23; 2 Kings 17:10; and Jeremiah 17:2; where the asherah is said to be under a green tree; and from the use of such words as make, set up, cause to stand, build, to denote the action of producing an asherah (cf. 1 Kings 14:15; 1 Kings 16:33; 2 Kings 17:16; 2 Kings 17:10; 2 Chronicles 33:19; 1 Kings 14:23), none of which are appropriate to the planting of a grove. Here, indeed, the word "plant" is used, but this is only because, as the asherah was sunk in the earth that it might stand firm, it might be figuratively said to be planted, just as nails driven in are said to be planted (Ecclesiastes 12:11, where the same verb is used; comp. also Isaiah 51:16; Amos 9:15; Daniel 11:25).
Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible
Thou shall not plant thee a grove of any trees,.... Of any sort of trees, as oaks or any other; not but that it was lawful to plant trees and groves of them, but not for a religious or idolatrous use: particularly
near unto the altar of the Lord thy God, which thou shalt make thee; as the Heathens did near their altars, lest it should be thought to be done for a like superstitious and idolatrous use; which evil the Jews sometimes fell into in the times of wicked reigns, and which their good and pious kings removed and destroyed; see 2 Kings 18:4 and Hecataeus (b), an Heathen historian, relates of the city of Jerusalem, that there were there no image, nor plantation, nor grove, nor any such thing.
(b) Apud Euseb. Praepar. Evangel. l. 9. c. 4. p. 408.
Wesley's Notes on the Bible
16:21 Thou shalt not plant - Because this was the practice of idolaters, and might be an occasion of reviving idolatry.
Deuteronomy 16:21 Parallel Commentaries
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