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.Moses now passes on to apply Deuteronomy 12-26 the leading principles of the Decalogue to the ecclesiastical, civil, and social life of the people. Particulars will be noticed which are unique to the Law as given in Deuteronomy; and even in laws repeated from the earlier books various new circumstances and details are introduced. This is only natural. The Sinaitic legislation was nearly 40 years old and had been given under conditions of time, place, and circumstance different and distant from those now present. Yet the Sinaitic system, far from being set aside or in any way abrogated, is on the contrary throughout presupposed and assumed. Its existence and authority are taken as the starting-point for what is here prescribed, and an accurate acquaintance with it on the part of the people is taken for granted.
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:
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.Their groves - Render their idols of wood: and see the Deuteronomy 7:5 note.
Ye shall not do so unto the LORD your God.i. e., "The idolaters set up their altars and images on any high hill, and under every green tree at their pleasure, but ye shall not do so; the Lord Himself shall determine the spot for your worship, and there only shall ye seek Him." The religion of the Canaanites was human; its modes of worship were of man's devising. It fixed its holy places on the hills in the vain thought of being nearer heaven, or in deep groves where the silence and gloom might overawe the worshipper. But such superstitious appliances were not worthy of the true religion. God had revealed Himself to people in it, and manifested among them His immediate presence and power. He would Himself assign the sanctuary and the ritual of His own service.
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:"To put his name there" means to manifest to men His divine presence. The Targumists rightly refer to the Shechinah; but the expression comprehends all the various modes in which God vouchsafed to reveal Himself and His attributes to men.
The purpose of the command of the text is to secure the unity, and through unity the purity of the worship of God. That there should be one national center for the religion of the people was obviously essential to the great ends of the whole dispensation. Corruption began as soon as the precepts of the text were relaxed or neglected: Compare the case of Gideon, Judges 8:27; of Micah, Judges 18; of Jeroboam, 1 Kings 12:26 ff.
The words "the place which the Lord shall choose to put His Name there" suggest Jerusalem and Solomon's temple to our minds. But though spoken as they were by a prophet, and interpreted as they are by the Psalms (e. g. Psalm 78:67-69), they have a proper application to the temple, yet they must not be referred exclusively to it. The text does not import that God would always from the first choose one and the same locality "to put His Name there," but that there would always be a locality so chosen by Him; and that there the people must bring their sacrifices, and not offer them at their pleasure or convenience elsewhere. Neither does the text forbid the offering of sacrifices to God at other places than the one chosen by Him "to put His Name there" on proper occasions and by proper authority (compare Deuteronomy 27:5-6; Judges 6:24; Judges 13:16; 1 Kings 3:4; 1 Kings 18:31). The text simply prohibits sacrifices at any other locality than that which should be appointed or permitted by God for the purpose.
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:Some have objected that this command cannot possibly have been ever carried out, at all events until in later (lays the territory which owned obedience to it was narrowed to the little kingdom of Judah. But in these and in other precepts Moses doubtless takes much for granted. He is here, as elsewhere, regulating and defining more precisely institutions which had long been in existence, as to many details of which custom superseded the necessity of specific enactment. No doubt the people well understood what Maimonides expressly tells us in reference to the matter, namely, that where immediate payment could not be made, the debt to God was to be reserved until the next great Feast, and then duly discharged. The thing especially to be observed was that no kind of sacrifice was to be offered except at the sacred spot fixed by God for its acceptance.
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.An injunction that the feasts which accompanied certain offerings (not specified) were to be also held in the same place.
Ye shall not do after all the things that we do here this day, every man whatsoever is right in his own eyes.Moses points out that heretofore they had not observed the prescribed order in their worship, because during their migratory life in the wilderness it had been impossible to do so. During their wanderings there were doubtless times when the tabernacle was not set up for days together, and when the daily sacrifice Numbers 28:3, together with many other ordinances, were necessarily omitted (compare Joshua 5:5). This consideration must be carefully borne in mind throughout Deuteronomy. It illustrates the necessity for a repetition of very much of the Sinaitic legislation, and suggests the reason why some parts are so urgently reiterated and impressed, while others are left unnoticed. Moses now warns the people that as they were about to quit their unsettled mode of life, God's purpose of choosing for Himself a place to set His Name there would be executed, and the whole of the sacred ritual would consequently become obligatory. The "rest and safety" of Canaan is significantly laid down Deuteronomy 12:10-11 as the indispensable condition and basis for an entire fulfillment of the Law: the perfection of righteousness coinciding thus with the cessation of wanderings, dangers, and toils.
For ye are not as yet come to the rest and to the inheritance, which the LORD your God giveth you.
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;
Then there shall be a place which the LORD your God shall choose to cause his name to dwell there; thither shall ye bring all that I command you; your burnt offerings, and your sacrifices, your tithes, and the heave offering of your hand, and all your choice vows which ye vow unto the LORD:
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.
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.
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.While a stringent injunction is laid down that the old rule (compare Leviticus 17:3, etc.) must be adhered to as regards animals slain in sacrifice, yet permission is now given to slaughter at home what was necessary for the table. The ceremonial distinctions did not apply in such cases, anymore than to "the roebuck" (or gazelle) "and hart," animals allowed for food but not for sacrifice.
Only ye shall not eat the blood; ye shall pour it upon the earth as water.
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:
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.
Take heed to thyself that thou forsake not the Levite as long as thou livest upon the earth.
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.
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.If the place ... - Rather, "Because, or since, the place will be too far from thee." The permission given in Deuteronomy 12:15-16 is repeated, and the reason of it assigned.
Even as the roebuck and the hart is eaten, so thou shalt eat them: the unclean and the clean shall eat of them alike.
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.
Thou shalt not eat it; thou shalt pour it upon the earth as water.
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.
Only thy holy things which thou hast, and thy vows, thou shalt take, and go unto the place which the LORD shall choose:
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.
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.
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;
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.This caution is based upon the notion generally entertained in the ancient pagan world, that each country had its own tutelary deities whom it would be perilous to neglect; compare 1 Kings 20:23; 2 Kings 17:26. Israel was to shun such superstitions as unworthy of the elect people of God.
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.
What thing soever I command you, observe to do it: thou shalt not add thereto, nor diminish from it.