Deuteronomy 12:8
You shall not do after all the things that we do here this day, every man whatever is right in his own eyes.
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(8) Ye shall not do after all the things that we do here this day.—Another precept strongly marked with the condition of Israel in the wilderness. It has been too much overlooked by recent commentators that the law of Moses has a prophetic side. It was given to him and to Israel at a time when they were not in a position to keep it. It was the law of the land which God would give them. In many ways its observance depended on the completion of the conquest of the land, and upon the quietness of the times in which they lived. This prophetic aspect was certainly not unrecognised by the Jews, or they would not (for example) have neglected to dwell in booths at the Feast of Tabernacles from the time of Joshua to Nehemiah. (See Nehemiah 8:17.)[2]

[2] And compare the curious position of the Jaw in Leviticus which required them to dwell in booths. It occurs as an appendix outside the regular laws of that festival (Leviticus 23:37-43).

Deuteronomy 12:8. That we do here — Where the inconvenience of the place, and the uncertainty of their abode, would not permit exact order in sacrifices, and feasts, and ceremonies, which therefore God was then pleased to dispense with; but, saith he, he will not do so there. Right in his own eyes — Not that universal liberty was given to all persons to worship how they listed: but in many things their unsettled condition gave opportunity to do so.12:5-32 The command to bring ALL the sacrifices to the door of the tabernacle, was now explained with reference to the promised land. As to moral service, then, as now, men might pray and worship every where, as they did in their synagogues. The place which God would choose, is said to be the place where he would put his name. It was to be his habitation, where, as King of Israel, he would be found by all who reverently sought him. Now, under the gospel, we have no temple or altar that sanctifies the gift but Christ only: and as to the places of worship, the prophets foretold that in every place the spiritual incense should be offered, Mal 1:11. Our Saviour declared, that those are accepted as true worshippers, who worship God in sincerity and truth, without regard either to this mountain or Jerusalem, Joh 4:21. And a devout Israelite might honour God, keep up communion with him, and obtain mercy from him, though he had no opportunity of bringing a sacrifice to his altar. Work for God should be done with holy joy and cheerfulness. Even children and servants must rejoice before God; the services of religion are to be a pleasure, and not a task or drudgery. It is the duty of people to be kind to their ministers, who teach them well, and set them good examples. As long as we live, we need their assistance, till we come to that world where ordinances will not be needed. Whether we eat or drink, or whatever we do, we are commanded to do all to the glory of God. And we must do all in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, giving thanks to the Father through him. They must not even inquire into the modes and forms of idolatrous worship. What good would it do them to know those depths of Satan? And our inward satisfaction will be more and more, as we abound in love and good works, which spring from faith and the in-dwelling Spirit of Christ.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. 7. there ye shall eat before the Lord—of the things mentioned (De 12:6); but of course, none of the parts assigned to the priests before the Lord—in the place where the sanctuary should be established, and in those parts of the Holy City which the people were at liberty to frequent and inhabit. Here; where the inconveniency of the place, and the uncertainty of our abode in and removal from several places, would not permit exact order in sacrifices, and feasts, and ceremonies, which therefore God was pleased then to dispense with; but, saith he, he will not do so there.

Every man whatsoever is right in his own eyes; not that universal liberty was given to all persons to worship whom and how they listed, but that in many things their unsettled condition gave every one opportunity to do so if he thought good. Ye shall not do after all the things that we do here,.... In the wilderness, where they had no abiding, but were continually removing from place to place, and could not always observe punctually and precisely the exact order and time of their sacrifices and other things, nor offer them at any certain place, and many were doubtless neglected by them; see Amos 5:25.

every man whatsoever is right in his own eyes; that did he, brought the above things when and where he pleased; not that there was no regard had to the laws and rules given, as if there was no priest in Israel; but they were not so exactly in all circumstances conformed to as they would be obliged to when they came into the land of Canaan, and had a certain place to bring their offerings to; so some in Aben Ezra observe, that one would give the firstling, another not, because it depended on the land, or was what they were obliged to only when they came into the land of Canaan; see Exodus 13:11 but he thinks the sense is, that they did not all fear God, and so did not do their duty.

Ye shall not do after all the things that we do {f} here this day, every man whatsoever is right in his own eyes.

(f) Not that they sacrificed after their fantasies, but that God would be served more purely in the land of Canaan.

8–12. Second Statement of the Law of the Single Sanctuary

With a different preface from the first, contrasting Israel’s duty after settlement to concentrate on the one altar, not with the practice of the Canaanites, but with that of Israel itself in the time of the wanderings: for the rest substantially the same as the first statement, and like it in the Pl. address, with one doubtful transition to Sg.: see on Deuteronomy 12:9.

Deuteronomy 12:8. Ye shall not do after all the things that we do here this day] That is in the time of Moses the speaker, and in Moab; but with reference (as the following vv. indicate) to the ritual practice of Israel during the whole forty years preceding their settlement. There may, however, be also here a reflection of the religious practice of the writer’s own time (Oettli).

every man whatsoever is right in his own eyes] So with regard to the multiplication of local shrines after the settlement in Canaan, Jdg 17:6, cp. Jdg 21:25.

But if Israel and even Moses—we!—worshipped, where every man thought good, what are we to make of P’s account of the institution of the Tabernacle at Sinai, and of its use during the rest of the forty years and of P’s rigorous and exact laws (e.g. Leviticus 17) concerning the ritual? Obviously P either did not exist when D’s law of the one altar was written, or was unknown to its author. Amos agrees with D. His challenge to Israel (Deuteronomy 5:25), did ye bring unto Me sacrifices and offerings in the wilderness forty years? expects a negative answer in support of his polemic against all sacrifice. Jeremiah’s report of a word of God (Deuteronomy 7:22): I spake not unto your fathers in the day that I brought them out of the land of Egypt concerning burnt offerings or sacrifices is also indicative of the non-existence of P in the 7th century; and though it continues to give expression to the essential contents of the deuteronomic covenant in deuteronomic language it is difficult to reconcile it with such a law as is now before us.

Deuteronomy 12:9. for ye are not as yet come to the rest, etc.] The present irregular form of Israel’s worship is excused by their unsettled, wandering condition. It was then inevitable, but if so what becomes of P’s central sanctuary in the wilderness and his rigorous laws for the ritual? To the rest, 1 Kings 8:56 (deuteronomic); there the erection of the Temple marks the close of Israel’s struggles for possession of the land: cp. Deuteronomy 5:10 b.

the inheritance which the Lord your God is about to give you] See on Deuteronomy 4:21. Heb. thy and thee. But probably your and you should be read with Sam. and some LXX codd. (most read our God giveth you). At the same time inheritance is elsewhere used with passages in the Sg. address: if the Sg. be retained here the clause must be a later insertion.

Deuteronomy 12:10. when ye go over Jordan] The usual phrase with the Pl., see on Deuteronomy 3:18, Deuteronomy 4:21; but Deuteronomy 9:1 is Sg.

causeth you to inherit] See on Deuteronomy 1:38.

giveth you rest, etc.] See on Deuteronomy 12:9.

Deuteronomy 12:11. See on Deuteronomy 12:5 f. where the expressions are the same or similar; only cause his name to dwell there for put his name there (Deuteronomy 12:5,); all I am about to command you (cp. Deuteronomy 12:14); firstlings and freewill offerings are omitted; and for vows there is choice vows, Heb. all the choice of your vows—ambiguous, and either only the choicest of the things you have vowed (cp. Exodus 14:7; Exodus 15:4) in which case the form of the law is a modification of the other, or the choice things, your vows. More probable is the former. Of the contrary opinion is Bertholet.

Deuteronomy 12:12. See on Deuteronomy 12:7 : eat found there is here omitted; and your households is defined as sons, daughters, bondmen and bondmaids, and the Levite within your gates. So Deuteronomy 12:18, Deuteronomy 16:11; Deuteronomy 16:14 (+ stranger, fatherless, widow, cp. Deuteronomy 14:29), Deuteronomy 5:14 (stranger instead of Levite), Deuteronomy 14:26 f. (household and Levite), Deuteronomy 26:11 (thou, Levite and stranger). Wives are not mentioned, for they are included in those to whom the law is addressed; a significant fact. The Levite within your gates (the only instance of the phrase with the Pl. address, see on Deuteronomy 12:17) is the family or local minister of the ritual, who is deprived of the means of subsistence by the disestablishment of the rural shrines, and hath no portion nor inheritance with you, no land of his own: see on Deuteronomy 10:9 and further under Deuteronomy 18:1-8.Verses 8-10. - In the wilderness, while leading a nomadic life, no certain place could be appointed to them for the observance of sacred rites; each man did in that matter as suited his own convenience. But after they were settled in Canaan it should no longer be so; a certain order and fixed locality should be determined for their worship and service; when they had passed over Jordan the Lord would give them rest from all their enemies, and then all irregularity and arbitrariness in the matter of worship must cease, and all their gifts arid offerings must be brought to the place which Jehovah their God should choose. Ye dwell in safety; rather, dwell securely, not only safe from assault, but without fear or anxiety (cf. Judges 8:11; Judges 18:7). Ye shall destroy all the places where the Canaanites worship their gods, upon the high mountains, upon the hills, and under every green tree (cf. Jeremiah 2:20; Jeremiah 3:6; Jeremiah 17:2; 2 Kings 16:4; 2 Kings 17:10). The choice of mountains and hills for places of worship by most of the heathen nations, had its origin in the wide-spread belief, that men were nearer to the Deity and to heaven there. The green trees are connected with the holy groves, of which the heathen nations were so fond, and the shady gloom of which filled the soul with holy awe at the nearness of the Deity. In the absence of groves, they chose green trees with thick foliage (Ezekiel 6:13; Ezekiel 20:28), such as the vigorous oak, which attains a great age, the evergreen terebinth (Isaiah 1:29-30; Isaiah 57:5), and the poplar or osier, which continues green even in the heat of summer (Hosea 4:13), and whose deep shade is adapted to dispose the mind to devotion.
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