Deuteronomy 17:15
Thou shalt in any wise set him king over thee, whom the LORD thy God shall choose: one from among thy brethren shalt thou set king over thee: thou mayest not set a stranger over thee, which is not thy brother.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
Deuteronomy 17:15. Whom the Lord thy God shall choose — Approve of, or appoint. So it was in Saul and David. God reserved to himself the nomination both of the family and of the person. Thy brethren — Of the same nation and religion; because such a person was most likely to maintain true religion, and to rule with righteousness, gentleness, and kindness to his subjects; and that he might be a fit type of Christ, their supreme king, who was to be one of their brethren.

17:14-20 God himself was in a particular manner Israel's King; and if they set another over them, it was necessary that he should choose the person. Accordingly, when the people desired a king, they applied to Samuel, a prophet of the Lord. In all cases, God's choice, if we can but know it, should direct, determine, and overrule ours. Laws are given for the prince that should be elected. He must carefully avoid every thing that would turn him from God and religion. Riches, honours, and pleasures, are three great hinderances of godliness, (the lusts of the flesh, the lusts of the eye, and the pride of life,) especially to those in high stations; against these the king is here warned. The king must carefully study the law of God, and make that his rule; and having a copy of the Scriptures of his own writing, must read therein all the days of his life. It is not enough to have Bibles, but we must use them, use them daily, as long as we live. Christ's scholars never learn above their Bibles, but will have constant occasion for them, till they come to that world where knowledge and love will be made perfect. The king's writing and reading were as nothing, if he did not practise what he wrote and read. And those who fear God and keep his commandments, will fare the better for it even in this world.The king, like the judges and officers (compare Deuteronomy 16:18), is to be chosen by the people; but their choice is to be in accordance with the will of God, and to be made from among "their brethren." Compare 1 Samuel 9:15; 1 Samuel 10:24; 1 Samuel 16:1; 1 Kings 19:16.

Thou mayest not set a stranger over thee - The Jews extended this prohibition to all offices whatsoever (compare Jeremiah 30:21); and naturally attached the greatest importance to it: from where the significance of the question proposed to our Lord, "Is it lawful to give tribute to Caesar?" Matthew 22:17. A Gentile head for the Jewish people, which it was a principal aim of the Law to keep special and distinct from others, was an anomaly.

15. thou mayest not set a stranger over thee, which is not thy brother—that is, by their free and voluntary choice. But God, in the retributions of His providence, did allow foreign princes to usurp the dominion (Jer 38:17; Mt 22:17). Thou shalt set him, i.e. appoint, or install. If you will choose a king, which I shall suffer you to do, I command you to mind this in your choice.

Whom the Lord shall choose, approve of, or appoint. So it was in Saul, and in David. God reserved to himself the nomination both of the family and of the person. See 1 Samuel 9:15 10:24 1 Samuel 16:12 1 Chronicles 28:4,5.

From among thy brethren; of the same nation and religion; partly because such a person was most likely to maintain true religion, and to rule with righteousness, gentleness, and kindness to his subjects; and partly that he might be a fit type of Christ, their supreme King, who was to be one of their brethren.

Mayest not set a stranger over thee, to wit, by thy own choice and consent; but if God by his providence and for their sins should set a stranger over them, they might submit to him, as appears from Jeremiah 38:17 Ezekiel 17:12 Matthew 22:17.

Thou shalt in any wise set him king over thee whom the Lord thy God shall choose,.... The Jews take this to be a command to set a king over them: whereas it is only a permission in case they should desire and determine on having one, as God foresaw they would; and this with a limitation and restriction to appoint none but whom God should choose, and which was their duty and interest to attend unto; for none could choose better for them, and was what he had a right unto, and it became them to submit to it, since he was their King in a civil and special sense, and another was only his viceregent; accordingly we find, when they expressed their desire to have a king in the time of Samuel, and it was granted, though not without some resentment, the Lord chose their first king for them, Saul, and, after him, David, and even Solomon, David's son; and though, in later times, they appointed kings without consulting him, it is complained of, Hosea 8:4 hence this clause is prefaced in the Targum of Jonathan,

"ye shall seek instruction from the Lord, and after set him king, &c.''which was to be done by the mouth of a prophet, or by Urim, as Aben Ezra observes:

one from among thy brethren shall thou set king over thee: that is, one of their own nation, an Israelite, a brother both by nation and religion:

thou mayest not set a stranger over thee that is not thy brother; one of another nation, that is not of the family of Israel, as Aben Ezra notes, even not an Edomite, though called sometimes their brother; and Herod, who was an Idumean, was set up, not by them, but by the Romans; now in this their king was a type of the King Messiah, of whom it is said, "their nobles shall be of themselves", Jeremiah 30:21.

Thou shalt in any wise set him king over thee, whom the LORD thy God shall choose: one from among thy brethren shalt thou set king over thee: thou mayest not set a {i} stranger over thee, which is not thy brother.

(i) Who is not from your nation, lest he change true religion into idolatry, and bring you to slavery.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
15. thou shalt in any wise set] The emphatic Heb. means either thou mayest certainly, or thou shalt only, set.

thy God shall choose] So of Saul and David, 1 Samuel 9:15 f., 1 Samuel 10:24, 1 Samuel 16:1; 1 Samuel 16:12, 2 Samuel 6:21, on which precedents D’s law seems based.

one from among thy brethren] a Hebrew, see on Deuteronomy 15:12.

thou mayest not put a foreigner, etc.] No such attempt, or temptation, on the part of Israel is recorded; the veto upon it can hardly be intended to cover, or have found its motive in, the nomination of an Israelite king by a foreign power, e.g. Zedekiah. It was this law which caused Agrippa I. to burst into tears as he remembered his Edomite origin. Contrast Cyrus as the Shepherd and the Anointed, of Jehovah—of course, in relation to Israel (Isaiah 44:28; Isaiah 45:1).

Verse 15. - The prohibition to choose a foreigner indicates that the people had the right of election. In what way this was to be exercised, and how it was subject to the Divine choice, is not declared. Judging from what actually happened in subsequent history, it would appear that only on special occasions, such as the election of the first king or a change of dynasty, did God take the initiative, and through a prophet direct the choice of the people; ultimately the monarchy became hereditary, and it was understood that the prince who succeeded to the throne did so with the Divine approval, unless the opposite was expressly intimated by a message from God. Deuteronomy 17:15Choice and Right of the King. - Deuteronomy 17:14, Deuteronomy 17:15. If Israel, when dwelling in the land which was given it by the Lord for a possession, should wish to appoint a king, like all the nations round about, it was to appoint the man whom Jehovah its God should choose, and that from among its brethren, i.e., from its own people, not a foreigner or non-Israelite. The earthly kingdom in Israel was not opposed to the theocracy, i.e., to the rule of Jehovah as king over the people of His possession, provided no one was made king but the person whom Jehovah should choose. The appointment of a king is not commanded, like the institution of judges (Deuteronomy 16:18), because Israel could exist under the government of Jehovah, even without an earthly king; it is simply permitted, in case the need should arise for a regal government. There was no necessity to describe more minutely the course to be adopted, as the people possessed the natural provision for the administration of their national affairs in their well-organized tribes, by whom this point could be decided. Moses also omits to state more particularly in what way Jehovah would make known the choice of the king to be appointed. The congregation, no doubt, possessed one means of asking the will of the Lord in the Urim and Thummim of the high priest, provided the Lord did not reveal His will in a different manner, namely through a prophet, as He did in the election of Saul and David (1 Samuel 8-9, and 16). The commandment not to choose a foreigner, acknowledged the right of the nation to choose. Consequently the choice on the part of the Lord may have consisted simply in His pointing out to the people, in a very evident manner, the person they were to elect, or in His confirming the choice by word and act, as in accordance with His will.

Three rules are laid down for the king himself in Deuteronomy 17:16-20. In the first place, he was not to keep many horses, or lead back the people to Egypt, to multiply horses, because Jehovah had forbidden the people to return thither by that way. The notion of modern critics, that there is an allusion in this prohibition to the constitution of the kingdom under Solomon, is so far from having any foundation, that the reason assigned - namely, the fear lest the king should lead back the people to Egypt from his love of horses, "to the end that he should multiply horses" - really precludes the time of Solomon, inasmuch as the time had then long gone by when any thought could have been entertained of leading back the people to Egypt. But such a reason would be quite in its place in Moses' time, and only then, "when it would not seem impossible to reunite the broken band, and when the people were ready to express their longing, and even their intention, to return to Egypt on the very slightest occasion; whereas the reason assigned for the prohibition might have furnished Solomon with an excuse for regarding the prohibition itself as merely a temporary one, which was no longer binding" (Oehler in Herzog's Cyclopaedia: vid., Hengstenberg's Dissertations).

(Note: When Riehm objects to this, that if such a prohibition had been unnecessary in a future age, in which the people had reached the full consciousness of its national independence, and every thought of the possibility of a reunion with the Egyptians had disappeared, Moses would never have issued it, since he must have foreseen the national independence of the people; the force of this objection rests simply upon his confounding foreseeing with assuming, and upon a thoroughly mistaken view of the prophet's vision of the future. Even if Moses, as "a great prophet," did foresee the future national independence of Israel, he had also had such experience of the fickle character of the people, that he could not regard the thought of returning to Egypt as absolutely an impossible one, even after the conquest of Canaan, or reject it as inconceivable. Moreover, the prophetic foresight of Moses was not, as Riehm imagines it, a foreknowledge of all the separate points in the historical development of the nation, much less a foreknowledge of the thoughts and desires of the heart, which might arise in the course of time amidst the changes that would take place in the nation. A foresight of the development of Israel into national independence, so far as we may attribute it to Moses as a prophet, was founded not upon the character of the people, but upon the divine choice and destination of Israel, which by no means precluded the possibility of their desiring to return to Egypt, even at some future time, since God Himself had threatened the people with dispersion among the heathen as the punishment for continued transgression of His covenant, and yet, notwithstanding this dispersion, had predicted the ultimate realization of His covenant of grace. And when Riehm still further observes, that the taste for horses, which lay at the foundation of this fear, evidently points to a later time, when the old repugnance to cavalry which existed in the nation in the days of the judges, and even under David, had disappeared; this supposed repugnance to cavalry is a fiction of the critic himself, without any historical foundation. For nothing more is related in the history, than that before the time of Solomon the Israelites had not cultivated the rearing of horses, and that David only kept 100 of the war-horses taken from the Syrians for himself, and had the others put to death (2 Samuel 8:4). And so long as horses were neither reared nor possessed by the Israelites, there can be no ground for speaking of the old repugnance to cavalry. On the other hand, the impossibility of tracing this prohibition to the historical circumstances of the time of Solomon, or even a later age, is manifest in the desperate subterfuge to which Riehm has recourse, when he connects this passage with the threat in Deuteronomy 28:68, that if all the punishments suspended over them should be ineffectual, God would carry them back in ships to Egypt, and that they should there be sold to their enemies as men-servants and maid-servants, and then discovers a proof in this, that the Egyptian king Psammetichus, who sought out foreign soldiers and employed them, had left king Manasseh some horses, solely on the condition that he sent him some Israelitish infantry, and placed them at his disposal. But this is not expounding Scripture; it is putting hypotheses into it. As Oehler has already observed, this hypothesis has no foundation whatever in the Old Testament, nor (we may add) in the accounts of Herodotus and Diodorus Siculus concerning Psammetichus. According to Diod. (i. 66), Psammetichus hired soldiers from Arabia, Caria, and Ionia; and according to Herodotus (i. 152), he hired Ionians and Carians armed with brass, that he might conquer his rival kings with their assistance. But neither of these historians says anything at all about Israelitish infantry. And even if it were conceivable that any king of Israel or Judah could carry on such traffic in men, as to sell his own subjects to the Egyptians for horses, it is very certain that the prophets, who condemned every alliance with foreign kings, and were not silent with regard to Manasseh's idolatry, would not have passed over such an abomination as this without remark or without reproof.)

The second admonition also, that the king was not to take to himself many wives, and turn away his heart (sc., from the Lord), nor greatly multiply to himself silver and gold, can be explained without the hypothesis that there is an allusion to Solomon's reign, although this king did transgress both commands (1 Kings 10:14. Deuteronomy 11:1.). A richly furnished harem, and the accumulation of silver and gold, were inseparably connected with the luxury of Oriental monarchs generally; so that the fear was a very natural one, that the future king of Israel might follow the general customs of the heathen in these respects.

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