Deuteronomy 17:16
But he shall not multiply horses to himself, nor cause the people to return to Egypt, to the end that he should multiply horses: for as much as the LORD has said to you, You shall from now on return no more that way.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
Deuteronomy 17:16. He shall not multiply horses — Though he might have horses for his own use, yet he was not to have many horses for his officers and guard, much less for war, lest he should trust in them. The multiplying horses is also forbidden, lest it should raise too great a correspondence with Egypt, which furnished Canaan with them. The Lord hath said — The Lord hath now said to me, and I, by his command, declare it to you. Ye shall no more return that way — Into Egypt, lest ye be again infected with her idolatries.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 horse was not anciently used in the East for purposes of agriculture or traveling, but ordinarily for war only. He appears constantly in Scripture as the symbol and embodiment of fleshly strength and the might of the creature (compare Psalm 20:7; Psalm 33:16-17; Psalm 147:10; Job 39:19 ff), and is sometimes significantly spoken of simply as "the strong one" (compare Jeremiah 8:16). The spirit of the prohibition therefore is that the king of Israel must not, like other earthly potentates, put his trust in costly and formidable preparations for war (compare Hosea 1:7).

Egypt was the principal source from where the nations of western Asia drew their supplies of this animal (compare Exodus 14:5 ff; 1 Kings 10:28-29; 2 Kings 7:6); but contact, traffic, or alliance which would "cause the people to return to Egypt" would be to reverse that great and beneficent wonderwork of God which inaugurated the Mosaic covenant, the deliverance from the bondage of Egypt; and to bring about of set purpose that which God threatened Deuteronomy 28:68 as the most severe punishment for Israel's sin.

16. he shall not multiply horses to himself—The use of these animals was not absolutely prohibited, nor is there any reason to conclude that they might not be employed as part of the state equipage. But the multiplication of horses would inevitably lead to many evils, to increased intercourse with foreign nations, especially with Egypt, to the importation of an animal to which the character of the country was not suited, to the establishment of an Oriental military despotism, to proud and pompous parade in peace, to a dependence upon Egypt in time of war, and a consequent withdrawal of trust and confidence in God. (2Sa 8:4; 1Ki 10:26; 2Ch 1:16; 9:28; Isa 31:3). He shall not multiply horses to himself, to wit, excessively, beyond what the state and majesty of his place required. Hereby God would prevent many sins and mischiefs, as,

1. Pride of heart, and contempt of his people.

2. Oppression and tyranny, and the imposition of unnecessary burdens upon his people.

3. Carnal confidence, which by this means would be promoted. See Psalm 33:17 Proverbs 21:31.

4. Much commerce with Egypt, as it here follows, which was famous for horses, as appears from Exodus 14:23 1 Kings 10:26,28 2 Chronicles 1:16 9:28 Isaiah 31:1,3 Eze 17:15.

Nor cause the people to return to Egypt; either for habitation, or for trade. This God forbade to prevent,

1. Their unthankfulness for their deliverance out of Egypt.

2. Their confederacies with the Egyptians, their trusting to them for aid, which they were very prone to, and their infection by the idolatry and other manifold wickednesses for which Egypt was infamous.

3. Their multiplication of horses, as it here follows. The Lord hath said: when or where? Answ. Either implicitly, when he showed his dislike of their return to Egypt, as Exodus 13:17 Numbers 14:3,4; or expressly at this time, The Lord hath now said it to me, and I in his name, and by his command, declare it to you. That way; in the way that leads to that place. But he shall not multiply horses to himself,.... That he might not put his trust and confidence in outward things, as some are apt to trust in horses and chariots; and that he might not tyrannise over and distress his subjects by keeping a number of horses and chariots as a standing army, and chiefly for a reason that follows; he was to have no more than for his own chariot, so Jarchi, and so the Misnah (g) and Maimonides (h); the Targum of Jonathan restrains it to two:

nor cause the people to return to Egypt, to the end that he should multiply horses; which was a country that abounded with them, and therefore he was not to encourage, and much less oblige his subjects to travel thither or trade with that people for the sake of increasing his stock of horses, Isaiah 31:1.

forasmuch as the Lord hath said unto you, ye shall henceforth return no more that way; not that going into Egypt on any account whatsoever was forbidden, as for trade and merchandise in other things, or for shelter and safety, for which some good men fled thither; but for outward help and assistance against enemies, and for horses on that account, and particularly in order to dwell there, from which the Jews in the times of Jeremiah were dissuaded by him, and threatened by the Lord with destruction, in case they should, Jeremiah 42:15. When the Lord said this is not certain; it may be when they proposed to make a captain, and return unto Egypt; or he said this in his providence, this was the language of it ever since they came out of it, or however this he now said; see Deuteronomy 28:68.

(g) Sanhedrin, c. 2. sect. 4. (h) Hilchot Melachim, c. 3. sect. 3.

But he shall not multiply horses to himself, nor cause the people to return to {k} Egypt, to the end that he should multiply horses: forasmuch as the LORD hath said unto you, Ye shall henceforth return no more that way.

(k) To avenge their injuries and to take their best horses from them; 1Ki 10:28.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
16. Only] Heb. raḳ, see on Deuteronomy 10:15.

he shall not multiply horses, etc.] On the horse in Israel, see Jerusalem i. 324 f. Horses came from N. to S. in W. Asia, probably from Asia Minor. Brought into Egypt by the Hyksos after 1800 b.c. they were never very common there, but the breed was excellent. (W. M. Müller, E.B. ‘Egypt,’ § 9.) By 1600 b.c. they were used in Palestine. Solomon seems to have introduced them into Israel; and they and the chariots for which they were first employed became symbolic of the strength of the N. Kingdom (2 Kings 2:12; 2 Kings 13:14). The prophets mention horses nearly always with war and foreign subsidies, in which the people were tempted to trust instead of in God. See Amos 4:10, Hosea 1:7; Hosea 14:3, Isaiah 2:7; Isaiah 31:1; Isaiah 31:3, Ezekiel 17:15, of which the last three passages and probably also (because of the parallel) Hosea 14:3, identify them with Israel’s irreligious confidence in an Egyptian alliance. Hence the clause nor cause the people to return to Egypt. This does not mean that individual Hebrews were bartered for Egyptian horses (Steuern.). Like the prophets D is hostile to an Egyptian alliance, of which the clearest token would be subsidies of horses.

the Lord hath said, etc.] Not found in Exod.—Numb. ‘It is probable that as in other cases (cf. on Deuteronomy 1:22, Deuteronomy 10:1-3; Deuteronomy 10:9, Deuteronomy 17:2) the actual words were still read in some part of the narrative of JE, extant at the time when Deut. was composed’ (Driver).Verses 16, 17. - Certain rules are prescribed for the king. It is forbidden to him to multiply horses, to multiply wives, and to amass large treasures of silver and gold, and he must have a copy of the Law written out for him from that kept by the priests, that he might have it by him, and read it all the days of his life. The multiplying of horses is prohibited, because this would bring Israel into intercourse and friendly relations with Egypt, and might tend to their going back to that country from which they had been so marvelously delivered; a prohibition which could only have been given at an early stage in the history of the people, for at a later period, after they had been well established in Canaan, such a prohibition for such a reason would have been simply ridiculous. The prohibition to multiply wives and to amass large treasures has respect to the usage common from the earliest period with Oriental monarchs to have vast harems and huge accumulations of the precious metals, as much for ostentation as for either luxury or use; and as there was no small danger of the King of Israel being seduced to follow this usage, and so to have his heart turned away from the Lord, it was fitting that such a prohibition should be prospectively enacted for his guidance. Both these prohibitions were neglected by Solomon, and probably by others of the Jewish kings; but this only indicates that the law was so ancient that it had come in their time to be regarded as obsolete. The rule that the king was to write him a copy of the Law for his own constant use does not necessarily imply that he was to write this with his own hand; he might cause it to be written by some qualified scribe for him. They shall do "according to the sound of the word which they utter" (follow their decision exactly), and that "according to the sound of the law which they teach," and "according to the right which they shall speak." The sentence was to be founded upon the Thorah, upon the law which the priests had to teach.
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