Deuteronomy 17:3
And has gone and served other gods, and worshipped them, either the sun, or moon, or any of the host of heaven, which I have not commanded;
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Deuteronomy 17:3. The host of heaven — Those glorious creatures, which are to be admired as the wonderful works of God, but not to be set up in God’s stead. By condemning the most specious of all idolatries, he intimates how absurd a thing it is to worship stocks and stones, the works of men’s hands. I have not commanded — That is, I have forbidden. Such negative expressions are emphatical.17:1-7 No creature which had any blemish was to be offered in sacrifice to God. We are thus called to remember the perfect, pure, and spotless sacrifice of Christ, and reminded to serve God with the best of our abilities, time, and possession, or our pretended obedience will be hateful to him. So great a punishment as death, so remarkable a death as stoning, must be inflicted on the Jewish idolater. Let all who in our day set up idols in their hearts, remember how God punished this crime in Israel.Compare Deuteronomy 13:1 ff. Here special reference is made to the legal forms to be adopted, Deuteronomy 17:5-7. The sentence was to be carried into effect at "the gates" (compare Genesis 19:1 note) of the town in which the crime was committed; because, as "all the people" were to take a part, an open space would be requisite for the execution. Note the typical and prophetical aspect of the injunction; compare Acts 7:58; Hebrews 13:12. De 17:2-7. Idolaters Must Be Slain.

2-7. If there be found among you … man or woman, that hath wrought wickedness—The grand object contemplated in choosing Israel was to preserve the knowledge and worship of the one true God; and hence idolatry of any kind, whether of the heavenly bodies or in some grosser form, is called "a transgression of His covenant." No rank or sex could palliate this crime. Every reported case, even a flying rumor of the perpetration of so heinous an offense, was to be judicially examined; and if proved by the testimony of competent witnesses, the offender was to be taken without the gates and stoned to death, the witnesses casting the first stone at him. The object of this special arrangement was partly to deter the witnesses from making a rash accusation by the prominent part they had to act as executioners, and partly to give a public assurance that the crime had met its due punishment.

Those glorious creatures, which are to be admired as the wonderful works of God, but not to be set up in God’s stead, nor worshipped as gods: see Job 31:26. By condemning the most specious and reasonable of all idolaters, he intimates how absurd a thing it is to worship stocks and stones, the works of men’s hands.

Which I have not commanded, i.e. I have forbidden, to wit, Exo 20. Such negative expressions are oft emphatical, and imply the contrary, as Proverbs 10:2 17:21 24:23. And hath gone,.... The Targum of Jonathan adds, after the evil imagination or concupiscence, lusting after other lovers, and forsaking the true God, and departing from his worship:

and served other gods; strange gods, the idols of the people, other gods besides the true God; the creature besides the Creator:

and worshipped them; by bowing down before them, praying to them, or ascribing their mercies and blessings to them, and giving them the glory of them:

either the sun, or moon, or any of the host of heaven: the two great luminaries, and the planets, constellations, and stars, any of them; which kind of idolatry very early obtained, and was in use at this time among the Heathens, and was an iniquity to be punished by the judge, Job 31:26, which sin, though so strictly forbidden, the people of Israel sometimes fell into, 2 Kings 21:3.

which I have not commanded: and which is a sufficient reason, in matters of worship, to avoid and abstain from anything, that God has not commanded it; for in things of that nature nothing should be done but what he has ordered, who is a jealous God, and will not suffer any to take upon them to direct what should be done as a religious service and duty; and if any are so presumptuous, they must expect it will be resented; see Isaiah 1:12 and especially with respect to the object of worship, as here, and which relate to things if not forbid expressly, yet tacitly, to do which was an abomination to the Lord.

And hath gone and served other gods, and worshipped them, either the sun, or moon, or any of the host of heaven, which I have not {c} commanded;

(c) By which he condemns all religion and serving of God which God has not commanded.

3. gone and served other gods] So Deuteronomy 13:6; Deuteronomy 13:13 (7, 14); and 2 (3) with slight variation.

sun, moon, etc.] See on Deuteronomy 4:19.

which I have not commanded] Cp. Deuteronomy 4:19 : which thy God hath assigned unto the peoples. The use of the first person here is remarkable; God Himself takes up the speech, as in Deuteronomy 7:4 and frequently in the prophets: e.g. Jeremiah 7:31; Jeremiah 19:5; Jeremiah 32:35.Verse 3. - (Cf. Deuteronomy 4:19.) Which I have not commanded; i.e. have forbidden, a meiosis, as in Jeremiah 7:31. Just as in its religious worship the Israelitish nation was to show itself to be the holy nation of Jehovah, so was it in its political relations also. This thought forms the link between the laws already given and those which follow. Civil order - that indispensable condition of the stability and prosperity of nations and states - rests upon a conscientious maintenance of right by means of a well-ordered judicial constitution and an impartial administration of justice. - For the purpose of settling the disputes of the people, Moses had already provided them with judges at Sinai, and had given the judges themselves the necessary instructions for the fulfilment of their duties (Exodus 18). This arrangement might suffice as long as the people were united in one camp and had Moses for a leader, who could lay before God any difficult cases that were brought to him, and give an absolute decision with divine authority. But for future times, when Israel would no longer possess a prophet and mediator like Moses, and after the conquest of Canaan would live scattered about in the towns and villages of the whole land, certain modifications and supplementary additions were necessary to adapt this judicial constitution to the altered circumstances of the people. Moses anticipates this want in the following provisions, in which he first of all commands the appointment of judges and officials in every town, and gives certain precise injunctions as to their judicial proceedings (Deuteronomy 16:18-17:7); and secondly, appoints a higher judicial court at the place of the sanctuary for the more difficult cases (Deuteronomy 17:8-13); and thirdly, gives them a law for the future with reference to the choice of a king (Deuteronomy 16:14-20).

Deuteronomy 16:18-20

Appointment and Instruction of the Judges. - Deuteronomy 16:18. "Judges and officers thou shalt appoint thee in all thy gates (place, see at Exodus 20:10), which Jehovah thy God shall give thee, according to thy tribes." The nation is addressed as a whole, and directed to appoint for itself judges and officers, i.e., to choose them, and have them appointed by its rulers, just as was done at Sinai, where the people chose the judges, and Moses inducted into office the persons so chosen (cf. Deuteronomy 1:12-18). That the same course was to be adopted in future, is evident from the expression, "throughout thy tribes," i.e., according to thy tribes, which points back to Deuteronomy 1:13. Election by majorities was unknown to the Mosaic law. The shoterim, officers (lit., writers, see at Exodus 5:6), who were associated with the judges, according to Deuteronomy 1:15, even under the previous arrangement, were not merely messengers and servants of the courts, but secretaries and advisers of the judges, who derived their title from the fact that they had to draw up and keep the genealogical lists, and who are mentioned as already existing in Egypt as overseers of the people and of their work (see at Exodus 5:6; and for the different opinions concerning their official position, see Selden, de Synedriis, i. pp. 342-3). The new features, which Moses introduces here, consist simply in the fact that every place was to have its own judges and officers, whereas hitherto they had only been appointed for the larger and smaller divisions of the nation, according to their genealogical organization. Moses lays down no rule as to the number of judges and shoterim to be appointed in each place, because this would depend upon the number of the inhabitants; and the existing arrangement of judges over tens, hundreds, etc. (Exodus 18:21), would still furnish the necessary standard. The statements made by Josephus and the Rabbins with regard to the number of judges in each place are contradictory, or at all events are founded upon the circumstances of much later times (see my Archologie, ii. pp. 257-8). - These judges were to judge the people with just judgment. The admonition in Deuteronomy 16:19 corresponds to the instructions in Exodus 23:6 and Exodus 23:8. "Respect persons:" as in Deuteronomy 1:17. To this there is added, in Deuteronomy 16:20, an emphatic admonition to strive zealously to maintain justice. The repetition of the word justice is emphatic: justice, and nothing but justice, as in Genesis 14:10, etc. But in order to give the people and the judges appointed by them a brief practical admonition, as to the things they were more especially to observe in their administration of justice, Moses notices by way of example a few crimes that were deserving of punishment (Deuteronomy 16:21, Deuteronomy 16:22, and Deuteronomy 17:1), and then proceeds in Deuteronomy 17:2-7 to describe more fully the judicial proceedings in the case of idolaters.

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