Deuteronomy 17:4
And it be told you, and you have heard of it, and inquired diligently, and, behold, it be true, and the thing certain, that such abomination is worked in Israel:
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
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.

Told thee by any person, thou shalt not slight so much as a rumour or flying report of so gross a crime.

Inquired diligently, by sending messengers, examining witnesses, &c. And it be told thee, and thou hast heard of it, and inquired diligently,.... A report of this kind was not to be neglected; though it was not to be concluded upon as certain by hearsay, it was to be looked into, and the persons that brought it thoroughly examined; so the Targum of Jonathan,"and inquired the witnesses well,''what proof and evidence they could give of the fact, who the persons were, when and where, and in what manner the sin was committed:

and, behold, it be true, and the thing certain; upon examining the witnesses the case is plain and out of all question:

that such abomination is wrought in Israel; to do it in any country was abominable, but much more so in the land of Israel, among the professing people of God, who had the knowledge of the true God, and had had so many proofs of his deity, his power and providence, as well as received so many favours and blessings from him, and had such laws and statutes given them as no other people had.

And it be told thee, and thou hast heard of it, and inquired diligently, and, behold, it be true, and the thing certain, that such abomination is wrought in Israel:
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
4. and it be told thee, and thou hast heard] Similarly Deuteronomy 13:12 (13).

shalt thou inquire, etc.] So, but with additions, Deuteronomy 13:14 (15), q.v.

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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