Deuteronomy 18:9
When you are come into the land which the LORD your God gives you, you shall not learn to do after the abominations of those nations.
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(9-14) Certain forms of idolatry to be avoided, especially unlawful means of communication with the unseen world.



Deuteronomy 18:9 - Deuteronomy 18:22

It is evident from the connection in which the promise of ‘a prophet like unto Moses’ is here introduced that it does not refer to Jesus only; for it is presented as Israel’s continuous defence against the temptation of seeking knowledge of the divine will by the illegitimate methods of divination, soothsaying, necromancy, and the like, which were rampant among the inhabitants of the land. A distant hope of a prophet in the far-off future could afford no motive to shun these superstitions. We cannot understand this passage unless we recognise that the direct reference is to the institution of the prophetic order as the standing means of imparting the reliable knowledge of God’s will, possessing which, Israel had no need to turn to them ‘that peep and mutter’ and bring false oracles from imagined gods. But that primary reference of the words does not exclude, but rather demands, their ultimate reference to Him in whom the divine word is perfectly enshrined, and who is the bright, consummate flower of the prophetic order, which ‘spake of Him,’ not only in its individual predictions, but by its very existence.

A glance must be given to the exhaustive list of pretenders to knowledge of the future or to power of shaping it magically, which occurs in Deuteronomy 18:10 - Deuteronomy 18:11, and suggests a terrible picture of the burdens of superstition which weighed on men in these days of ignorance, as the like burdens do still, wherever Jesus is not known as the one Revealer of God, and the sole Lord of all things. Of the eight terms employed, the first three refer to different means of reading the future, the next two to different means of influencing events, and the last three to different ways of consulting the dead. The first of these eight properly refers to drawing lots, but includes other methods; the second is an obscure word, which is supposed by some to mean a ‘murmurer,’ and may refer rather to the low mutterings of the soothsayer than to the method of his working; the third is probably a general expression for an interpreter of omens, especially of those given by the play of liquid in a ‘cup,’ such as Joseph ‘divined’ by.

Two names for magicians follow, of which the former seems to mean one who worked with charms such as African or American Indian ‘medicine men’ use, and the latter, one who binds by incantations, or one who ties magic knots, which are supposed to have the power of hindering the designs of the person against whom they are directed. The word employed means ‘binding,’ and maybe used either literally or metaphorically. The malicious tying of knots in order to work harm is not dead yet in some backward corners of Britain. Then follow three names for traffickers with spirits,-those who raise ghosts as did the witch of Endor, those who have a ‘familiar spirit,’ and those who in any way consult the dead. It is a grim catalogue, bearing witness to the deep-rooted longing in men to peer into the darkness ahead, and to get some knowledge of the purposes of the awful unseen Power who rules there. The longing is here recognised as legitimate, while the methods are branded as bad, and Israel is warned from them, by being pointed to the merciful divine institution which meets the longing.

It is clear, from this glance at the context, that the ‘prophet’ promised to Israel must mean the order, not the individual; and it is interesting to note, first, the relation in which that order is presented as standing towards all that rabble of diviners and sorcerers, with their rubbish of charms and muttered spells. It sweeps them off the field, because it is truly what they pretend to be. God knows men’s longings, and God will meet them so far as meeting them is for men’s good. But the characteristics of the prophet are set in strong contrast to those of the diviners and magicians, and lift the order high above all the filth and folly of these others. First, the prophet is ‘raised up’ by God; the individual holder of the office has his ‘call’ and does not ‘prophesy out of his own heart.’ The man who takes this office on himself without such a call is ipso facto branded as a false prophet. Then he is ‘from the midst of thee, of thy brethren,’-springing from the people, not an alien, like so many of these wandering soothsayers, but with the national life throbbing in his veins, and himself participant of the thoughts and emotions of his brethren. Then he is to be ‘like unto’ Moses,-not in all points, but in his receiving direct communications from God, and in his authority as God’s messenger. The crowning characteristic, ‘I will put My words into his mouth, and he shall speak unto them all that I shall command him,’ invests his words with divine authority, calls for obedience to them as the words of God Himself, widens out his sphere far beyond that of merely foretelling, brings in the moral and religious element which had no place in the oracles of the soothsayer, and opens up the prospect of a continuous progressive revelation throughout the ages {‘all that I shall command him’}. We mutilate the grand idea of the prophet in Israel if we think of his work as mainly prediction, and we mutilate it no less if we exclude prediction from it. We mutilate it still more fatally if we try to account for it on naturalistic principles, and fail to see in the prophet a man directly conscious of a divine call, or to hear in his words the solemn accents of the voice of God.

The loftiness and the limitations of ‘the goodly fellowship of the prophets’ alike point onwards to Jesus Christ. In Him, and in Him alone, the idea of the prophet is fully realised. The imperfect embodiments of it in the past were prophecies as well as prophets. The fact that God has ‘spoken unto the fathers by the prophets,’ leads us to expect that He will speak ‘to us in a Son,’ and that not by fragments of His mighty voice, but in one full, eternal, all-embracing and all-sufficient Word. Every divine idea, which has been imperfectly manifested in fragmentary and sinful men and in the material creation, is completely incarnated in Him. He is the King to whom the sins and the saintlinesses of Israel’s kings alike pointed. He is the Priest, whom Aaron and his sons foreshadowed, who perfectly exercises the sympathy which they could only feel partially, because they were compassed with infirmity and self-regard, and who offers the true sacrifice of efficacy higher than ‘the blood of bulls and goats.’ He is the Prophet, who makes all other means of knowing the divine will unnecessary, hearing whom we hear the very voice of God speaking in His gentle words of love, in His authoritative words of command, in His illuminating words of wisdom, and speaking yet more loudly and heart-touchingly in the eloquence of deeds no less than divine; who is ‘not ashamed to call us brethren,’ and is ‘bone of our bone and flesh of our flesh’; who is like, but greater than, the great lawgiver of Israel, being the Son and Lord of the ‘house’ in which Moses was but a servant. ‘To Him give all the prophets witness,’ and the greatest of them was honoured when, with Moses, Elijah stood on the Mount of Transfiguration, subordinate and attesting, and then faded away when the voice proclaimed, ‘This is My beloved Son, hear Him,’-and they ‘saw no one save Jesus only.’18:9-14 Was it possible that a people so blessed with Divine institutions, should ever be in any danger of making those their teachers whom God had made their captives? They were in danger; therefore, after many like cautions, they are charged not to do after the abominations of the nations of Canaan. All reckoning of lucky or unlucky days, all charms for diseases, all amulets or spells to prevent evil, fortune-telling, &c. are here forbidden. These are so wicked as to be a chief cause of the rooting out of the Canaanites. It is amazing to think that there should be any pretenders of this kind in such a land, and day of light, as we live in. They are mere impostors who blind and cheat their followers.Beside that which cometh of the sale of his patrimony - The Levites had indeed "no part nor inheritance with Israel," but they might individually possess property, and in fact often did so (compare 1 Kings 2:26; Jeremiah 32:7; Acts 4:36). The Levite who desired to settle at the place of the sanctuary would probably sell his patrimony when quitting his former home. The text directs that he should, notwithstanding any such private resources, duly enjoy his share of the perquisites provided for the ministers at the sanctuary, and as he was "waiting at the altar" should be "partaker with the altar" 1 Corinthians 9:13. De 18:9-14. The Abominations of the Nations Are to Be Avoided.

9-14. thou shalt not learn to do after the abominations of those nations—(See on [152]Le 18:21; [153]Le 19:26; [154]Le 19:31; [155]Le 20:4). In spite of this express command, the people of Canaan, especially the Philistines, were a constant snare and stumbling block to the Israelites, on account of their divinations and superstitious practices.

No text from Poole on this verse. When thou art come into the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee,.... The land of Canaan, often thus described, to express the goodness of God in bestowing it on them, as a mere favour of his, without any desert of theirs; and so typical of the heavenly Canaan, or eternal life, which is the free gift of God through Christ:

thou shall not learn to do after the abominations of these nations; the seven nations which before inhabited it; they might learn, as Jarchi observes, to know how corrupt their works were, and to show to their children, that they might not do so; but they were not to learn them so as to practise them, but to have them in the utmost abhorrence, as being abominable to God, and which should be so to them; some of which are as follow.

When thou art come into the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee, thou shalt not learn to do after the abominations of those nations.
9. When thou art come into the land] Characteristic of the Sg.; cp. Deuteronomy 9:5.

which the Lord thy God is to give thee] Peculiar to D; see on Deuteronomy 1:20, Deuteronomy 4:21 f.

learn to do] Only here.

abominations] See on Deuteronomy 7:25, and cp. Deuteronomy 12:31.

9–22. Of Prophets in contrast to Diviners, etc.

In the promised land Israel must have nothing to do with the abominations of its peoples (Deuteronomy 18:9); with any one passing his children through the fire, or diviner, soothsayer, augur, sorcerer, spell-binder or trafficker with the dead (Deuteronomy 18:10 f.), for these are abominations to Jehovah to whom Israel must be utterly loyal (Deuteronomy 18:12-14). A prophet shall He raise up from among themselves, to be such a mediator of His word, as in Ḥoreb they had prayed Moses to be; to him shall they hearken (Deuteronomy 18:15-19). The prophet who presumes to speak in God’s name what He has not spoken, or in the name of other gods, shall die (Deuteronomy 18:20). The proof of his falseness shall be the non-fulfilment of his predictions (Deuteronomy 18:21 f.).—Sg. throughout except for an insertion in Deuteronomy 18:15 (see note) and, acc. to Sam. LXX, the last clause of Deuteronomy 18:22. There are no other signs of a diversity of hands. The spirit is thoroughly deuteronomic, the argument compact and consistent.

Marti reads Deuteronomy 18:9-13 as belonging to the law of the priests (Deuteronomy 18:1-8) and Deuteronomy 18:14-22 as a later addition (so too Cornill), with this further evidence of its secondary character that it introduces Moses in a way unparalleled in the Code, and in 22 gives a onesided conception of prophecy. But it is most probable that the Code of D, founded on the teaching of the prophets, contained a law of the Prophet in succession to those on Judges, King and Priests; and the emphatic contrast, which the construction of the passage brings out between the native prophet and the foreign diviners (see on Deuteronomy 18:15), is natural and leaves a strong impression of the unity of the whole. Indeed it is easier to argue the secondary character of Deuteronomy 18:10-13 (as unnecessary before 14 and as containing the term perfect not applied so elsewhere in D but found in P) than that of Deuteronomy 18:14-22. Nor does Deuteronomy 18:22 give so imperfect a view of prophecy as Marti supposes; the resemblance between it and the tests which Jeremiah applied to himself and the false prophets is wonderfully close. Steuern. takes Deuteronomy 18:10-12 a as an independent law to which an editor has added Deuteronomy 18:9; Deuteronomy 18:12 b Deuteronomy 18:22 a, composed by himself with the use of a Pl. narrative (ch. 5) and perhaps an originally separate law on the Prophets. His analysis has more to say for itself than the other but is not convincing. I agree with Berth. that Deuteronomy 18:20 ff. may as well be dependent on Deuteronomy 18:16 ff. as the converse.

It is significant but not surprising that the Law of the Prophet is peculiar to D and not found in other Codes, which contain, however, prohibitions of the foreign practices here forbidden to Israel, E, Exodus 22:18 (17), H, Leviticus 18:21, Leviticus 19:26; Leviticus 19:31, Leviticus 20:2 ff., Leviticus 20:27. It is more important to notice Saul’s suppression of those who dealt with ghosts (1 Samuel 28:3), and the frequent protests of the prophets, and their appeals to the word of the living God (Isaiah 2:6; Isaiah 8:19, Micah 3:6 f., Micah 5:12 (11), Jeremiah 27:9; Jeremiah 29:8), for in these we find the real basis of this law of D, as well as the example of its form.

In the Code of Ḫammurabi there are no laws against divination, sorcery or magic. False accusations of laying spells on men are punished, but the ordeal by water is enjoined in one of the two cases mentioned—§§ 1 f.Verses 9-22. - Moses was not only the leader and ruler of the people, he was also the medium through which God communicated with the people, gave them his laws, and conveyed to them his word and will. In this respect his place could be supplied neither by priest nor by king. In the prospect of his demise, therefore, there required to be instituted another office, that of a prophet, one who should be between God and the people, as the channel through which Divine communications might pass to them. This office Moses here announces that God would establish among them when they had entered the Promised Land. Verse 9. - The abominations of these nations; i.e. certain forms of superstitious usage by which the heathen sought to procure the favor of their deities, to obtain from them direction and counsel, and to penetrate into the hidden future of events. Moses charges the people to avoid all such usages, and not even to learn to do after such abominations (cf. Leviticus 18:21; Numbers 23:23; Leviticus 19:26, 31). "This shall be the right of the priests on the part of the people, on the part of those who slaughter slain-offerings, whether ox or sheep; he (the offerer) shall give the priest the shoulder, the cheek, and the stomach." הזּרע, the shoulder, i.e., the front leg; see Numbers 6:19. הקּבה, the rough stomach, τὸ ἤνιστρον (lxx), i.e., the fourth stomach of ruminant animals, in which the digestion of the food is completed; Lat. omasus or abomasus, though the Vulgate has ventriculus here. On the choice of these three pieces in particular, Mnster and Fagius observe that "the sheep possesses three principal parts, the head, the feet, and the trunk; and of each of these some portion was to be given to the priest who officiated" "Of each of these three principal parts of the animal," says Schultz, "some valuable piece was to be presented: the shoulder at least, and the stomach, which was regarded as particularly fat, are seen at once to have been especially good." That this arrangement is not at variance with the command in Leviticus 7:32., to give the wave-breast and heave-leg of the peace-offerings to the Lord for the priests, but simply enjoins a further gift to the priests on the part of the people, in addition to those portions which were to be given to the Lord for His servants, is sufficiently evident from the context, since the heave-leg and wave-breast belonged to the firings of Jehovah mentioned in Deuteronomy 18:1, which the priests had received as an inheritance from the Lord, that is to say, to the tenuphoth of the children of Israel, which the priests might eat with their sons and daughters, though only with such members of their house as were levitically clean (Numbers 18:11); and also from the words of the present command, viz., that the portions mentioned were to be a right of the priests on the part of the people, on the part of those who slaughtered slain-offerings, i.e., to be paid to the priest as a right that was due to him on the part of the people. משׁפּט was what the priest could justly claim. This right was probably accorded to the priests as a compensation for the falling off which would take place in their incomes in consequence of the repeal of the law that every animal was to be slaughtered at the sanctuary as a sacrifice (Leviticus 17; vid., Deuteronomy 12:15.).

The only thing that admits of dispute is, whether this gift was to be presented from every animal that was slaughtered at home for private use, or only from those which were slaughtered for sacrificial meals, and therefore at the place of the sanctuary. Against the former view, for which appeal is made to Philo, Josephus (Ant. iv. 4, 4), and the Talmud, we may adduce not only "the difficulty of carrying out such a plan" (was every Israelite who slaughtered an ox, a sheep, or a goat to carry the pieces mentioned to the priests' town, which might be many miles away, or were the priests to appoint persons to collect them?), but the general use of the words זבח זבח. The noun זבח always signifies either slaughtering for a sacrificial meal or a slain sacrifice, and the verb זבח is never applied to ordinary slaughtering (for which שׁחט is the verb used), except in Deuteronomy 12:15 and Deuteronomy 12:21 in connection with the repeal of the law that every slaughtering was to be a שׁלמים זבח (Leviticus 17:5); and there the use of the word זבח, instead of שׁחט, may be accounted for from the allusion to this particular law. At the same time, the Jewish tradition is probably right, when it understands by the הזּבח זבחי in this verse, κατ' ̓͂ ́ ̓́ ̔́ (Josephus), or ἔξω τοῦ βωμοῦ θυομένοις ἕνεκα κρεωφαγίας (Philo), or, as in the Mishnah Chol. (x. 1), refers the gift prescribed in this passage to the חולין, profana, and not to the מוקדשׁרן, consecrata, that is to say, places it in the same category with the first-fruits, the tithe of tithes, and other less holy gifts, which might be consumed outside the court of the temple and the holy city (compare Reland, Antiqq. ss. P. ii. c. 4, 11, with P. ii. c. 8, 10). In all probability, the reference is to the slaughtering of oxen, sheep, or goats which were not intended for shelamim in the more limited sense, i.e., for one of the three species of peace-offerings (Leviticus 7:15-16), but for festal meals in the broader sense, which were held in connection with the sacrificial meals prepared from the shelamim. For it is evident that the meals held by the people at the annual feasts when they had to appear before the Lord were not all shelamim meals, but that other festal meals were held in connection with these, in which the priests and Levites were to share, from the laws laid down with reference to the so-called second tithe, which could not only be turned into money by those who lived at a great distance from the sanctuary, such money to be applied to the purchase of the things required for the sacrificial meals at the place of the sanctuary, but which might also be appropriated every third year to the preparation of love-feasts for the poor in the different towns of the land (Deuteronomy 14:22-29). For in this case the animals were not slaughtered or sacrificed as shelamim, at all events not in the latter instance, because the slaughtering did not take place at the sanctuary. If therefore we restrict the gift prescribed here to the slaughtering of oxen and sheep or goats for such sacrificial meals in the wider sense, not only are the difficulties connected with the execution of this command removed, but also the objection, which arises out of the general use of the expression זבח זבח, to the application of this expression to every slaughtering that took place for domestic use. And beside this, the passage in 1 Samuel 2:13-16, to which Calvin calls attention, furnishes a historical proof that the priests could claim a portion of the flesh of the slain-offerings in addition to the heave-leg and wave-breast, since it is there charged as a sin on the part of the sons of Eli, not only that they took out of the cauldrons as much of the flesh which was boiling as they could take up with three-pronged forks, but that before the fat was burned upon the altar they asked for the pieces which belonged to the priest, to be given to them not cooked, but raw. From this Michaelis has drawn the correct conclusion, that even at that time the priests had a right to claim that, in addition to the portions of the sacrifices appointed by Moses in Leviticus 7:34, a further portion of the thank-offerings should be given to them; though he does not regard the passage as referring to the law before us, since he supposes this to relate to every slaughtered animal which was not placed upon the altar.

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