Deuteronomy 20:2
And it shall be, when you are come near to the battle, that the priest shall approach and speak to the people,
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(2) The priest.—There is no mention of the Levite here. The priest is named as a distinct personage. The words which the priest are to pronounce are, as it were, the blessing of Jehovah on the campaign. It follows that Israel could not lawfully go to war except when the blessing of Jehovah might be invoked.

Deuteronomy 20:2. The priest shall approach — The Jews say there was a priest anointed for the purpose, whose office, as we may gather from Numbers 31:6, was to blow with the trumpet when they were preparing for battle. And shall speak to the people — Probably exhorting them, in the most persuasive manner, to a courageous and undaunted performance of their duty, considering their cause as God’s, and relying on his protection and aid.20:1-9 In the wars wherein Israel engaged according to the will of God, they might expect the Divine assistance. The Lord was to be their only confidence. In these respects they were types of the Christian's warfare. Those unwilling to fight, must be sent away. The unwillingness might arise from a man's outward condition. God would not be served by men forced against their will. Thy people shall be willing, Ps 110:3. In running the Christian race, and fighting the good fight of faith, we must lay aside all that would make us unwilling. If a man's unwillingness rose from weakness and fear, he had leave to return from the war. The reason here given is, lest his brethren's heart fail as well as his heart. We must take heed that we fear not with the fear of them that are afraid, Isa 8:12.The priest - Not the high priest, but one appointed for the purpose, and called, according to the rabbis, "the anointed of the war": hence, perhaps the expression of Jeremiah 6:4, etc. "prepare ye" (literally consecrate) "war." Thus, Phinehas went with the warriors to fight against Midian (Numbers 31:6; compare 1 Samuel 4:4, 1 Samuel 4:11; 2 Chronicles 13:12). 2-4. when ye are come nigh unto the battle, that the priest shall approach and speak unto the people—Jewish writers say that there was a war priest appointed by a special ceremonial to attend the army. It was natural that the solemn objects and motives of religion should have been applied to animate patriotism, and so give additional impulse to valor; other people have done this. But in the case of Israel, the regular attendance of a priest on the battlefield was in accordance with their theocratic government, in which everything was done directly by God through His delegated ministers. It was the province of this priest to sound the trumpets (Nu 10:9; 31:6), and he had others under him who repeated at the head of each battalion the exhortations which he addressed to the warriors in general. The speech (De 20:3, 4) is marked by a brevity and expressiveness admirably suited to the occasion, namely, when the men were drawn up in line. The priest; an eminent priest appointed for this work, and to blow with the holy trumpets, Numbers 10:9 31:6.

Speak unto the people; either successively to one regiment of the army after another, or to some by himself, to others by his brethren or deputies, which accompanied him for that end. When all things are preparing for it, and it seems unavoidable:

that the priest shall approach and speak unto the people; not any priest, but one appointed for this service; who is called

the anointed of war, as Jarchi and Aben Ezra observe, and concerning whom Maimonides (d) is more particular; he says,"they appoint a priest to speak to the people at the time of war, and they anoint him with the anointing oil, and he is called the anointed of war; twice the anointed of war speaks unto the people, once in a book at the time they go forth, before they set in battle array, he says to the people, "what man is there", &c. and when he has caused his words to be heard, he returns; at another time, when they are set in array, he says, "fear not", &c.''this man seems to be an emblem of Gospel ministers, who are anointed with the gifts and graces of the Spirit of God, and whose business it is to encourage the people of God to fight the Lord's battles against sin, Satan, and the world, and not to be afraid of their spiritual enemies; directing them to take to them the whole armour of God, and to endure hardness as good soldiers of Christ, to follow him the captain of their salvation, assuring them of victory through him who makes them more than conquerors, and that their warfare is or shortly will be accomplished.

(d) Hilchot Melachim, c. 7. sect. 1, 2.

And it shall be, when ye are come nigh unto the battle, that the priest shall approach and speak unto the people,
2. when ye draw nigh] LXX thou drawest nigh: see introd. note.

to the war] Not battle. The captains had still to be appointed (Deuteronomy 20:9) and this must have taken place at the start of the campaign, not on the eve of engagement with the foe.

the priest] Or (it may equally be) a priest: see introd.

Hear, O Israel] Deuteronomy 4:1; here as there with Pl. vbs following.Verse 2. - The priest. Not the high priest or any one of the priests, but the military priest, the priest appointed to accompany the army, "the anointed for the war;" משׁיח המלחמה, as the rabbins designate him (cf. Numbers 21:6; 1 Samuel 4:4; 2 Chronicles 13:12). His business was to exhort the people, and to encourage them by reminding them that the Lord was their Leader, and would help them in the conflict. The formula of his exhortation is given in vers. 3, 4. The two men between whom the dispute lay, the accused and the witness, were to come before Jehovah, viz., before the priests and judges who should be in those days - namely, at the place of the sanctuary, where Jehovah dwelt among His people (cf. Deuteronomy 17:9), and not before the local courts, as Knobel supposes. These judges were to investigate the case most thoroughly (cf. Deuteronomy 13:15); and if the witness had spoken lies, they were to do to him as he thought to do to his brother. The words from "behold" to "his brother" are parenthetical circumstantial clauses: "And, behold, is the witness a false witness, has he spoken a lie against his brother? Ye shall do," etc. זמם, generally to meditate evil. On Deuteronomy 19:20, see Deuteronomy 13:12.
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