Deuteronomy 17

Practices to Be Avoided ā€” continued

16:21 – 17:7
Once again, Moses reminded the people that they were to avoid idolatry and anything that might tempt them to worship idols or participate in idolatrous practices. They were prohibited from setting up an Asherah (16:21-22) and bringing blemished sacrifices to the Lord (17:1). Idolaters were to be executed (17:2-7) so that the religious stability of the nation might not be threatened.

Laws About True and False Leaders

Deuteronomy 17:8 – 18:22

Moses was concerned about the fair administering of justice in the Promised Land (Deuteronomy 16:18-20). He made provision for judges to be helped when they had a difficult case before them (17:8). Moses instructed the judge dealing with the difficult case to “go up to the place which the Lord your God chooses” (17:8) and appeal to the Levitical priest or judge for help (17:9). Moses instructed the people to strictly abide by the verdict of the higher court (17:10-11). Anyone presumptuously refusing to abide by the decision of the higher court was to be put to death (17:12) and therefore serve as an example to others regarding the danger of refusing to abide by the judicial verdict of the higher court (7:13).

Moses anticipated a time when Israel might want a king over them like the nations around them (17:14). He outlined the attitude and characteristics of one who might be chosen to serve as king.

First, the king was to be chosen by God (14:15).

Second, the king was to be an Israelite (17:15). A foreigner could not serve as king over the Israelites.

Third, the king was to trust in God rather than in horses (17:16). The key to military success was trust in God rather than the amassing of military strength. By trusting in God for victory in battle both the Israelites and their enemies would give God the credit for victory.

Fourth, the king was warned to not multiply wives (17:17). Solomon illustrates the wisdom behind this prohibition and the foolishness of ignoring it: “For it came about when Solomon was old, his wives turned his heart away after other gods; and his heart was not wholly devoted to the Lord his God, as the heart of David his father had been” (1 Kings 11:4). Kings often married foreign women to build strong political and military alliances. A king whose trust was in God, however, would have no need to trust in alliances.

Fifth, a king was to be a servant and not use his position to amass wealth (17:17).

Sixth, the king was to study and abide by the word of God (17:18-20). He was to write the words of Deuteronomy with his own hand and read and live by them.

Practical Consideration: Leaders must live and lead according to God’s instructions. Moses instructed that kings over Israel were to have a high regard for God’s word. They were to make a personal copy of God’s word (Deuteronomy 17:18) and read it daily “that he may learn to fear the Lord his God” (Deuteronomy 17:19). Psalm 119:18 states, “Establish Thy word to Thy servant, As that which produces reverence for Thee.” How different the history of Israel might have been had the nation’s leaders actually followed this instruction. Abraham Lincoln said concerning the Bible, “This great book … is the best gift God has given to man … But for it we could not know right from wrong.”

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