Studies in Torah

Deuteronomy 17-18: A Prophet greater than Moses to come; ‘abomination’ defined; punishment for following other gods and a warning against doing that; choosing a king; Levite inheritance

Deuteronomy 17 covers the type of animals to be given for sacrifice, what to do with a person who is worshiping another god and when and how they will chose a king. Deuteronomy 18 explores Levites and their inheritance, a reminder to the children of Israel that they are not allowed to “learn to imitate the detestable things of those nations” and a foretelling of a Prophet will come who is even more powerful than Moses.

Deuteronomy 17

There are three different topics covered in chapter 17. 

The first topic is about the type of animals to be given for sacrifice. The Torah forbids giving animals that have a blemish or a defect. Blemish in Hebrew is מוּם mum (Strong’s lexicon No. H4140b), which literally means blemish, injury or insult. The word for defect in Hebrew is הַדָּבָר הָרָע ha-ra’ ha-davar, which literally means “the bad word” (ra, Strong’s H7451a and davar, Strong’s H1697).

The Torah calls such an offering an “abomination” or “a detestable thing,” which in Hebrew is תּוֹעֵבָה to’eva (Strong’s H8441). That means something morally disgusting or abhorrent, especially in connection with idolatry. 

We don’t chose what to give to God, God tells us what He wants. Don’t try to “honor” God by giving him junk. He will reject it. 

The second topic is about what to do with a person who is worshiping another god. There are three categories of idolator listed here:

  1. One who has gone to serve other gods.
  2. One who has worshiped other gods.
  3. One who worships the sun, moon, the stars (“the heavenly host”).

God does not want us to allow the creation to have authority over us. Only God has authority over us. God calls the worship and homage to the sun, moon and stars an “abomination.” 

The third topic of the 17th chapter is about when and how they will chose a king over them like the other nations. God sets some rules for this future king:

  • God will chose this king, not the people. 
  • The king will be an Israelite (among your brothers). 
  • No foreigner will be their king. 
  • The king will not gather a large retinue of horses. 
  • The king will not return to Egypt to get horses. 
  • The king will not gather a large harem of wives. 
  • The king will not gather a large amount of gold and silver. 
  • The king will “write for himself a copy of this law on a scroll in the presence of the Levitical priests. It shall be with him and he shall read it all the days of his life, that he may learn to fear the Lord his God, by carefully observing all the words of this law and these statutes, that his heart may not be lifted up above his countrymen and that he may not turn aside from the commandment, to the right or the left, so that he and his sons may continue long in his kingdom in the midst of Israel.” (Deut. 17:18-20)

These instructions were to prevent the king from becoming haughty and arrogant. David was a king after God’s own heart who did not allow his position to corrupt his heart. 

Don’t you wish the President of the United States did not life his heart above yours? Abraham Lincoln and George Washington may be a couple of examples of presidents who exercised their office with strength tempered by humility. 

You don’t have to be a king to take on the devotion of writing your own copy of the Torah. It will help write the Torah on your heart. 

Chapter 18

There are three main topics in Chapter 18 as well. 

The first topic discusses the Levites and their inheritance. The Levites do not inherit land. They inherit the Lord Himself, meaning the right to lead the people in worship of the Lord. They inherit the right to eat from the special portions of the offerings given to the Lord, so they never have to worry about lacking food. 

The Levites were assigned by the Lord to particular cities to teach Torah to the people in that area. 

The second topic is a reminder to the children of Israel that they are not allowed to “learn to imitate the detestable things of those nations.” God gives them specific examples of the detestable things they were not to learn from the people of the land they were coming to occupy and cleanse. 

Here are a few of the abominations God specifically condemned:

  • Burning children in fire as a sacrifice.
  • One who uses divination.
  • One who practices witchcraft.
  • One who interprets omens.
  • Sorcerer.
  • One who casts a spell.
  • Mediums.
  • Spiritualists.
  • Necromancer.

God specifically tells Israel they are to drive such people from the land and never learn their practices. 

In the third topic of the chapter, Moses foretells that there will come a time when a Prophet will come who is even more powerful than Moses who will have God’s words in His mouth and the children of Israel are to listen to this Prophet. Moses gives them a few basic characteristics of this Prophet or Messiah so they would have some clues about his identity when the times comes for Him to appear. 

Moses had an incredible amount of power and Moses tells them that the Messiah will exercise even greater power than Moses exercised.

Moses also tells the people what to do about a presumptuous or false prophet who speaks in the name of a god other than YHWH, that “prophet” is to be tried and executed. How would they know how to identify the true prophet from the false prophet? Moses tells them that a prophet who speaks something that does not come to pass, that prophet has spoken presumptuously. They have taken authority they were not given to speak for God. We are not to be scared of a presumptuous, false prophet. 

People can fool us very easily but when we understand the words of God, we are not fooled or intimidated. 

Speaker: Richard Agee: Reader: Jeff. Summary: Tammy.

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