3027.) Deuteronomy 17

Statue of Lady Justice in Bern, Switzerland. Sculptor Hans Gieng, 1543.  She is blindfolded (to show her impartiality), holding scales (to weigh the evidence), and wielding a sword (to carry out the punishment).

Deuteronomy 17 (English Standard Version)

1 “You shall not sacrifice to the LORD your God an ox or a sheep in which is a blemish, any defect whatever, for that is an abomination to the LORD your God.

2 “If there is found among you, within any of your towns that the LORD your God is giving you, a man or woman

(Note these interesting features of Israel’s judicial practice:  the law is to apply equally to both men and women)

who does what is evil in the sight of the LORD your God, in transgressing his covenant, 3and has gone and served other gods and worshiped them, or the sun or the moon or any of the host of heaven, which I have forbidden, 4and it is told you and you hear of it,

(the charges are to be public knowledge)

then you shall inquire diligently, and if it is true and certain that such an abomination has been done in Israel,

(there is to be a full investigation and clear proof that the crime was indeed committed)

5then you shall bring out to your gates that man or woman who has done this evil thing,

(the trial is to be conducted in public)

and you shall stone that man or woman to death with stones. 6 On the evidence of two witnesses or of three witnesses

(there must be more than one witness)

the one who is to die shall be put to death; a person shall not be put to death on the evidence of one witness. 7 The hand of the witnesses shall be first against him to put him to death,

(whoever brings such a serious charge must be ready to carry out the punishment)

and afterward the hand of all the people. So you shall purge the evil from your midst.

Deu17 cross

Psalm 11:7 (CEV)

The LORD always does right

and wants justice done.

Everyone who does right

will see his face.

Legal Decisions by Priests and Judges

8“If any case arises requiring decision between one kind of homicide and another, one kind of legal right and another, or one kind of assault and another, any case within your towns that is too difficult for you, then you shall arise and go up to the place that the LORD your God will choose. 9 And you shall come to the Levitical priests and to the judge who is in office in those days, and you shall consult them, and they shall declare to you the decision.

(There were courts of appeal. Cases could be taken beyond the local judges to the priests, who were understood to be wiser judges because of their knowledge of God’s Word.)

10Then you shall do according to what they declare to you from that place that the LORD will choose. And you shall be careful to do according to all that they direct you. 11According to the instructions that they give you, and according to the decision which they pronounce to you, you shall do. You shall not turn aside from the verdict that they declare to you, either to the right hand or to the left. 12The man who acts presumptuously by not obeying the priest who stands to minister there before the LORD your God, or the judge, that man shall die.

(contempt of court was a capital crime)

So you shall purge the evil from Israel. 13And all the people shall hear and fear and not act presumptuously again.

Laws Concerning Israel’s Kings

Deu17 king

14“When you come to the land that the LORD your God is giving you, and you possess it and dwell in it and then say, ‘I will set a king over me, like all the nations that are around me,’ 15you may indeed set a king over you whom the LORD your God will choose. One from among your brothers you shall set as king over you. You may not put a foreigner over you, who is not your brother. 16Only he must not acquire many horses for himself or cause the people to return to Egypt in order to acquire many horses, since the LORD has said to you, ‘You shall never return that way again.’ 17And he shall not acquire many wives for himself, lest his heart turn away, nor shall he acquire for himself excessive silver and gold.

Wealth, weapons (horses), and women — Solomon’s disobedience to the Lord’s laws

1 Kings 10:23-29 (NIV)

King Solomon was greater in riches and wisdom than all the other kings of the earth.  The whole world sought audience with Solomon to hear the wisdom God had put in his heart.  Year after year, everyone who came brought a gift—articles of silver and gold, robes, weapons and spices, and horses and mules.

Solomon accumulated chariots and horses; he had fourteen hundred chariots and twelve thousand horses, which he kept in the chariot cities and also with him in Jerusalem.  The king made silver as common in Jerusalem as stones, and cedar as plentiful as sycamore-fig trees in the foothills.  Solomon’s horses were imported from Egypt and from Kue —the royal merchants purchased them from Kue.  They imported a chariot from Egypt for six hundred shekels of silver, and a horse for a hundred and fifty.

1 Kings 11:3 (NIV)

King Solomon had seven hundred wives of royal birth and three hundred concubines, and his wives led him astray.

18“And when he sits on the throne of his kingdom, he shall write for himself in a book a copy of this law, approved by the Levitical priests.

Deu17 writing

Here’s an idea for a change in your daily devotions — hand write a portion of Scripture. For example, if you were to write only eight verses a day, you could write out all of Psalm 119 in less than three weeks! I think this exercise would help us understand the verse above and Psalm 119:15 – 16, which says — I meditate on your precepts and consider your ways.  I delight in your decrees; I will not neglect your word.

19And it shall be with him, and he shall read in it all the days of his life, that he may learn to fear the LORD his God by keeping all the words of this law and these statutes, and doing them, 20that his heart may not be lifted up above his brothers, and that he may not turn aside from the commandment, either to the right hand or to the left, so that he may continue long in his kingdom, he and his children, in Israel.”



HERE  is a musical meditation on God’s laws, from Psalm 119:49-56.


English Standard Version (ESV) The Holy Bible, English Standard Version Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers.

Images courtesy of:
Lady Justice.    http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/0/0e/Berner_Iustitia.jpg
cross.    http://farm3.static.flickr.com/2369/2331769483_cc1f82c26d.jpg
king.    http://www.clker.com/cliparts/d/4/2/5/11949845941323081832card_figure_king_nicu_r.svg.hi.png
writing.    http://cf.ltkcdn.net/college/images/std/64470-425×281-Scholarship_writing.jpg

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