Deuteronomy 18 Outline

The Lord is the priests’ and Levites’ inheritance, 1, 2.  Their due from the people, 3-5.  A Levite’s portion that came to serve voluntarily, 6-8.  All unlawful arts prohibited, 9-14.  Christ is promised, whom they must hearken to, 15-19.  False prophets threatened, 20.  The mark of a false prophet, 21, 22.

Deuteronomy 17:17-20: Duties of the Israelite King, Part 2

Verse 17:  Neither shall he multiply wives to himself, that (see 1 Kings 11:3, 4) his heart turn not away:  neither shall he greatly multiply to himself silver and gold.

[Many wives]  He is not forbidden to have multiple, but rather many (Lyra, Menochius, Montanus, Drusius).  And some degree of polygamy was lawful, say Drusius.  [Nevertheless, this is denied by Ainsworth and Gerhard.  But these things belong to another place.  See on Leviticus 18.]  The Hebrew lawyers permit eighteen wives to a King (Drusius, Grotius).  Not many:  as many Kings in the East subtracted many thousands of women, useless to themselves, from the honest use of others because of pride (Grotius).  The reason for the prohibition:  1.  Lest they render him effeminate (Menochius, Bonfrerius), and less fit to conduct business (Bonfrerius), and they turn him unto vice (Menochius); unto carnality, and thence unto idolatry (Lyra).  2.  Lest by his depraved example he harm the people (Menochius, Gerhard).  3.  Lest on account of the great crowd of wives and children he load the people with immoderate expenses (Bonfrerius).

[Which might lure, etc., יָסוּר[1]That it withdraw, fall away, understanding, from the Law of God (Vatablus), or, from God (Ainsworth).

Neither shall he multiply wives, as the manner of other kings was.  That his heart turn not away, to wit, from God and his law; either, 1.  To idolatry and superstition, to which women are ofttimes prone, and especially such women as he was likely to choose, even the daughters of neighbouring and idolatrous kings and princes, as Solomon did; or, 2.  To other manifold sins and violations of his duty to his people, either by neglect and contempt of his business, through effeminacy and sloth, or by oppressing his people, and perverting justice, to comply with the vast and exorbitant desires of his wives.

[Neither of silver, etc.]  The reason:  1.  Lest the King, as a result of the lust to have it, plunder his subjects (Bonfrerius, Menochius, Philo in Bonfrerius).  2.  Lest on account of wealth he wallow in pride and luxury (Menochius, Gerhard), and trust in riches (Gerhard).  Lest his heart be lifted up, as it here follows (Grotius).  3.  Lest he maintain a dangerous commerce with foreigners (Bonfrerius, Gerhard).  Thus Lycurgus[2] assigned to Kings a moderate portion of the land, lest the Kings have a tyrannical spirit, or the citizens have a hatred of authority.  In Judea, there were no treasure chambers, except those dedicated to God:  Josephus’ Antiquities of the Jews 12:12 (Grotius).  You will say, the riches of David, Jehoshaphat, etc., are celebrated.  Response:  This prohibition is not to be understood simply, but with qualification (Gerhard):  that is, unless he bears his own expenses (Rabbi Salomon in Drusius).  Lest he, therefore, impoverish his subjects, etc. (Gerhard).  Let the King have what things are consistent with royal magnificence, even as he might gather riches by lawful and honest means; that is to say, from the spoils of enemies, tributes, gifts, herds and flocks, it was prohibited by no law, especially if treasures were gathered for the worship of God or public works (Bonfrerius, Gerhard).  He was able to multiply, not for himself, but for the republic, both for defense against enemies, and for the relief of citizens (Malvenda).

Neither shall he greatly multiply to himself silver and gold, lest this should lift up his heart in confidence and pride, which God abhors, and beget in him a contempt of his people; and lest it should incline, or engage, or enable him to burden his people with immoderate exactions.  They are not simply forbidden to be rich, if God made them so either by the voluntary gifts of their subjects, or by the spoils of their enemies, which was the case of David, and Solomon, and Jehoshaphat, etc.; but they are forbidden either inordinately to desire, or irregularly to procure, great riches by grinding the faces of their poor people, or by other wicked arts and courses, as the manner of their neighbouring kings was.

 

Verse 18:  (2 Kings 11:12) And it shall be, when he sitteth upon the throne of his kingdom, that he shall write him a copy of this law in a book out of (Deut. 31:9, 26; see 2 Kings 22:8) that which is before the priests the Levites…

[After…he sits, כְשִׁבְתּוֹ וגו״]  According to to sit him, etc.,[3] that is, when he has begun to reign (Vatablus).

[He shall copy]  That is, he shall cause to be copied (Lyra, Drusius, Vatablus, thus the Arabic).  He shall copy with his own hand (Philo in Menochius, Fagius) (so that the Divine precepts might be more deeply implanted in his soul [Philo in Bonfrerius]); besides that which, as a private man, he was obliged to copy, according to Deuteronomy 31:19, copy ye this song for yourselves (Fagius).

[Deuteronomy, אֶת־מִשְׁנֵ֙ה הַתּוֹרָ֤ה[4]]  [They take it variously.]  1.  Deuteronomy (Vulgate, Septuagint, Menochius, Bonfrerius out of Pagnine, Vatablus, Malvenda, Grotius).  Literally a secondary (a second, double) of the law (Malvenda).  A repetition of the law.  Thus it is taken in Joshua 8:32, he wrote this law a second time[5] (Gerhard).  But why this book?  Response:  Because this book is a compendium of the Law (Menochius).  In the other books there are many things historical and ceremonial, the knowledge of which is not so necessary to a Prince (Bonfrerius).  2.  An exemplar (or, copy [Chaldean, Junius and Tremellius]) of the law (Munster out of the Chaldean, Grotius, the Rabbis in Bonfrerius, thus the Samaritan Text, Syriac, Munster, Tigurinus, Ainsworth).  For he is obliged to copy the entire Pentateuch, first, as an Israelite, then, a second time, as King; so that he might understand that both in private and in public business the Law is to be followed by him.  Thus also he was obliged to read it, both privately for himself, and in the Temple, with the people listening; so that the people might know that no one is exempt from the Law (Grotius).  3.  A double of the Law (Montanus, Hebrews); that is, a twofold exemplar of the Law:  one which he might carry with himself (wherever he might go [Fagius]); the other which he might keep in his archives (Malvenda, Drusius, Fagius, thus Oleaster).  The law duplicated (Oleaster).

He shall write; either with his own hand, as the Jews say; or, at least, by his command and procurement.

[The exemplar from the priests, מִלִּפְנֵ֥י הַכֹּהֲנִ֖ים]  From the faces (or, in the sight [Samaritan Text, Munster, Junius and Tremellius]) of the priests (Montanus, Malvenda); from the presence of the priests (Arabic); taken from a priest (Syriac); out of that which is before the priests (Arabic).  From a public copy, which was of primary authority (Fagius).  From the autograph which is kept by the priests, 2 Kings 22:8 (Gerhard).  From an uncorrupted exemplar (Bonfrerius, Menochius).  Priests, as men skilled in the Law, had the most emaculate codices (Malvenda).  Others:  before the priests (Tigurinus, Oleaster), so that they might be present for the coping, to the end that it might be most strictly copied (Malvenda).  Others:  through the priests (Chaldean).

Out of that which is before the priests the Levites, i.e. out of the original, which was carefully kept by the priests in the sanctuary, Deuteronomy 31:26; 2 Kings 22:8, partly that it might be a true and perfect copy, and partly that it might have the greater authority and influence upon him, coming to him as from the hand and presence of God.

 

Verse 19:  And (Josh. 1:8; Ps. 119:97, 98) it shall be with him, and he shall read therein all the days of his life:  that he may learn to fear the LORD his God, to keep all the words of this law and these statutes, to do them…

All the days of his life, i.e. diligently and constantly; neither the greatness of his place, nor the weight and multitude, of his business, shall excuse or hinder him.

[So that he might learn to fear]  For this is especially inculcated in Deuteronomy (Menochius).  The language of fear embraces both the internal reverence and the external worship of God, and all true religion.  Compare Isaiah 29:13 with Matthew 15:8 (Ainsworth).

 

Verse 20:  That his heart be not lifted up above his brethren, and that he (Deut. 5:32; 1 Kings 15:5) turn not aside from the commandment, to the right hand, or to the left:  to the end that he may prolong his days in his kingdom, he, and his children, in the midst of Israel.

That his heart be not lifted up; he intimates, that the Scriptures, diligently read and studied, are a powerful and probable means to keep him humble, because they show him that, though a king, he is subject to a higher Monarch, to whom he must give an account of all his administrations and actions, and receive from him his sentence and doom agreeable to their quality, which is sufficient to abate the pride of the haughtiest person in the world, if he duly consider it.

[Right or left]  That is, by excess or defect:  whether by an appearance of virtue, or manifest sin (Bonfrerius).

[For a long time]  Which happened to David, but not to Saul (Grotius).



[1] סוּר signifies to turn aside.

[2] Lycurgus was the seventh century BC lawgiver of Sparta.

[3] A woodenly literalistic rendering.

[4] Deuteronomy 17:18b:  “…that he shall write him a copy (אֶת־מִשְׁנֵה; Deuteronomium, in the Vulgate) of this law in a book…”  מִשְׁנֶה/double/copy is related to שֵׁנִי/second.

[5] Joshua 8:32a:  “And he wrote there upon the stones a copy of the law (מִשְׁנֵה֙ תּוֹרַ֣ת; Deuteronomium legis, in the Vulgate) of Moses…”

Deuteronomy 17:16: Duties of the Israelite King, Part 1

Verse 16:  But he shall not multiply (1 Kings 4:26; 10:26, 28; Ps. 20:7) horses to himself, nor cause the people (Is. 31:1; Ezek. 17:15) to return to Egypt, to the end that he should multiply horses:  forasmuch as (Ex. 13:17; Num. 14:3, 4) the LORD hath said unto you, (Deut. 28:68; Hos. 11:5; see Jer. 42:15) Ye shall henceforth return no more that way.

[He shall not multiply horses]  The reason for the law:  1.  Lest he be roused unto pride, and go about in great haughtiness and pomp (Menochius, Gerhard, Bochart’s Sacred Catalogue of Animals out of Targum Jerusalem).  Not only is the horse an animal γαῦρον/haughty and full of τύφου/vanity, but it also infects its rider with a certain contagion.  Hence Plato, when he had been seated upon a horse, descended immediately, μὴ ἱπποτυφίᾳ ληφθῇ, that is, lest he be carried away with equestrian, or equine, hautiness:  Lærtius’ Lives and Opinions of Eminent Philosophers[1] 3 (Bochart’s Sacred Catalogue of Animals).  2.  Lest he trust in cavalry (Ainsworth, Gerhard, Bonfrerius, Menochius, Bochart’s Sacred Catalogue of Animals 1:2:9:173).  3.  Lest by his cavalry he be excessively oppressive to his subjects (Bochart’s Sacred
Catalogue of Animals
, Gerhard).  4.  Lest he, trusting in cavalry, should lead the Jews back into Egypt, that perhaps he might conquer her (Bonfrerius, Gerhard).  5.  So that he might cut off the commerce of the Jews with the Egyptians, and might avert the danger of a relapse into idolatry (Bonfrerius) (unto which no nation was more inclined than Egypt [Bochart’s Sacred Catalogue of Animals]).  In Egypt there were the most noble of horses (Bonfrerius).  And thence at that time horses were led away, as testify Rabbi Salomon, Rabbi Bechai, and Ibn Ezra.  Let not the King have in Egypt those of his servants, who, so that they might be present for purchasing, dwell in equestrian cities, as Solomon had, says Nahmanides.  And by this example others were able to return into Egypt, and to fall back into Egyptian customs (Bochart’s Sacred Catalogue of Animals).  This reason is in the Hebrew text, let him not lead back into Egypt so that he might multiply horses for himself (Bonfrerius); that is, let him not give occasion to them for desiring an Egyptian habitation, by the love of horses (Grotius).  For Egypt was fruitful with respect to horses, 1 Kings 10:28 (Grotius, Ainsworth).  See 2 Chronicles 1:16; 9:28; Isaiah 31:1 (Ainsworth).  In Judea there was an abundance of asses, a scarcity of horses.  And so even the Principal men were conveyed upon asses, Judges 10:4; 12:14; 1 Chronicles 27:30.  God forbids the King to fetch horses into his kingdom, that is, so that the people might not thereupon grow accustomed to horses (Grotius).  Hence horses captured are often read to have been hamstrung, Joshua 11:6, 9; 2 Samuel 8:4 (Bonfrerius, Malvenda).  On no occasion did the Israelites make use of horses in war (Bonfrerius).  Question:  Whether Solomon sinned against this law?  Responses:  1.  It appears so (Malvenda, a great many interpreters in Gerhard, Kimchi and Rabbi Salomon and Nahmanides in Bochart’s Sacred Catalogue of Animals).  2.  Others deny it.  By a special privilege this was granted to him (Gerhard), so that he might excel in external splendor, both because God had so promised (Bochart’s Sacred Catalogue of Animals, Gerhard), and so that we might have in him a clearer type of the Messiah (Bochart’s Sacred Catalogue of Animals).  Especially since so many horses appear to have been to him as it pleased God (Bonfrerius, Gerhard).  Not so much τὸ ῥητὸν, the statement, of the law, as the intention, is to be attended to:  against which one was not sinning, who was gathering many horses, but not so that he might abuse them unto pomp or tyranny, but either to carry necessities, or to repel the attacks of insurgent enemies (Bochart’s Sacred Catalogue of Animals 175).

[Into Egypt, supported by the number of cavalry, לְמַ֖עַן הַרְבּ֣וֹת ס֑וּס]  In order to multiply horses (Montanus); so that he might multiply horses for himself (Samaritan Text).  [But the Syriac reads, although horses be multiplied to him; and the Arabic, on account of the multitude of goods.]

He shall not multiply horses to himself, to wit, excessively, beyond what the state and majesty of his place required.  Hereby God would prevent many sins and mischiefs, as, 1.  Pride of heart, and contempt of his people.  2.  Oppression and tyranny, and the imposition of unnecessary burdens upon his people.  3.  Carnal confidence, which by this means would be promoted.  See Psalm 33:17; Proverbs 21:31.  4.  Much commerce with Egypt, as it here follows, which was famous for horses, as appears from Exodus 14:23; 1 Kings 10:26, 28; 2 Chronicles 1:16; 9:28; Isaiah 31:1, 3; Ezekiel 17:15.  Nor cause the people to return to Egypt; either for habitation, or for trade.  This God forbade to prevent, 1.  Their unthankfulness for their deliverance out of Egypt.  2.  Their confederacies with the Egyptians, their trusting to them for aid, which they were very prone to, and their infection by the idolatry and other manifold wickednesses for which Egypt was infamous.  3.  Their multiplication of horses, as it here follows.

[Since the Lord hath commanded]  Where?  No where with the words expressed, but implicity in many places, where He is angry with those returning unto Egypt (Menochius out of Bonfrerius).  See Jeremiah 42-44 (Bochart’s Sacred Catalogue of Animals).  Now, for many reasons God did not wish the Israelites to establish a habitation in Egypt:  Exodus 14:13; Deuteronomy 28:68 (Grotius).  1.  Because the Hebrews were prone to the vices and customs of the Egyptians.  But the Egyptians were altogether devoted to idolatry.  2.  Lest they, seeing Egypt fertile from the inundation of the Nile, should think little of their liberation out of Egypt, and be impressed with a weariness of Palestine (Gerhard).  This is to be understood of that time in which it was permitted to them to dwell in the Promised Land; for, with them expelled from that place, it was lawful to seek a place of exile as much in Egypt as elsewhere, as many wise men by their example show that they understand it.  Therefore he adds, by the same way (Grotius); that is, by every way that leads into Egypt, and it is the same with the former reason of limitation (Gerhard).

The Lord hath said:  when or where?  Answer.  Either implicitly, when he showed his dislike of their return to Egypt, as Exodus 13:17; Numbers 14:3, 4; or expressly at this time, The Lord hath now said it to me, and I in his name, and by his command, declare it to you.  That way; in the way that leads to that place.



[1] Diogenes Lærtius was a biographer of Greek philosophers, writing his Lives and Opinions of Eminent Philosophers probably sometime during the third century AD.

Deuteronomy 17:14, 15: A King to be Chosen of the Israelites

Verse 14:  When thou art come unto the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee, and shalt possess it, and shalt dwell therein, and shalt say, (1 Sam. 8:5, 19, 20) I will set a king over me, like as all the nations that are about me…

[When thou art come into]  The Hebrews observe that there were three precepts for the Israelites, after they were come into the land; namely, that they would establish a King over them, that they would exterminate the seed of Amalek,[1] and that they would build the Temple[2] (Fagius).

I will set a king over me, etc.:  He only foresees and foretells what they would do, but doth not seem to approve of it, because when they did this thing for this very reason here alleged, he declares his utter dislike of it, 1 Samuel 8:7.

 

Verse 15:  Thou shalt in any wise set him king over thee, (see 1 Sam. 9:15; 10:24; 16:12; 1 Chron. 22:10) whom the LORD thy God shall choose:  one (Jer. 30:21) from among thy brethren shalt thou set king over thee:  thou mayest not set a stranger over thee, which is not thy brother.

[Thou shalt establish him, etc.]  Question:  Why is God angry with them in 1 Samuel 8, when here either He commands, or He makes a law for the establishment of a King (Fagius, Gerhard)?  Response:  1.  This is not a precept (nor a concession [Lyra]), but permission (Lyra, Clario), under certain conditions.  God indicates that, if they pertinaciously ask for a King (which nevertheless was displeasing to Him), He will permit it (Bonfrerius, Menochius, Lyra).  He permitted that a King might be made; He commanded that a brother be made:  Augustine’s Seven Books of Questions on the Heptateuch “Deuteronomy” 26 (Gataker).  This is a prophecy (certain Hebrews in Gerhard).  2.  The people sinned, not so much in the very election of a King, as in the manner of, and reason for, choosing, inasmuch as they asked, not by just and legitimate counsel, but tumultuously (certain interpreters in Malvenda and in Gerhard, similarly Ainsworth).  It was lawful for them to ask for a King, but not when they had an Interrex established by God.  And it was needful that a King be established before the place for the Temple be discovered, lest out of the contention of the Tribes a civil war should arise on account of it (Grotius).

Thou shalt set him, i.e. appoint, or install.  If you will choose a king, which I shall suffer you to do, I command you to mind this in your choice.

[Whom the Lord shall choose]  He shall approve through a Prophet.  Thus through Samuel Saul[3] and David[4] were anointed; through Nathan, Solomon,[5] and in him all his posterity:  for in him the kingdom was made a succession; previously it was personal[6] (Grotius).

Whom the Lord shall choose, approve of, or appoint.  So it was in Saul, and in David.  God reserved to himself the nomination both of the family and of the person.  See 1 Samuel 9:15; 10:24; 16:12; 1 Chronicles 28:4, 5.

[From the number of thy brethren]  It is the more widely received opinion of the Hebrews that he should be born out of a lawful marriage of a Hebrew mother (Grotius).

[Not of another nation]  1.  Lest he should lure them to another religion (Menochius out of Bonfrerius).  2.  So that he might rule for the good of his subjects (Bonfrerius, Gerhard).  Lest in heart he be lifted up above them.  3.  With respect had to Messiah (Gerhard).  The Zealots incorrectly drew this to that conclusion, as if it was not lawful to obey foreign Kings.  The Law treats of a voluntary election; not of that which necessity has appointed.  See Jeremiah 38:17; Ezekiel 17:12, etc.  See Concerning the Law of War and Peace[7] 2:4:14, and what things are on Matthew 22:17 (Grotius).

From among thy brethren; of the same nation and religion; partly because such a person was most likely to maintain true religion, and to rule with righteousness, gentleness, and kindness to his subjects; and partly that he might be a fit type of Christ, their supreme King, who was to be one of their brethren.  Mayest not set a stranger over thee, to wit, by thy own choice and consent; but if God by his providence and for their sins should set a stranger over them, they might submit to him, as appears from Jeremiah 38:17; Ezekiel 17:12; Matthew 22:17.



[1] See Exodus 17:14-16; Deuteronomy 25:17-19.

[2] See, for example, Deuteronomy 12.

[3] 1 Samuel 9:27-10:1.

[4] 1 Samuel 16:12, 13.

[5] 1 Kings 1:45.

[6] See 2 Samuel 7; Psalm 89.

[7] De Jure Belli ac Pacis.

Deuteronomy 17:8-13: Difficult Cases to be Referred to the Jerusalem Court

Verse 8:  (2 Chron. 19:10; Hag. 2:11; Mal. 2:7) If there arise a matter too hard for thee in judgment, (see Ex. 21:13, 20, 22, 28; 22:2; Num. 35:11, 16, 19; Deut. 19:4, 10, 11) between blood and blood, between plea and plea, and between stroke and stroke, being matters of controversy within thy gates:  then shalt thou arise, (Deut. 12:5; 19:17; Ps. 122:5) and get thee up into the place which the LORD thy God shall choose…

[If difficult and doubtful, כִּ֣י יִפָּלֵא֩ מִמְּךָ֙[1]If it be hidden from thee (Pagnine, Vatablus, Syriac).  If it be concealed, or, covered, from thee, or, to thee (Oleaster, Targum Jerusalem, Arabic, Cajetan, Junius and Tremellius).  From פָּלָא/PALA, to separate, because hidden things are separated from the notice of men (Oleaster).  When it is marvelous, as in Deuteronomy 30:11.[2]  Or, a thing separated, from thine inquiry, or action and ability.  Thus it is taken in Genesis 18:14[3] and Jeremiah 32:17[4] (Gerhard).  If it be impossible (Septuagint).  Thus they often translate פּלא (Grotius).  If the cause be doubtful, and more difficult than that thou art able to pronounce concerning it (Vatablus, Fagius).  I understand this law to be of so great a necessity, that the union of all Israelites depends upon it, as Maimonides often observed.  The sense:  when a controversy is obscurer than might be made clear by all the Magistrates of a certain city.  He treats here concerning questions, not of fact, but of law.  What cases of obscurity human laws have, those the Divine laws expressed in the human manner do not avoid; partly, on account of words or expressions πολυσήμους, with many significations, which are many in all languages, a great many in the Hebrew language; partly, because, where laws speak in a general way, it is disputed what rarer sorts of deeds ought to be excepted; partly, because, where laws speak specifically, it is not always evident whether the law remains limited within that specific case, or ought to be extended unto those things which appear to be similar.  And there are many other reasons why the same words are not taken in the same way by all, by some coarser, by others subtler than is necessary (Grotius).

[The judgment, דבָ֜ר לַמִּשְׁפָּ֗ט]  A word (matter [Fagius, Junius and Tremellius], business [Arabic], anything [Pagnine]) for judgment (Oleaster, Malvenda), or, of judgment (Fagius, Munster).  As when one murder is compared with another with respect to degree, or quality.  The same thing obtains in the following two members (Gerhard).

Too hard for thee; he speaks to the inferior magistrates, who were erected in several cities, as appears by the opposition of these to them at Jerusalem.  If, saith he, thou hast not skill or confidence to determine so weighty and difficult a cause.

[Between blood and blood, בֵּֽין־דָּ֙ם׀ לְדָ֜ם]  Between blood unto blood.  It denotes a regard of one to another (Gerhard, Ainsworth).  [They take it variously.]  Between a relative and a relative.  Thus the Vulgate renders these words in 2 Chronicles 19:10; that is, between those who are either of diverse, or the same, family, between whom there are wont to be frequent lawsuits concerning possessions (Tirinus).  2.  They understand all blood in general, as menstrual, etc., and the blood of murder, etc. (Hebrews in Fagius).  Between blood clean (or, of the clean [Rabbi Salomon]) and impure (or, of the impure [Rabbi Salomon (Targum Jerusalem in Gerhard)]).  3.  They understand the blood, either, of one murdered, already shed, or, of the murderer, to be shed by the Magistrate.  These things are able to be conjoined most aptly (Gerhard).  Between the innocent and the one to be condemned of a capital crime (Fagius, Drusius), who for other reasons appears to thee to be innocent (Vatablus).  Whether the homicide was perpetrated voluntarily, or accidentally (Tirinus, Menochius, Ainsworth, Gerhard).  Whether murder of this or that sort merits the city of refuge, or not.  For in fault there are many degrees:  it is extensive, medium, minimal (Grotius).  By the name of blood are synecdochically denoted all criminal causes, the adjudication of which the Hebrews call the judgment of blood (Gerhard).

Between blood and blood, i.e. in capital causes in matter of bloodshed, whether it be wilful or casual murder, whether punishable or pardonable by those laws, Exodus 21:13, 20, 22, 28; 22:2; Numbers 35:11, 16, 19; Deuteronomy 19:4, 10.

[Between plea and plea, בֵּֽין־דִּ֣ין לְדִ֗ין]  Between judgment (or, cause, or sentence, judicial [Malvenda]) and judgment (Vatablus).  Whether the sentence pronounced was to be executed, or reviewed (certain interpreters in Gerhard).  Between the plea of the plaintiff, and the plea of the defendant (Vatablus).  They understand, either, 1.  Financial lawsuits (Fagius, Vatablus, Targum Jerusalem in Gerhard, Grotius), even those which are of lesser moment (Vatablus, Fagius); and injuries of words, the punishment of which was arbitrary, and the punishment to be inflicted in one and the same matter, because of ἀόριστον, that is, the indetermination, of the law, was able to be judged the greater on the one side, and the lesser on the other (Grotius).  Or, 2.  civil cases, just as blood contained criminal cases (Gerhard).  Concerning whatever other case or lawsuit, not criminal or capital (Tirinus, Bonfrerius).  A lawsuit over whatever matter (Menochius).  What is here דִּין/κρίσις/judgment is in Deuteronomy 25:1 רִיב/ἀντιλογία/controversy (Grotius).

Between plea and plea; in civil causes or suits between plaintiffs and defendants about words or estates.

[Leprosy and leprosy, וּבֵ֥ין נֶ֙גַע֙ לָנֶ֔גַע]  [They take it variously.]  1.  Between bruise and wound (Fagius), which one inflicted upon another (Ainsworth).  2.  Between stroke and stroke, that is, whoever is to be beaten, or, which is severer or more lenient (Oleaster, Eugubinus[5] in Bonfrerius).  נֶגַע signifies a stroke, injury, blow, 2 Samuel 7:14;[6] Isaiah 53:8[7] (Gerhard).  3.  Between leprosy and leprosy (Vulgate, Bonfrerius, Montanus, Tirinus, Gerhard, Grotius, thus Onkelos and Jonathan and Rabbi Salomon and Gerundensis in Gerhard).  נֶגַע signifies every more grevious ill.  The Greeks translate it, μάστιγα/scourges/plagues in the Old Testament,[8] and in the New Testament, Mark 3:10;[9] 5:29,[10] 34.[11]  But ἀντονομαστικῶς/antonomastically[12] it signifies leprosy, and it is taken in this sense fifty times in Leviticus 13 (Grotius).  In the case of leprosy there were able to be grievous difficulties.  See on Leviticus 13 and 14 (Ainsworth).  Often even the Physicians are in doubt whether leprosy, which has these or those marks, is not to be feared as a contagion (Grotius).  Between leprosy, etc., that is, whether it be true and contagious, or not (Tirinus, Menochius).  As cases criminal are understood by blood, and cases civil by lawsuits, so cases Ecclesiastical by leprosy (Gerhard).

Between stroke and stroke, i.e. either first in ceremonial causes, between plague and plague, between the true leprosy, which is ofttimes called the plague, and the seeming and counterfeit leprosy, which was ofttimes hard to determine.  And under this, as the most eminent of the kind, may seem to be contained all ceremonial uncleannesses.  But this seems not probable, 1.  Because the final determination of the matter of leprosy is manifestly left to any particular priest, Leviticus 13; 14.  2.  Because the person suspected of leprosy was not to be brought to Jerusalem, to be tried there, but was to be shut up in his own city and house, Leviticus 13:4, 5; and the judges at Jerusalem neither could nor would determine his case without once seeing the person.  3.  Because the case of leprosy was not hard or difficult, as those causes are said to be, but plain and evident, and so particularly and punctually described, that the priest needed only eyes to decide it.  Or rather, 2.  In criminal causes, concerning blows or wounds inflicted by one man upon another, and to be requited to him by the sentence of the magistrate according to that law, Exodus 21:23-25, wherein there might be many cases of great difficulty and doubt, about which see the annotations there.

[Thou mayest see that the words of the judges do vary (similarly the Chaldean), דִּבְרֵ֥י רִיבֹ֖ת]  Words, or matters, of contentions (Samaritan Text, Montanus, Grotius), or, of lawsuits (Oleaster, Malvenda, Ainsworth) (it is set down in apposition [Ainsworth]), or, of judgment (Septuagint); a legal process of dispute (Syriac).  And the words come into discord (Munster), among the Judges discordant in sentence; it is understood by way of apposition (Ainsworth).  Words of disputes, of lawsuits; that is, in controversial matters (Vatablus).  Others repeat ὰπὸ κοινοῦ, as common, וּבֵין, and between, and between whatever matters of disputes, that is, controversial:  thus the Latin Translator and the Chaldean paraphrasts (Gerhard).  Thus the Arabic:  between the sentence of a stroke, and contentious causes.  Others understand מִן/from, or ב/in; from, or in, matters of lawsuits, or of disputes, or controversial (Junius and Tremellius, Vatablus, Pagnine, Gerhard, similarly Tigurinus); that is, If the contention of the Judges proceeds to the point that the lesser part wishes to uphold its sentence against the greater part, and between the diverse opinions some fissure, about to tear apart that city and its neighbors, is able to emerge.  For this law was given to guard against schisms (Grotius).

[Within thy gates]  In the tribunals of individual cities, which were in the gates, after the custom of the Hebrews and their neighbors, Genesis 34:20; Ruth 4:1, 11 (Grotius).

Matters of controversy, i.e. such things or matters of blood and pleas and strokes being doubtful, and the magistrates divided in their opinions about it; for if it was a clear case, this was not to be done.  Some make this an additional clause to comprehend these and all other things, thus as if he had said, and in general, any words or matters of strifes or contentions.

[Unto the place]  At first, Shiloh;[13] afterwards, Jerusalem (Grotius).

Which the Lord shall choose, to wit, to set up his worship and tabernacle or temple there; because there was the abode, both of their sanhedrim, or chief council, which was constituted of priests and civil magistrates, who were most able to determine all controversies, and of the high priests, who were to consult God by Urim, Numbers 27:21, in great matters, which could not be decided otherwise.

 

Verse 9:  And (see Jer. 18:18) thou shalt come unto the priests the Levites, and (Deut. 19:17) unto the judge that shall be in those days, and enquire; (Ezek. 44:24) and they shall shew thee the sentence of judgment…

[And thou shalt come unto the priests of Levitical birth[14]]  Both the Priests and the Levites, who, because they have the quiet leisure, were diligently studying, not only all things of the Law, but also of Medicine and of other arts, as were also the Egyptian priests:  and, therefore, in those first ages the Senate of seventy men was wont especially to be gathered out of those, as the most erudite:  whence also here that Senate is to be understood for its better part.  The priests were ἐπόπται πάντων καὶ δικασταὶ τῶν ἀμφισβητουμένων, that is, inspectors of all and judges of controversial matters:  Josephus’ Against Apion 2.  Philo, in his Concerning the Life of Moses, Συνήδρευον οἱ ἱερεῖς, etc., the priests were holding the Sanhedrin:  in Concerning the Establishment of the Prince, Ὄταν οὖν ἀμαυρὰν ποιῆται τὴν ἀντίληψιν τῶν πραγμάτων ἀσάφεια, etc., therefore, as often as the obscurity of those matter renders comprehension difficult, let him refuse the office of Judge, and let him send the litigants to more acute Judges:  but who then are these, except the Priests and the High Priest?  Excessive wealth, and then luxury and sloth, caused it to be that often the more erudite men were afterwards in other tribes, and therefore, with the Priests and Levites passed over, indeed sometimes even with the High Priest passed over [see what things we have gathered on Deuteronomy 16:18], they were chosen unto the Senate from the Senators.  Thus Maimonides, in his יָד הֶחָזָקָה, Mishneh Torah “Concerning the Sanhedrin” 2.  But here the method of better times is held, when the Priests and the Levites were of what sort they ought to be.  Here, therefore, those differing were commanded to go to the Priests and Levites that were in the Senate, and were regarded to be the most erudite:  who, if they had satisfied them either by the weight of reasons, or by testimony of the matter determined in this or that manner in manners or matters concluded, very well:  but if nothing was such, the same learned men were referring the reasons of both parties to the Sanhedrin, and were answering according to its decree; which unto posterity was in the place of law.  Thus by Christians in weighty controversies a Roman Synod, consisting also of seventy Bishops, formerly the best, and most highly skilled in Divine things, was wont to be consulted (Grotius).

[And unto the judge, וְאֶל־הַשֹּׁפֵט]  Question:  Who is the Judge here?  Response 1:  The High Priest (Hebrews in Vatablus and Fagius, Tirinus, Menochius, Bonfrerius, Philo in Gerhard, Rambam[15] and Rabbi Moses in Bonfrerius).  It favors these, that such a Judge is treated who, 1.  was a Judge of leprosy:  2.  and was necessarily dwelling in the place were the Temple was; but not one of the Judges dwelt there except Eli:  3.  and was obliged to teach what was to be done according to the Law.  But these things agree with the Priest.  Objection:  How is it made credible that this one determined cases capital and civil?  Response 1:  The tribunal of the Jews was twofold, 1.  of the Priest, concerning religion; 2.  of Kings and secular Judges, concerning cases civil and criminal.  Response 2:  The lay tribunal depended upon the sacred tribunal (Bonfrerius).  [How soundly he asserts this, it does not belong to this place to determine.  Let the Polemicists be consulted.]  Response 2:  This Judge was political (Calvin, Grotius, Gerhard, Drusius).  It favors these, 1.  that in what precedes mention is made of cases criminal and civil:  2.  that in verse 12 a distinction is made between the priest and the judge (Bonfrerius).  ו/ and is put in the place of אוֹ/or (Grotius, Ainsworth, Gerhard).  Thus it is taken in Exodus 21:15, 17[16] (Grotius, Gerhard), compared with Matthew 15:4[17] (Gerhard); Numbers 30:5, 6;[18] Matthew 12:37 (Grotius).  Likewise compare Leviticus 6:3 with verse 5,[19] and 2 Samuel 2:19 with verse 21[20] (Gerhard).  Thus the Latins make use of and in the place of or, as Servius[21] shows on that statement of the Æneid, they command to cast down, and to burn with flames placed under; alleging also that saying, some roll the massive stone and the spokes of the wheels (Grotius).  And thus it is evident that it is to be taken in this place, 1.  from verse 12, or of the judge[22] (Ainsworth, Grotius, Gerhard):  2.  from the matter itself; for between Israelites twofold were the causes and controversies, 1.  concerning Religion, Law, etc.; 2.  concerning civil matters; and to that extent twofold was the tribunal, as it is evident from 2 Chronicles 19:4-11 and Jeremiah 26:8 (Gerhard).  Judges in the plural is rightly able to be understood, either, those of the urban tribunals, or, even the greatest senators, as in Deuteronomy 1:16; 16:18; 19:17, 18; 21:2.  But Judge in the singular is wont to signify an Interrex divinely constituted, of which sort were those in the Book of שֺׁפְטִים/Judges.  But those שֺׁפְטִים/Judges are clearly similar to Roman Interreges,[23] and afterwards to the Dictators;[24] they were not differing from Kings, except that they did not have an escort and royal pomp, and therefore they did not exact tribute.  And, just as Kings without the Sanhedrin had the right to put to death, 2 Samuel 1:15, so also these δικασταὶ/judges, Judges 8:16, 17; 12:6.  However, such δικασταὶ/judges, since they were given by God, and, on account of that, equipped with prophetic gifts (whence also Josephus calls them Prophets), were certainly able to be consulted without danger:  but, because there were not going to be such in all times (for this maintains what is added, who will be in that time, that is, if any of this sort shall be), God wills that in the place of the those the Sanhedrin be consulted, composed of the most erudite men, representing the whole people (Grotius).  3.  The Judge here is the Sanhedrin:  just as what is here priests is in verse 12 the priest; and in 1 Chronicles 4:42 many prefects are called a head.[25]  Just as among the Priests there was one principal man, so also among the Judges there was one principal man, 2 Chronicles 19:11 (Ainsworth).  The Priests and the Levites were chosen as Judges, if they were strong in wisdom and the fear of the Lord.  Then also Israelites, who were equal to the priests in the knowledge of the Law and religion.  You have this in Exodus 18:22; Numbers 11:24; Deuteronomy 1:13.  Just as also the consent of Hebrew antiquity confirms in the Book Sanhedrin (Fagius, Vatablus).  Not in any age ever were the priests and Levites alone the Judges (Fagius).

Unto the priests the Levites, i.e. unto the great council, which it is here denominated from, because it consisted chiefly of the priests and Levites, as being the best expositors of the laws of God, by which all those controversies mentioned verse 8 were to be decided.  And the high priest was commonly one of that number, and may seem to be understood here under the priests, whereof he was the chief.  Unto the judge:  this judge here is either, 1.  The supreme civil magistrate, who was made by God the keeper of both tables, and was by his office to take care of the right administration both of justice and of religion, who was to determine causes and suits by his own skill and authority in civil matters, and by the priests’ direction in spiritual or sacred causes.  But this seems obnoxious to some difficulties, because, 1.  This judge was obliged to dwell in the place of God’s worship, which the civil magistrate was not, and ofttimes did not.  2.  This judge was one whose office it was to expound and teach others the law of God, as it here follows, verse 11, therefore not the civil magistrate.  Or, 2.  The high priest, who was obliged to live in this place, to whom it belonged to determine some at least of those controversies mentioned verse 8, and to teach and expound the law of God.  And he may be distinctly named, though he be one of the priests, partly because of his eminency and superiority over the rest of them, as after all David’s enemies Saul is particularly mentioned, Psalm 18 title; and partly to show that amongst the priests he especially was to be consulted in such cases.  But this also seems liable to objections.  1.  That he seems to be included under that general expression of the priests and Levites.  2.  That the high priest is never in all the Scripture called simply the judge, but generally called the priest, or the high priest, or chief priest, or the like; and it is most probable if Moses had meant him here, he would have expressed him by some of his usual names and titles, and not by a strange title which was not likely to be understood.  3.  That divers controversies between blood and blood, plea and plea, stroke and stroke, were not to be determined by the high priest, but by other persons, as appears by Exodus 18:22; Deuteronomy 1:16, 17.  Or, 3.  The sanhedrim or supreme council, which, as was said before, consisted partly of priests, and partly of wise and learned persons of other tribes, as is confessed by all the Jewish and most other writers.  And so this is added by way of explication, partly to show that the priests and Levites here mentioned, as the persons to whom all hard controversies are to be referred, are not all the priests and Levites which should reside in Jerusalem, but only such of them as were or should be members of that great council by whom, together with their fellow-members of other tribes, these causes were to be decided; partly to intimate that that great council, which had the chief and final determination of all the above-said controversies, was a mixed assembly, consisting of wise and good men, some ecclesiastical, and some secular; as it was most meet it should be, because many of the causes which were brought unto them were mixed causes.  As for the conjunctive particle and, that may be taken either disjunctively for or, as it is Exodus 21:15, 17, compared with Matthew 15:4; and Numbers 30:5, 6, compared with Matthew 12:37; Leviticus 6:3, 5; 2 Samuel 2:19, 21; or exegetically, for that is, or to wit, as Judges 7:24; 1 Samuel 17:40; 28:3; 2 Chronicles 35:14; and so the sense may be, the priests, the Levites, or the judge, as it is Deuteronomy 17:12; or, the priests, the Levites, that is, the judge, or the judges appointed for this work.  And though the word judge be in the singular number, and may seem to denote one person, yet it is only an enallage, or change of the number, the singular for the plural, judges, which is most frequent, as Genesis 3:2, 7; 49:6; 1 Samuel 31:1; 1 Kings 10:22; 2 Kings 11:10, compared with 2 Chronicles 9:21; 23:9 and in the Hebrew, 1 Chronicles 4:42, where divers officers are called one head.  And so it is most probably here, 1.  Because the following words which belong to this run altogether in the plural number, they, they, they, etc., here and verses 10 and 11.  2.  Because here is the same enallage in the other branch, the same person or persons being called the priests here, and the priest verse 12.  3.  Because for the judge here is put the judges, Deuteronomy 19:17, where we have the same phrase used upon the same or a like occasion, the men between whom the controversy is shall stand before the Lord, before the priests and the judges, which shall be in those days.  Nor is it strange, but very fit and reasonable, that so many persons being all united in one body, and to give judgment or sentence by the consent of all, or the greatest part, should be here called by the name of one judge, as indeed they were; and for that reason the priests are spoken of in the plural number, because they were many, as also the other members of that assembly were, and the judge in the singular number, because they all constituted but one judge.

[And thou shalt enquire, וְדָרַשְׁתָּ]  In the place of, so that thou mightest enquire:  for the ו/and is here used τελικῶς, with respect to the end in view (Gerhard).

[Who shall show to thee]  Either by a certain tradition known to them; or by the decree of the Sanhedrin, if the matter had not been previously decided (Grotius).

[The truth of the judgment, דְּבַ֥ר הַמִּשְׁפָּֽט׃]  The word of judgment (Munster, Oleaster, Malvenda, Montanus, Gerhard), that is, the matter just, or justly (Oleaster).  The very sentence, just as it is to be pronounced (Vatablus, Gerhard).  The state of the judgment, or cause (certain interpreters in Malvenda).  True judgment, so that thou mightest be able to extricate thyself (Munster).

The sentence of judgment, Heb. the word or matter of judgment, i.e. the true state and right of the cause, and what judgment or sentence ought to be given in it.

 

Verse 10:  And thou shalt do according to the sentence, which they of that place which the LORD shall choose shall shew thee; and thou shalt observe to do according to all that they inform thee…

[Whatever they say]  Because the Sanhedrin was going to endure perpetually, but not those Interreges, therefore on those especially he fixes his speech (Grotius).

[עַל־פִּ֤י הַדָּבָר֙[26]According to (upon [Malvenda]) the mouth of the word (Oleaster, Malvenda, Grotius, Gerhard), that is, that speech (Grotius, Gerhard).

Thou shalt, i.e. thou shalt pass sentence; for he speaks to the inferior magistrates, as was before noted, who were to give sentence, and came hither to be advised about it.  Thou shalt observe to do.  It is very observable that this place doth not speak of all controversies of faith, as if they were to believe every thing which they should teach; but only of some particular matters of practice and strife between man and man, to which it is plainly limited, verse 8.  And they are not here commanded to believe, but only to do, which is thrice repeated.

 

Verse 11:  According to the sentence of the law which they shall teach thee, and according to the judgment which they shall tell thee, thou shalt do:  thou shalt not decline from the sentence which they shall shew thee, to the right hand, nor to the left.

[According to His law,  עַל־פִּ֙י הַתּוֹרָ֜ה]  Upon the mouth (according to the speech [Grotius, Pagnine]) of the law (Montanus).  Out of the determination, or prescription, of the law; that is, according to the law which they shall prescribe to thee (certain interpreters in Malvenda).  Question:  Whether these words restrict the precept?  Response 1:  The Rabbis answer in the negative.  The Hebrew Gloss says, If he should say to thee that right is left, or left is right, such a sentence is to be embraced (Lyra).  The Papists also answer in the negative.  They ought to esteem the judgment of the priests to be according to the law, Malachi 2:7 (Menochius, Estius).  It is to be taken assertively; that is to say, Subordinates ought to acquiesce, and to presuppose that their judgment is according to the law of God (Lapide).  [To which is able to be opposed what other authors of theirs say on this passage.]  The sentence of no man, of whatever authority, is to be held, if it manifestly contains falsehood or error, because it is said, and they teach thee according to the Law.  Therefore, if they manifestly decline from the Law, they are not to be heard (Lyra, similarly Tirinus and Lapide himself).  Understand (says he), unless manifestly the contrary is discerned, that is, that the Pope is perverting the Law; for then obedience shall be, not to him, but to the Law of God (Lapide).  [Behold the great power of the truth!]  Response 2:  Others answer in the affirmative.  The judgment of the Priests is restricted to the standard of the Divine Law (Ainsworth, Gerhard).  See Ezekiel 44:24 and Matthew 23:2, 3, compared with Matthew 15:1, etc.; 16:6, 12 (Ainsworth).  These words are to be taken, not assertively, but restrictly (Tostatus, Cajetan, Munster, Paulus Venetus[27] in Gerhard).  [Grotius here plays the part of a mediator.]  That according to the law (says he) does not limit the precept, as if individuals are only bound to obey the decree of the Sanhedrin, if the Sanhedrin responds with things consistent with the Law:  for that would be to submit interpretation to the judgment of every man, and hence to give occasion for disagreements, for the avoiding of which this law was given.  Thus the passage has it, according to the speech (that is, the interpretation) of the law…and according to the judgment which they shall speak unto thee (that is, the precept which in judging the Judges ought to follow), thou shalt do—The Law, therefore, does not permit to every man an interpretation of the Law, which he desires to follow, and to make a sect with some color of probability; but he established a necessary rule for preserving unity.  Was the Sanhedrin, therefore, able to err, either in witnessing to the ancient tradition, or in explaining the law, in their sentence?  It was certainly possible that it was able:  if, with the matter afterwards better known, suppose that, having been impressed upon by men very pious and erudite, the Elders see that they have erred from the true sense, it is the reason for the expiation in the law set forth in Leviticus 4:13.  But to individuals it was not commanded to believe all things which the Sanhedrin might say, but rather, it was commanded not to act against, not to teach against.  See Josephus on this place, and Maimonides in Guide to the Perplexed 3:41, and the Book of Manoim 50:4, and Moses de Kotzi’s Great Book of Commandments “Positive Precept” 46.  For some things were able to be called into controversy, of which sort were:  Whether a small bird was to be divided in two in this or that manner? what computation was to be entered upon for the Passover? whether a punishment somewhat greater or lesser was to be imposed upon this offense? and other things of this sort; in which matters it was not of so much importance which would be done, as it was to preserve the fabric of the Hebrew body without separation.  In matters of great moment, it was certainly not able to happen that the Sanhedrin, from the beginning composed of the best and most erudite men, and continued by an uninterrupted process of election by colleagues, might be able to be mistaken, except with a long passage of ages, and with discipline corrupted:  if this had happened, God, a lover of unity, was going to respond by admonishing and convicting them through the Urim and Thummim, or was going to stir up some Prophet renowned for true miracles, and finally was going to give the Messiah Himself, the one greater than Moses; with whom sent, the authority of the Sanhedrin vanished.  It is to be observed in addition that some ordinances of the Senate, composed for the interpretation or fortification of the Law, passed away, not only if the Senate changed before the sentence was received everywhere as a custom, but also if either from the beginning the people would not bear them, or if they passed into disuse (Grotius).

According to the sentence of the law which they shall teach thee:  these words are a manifest limitation of the foregoing assertion, that they were to do according to all that the judge or judges informed him.  And they seem to limit and regulate, 1.  The judges in their sentence, that they shall not, upon pretence of this supreme authority put into their hands, presume to teach or direct otherwise than the law prescribes.  2.  The people in their obedience; first they shall not simply obey them in all things, but so far forth as their sentence is according to the law and word of God, but not when their commands are evidently contrary to God’s laws, for then, say even popish commentators on this place, they must obey God rather than man.  And this cannot be denied by any man of sense, upon supposition that this place speaks of, and this power given to the priest or judge reacheth to, all controversies or questions of faith and manners, as the papists would extend it:  for put case these priests or judges should give a sentence directly contrary to the express words of God’s law, Thou shalt worship a graven image, as Aaron did in the case of the calf, thou shalt profane the sabbath, thou shalt dishonour thy father and mother, thou shalt murder, steal, commit adultery, etc., I ask, were the people in this case bound to do as the judge determined, or not?  If any say they were, such a bold and wicked assertion must need strike all sober Christians with horror; and if they say they were not, then this must needs be taken for a limitation.  But this place speaks only of particular suits between man and man, as is apparent from the notes on verse 8.  And in all such cases, although the judge be hereby confined and tied to his rule in giving the sentence, yet it seems but fit and reasonable that people should be bound simply to acquiesce in the sentence of their last and highest judge, or else there would have been no end of strife.

[To the right hand, etc., יָמִ֥ין וּשְׂמֹֽאל׃]  It is wanting the preposition עַל/upon, which is expressed in Genesis 24:49[28] (Gerhard).

 

Verse 12:  And (Num. 15:30; Ezra 10:8; Hos. 4:4) the man that will do presumptuously, and will not hearken (Heb. not to hearken[29]) unto the priest (Deut. 18:5, 7) that standeth to minister there before the LORD thy God, or unto the judge, even that man shall die:  and (Deut. 13:5) thou shalt put away the evil from Israel.

[Who would show pride, Hebrew:  who would act through pride, בְזָדוֹן[30]In pride (Septuagint, Montanus, similarly Junius and Tremellius).  Who would conduct himself arrogantly (Samaritan Text); who would act audaciously (Syriac).  Who would admit obstinacy, that is, through arrogance he is unwilling to obey the priest, etc. (Vatablus).  Who will practice stubbornness (Arabic), in malice (the Chaldean in Ainsworth).  It is opposed to ignorance and error, Exodus 21:13, 14 (Ainsworth).  זָדוֹן signifies temerity.  It is translated ἰταμία/temerity, not incorrectly, by the Greeks in Jeremiah 49:16.[31]  It certainly belong to temerity in matters open to debate to love their own opinions so tenaciously that, therefore, peace is broken, which humanly speaking cannot be retained except through some authority presiding over all.  Now, God rarely does miracles:  generally He preserves human affairs by methods agreeing with human nature.  Indeed, that description of pride does not apply to all, but to those only that assign to themselves the character of teacher, and divide the people.  Such an one, who is called in the Talmudic books זקן חמרא [perhaps it is to be read המרא[32]], an elder, that is, a teacher, contumacious.  They were not teachers unless they were above forty years of age (Grotius).

[Of the priest]  In verse 9, it is priests:  Therefore, the council was composed of a plurality of priests, but the authority and power of one was primary (Lyra).  Of the priest, who is going to designate what is received; or shall consult the Sanhedrin, and according to its decree shall respond (Grotius).

[Who ministers to the Lord, אֶת־יְהוָה[33]To the Lord (Samaritan Text, Junius and Tremellius); before the Lord (Chaldean, Syriac, Samaritan Text); in the name of the Lord (Septuagint).

[And of the judge]  That is, of the High Priest, as in verse 9 (Bonfrerius).  Of a political Judge (Ainsworth, Grotius).  [See what things are on verse 9.]

That will do presumptuously, i.e. that will proudly and obstinately oppose the sentence given against him.  This is opposite to ignorance and error, Exodus 21:13, 14.

[He shall die]  A grievous punishment, but to avoid the most grievous danger of all.  In the place of this is Excommunication in the Christian Church, says Augustine in his Seven Books of Questions on the Heptateuch[34] “Deuteronomy” 5:38 (Grotius).  The Hebrews refer this to a rebellious elder, or judge, namely, inferior:  And, when they maintain that their traditions are included in this law (see on verse 10), they except from this law and its punishment the Sadducees established in the opinions of their fathers, and also those Elders that only believe the contrary of the decree of the Sanhedrin, or teach others thus to believe, unless they do the contrary, or teach others thus to do, because it is said, who shall do, etc. (Ainsworth).

[The evil, הָרָע]  That is, either, the one doing the evil (Ainsworth out of the Chaldean and Septuagint); the pernicious man (Menochius); the refractory (Gerhard):  or, the evil thing, that is, the scandal (certain interpreters in Gerhard); thus thou shalt prevent schism, a monstrous evil.  For the same reason the examination of a false prophet was permitted to the Sanhedrin alone, and the punishment was signified by letters to all cities (Grotius).

The evil; either, 1.  The evil thing, that scandal, that pernicious example.  Or, 2.  That evil, refractory, pernicious person, whose practice herein tends to the dissolution of all government, and the ruin of the commonwealth of Israel.

 

Verse 13:  (Deut. 13:11; 19:20) And all the people shall hear, and fear, and do no more presumptuously.

[The people, hearing]  Hebrew:  the people shall hear[35] (Malvenda).  The construction is related to the sense (Gerhard).

[It shall fear]  He shall beware to make himself the author of doctrine disapproved by public authority, and hence the leader of factions (Grotius).  No prudent person punishes because there is sin, but lest there be sin.  Sins past are not able to be recalled; sins future are restrained:  Seneca’s Concerning Anger[36] 1:16; 2:23, and Plato’s Concerning Laws 11 (Gataker).  Hence the old custom obtained, as Maimonides testifies in a tractate concerning Rebels, that an opposer of this sort was not punished, except at the time of the three feasts, when all come together.  Therefore, they were hastening to kill Christ at the time of the feast of Passover (Fagius).



[1] פָּלָא, in the Niphal conjugation, signifies to be wonderful, or to be difficult.

[2] Deuteronomy 30:11:  “For this commandment which I command thee this day, it is not hidden (לֹא־נִפְלֵאת) from thee, neither is it far off.”

[3] Genesis 18:14a:  “Is any thing too hard for the Lord (היִפָּלֵ֥א מֵיְהוָ֖ה דָּבָ֑ר)?”

[4] Jeremiah 32:17:  “Ah Lord God! behold, thou hast made the heaven and the earth by thy great power and stretched out arm, and there is nothing too hard for thee (לֹֽא־יִפָּלֵ֥א מִמְּךָ֖ כָּל־דָּבָֽר׃)…”

[5] Eugubinus, or Agostino Steuco (1496-1549), was the bishop of Kisamos in Crete and prefect of the Vatican Library.  He brings his varied talents in languages and antiquities to bear upon exegesis.

[6] 2 Samuel 7:14b:  “If he commit iniquity, I will chasten him with the rod of men, and with the stripes (וּבְנִגְעֵי) of the children of men…”

[7] Isaiah 53:8b:  “…for he was cut off out of the land of the living:  for the transgression of my people the stroke (נֶגַע) was to him.”

[8] For example, Psalm 39:10:  “Remove thy stroke (נִגְעֶךָ; τὰς μάστιγάς σου, in the Septuagint) away from me:  I am consumed by the blow of thine hand.”

[9] Mark 3:10:  “For he had healed many; insomuch that they pressed upon him for to touch him, as many as had plagues (μάστιγας).”

[10] Mark 5:29:  “And straightway the fountain of her blood was dried up; and she felt in her body that she was healed of that plague (τῆς μάστιγος).”

[11] Mark 5:34:  “And he said unto her, Daughter, thy faith hath made thee whole; go in peace, and be whole of thy plague (τῆς μάστιγός σου).”

[12] That is, a title or epithet is used instead of the proper name.

[13] See Joshua 18:1.

[14] Hebrew:  וּבָאתָ֗ אֶל־הַכֹּהֲנִים֙ הַלְוִיִּ֔ם.

[15] That is, Maimonides.

[16] Exodus 21:15, 17:  “And he that smiteth his father, or his mother (וְאִמּוֹ, and his mother), shall be surely put to death….  And he that curseth his father, or his mother (וְאִמּוֹ, and his mother), shall surely be put to death.”

[17] Matthew 15:4b:  “…and, He that curseth father or (ἢ) mother, let him die the death.”

[18] Numbers 30:5, 6:  “But if her father disallow her in the day that he heareth; not any of her vows, or of her bonds (וֶאֱסָרֶיהָ, and of her bonds) wherewith she hath bound her soul, shall stand:  and the Lord shall forgive her, because her father disallowed her.  And if she had at all an husband, when she vowed, or (אוֹ) uttered ought out of her lips, wherewith she bound her soul…”

[19] Leviticus 6:3-5:  “Or have found that which was lost, and lieth concerning it, and sweareth (וְנִשְׁבַּע) falsely; in any of all these that a man doeth, sinning therein:  Then it shall be, because he hath sinned, and is guilty, that he shall restore that which he took violently away, or the thing which he hath deceitfully gotten, or that which was delivered him to keep, or the lost thing which he found, Or (אוֹ) all that about which he hath sworn falsely; he shall even restore it in the principal, and shall add the fifth part more thereto, and give it unto him to whom it appertaineth, in the day of his trespass offering. ”

[20] 2 Samuel 2:19, 21a:  “And Asahel pursued after Abner; and in going he turned not to the right hand nor to (וְעַל) the left from following Abner….  And Abner said to him, Turn thee aside to thy right hand or (אוֹ) to thy left, and lay thee hold on one of the young men, and take thee his armour.”

[21] Maurus Servius Honoratius was a fourth century Roman commentator on Virgil.

[22] Deuteronomy 17:12b:  “…and will not hearken unto the priest that standeth to minister there before the Lord thy God, or (אוֹ) unto the judge…”

[23] The Roman Interreges were short-term regents, governing between kings, during periods of the Roman Kingdom and of the Roman Republic.

[24] A Roman Dictator would be appointed during times of emergency or crisis; he was invested with plenary power for extraordinary acts of government.

[25] 1 Chronicles 4:42:  “And some of them, even of the sons of Simeon, five hundred men, went to mount Seir, having for their head (בְּרֹאשָׁם) Pelatiah, and Neariah, and Rephaiah, and Uzziel, the sons of Ishi.”

[26] Deuteronomy 17:10a:  “And thou shalt do according to the sentence (עַל־פִּ֤י הַדָּבָר֙), which they of that place which the Lord shall choose shall shew thee…”

[27] Paul of Venice (1368-1428) was of the Hermits of the Order of Saint Augustine, a Scholastic theologian, philosopher, and logician.

[28] Genesis 24:49:  “And now if ye will deal kindly and truly with my master, tell me:  and if not, tell me; that I may turn to the right hand, or to the left (עַל־יָמִ֖ין א֥וֹ עַל־שְׂמֹֽאל׃).”

[29] Hebrew:  לְבִלְתִּ֙י שְׁמֹ֤עַ.

[30] זָדוֹן, insolence or presumption, is derived from the verbal root זִיד, to seethe, or to act presumptuously.

[31] Jeremiah 49:16a:  “Thy terribleness hath deceived thee, and the pride (זְדוֹן; ἰταμία, in the Septuagint) of thine heart…”

[32] המראה signifies rebelliousness.

[33] Hebrew:  הָעֹמֵ֞ד לְשָׁ֤רֶת שָׁם֙ אֶת־יְהוָ֣ה אֱלֹהֶ֔יךָ.

[34] Quæstionum in Heptateuchum Libri Septem.

[35] Hebrew:  הָעָם יִשְׁמְעוּ.

[36] De Ira.

2 Peter 1:17, 18: Peter Urges His Eyewitness Testimony in Confirmation of the Second Coming, Part 2

Verse 17:  For he received from God the Father honour and glory, when there came such a voice to him from the excellent glory, (Matt. 3:17; 17:5; Mark 1:11; 9:7; Luke 3:22; 9:35) This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.

[Receiving, etc., understanding, was [Vatablus], λαβὼν γὰρ παρὰ Θεοῦ πατρὸς τιμὴν καὶ δόξαν]  Supply ἦν/was (Grotius), or ἐτύγχανε, happened to be (Beza, Piscator, Vorstius), that is, ἔλαβε/received.  An Hebraic Ellipsis (Piscator, similarly Beza, Grotius).  Or, λαβὼν[1] in the place of λαβόντες[2] (Beza, Hammond), after the Attic manner, as in Mark 9:20, ἰδὼν[3] in the place of ἴδοντες[4] (Beza).  A Genitive Absolute (Hammond).  For He had received (or, He is the one that received [Camerarius])…honor and glory (Beza, Piscator, etc.), that is, honor exceedingly glorious (Grotius), both from the splendor of His face (Menochius, similarly Estius), and from the vocal testimony of the Father (Estius); or, Royal honor bestowed upon Christ in that vision, Matthew 17:1, 2, so that Christ’s Kingdom and glorious coming for the destruction of the Jews might be adumbrated to Peter and John, etc. (Hammond).

[With a voice, etc., φωνῆς ἐνεχθείσης αὐτῷ τοιᾶσδε ὑπὸ τῆς μεγαλοπρεποῦς δόξης, Οὗτός ἐστιν ὁ υἱός μου ὁ ἀγαπητός, εἰς ὃν ἐγὼ εὐδόκησα]  With a voice of that sort brought down (or, brought [Gerhard]) to Him from the excellent glory, etc. (Beza, Piscator, etc.), that is, either, 1.  From the luminous cloud, in which God gloriously appeared (Estius, similarly Menochius).  Or, 2.  from the glorious place or throne of God, that is, from heaven (Vorstius).  Or, 3.  from God Himself (Grotius, thus Vorstius, Castalio, Gerhard), who is often called כָּבוֹד/glory by the Hebrews (Grotius); who demonstrated His own presence magnificently and glorious by that word (Gerhard).  These words are wont commonly to be referred to that word heard on a certain mount of Galilee, of which Peter was a witness with John and James.  Whose opinion we also were following when we wrote our notes on Matthew 17.  Now, not only does our opinion recently set forth concerning the Writer of this Epistle cause me to think otherwise, but also that the holy mountain among the Hebrews signifies no other mount than mount Moriah,[5] on which the Temple was (Grotius).  But this argument is weak, for also other places, in which God appeared, are called holy, Acts 7:33 (Hammond in the preface).  [But let us hear Grotius as he proceeds:]  I refer these words to John 12:28.  For a great number were present for this event; among whom we would not think it strange to find this Simeon, who by Eusebius is called αὐτόπτης καὶ αὐτήκοος τοῦ Κυρίου, an eye- and ear-witness of the Lord, who died, as Hegesippus[6] testifies, when he was one hundred and twenty years old.  Neither is this incredible, since this most eloquent writer relates to us that some that had seen Cæsar the Dictator[7] lived unto the age of Vespasian,[8] which writer, because of his manifold eloquence, is wont to be joined with Tacitus.[9]  Now, that word, mentioned by John, happened, as far as it is able to be gathered from the text, when Jesus was passing through the porch of the Gentiles, which is part of Mount Moriah.  One thing hinders, that John relates that voice in other words, namely, ἐδόξασα, καὶ πάλιν δοξάσω, I have both glorified it, and will glorify it again.  Whence the suspicion has occurred to me, that these words, τοιᾶσδε—Οὗτός ἐστιν, etc., of this sort…This is, etc., and certain others, were added by those that intended for it to be believed that this Epistle was entirely of the Apostle Peter.  Let also the more ancient exemplars be consulted here, if any are able to be found (Grotius).  But these are unfortunate conjectures supported by no Codex, and unworthy of such a man, etc. (Hammond in the preface).

Either honour and glory for glorious honour; or glory may relate to that lustre which appeared in the body of Christ at his transfiguration, Matthew 17:2, and honour to the voice which came to him from his Father, and the honourable testimony thereby given him.  From the excellent glory; either from heaven, or from the glorious God, the Father of Christ, who, by this voice, did in a special manner manifest his glorious presence.  This is my beloved Son; i.e. This is the Messiah so often promised, and therefore all that was spoken of the Messiah in the law and the prophets centres in him.  In whom I am well pleased:  this implies not only that Christ is peculiarly the Beloved of the Father, but that all they that are adopted to God by faith in Christ, are beloved, and graciously accepted, in and through him, Matthew 3:17; John 17:26; Ephesians 1:6.

 

Verse 18:  And this voice which came from heaven we heard, when we were with him in (see Ex. 3:5; Josh. 5:15; Matt. 17:6) the holy mount.

[We heard, etc.]  I, James, and John (Menochius, thus Estius, Gerhard).  Therefore, he makes use of the Plural (Gerhard).

We; I, and James, and John.  Heard:  the apostle avoucheth himself to have been an ear-witness, as well as eye-witness, of Christ’s glory, hereby intimating that there was as much certainty of the gospel, even in a human way, as could possibly be obtained of any thing that is done in the world, seeing men can be humanly certain of nothing more than of what they perceive by their senses:  compare 1 John 1:1, 3.  The holy mount; so called, not because of any inherent holiness in it, but because of the extraordinary manifestation of God’s presence there; in the same sense as the ground is called holy where God appeared to Moses and to Joshua, Exodus 3:5; Joshua 5:15.



[1] In the Nominative Case.

[2] In the Genitive Case.

[3] In the Nominative Case.  Mark 9:20:  “And they brought him unto him:  and when he saw him (Καὶ ἤνεγκαν αὐτὸν πρὸς αὐτόν·  καὶ ἰδὼν αὐτόν), straightway the spirit tare him; and he fell on the ground, and wallowed foaming.”

[4] In the Genitive Case.

[5] Genesis 22:2; 2 Chronicles 3:1.

[6] Hegesippus (d. 180) was a Jewish convert to Christianity.  He wrote an ecclesiastical history, which survives only in fragments, and De Bello Judaico et Urbis Hierosolymitanæ Excidio Libri Quique.

[7] Cæsar was Dictator from 48 to 44 BC.

[8] Vespasian reigned from 69 to 79 AD.

[9] Cornelius Tacitus (c. 56-c. 117) was a Roman historian.  The information that he preserves about his era and its emperors is invaluable.

2 Peter 1:16: Peter Urges His Eyewitness Testimony in Confirmation of the Second Coming, Part 1

Verse 16:  For we have not followed (1 Cor. 1:17; 2:1, 2; 2 Cor. 2:17; 4:2) cunningly devised fables, when we made known unto you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but (Matt. 17:1, 2; Mark 9:2; John 1:14; 1 John 1:1; 4:14) were eyewitnesses of his majesty.

[Not, etc., οὐ γὰρ σεσοφισμένοις μύθοις ἐξακολουθήσαντες ἐγνωρίσαμεν ὑμῖν τὴν τοῦ Κυρίου ἡμῶν Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ δύναμιν καὶ παρουσίαν]  For not following fables (of which sort are the fables of the Poets concerning the gods and the exploits of the ancients; and are the inventions of the heretics, especially the Simonians, concerning God, Angels, and the creation of the world[1] [Estius, thus Gerhard]; and are the fables of the Jews, by comparison with 1 Timothy 1:4; Titus 1:14 [Gerhard]:  of which sort also are the witty, more than salutary, disputations of the Philosophers [Erasmus]) composed by art (or, clever [Erasmus, Vatablus, Vulgate], sciolous [Castalio], sophistical [Montanus], witty [Vatablus], or, fabricated by art [Erasmus, Vatablus, Grotius], composed to deceive [Vatablus], artificial [Zegers], ingeniously fabricated [Menochius]; having a false appearance of wisdom and truth [Beza]:  Thus πλαστοῖς λόγοις, with feigned words, in 2 Peter 2:3:  Σοφίζομαι, to use sophistry, to fabricate, in the Glossa [Grotius]:  Σοφίζω and σοφίζομαι are taken sometimes in a good sense; sometimes in a bad sense, as in Ecclesiastes 7:16;[2] Ecclesiasticus 7:5;[3] 10:26;[4] 32:4:[5]  Thus Demosthenes, εἶθα σοφίζεται, he contrives craftily and fraudulently[6] [Gerhard]), we made known to you…Christ’s power and coming (Piscator, Erasmus, etc.), that is, His coming undertaken to put forth His power (Piscator).  It is ἓν διὰ δυοῖν, hendiadys (Grotius, Piscator), in the place of δύνατὴν παρουσίαν, His powerful coming.  Now, every operation is called παρουσία, a coming.  See 2 Thessalonians 2:9[7] (Grotius).  He understands the divine efficacy of Christ, which put itself forth in His advent (Vorstius, thus Piscator).  Παρουσία signifies advent/coming, as in Matthew 24:3,[8] 27;[9] 1 Corinthians 15:23;[10] 16:17[11] (Gerhard), namely, Christ’s; and that either, 1.  the first through incarnation (Cajetan, Salmasius,[12] etc. in Gerhard), in which δύναμις/power, that is, that divine power, of Christ put itself forth (certain interpreters in Gerhard), both efficaciously by persuading of what things He taught; and by confirming His doctrine by miracles, and especially by the resurrection from the dead (Piscator, thus Vorstius):  or, 2.  the second, by comparison with chapter 3, since it alone shall be in glory and power (Gerhard, thus Estius), while on the other hand the first advent was of infirmity and humility; of which also that transfiguration, which here follows, was a prelude.  And the word παρουσία/coming in the New Testament is never used of the first advent of Christ, but always of the second (Gerhard).  Others:  Παρουσία here denotes the Royal advent of Christ to destroy the Jews, and to liberate the faithful, as it has often been shown (Hammond).

Cunningly devised fables; human figments artificially contrived, either to please and gratify men’s fancies, or to deceive and pervert their judgment:  q.d. The things we have preached unto you (the sum of which is the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ) are the true sayings of God, not the fictions of men:  and so he may have respect both to heathenish and Jewish fables.  See 1 Timothy 1:4; 4:7; 2 Timothy 4:4; Titus 1:14.  The power; this relates to the Divine nature of Christ with its glorious effects, the efficacy of his doctrine, the miracles whereby he confirmed it, and especially his resurrection from the dead, Romans 1:4.  And coming of our Lord Jesus Christ; this respects his human nature, his coming in the flesh, in which he manifested the power before mentioned; both together contain the sum of the whole gospel, viz. that Christ, the promised Messiah, is come in the flesh, and that he was furnished with power sufficient and ability to save sinners to the utmost.  Or, Christ’s coming here may be his second coming, to which the word here used is for the most part applied in the New Testament, and whereof his transfiguration, in the following verse, was a representation and a forerunner; and in the belief of which the apostle would confirm these saints against those that scoffed at it, 2 Peter 3:3, 4.

[But, etc., ἀλλ᾽ ἐπόπται γενηθέντες τῆς ἐκείνου μεγαλειότητος]  But having been made spectators (or, observers, or contemplators [Valla]), etc. (Montanus), that is, αὐτοπταὶ/eyewitnesses, namely, I with James and John, Matthew 17:1, which he sets against those who were calling his preaching concerning the second coming of Christ into doubt (Gerhard).  But as those who have observed with our own eyes (which sort of witnesses are called αὐτοπταὶ in Luke Preface;[13] who testify of their own, not another’s, sight [Grotius]) His (that is, Christ’s [Valla, Erasmus]) majesty (Beza, Piscator, etc.), either, His miracles.  For it is Metonymy, of which sort is found in Luke 9:43.  The same miracles are called the wonderful works of God, Acts 2:11 (Grotius).  Or, His glorious appearance on the mount (Estius, similarly Menochius).  Christ frequently made His majesty known by the power of divine works, in His life, death, resurrection, and afterwards (Gomar).

But were eyewitnesses of his majesty:  by Christ’s majesty may be understood all that glory which did shine out in him during the whole time of his abode upon earth, John 1:14, but especially that more eminent manifestation of it in his transfiguration, in the next verse.



[1] The Simonians were a second century Gnostic sect; they claimed to be followers of Simon Magus.

[2] Ecclesiastes 7:16:  “Be not righteous over much; neither make thyself over wise (וְאַל־תִּתְחַכַּ֖ם יוֹתֵ֑ר; καὶ μὴ σοφίζου περισσά, in the Septuagint):  why shouldest thou destroy thyself?”

[3] Ecclesiasticus 7:5:  “Justify not thyself before the Lord; and boast not of thy wisdom (μὴ σοφίζου) before the king.”

[4] Ecclesiasticus 10:26:  “Be not overwise (μὴ σοφίζου) in doing thy business; and boast not thyself in the time of thy distress.”

[5] Ecclesiasticus 32:4:  “Pour not out words where there is a musician, and shew not forth wisdom (μὴ σοφίζου) out of time.”

[6] On the Crown 18:227.

[7] 2 Thessalonians 2:9:  “Even him, whose coming (ἡ παρουσία) is after the working (κατ᾽ ἐνέργειαν; secundum operationem, in the Vulgate) of Satan with all power and signs and lying wonders…”

[8] Matthew 24:3b:  “Tell us, when shall these things be? and what shall be the sign of thy coming (τῆς σῆς παρουσίας), and of the end of the world?”

[9] Matthew 24:27:  “For as the lightning cometh out of the east, and shineth even unto the west; so shall also the coming (ἡ παρουσία) of the Son of man be.”

[10] 1 Corinthians 15:23:  “But every man in his own order:  Christ the firstfruits; afterward they that are Christ’s at his coming (ἐν τῇ παρουσίᾳ αὐτοῦ).”

[11] 1 Corinthians 16:17a:  “I am glad of the coming (τῇ παρουσίᾳ) of Stephanas and Fortunatus and Achaicus…”

[12] Claudius Salmasius, or Claude Saumaise (1588-1653) was a French Protestant scholar of classical antiquity.  He succeeded Joseph Scaliger in the professorship at Leiden.

[13] Luke 1:2:  “Even as they delivered them unto us, which from the beginning were eyewitnesses (αὐτόπται), and ministers of the word…”

Deuteronomy 17:2-7: Command to Execute Idolaters

Verse 2:  (Deut. 13:6) If there be found among you, within any of thy gates which the LORD thy God giveth thee, man or woman, that hath wrought wickedness in the sight of the LORD thy God, (Josh. 7:11, 15; 23:16; Judg. 2:20; 2 Kings 18:12; Hos. 8:1) in transgressing his covenant…

[When there are found, etc.]  In Deuteronomy 13, he taught what was to be done to the seducer; here, what was to be done to the seduced (Malvenda).

Man or woman; the weakness and tenderness of that sex shall not excuse her sin, nor prevent her punishment.

[They transgress the covenant]  That is, they fall away from their religion.  Compare Hebrews 10:29 (Grotius).

In transgressing his covenant, i.e. in idolatry, as it is explained verse 3, which is called a transgression of God’s covenant made with Israel, partly because it is a breach of their faith given to God, and of that law which they covenanted to keep; and principally because it is a dissolution of their matrimonial covenant with God, a renouncing of God and his worship and service, and a choosing other gods.

 

Verse 3:  And hath gone and served other gods, and worshipped them, either (Deut. 4:19; Job 31:26) the sun, or moon, or any of the host of heaven, (Jer. 7:22, 23, 31; 19:5; 32:35) which I have not commanded…

[The sun, וְלַשֶּׁמֶשׁ]  And to the sunAnd is in the place of that is (Vatablus).

[I have not commanded]  Indeed, I have prohibited.  Thus, the father of a fool does not rejoice[1] (Drusius).  The words carry emphasis, which I have not commanded.  For it is able to happen, as Bechai acutely judges, that, urged by the wonder of the Sun, as by the principal ornament of nature, he might adore God the creator in the Sun:  which reasoning appears exceedingly pious.  But it is impious to God; for that, says He, He did not command.  Wherefore, nothing is to be reckoned pious in the Divine worship that does not depend upon the sure word of God, understood in accordance with the nature of the covenant of God (Fagius).

The sun, or moon, etc.:  Those glorious creatures, which are to be admired as the wonderful works of God, but not to be set up in God’s stead, nor worshipped as gods:  see Job 31:26.  By condemning the most specious and reasonable of all idolaters, he intimates how absurd a thing it is to worship stocks and stones, the works of men’s hands.  Which I have not commanded, i.e. I have forbidden, to wit, Exodis 20.  Such negative expressions are oft emphatical, and imply the contrary, as Proverbs 10:2; 17:21; 24:23.

 

Verse 4:  (Deut. 13:12, 14) And it be told thee, and thou hast heard of it, and enquired diligently, and, behold, it be true, and the thing certain, that such abomination is wrought in Israel…

Told thee by any person, thou shalt not slight so much as a rumour or flying report of so gross a crime.

[And thou inquire]  Just as manifest crimes require a ruling consistent with equity, so also things obscure suspend such a ruling:  Ennodius’[2] Declamations 12 (Gataker).  See on Deuteronomy 13:14 (Vatablus).

Inquired diligently, by sending messengers, examining witnesses, etc.

 

Verse 5:  Then shalt thou bring forth that man or that woman, which have committed that wicked thing, unto thy gates, even that man or that woman, and (Lev. 24:14, 16; Deut. 13:10; Josh. 7:25) shalt stone them with stones, till they die.

[Unto the gates]  Where judgments were executed (Fagius):  neither was the place where malefactors were punished far off (Fagius, Menochius, Bonfrerius).  Outside the city (or camp).  There Christ[3] and Stephen[4] suffered (Menochius out of Bonfrerius).  To the Judges of each city, twenty-three or twenty-one.  For unto those the examination concerning crimes had regard, except those which were removed to the Sanhedrin, of which sort were false prophecy and a crime of an entire Tribe.  It was otherwise in the case of one soliciting unto new gods:  For he was not led to the Judges (Grotius).

[They shall be buried with stones]  More grievous was the punishment of this one than of an entire city, which was destroyed with the sword; except that the goods of the city were to be destroyed,[5] while the goods of this man passed to his heirs (Ainsworth).

 

Verse 6:  (Num. 35:30; Deut. 19:15; Matt. 18:16; John 8:17; 2 Cor. 13:1; 1 Tim. 5:19; Heb. 10:28) At the mouth of two witnesses, or three witnesses, shall he that is worthy of death be put to death; but at the mouth of one witness he shall not be put to death.

[At the mouth of two, etc.]  It is a Hebraism, for, under the testimony of two, etc.  See Numbers 35:30 and Deuteronomy 19:15 (Vatablus, Malvenda).

[Witnesses]  Of good reputation.  According to Hebrew custom, the right of testimony does not belong to the mentally disabled, boys before the age of thirteen, thieves even after restitution, those who live by gambling, publicans that exact beyond what is fair, goat-herds, and any others who practice things that are worthy of stripes (Grotius):  women, because of the fickleness and temerity of the sex; servants, on account of their servile and degenerate souls, which are easily corrupted by the hope of gain or fear (Bonfrerius).  Those who are very close or familiar, or hostile, to either party, are also able to be rejected (Grotius).

[Shall he perish who is going to be killed, הַמֵּת[6]One dying, that is, one about to die (Samaritan Text).  Thus Genesis 48:21, Behold, I die, that is, I am going to die shortly.  Thus Jonathan, a ship passing, that is, about to pass shortly.  Onkelos and Jonathan, who is worthy of death (Drusius):  he who dies (Junius and Tremellius, Septuagint).

At the mouth, i.e. upon the testimony delivered upon oath before the magistrates.  Three witnesses, to wit, credible and competent witnesses.  The Jews rejected the testimonies of madmen, children, women, servants, familiar friends, or enemies, persons of dissolute lives and evil fame.

 

Verse 7:  (Deut. 13:9; Acts 7:58) The hands of the witnesses shall be first upon him to put him to death, and afterward the hands of all the people.  So (Deut. 17:12; 13:5; 19:19) thou shalt put the evil away from among you.

[The hand of the witnesses, etc.]  In the Sanhedrin this method of stoning is inscribed.  The condemned man, stripped, with his hands bound, was positioned upon a precipice, the place of stoning; behind whom the witnesses were standing with their eyes covered.  The former pushed forward the one to be punished, and caused him to fall headlong.  If the one having fallen was still breathing, he rolled forward another great stone upon him.  Moreover, if he was not even thus killed, the multitude heaped stones upon him.  This severity in punishments is commanded for this, that it might be a more effective example.  See more things on Exodus 21:16 (Fagius).

Shall be first upon him; either laid upon his head to design the person, or stretched out to throw the first stone at him.  God thus ordered it, partly for the caution of witnesses, that if they had through malice or wrath accused him falsely, they might now be afraid to imbrue their hands in innocent blood; partly for the security and satisfaction of the people in the execution of this punishment.

[Of the people]  All the multitude, etc.  Hence the opinion of Rabbi Aquiba was commonly taken, that such an idolater was kept until a solemn feast.  Yet others think otherwise (Fagius).

The hand of all the people, who, being all highly and particularly obliged to God, are bound to express their zeal for his honour and service, and their detestation of all persons and things so highly dishonourable and abominable to him.



[1] Proverbs 17:21.

[2] Magnus Felix Ennodius (c. 473-521) was Bishop of Pavia (514), and a Latin rhetorician.

[3] Hebrews 13:12.

[4] See Acts 7, especially verse 58.

[5] Deuteronomy 13:12-18.

[6] Deuteronomy 17:6a:  “At the mouth of two witnesses, or three witnesses, shall he be put to death, who is dying (יוּמַ֣ת הַמֵּ֑ת)…”

Deuteronomy 17:1: Prohibition of Blemished Sacrifices

Verse 1:  Thou (Deut. 15:21; Mal. 1:8, 13, 14) shalt not sacrifice unto the LORD thy God any bullock, or sheep (or, goat[1]), wherein is blemish, or any evilfavouredness:  for that is an abomination unto the LORD thy God.

[Sheep]  It comprehends also the kid (Ainsworth).

[Bullock]  Not one castrated, an Ox, in English (for this was a defect), but a Bull, in English.  These are the greater and lesser sacrifices, under which the rest are contained (Ainsworth).

[Blemish]  See what things were said on Exodus 12:5 (Menochius), and Leviticus 22:19, etc. (Malvenda).

[Any defect]  Hebrew:  any thing ill[2] (Vatablus).  See Deuteronomy 15:21[3] (Malvenda).  Beyond visible blemishes:  for example, if it be diseased, Malachi 1:8; if it be the price of a whore, or of a dog, Deuteronomy 23:18.  See on Leviticus 22:25 (Ainsworth).

Any bullock or sheep, i.e. either greater or smaller sacrifices, all being comprehended under the two most eminent kinds.  See Leviticus 22:20, 21.  An abomination, i.e. abominable, as Deuteronomy 18:12.



[1] Hebrew:  וָשֶׂה.  שֶׂה is an animal of the flock.

[2] Hebrew:  כֹּ֖ל דָּבָ֣ר רָ֑ע.

[3] Deuteronomy 15:21:  “And if there be any blemish therein, as if it be lame, or blind, or have any ill blemish (כֹּ֖ל מ֣וּם רָ֑ע), thou shalt not sacrifice it unto the Lord thy God.”

Deuteronomy 17 Outline

They are not to offer blemished sacrifices, 1.  Idolaters are to be put to death, 2-7.  Doubts in difficult matters to be resolved by priests and judges, 8-13.  To choose a king of their own brethren, and not a stranger, 14, 15.  The duty of their king, 16-20.