Bible Commentaries

Deuteronomy 17

Verses 1-20

Continuing the discourse commenced in the previous chapter, we find insistence on the fact that no false sacrifices must be offered and no false worshipers permitted to approach. For dealing with such, a method was minutely laid down. First there must be careful inquiry and for condemnation there must be three, or at the least two, witnesses. Where cases of peculiar difficulty arose they must be remitted to the priests and to the supreme judge, that is, to the religious and civil court.

Then followed a revelation of the threefold medium through which the government of God must be interpreted­ the king, the priest, and the prophet. In dealing with the king the words of Moses were those of prophetic foresight. He saw what would happen in the history of the people after they had come into the land. Therefore the principles of appointment were declared. The king must be chosen of God and be of the people's own nation. He was not to multiply horses, wives, silver, or gold. All these things were characteristic of the kings of the nations round about them, and it was provided that Israel's king must live a simpler life for the fulfillment of a higher ideal, Moreover, he must be a student and doer of the law.

This is a remarkable portrait of God's ideal of kingship. It would be an interesting exercise to measure the kings of men throughout history by this ideal. Such a procedure would inevitably issue in a twofold consciousness. First, we would find that the measure in which the kings of men have conformed to the ideal is the measure in which they have contributed to the strength of national life; and, on the contrary, the measure by which they have violated these principles has been the measure of the disaster resulting from their rule.