Deuteronomy 17


All sacrifices to be without blemish, 1.

Of persons consisted of idolatry and their punishment, 2-7.

Difficult matters in judgment to be laid before the priests and

judges, and to be determined by them; and all to submit to their

decision, 8-13.

The king that may be chosen to be one of their brethren; no

stranger to be appointed to that office, 14, 15.

He shall not multiply horses to himself, nor cause the people to

return unto Egypt, 16.

Nor multiply wives, money, &c., 17.

He shall write a copy of the law for his own use, and read and

study it all his days, that his heart be not lifted up above

his brethren, 18-20.


Verse 1. Wherein is blemish] God must not have that offered

to him which thou wouldst not use thyself. This not only refers

to the perfect sacrifice offered by Christ Jesus, but to that

sincerity and uprightness of heart which God requires in all those

who approach him in the way of worship.

Verse 4. If it be told thee] In a private way by any

confidential person. And thou hast heard of it; so that it

appears to be notorious, very likely to be true, and publicly

scandalous. And hast inquired diligently-sought to find out the

truth of the report by the most careful examination of persons

reporting, circumstances of the case, &c. And, behold, it be

true-the report is not founded on vague rumour, hearsay, or

malice. And the thing certain-substantiated by the fullest

evidence. Then shalt thou bring forth that man, De 17:5. As the

charge of idolatry was the most solemn and awful that could be

brought against an Israelite, because it affected his life,

therefore God required that the charge should be substantiated by

the most unequivocal facts, and the most competent witnesses.

Hence all the precautions mentioned in the fourth verse must be

carefully used, in order to arrive at so affecting and so awful a


Verse 6. Two witnesses] ONE might be deceived, or be

prejudiced or malicious; therefore God required two substantial

witnesses for the support of the charge.

Verse 8. If there arise a matter too hard for thee] These

directions are given to the common magistrates, who might not be

able to judge of or apply the law in all cases that might be

brought before them. The priests and Levites, who were lawyers by

birth and continual practice, were reasonably considered as the

best qualified to decide on difficult points.

Verse 12. The man that will do presumptuously] The man who

refused to abide by this final determination forfeited his life,

as being then in a state of rebellion against the highest

authority, and consequently the public could have no pledge for

his conduct.

Verse 15. One from among thy brethren shalt thou set king over

thee] It was on the ground of this command that the Jews proposed

that insidious question to our Lord, Is it lawful to give tribute

to Caesar, OR NO? Mt 22:17; for they were then under the

authority of a foreign power. Had Christ said Yes, then they

would have condemned him by this law; had he said No, then they

would have accused him to Caesar. See this subject discussed in

great detail in the notes, See Clarke on Mt 22:16, &c.

Verse 16. He shall not multiply horses] As horses appear to

have been generally furnished by Egypt, God prohibits these, 1.

Lest there should be such commerce with Egypt as might lead to

idolatry. 2. Lest the people might depend on a well-appointed

cavalry as a means of security, and so cease from trusting in the

strength and protection of God. And, 3. That they might not be

tempted to extend their dominion by means of cavalry, and so get

scattered among the surrounding idolatrous nations, and thus

cease, in process of time, to be that distinct and separate people

which God intended they should be, and without which the

prophecies relative to the Messiah could not be known to have

their due and full accomplishment.

Verse 17. Neither shall he multiply wives] For this would

necessarily lead to foreign alliances, and be the means of

introducing the manners and customs of other nations, and their

idolatry also. Solomon sinned against this precept, and brought

ruin on himself and on the land by it; see 1Ki 11:4.

Verse 18. He shall write him a copy of this law]

mishneh hattorah hazzoth, an iteration or duplicate of

this law; translated by the Septuagint, τοδευτερονομιοντουτο

this deuteronomy. From this version both the Vulgate Latin and

all the modern versions have taken the name of this book; and from

the original word the Jews call it Mishneh. See the preface to

this book.

Out of that which is before the priests the Levites] It is

likely this means, that the copy which the king was to write out

was to be taken from the autograph kept in the tabernacle before

the Lord, from which, as a standard, every copy was taken and with

which doubtless every copy was compared; and it is probable that

the priests and Levites had the revising of every copy that was

taken off, in order to prevent errors from creeping into the

sacred text.

Verse 19. And it shall be with him, &c.] It was the surest way

to bring the king to an acquaintance with the Divine law to oblige

him to write out a fair copy of it with his own hand, in which he

was to read daily. This was essentially necessary, as these laws

of God were all permanent, and no Israelitish king could make any

new law, the kings of this people being ever considered as only

the vice-gerents of Jehovah.

Verse 20. He, and his children, in the midst of Israel.] From

this verse it has been inferred that the crown of Israel was

designed to be hereditary, and this is very probable; for long

experience has proved to almost all the nations of the world that

hereditary succession in the regal government is, on the whole,

the safest, and best calculated to secure the public tranquillity.

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