Deuteronomy 17:11
According to the sentence of the law which they shall teach you, and according to the judgment which they shall tell you, you shall do: you shall not decline from the sentence which they shall show you, to the right hand, nor to the left.
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17:8-13 Courts of judgment were to be set up in every city. Though their judgment had not the Divine authority of an oracle, it was the judgment of wise, prudent, experienced men, and had the advantage of a Divine promise.The cases in question are such as the inferior judges did not feel able to decide satisfactorily, and which accordingly they remitted to their superiors (compare Exodus 18:23-27).

The Supreme court Deuteronomy 17:9 is referred to in very general terms as sitting at the sanctuary Deuteronomy 17:8. "The judge" would no doubt usually be a layman, and thus the court would contain both an ecclesiastical and a civil element. Jehoshaphat 2 Chronicles 19:4-11 organized his judicial system very closely upon the lines here laid down.

De 17:8-13. The Priests and Judges to Determine Controversies.

8-13. If there arise a matter too hard for thee in judgment—In all civil or criminal cases, where there was any doubt or difficulty in giving a decision, the local magistrates were to submit them by reference to the tribunal of the Sanhedrim—the supreme council, which was composed partly of civil and partly of ecclesiastical persons. "The priests and Levites," should rather be "the priests—the Levites"; that is, the Levitical priests, including the high priest, who were members of the legislative assembly; and who, as forming one body, are called "the judge." Their sittings were held in the neighborhood of the sanctuary because in great emergencies the high priest had to consult God by Urim (Nu 27:21). From their judgment there was no appeal; and if a person were so perverse and refractory as to refuse obedience to their sentences, his conduct, as inconsistent with the maintenance of order and good government, was then to be regarded and punished as a capital crime.

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, &c., 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 See Poole "Deu 17:8". 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. According to the sentence of the law which they shall teach thee,.... For they were not to make any new law, but to teach the law of God, and so far as their sense and opinion of things agreed with that law they were to be regarded:

and according to the judgment which they shall tell thee, thou shalt do; what were law and justice, what were fit and right to be done, according to the will of God, which they should declare unto them, that was carefully to be done by them:

thou shalt not decline from the sentence they shall show thee, to the right hand nor to the left; by setting up after, all their own judgments against theirs to whom they had applied for information and direction, which to have done would have been very insolent and affronting; they were not to depart from the determination they made of the case, on pretence of knowing better, nor even in any minute circumstance to deviate from it, but strictly and closely to keep unto it; though not to follow them so implicitly as to receive from them and embrace things the most absurd and unreasonable, as Jarchi suggests; who says, that their sense was to be abided by, even if they should say that the right hand is the left, and the left hand the right.

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

(g) You shall obey their sentence that the controversy may have an end.

11. law] Heb. torah, usually of the directions given by priests in questions of ritual, covers here their decisions in civil cases as well. Teach, rather direct, is the vb from which Torah is derived.If such a case should occur, as that a man or woman transgressed the covenant of the Lord and went after other gods and worshipped them; when it was made known, the facts were to be carefully inquired into; and if the charge were substantiated, the criminal was to be led out to the gate and stoned. On the testimony of two or three witnesses, not of one only, he was to be put to death (see at Numbers 35:30); and the hand of the witnesses was to be against him first to put him to death, i.e., to throw the first stones at him, and all the people were to follow. With regard to the different kinds of idolatry in Deuteronomy 17:3, see Deuteronomy 4:19. (On Deuteronomy 17:4, see Deuteronomy 13:15.) "Bring him out to thy gates," i.e., to one of the gates of the town in which the crime was committed. By the gates we are to understand the open space near the gates, where the judicial proceedings took place (cf. Nehemiah 8:1, Nehemiah 8:3; Job. Deu 29:7), the sentence itself being executed outside the town (cf. Deuteronomy 22:24; Acts 7:58; Hebrews 13:12), just as it had been outside the camp during the journey through the wilderness (Leviticus 24:14; Numbers 15:36), to indicate the exclusion of the criminal from the congregation, and from fellowship with God. The infliction of punishment in Deuteronomy 17:5. is like that prescribed in Deuteronomy 13:10-11, for those who tempted others to idolatry; with this exception, that the testimony of more than one witness was required before the sentence could be executed, and the witnesses were to be the first to lift up their hands against the criminal to stone him, that they might thereby give a practical proof of the truth of their statement, and their own firm conviction that the condemned was deserving of death, - "a rule which would naturally lead to the supposition that no man would come forward as a witness without the fullest certainty or the greatest depravity" (Schnell, das isr. Recht).

(Note: "He assigned this part to the witnesses, chiefly because there are so many whose tongue is so slippery, not to say good for nothing, that they would boldly strangle a man with their words, when they would not dare to touch him with one of their fingers. It was the best remedy, therefore, that could be tried for restraining such levity, to refuse to admit the testimony of any man who was not ready to execute judgment with his own hand" (Calvin).)

המּת (Deuteronomy 17:6), the man exposed to death, who was therefore really ipso facto already dead. "So shalt thou put the evil away," etc.: cf. Deuteronomy 13:6.

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