Deuteronomy 17:2
If there be found among you, within any of your gates which the LORD your God gives you, man or woman, that has worked wickedness in the sight of the LORD your God, in transgressing his covenant,
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
Deuteronomy 17:2-7. EVERY IDOLATER TO BE STONED.

(2) If there be found . . . man or woman.—This section differs slightly from the third section of Deuteronomy 13. The penalty there is directed against the teachers of idolatry, whether prophets, private individuals, or communities in Israel. Here the penalty of death is enacted for every individual, man or woman, found guilty of worshipping any other god but Jehovah. We find traces of this law in the covenant made in the reign of Asa (2Chronicles 15:13), “that whosoever would not seek the Lord God of Israel should be put to death, whether small or great, whether man or woman.

(3) Either the sun, or moon, or any of the host of heaven.—The oldest and simplest, and apparently most innocent form of idolatry. If this was punishable with death, obviously no grosser form of idolatry could be spared. The Book of Job, which knows no other idolatry, admits this to be a denial “of the God that is above” (Job 31:26-28).

(6) He that is worthy of death.—Literally, he that dieth.

(7) The hands of the witnesses . . . first.—A great safeguard against false testimony.

Put . . . away.—Literally, consume. The primary meaning of the word is “burn.” Taberah, “burning,” is a derivative.

The evil.—The Greek version renders this “the wicked man,” and the sentence is taken up in this form in 1Corinthians 5:13, “and ye shall put away from among you that wicked person.” The phrase is of frequent occurrence in Deuteronomy, and if we are to understand that in all places where it occurs “the evil” is to be under. stood of an individual, and to be taken in the masculine gender, the fact seems to deserve notice in considering the phrase “deliver us from evil” in the Lord’s Prayer. There is really no such thing as wickedness in the world apart from some wicked being or person. We are also reminded of the famous argument of St. Augustine, that evil has no existence except as a corruption of good, or a creature’s perverted will.

Deuteronomy 17:2. In transgressing his covenant — That is, in idolatry, as it is explained Deuteronomy 17:3, which is called a transgression of God’s covenant made with Israel, both because it was a breach of their faith given to God, and of that law which they covenanted to keep; and because it was a dissolution of that matrimonial covenant with God, a renouncing of God and his worship, and a choosing other gods.17:1-7 No creature which had any blemish was to be offered in sacrifice to God. We are thus called to remember the perfect, pure, and spotless sacrifice of Christ, and reminded to serve God with the best of our abilities, time, and possession, or our pretended obedience will be hateful to him. So great a punishment as death, so remarkable a death as stoning, must be inflicted on the Jewish idolater. Let all who in our day set up idols in their hearts, remember how God punished this crime in Israel.Compare Deuteronomy 13:1 ff. Here special reference is made to the legal forms to be adopted, Deuteronomy 17:5-7. The sentence was to be carried into effect at "the gates" (compare Genesis 19:1 note) of the town in which the crime was committed; because, as "all the people" were to take a part, an open space would be requisite for the execution. Note the typical and prophetical aspect of the injunction; compare Acts 7:58; Hebrews 13:12. De 17:2-7. Idolaters Must Be Slain.

2-7. If there be found among you … man or woman, that hath wrought wickedness—The grand object contemplated in choosing Israel was to preserve the knowledge and worship of the one true God; and hence idolatry of any kind, whether of the heavenly bodies or in some grosser form, is called "a transgression of His covenant." No rank or sex could palliate this crime. Every reported case, even a flying rumor of the perpetration of so heinous an offense, was to be judicially examined; and if proved by the testimony of competent witnesses, the offender was to be taken without the gates and stoned to death, the witnesses casting the first stone at him. The object of this special arrangement was partly to deter the witnesses from making a rash accusation by the prominent part they had to act as executioners, and partly to give a public assurance that the crime had met its due punishment.

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

In transgressing his covenant, i.e. in idolatry, as it is explained Deu 17:3, 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. If there be found among you, within any of thy gates which the Lord thy God giveth thee,.... In any of their cities in the land of Canaan:

man or woman that hath wrought wickedness in the sight of the Lord thy God: as all that is wrought is in the sight of the omniscient God; here it means not any kind of wickedness, for there is none lives without committing sin of one sort or another, all which is known to God the searcher of hearts, but such wickedness as is after described:

in transgressing his covenant; that is, his law, and particularly the first table of it, which respects divine worship, and which is in the nature of a marriage contract or covenant; which, as that is transgressed by adultery committed by either party, so the covenant between God and Israel was transgressed by idolatry, which is spiritual adultery, and going a whoring after other gods, as it follows:

If there be found among you, within any of thy gates which the LORD thy God giveth thee, man or {b} woman, that hath wrought wickedness in the sight of the LORD thy God, in transgressing his covenant,

(b) Showing that the crime cannot be excused by the frailty of the person.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
2. If there be found in the midst of thee] Deuteronomy 13:1 (2): if there arise, etc.; q.v.

within any of thy gates
] Deuteronomy 13:12 (13): one of thy cities; q.v.

doeth that which is evil
, etc.] See on Deuteronomy 4:25.

in transgressing his covenant] Joshua 7:11; Joshua 7:15; Joshua 23:16 (all deuteron.). The same sin is in Deuteronomy 4:23 called forgetting the covenant. On covenant see Deuteronomy 4:13.

2–7. Against Worshippers of Other Gods

If such be found in any of thy gates, and their crime established, they shall be stoned (Deuteronomy 17:2-5); only at the mouth of two witnesses shall any one be put to death: so shalt thou burn out the evil from the midst of thee (Deuteronomy 17:6 f.).—The evil condemned is related to those which precede it by being like them one of all the abominations to Jehovah which He hateth, Deuteronomy 12:31, and the law dealing with it naturally leads up to the three in ch. 13, with which it shows some similarities of language, along with such variations as these three show among themselves. Like them it is in the Sg. throughout.Verse 2. - In Deuteronomy 13, Moses enacts what is to be done to those who seduce into idolatry. Here he declares what is to be done to those who are so seduced. Done wickedness; literally, done the evil. The definite article is prefixed; it is not any kind of wickedness that is here denounced, but the special sin of idolatry, the wickedness κατ ἐξόχην. All idolatry was to be strictly suppressed - those convicted of it to be put to death by stoning. Just as in its religious worship the Israelitish nation was to show itself to be the holy nation of Jehovah, so was it in its political relations also. This thought forms the link between the laws already given and those which follow. Civil order - that indispensable condition of the stability and prosperity of nations and states - rests upon a conscientious maintenance of right by means of a well-ordered judicial constitution and an impartial administration of justice. - For the purpose of settling the disputes of the people, Moses had already provided them with judges at Sinai, and had given the judges themselves the necessary instructions for the fulfilment of their duties (Exodus 18). This arrangement might suffice as long as the people were united in one camp and had Moses for a leader, who could lay before God any difficult cases that were brought to him, and give an absolute decision with divine authority. But for future times, when Israel would no longer possess a prophet and mediator like Moses, and after the conquest of Canaan would live scattered about in the towns and villages of the whole land, certain modifications and supplementary additions were necessary to adapt this judicial constitution to the altered circumstances of the people. Moses anticipates this want in the following provisions, in which he first of all commands the appointment of judges and officials in every town, and gives certain precise injunctions as to their judicial proceedings (Deuteronomy 16:18-17:7); and secondly, appoints a higher judicial court at the place of the sanctuary for the more difficult cases (Deuteronomy 17:8-13); and thirdly, gives them a law for the future with reference to the choice of a king (Deuteronomy 16:14-20).

Deuteronomy 16:18-20

Appointment and Instruction of the Judges. - Deuteronomy 16:18. "Judges and officers thou shalt appoint thee in all thy gates (place, see at Exodus 20:10), which Jehovah thy God shall give thee, according to thy tribes." The nation is addressed as a whole, and directed to appoint for itself judges and officers, i.e., to choose them, and have them appointed by its rulers, just as was done at Sinai, where the people chose the judges, and Moses inducted into office the persons so chosen (cf. Deuteronomy 1:12-18). That the same course was to be adopted in future, is evident from the expression, "throughout thy tribes," i.e., according to thy tribes, which points back to Deuteronomy 1:13. Election by majorities was unknown to the Mosaic law. The shoterim, officers (lit., writers, see at Exodus 5:6), who were associated with the judges, according to Deuteronomy 1:15, even under the previous arrangement, were not merely messengers and servants of the courts, but secretaries and advisers of the judges, who derived their title from the fact that they had to draw up and keep the genealogical lists, and who are mentioned as already existing in Egypt as overseers of the people and of their work (see at Exodus 5:6; and for the different opinions concerning their official position, see Selden, de Synedriis, i. pp. 342-3). The new features, which Moses introduces here, consist simply in the fact that every place was to have its own judges and officers, whereas hitherto they had only been appointed for the larger and smaller divisions of the nation, according to their genealogical organization. Moses lays down no rule as to the number of judges and shoterim to be appointed in each place, because this would depend upon the number of the inhabitants; and the existing arrangement of judges over tens, hundreds, etc. (Exodus 18:21), would still furnish the necessary standard. The statements made by Josephus and the Rabbins with regard to the number of judges in each place are contradictory, or at all events are founded upon the circumstances of much later times (see my Archologie, ii. pp. 257-8). - These judges were to judge the people with just judgment. The admonition in Deuteronomy 16:19 corresponds to the instructions in Exodus 23:6 and Exodus 23:8. "Respect persons:" as in Deuteronomy 1:17. To this there is added, in Deuteronomy 16:20, an emphatic admonition to strive zealously to maintain justice. The repetition of the word justice is emphatic: justice, and nothing but justice, as in Genesis 14:10, etc. But in order to give the people and the judges appointed by them a brief practical admonition, as to the things they were more especially to observe in their administration of justice, Moses notices by way of example a few crimes that were deserving of punishment (Deuteronomy 16:21, Deuteronomy 16:22, and Deuteronomy 17:1), and then proceeds in Deuteronomy 17:2-7 to describe more fully the judicial proceedings in the case of idolaters.

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