Deuteronomy 17:2
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, in transgressing his covenant,
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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.

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. Deuteronomy 17:2If 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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