Deuteronomy 21:18-23 ( He Who Is Hanged Is Accursed of God)

Deuteronomy 21:18-23
He Who Is Hanged Is Accursed of God

There’s something wrong with a conversation I had with Sergio when preparing the previous Deuteronomy 21 sermon. I will read you the conversation as it is both quite comical and also highly embarrassing. I copied the messages directly from the conversation. I needed help with the Hebrew on one of the verses, needing to make sure I was correct in an analysis I was putting together. The exchange reads:

C: “Hey, I got something for you. Do you have a Hebrew moment?”
S: “What’s that mean?! As in, it’ll take more than a moment?! Sure. Just answering emails”
C: I just have a question that I want to reconcile. Deut 21:15-17. Is there any way to determine if the wives are at the same time, or only one after another (the first wife is gone by divorce or death). Only one scholar comments, insisting that they are one after the other and not both alive at the same time. I think they are trying to inject their bias against polygamy into it. It seems (as far as I can tell) that the Hebrew is clear – two wives together. The other commentators seem to agree, but I just wonder how you read it.
S: I think the telling part is in v 16- the tense of the verbs. Sounds like both at the same time. I’ve read this and stumbled over it every time as I try to figure out why this is ok but today no polygamy. Not wanting to read my bias in but what you said in sermon yesterday was a brain squiggle.”
C: Exactly how I read it. And it is not true that polygamy is not allowed today. It is only forbidden for elders and deacons. Implying that it is not disallowed for anyone else.
S: I guess I mean in our culture context, which is based on biblical law
C: Yes!
S: But maybe I presume too far. So then have to rethink the whole Muslim 4 wives thing…
C: It would make no sense to go to Africa and say, you cannot be a Christian unless you divorce your wives.
S: Absolutely not
C: The Lord accommodates cultural things like this. But the real question is… Why would anyone want the headache of two wives!
S: Of course I can’t imagine the drama of more than one wife…
C: We think exactly alike ahahahaha
S: And I’m a woman!!
C: Is that Rhoda?
Oh gee I thought I was talking to Sergio.

It got worse. I wasn’t just not talking to Sergio or Rhoda. I was messaging a lady here in the church, not realizing I had hit the wrong contact…

Text Verse: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, who are kept by the power of God through faith for salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.” 1 Peter 1:3-5

Sometimes, we do something thinking that we are taking an action in order to resolve one issue when, in fact, we may be resolving a completely different issue. The verses today will show us this.

Israel thought they were taking care of an issue through the crucifixion of the Lord, when in fact the issue that was being taken care of through His cross was exactly the opposite of what they thought it was. For me and my messaging, it was embarrassing to say the least. For Israel, and for us, what occurred was glorious.

One thing is for sure, nothing God has done in and through Christ will ever cease to amaze us – even for eternal years. Marvelous things are to be found in His superior word. And so, let us turn to that precious word once again and… May God speak to us through His word today and may His glorious name ever be praised.

I. He Will Not Obey Our Voice (verses 18-21)

18 “If a man has a stubborn and rebellious son

ki yihyeh l’ish ben sorer u-moreh – “According to has to man son backsliding and rebellious.” Here is a new word, and another that still should be defined. The first word, translated as “stubborn,” is sarar. It is new to Scripture, and it signifies stubborn, backsliding, rebellious, etc. Robert Young translates it as “apostatizing.”

It means “to turn away” in a moral sense. In the writings, psalms and prophets, it will be used again and again when referring to Israel the people.

The second word is marah. It signifies to be contentious, rebellious, provoking, and so on. It comes from a root which signifies, causatively, to make “bitter.” Thus, when one is rebellious, it will embitter the one who is rebelled against.

It has been used 8 times so far, always in relation to a person or the people of Israel. For example, it was used of both Aaron and Moses who embittered the Lord through disobedience. It has also been used several times about the entire congregation.

Like the other word, it will also be used in the writings, the psalms, and the prophets when referring to rebellious Israel. Through their actions, they embitter the Lord.

Taken together, however, the words as they are used here sorer u-moreh, become an idiomatic expression in Israel. They are used together in the Hebrew in the same manner elsewhere, such as in Psalm 78:8 and Jeremiah 5:23 –

“And may not be like their fathers,
A stubborn and rebellious generation,
A generation that did not set its heart aright,
And whose spirit was not faithful to God.” Psalm 78:8

&

‘But this people has a defiant and rebellious heart;
They have revolted and departed.” Jeremiah 5:23

As a curious side note, the word moreh is noted in the margin of Matthew 5:22 in the Revised New Testament where the Greek word more is translated as “you fool” –

“But I say to you that whoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment. And whoever says to his brother, ‘Raca!’ shall be in danger of the council. But whoever says, ‘You fool!’ shall be in danger of hell fire.” Matthew 5:22

There, the Greek word is móros – a stupid or foolish person. The noun form is where the English word “moron” finds its origin. Though the words are not etymologically related, it appears that they carried basically the same idiomatic relation in both languages just as many similar words in various languages do for us today.

For now, and with these words understood, we see that this son both turns away from what is right, and he also embitters his parents in the process. He is a selfish malcontent that continuously chooses the rebellious path to his shame and to the grief of those who are responsible for him, as is next explicitly stated…

18 (con’t) who will not obey the voice of his father or the voice of his mother,

The Hebrew reads: b’qol aviv u-b’qol imo – “in voice father and in voice mother.” The “and” can mean “or” at times, but for now, just note that it says “and.”

As far as the clause, this explains the use of the word marah. Not only is he a deadbeat that does disgraceful things, maybe without his parents knowing it, but he purposefully ignores the words of his parents. He does what they tell him not to do, and he doesn’t do what they tell him to do. What they say is shunned, even after correction. As it says…

18 (con’t) and who, when they have chastened him,

In this, the word yasar is used. It signifies to discipline, chasten, admonish, and so on. It means to literally chastise with blows, or figuratively with words – as if for instruction.

This word has been used six times, all in relation to Israel. The first three were in Leviticus 26 where the Lord said he would yasar, or punish, Israel for their future disobediences. Further, it is especially noteworthy that a parallel is made to them and to this disobedient son twice so far –

“You should know in your heart that as a man chastens his son, so the Lord your God chastens you.” Deuteronomy 8:5

The word will continue to be used in relation to Israel in the writings of the prophets. And more, it is used in an emphatic form in Psalm 118:18 (a messianic Psalm) when referring to the chastening of the Lord upon His Messiah –

“The Lord has chastened me severely,
But He has not given me over to death.” Psalm 118:18

There the Hebrew reads: yasor yiserani Yah – “chastening has chastened me Yah.” The idea here in Deuteronomy is that the parents took the appropriate measures that should be taken. They have spoken to him, and he would not listen – to either parent – and they then disciplined him as a parent should, and nothing has helped. He is worthless and beyond any hope of redemption. Even after chastening he..

18 (con’t) will not heed them,

v’lo yishma alehem – “and no will hear them.” The same word used in the second clause and translated there as “obey,” is again used here. It is shama. Here, it signifies to hear in the sense of hearkening to, and thus to obey. He purposefully ignores the words of his parents to his own shame and to their agony. What to do with such a rebellious punk? Moses next says…

19 then his father and his mother shall take hold of him

v’taphesu bo aviv v’imo – “and shall take hold of him his father and his mother.” As you can see, verse 18 was translated as “father or mother,” but now they translate it as “father and mother.” In this, scholars then give an opinion on the meaning that may not be correct.

We will get to that in a few minutes. For now, the parents are to lay their hands upon Miscreant Mike and march him to those who will attend to the matter accordingly…

19 (con’t) and bring him out to the elders

The elders are those referred to in verse 21:2. As we saw, they are those who represent the citizens. Generally, it is the elders who are responsible for proper conduct within the families, and for maintaining proper standards for all who issue from the tribe to which they belong. They have the age and experience to evaluate moral matters within the city, as it next says…

19 (con’t) of his city,

The translation is correct. It is not “of the city,” as if it were any city. Rather, it is personal – iro, “of his city.” He lives there, and those who have seen him grow up know full well what kind of a loser he is. They will now be allowed to make the moral decision about his wayward disposition. Specifically, he is to go…

19 (con’t) to the gate of his city.

Now the translation is incorrect. It says: v’el shaar meqomo – “and to gate his place.” The word maqom means “a standing.” It is the place where he lives and takes up the air, water, and food that are jointly used by all the people. The words are personal and reveal the intimacy of the situation.

The gate of the city, as has been seen, is the place where the affairs of the city are conducted, and matters of morality, legality, and so on are discussed, evaluated, judged, and tried. Once the parents have him there at the gates…

20 And they shall say to the elders of his city,

The word iro, or “his city,” is used again. It is a personal matter dealing with a person in the city in which he lives, and he is standing before the elders of his city. They are those who are morally responsible for heeding the words of his parents and taking action after hearing the parents’ words, which are…

20 (con’t) ‘This son of ours

benenu zeh – “son of ours, this.” You can almost see them standing there pointing at him, distancing themselves from him. They have had enough, and they now will be rid of him, because he…

20 (con’t) is stubborn and rebellious;

Sins one and two: sorer u-moreh – “backsliding and rebellious.” It is an exact repeat of the words stated about him in verse 18. It is probable that if this was not yet an idiom, it became one at this time. The repetition from verse 18 now, as is to be proclaimed by the parents, would be long remembered and used by the people henceforth. Along with these sins…

20 (con’t) he will not obey our voice;

The third sin: enenu shomea b’qolenu – “not hear our voice.” It is again a repeat of verse 18. He does what they tell him not to do, and he doesn’t do what they tell him to do. What they say is shunned, even after correction. And more…

20 (con’t) he is a glutton and a drunkard.’

The fourth and fifth sins: zolel v’sove – “glutton and drunkard.” The word zalal, or “glutton” is introduced. It signifies “to shake” as in the shaking of the wind, and also to quake. It figuratively means to be morally loose, and thus prodigal and worthless. It is used in Proverbs 28:7 when speaking of a worthless son –

‘Whoever keeps the law is a discerning son,
But a companion of gluttons shames his father.” Proverbs 28:7

It is of note that Israel did not keep the law. The words of this Proverb implicitly speak against Israel. It is certainly what was on the Lord’s mind in Luke 15, a proverb clearly referring to Israel –

“A certain man had two sons. 12 And the younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the portion of goods that falls to me.’ So he divided to them his livelihood. 13 And not many days after, the younger son gathered all together, journeyed to a far country, and there wasted his possessions with prodigal living.” Luke 15:11-13

The second word, sove, is also introduced here. It signifies wine and thus abstractly it speaks of carousal, coming from sava, meaning to drink heavily. This word is found only four times, once here, twice in relation to Israel, and once in relation to Nineveh.

The first word, and the verb form of the second word are found together in Proverbs, and it is very probable that Solomon was considering this verse from Deuteronomy when he wrote out his thoughts there. This is especially likely considering that he refers to both the father and the mother in the passage –

“Hear, my son, and be wise;
And guide your heart in the way.
20 Do not mix with winebibbers,
Or with gluttonous eaters of meat;
21 For the drunkard and the glutton will come to poverty,
And drowsiness will clothe a man with rags.
22 Listen to your father who begot you,
And do not despise your mother when she is old.
23 Buy the truth, and do not sell it,
Also wisdom and instruction and understanding.
24 The father of the righteous will greatly rejoice,
And he who begets a wise child will delight in him.
25 Let your father and your mother be glad,
And let her who bore you rejoice.” Proverbs 23:19-25

As far as why I mentioned the use of “or” and “and” above is revealed here. In this, both parents are said to come and testify against the son. As such, scholars generally state the same thing as with Matthew Poole does –

“The consent of both father and mother is required to prevent the abuse of this law to cruelty. And it cannot reasonably be supposed that both would agree without manifest necessity, and the son’s abominable and incorrigible wickedness…” Matthew Poole

One must read into the text that both parents must agree to this. If there are two parents, this would certainly be the case. But if there was only one parent, his words would be just as valid. It is the law of two or three witnesses that testify to a crime. In the case of the parents, two is sufficient. Albert Barnes is right when he says –

“The formal accusation of parents against a child was to be received without inquiry, as being its own proof. Thus the just authority of the parents is recognized and effectually upheld…”

However, if there is only one parent, the purpose of bringing the son before the elders, and the reason it highlights in a personal way “his city” and the “gate of his place,” is because those elders would be fully aware of the conduct of the person, and they – or someone from the city – would be fully qualified to speak against him.

What is necessary is the voice of the parent – be it one or two. There is nothing in the law that speaks of stoning such a person apart from the witness of the parent who has the moral right to testify against the son. This is what is highlighted in the passage. If this has been established…

21 Then all the men of his city

Again, it is personal, iro, or “his city.” The people of the town would have been aware of this person’s conduct, the parents had brought him forward, no longer able to bear his conduct, and he is thus considered irredeemable. What is of note, however, is that the stoning is reserved for the men of the city.

In Leviticus 20:2, it says “the people” shall stone a person who gives his descendants to Molech. Five times in Leviticus and Numbers, it says “all the congregation.” However, here, only the men are mentioned who…

21 (con’t) shall stone him to death with stones;

Without any explanation of why the men are singled out, it simply says that it is they who are to stone him until he is dead. Stoning has already been used as the punishment for a blasphemer and a Sabbath-breaker. It is also noted as the prescribed punishment for other offenses as well.

The idea here is that if this son is rebellious against his own parents, he is – in essence – acting as a blasphemer. This is because the fifth commandment has been given, which is to honor one’s parent. In ignoring the command, he thus blasphemes God. And a blasphemer is to be stoned…

21 (con’t) so you shall put away the evil from among you,

This is the first purpose of capital punishment. Some punishments will drive the evil from a person. However, some forms of evil are so egregious that there is no remedy except to purge the source of the evil, meaning the person, from the society. If this is not accomplished, the society will eventually devolve into anarchy. However, when appropriate action is taken, a positive aspect will arise from it…

21 (con’t) and all Israel shall hear and fear.

This is the second purpose of capital punishment. This is unlike our nation today where a certain element is allowed to run amok and get away with anything – no matter how egregious it seems – thus resulting in even more wickedness.

Instead, when a person is executed for his crime, others will hear and be less likely to commit the same offense. Eventually, enough miscreants will be removed where the people will live in peace without them, and those who would dare to act accordingly will – instead – turn to a more productive lifestyle. This punishment is probably what Solomon was referring to –

“The eye that mocks his father,
And scorns obedience to his mother,
The ravens of the valley will pick it out,
And the young eagles will eat it.” Proverbs 30:17

A person who has been stoned outside the city for offenses against his parents will be left to rot where he lies. In such a state, the birds of the air will fill themselves with his otherwise worthless remains.

Stubborn and rebellious, deserving to be stoned
This is what should happen to this son
Can his sins ever be atoned?
Look at all the wickedness he has done!

He is a glutton and a drunkard and deserves to die
This is for certain, and it should come about
The parent has had enough, though He did try
But his life should end with stones… and in a shout

* The evil must be put away from us
We are Israel and we must be rid of this Man!
We must remove from the land this Jesus
We must purge Him away as soon as we can

II. You Shall Surely Bury Him That Day (Verses 22 & 23)

22 “If a man has committed a sin deserving of death,

v’ki yihyeh b’ish khet mishpat mavet – “And regarding is in man a sin, judgment of death.” The meaning is that a person is found to be worthy of death and is thus under a sentence of death. It is a capital crime that is referred to.

The words here follow immediately after stoning of the stubborn and rebellious son, and the connection is certainly intentional. It may be that what Moses will next say about such a person is to underscore the need to end punishment for even such a vile offender so that the people do not assume that their punishment can exceed the boundaries of God’s grace and mercy.

This must be the case based on what will be said in the next verse. For now, there is the case of one worthy of death and under a sentence of death. If this is the case…

22 (con’t) and he is put to death,

This could include any form of execution. A person may be killed with the sword, stoned, and so on. The means of death is irrelevant to the passage. He came under a sentence of death, and he is executed. If this occurs…

22 (con’t) and you hang him on a tree,

The word translated as “tree” is ets. It signifies wood. It can be a tree, gallows, or the like. In this, it is obvious that this is referring to publicly displaying him after death. It is a practice that had its own significance and was practiced in Israel. One such example is seen in the killing of five Amorite kings in Joshua 10 –

“And afterward Joshua struck them and killed them, and hanged them on five trees; and they were hanging on the trees until evening. 27 So it was at the time of the going down of the sun that Joshua commanded, and they took them down from the trees, cast them into the cave where they had been hidden, and laid large stones against the cave’s mouth, which remain until this very day.” Joshua 10:26, 27

The idea here is that of victory over the foe. Joshua defeated the five Amorite kings, and they were hanged off of the land by men’s hands, demonstrating that they no longer had any authority over the ground below them – “We have gained victory over the foe, and this is a public demonstration of it.”

The same is true with the person who is found to have committed sin and who is then under a judgment of death. The body is on public display that the sin of the man has been judged by men, he has been executed for it, and he has then been lifted up by men after the execution as a symbol of victory over the sin – “We have gained victory over the foe, and this is a public demonstration of it.” If such is the case…

23 his body shall not remain overnight on the tree,

The word is nebelah, a carcass. As was seen in the account of the five Amorite kings, they were hung until evening, the start of a new day, and then they were taken down. This was to avoid violating this clause of the law.

As I said just a minute ago, what is being said here is stated so that the people do not assume that their punishment can exceed the boundaries of God’s grace and mercy.

The person has died for his sin, the victory over it has been gained, and the day has revealed this. But how God deals with the person after that is wholly at His will. Before the sun went down, this was to be accomplished. As it next specifically says…

23 (con’t) but you shall surely bury him that day,

The words are emphatic: ki qabor tiqberenu ba’yom ha’hu – “For burying him you shall bury him in the day the that.” This makes it absolutely clear that the person is to be buried before the sun goes down, meaning before the start of the next day.

They were not to wait until sundown and then take the body down, but they were to have this accomplished before the next day began. And there is a reason for this…

23 (con’t) so that you do not defile the land which the Lord your God is giving you as an inheritance;

In the Hebrew, this is actually the last clause of the verse. And it will be evaluated as such. The correct rendering is: “(for he that is hanged is accursed of God;) that thy land be not defiled, which the LORD thy God giveth thee for an inheritance” (KJV). With that understood, we will first evaluate the words…

*23 (fin) for he who is hanged is accursed of God.

ki qilat Elohim talui – “for accursed of God he who is hanged.” The word is qelalah. It signifies cursed, but what does that mean? John Lange is correct when he says –

“the word contains the idea; to reject as detestable, wherefore the one cursed of God must be removed as soon as possible out of sight, from off the land given by God, which is defiled (morally, not physically, not even levitically) by him.” John Lange

The person died in sin, a moral issue. It isn’t the physical body that is being referred to, even though defilement does come to one who touches a dead body. And it is not a ceremonial defilement that is being referred to. It is a moral issue being addressed.

And more, this does not mean that the person who is hanged is accursed in the sense of not being saved. That would mean that any saved person who was hanged on a tree could not be saved. That is not the issue. What this means is that the person becomes a curse when hanged on a tree. Why?

Because sin is in all people. Anyone who is publicly displayed on a tree is dead. Death is the final penalty for sin. It is not the physical body, but the sin that is being focused on. Sin hangs on the tree and that sin is accursed of God. Albert Barnes explains it quite well –

“That is, he has forfeited his life to the law; for it is written, Cursed is every one who continueth not in all things that are written in the book of the law to do them; and on his body, in the execution of the sentence of the law, the curse was considered as alighting; hence the necessity of removing the accursed thing out of sight.” Albert Barnes

The dead body is the evidence of the sin, the body is placed on display as a sign of victory over the sin, but then the sin is to be put away. The hanging of the body on the tree is the sign of being accursed by God and that is to be ended with the coming of the new day. With that, the final clause of the verse in the Hebrew can now be analyzed.

The body is to be taken down from the tree before sundown, “so that you do not defile the land.” The Hebrew says, “your earth,” not “the land.” As was seen in the first verse of the chapter, the word used both there and here is adamah.

It usually signifies the ground, soil, or earth, rather than the land as territory. It comes from the same root as adam, or man. Both come from the verb adom, implying redness. As we noted in verse 21:1, the thought of defiling the ground (not the land) with a body curiously brackets the contents of the entire chapter.

Such an ongoing public display of the sin would defile the ground because it would be an ongoing public display of the curse of God, thus defiling it.

With that understood, Moses closes out this incredible chapter with the usual formula that he has used again and again in Deuteronomy, saying it is that “which the LORD your God is giving you as an inheritance.”

Israel was in bondage, and Israel was brought out. The Lord chose the land, promised it to the fathers, and is fulfilling His promise by bringing Israel in and giving them the land. The idea, then, is that just as the Lord has given it, so He can remove them from it.

The statement is both a note of ownership and a note of expected performance. Unfortunately, the record of Israel shows that they have consistently treated the land by the first notion, but they have rarely treated it by the latter. With the verses complete, we must next find what the Lord expects us to discover concerning them…

Look at Him there, hanging on that tree
He is cursed of God, just as the law does say
I’m so glad that it isn’t me
That is hanging there on that cross today

I have done nothing so that I deserve to die
I am Israel, God’s chosen son
He looks with favor on me, I don’t even have to try
Yes, I am the favored one

But there… there upon that tree
There is the accursed of God for what He has done
What happens to Him has nothing to do with me
I am Israel, God’s chosen son

III. Pictures of Christ

In this Chapter of Deuteronomy, there has been a high stress on typology pointing to the Person and work of Jesus Christ. The first passage (1-9) pointed to His work cleansing the people from the guilt of innocent blood. As accomplished through the breaking of the neck of an unworked heifer.

The second passage (10-14) refers to the doctrine of eternal security for the believer who is brought out from the power of the devil. Such a person can never be sold back to his power again.

The third passage (15-17) looks to the pi shnayim, or firstborn’s portion (the double portion) that came through Christ’s work. Through His work, He redeemed to Himself those under law, both Jew and Gentile – be it the Mosaic Law or the general law of sin.

In our verses today, we first came to the fourth passage (18-21) which revealed the penalty for the disobedient son who would not listen to his father or mother. As we saw, the words used in those verses have been, and continue on throughout Scripture to be, applied to Israel, God’s disobedient son.

In the fifth passage (22 & 23), which is intimately connected with the fourth passage, a note concerning hanging a person on a tree was presented, telling the reader that such a person is accursed of God. With those two final thoughts in mind, we can ask, “How is God glorified?” And we can answer: “It is by demonstrating His works in, through, and for His people.” In John 9, we read –

“Now as Jesus passed by, He saw a man who was blind from birth. And His disciples asked Him, saying, ‘Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?’
Jesus answered, ‘Neither this man nor his parents sinned, but that the works of God should be revealed in him. I must work the works of Him who sent Me while it is day; the night is coming when no one can work. As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.’” John 9:1-5

Jesus came to do the works of God. One of those works was to take upon Himself the punishment that His own people deserved for their stubborn and rebellious nature before God, their Father. As we noted, the words translated as “stubborn” and “rebellious” in verse 18 are used again and again of Israel – the people under the law.

The word “rebellious” was even used of Moses and Aaron who represent the law. Explicitly, sin is an issue that must be dealt with. But what is implicit is that the law is the main issue that must be dealt with.  As Paul says, “by the law is the knowledge of sin.”

Israel is under law, they violate the law even to the point of being stubborn and rebellious, and thus they deserve the penalty of stoning levied upon such a son. But before that, they were chastened in order to correct them. It is a chastening that Israel did not heed, just as the disobedient son did not heed.

As we saw, the word translated as “chastening” was used of them time and again, but it did not produce proper conduct, just as it did not in the case of the rebellious son. However, in their place, God chastened Christ, as we saw in 118th Psalm, a messianic psalm.

Because of this, Israel deserved the penalty of the disobedient son – stoning to death. However, they have been spared that penalty because Another took their place. The account said that the parents were to take their disobedient son before the elders and to the gates (the place of judgment) of the city. Christ fulfilled that –

“And those who had laid hold of Jesus led Him away to Caiaphas the high priest, where the scribes and the elders were assembled. 58 But Peter followed Him at a distance to the high priest’s courtyard. And he went in and sat with the servants to see the end.
59 Now the chief priests, the elders, and all the council sought false testimony against Jesus to put Him to death.” Matthew 26:57-59

&

“When Pilate therefore heard that saying, he brought Jesus out and sat down in the judgment seat in a place that is called The Pavement, but in Hebrew, Gabbatha.” John 19:13

As I noted, there was a stress on the fact that when speaking of the disobedient son, it repeated the word iro, or “his city.” This becomes a veiled reference to the deity of Christ, as is noted in Matthew 5, where Christ speaks of the Lord –

“But I say to you, do not swear at all: neither by heaven, for it is God’s throne; 35 nor by the earth, for it is His footstool; nor by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King.” Matthew 5:34, 35

After that, and when he is brought to the place of judgment, the parents state the following: 1) “This son of ours,” a term applied to Israel by the Lord (e.g., Exodus 4:22); 2) is “stubborn and rebellious,” both words – as we have already seen – commonly applied to Israel by the Lord; 3) “he will not obey our voice,” words spoken about Israel so many times it isn’t worth the effort to count; 4) “he is a glutton and a drunkard,” words which certainly applied to Israel, and yet a term directly applied by Israel to the Lord –

“For John the Baptist came neither eating bread nor drinking wine, and you say, ‘He has a demon.’ 34 The Son of Man has come eating and drinking, and you say, ‘Look, a glutton and a winebibber, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’ 35 But wisdom is justified by all her children.” Luke 7:33-35

In such a state, a state that applied to Israel, and which the Lord assumed in their place, such a Son was to be taken out and stoned. The way this came about was to accuse Him of blasphemy. The same penalty for being a stubborn and rebellious son (Israel) is given for one accused of blasphemy –

“And whoever blasphemes the name of the Lord shall surely be put to death. All the congregation shall certainly stone him, the stranger as well as him who is born in the land. When he blasphemes the name of the Lord, he shall be put to death.” Leviticus 24:16

And this is exactly what the leaders of Israel accused Him of –

“Then the high priest tore his clothes, saying, ‘He has spoken blasphemy! What further need do we have of witnesses? Look, now you have heard His blasphemy! 66 What do you think?’
They answered and said, ‘He is deserving of death.’” Matthew 26:65, 66

However, because they, Israel at the time of Jesus, were not allowed to execute their wrongdoers, the words of the final two verses are given – that of hanging a person. This is seen in John’s gospel. First, the note of why He is not stoned –

“Then Pilate said to them, ‘You take Him and judge Him according to your law.’
Therefore the Jews said to him, ‘It is not lawful for us to put anyone to death,’ 32 that the saying of Jesus might be fulfilled which He spoke, signifying by what death He would die.’” John 18:31, 32

And next, the formal charge once again, supposed blasphemy –

“The Jews answered him, ‘We have a law, and according to our law He ought to die, because He made Himself the Son of God.’” John 19:7

The deserved penalty of stoning a stubborn and rebellious son, Israel, was imputed to Christ. As we saw earlier, what is necessary is the voice of the parent – be it one or two. There is nothing in the law that speaks of stoning such a person apart from the witness of the parent who has the moral right to testify against the son.

The Father witnessed against Israel, his son, through the prophets. The law, as a mother, witnessed against Israel as well, a precept implied in Solomon’s words of Proverbs 6:20 (and elsewhere) –

“My son, keep your father’s command,
And do not forsake the law [torah, fem. noun] of your mother.”

But God graciously substituted Christ Jesus in their place. As stoning could not take place, the Lord was crucified on a tree.

Hence, seeing this in advance, the Lord placed these final verses into this chapter in order to complete the narrative of what Christ has done for His people. Christ was hung, but according to the law, His body had to be taken down before sunset.

Though He was crucified by Romans who were not bound to this precept, the Lord foresaw that day and spoke these words through Moses now. Of this, in relation to Christ’s cross, John says –

“Therefore, because it was the Preparation Day, that the bodies should not remain on the cross on the Sabbath (for that Sabbath was a high day), the Jews asked Pilate that their legs might be broken, and that they might be taken away.” John 19:31

The Sabbath, meaning Saturday which began at sundown, was nearing. In order to ensure these men did not remain on the cross, their deaths were to be expedited. When they came to Christ, however, He had already died. Thus, all were removed before the coming of the new day so that the land would not be defiled.

But this defilement was not because of Christ’s sin! Rather, it was for the sin of Israel and, indeed, the whole world –

“For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” 2 Corinthians 5:21

Paul explicitly states and explains this in Galatians 3 by referencing this exact passage from Deuteronomy –

“Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law, having become a curse for us (for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree”), 14 that the blessing of Abraham might come upon the Gentiles in Christ Jesus, that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.” Galatians 3:13, 14

The Jews, understanding the law, did not want the bodies of those crucified to remain on the cross and thus defile the land, especially over the Sabbath and during the feast. Little did they know that the curse of sin attached to the body of Christ was theirs, not His.

As I said twice, and now amend and repeat for the picture to be understood, what Moses wrote out was to underscore the need to end punishment for even such a vile offender, Israel, so that they would not assume that their punishment of Christ could exceed the boundaries of God’s grace and mercy… toward them.

Of this act of being hung on a tree, Matthew Henry says –

“Those who see a man thus hanging between heaven and earth, will conclude him abandoned of both, and unworthy of either.”

Israel stood looking at their own sin when they beheld the crucified Christ. It is they who were abandoned of heaven and earth, and it is they who were unworthy of either. And yet, Christ did what He did for them… and for you, and for me.

As we saw, the first and last verses of the chapter speak of defilement of the adamah, or earth, because of death. The death is the result of sin, and the sin is the result of the law. It is from the adamah, or earth, that Adam was fashioned. Thus, if the earth is defiled, those who are from the earth are defiled.

What we need is a new birth, from a heavenly Source, in order to be cleansed of our defilement. That is what Christ came to do, and that is what the gospel of Jesus Christ conveys to us.

He accomplished this and now offers, to any who will simply receive what He has done, the gift of eternal life. Let us be wise and let us receive that wondrous gift. In this, we will put behind us the defiled earth and partake of that incorruptible and undefiled inheritance that Peter spoke of in our text verse today. The choice is yours. Choose wisely.

Sometimes I imagine
that You came Lord,
so many gathered
to hear your voice,
and I am frozen,
and standing still.
How can that be
my King came for me?

I fall on the ground,
my heart pounding hard,
I’m overwhelmed
by You at my sight.
I’m sobbing and shaking
soaked in my tears.
How can that be
my Lord came for me?

And I am still
frozen in awe,
filled to a brim
with Your precious love.
I can’t comprehend.
I fall at Your feet.
How can that be Lord,
You came for me?

On that old tree
long time ago
You took my sins
to save my soul.
You suffered and died
that I can be freed
to live my true life
when You’ll come for me. Izabela Bednara

Closing Verse: “Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a Man attested by God to you by miracles, wonders, and signs which God did through Him in your midst, as you yourselves also know— 23 Him, being delivered by the determined purpose and foreknowledge of God, you have taken by lawless hands, have crucified, and put to death; 24 whom God raised up, having loosed the pains of death, because it was not possible that He should be held by it.” Acts 2:22-24

Next Week: Deuteronomy 22:1-12 Be sure to watch your ways… (That You May Prolong Your Days) (64th Deuteronomy Sermon)

The Lord has you exactly where He wants you. He has a good plan and purpose for you. But He also has expectations of you as He prepares you for entrance into His Land of Promise. So, follow Him and trust Him and He will do marvelous things for you and through you.

He Who Is Hanged Is Accursed of God

“If a man has a stubborn and rebellious son
Who will not obey the voice of his father or the voice of his mother
And who, when they have chastened him, will not heed them
Bad news is coming to him, O brother

Then his father and his mother shall take hold of him
And bring him out to the elders of his city, to the gate of his city
And they shall say to the elders of his city
‘This son of ours is stubborn and rebellious; it truly is a pity

He will not obey our voice
He is a glutton and a drunkard, his life choice

Then all the men of his city
Shall stone him to death with stones, O my dear!
So you shall put away the evil from among you
And all Israel shall hear and fear

“If a man has committed a sin deserving of death
And he is put to death, and you hang him on a tree
His body shall not remain overnight on the tree
But you shall surely him that day bury

So that you do not defile the land
Which the LORD your God is giving you
———-the land on which you trod
As an inheritance, please understand
For he who is hanged is accursed of God

Lord God, turn our hearts to be obedient to Your word
Give us wisdom to be ever faithful to You
May we carefully heed each thing we have heard
Yes, Lord God may our hearts be faithful and true

And we shall be content and satisfied in You alone
We will follow You as we sing our songs of praise
Hallelujah to You; to us Your path You have shown
Hallelujah we shall sing to You for all of our days

Hallelujah and Amen…

 

 

 

 

 

18 “If a man has a stubborn and rebellious son who will not obey the voice of his father or the voice of his mother, and who, when they have chastened him, will not heed them, 19 then his father and his mother shall take hold of him and bring him out to the elders of his city, to the gate of his city. 20 And they shall say to the elders of his city, ‘This son of ours is stubborn and rebellious; he will not obey our voice; he is a glutton and a drunkard.’ 21 Then all the men of his city shall stone him to death with stones; so you shall put away the evil from among you, and all Israel shall hear and fear.

22 “If a man has committed a sin deserving of death, and he is put to death, and you hang him on a tree, 23 his body shall not remain overnight on the tree, but you shall surely bury him that day, so that you do not defile the land which the Lord your God is giving you as an inheritance; for he who is hanged is accursed of God.

 

 

 

 

 

Deuteronomy 21:10-17 (The Rights of Wives in Israel)

Deuteronomy 21:10-17
The Rights of Wives in Israel

Some years ago, while doing Saturday mission work in the projects, one of the daughters of a family that we had come to know asked me to buy one of her newborn chihuahuas. Of course, I had no choice in the matter and was obligated to do so. The house still had room for one more, and so it would be wrong of me to not buy one.

When I looked into the box, I saw the most beautiful puppy I had ever seen, a light tan-colored one that was more than a delight to behold. He was stunning. There were four or five others as well. One of them was the runtiest looking dog anyone could imagine. She was the epitome of “the runt of the litter.”

Only a fool would turn down that beautiful little tan one. But I don’t mind being called a fool. I knew without a doubt that the runt would make the best dog I would ever have – and Hideko and I have had a lot of dogs together.

So, I grabbed the runt, paid the fee, and brought her home. When I showed her to my friends Sergio and Rhoda, Rhoda asked if she could name it. Being asked kind of obligates you to say, “Yes,” and so she named her Miri – short for Miriam.

Text Verse: “And having been perfected, He became the author of eternal salvation to all who obey Him.” Hebrews 5:9

A week or two after buying Miri, I got a call from the girl who owned the chihuahuas. She said, “Uncle Charlie, someone brought one of the chihuahuas back and said that they just couldn’t take care of it. Will you buy this one too?”

Of course, I had no choice in the matter and was obligated to do so. The house still had room for one more, and so it would be wrong of me to not buy that one as well. It was that most beautiful of all in the litter. He is a wonderful dog, though a bit stupid. And he will not listen to me when I tell him it’s time to come inside.

His name is Pi Shnai. Both are wonderful dogs, but Miri really is special. I knew she would be. Every week at the end of our weekly news report, a picture of her closes out the video. She’s a superstar, being seen by many people around the world each week.

Dogs are really special. They, in their own way, reflect a little part of their Creator in that they will always forgive you when you belong to them (yes, they seem to take over in that way), and they are always happy to see you when you return to them.

You may wonder why I brought them up in the intro as I did. Well, stick around and you will get clued into that soon enough. Great things are to be found in His superior word. And so, let us turn to that precious word once again and… May God speak to us through His word today and may His glorious name ever be praised.

I. She Shall Be Your Wife (verses 10-14)

10 “When you go out to war against your enemies,

As a correction, the word is singular – enemy – because in the next clause it says in the singular, “delivers him,” not “them.” It’s an important point missed by all twenty-eight versions I referred to for this sermon.

The guidelines now to be presented are not intended to apply to those within the borders of Canaan. This is only to be in regard to wars against those outside of the land itself. The reference for that will be cited now in order to set the stage for what lies ahead –

“When the Lord your God brings you into the land which you go to possess, and has cast out many nations before you, the Hittites and the Girgashites and the Amorites and the Canaanites and the Perizzites and the Hivites and the Jebusites, seven nations greater and mightier than you, and when the Lord your God delivers them over to you, you shall conquer them and utterly destroy them. You shall make no covenant with them nor show mercy to them. Nor shall you make marriages with them. You shall not give your daughter to their son, nor take their daughter for your son. For they will turn your sons away from following Me, to serve other gods; so the anger of the Lord will be aroused against you and destroy you suddenly. But thus you shall deal with them: you shall destroy their altars, and break down their sacred pillars, and cut down their wooden images, and burn their carved images with fire.” Deuteronomy 7:1:5

Not only were the people told what to do, they were explicitly told why it was to be so. The anticipation of these words is that Israel is engaging in war, outside of Canaan and with a nation not forbidden for them to intermingle with. If such is the case…

10 (con’t) and the Lord your God delivers them into your hand,

The word “them” should be “him.” It is third person, masculine, singular. As far as the words themselves, Moses does this repeatedly, stating that it is the Lord who delivers. He just said that Israel is going into battle, and yet the victory can never be assumed apart from the Lord’s allowance.

Israel has its responsibility to engage the war, if indeed the war is to be engaged, but the victory is not because of their power, skill, or military superiority. It is solely because the Lord delivers the enemy into their hands. Speaking of the defeat of Israel, Moses says in Deuteronomy 32 –

‘How could one chase a thousand,
And two put ten thousand to flight,
Unless their Rock had sold them,
And the Lord had surrendered them?” Deuteronomy 32:30

Moses’ words now are a reminder that the victory belongs to the Lord. Israel is to remember this. If the victory is attained…

10 (con’t) and you take them captive,

Again, it is third person, masculine, singular: v’shavita shivyo – “and you take captive his captivity.” It is a poetic way of saying that the entity which had its own victories and held its own captives has now become captive. David, probably thinking of this verse right now, penned this in Psalm 68 –

“You have ascended on high,
You have led captivity captive;
You have received gifts among men,
Even from the rebellious,
That the Lord God might dwell there.” Psalm 68:18

Paul then cites this verse from the psalms in Ephesians 4 –

“Therefore He says:
‘When He ascended on high,
He led captivity captive,
And gave gifts to men’” Ephesians 4:8

Those who were once the captors (called the abstract “captivity”) had themselves been made captive. They were now the subdued prisoners who were conducted in bonds during the triumphal procession to the victor’s spot of exultation.

Quite often the words in Ephesians are incorrectly cited as a display of the prisoners being released from captivity by the work of Christ. Though this is something He did, it is not what is being referred to there.

Rather, as can be seen from Moses’ words of Deuteronomy, it is the foes of God being brought into captivity. In that captivity, one of the spoils of war is next highlighted…

11 and you see among the captives a beautiful woman,

v’raita ba’shivyah eshet yephat toar – “and you see in the captivity woman beautiful in form.” Women are a spoil of war, which, according to custom – and as is seen elsewhere in Scripture – became slaves of the victors.

In this, the victorious side has the right to take them as if they were any other type of property. Although this may seem offensive to us now, it is still a common thing in parts of the world today, and it is how these things simply work. In the case of Israel, the battle is won, they have taken captive the captivity, and then a man sees a woman captive…

11 (con’t) and desire her

v’khashaqta bah – “and are attached to her.” The word khashaq comes from a root signifying to be joined to. He is drawn to her to the point where he is attached to her even in love…

11 (con’t) and would take her for your wife,

Some women were taken as slaves, but in this case, the man actually wants her for his own wife. In this case, she is given unusual protections that would not otherwise be found among other nations. They are points of law, and they must, therefore, be adhered to as such. First…

12 then you shall bring her home to your house,

This is a sign of laying claim to her. She is a spoil of war and now belongs to him. The claim on her is made, thus precluding anyone else from making one. Once there…

12 (con’t) and she shall shave her head and trim her nails.

v’gilekha et roshah v’asetah et tsiparenekha – “and she shall shave her head and do her nails.” For such seemingly simple words, there is neither agreement on what is being said nor what the purpose of the rites are. The shaving of the head is not in question, but the “doing” of the nails is.

Does this mean “trim” her nails? Does it mean “let them grow?” Does it mean paint her nails? And so on. Each is possible. And reasons for any option are given by scholars.

As for the purpose of them, the debate is equally unsettled. Some see this as a means of purification, such as when the head is to be shaved at certain times in Leviticus for purification. Others say these are given as signs of mourning.

Some say these are to make her ugly so that the man won’t lust after her during the period set by the law. Others claim that the rite is a sign of giving up her pagan life and becoming a new woman in the covenant of Israel. A clue to the general tenor of these rites is found in 2 Samuel 19 –

“Now Mephibosheth the son of Saul came down to meet the king. And he had not cared for his feet, nor trimmed his mustache, nor washed his clothes, from the day the king departed until the day he returned in peace.” 2 Samuel 19:24

Mephibosheth purposely did not take care of himself as a sign of mourning. The entire time David was in exile, he simply let himself go as a sign of his allegiance to him. Regardless as to whether she was to cut her nails or let them grow long (according to whatever custom existed), nothing is said here of purification. Further, that would have been defined in Leviticus.

As far as making her ugly so that he wouldn’t lust after her, that seems pointless and a stretched interpretation. He is bound by law to leave her be for a set time. So, that would be otherwise unneeded. And giving up her pagan life and entering the covenant is assumed simply by the act of marriage.

Thus, this is certainly given as a sign of mourning. It is explicitly stated as much in the next verse. But this also identifies her as having a new authority, a new head over her. For now, more words of law are first given…

13 She shall put off the clothes of her captivity,

Again, there are at least two opinions on what this is saying. One is that the clothes of her captivity were her finest clothes because when captivity was inevitable, the women would put on their best in order to make themselves more attractive to their captors.

Another view is that these are garments signifying servitude that the victors would put over the captives. Or, leaving aside either of these, they could simply be the garments the woman normally wore, understanding that most people had one or two garments.

The first option is quite possible, and it would be for this reason that the woman caught the eye of the man in the first place. This is actually something that is recorded in 2 Kings 9 –

“Now when Jehu had come to Jezreel, Jezebel heard of it; and she put paint on her eyes and adorned her head, and looked through a window. 31 Then, as Jehu entered at the gate, she said, ‘Is it peace, Zimri, murderer of your master?’” 2 Kings 9:30, 31

Unfortunately for Jezebel, all the mascara on the planet couldn’t cover over her wicked heart and deeds. As an exciting end to her rule, the words go on to say –

“And he looked up at the window, and said, ‘Who is on my side? Who?’ So two or three eunuchs looked out at him. 33 Then he said, ‘Throw her down.’ So they threw her down, and some of her blood spattered on the wall and on the horses; and he trampled her underfoot.” 2 Kings 9:32, 33

Unlike Jezebel, however, the woman of captivity that found favor in the eyes of a victor by looking her best at such a time of crisis would then be allowed to put off her marks of beauty and exchange them for signs of mourning, including garments of sackcloth.

In other words, the entire point of these laws is directed to the authority of the man, and yet it reflects a merciful allowance upon the woman. Just as people had a period to mourn their dead, this woman is being given the same courtesy. With her physical condition reflecting the state of her soul, she was to…

13 (con’t) remain in your house, and mourn her father and her mother a full month;

Whether her mother and father were dead or not in reality, they were as good as dead to her in her new state. She would probably never see them again. Thus, this is a merciful provision on a woman who was to enter into life among the covenant people.

As for the time, the Hebrew says yerakh yamim – “a month of days.” In other words, it didn’t go by a calendar month, as if the change from January to February was sufficient, even if it was only eighteen days. It was to be a full thirty-day period. Then…

13 (con’t) after that you may go in to her and be her husband, and she shall be your wife.

These words, as much as the explicit timeframe, show that the hair and nails clauses already seen were as signs of mourning and a changing of authority. A person’s hair will not grow back that much in thirty days. It is not the attractiveness of the woman, but the state of her heart, and the authority over her, that the law is concerned with.

Like in the laws concerning female servants found in Exodus 21:7-11, these verses do not deny that tragedy will befall people, nor do they deny that conditions of captivity or servitude exist. But what they do provide are allowances for a woman that were unheard of in other cultures, and which are more caring of the state of such women than countless cultures that still exist in our world today.

14 And it shall be, if you have no delight in her,

In other words, the appeal of the eyes doesn’t match the reality of the situation and she turns out to be a disappointment as a wife. If such is the situation…

14 (con’t) then you shall set her free,

v’shilakhtah l’naphsah – “and you shall send her to her soul.” In other words, wherever she desires to go, she may go freely and without any coercion or mandate. To ensure that this is understood, Moses then says…

14 (con’t) but you certainly shall not sell her for money;

There is a strong emphasis here: u-makor lo timkerenah ba’keseph – “and selling no you shall sell her in the silver.” She is a wife and not a possession. Because of this, she is to be treated as any wife of Israel was to be treated. This is a complete contrast to the regular allowances for slaves already set forth –

“And as for your male and female slaves whom you may have—from the nations that are around you, from them you may buy male and female slaves. 45 Moreover you may buy the children of the strangers who dwell among you, and their families who are with you, which they beget in your land; and they shall become your property. 46 And you may take them as an inheritance for your children after you, to inherit them as a possession; they shall be your permanent slaves.” Leviticus 25:44-46

Though she came in as a captive, she is not to be sold off as one…

14 (con’t) you shall not treat her brutally,

lo titamer bah – “no you shall sheave her.” Here, Moses introduces a new word into Scripture, amar. It means “to bind sheaves.” It comes from a root signifying “to heap up.” The idea here is probably that of the state of her life as it has progressed.

She was taken captive, she lost her family and culture, she was taken in as a wife and now she is rejected as a wife. Each of these has been as a sheaf of pain being added one upon another. Thus, he was not to add further pain on top of what she has experienced through selling her off as merchandise..

14 (con’t) because you have humbled her.

takhat asher initah – “under which you have afflicted her.” The word anah, or afflict, gives the sense of looking down, or browbeating. Adding that to the words, “under which,” gives the sense of complete degradation. She has already been looked down upon, and by adding to her sheaves of pain, it would be completely degrading of her.

The entire passage is one of mercy upon the afflicted and care for the person. Where people read passages like this in Deuteronomy and find fault in what is presented, the opposite is true. Captivity for women in battle is the way things are.

It is a fallen world, and it is one where the women will often pay a high price in such a defeat. Just ask the Russian women when the Germans attacked, and just ask the German women when the Russians later responded. However, the Law of Moses gives them a set of protections not otherwise heard of.

A beautiful woman to be my wife
I’m set on making her mine
One to share the moments of life
From working at the mill to picking grapes from the vine

I have no doubt that I want this one
She is the one who is right for me
Soon the waiting will be over, and the deal will be done
This is how things are going to be

And once a wife, always a wife
That is how God sees it, despite how things may be
Once a wife, it is for life
From day one and off to eternity

II. The Son of the Unloved Wife (verses 15-17)

Here, we have an interesting transitional section. The previous spoke of the rights of a wife. The next (18-21) will deal with the issue of a rebellious son. This one between the two deals with both the protection of the wife and the son. As such, it begins with…

15 “If a man has two wives,

Of this and the coming verses, the Jamieson-Fausset-Brown commentary states that it –

“…seems highly probable from the other verbs being in the past tense – ‘hers that was hated,’ not ‘hers that is hated’; evidently intimating that she (the first wife) was dead at the time referred to. Moses, therefore, does not here legislate upon the case of a man who has two wives at the same time, but on that of a man who has married twice in succession, the second wife after the decease of the first; and there was an obvious necessity for legislation in these circumstances; for the first wife, who was hated, was dead, and the second wife, the favorite, was alive; and with the feelings of a stepmother, she would urge her husband to make her own son the heir. This case has no bearing upon polygamy, which there is no evidence that the Mosaic code legalized.” Jamieson-Fausset-Brown

In other words, they are saying that nothing in the Law of Moses legalizes polygamy. This is an incorrect analysis, and it is not the intent of the Hebrew at all. Their analysis has been constructed based on an obvious bias against polygamy.

This is not a good way to figure out the intent of a passage. The case says nothing of a dead or divorced wife. It speaks of two wives without such regard.

Their argument about the Mosaic code not legalizing polygamy is an argument from silence. The precedent of multiple marriages is already seen in Genesis, and it is unknown if even Moses had two wives at the same time based on a statement made about having married an Ethiopian woman in Numbers 12:1.

Secondly, the passage concerning kings multiplying wives in Chapter 17 says nothing of only one wife but implies the heaping up of wives, and the reason for that is specifically given.

And more, if having only one wife was implied in the Mosaic code, there would not be the multitude of examples of polygamy found throughout the rest of the Old Testament, including a note from the Lord that He gave David the wives he possessed.

Even in the New Testament, Paul’s only restriction on polygamy is directed towards elders and deacons (1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1). As such, and looking at the matter objectively, having two wives is not at all frowned upon in Scripture.

Jacob started out his married life almost immediately with two wives (prior to the law). The father of Samuel, Elkanah, had two wives (after the giving of the law). And so on. This short section deals with a particular issue in such a circumstance.

Because the verse begins with the note of having two wives, the first issue of care is that of the wife. This is clear. Though dealing with the rights – meaning inheritance – of the firstborn, it still is clearly dealing with the rights, care, and remembrance of the wife.

If the husband dies and the wife continues on, the son of the greater inheritance will have more to tend to his mother. Further, the blessing of simply knowing her son will prosper is a merciful kindness to her. Therefore, the issue at hand is as much about care for the state of the woman as it is for the son. This is seen with the words…

15 (con’t) one loved and the other unloved,

The Hebrew is more specific: ha’akhat ahuvah v’ha’akhat senuah – “the one loved and the one hated.” The word sane means to hate, and it can signify enemy, foe, odious, and so on. It is the same word used to describe Jacob’s attitude toward Leah in Genesis –

“When the Lord saw that Leah was unloved, He opened her womb; but Rachel was barren.” Genesis 29:31

Jacob loved Rachel. However, his feelings toward Leah seem to be given in a comparative sense – hated in comparison to his love for Rachel. Whether that is the case here or not is not stated. It simply says that she is hated.

It should be noted that divorce has already been mentioned four times, showing that it is something both understood and possible. Later in Chapter 24, the allowance will be made explicit by Moses when he says that a man finds an indecency in his wife, he was allowed to give her a certificate of divorce and send her packing.

It may be that this is a comparative love/hate, or it may be that he really hates her. If so, one might think, “If he hates one of his wives, why doesn’t he just divorce her?” That is irrelevant to the case here.

She may be the best cook on the planet, and he just doesn’t want to lose that, despite hating her. He may be a cruel husband and just not want to see her enjoy life with another man. Or, he may be obligated to her, without possibility of divorce for his entire life for a reason that will be stated in the next chapter –

“If a man finds a young woman who is a virgin, who is not betrothed, and he seizes her and lies with her, and they are found out, 29 then the man who lay with her shall give to the young woman’s father fifty shekels of silver, and she shall be his wife because he has humbled her; he shall not be permitted to divorce her all his days.” Deuteronomy 22:28, 29

The issue as to why he hates her is irrelevant. He is living with his two wives…

15 (con’t) and they have borne him children, both the loved and the unloved,

Moses uses the same general terms again: ha’ahuvah v’ha’senuah – “the loved and the hated.” Both women have children that issue from him. For all we know, the children might be the reason for not wanting to divorce hated Helen. He just doesn’t want to upset the applecart for the sake of the family. Whatever. If such is…

15 (con’t) and if the firstborn son is of her who is unloved,

v’hayah ha’ben ha’bekor la’seniah – “and it is the son, the firstborn to the hated.” The meaning is obvious. The hated wife has borne him his first son. One could think of all kinds of things he could do to make her miserable, including taking it out on her and the son at the same time through the process of inheritance. Well, the law is way ahead of him in this regard…

16 then it shall be, on the day he bequeaths his possessions to his sons,

We generally think of passing on possessions to our children after our deaths, but this is not the idea expressed in Scripture. For example, this was already a culturally accepted norm. Abraham did it over four hundred years earlier –

“And Abraham gave all that he had to Isaac. But Abraham gave gifts to the sons of the concubines which Abraham had; and while he was still living he sent them eastward, away from Isaac his son, to the country of the east.” Genesis 25:5, 6

Even in New Testament times, this was still practiced, such as in the parable of the prodigal son, this practice is clearly seen as being something that precedes the death of the person –

“Then He said: ‘A certain man had two sons. 12 And the younger of them said to his father, “Father, give me the portion of goods that falls to me.” So he divided to them his livelihood. 13 And not many days after, the younger son gathered all together, journeyed to a far country, and there wasted his possessions with prodigal living.” Luke 13:11-13

There is a time when the parent divides up the possessions to his children according to a set cultural standard. One precept of that is now incorporated into the law itself as a protection for the firstborn, highlighting his rightful status regardless as to the father’s relationship with the mother. In this precept, he says…

16 (con’t) that he must not bestow firstborn status

As at other times, the Hebrew reads in an interesting way: asher yiyeh lo lo yukal l’baker – “which he is not able to firstborn.” In other words, he is incapable of doing so because the law forbids it. This does not mean that he cannot do this for other – justifiable – reasons.

It has already been culturally established that such could be done for valid reasons. Jacob did this, as is intimated concerning his firstborn in Genesis 49 –

“Reuben, you are my firstborn,
My might and the beginning of my strength,
The excellency of dignity and the excellency of power.
Unstable as water, you shall not excel,
Because you went up to your father’s bed;
Then you defiled it
He went up to my couch.” Genesis 49:3, 4

This is explicitly then stated in 1 Chronicles 5:1, 2 as well –

“Now the sons of Reuben the firstborn of Israel—he was indeed the firstborn, but because he defiled his father’s bed, his birthright was given to the sons of Joseph, the son of Israel, so that the genealogy is not listed according to the birthright; yet Judah prevailed over his brothers, and from him came a ruler, although the birthright was Joseph’s.”

Despite this, a father under the Mosaic code had no authority to do this simply out of partiality. He cannot bestow such a status…

16 (con’t) on the son of the loved wife in preference to the son of the unloved, the true firstborn.

The prohibition is set, and the weight of the law would forever rest upon this precept. Any challenge to it would have to be for a just, legal, and accepted reason. Such a case of changing the firstborn status is recorded in 1 Chronicles 26 –

“Also Hosah, of the children of Merari, had sons: Shimri the first (for though he was not the firstborn, his father made him the first), 11 Hilkiah the second, Tebaliah the third, Zechariah the fourth; all the sons and brethren of Hosah were thirteen.” 1 Chronicles 26:10, 11

The reason for this father’s designation is not given. One thing that is certain, however. If the motive was arbitrary or vindictive, it could easily be appealed because of the precept of the law now being stated by Moses. The right of the firstborn is of such importance that the precept was to never be arbitrarily abused…

17 But he shall acknowledge the son of the unloved wife as the firstborn

What Moses has done is turn the words of verse 16 around from the negative to the positive in order to provide emphasis –

* he must not bestow firstborn status on the son of the loved wife in preference to the son of the unloved, the true firstborn
* he shall acknowledge the son of the unloved wife as the firstborn

In this, there is no legal wiggle room that may otherwise be conjured up by some perverse-hearted soul.

17 (con’t) by giving him a double portion of all that he has,

latet lo pi shnayim b’kol asher yimatse lo – “to give him mouth two in all which finds he.” If you are still curious as to why I mentioned our dogs at the beginning of the sermon, I’ll let you know now. Moses uses the term pi shnayim, or “mouth two.” It is rare, being found only here, in 2 Kings 2:9, and in once more in Zechariah 13:8 –

“And so it was, when they had crossed over, that Elijah said to Elisha, ‘Ask! What may I do for you, before I am taken away from you?’
Elisha said, ‘Please let a double portion of your spirit be upon me.’” 2 Kings 2:9

“And it shall come to pass in all the land,”
Says the Lord,
That two-thirds in it shall be cut off and die,
But one-third shall be left in it:” Zechariah 13:8

It signifies a double portion. When Cassandra called me up and asked me to buy a second dog, (of which I had no choice but to say, “Yes”), I needed a name. Well, we had one dog, and now there is another, a second portion. And so, we named him Pi Shnai, a poetically shortened form of the words pi shnayim.

Thinking up an introduction to a sermon can be a challenging thing, but not this time. Eventually, we’d get to these words, and it was as simple as telling you a story about two of our dogs.

This pi shnayim is a double portion as the rights of the firstborn. The idea is that if there were four sons, the inheritance would be divided into five equal parts.

From there, the firstborn would receive two parts while the others received one. Thus, when Jacob blessed Manasseh and Ephraim, Joseph’s two sons, he – by default – gave Joseph the pi shnayim, or “mouth double,” meaning double portion right of the firstborn.

The idea is as if the firstborn is given enough for two mouths to feed. In the case of Manasseh and Ephraim, that was literally true. That case was an exception, but under normal circumstances, it would be given to the firstborn…

17 (con’t) for he is the beginning of his strength;

It is emphatic: hu reshit ono – “He, firstborn of his strength.” It is the same words that Jacob spoke upon Reuben in Genesis 49:3 that was cited earlier. However, Reuben lost his right as firstborn for his perverse conduct.

*17 (fin) the right of the firstborn is his.

The word mishpat is used. In this case, it signifies a legal right indicating that this is the way it is to be. He was the first of the strength of his father, and therefore he is not to be denied the right of the judgment granting him the pi shnayim, the double portion.

Two wives for a man; there are laws for such
He has a responsibility that he cannot shirk
Even if one is greatly loved, and the other not so much
He must accomplish the law – that is his work

When the inheritance is to be divided up
The firstborn must be given his just due
He shall have a double portion, an overflowing cup
To this precept, the man must remain faithful and true

And it is good and right that it is so
The firstborn is the beginning of his strength as such
And so, he is to receive the double-portion, even though…
Yes, even if his mother isn’t loved so much

III. Pictures of Christ

The two passages today uniquely look back to the story of Rachel and Leah, probably as a means of helping us to understand why they are included in the law as they are, and thus how they point to Christ. In the first passage, Moses introduces the thought of taking captivity his captive. If you remember, it was in the singular – meaning a single enemy.

It is a way of saying that the enemy who held the captives is taken captive himself. Among his captives is a beautiful woman. The Hebrew is yephat toar – beautiful in form. It is the exact same phrase used of Rachel in Genesis 29 –

“Now Laban had two daughters: the name of the elder was Leah, and the name of the younger was Rachel. 17 Leah’s eyes were delicate, but Rachel was beautiful of form and appearance.” Genesis 29:16, 17

If you go back to that sermon, you will be reminded that she was made to be a picture of God’s grace. This woman of the captives is brought into the people of Israel through marriage.

She goes through a rite in order for that to come about, and then she is made the wife of the victor. This is especially so because the passage itself speaks in the singular throughout.

The one marrying her stands as representative of any victor, and thus Israel. A premise is given that the husband may not have delight in her. This is simply a proposition of what may occur, it doesn’t say it actually ever will.

In fact, the man may remain crazy about her forever. The proposition is merely set forth as a possibility. If such is the case, it says that this husband is to set her free, but he is not to sell her “in the silver.” In the Bible, silver pictures redemption. The idea is that she is not to be unredeemed by him and thus redeemed by another.

Simply put, this short set of verses anticipates Christ’s victory over Satan and his choosing a bride beautiful in form, just as Rachel was. As Rachel pictured grace, so this chosen wife pictures the doctrine of salvation by grace as well.

Christ is the Victor over Satan – the enemy, Captivity. She was his captive, but she is given unmerited favor and brought into the commonwealth of Israel.

But that is not the main focus of what is being conveyed. The passage hinges on her rights, not his. Even if displeasing, she is never to be sold off again. As it says, she is set free l’naphsha, or “to her soul.” The purpose of this passage is to present to us the doctrine of eternal salvation.

A variety of verses in the New Testament speak of this, many in fact, but one that matches what is conveyed here exactingly is –

“In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, when you are gathered together, along with my spirit, with the power of our Lord Jesus Christ, deliver such a one to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus.” 1 Corinthians 5:4, 5

The shaving of her head and the doing of her nails implies that she is now under the authority of a new head – her husband. This explains the meaning of the otherwise very complicated passage in 1 Corinthians 11 –

“For if a woman is not covered, let her also be shorn. But if it is shameful for a woman to be shorn or shaved, let her be covered. For a man indeed ought not to cover his head, since he is the image and glory of God; but woman is the glory of man. For man is not from woman, but woman from man. Nor was man created for the woman, but woman for the man. 10 For this reason the woman ought to have a symbol of authority on her head, because of the angels.” 1 Corinthians 11:6-9

Her hair symbolizes headship and authority. Paul was probably thinking of this passage in Deuteronomy when he wrote out the words to the Corinthians. When one moves from Satan to Christ, the new authority is permanent.

As already stated, the words of Moses here are set forth as a proposition that may or may not occur. However, if it does, there are set limits on what may happen to the wife who is displeasing. And there are set limits on what may happen to a believer who is saved by grace.

The putting off the garments of her captivity means she is no longer under the captivity of Satan. She is granted a new status under Christ – His righteousness.

As far as Moses’ words concerning setting her free, this is an allowance of the Law of Moses, it is not what God originally intended for marriage. Jesus clearly indicates in Matthew 19 that marriage is to be a permanent arrangement. And so, even if this is an allowance under the law, for Christ – who embodies the law – it will never come to pass. The marriage is permanent.

Though displeasing (even if in the extreme) that person’s redemption will not be sold off again. That person is free to live his or her life, even being delivered to Satan again for destruction of the flesh, but ultimate freedom has been granted and it will not be removed. The saving of the person is guaranteed.

This is perfectly obvious from New Testament passages, but how sad it is that people still teach that one can lose his salvation. The Bible never speaks of such a thing – it forbids it.

In the second passage, two wives are mentioned. The same terminology is used of them as was used of Rachel and Leah – loved and hated. As Rachel (the loved) pictured grace, Leah (the hated) – if you remember – clearly pictured the Law. The pattern continues here.

The son of the unloved wife is the Son of the Law – Christ. He came through the law, He lived out the law, and He died in fulfillment of the law. In this, He was given a pi shnayim, or “mouth two,” meaning a double portion.

He redeemed those who were under law from the law, and He redeemed those who were not under the Law of Moses but who were still separated from God through the law of sin. This is what Paul is referring to in Galatians and Romans –

“Now I say that the heir, as long as he is a child, does not differ at all from a slave, though he is master of all, but is under guardians and stewards until the time appointed by the father. Even so we, when we were children, were in bondage under the elements of the world. But when the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, that we might receive the adoption as sons.” Galatians 4:1-5

&

“And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. 29 For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren.” Romans 8:28, 29

These two short passages today, though seemingly uninteresting except as a curiosity, and though found in the seemingly tedious book of Deuteronomy, are not at all uninteresting. And Deuteronomy is anything but tedious.

These verses were given to Israel to express matters of law for the conduct of the people. This is true, and they were matters of law to be obeyed. But, ostensibly, they may never have had such a scenario arise in the entire fourteen hundred or so years of their history.

Despite this, they were placed there as guides for the people, but they were more specifically placed there to show us what God has done, and what God is doing, for us in Christ. Christ is the purpose, and He is the reason for these things to be stated.

And in seeing what He has done, we can then see how we fit into the overall scenario of the redemptive narrative. Will we trust in Christ’s fulfillment of the law, or will we attempt (and fail) to be the one to try and usurp His status as the firstborn? Who would even think of such a thing!

And yet, it has happened since the beginning, and it continues on today when people attempt to merit God’s favor apart from Christ’s finished work.

And when we are in Christ, do we really trust that we are in Christ? Do we really believe that we have been brought into the commonwealth of Israel with an eternal guarantee? Or do we think that, displeasing as we may be to Him, Christ will sell us off once again? Who would even think of such a thing!

And yet, it has happened since the beginning, and it continues on today when people attempt to earn God’s favor apart from His finished work.

The fact is that if you can lose your salvation at any point after being saved, then it is not of grace, but of works. And if you believe your continued salvation is because of what you must do, then you do not understand what the word “grace” means.

But it is found here, right here in the book of law known as Deuteronomy, if you will just look for it. It is found here because this book looks to Christ. Let us do so too, to the glory of God who sent Him to redeem us. It is He who has brought us out from the power of the captivity unto Himself. Praise God for Jesus Christ who has done all these things for us.

Closing Verse: “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me. 21 I do not set aside the grace of God; for if righteousness comes through the law, then Christ died in vain.” Galatians 2:20, 21

Next Week: Deuteronomy 21:18-23 The words seem unusual, even odd… (He Who Is Hanged Is Accursed of God) (63rd Deuteronomy Sermon)

The Lord has you exactly where He wants you. He has a good plan and purpose for you. But He also has expectations of you as He prepares you for entrance into His Land of Promise. So, follow Him and trust Him and He will do marvelous things for you and through you.

The Rights of Wives in Israel

“When you go out to war against your enemies
And the LORD your God delivers them into your hand
And you take them captive
And you see among the captives a beautiful woman
———-yes, she is really grand…

And desire her and would take her for your wife
Then you shall bring her home to your house
And she shall shave her head and trim her nails
Before she can become your spouse

She shall put off the clothes of her captivity
Remain in your house, and mourn her father and her mother
———-a full month of her life
After that you may go in to her and be her husband
And she shall be your wife

And it shall be, if you have no delight in her
Then you shall set her free, but you certainly shall not
———-sell her for money, for sure
You shall not treat her brutally
Because you have humbled her

“If a man has two wives, one loved and the other unloved
And they have borne him children, both the loved and the unloved
———-a certain difficulty
And if the firstborn son is of her who is unloved
Then it shall be…

On the day he bequeaths his possessions to his sons
That he must not firstborn status adorn
On the son of the loved wife
In preference to the son of the unloved, the true firstborn

But he shall acknowledge the son of the unloved wife
As the firstborn by giving him a double portion of all that he has
For he is the beginning of his strength
The right of the firstborn is his, double… and all that jazz

Lord God, turn our hearts to be obedient to Your word
Give us wisdom to be ever faithful to You
May we carefully heed each thing we have heard
Yes, Lord God may our hearts be faithful and true

And we shall be content and satisfied in You alone
We will follow You as we sing our songs of praise
Hallelujah to You; to us Your path You have shown
Hallelujah we shall sing to You for all of our days

Hallelujah and Amen…

 

 

 

 

 

 

10 “When you go out to war against your enemies, and the Lord your God delivers them into your hand, and you take them captive, 11 and you see among the captives a beautiful woman, and desire her and would take her for your wife, 12 then you shall bring her home to your house, and she shall shave her head and trim her nails. 13 She shall put off the clothes of her captivity, remain in your house, and mourn her father and her mother a full month; after that you may go in to her and be her husband, and she shall be your wife. 14 And it shall be, if you have no delight in her, then you shall set her free, but you certainly shall not sell her for money; you shall not treat her brutally, because you have humbled her.

15 “If a man has two wives, one loved and the other unloved, and they have borne him children, both the loved and the unloved, and if the firstborn son is of her who is unloved, 16 then it shall be, on the day he bequeaths his possessions to his sons, that he must not bestow firstborn status on the son of the loved wife in preference to the son of the unloved, the true firstborn. 17 But he shall acknowledge the son of the unloved wife as the firstborn by giving him a double portion of all that he has, for he is the beginning of his strength; the right of the firstborn is his.

 

 

 

 

 

Deuteronomy 21:1-9 (And Atonement Shall Be Provided)

Deuteronomy 21:1-9
And Atonement Shall Be Provided

Types and shadows are often how God reveals future things to us in His word. After a while, I’m sure some get jaded by hearing this. It seems to be the sentiment of a friend of mine who emailed me about a few things and mentioned that as well.

He said, “Ok so your ministry shows Christ throughout the Old Testament. I get that. As a Christian who already believes in Christ as the Messiah your like preaching to the flock….who gets it 1000 times over. Do you preach application as well?”

My answer probably disappointed Him, but it’s the only one I feel is faithful to the calling – “No. If people know what the Bible says, they can form their own life applications. Jesus said in John 5 twice that the law spoke of Him. He was implying that we are to look for Him. I despise life application sermons. Line-by-line analysis is what I like. But I toss in life application at times to direct people to want to live their lives in a right manner.”

The reason I love to look for Jesus in the Old Testament is because Jesus told us that the writers of the Old Testament wrote about Him. But, for the most part, they didn’t say, “Jesus is going to come and do this.” Instead, they wrote out words of law, and those words of law anticipate Him.

I can’t think of anything more exciting than that. When we see this, over and over and over again as God intended, then the effect is obvious. We will not get pulled astray by people that attempt to misdirect us into every wrong avenue we could be led down.

Text Verse: “I will wash my hands in innocence;
So I will go about Your altar, O Lord,
That I may proclaim with the voice of thanksgiving,
And tell of all Your wondrous works.” Psalm 26:6, 7

The Bible is about God’s redemptive narrative, and that redemptive narrative is based wholly and entirely on what God would do in and through Jesus Christ. When we get that, and when we keep getting that, we won’t get sucked in false teachings, we won’t get trapped into odd religious expressions, and we won’t get incorrect ideas about our relationship with God.

How important is this? Well, today we will evaluate the nine verses we just read, and then – as I often do – I will attempt to show you how Christ Jesus is the fulfillment of those things.

But when I do, I will give you an object lesson, right from redemptive history, concerning a group of people who missed this. In their missing, they have gone through many woes. How important is understanding the typology of Christ from the Old Testament? Ask Israel someday when they finally come to Christ.

Someday, they will be able to wash their hands in innocence. That day is probably not far off, but until it comes, many more grievous woes are set to come upon them. This is the sad result of not paying heed to the typology.

It’s not about us. Life application sermons often overemphasize us, or they even make it all about us. It’s not. It is about God’s dealings with us in redemptive history. When we know that, we don’t need life application sermons. We will know exactly how to conduct our lives in Christ.

It’s all to be found in His superior word. And so, let us turn to that precious word once again and… May God speak to us through His word today and may His glorious name ever be praised.

I. A Heifer Which Has Not Been Worked (verses 1-9)

The previous chapter dealt with the conduct of warfare. That detailed those rules which governed a public enemy, and one which involved the nation as a whole. This chapter now begins with a private matter, and which results in death. The scope of the matter is less, but the sanctity of life is still being considered. With that in mind, Moses begins with…

“If anyone is found slain,

ki yimatse khalal – “Regarding found slain.” The word translated as “slain” is clear. It isn’t just a dead body of someone who might have gotten bitten by bees and died of anaphylactic shock. Rather, it is a person who has clearly been killed.

In this case, the wrong must be righted. Either the killer must be punished, or suitable atonement for the land must be made. This is because, as the Lord has already stated in Numbers 35 –

 “So you shall not pollute the land where you are; for blood defiles the land, and no atonement can be made for the land, for the blood that is shed on it, except by the blood of him who shed it. 34 Therefore do not defile the land which you inhabit, in the midst of which I dwell; for I the Lord dwell among the children of Israel.” Numbers 35:33, 34

There is a defilement that results from such shedding of blood. The person who shed it must pay for his crime, or another suitable remedy must be found. However, there is more involved in this case, as Moses will explain. For now, he says…

1 (con’t) lying in the field

These words, nophel ba’sadeh, or “fallen in the field,” actually come later in the verse. The thought as presented is, “in the ground which Yehovah your God is giving you to possess, fallen in the field.” For now, it simply says…

1 (con’t) in the land

ba’adamah – “in the ground.” The word is adamah. It usually signifies the ground, soil, or earth, rather than the land as territory. It comes from the same root as adam, or man. Both come from the verb adom, implying redness.

This wording is specific and obviously an important distinction. Instead of using eretz, or land – meaning the territory – it says adamah. What is also of interest is that the term will not be used again until the final verse of the chapter –

“If a man has committed a sin deserving of death, and he is put to death, and you hang him on a tree, 23 his body shall not remain overnight on the tree, but you shall surely bury him that day, so that you do not defile the land [adamah] which the Lord your God is giving you as an inheritance; for he who is hanged is accursed of God.” Deuteronomy 21:22, 23

The thought of defiling the ground (not the land) with a body curiously brackets the contents of the entire chapter.

1 (con’t) which the Lord your God is giving you to possess,

It is the constantly repeated set of words from Moses. He continuously reminds the people that what they will inherit is because the Lord has given it to them. As such, they must comply with what is stated.

Further, the passage is consistently in the singular – “You Israel.” The Lord is giving the land to this people. If the Lord gives them the ground, He can take it from them, cause it to become unproductive, or whatever else He chooses to do with it. In this case, a body has been found slain…

1 (con’t) and it is not known who killed him,

lo noda mi hikaku – “no know who struck him.” It is a circumstantial clause with no connecting verb. It describes the conditions under which the situation occurs. A person has been slain, his body is a defiling influence, and the perpetrator is unknown. If such is the case…

then your elders and your judges shall go out

In this, the zaqen, or elders, are those who represent the citizens. Generally, it is the elders who are responsible for proper conduct within the families, and for maintaining proper standards for all who issue from the tribe to which they belong. The word zaqen is from the same root as zaqan, a beard. Thus, it signifies someone who has age and experience.

The judges represent the magistrate who makes legal decisions. They are those who would sit in the gates of the city and attend to all legal matters. In this case, these elders and judges are to leave the city in order to conduct the affairs as directed by Moses. They are to go out to where the slain man is…

2 (con’t) and measure the distance from the slain man to the surrounding cities.

In some cases, this would be obvious. In others, it might not be. The reason for determining this is to find out which city is the closest to the slain, regardless as to whether he lived there. It would also not be an accusation that the murderer must live there. The point has already been made that it is unknown who did it.

Rather, there is another reason entirely for determining the closest city. It is that the resolution of a particular matter must be accomplished by them. This will be seen as Moses continues…

And it shall be that the elders of the city nearest to the slain man

The judges were mentioned in the previous verse. That is certainly because determining the distance between whatever town would be considered a legal matter. If three towns were involved, unless the judges of each participated, the legal distance might somehow be mis-determined.

However, now the issue is no longer just a legal matter. The distance has been determined, and so now the responsibility falls upon the elders of the town. The legal aspect has been resolved, but a moral matter exists that still must be settled. Therefore, the responsibility devolves to the elders who…

3 (con’t) will take a heifer

The Hebrew reads eglat baqar – “heifer of the herd.” The word eglah, or heifer, is derived from agol, meaning round or circular. The word herd is baqar, coming from the verb baqar meaning to inquire or seek. Being a heifer, it is emblematic of the life-bearer. It is to further be one…

3 (con’t) which has not been worked

This would obviously be a young heifer, implying innocence. Further, any strength it has developed would be from itself, and not from the hand of man. As man works an animal, it will grow in strength, but this one’s strength is its own.

3 (con’t) and which has not pulled with a yoke.

There is no connecting conjunction. The second clause, therefore, is in apposition to the first, explaining it. Together, the two clauses read, “which not worked in; which not pulled in yoke.”

The ol, or yoke, is from a root meaning, “to affect thoroughly.” This young heifer was not to be worked, meaning it was to have never been yoked. The idea of a yoke on an animal is subjection.

This precept, now being laid forth, is not making the assumption that the murderer is from the city in question. Again, that cannot be assumed. But, as seen earlier, Numbers 35 said that “blood defiles the land, and no atonement can be made for the land, for the blood that is shed on it, except by the blood of him who shed it.”

Because that is not possible, there must be another source of atonement for the bloodshed, or the land will remain defiled. This would be especially true in the area of the murder. This provision here follows along with that of the cities of refuge, of which Numbers 35 carefully deals.

There, it dealt with ratsakh, or the unsanctioned taking of life – either purposefully or by accident. When that occurred, the life of the slayer was forfeit, even when accidental. However, provisions were made to reclaim his life.

There, it noted that the person who purposefully strikes someone and kills him is a murderer, and he – in turn – is to be put to death. His life could not be ransomed. However, provision was made for the person who slayed another unintentionally. He could flee to a city of refuge and be safe from the avenger of blood.

He was obligated to stay within the confines of that city until his death, or until the death of the high priest – whichever occurred first. If he outlived the high priest, his death was considered atoned for, and he could then leave the city of refuge.

Like the intentional murderer, though, no ransom could be paid for the person who accidentally killed another in an unsanctioned manner during the time he was held within a city of refuge. He had to stay there. Only through the death of the high priest could his actions be atoned for.

So, there you have the four provisions thus far for the atonement of the land upon which innocent blood was shed – 1) the murderer’s blood is shed; 2) the accidental killer is kept until his death within the city of refuge; 3) the accidental killer is kept until the death of the high priest in the city of refuge and then is free; 4) the avenger of blood kills the accidental slayer.

In each of these instances, the blood of the innocent slain is considered atoned for. But the circumstance now does not fit into any of these categories. Without a remedy, the death would remain unatoned for, and the land would remain defiled. Thus, a fifth measure is provided. With this understood, Moses next conveys what is to be done once the selected heifer has been obtained…

The elders of that city shall bring the heifer down to a valley

Again, it is the elders, those morally responsible for the actions of the younger people in the city, who are to conduct this rite. They are to take the heifer down to a nakhal, or valley. The word comes from the verb nakhal meaning to inherit or take as a possession. It is a valley…

4 (con’t) with flowing water,

The Hebrew reads nakhal ethan – “valley perennial.” The word ethan comes from an unused root meaning “to continue.” Thus, this valley is variously translated as “rough,” barren,” “stony,” “hard,” or it is described in one way or another to indicate continuously flowing water.

The same words are used in Amos 5:4 and because of the parallelism, it is certainly speaking of flowing water there –

“But let justice run down like water,
And righteousness like a mighty stream.” Amos 5:4

What is being described is either a continuous valley that will, at times, have water flowing in it, or it is a valley that continuously has water flowing in it. Either way, it is not a stagnant valley. Further, it is a valley…

4 (con’t) which is neither plowed nor sown,

It is an area where no work (the Hebrew word abad means to work or serve) has been accomplished. It has not been defiled by common use, and what will occur there is to be the means of atonement. Further, any ground that was cultivated would be defiled by the act. Of this, John Lange seems to be correct when he says, “To this sanctity of the victim corresponds the locality to which it is to be led.”

Some Jewish commentators say that this land was to never be tilled or sown again. That is rather unintelligent. First, it is not to be found in Scripture, and secondly, the purpose of this is atonement. It is as if they cannot understand the meaning of atonement by making such a ridiculous insertion into the text.

The land itself is not at this time being plowed or sown. That is the condition set forth. Once the land is atoned for, it is atoned for. To say that it is never to be plowed or sown again would defeat the entire purpose of atoning for the death. For now, and to effect that atonement, the elders are to bring it to such a valley…

4 (con’t) and they shall break the heifer’s neck there in the valley.

This is the same command as was given in Exodus 13:13 and 34:20, both of which speak of breaking the neck of a donkey –

“But every firstborn of a donkey you shall redeem with a lamb; and if you will not redeem it, then you shall break its neck. And all the firstborn of man among your sons you shall redeem.” Exodus 13:13

The verb for “break its neck” is araph which comes from the noun oreph, or the “back of the neck.” A donkey, an unclean animal, could be redeemed with a clean animal. In other words, the clean redeeming the unclean. If it was not, it was to have its neck broken.

This heifer is a clean animal. In this case, this clean animal was to die in this unworked valley in order to atone for the sin of murder, thus becoming unclean through the act. It would bear the guilt of the act. It is the clean atoning for the defilement that resulted from the murder.

Then the priests, the sons of Levi, shall come near,

The idea here is that this is a matter of Levitical law, not judicial law. The judges are not who would officiate in this matter. The elders were to perform the ritual, not the priests. This is because it is not a sacrifice for taking away a known sin at the altar. Rather, it is for atonement for the guilt of blood.

Despite it being conducted by the elders, the priests are the mediators of the Levitical law. Therefore, the rite is overseen by them. As Moses next says…

5 (con’t) for the Lord your God has chosen them to minister to Him

The Levitical priests were set apart for this very purpose. Anything dealing with matters such as this, then, was to be overseen by them. As it deals with atonement, they are to be the ones to stand and accept it on behalf of the Lord…

5 (con’t) and to bless in the name of the Lord;

The thought of both the previous clause, and that of this clause, is found in Deuteronomy 10 –

“At that time the Lord separated the tribe of Levi to bear the ark of the covenant of the Lord, to stand before the Lord to minister to Him and to bless in His name, to this day.” Deuteronomy 10:8

Calling the priests is to acknowledge that this is, in fact, a matter that deals with the Lord directly.

5 (con’t) by their word every controversy and every assault shall be settled.

v’al pihem yihyeh kal riv v’kal naga – “and upon their mouth shall be every strife and every stroke.” This is referring to what was said in Chapter 17 –

“If a matter arises which is too hard for you to judge, between degrees of guilt for bloodshed, between one judgment or another, or between one punishment or another, matters of controversy within your gates, then you shall arise and go up to the place which the Lord your God chooses. And you shall come to the priests, the Levites, and to the judge there in those days, and inquire of them; they shall pronounce upon you the sentence of judgment.” Deuteronomy 17:8, 9

As this is a matter of Levitical law, it is right that the priest was to be in attendance. In these verses so far, we have seen the elders and judges included in measuring from any near city – a moral and judicial matter. Then the elders being involved in the moral aspect of choosing the heifer. Now the elders and priests involved in completing the rite of atonement – a moral and Levitical matter.

In this, all classes of the society are involved in the purging away of the bloodguilt which, until it is accomplished, is attached to the entire community. With the slaying of the animal by breaking its neck, another requirement is then set forth…

And all the elders of that city nearest to the slain man shall wash their hands over the heifer whose neck was broken in the valley.

The same elders who were measured to be closest, and who then provided the heifer and brought it down to the valley, and who then broke the neck of the heifer, are those who are to wash their hands over the dead heifer there in the valley. The elders stand as the moral representatives of their city, and they are proclaiming their innocence in the matter. Of this, John Lange says –

“a symbolical declaration of innocence (Ps. 26:6; 73:13; Matt. 27:24), is performed, by the elders of the nearest city, with reference to its participation in the guilt, over the heifer, which had been treated like the murdered man, and with direct reference to him.” John Lange

This is the exact opposite of what occurs. They are proclaiming their innocence while standing over the dead heifer which had been treated as the murderer in type, not the murdered man.

Further, this act is not absolving the person who committed the murder. The Lord will avenge that in His own time. This rite is conducted for atoning of the guilt of bloodshed upon the land. They are there stating that they are innocent of the particular crime in any way, shape, or form. As it next says…

Then they shall answer and say, ‘Our hands have not shed this blood,

The words, “have not shed this blood,” are not referring to the heifer. They are referring to the dead man. The heifer is the substitute, sacrificed to atone for the bloodguilt. The elders are stating that they personally, and as far as they know for the entire town, are all innocent of what occurred.

7 (con’t) nor have our eyes seen it.

In saying this, they are not only claiming innocence, but they are – in essence – stating, “Not only are we innocent, but we have no idea who has done this. Therefore, we cannot punish the guilty. But innocent blood has been shed, and without atonement, the land would continue to be defiled. We are at your mercy and offer this substitute for all of Israel.”

In other words, they are the elders of their city and thus they represent the people of the city. The city is a city of Israel, and their city now stands representative of the cities of Israel. And the cities of Israel stand as representative of all of the people within them. Therefore, the proclamation and petition by these men stand as representative of the nation. Thus, they are next to ask…

Provide atonement, O Lord, for Your people Israel, whom You have redeemed,

This is the exact purpose of the ritual. It is to kaphar, or cover over, the act which has been committed. In this, atonement is made, and a propitious relationship is restored. This is the petition instead of the alternative, which is…

8 (con’t) and do not lay innocent blood to the charge of Your people Israel.’

v’al titen dam naqiy b’qerev ammekha Yisrael – “and not give blood innocent in the midst your people Israel.” If a covering is not provided, then the guilt of innocent blood remains. But the Lord is gracious and merciful in abundance, and so Moses promises…

8 (con’t) And atonement shall be provided on their behalf for the blood.

The law is what makes guilt possible. A violation of the law is what makes guilt occur. The mercy seat, or kapporeth, was placed over the tablets of the law to protect Israel from it.

The sacrifices of the tabernacle were made to kaphar, or cover over, the violations of the law to protect the people from their sins.

And the five means of atonement for the unsanctioned killing of a person were provided to, kaphar, or cover the people in order to protect them from the penalty of defilement caused by the shedding of that innocent blood.

It should be noted that it says “on their behalf” instead of “on your behalf.” It is third-person plural. The people of the nation are given atonement. This is the purpose of the rite. It does not absolve the guilt of the murderer, but it covers over the guilt for the people which would otherwise remain open and exposed. It is a most important point.

So you shall put away the guilt of innocent blood from among you

It is emphatic– v’atah tebaer ha’dam ha’naqiy miqirbekha – “And you shall burn away the blood, the innocent from your (singular, Israel) midst.” Moses picks up his words with this firm command. What had brought guilt upon the people is to be removed.

It is not that they wouldn’t have been guilty if no one found the body. Rather, the guilt existed because of the murder. But the rite burns the guilt of the shedding of innocent blood away. But it only comes about…

*9 (fin) when you do what is right in the sight of the Lord.

Of these words, John Lange says it can mean either, “because it should do right, sq. or: when it will do right, sq.” In other words, he is saying that Moses might be saying that because the act is done, the blood is forgiven (the example he speaks forth accomplishes it). Or, he might be saying, “when the act is done, the bloodguilt will be forgiven (when the crime is committed, the blood is forgiven upon the accomplishment of the act).”

It’s an important distinction. Both are true from the perspective of the reader, but the fact that innocent blood has not yet been atoned for among Israel, the word “when” still applies. That will be explained in our next section.

A place where atonement is made
A spot to go where our sins are covered and taken away
What a glorious, marvelous trade
When through grace we were cleansed. Oh, what a day!

The heifer is given for our atonement
The guilt of the bloodshed is taken away
Down in the valley a marvelous event
We are free from our guilt. Oh, what a day!

Thank You, O God, for Jesus Christ our Lord
Who fulfills what occurred; our guilt is taken away
Thank You for what we have learned from Your word
Thank You, O God, for this marvelous, glorious day!

II. Pictures of Christ and an Object Lesson

The rite and ceremony conveyed here anticipate the work of Jesus Christ, just as does that of the Red Heifer, the Cities of Refuge, the Day of Atonement, and so on. However, like the Day of Atonement, it also conveys a truth that still exists in the nation of Israel today.

And so, I am going to provide both at the same time, hoping you will clearly see the magnificence of what Christ has done, and also the terrible plight that Israel remains in until they come to resolve what this rite pictures among them.

The first thing to consider is the wording of verse 1 where the Hebrew says, ha’adamah, “the ground,” rather than ha’eretz, or “the land.” It may be reading too much into this, but the land is Canaan, and the ground is where Israel is.

At the time of Christ’s ministry, Israel lived in the land, but they did not possess the land. All they possessed was the ground upon which the Lord placed them. As this is a typological anticipation of Christ, I think the difference is why this is stated.

The words are used interchangeably at times, but this appears to be more than a simple use of synonyms, especially because the last verse of the chapter also uses the word adamah, and that is a verse used by Paul when referring to Christ in the New Testament.

At the time of the finding of the body, the elders and the judges are brought forth to conduct an examination of facts. The judges made their determination, and the moral aspect of what is occurring is then handled by the elders.

The guilt of innocent blood rests upon Israel to this day. We know this is so because it is recorded in the gospels –

“So Pilate gave sentence that it should be as they requested. 25 And he released to them the one they requested, who for rebellion and murder had been thrown into prison; but he delivered Jesus to their will.” Luke 23:24, 25

This is then reconfirmed in Acts –

“But you denied the Holy One and the Just, and asked for a murderer to be granted to you, 15 and killed the Prince of life, whom God raised from the dead, of which we are witnesses.” Acts 3:14, 15

For a person who shed blood, there have been four provisions given up until this point. None of them applied. 1) The murderer’s blood has not been shed; 2) it was not an accidental killing and so the accidental killer cannot be kept within the city of refuge until his death; 3) as the killing was not accidental, the killer also cannot be kept within the city of refuge until the death of the high priest; and 4) the avenger of blood has not killed the accidental slayer.

The murderer had not been slain, nor did this meet the requirements of any of the other provisions for unsanctioned killing. In fact, Barabbas was asked for by the people, leaving an Innocent to be killed in his place.

This heifer, as a type of Christ, has been provided as a fifth means of covering over innocent blood. As we saw, Numbers 35:33 said that “blood defiles the land, and no atonement can be made for the land, for the blood that is shed on it, except by the blood of him who shed it.”

Therefore, to atone for the guilt of murder as is prescribed by Moses, an eglat baqar, or “heifer of the herd” is mandated. As we saw, the word eglah, or heifer, is derived from agol, meaning round or circular. In this case, it appears the word was chosen to convey the idea, “What goes around, comes around.”

The word “herd,” as we saw, is baqar. It comes from the verb baqar meaning to inquire or seek. The truth of the matter is to be sought out concerning who Christ is, and what He has done, and to seek the Lord’s favor through Christ. Also, as noted, the heifer being a female is the life-bearer, a term that beautifully reflects Christ.

The next designation was that the heifer was not to have been worked. This means it is young, implying innocence, just as Christ was, in His earthly ministry, innocent concerning sin. Further, any strength it has developed would be from itself, and not from the hand of man.

As man works an animal, it will grow in strength, but this one’s strength is its own. It is reflective of the words of Isaiah concerning the coming Christ –

“He saw that there was no man,
And wondered that there was no intercessor;
Therefore His own arm brought salvation for Him;
And His own righteousness, it sustained Him.” Isaiah 59:16

No man participated in the working of the heifer, and Christ performed His own work. His strength is His own. However, the next clause of that same verse explained exactly what “not worked” meant. The heifer had not pulled a yoke.

The ol, or yoke, comes from a root meaning, “to affect thoroughly.” This young heifer was not to be worked, meaning it was to have never been yoked. The idea of a yoke on an animal is subjection. On a person, it then conveys the idea of degradation.

The people have a yoke upon them because of the precept of the law having been violated. The oxen that had not been yoked is given to take that yoke away. Therefore, it would be unbefitting of the purpose of this rite being described by Moses, and for which this heifer was to be used, for it to have been placed under a yoke.

And so, this heifer looks to Christ who, though born under the yoke of the law was born sinless under that yoke. In other words, the law is a yoke because of sin.

For one who is sinless, and who remains sinless, there is no yoke of bondage; there is no subjugation to sin. Thus, what will happen with this heifer for the people will look to what Christ does for His people –

“Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30

In addition to His state under the law, this not being yoked is certainly explained in Christ’s voluntary service before the Lord. As a yoke implies bondage and forced labor, an animal that has never been yoked has lived free from such constraints. Such was true with Christ, as the author of Hebrews explains it –

“Previously saying, ‘Sacrifice and offering, burnt offerings, and offerings for sin You did not desire, nor had pleasure in them’ (which are offered according to the law), then He said, ‘Behold, I have come to do Your will, O God.’ He takes away the first that He may establish the second. 10 By that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.” Hebrews 10:8-10

Christ voluntarily came to do God’s will, and He voluntarily placed himself under the law. His sacrifice replaced these very rites which are mentioned under the law because His covenant replaced the covenant through which they came.

What could never actually bring God pleasure is replaced by that which pleased God the most. This heifer that was never yoked looks to Christ the sinless Man, and His sacrificial work on our behalf.

So, we have the other four provisions already given within the law for the atonement of blood that has been shed. And yet, none of those other provisions will atone for this category. Without a remedy, the land would remain defiled, and the death would remain unatoned for.

Thus, this fifth measure is provided. Together, they sum up the atonement for the guilt of unsanctioned shedding of blood – grace. Five is the number of grace, and God has provided these five ways to accomplish it.

As we noted, it is the elders, those morally responsible for the actions of the younger people in the city, who are expected to conduct this rite

The rite is to be at a nakhal, or valley. As we saw, the word comes from the verb nakhal meaning to inherit or take as a possession. It anticipates Christ who will inherit the right to establish a New Covenant through His work.

The nahkal is then defined by the word ethan, or perennial, it is an unending, or never-ceasing inheritance. In this, the qualities of the sacrificial rite are found both in the nature of the heifer and the surrounding land. It all anticipates Christ and what He is doing.

Once at the location, and with the heifer, the neck of the heifer is to be broken. As we noted, the heifer is a clean animal. In this case, this clean animal was to die in this unworked valley in order to atone for the sin of murder, thus becoming unclean through the act. It would bear the guilt of the unsanctioned killing. The clean atones for the defilement that resulted from the murder.

This is what Christ did, as it says in 2 Corinthians 5 –

“For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” 2 Corinthians 5:21

It is at this time that the third set of people are introduced into the narrative, the priests. Of them, it said, v’al pihem yihyeh kal riv v’kal naga – “and upon their mouth shall be every strife and every stroke.” Theirs is the determination for this matter. What they decide is what the Lord will go with.

And it is the same groups that were present at the trial of Jesus. First, he stood before the Sanhedrin who judged the matter. He stood before the elders who judged the matter. And He stood before the priests who judged the matter.

Murder has been committed, an Innocent stands before them, for their decision to be rendered. In this, the mouths of the priests speak out their decision, along with the elders –

But the chief priests and elders persuaded the multitudes that they should ask for Barabbas and destroy Jesus. 21 The governor answered and said to them, “Which of the two do you want me to release to you?”
They said, “Barabbas!”
22 Pilate said to them, “What then shall I do with Jesus who is called Christ?”
They all said to him, “Let Him be crucified!”
23 Then the governor said, “Why, what evil has He done?”
But they cried out all the more, saying, “Let Him be crucified!” Matthew 27:20-23

At this, the rite takes a perfectly ironic twist when we next read –

“When Pilate saw that he could not prevail at all, but rather that a tumult was rising, he took water and washed his hands before the multitude, saying, ‘I am innocent of the blood of this just Person. You see to it.’ Matthew 27:24

Instead of the elders, the moral representatives of the people washing their hands, Pilate is the one who washes his. Israel was to condemn their murderer. They failed to do so. Instead, they condemned the Innocent.

And yet, in condemning the Innocent, they brought about the very means of their ability to receive forgiveness. They sent Christ, who is the fulfillment of this heifer typology, to His death.

To this day, they proclaim their personal innocence while standing over the dead heifer which had been treated as the murderer in type. And who is it that bears the bloodguilt that they claim no knowledge of? It is them.

They failed to have Barabbas executed. Thus, they bear the bloodguilt of the person Barabbas murdered. But they also bear the bloodguilt of the Innocent who was sent to take away their guilt! That is recorded in the next words found in Matthew –

“And all the people answered and said, ‘His blood be on us and on our children.’
26 Then he released Barabbas to them; and when he had scourged Jesus, he delivered Him to be crucified.” Matthew 27:25, 26

Israel brought on itself its own curse. And that curse continues to this day. Instead of acknowledging their part in the redemptive events they participated in, and which would have provided them atonement, they failed to do so.

The elders represent the people of the city. The city is a city of Israel, and thus their city now stands representative of the cities of Israel. And the cities of Israel stand as representative of all of the people within them. Therefore, the proclamation and petition by these men stand as representative of the entire nation.

Peter and the other apostles explained this to the people, but they rejected what they were told –

“Yet now, brethren, I know that you did it in ignorance, as did also your rulers. 18 But those things which God foretold by the mouth of all His prophets, that the Christ would suffer, He has thus fulfilled. 19 Repent therefore and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, so that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, 20 and that He may send Jesus Christ, who was preached to you before, 21 whom heaven must receive until the times of restoration of all things, which God has spoken by the mouth of all His holy prophets since the world began.” Acts 3:17-21

As we saw, the words, “on their behalf.” are third person plural. The people of the nation are given atonement. Rather than the nation as a whole, each person is forgiven. Thus, typologically, each person must come to Christ. For Israel, when they as a nation come to Him, they will also receive national atonement.

What was accomplished in this passage today is a typological anticipation of Christ. Even if the people conducting the rite were not priests, the animal and the surrounding area both anticipate the person of Christ in His priestly role. Therefore, the Levites were included in the rite as well – thus reflecting Him in that capacity.

As such, Israel as a nation remains unforgiven for their actions in the unsanctioned shedding of innocent blood. The New Covenant has been initiated, and until they come to Christ through His fulfillment of these Old Testament types, they will continue to remain unforgiven.

For us – Jew and Gentile – who have come to Christ, the debts are paid. Those things which separated us from God have been atoned for. Now, full, final, and forever forgiveness has been obtained through His magnificent work.

God has promised to bring Israel into this New Covenant, and that day is probably not far off. They are back in the land, the nations are being aligned according to the prophetic scenario, and the nations will be judged for their actions.

Before that, the rapture of the church will occur. Let us be sure we are ready for that day. It just cannot be far off at this point.

Closing Verse: “Oh, do not remember former iniquities against us!
Let Your tender mercies come speedily to meet us,
For we have been brought very low.
Help us, O God of our salvation,
For the glory of Your name;
And deliver us, and provide atonement for our sins,
For Your name’s sake!” Psalm 79:8, 9

Next Week: Deuteronomy 21:10-17 A rather important subject for Moses to tell… (The Rights of Wives in Israel) (62nd Deuteronomy Sermon)

The Lord has you exactly where He wants you. He has a good plan and purpose for you. But He also has expectations of you as He prepares you for entrance into His Land of Promise. So, follow Him and trust Him and He will do marvelous things for you and through you.

And Atonement Shall Be Provided

“If anyone is found slain
Lying in the field in the land
Which the LORD your God is giving you to possess
And it is not known who killed him, the killer is not at hand

Then your elders and your judges
Shall go out and measure, whether near or far
The distance from the slain man
To the surrounding cities, to where they are

And it shall be that the elders of the city
Nearest to the slain man, that poor dead folk
Will take a heifer which has not been worked
And which has not pulled with a yoke

The elders of that city shall bring the heifer down
To a valley with flowing water, so shall it be
Which is neither plowed nor sown
And they shall break the heifer’s neck there in the valley

Then the priests, the sons of Levi, shall come near
For the LORD your God has chosen them
———-to minister to Him accordingly
And to bless in the name of the LORD
By their word every controversy and every assault shall settled be

And all the elders of that city
Nearest to the slain man, as instructed by me
Shall wash their hands over the heifer
Whose neck was broken in the valley

Then they shall answer and say, to this they shall commit
‘Our hands have not shed this blood, nor have our eyes seen it

Provide atonement, O LORD, for Your people Israel
Whom You have redeemed, and do not lay innocent blood
———-a little or a flood
To the charge of Your people Israel
And atonement shall be provided on their behalf for the blood

So you shall put away the guilt of innocent blood from among you
When you do what is right in the sight of the LORD
———-so shall you do

Lord God, turn our hearts to be obedient to Your word
Give us wisdom to be ever faithful to You
May we carefully heed each thing we have heard
Yes, Lord God may our hearts be faithful and true

And we shall be content and satisfied in You alone
We will follow You as we sing our songs of praise
Hallelujah to You; to us Your path You have shown
Hallelujah we shall sing to You for all of our days

Hallelujah and Amen…

 

 

 

“If anyone is found slain, lying in the field in the land which the Lord your God is giving you to possess, and it is not known who killed him, then your elders and your judges shall go out and measure the distance from the slain man to the surrounding cities. And it shall be that the elders of the city nearest to the slain man will take a heifer which has not been worked and which has not pulled with a yoke. The elders of that city shall bring the heifer down to a valley with flowing water, which is neither plowed nor sown, and they shall break the heifer’s neck there in the valley. Then the priests, the sons of Levi, shall come near, for the Lord your God has chosen them to minister to Him and to bless in the name of the Lord; by their word every controversy and every assault shall be settled. And all the elders of that city nearest to the slain man shall wash their hands over the heifer whose neck was broken in the valley. Then they shall answer and say, ‘Our hands have not shed this blood, nor have our eyes seen it. Provide atonement, O Lord, for Your people Israel, whom You have redeemed, and do not lay innocent blood to the charge of Your people Israel.’ And atonement shall be provided on their behalf for the blood. So you shall put away the guilt of innocent blood from among you when you do what is right in the sight of the Lord.

 

Deuteronomy 20:10-20

Deuteronomy 20:10-20
Conduct for War, Part II

In today’s passage, we will finish up Moses’ words of this chapter concerning proper conduct for war. What is stated in the Old Testament is for Israel to conduct their affairs according to the dispensation in which they lived.

These rules for warfare, however, actually extend into our dispensation in their own way. The day before typing this sermon, Jim opened the church and mentioned messianic believers. At times, there is a difference between messianics and Hebrew Roots.

In other words, there are some good messianic congregations that completely get God’s offer of grace as is revealed in Yeshua (the Hebrew name of Jesus). And then, there are messianics who are exactly who Paul was referring to in the book of Galatians. They are no different than those of the modern Hebrew Roots movement.

I got an email about Jim’s comments from a nice lady, but one who was being led down the wrong path in this regard – “Dear Charlie, The gentleman who gave opening comments, yesterday, made a rather uninformed remark, re: messianic Jews. Their entire basis is to live as first-century Christians did. THAT is WHY they keep G-D’s seven Holy Feasts. Moses tells us these are The Lord’s feasts, not “the Jews feasts”…. Here is a post you might want to share with your friend. Sincerely, and with Love, XXX (a messianic Jew.)”

First, it is irrelevant if she is a messianic Jew or not. That means nothing. Adherence to Scripture is what identifies a right believer who is in Christ. Secondly, I didn’t bother sending the post on to Jim. The verses were completely out of context. One of them was our text verse for today…

Text Verse: “But even if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again, if anyone preaches any other gospel to you than what you have received, let him be accursed.” Galatians 1:8, 9

My response to her was as you may expect – “There is a difference between a person observing the feasts as a cultural expression, meaning as a Jew might within the culture, and a person who is attempting to merit the Lord’s favor through adherence to the Law of Moses.

The Feasts of the Lord are fulfilled in the Lord. They are no longer to be observed as a part of faith in Christ because Christ is the fulfillment of them. (Hebrews 7:18, 8:13, and 10:9). The Law – in its entirety, is annulled, obsolete, and set aside. It is nailed to the cross (Colossian 2:14).

The feasts, the Sabbath, the dietary laws – all are set aside through the work of Christ (Colossians 2:15, 16). If you are attempting to merit God’s favor through Law observance, you are exactly who Paul is writing about in Galatians 1:6-8. He is not arguing for law observance, he is saying it is anathema.

Paul says in 1 Corinthians 7:19 – “Circumcision is nothing and uncircumcision is nothing, but keeping the commandments of God is what matters.”

Circumcision is a mandate of the Law of Moses (Leviticus 12:3). Therefore, Paul cannot be speaking of the Law of Moses when he refers to “keeping the commandments of God.” Christ died in fulfillment of the law. What do you intend to add to that for your righteousness?

If this is what you are trying to convey to me, I wish you well in your efforts. It is an infinite ladder to climb, and you have a very short life to attempt to get to the top. You will not make it. Rest in Christ (Hebrews 4:3) and give up on your attempts at self-righteousness. Charlie”

She came back and was very gracious, promising to watch the sermons I linked to her concerning the Feasts of the Lord. I hope she will take them to heart. She, and her doctrine, are typologically seen in our verses today. It was great that I didn’t have to even think of an opening for the sermon, it came right to me in an email from someone whose email fits the typology.

Important things like keeping things in context and resting solely in the grace of Jesus Christ rather than on one’s own righteousness are to be found in His superior word. And so, let us turn to that precious word once again and… May God speak to us through His word today and may His glorious name ever be praised.

I. The Cites Which are Very Far from You (verses 10-14)

The words now assume that everyone in the army is acceptable for battle. The first nine verses were given to prepare the army for the engagement by removing any who had cause to not wage war.

Those who had built a new house and not dedicated it, those who had planted a vineyard and not eaten of it, those who were betrothed and who had not married the woman, and those who were fearful and fainthearted and who would thus discourage the other soldiers were all given exemption from service.

With that accomplished, the battle was to be engaged with those who remained and were brought forth in order to battle a city. However, instead of just arbitrarily destroying cities, the sanctity of human life – even the lives of non-Hebrew people – was to be considered first and foremost. As it now says…

10 “When you go near a city to fight against it,

ki tiqrav el ir l’hilakhem aleha – “When you approach unto city to wage war.” The words now will be further explained in verses 16-18 as meaning any cities not found within the borders of Canaan. This would be war for the sake of expansion, as retaliation against aggression, and so on. The Old Testament is filled with references of such instances of battles outside of Canaan.

Israel was not limited to Canaan alone, and they were given the right to wage warfare as they saw fit. In such instances where they were specifically drawn up against an enemy within a city…

10 (con’t) then proclaim an offer of peace to it.

Once arranged for the battle, and once the enemy was fully aware of what lay ahead, an olive branch was to be first extended to that city. As it says, v’qarata eleha l’shalom – “and you have called to it to [with regard to] peace.”

Such offers were not limited to the people of Israel in their waging war, but are also seen as Israel’s enemies came against them. An example of this is found in 2 Kings 18 when the Assyrians came against Jerusalem. Before attacking the city, peace was offered to the people –

“Then the Rabshakeh said to them, ‘Say now to Hezekiah, ‘Thus says the great king, the king of Assyria: “What confidence is this in which you trust? 20 You speak of having plans and power for war; but they are mere words. And in whom do you trust, that you rebel against me? 21 Now look! You are trusting in the staff of this broken reed, Egypt, on which if a man leans, it will go into his hand and pierce it. So is Pharaoh king of Egypt to all who trust in him. 22 But if you say to me, ‘We trust in the Lord our God,’ is it not He whose high places and whose altars Hezekiah has taken away, and said to Judah and Jerusalem, ‘You shall worship before this altar in Jerusalem’?” ’ 23 Now therefore, I urge you, give a pledge to my master the king of Assyria, and I will give you two thousand horses—if you are able on your part to put riders on them!” 2 Kings 18:19-23

Such an offer of peace was not without conditions, though. In the case of Jerusalem, if they accepted the offer, they would be subject to the Assyrians. In that subjection, they would eventually be exiled from their land, as they are told in advance of the coming battle…

Then the Rabshakeh stood and called out with a loud voice in Hebrew, and spoke, saying, ‘Hear the word of the great king, the king of Assyria! 29 Thus says the king: ‘Do not let Hezekiah deceive you, for he shall not be able to deliver you from his hand; 30 nor let Hezekiah make you trust in the Lord, saying, “The Lord will surely deliver us; this city shall not be given into the hand of the king of Assyria.” ’ 31 Do not listen to Hezekiah; for thus says the king of Assyria: ‘Make peace with me by a present and come out to me; and every one of you eat from his own vine and every one from his own fig tree, and every one of you drink the waters of his own cistern; 32 until I come and take you away to a land like your own land, a land of grain and new wine, a land of bread and vineyards, a land of olive groves and honey, that you may live and not die. But do not listen to Hezekiah, lest he persuade you, saying, “The Lord will deliver us.” 2 Kings 18:28-32

As can be seen from this and other such instances interspersed throughout the Old Testament, it was more advantageous to all to avoid the battle if possible. There would be less chance of death to the soldiers, more plunder for the victors, and so on. Even Jesus refers this general sentiment in one of His discourses –

“Or what king, going to make war against another king, does not sit down first and consider whether he is able with ten thousand to meet him who comes against him with twenty thousand? 32 Or else, while the other is still a great way off, he sends a delegation and asks conditions of peace. 33 So likewise, whoever of you does not forsake all that he has cannot be My disciple.” Luke 14:31-33

For these other nations, this offer was optional, and it was not always used. However, for Israel, it was mandatory. By their law, they were required to first offer peace to the city they were about to engage in battle. Once that offer was made and accepted, the benefits of it would be immediate and they would be highly favorable – to both person and to property.

As I said, the first and most immediate benefit would be that the soldiers would not face any chance of death during the siege. And more, sieges were costly. Supplies would have to be brought in for extended periods of time, and during times of attack, even the weaker of the city could use the fortifications to their advantage –

“Then Abimelech went to Thebez, and he encamped against Thebez and took it. 51 But there was a strong tower in the city, and all the men and women—all the people of the city—fled there and shut themselves in; then they went up to the top of the tower. 52 So Abimelech came as far as the tower and fought against it; and he drew near the door of the tower to burn it with fire. 53 But a certain woman dropped an upper millstone on Abimelech’s head and crushed his skull. 54 Then he called quickly to the young man, his armorbearer, and said to him, “Draw your sword and kill me, lest men say of me, ‘A woman killed him.’” So his young man thrust him through, and he died. 55 And when the men of Israel saw that Abimelech was dead, they departed, every man to his place.” Judges 9:50-55

In conducting warfare, death is the anticipated and accepted result. In conducting siege warfare, it could come even from the hands of someone who would not otherwise participate in a battle. Such an offer of peace, therefore, provided benefits beyond the plunder inside the city. Therefore, it is both the smart choice for any army, but it was also the precept of law for Israel…

11 And it shall be that if they accept your offer of peace,

It is certainly the favored option. For Israel, it meant no extended siege, no chance of losing soldiers, and a free hand in what would come next. For those who accepted the offer, and for the Lord who created them, it meant their lives would be spared, the certain intent of the command in the first place.

11 (con’t) and open to you,

Obviously, the condition of peace means free reign for the victors. The goods of the city would be under the authority and disposition of Israel. The people would be subject to them, and they would face a much different life than they faced moments before, but they would have life. The results of the choice are…

11 (con’t) then all the people who are found in it shall be placed under tribute to you, and serve you.

The word translated as tribute is mas. It does not signify a payment by one kingdom to another. It deals with subjection of the individuals. As a noun it more rightly signifies a forced slave. It is derived from masas, meaning “to dissolve,” or “to melt.”

In other words, an unconditional surrender has taken place. As such, the people would be under the heavy burden of forced labor because they had become slaves of Israel. Thus, it would be as if they were melting from their efforts. As the old saying says, “To the victor goes the spoils.”

The life had been spared, but it would be a difficult one. Because of this, some may opt for another avenue when offered such terms. For them, Moses gives instruction…

12 Now if the city will not make peace with you,

When a city decided that they may prevail for whatever reason, the offer of peace would be rejected. This could be for any number of reasons. One that was innovatively brought about was by Hezekiah. When the Assyrians came to attack, the water was diverted away from the besieging army –

After these deeds of faithfulness, Sennacherib king of Assyria came and entered Judah; he encamped against the fortified cities, thinking to win them over to himself. And when Hezekiah saw that Sennacherib had come, and that his purpose was to make war against Jerusalem, he consulted with his leaders and commanders to stop the water from the springs which were outside the city; and they helped him. Thus many people gathered together who stopped all the springs and the brook that ran through the land, saying, “Why should the kings of Assyria come and find much water?” 2 Chronicles 32:1-4

However, this wasn’t Hezekiah’s main area of confidence. Rather, it was one way of depriving the enemy of its ability to effectively engage in siege warfare.

Another reason for declining an offer of peace was a reliance on the stronghold itself, as well as the abilities and capabilities of the defenders. In the case of Hezekiah, he not only was set in a well-fortified city with well-suited men, but he ultimately had confidence in the Defender of Israel –

“And he strengthened himself, built up all the wall that was broken, raised it up to the towers, and built another wall outside; also he repaired the Millo in the City of David, and made weapons and shields in abundance. Then he set military captains over the people, gathered them together to him in the open square of the city gate, and gave them encouragement, saying, ‘Be strong and courageous; do not be afraid nor dismayed before the king of Assyria, nor before all the multitude that is with him; for there are more with us than with him. With him is an arm of flesh; but with us is the Lord our God, to help us and to fight our battles.’ And the people were strengthened by the words of Hezekiah king of Judah.” 2 Chronicles 32:5-8

For Hezekiah, turning down the offer of peace proved the right choice. The Lord Himself intervened and destroyed one hundred and eighty-five thousand of the Assyrians in a single night. At other times, Jerusalem was out of favor with the Lord, and they suffered at the hands of those they failed to yield to.

Likewise, those cities that failed to accept Israel’s offer of peace would have to face their own bad choice as well…

12 (con’t) but war against you, then you shall besiege it.

The decision had to be weighed by those inside. It is certain what the consequences of turning down the offer of peace would be, and that would surely weigh heavily upon the people inside. But it would also further the resolve of them as well. The battle, on either side of the walls, would not be an easy one. An example of a city being besieged in this manner is found in 2 Samuel 11 –

“Then David said to the messenger, ‘Thus you shall say to Joab: “Do not let this thing displease you, for the sword devours one as well as another. Strengthen your attack against the city, and overthrow it.” So encourage him.’” 2 Samuel 11:25

Rabbah, was east of the Jordan, and thus outside of Canaan proper. Therefore, it would not be subject to the laws coming in verses 15-18. Despite what is said by Moses in the coming verses, it appears that the law was not exactingly adhered to. For now, the actions taken by David against Rabbah were –

“Now Joab fought against Rabbah of the people of Ammon, and took the royal city. 27 And Joab sent messengers to David, and said, ‘I have fought against Rabbah, and I have taken the city’s water supply. 28 Now therefore, gather the rest of the people together and encamp against the city and take it, lest I take the city and it be called after my name.’ 29 So David gathered all the people together and went to Rabbah, fought against it, and took it. 30 Then he took their king’s crown from his head. Its weight was a talent of gold, with precious stones. And it was set on David’s head. Also he brought out the spoil of the city in great abundance. 31 And he brought out the people who were in it, and put them to work with saws and iron picks and iron axes, and made them cross over to the brick works. So he did to all the cities of the people of Ammon. Then David and all the people returned to Jerusalem.” 2 Samuel 12:26-31

From this account, it appears that the law was not adhered to exactingly, unless those who were put to work with saws, iron picks, and iron axes were women and children. This is because…

13 And when the Lord your God delivers it into your hands, you shall strike every male in it with the edge of the sword.

It is the Lord who ultimately brings the victory. The people refused the offer of peace, the law is written, and the penalty mandated by the law was to be upheld. Therefore, when a city refused the offer of peace, the law called for every male (ostensibly every male of age, but maybe even the young ones) to be struck down.

The Hebrew reads l’pi kharev – “to mouth sword.” It is the normal description used, and it signifies that the sword is a devouring instrument. As it cuts, it is as if the soul of the person is eaten up. This was the prescribed doom for the males, however…

14 But the women, the little ones, the livestock, and all that is in the city, all its spoil, you shall plunder for yourself;

The verse begins with raq. It is an adverb that gives a limiting sense. Thus, it signifies something like “Only.” It is a way of separating the previous group from that which is to be spared.

Despite what happens to the men, who took the challenge, lost, and thus forfeited their lives, these others were to be spared and become plunder for the people. An example of the disposition of these groups is found in Numbers 31 when Israel fought against Midian. The plunder of people and other spoil was to be divided among all of Israel as defined in that passage.

14 (con’t) and you shall eat the enemies’ plunder which the Lord your God gives you.

The spoils of war would become food for the people. And again, Moses makes a point of noting that it is plunder given to them by the Lord. The obvious implication is that without the Lord, such a victory would not be possible. Therefore, the people were to be obedient to the precept.

The sanctity of life must be observed by you
I set the guidelines which you must live by
Do all of the things I tell you to do
If you think on the reasons for each, you will understand why

But even if you don’t understand
You are to obey that which you are told
Things are to be done based on what I have planned
And for you, things will properly unfold

I am the Lord Your God and what I instruct is right
So be obedient to the word and do as you are told
In this, you will find favor in My sight
And for you, things will properly unfold

II. Cities of Canaan and Trees for Food (verses 15-20)

15 Thus you shall do to all the cities which are very far from you, which are not of the cities of these nations.

The meaning of this is that such warfare, as has just been described in the previous verses, was to be conducted on any nation outside of the land of Canaan. In contrast to them are the “cities of these nations,” meaning all cities within the borders of Canaan as described in Numbers 34. For them, something different was expected…

16 “But of the cities of these peoples which the Lord your God gives you as an inheritance,

Again, the word raq is used. Only. This is to make a complete distinction between what has been said, and what will now be said. A limitation is being imposed.

The inheritance is Canaan. Thus, all the cities within Canaan fall within the parameters of Moses’ words now. And as such, all people within those cities are included in what is commanded. This is something that has already been commanded by Moses in Chapter 7. And that is…

16 (con’t) you shall let nothing that breathes remain alive,

lo te-khayah kal neshamah – “no you shall let live all breath.”

The words here are as clear as crystal, but they do need to be qualified. The mandate is upon the people. Every man, woman, and child was to be included and no exceptions are given.

At the word of the Lord, it could include all the animals as well. Such was the case with the city of Jericho –

“So the people shouted when the priests blew the trumpets. And it happened when the people heard the sound of the trumpet, and the people shouted with a great shout, that the wall fell down flat. Then the people went up into the city, every man straight before him, and they took the city. 21 And they utterly destroyed all that was in the city, both man and woman, young and old, ox and sheep and donkey, with the edge of the sword.” Joshua 6:20, 21

However, exceptions for the animals were made for other cities –

Now the Lord said to Joshua: ‘Do not be afraid, nor be dismayed; take all the people of war with you, and arise, go up to Ai. See, I have given into your hand the king of Ai, his people, his city, and his land. And you shall do to Ai and its king as you did to Jericho and its king. Only its spoil and its cattle you shall take as booty for yourselves. Lay an ambush for the city behind it.’” Joshua 8:1, 2

The circumstances were totally up to what the Lord determined, but the circumstances never gave exceptions for sparing the people of the cities. Despite this, Adam Clarke incorrectly states –

“After all, many plausible arguments have been brought to prove that even these seven Canaanitish nations might be received into mercy, provided they,

  1. Renounced their idolatry;
  2. Became subject to the Jews; and,
  3. Paid annual tribute: and that it was only in case these terms were rejected, that they were not to leave alive in such a city any thing that breathed.”

It is true that Israel failed to exterminate the inhabitants, and such things came about. It is also true that Israel made agreements not allowed under the law with various people, such as Rahab the harlot, and people groups, such as the Gibeonites. However, these are instances of failing to uphold the law as it is spoken forth.

The mandate was for extermination. Despite Israel’s failure in this, good came forth, such as Rahab entering into the line of David and ultimately that of the Lord Himself. The original mandate, however, is set forth clearly and unambiguously…

17 but you shall utterly destroy them:

ki hakherem takharimem – “for accursing them, you shall make them accursed.” The word is kharam, and it signifies to devote to destruction as an offering to God. When kharam is pronounced, whatever the Lord included as kharam was to be utterly destroyed. It is the same words spoken in Chapter 7 –

“When the Lord your God brings you into the land which you go to possess, and has cast out many nations before you, the Hittites and the Girgashites and the Amorites and the Canaanites and the Perizzites and the Hivites and the Jebusites, seven nations greater and mightier than you, and when the Lord your God delivers them over to you, you shall conquer them and utterly destroy them. You shall make no covenant with them nor show mercy to them.” Deuteronomy 7:1, 2

17 (con’t) the Hittite and the Amorite and the Canaanite and the Perizzite and the Hivite and the Jebusite,

Unlike Chapter 7, Moses leaves off the Girgashites, naming only six, instead of seven, nations. It is actually a sweet note of authenticity because anyone adding stuff into the word would have been careful to ensure the list was always the same. Moses felt no such constraints. This mandate is, as Moses says…

17 (con’t) just as the Lord your God has commanded you,

This takes the reader all the way back to Exodus 23 –

For My Angel will go before you and bring you in to the Amorites and the Hittites and the Perizzites and the Canaanites and the Hivites and the Jebusites; and I will cut them off.” Exodus 23:23

The Lord said He would cut them off, but he then said just a few verses later that Israel would do so –

“For I will deliver the inhabitants of the land into your hand, and you shall drive them out before you. 32 You shall make no covenant with them, nor with their gods. 33 They shall not dwell in your land, lest they make you sin against Me. For if you serve their gods, it will surely be a snare to you.” Exodus 23:31-33

This synergistic (working together) task of exterminating the inhabitants is seen time and again. Interestingly, the list of nations Moses gives here in Deuteronomy 20 is the same as that just noted from Exodus 23, except the order is different. Again, it is a sweet touch of authenticity that the words are original.

Another parallel to what the Lord said in Exodus 23, and which Moses now repeats in Deuteronomy 20, is seen in the next words…

18 lest they teach you to do according to all their abominations which they have done for their gods,

The Hebrew is more specific: l’maan asher lo yelamedu etkem laasot kekol toavotam asher asu lelohehem – “to end purpose which no they teach you to do according to all their abominations which they have done to [with regard to] their gods.”

The Hebrew, in this one verse of the entire passage, has gone from the second person singular (you Israel) to the second person plural (you all). The idea is that each person is libel to be infected by any person that is spared. Once that person is, he can then spread the infection to others.

Thus, the mandate is complete annihilation of all of the inhabitants. This is the great reason. Not only have they done these things, but they will then infect Israel and cause them to do these things. In such a state, Moses says…

18 (con’t) and you sin against the Lord your God.

v’khatatem l’Yehovah elohekem – “And you sin to [with regard to] Yehovah your God.” The thought here is not that they would serve the gods of these people groups, but that they would incorrectly serve Yehovah. The contrast is seen in the words lelohehem and l’Yehovah – “to their gods” and “to Yehovah.”

It is true that Israel would, and did, serve the other gods of Canaan. But this is dealing with incorrectly serving the Lord. This then follows in type to proper service of Jesus. He is the same Lord, but we now have the Substance of Whom Israel’s shadow only anticipated.

To improperly serve the Lord meant that they were not fulfilling the typology of Christ to come. For us to improperly serve the Lord means that we are failing to honor Christ who has come. For Israel only one means and mode of worship was acceptable. For us, only one gospel is acceptable –

“I marvel that you are turning away so soon from Him who called you in the grace of Christ, to a different gospel, which is not another; but there are some who trouble you and want to pervert the gospel of Christ.” Galatians 1:6, 7

Though the circumstances have changed, and though the dispensation is different, the overall message of unity of worship remains the same. There is one proper path, and there are all others. With that understood, the most complicated verse of the chapter now arrives…

19 “When you besiege a city for a long time, while making war against it to take it,

The words are plain and obvious. The passage has been speaking of warring against cities and how to conduct such warfare. In this case, Israel is besieging a city during a war for an extended period of time in order to take the city. In such a case…

19 (con’t) you shall not destroy its trees by wielding an ax against them;

This has to be taken in relation to what is said in the next clause concerning eating, and in verse 20 where trees for food are spoken of. Moses is not referring to all trees, but of food trees here. Israel is told they are not to destroy food trees by cutting them down in order to conduct war. That they are fruit trees is next stated…

19 (con’t) if you can eat of them,

ki mimenu tokel – “For of them you can eat.” There is benefit to be derived from the trees apart from building siege works. The siege is long, and these trees can serve a purpose in this extended siege. Therefore…

19 (con’t) do not cut them down to use in the siege, for the tree of the field is man’s food.

The difficultly of the Hebrew here has caused a multitude of possible translations. The words say, “and them no do you cut down for the man tree the field to come in from your face in the siege.”

Some suggestions are:

“for the tree of the field is man’s food.”
“for (the life) of man is the tree of the field.”
“for is the tree of the field a man to come before you in the siege?”
“for the man, the tree of the field cannot offer resistance.”
“it is there for this, namely, your support, that it (the city) may be besieged by you.”

The interrogative seems to be the best way of looking at this: Is the tree of the field a man that it should come before you in the siege? You are benefitting from it, it will not join the enemy and fight against you, so do not cut it down.

The point is that a battle is being fought, there is an extended siege against a strong city, and the trees that are for food, meaning that which bears fruit, are to not be cut down.

Without taking the typology too far, it must be noted that trees are equated with people at times. There are those who bear fruit, and there are those who do not. An example of this is found in Psalm 1 –

“He shall be like a tree
Planted by the rivers of water,
That brings forth its fruit in its season,
Whose leaf also shall not wither;
And whatever he does shall prosper.” Psalm 1:3

From a New Testament perspective, one might look at this verse in relation to Paul’s words concerning warfare in 2 Corinthians 10. While we are waging war and pulling down strongholds, we shouldn’t destroy the work of those who are bearing fruit.

They are productive even if they are not actively engaged with us in our own battle. As Jesus said it succinctly, “For he who is not against us is on our side” (Mark 9:40). Moses’ words concerning trees certainly extends to this spiritual application in our Christian warfare. With this in mind…

*20 (fin) Only the trees which you know are not trees for food you may destroy and cut down, to build siegeworks against the city that makes war with you, until it is subdued.

There is a strong emphasis in the words, “Only – tree which you know that not tree for food, it, you may destroy.” The tree which is not for food is set in complete contrast to those that are. Of such trees, they may be chopped down and employed in building siegeworks.

Again, the words here tend to look to the words of Jesus in the coming ministry. Though speaking under the law to Israel, the precept remains the same –

“Therefore bear fruits worthy of repentance, and do not begin to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ For I say to you that God is able to raise up children to Abraham from these stones. And even now the ax is laid to the root of the trees. Therefore every tree which does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.” Luke 3:8, 9

The fact that Jesus brought up Abraham shows that He is referring to righteousness by faith, not through the law. Those who share a false gospel of works-based righteousness, such as the Hebrew Roots movement, can be – as it were – cut down and used in the siege.

In other words, they become the very instruments for defeating the enemy. Using their doctrine as an example of what is useless for man, they are to be cut down – verbally destroyed – in order to provide the proper employment of the gospel to destroy the enemy.

The lesson is that of apologetics, meaning using that which is of no value as an example to argue against in order to defend the faith and to then go on the offensive.

As we close out Deuteronomy 20, it is good to remember that what is presented here concerning warfare is not as it initially appears. Israel is not being given a pass to destroy other nations at will. They are given specific guidelines in order to conduct warfare.

As these guidelines are a part of the law, failing to uphold them brings exactly the opposite of life and prosperity. Those who were set for destruction are because the Lord determined it was to be so. Those who are not were to be treated in the manner set forth by the law.

War is a part of the human experience, and Israel was to be the Lord’s executor of judgment at times. And, at times, Israel had judgment brought upon them for failing to properly conduct its affairs. Those Jews of today who use Scripture to demonstrate that they are the Lord’s people, and are above His judgment, are self-deluded.

And the people of the world who look at Israel as some sort of horrible group of people because they destroyed the inhabitants of Canaan have simply failed to understand that what they did was in obedience to the Lord.

It is, therefore, not the Jews that they are reviling, but the God of the Jews, the Lord, that they bring accusation against. Everything must be taken in light of Scripture, or it will be tainted. But more, even that which is in Scripture must be taken in its proper context or it will be tainted.

I opened today by mentioning a person who was being misled by exactly the types of people that are being typologically prefigured in the cutting down of the non-fruit-bearing trees. Just because someone says they are of the Lord, it does not mean it is so. Those who are the Lords are those who bear fruit to the Lord, believing by faith. And those who bear fruit do so when they live in faith, not by works of the law.

As I said during the sermon, to improperly serve the Lord means that we are failing to honor Christ who has come. For Israel only one means and mode of worship was acceptable. For us, only one gospel is acceptable. There is no other. Be sure to wage your warfare according to the rules set down in the New Testament.

We are soldiers, we are in a war, and we must conduct ourselves with right doctrine and in the means and mode directed by the Lord for those who have been saved by the blood of Christ, to the glory of God the Father.

As an added bonus, I will go over the points of the meme that was sent to me…

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CALLING ALL PASTORS

*In Galatians 2, Paul Says that there is only one gospel and those who teach a different one are under a curse. In 2 Peter 3:14-17, Peter warns that many will misinterpret Paul’s difficult to understand writings, resulting in lawlessness and destruction. Are you absolutely certain that you’re not misrepresenting Paul?

Heading. First point. Paul says there is only one gospel. That is found in 1 Corinthians 15:3, 4. It is based on faith, nothing else. He then goes on to minutely detail the heresy of reintroducing the law, using circumcision as a baseline for this in Galatians.

Heading. Second Point. Peter’s words in 2 Peter 3 concerning Paul are exactly what Paul speaks of when he rebukes Peter in Galatians 2. It is as clear as crystal what Paul says to Peter there –

Now when Peter had come to Antioch, I withstood him to his face, because he was to be blamed; 12 for before certain men came from James, he would eat with the Gentiles; but when they came, he withdrew and separated himself, fearing those who were of the circumcision. 13 And the rest of the Jews also played the hypocrite with him, so that even Barnabas was carried away with their hypocrisy.

14 But when I saw that they were not straightforward about the truth of the gospel, I said to Peter before them all, “If you, being a Jew, live in the manner of Gentiles and not as the Jews, why do you compel Gentiles to live as Jews? 15 We who are Jews by nature, and not sinners of the Gentiles, 16 knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law but by faith in Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Christ Jesus, that we might be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the law; for by the works of the law no flesh shall be justified.

*1. Paul always kept the Sabbath (Acts 17:2, Acts 18:4).

  1. Paul did not “always keep the Sabbath” as claimed by the meme. He went into the synagogues on the Sabbath because that is when Jews met, not because he felt it necessary to observe the Sabbath. In fact, he argues for the EXACT opposite in Romans 14:5, 6, Colossians 2:16, and elsewhere. Hebrews (certainly written by Paul) says, in the middle of several chapters of discussing the Sabbath, that in Christ we find our rest. He meticulously demonstrates that Christ is the fulfillment of the Sabbath and those Jews who have not come to Christ have not found their rest. They are still living out the shadow, of which Christ is the Substance.

*2. Paul kept the Feasts (Acts 20:6, Acts 20:16).

  1. This is misleading. Paul observed this feast, and it says he did for a particular purpose. Paul is clear about why he did things in 1 Corinthians 9 –

For though I am free from all men, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win the more; 20 and to the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might win Jews; to those who are under the law, as under the  aw, that I might win those who are under the law; 21 to those who are without law, as without law (not being without  aw toward God, but under law toward Christ), that I might win those who are without law; 22 to the weak I became as weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all men, that I might by all means save some. 23 Now this I do for the gospel’s sake, that I may be partaker of it with you.

The context of what Paul says matters.

*3. Paul instructed us to keep the Feasts (1 Corinthians 5:7-8).

  1. Paul never instructed anyone to keep the feasts. If you read what he says, he is quite clear on this. Christ is our Passover. He then refers to the Feast of Unleavened Bread, a pilgrim feast that anticipated our time in Christ. In this, we are to live out the fulfillment of the feast of Unleavened Bread in “sincerity and truth.”

*4. Paul believed all of the Torah (Acts 24:14).

  1. Yes, Paul believed all of the Torah. So what? I believe all of the Torah and have taught on it for ten years now from Genesis 1:1. Anyone who doesn’t believe all of the Torah and claims to be a Bible believer is a dolt. Are we supposed to build an Ark like Noah? Context matters.

*5. Paul said that we establish the Torah (Romans 3:31).

  1. Yes, Paul said that we establish the Torah. He also says in the same paragraph that we do so by faith in Christ, not by deeds of the law (vss 27. 28)

*6. Paul taught from the Torah (Acts 28:23).

  1. Yes, Paul taught from the Torah. The Old Testament was the only Scripture that existed at the time. Jesus is rather clear. It points to Him, and Moses wrote about Him – John 5:39 / John 5:46. This is what Paul so carefully explains.

*7. Paul obeyed the Torah (Acts 21:24, Romans 7:25).

  1. This point has to be taken in context, and this meme provides no context. Paul says in Romans 6:14 that we are not under law, but under grace. He repeats that in the next verse. He gives the same sentiment in 1 Corinthians 9:21. He also says in Galatians 3:10 that the Law brings a curse. Paul gives an example of the law in Galatians 4 using Sarah and Hagar as a teaching tool. Moses was giving insights into what God would do in Christ. It ain’t law observance.

*8. Paul took delight in the Torah (Romans 7:22).

  1. Paul took delight in the Torah. Of course, he did. So do I. It is the very body of law from Moses that tells us of what God would do in Christ. Anyone who doesn’t delight in the Torah is lost in poor theology, or just lost.

*9. Paul told us to imitate him (1 Corinthians 4:16, 1 Corinthians 11:1).

  1. Paul told us to imitate him. That is what I have been doing since I met Christ – steering people away from this heresy known as Hebrew Roots. It cannot please God because it is contrary to the message of God in Christ.

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Closing Verse: “For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ, and being ready to punish all disobedience when your obedience is fulfilled.” 2 Corinthians 10:3-6

Next Week: Deuteronomy 21:1-9 The matter has been fully decided… (And Atonement Shall Be Provided) (61st Deuteronomy Sermon)

The Lord has you exactly where He wants you. He has a good plan and purpose for you. But He also has expectations of you as He prepares you for entrance into His Land of Promise. So, follow Him and trust Him and He will do marvelous things for you and through you.

Conduct for War, Part II

“When you go near a city to fight against it
Then proclaim an offer of peace to it
And it shall be that if they accept your offer of peace
And open to you, to this they do commit…

Then all the people shall be who are found in it
Placed under tribute to you, and serve you
———-to this, they shall commit

Now if the city will not make peace with you
But war against you, then you shall besiege it
———-coming against that horde
And when the LORD your God delivers it into your hands
You shall strike every male in it with the edge of the sword

But the women, the little ones, the livestock
And all that is in the city, all its spoil – yes, it is true
You shall plunder for yourself
And you shall eat the enemies’ plunder which
———-the LORD your God gives you

Thus you shall do to all the cities which are very far from you
Which are not of the cities of these nations, so you shall do

“But of the cities of these peoples
Which the LORD your God gives you as an inheritance
You shall let nothing that breathes remain alive
But you shall utterly destroy them – a termination dance

The Hittite and the Amorite
And the Canaanite and the Perizzite too
And the Hivite and the Jebusite
Just as the LORD your God has commanded you

Lest they teach you to do
According to all their abominations, which they applaud
Which they have done for their gods
And you sin against the LORD your God

“When you besiege a city for a long time
While making war against it, it to take
You shall not destroy its trees by wielding an ax against them
If you can eat of them, an exemption you shall make

Do not cut them down to use in the siege; that would be rude
For the tree of the field is man’s food

Only the trees which you know
Are not trees for food you may destroy and cut down
To build siegeworks against the city that makes war with you
Until it is subdued, until you have destroyed that town

Lord God, turn our hearts to be obedient to Your word
Give us wisdom to be ever faithful to You
May we carefully heed each thing we have heard
Yes, Lord God may our hearts be faithful and true

And we shall be content and satisfied in You alone
We will follow You as we sing our songs of praise
Hallelujah to You; to us Your path You have shown
Hallelujah we shall sing to You for all of our days

Hallelujah and Amen…

 

10 “When you go near a city to fight against it, then proclaim an offer of peace to it. 11 And it shall be that if they accept your offer of peace, and open to you, then all the people who are found in it shall be placed under tribute to you, and serve you. 12 Now if the city will not make peace with you, but war against you, then you shall besiege it. 13 And when the Lord your God delivers it into your hands, you shall strike every male in it with the edge of the sword. 14 But the women, the little ones, the livestock, and all that is in the city, all its spoil, you shall plunder for yourself; and you shall eat the enemies’ plunder which the Lord your God gives you. 15 Thus you shall do to all the cities which are very far from you, which are not of the cities of these nations.

16 “But of the cities of these peoples which the Lord your God gives you as an inheritance, you shall let nothing that breathes remain alive, 17 but you shall utterly destroy them: the Hittite and the Amorite and the Canaanite and the Perizzite and the Hivite and the Jebusite, just as the Lord your God has commanded you, 18 lest they teach you to do according to all their abominations which they have done for their gods, and you sin against the Lord your God.

19 “When you besiege a city for a long time, while making war against it to take it, you shall not destroy its trees by wielding an ax against them; if you can eat of them, do not cut them down to use in the siege, for the tree of the field is man’s food. 20 Only the trees which you know are not trees for food you may destroy and cut down, to build siegeworks against the city that makes war with you, until it is subdued.

 

 

 

 

 

Deuteronomy 20:1-9 Conduct for War, Part I)

Deuteronomy 20:1-9
Conduct for War, Part I

Beginning in Chapter 19, legislations are put forth that are predominantly intended to reveal the sanctity of human life and how it is to be protected. This continues on in Chapter 20 which is, surprisingly, one concerning warfare.

This particular set of verses deals with those of the soldiers of Israel. It refers to those who are to be excluded from the battle, and it speaks of those who will remain in the battle. The primary concern here, though not explicitly stated at first, is the strengthening of the soldiers in order to bring about victory.

And there cannot be victory in battle if all of the soldiers are either killed or flee from the engagement. As for the Christian, however, there is a marked difference. The very thing that gives us the courage to not only enter the battle, but to continue on in it, is not what other armies rely on at all.

Instead, the thought of death is that thing which prompts us on to even greater things. First, we follow a crucified Christ. It is His death that even makes our engagement in the battle possible. But more, we follow a risen Victor. It is this that tells us that absolutely nothing can prevail over us.

Text Verse: Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” Hebrews 12:1, 2

Understanding what Christ has done gives us all of the motive we need to go forward in our battle. But there is another type of death that should spur us on as well. That is the death of those not in Christ. The devil is fighting hard in that battle, and he is gaining the victory over countless souls because of it.

The only thing – literally – the only thing that stands in the way of that is what the Lord has provided for us as we engage in this war. How important is it to you to know that people are dying apart from Christ and that you could stop that? He has equipped us, He has given us the mandate, and we should be expending ourselves in order to complete the task He has set before us.

Someday, our time of labor will end. What will we say when it comes? How are we using our time, our resources, our abilities, and our place – wherever that may be at the moment – to further the cause of Christ?

Deuteronomy 20 gives us the Conduct for War guidelines that Israel used in their physical battles. The entire Bible gives us the Conduct for War guidelines that we are to use in this spiritual battle. Let us live by them and let us employ every weapon of war provided to us to effect victories on our own path to glory.

Such great lessons as this are to be found in His superior word. And so, let us turn to that precious word once again and… May God speak to us through His word today and may His glorious name ever be praised.

I. Today You Are on the Verge of Battle (verses 1-3)

“When you go out to battle against your enemies,

The words of this chapter deal with milkhamah, or warfare. The inevitable course of nations is that of warfare. In the case of Israel, they are pre-commissioned as a force that will enter into war, simply because of the land to which they are entering. It was promised to Abraham generations earlier with the expectation that eventually his descendants would occupy it.

However, there were already inhabitants in Canaan. In order to be the Lord’s people in the land promised to them by the Lord, and free from the practices of the nations already there, they were under obligation to clear them out.

Because of this, and because of other wars which would surely follow after they had possession of the land, Moses will now provide instructions concerning how to handle such matters.

Though it appears to be a passage condoning the brutal slaughter of others, the sanctity of life is actually at the forefront of what is conveyed. Only when the circumstances called for destruction of those they faced was it to be brought to bear. Otherwise, the care of the Lord for people is highlighted.

As far as the protection of Israel, the details of that are first conveyed…

1 (con’t) and see horses and chariots and people more numerous than you,

Moses conveys it as a certainty that these things will occur. There will be times when Israel will face armies that are greater in size, that are more fully equipped for battle, and that are in better positions for engaging in warfare. In the event of such a scenario, Israel is now being instructed.

And, indeed, the writings that follow – from Joshua through Chronicles – are filled with such instances. Early on in the conquest of Canaan, Israel had defeated Jericho. That was followed by the destruction of Ai.

When this occurred, the inhabitants of Gibeon realized that they were doomed for destruction and sent emissaries to Joshua to make a covenant of peace through deception. The covenant was made, and thus Gibeon fell under the protection of Israel. This is found in Joshua 9.

In response to this, and knowing that Gibeon was a great city and that it had simply capitulated to Israel without even raising a single sword in battle, a coalition of five kings came together in Joshua 10 to engage Gibeon. Being under covenant with Israel, they petitioned Joshua for assistance.

In this, Israel responded and destroyed those five kings and subdued all the land over which they ruled. This is recorded in Joshua 10. The chapter ended with –

“So Joshua conquered all the land: the mountain country and the South and the lowland and the wilderness slopes, and all their kings; he left none remaining, but utterly destroyed all that breathed, as the Lord God of Israel had commanded. 41 And Joshua conquered them from Kadesh Barnea as far as Gaza, and all the country of Goshen, even as far as Gibeon. 42 All these kings and their land Joshua took at one time, because the Lord God of Israel fought for Israel. 43 Then Joshua returned, and all Israel with him, to the camp at Gilgal.” Joshua 10:40-43

Because of this, the events of Joshua 11 came about. That chapter opens with a thought perfectly in line with Moses’ words now –

“And it came to pass, when Jabin king of Hazor heard these things, that he sent to Jobab king of Madon, to the king of Shimron, to the king of Achshaph, and to the kings who were from the north, in the mountains, in the plain south of Chinneroth, in the lowland, and in the heights of Dor on the west, to the Canaanites in the east and in the west, the Amorite, the Hittite, the Perizzite, the Jebusite in the mountains, and the Hivite below Hermon in the land of Mizpah. So they went out, they and all their armies with them, as many people as the sand that is on the seashore in multitude, with very many horses and chariots. And when all these kings had met together, they came and camped together at the waters of Merom to fight against Israel.” Joshua 11:1-5

With such a massive and formidable foe, one would think that Israel would shrink in fear. Despite their success against the five kings, this coalition was enormous, and it was fitted with both horses and chariots. To an army ready to engage such a force in battle, it would appear to be a hopeless challenge. But Moses now tells them…

1 (con’t) do not be afraid of them;

Moses has already spoken to the people concerning this. In Chapter 7, he said to them –

“If you should say in your heart, ‘These nations are greater than I; how can I dispossess them?’— 18 you shall not be afraid of them, but you shall remember well what the Lord your God did to Pharaoh and to all Egypt:” Deuteronomy 7:17, 18

There, he spoke in general terms about what lay ahead. Now, he is speaking in specific terms about facing an actual foe that is undoubtedly numerically superior to them. But he exactingly repeats the sentiment, lo tira mehem – “Do not be afraid of them.”

Because of his words to the people, and because Joshua both trusted the Lord and the admonition of Moses, he repeated to the people of Israel the same sentiment now given –

“But the Lord said to Joshua, ‘Do not be afraid because of them, for tomorrow about this time I will deliver all of them slain before Israel. You shall hamstring their horses and burn their chariots with fire.’” Joshua 11:6

Several times in Deuteronomy, Moses uses the same word, translated as “fear,” when speaking about the people’s relationship with the Lord.

In essence, “Do not fear the people of Canaan, and do not fear large armies that are well-equipped. Rather, it is the Lord your God that you are to fear, clinging to Him and relying on Him in all you do.” It is in this that Israel will find success, as Moses next says…

1 (con’t) for the Lord your God is with you,

If the Lord is with Israel, and if Israel both understands this and demonstrates a reverent fear of the Lord, then why should they have any reason to fear the multitudes? They had already faced such a force, and that force was utterly swept away. Again, as Moses continues. It is He, Yehovah elohekha – Yehovah your God…

1 (con’t) who brought you up from the land of Egypt.

Here, in reference to the Lord the verb is used as a noun: ha’maalkha me-erets mitsrayim – “the Bringer up from Egypt.” He had brought them out, He had conducted them along the way, and He was still bringing them up as they prepared to enter the promise.

The words are similar to those already spoken to the people. As the words of Deuteronomy 7 (cited above) continue –

“the great trials which your eyes saw, the signs and the wonders, the mighty hand and the outstretched arm, by which the Lord your God brought you out. So shall the Lord your God do to all the peoples of whom you are afraid.” Deuteronomy 7:19

It is the Lord who brought Israel out from under the yoke of one of the greatest nations on earth. They were without any means of resistance, they were sorely outnumbered in fighting force and capability, and yet the Lord had defeated the armies of Egypt.

As this was so, and as He brought them out of there, then they were to have every confidence that He would also deliver the land He promised to them into their hands. And He did, time and time again. Great multitudes are recorded as being arrayed against Israel not only in Joshua, but in Judges, 1 Samuel, Kings, and Chronicles.

Israel was able to defeat these armies when they trusted the Lord and relied on Him. However, when the people turned from Him, Israel’s own defeat was inevitable.

Concerning this verse, and the words from Moses now, Cambridge almost flippantly asks, “Was it on the strength of this verse that Josiah adventured on his fatal encounter with Pharaoh-Necoh in 612 b.c.?”

In other words, their statement implies that Josiah falsely trusted in the words of Moses and thus died in battle. At least, that is what they are hinting at.

First, half the time, Cambridge argues that Deuteronomy is a work pieced together long after the time of Moses, meaning they are arguing against their own analysis of the dating of the book by making such a stupid comment.

Secondly, Josiah was told – in advance – that he would be taken by the Lord so that he would not see the great calamities that would come against the land –

“Surely I will gather you to your fathers, and you shall be gathered to your grave in peace; and your eyes shall not see all the calamity which I will bring on this place and its inhabitants.” 2 Chronicles 34:28

Whatever was going on in the mind of Josiah when he went out to face the king of Egypt in battle, the Lord had already told him that he would die before the time He brought His destruction upon the land –

“Nevertheless the Lord did not turn from the fierceness of His great wrath, with which His anger was aroused against Judah, because of all the provocations with which Manasseh had provoked Him. 27 And the Lord said, ‘I will also remove Judah from My sight, as I have removed Israel, and will cast off this city Jerusalem which I have chosen, and the house of which I said, “My name shall be there.”’” 2 Kings 23:26, 27

The people had failed to fear the Lord. Because of this, the Lord would turn His wrath against them. What happened to Josiah was not a failure of the promises of Moses. Rather, it was a merciful act bestowed on him because of the failure of the people.

We can hope that the folks at Cambridge will also face the Lord’s mercy despite their constant failure to uphold the sanctity of the word of God. As for Josiah and what happened to him, that is all for later in Israel’s history. For now, Moses continues with his words to the people, saying…

So it shall be, when you are on the verge of battle,

The words of Deuteronomy have been in the singular for an extended period now – you Israel. Suddenly, it changes to the plural – you all. This is both expected and appropriate.

Moses is speaking to the people with the understanding that each is an individual and together they form a whole. Because the sanctity of life is the main focus of the passage, each life is precious in relation to the whole. Thus, it switches to the plural to acknowledge this.

2 (con’t) that the priest shall approach and speak to the people.

This is not referring to the high priest. Rather, a priest (or priests) other than the high priest would accompany the army to the engagement. This was seen first in Numbers 31 –

“Then Moses sent them to the war, one thousand from each tribe; he sent them to the war with Phinehas the son of Eleazar the priest, with the holy articles and the signal trumpets in his hand.” Numbers 31:6

During a battle in 1 Samuel 4, the Israelites were being defeated by the Philistines. At that time, they called for the ark to be brought to them as if was a talisman that could secure the battle for them. Along with the ark came the sons of Eli the priest. That is not what is being referred to in this passage. That is at a point of disobedience in Israel and cannot be used to correspond to Moses’ words now.

What is probably closer to Moses’ command, though not specifically in accord with what is said here, is recorded in 2 Chronicles –

“Now look, God Himself is with us as our head, and His priests with sounding trumpets to sound the alarm against you. O children of Israel, do not fight against the Lord God of your fathers, for you shall not prosper!” 2 Chronicles 13:12

The priests had accompanied the armies, and probably conducted the ceremony Moses refers to now before the battle was engaged. Moses’ specific words concerning the priest are…

And he shall say to them, ‘Hear, O Israel:

Here, the priest is given the words to speak. He is to first acknowledge that his addressees are Israel, or He who strives with God. They were to thus understand that a battle was about to ensue, that the Lord would be with them, and they were to strive with Him in the accomplishment of their task.

3 (con’t) Today you are on the verge of battle

Moses uses a masculine plural verbal adjective to express the matter: atem qerevim hayom lamilkhamah – “You (all) approachings the day to war.” As it is in the plural, the priest is speaking to all of the people as individuals. “Each of you is a part of what is drawing near to this engagement.” And it is to be…

3 (con’t) with your enemies.

The word “with” is a poor choice of translation. It reads: al oyevekhem – “upon your enemies.” One could say “against,” but the word gives the sense of a downward aspect. It is, in itself, a word of encouragement. Israel is said to be coming down upon the enemy, even though the battle has not yet engaged.

Using the word “with” implies an equal footing, but this is not the intent of what is said. Just as the Lord is above them, so Israel will swoop down upon them. Therefore…

3 (con’t) Do not let your heart faint, do not be afraid, and do not tremble or be terrified because of them;

Moses’ words that are to be repeated to the people by the priest are full of lively encouragement. Two of them are brand new in Scripture. The first is rakak – to be fainthearted, make soft, and so on. The second is khaphaz – to be in trepidation, hurry, or alarm.

Taken together, they are words of inspiration – “no do let soften to your heart, no you shall fear, and no you shall panic, and no you shall be terrified from their faces.” The priest is to speak these words confidently, knowing that Moses is the one who first spoke them, and that he was led by the Spirit of God as they came forth. As he says in the coming verse…

The Lord your God is the GOER with you
He will be with you each step of the way
The Lord your God; Faithful and True
Will be with you through the bloody fray

He is the Bringer up of you from where you were
As this is so, He has a plan for you
He will never leave you, this is for sure
The Lord your God; Faithful and True

Have no fear as you enter the battle; it is already won
Press into it without any fear; you shall prevail
God sent before you His beloved Son
And together you shall the enemy assail

II. Let Him Go and Return (verses 4-9)

for the Lord your God is He who goes with you,

As in verse 1, Moses uses a verb as a noun to describe the Lord. He is “the Goer with you.” It wasn’t that the Lord was watching over the battle as a coach on the sideline, but He is actively with Israel, stepping onto the field of battle with them in order to secure the victory for them. As Moses next says…

4 (con’t) to fight for you against your enemies,

Again, the NKJV misses the translation and thus misses the unity of what is occurring. Instead of “to fight for you against your enemies,” it says, “to fight to [with regard to] you with your enemies.” It is the synergistic (working together) idea that Moses has put forth so many times already in Deuteronomy.

Israel has its part in the battle, but the Lord has His part. He will fight against the enemies of Israel as Israel comes down upon them. And this is then noted to have a purpose, which is…

4 (con’t) to save you.’

Here, the word is yasha. It comes from a primitive root signifying to be open, wide, or free. Thus, it means to deliver. Here it is delivered in the form of victory. Israel is already the Lord’s people, but they have battles to face in this capacity. When they rely on the Lord, they will be delivered in the battle, triumphing over the enemy.

One should, hopefully, see the intended connection to the church in this. We are the Lord’s people. We have battles to face in this capacity. But we have been given the ability to overcome them and to be delivered in the battle, gaining victory over the enemy.

This is not speaking of salvation, which is already accomplished, but of deliverance in war. Just as Israel faced physical enemies in battle, so we face spiritual enemies –

“Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might. 11 Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. 12 For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. 13 Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.” Ephesians 6:10-13

And just as the Lord promised to be with Israel in battle, we have the same assurance as well –

“Stand therefore, having girded your waist with truth, having put on the breastplate of righteousness, 15 and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace; 16 above all, taking the shield of faith with which you will be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one. 17 And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God; 18 praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, being watchful to this end with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints—” Ephesians 6:14-18

Israel had its part in what was expected, but the Lord also had a part in its outcome. The same is true with us. If not, Paul would not have written these words to us.

A part of preparing Israel for the battle was to remove from the engagement anyone who was not suited to participate in it at that time…

“Then the officers shall speak to the people, saying:

Here, Moses’ direction goes from the attending priest to the shoterim, or officers. The word comes from a root probably signifying “to write.” Thus, they are superintending magistrates who are likely responsible for the genealogical records.

Whether they were fighters or not, and probably not, it is they who would account for those who would go forth to engage the battle. And, to ensure that all who would go were both capable and qualified to do so, they would first call out any qualified exemptions, saying…

5 (con’t) ‘What man is there who has built a new house and has not dedicated it?

It is a personal question: mi ha’ish asher banah bayit khadash v’lo khanako – “Who the man who built house new and no dedicated it.” The magistrate is speaking to each and every person. “Does this apply to you?”

This is the same for each question that follows. Instead of “What man is there,” it should read, “Who is the man.” Each instance is personal and is directed to the life and conscience of the men.

The word khanak, or dedicate, is introduced here. It is used when referring to the dedication of the temple in 1 Kings 8. The noun form of the word is found in the introduction of Psalm 30 as well –

“A Psalm. A Song at the dedication of the house of David.”

It appears that new homes were dedicated to the Lord, just as we dedicate houses or churches to the Lord today. Along with this would have been singing, a party, food, friends, and the like. If you have ever watched, “It’s a Wonderful Life,” a short ceremony like that was conducted at one of the new houses in the town.

Dedicating a house in this way would be as much of an appeal to the Lord for its protection and blessing as anything else. One can see how the word khanak is the verbal root for the word Hanukah, or dedication. If someone had not so dedicated his house…

5 (con’t) Let him go and return to his house, lest he die in the battle and another man dedicate it.

Of this, John Lange says that such a person “if he had made efforts for life, should first rejoice in the result of his efforts. It was as humane as prudent.” We always look at such occurrences as tragic.

If a person wrote a great novel and died before it was published and it sold 10 million books, we would say, “How sad.” Such an instance, then, would not only be detrimental to the memory of the person, but it would also be detrimental to those soldiers who were aware of the event.

In this, they too would be disheartened, and it would then further affect the morale of those engaged in battle. The important point here is that though the battle is fought with the Lord, it is anticipated that the Lord will allow deaths within the ranks.

In other words, the synergistic (working together) concept of the battle is once again revealed. Soldiers could not just walk out onto the field of battle and assume they would prevail and come out unscathed. The lesson here tells us that we can expect no less in our own Ephesians 6 battles.

We must prepare as soldiers who are actually engaging the enemy. To fail to do so is an imprudent choice leading to an ineffective Christian in the ongoing war.

Also what man is there who has planted a vineyard and has not eaten of it?

The word khalal is used. It gives the sense of boring or piercing, and thus to open. The idea here is not of merely eating the fruit, but of bringing it into common use – whether for eating, selling, and so on. This is based on the precept stated in Leviticus 19 –

“When you come into the land, and have planted all kinds of trees for food, then you shall count their fruit as uncircumcised. Three years it shall be as uncircumcised to you. It shall not be eaten. 24 But in the fourth year all its fruit shall be holy, a praise to the Lord. 25 And in the fifth year you may eat its fruit, that it may yield to you its increase: I am the Lord your God.” Leviticus 19:23-25

The person has planted the vineyard, he has cultivated it and brought it to maturity, and he has even brought it forth as a praise to the Lord, and yet he has not brought it into its common use, meaning he has not profited off its labors in eating, selling, giving to the neighbors, or whatever else he could do with it. If so…

6 (con’t) Let him go and return to his house, lest he die in the battle and another man eat of it.

Again, the irony of the tragedy would be heartbreaking to friend, family, and any other who heard of it. And further, the other soldiers would become disheartened over it as well, knowing that he had died before receiving the blessing of his efforts.

Along with the first two tragedies, comes one more…

And what man is there who is betrothed to a woman and has not married her?

It is another humane act bestowed upon the people. Just as a person should be the one to benefit from dedicating a house or seeing a vineyard through to its maturity, so a person should be allowed to bring forth his intent to marry in like manner.

Nothing is said here of either a virgin or otherwise. The man is betrothed, and he is entitled to the blessing of that betrothal.  Later in Deuteronomy, an explicit timeframe is given by Moses concerning this –

“When a man has taken a new wife, he shall not go out to war or be charged with any business; he shall be free at home one year, and bring happiness to his wife whom he has taken.” Deuteronomy 24:5

Although it isn’t always the case, apparently a good round number for man to no longer bring that special happiness to his wife seems to be at the one-year point. After that, the old saying, “Distance makes the heart grow fonder,” will hopefully help bring things back to that once delightful state.

All kidding aside, the word for a man so betrothed is…

7 (con’t) Let him go and return to his house, lest he die in the battle and another man marry her.’

Again, the ironic tragedy of dying in battle without having been blessed with the fruit of the action is what is conveyed here. To see a man die in such a state would not only be harmful to the betrothed woman, but to all who saw it – including the other soldiers. Hence, the wisdom of Moses’ words is clearly seen.

In these three aspects of the soldier’s life, a hint of the work of Christ can also be seen. The Lord is building a house which is not yet dedicated (1 Peter 2:5). The Lord has a vineyard which is not yet complete (Luke 20:16, 22:18). And the Lord has a betrothed whom He has not yet married (1 Corinthians 11:2).

Despite this, He died in the battle before all three were realized. And yet, the victory remains His because He prevailed over death. Thus, the ironic tragedy of the soldier of Israel is overcome by the victorious Lord.

It should also be noted that the opposite of these humane blessings is stated as a curse to the people who fail to obey the terms of the covenant. In Deuteronomy 28, in the blessings and curses upon the people, it says in the curses –

“You shall betroth a wife, but another man shall lie with her; you shall build a house, but you shall not dwell in it; you shall plant a vineyard, but shall not gather its grapes.” Deuteronomy 28:30

With these things understood so far, Moses next continues with…

“The officers shall speak further to the people, and say, ‘What man is there who is fearful and fainthearted?

The words are personal and specific, saying – “Who is the man, the fearful, and soft to heart.” Here, the adjective form, rak, of the word rakak seen in verse 3 is used.

This cannot be speaking of the normal sense of fear that any soldier would feel at the outset of a battle. Other than someone who is not quite right in the head, it is almost unimaginable to consider a person not being in some sort of mental anguish at the prospect of engaging in a battle.

This person, however, demonstrates an unhealthy fear that has abandoned trust in the Lord’s ability to win the battle. It is a hopeless fear that has no place in the man prepared to serve according to the prospects that all responsible soldiers must face.

The reason I say this is because the Lord Himself demonstrated His own internal conflict in the battle that was set before Him. However, His trust in the Lord’s ability to bring Him through the battle was stronger than the desire to run from it –

“And He was withdrawn from them about a stone’s throw, and He knelt down and prayed, 42 saying, ‘Father, if it is Your will, take this cup away from Me; nevertheless not My will, but Yours, be done.’” Luke 22:41

The Lord understood that His mission was to accomplish the Father’s will. He sought that first and foremost, and He prevailed through the battle. He brought forth the victory because of this. And in His victory, we now have the same Source of strength open to us. This would not have been possible otherwise. As Moses says concerning the soft-hearted soldier…

8 (con’) Let him go and return to his house, lest the heart of his brethren faint like his heart.’

v’lo yimas eth l’vav ekhav kilvavo – “And no melt to heart his brothers as his heart.” A cowardly heart cannot bring about victory. And in the face of defeat, the rest of the people will also flee from the battle. This is seen, for example, in Joshua 7:5 –

“And the men of Ai struck down about thirty-six men, for they chased them from before the gate as far as Shebarim, and struck them down on the descent; therefore the hearts of the people melted and became like water.” Joshua 7:5

It is again seen in Judges 7 where the Lord whittled the soldiers down to an impossibly low number, many through this exact allowance by Moses –

“And the Lord said to Gideon, ‘The people who are with you are too many for Me to give the Midianites into their hands, lest Israel claim glory for itself against Me, saying, “My own hand has saved me.” Now therefore, proclaim in the hearing of the people, saying, “Whoever is fearful and afraid, let him turn and depart at once from Mount Gilead.” And twenty-two thousand of the people returned, and ten thousand remained.” Judges 7:2, 3

Despite the people of Ai being a much smaller force, the soldiers of Israel smelled defeat and their hearts melted. And despite being a much, much smaller force than the Midianites, Gideon and his three hundred men remained strong-hearted, and they prevailed.

Fear is contagious. What the people in a battle need is not the cowardly at their sides, but the heroic at their head. This is seen in the example of David when Israel faced Goliath and the Philistine army, and it is seen in the church today.

We know that we can prevail because we know the Lord already has prevailed. And more, we know He is with us in this battle, and He will deliver us safely to the victory. Our conduct will be based on who we fix our eyes on, and so, let us fix our eyes on Jesus. With that, we will have all the strength we need to endure the battle we are in, and to prevail.

*9 (fin) And so it shall be, when the officers have finished speaking to the people, that they shall make captains of the armies to lead the people.

This translation of this last verse is almost wholly conveyed in this manner – “When the officers are done, they shall make captains.” In other words, the action of appointing captains comes after the dismissal of the various exemptions, and it is conducted by these same officers.

However, there is a second possibility for the Hebrew. It reads, u-paqedu sare tsevaoth b’rosh ha’am – “and shall muster them captains armies in head the people.” In other words, the action of the second clause is not that of the officers, but of the army captains. This is reflected in the Aramaic Bible –

“And when the Scribes have finished speaking to the people, the Commanders of the armies shall stand at the front of the people.”

In this, the sare, or military leaders, already have their positions, and it is now their turn to accomplish the mustering of the troops that remain. This would actually be more in accord with the military designations made later in Scripture.

There are set military leaders who go before the soldiers. But for each battle, the officers would come forward, call out for exemptions, probably record those exemptions, and then cease their work to allow the military leaders to then muster their troops and prepare to engage the enemy.

Either way, the army is initially prepared for battle, those who are not to serve for the various reasons set down are then removed from the ranks, and then the final preparedness for the battle is made. It is with this thought in mind that the passage ends.

In the next eleven verses, the actual rules for conducting the battle will be laid out. And so, for now, we will close with the thought that even though this is not a heavily Christological passage, it still bears the mark of precepts that are actually fulfilled by the Lord.

Though His battle was not a physical battle on an open field, it was an actual battle, nonetheless. And with the continued war that Paul refers to in which we are – even now – engaged, we have the same assurance that the Lord is with us that Israel had.

Yes, it may be even scary to live out our lives in this fallen, troubling world, but we have all of the implements that being a soldier of Christ calls for. It is, however, up to us to use them. The very fact that Paul implores us to make use of them means that it is up to us to do so.

If we fail in this, it is we who will be ineffective in the battle. There is the same synergistic (working together) idea now that there was for Israel. But, like Israel should have done, I will clue you into this… the more that we rely on the Lord, the more we set our eyes on Him, and the more we employ the implements He has provided us, the better off we will be.

Israel would often go it alone, and they would fail. But great leaders like David would acknowledge that the Lord was at their head, and they would prevail. Let us act in like manner, and in this, we will be effective in the battles we face – to the glory of the Lord who has and who does go before us.

Closing Verse: “You therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. And the things that you have heard from me among many witnesses, commit these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also. You therefore must endure hardship as a good soldier of Jesus Christ. No one engaged in warfare entangles himself with the affairs of this life, that he may please him who enlisted him as a soldier.” 2 Timothy 2:1-4

Next Week: Deuteronomy 20:10-20 What things are soldiers of the Lord required to do…? (Conduct for War, Part II) (60th Deuteronomy Sermon)

The Lord has you exactly where He wants you. He has a good plan and purpose for you. But He also has expectations of you as He prepares you for entrance into His Land of Promise. So, follow Him and trust Him and He will do marvelous things for you and through you.

Conduct for War

“When you go out to battle against your enemies
And see horses and chariots and people more numerous than you
Do not be afraid of them; for the LORD your God is with you
Who brought you up from the land of Egypt; He is faithful and true

So it shall be, when you are on the verge of battle that day
That the priest shall approach and speak to the people
———-with words to convey

And he shall say to them, ‘Hear, O Israel:
Today you are with your enemies on the verge of battle
Do not let your heart faint, do not be afraid
And do not tremble or be terrified because of them
———-or because of their prattle

For the LORD your God is He who goes with you
To fight for you against your enemies, to save you – so He shall do

“Then the officers shall speak to the people, saying:
‘What man is there who has built a new house
———-and has not dedicated it?
Let him go and return to his house, lest he die in the battle
And another man dedicate it; a tragedy anyone would admit

Also what man is there who has planted a vineyard
And has not eaten of it? To it his tastebuds he did not it commit
Let him go and return to his house
Lest he die in the battle and another man eat of it

And what man is there who is betrothed to a woman
And has not married her? A tragedy fer sher
Let him go and return to his house
Lest he die in the battle and another man marry her

“The officers shall speak further to the people, and say
‘What man is there who is fearful and fainthearted from the start?
Let him go and return to his house
Lest the heart of his brethren faint like his heart

And so it shall be
When the officers have finished to the people speaking
That they shall make captains
Of the armies to lead the people, the ranks they shall be tweaking

Lord God, turn our hearts to be obedient to Your word
Give us wisdom to be ever faithful to You
May we carefully heed each thing we have heard
Yes, Lord God may our hearts be faithful and true

And we shall be content and satisfied in You alone
We will follow You as we sing our songs of praise
Hallelujah to You; to us Your path You have shown
Hallelujah we shall sing to You for all of our days

Hallelujah and Amen…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“When you go out to battle against your enemies, and see horses and chariots and people more numerous than you, do not be afraid of them; for the Lord your God is with you, who brought you up from the land of Egypt. So it shall be, when you are on the verge of battle, that the priest shall approach and speak to the people. And he shall say to them, ‘Hear, O Israel: Today you are on the verge of battle with your enemies. Do not let your heart faint, do not be afraid, and do not tremble or be terrified because of them; for the Lord your God is He who goes with you, to fight for you against your enemies, to save you.’

“Then the officers shall speak to the people, saying: ‘What man is there who has built a new house and has not dedicated it? Let him go and return to his house, lest he die in the battle and another man dedicate it. Also what man is there who has planted a vineyard and has not eaten of it? Let him go and return to his house, lest he die in the battle and another man eat of it. And what man is there who is betrothed to a woman and has not married her? Let him go and return to his house, lest he die in the battle and another man marry her.’

“The officers shall speak further to the people, and say, ‘What man is there who is fearful and fainthearted? Let him go and return to his house, lest the heart of his brethren faint like his heart.’ And so it shall be, when the officers have finished speaking to the people, that they shall make captains of the armies to lead the people.