Bible Commentary for Deuteronomy 18 - Joshua 4
Deuteronomy Chapter 18
The tribe of Levi would not be given a land inheritance. Jehovah is their inheritance therefore they are to receive from what is offered to Jehovah on the altar. When an Israelite brought an offering to Jehovah whether a bull or a sheep, the shoulder, the two cheeks and the stomach would be the share of the priest. They were also to receive the firstfruits of the grain, new wine and oil and the first wool from the shearing of the sheep, as they and their descendants are the ones Jehovah has chosen to minister before him always.
When Jehovah has chosen the place where He will put his name and a Levite wants to leave his property to serve there, he is to be allowed to do so. He would share in the benefits that those who have been assigned to serve there receive even though he may have realized a profit for the sale of his property.
Moses continues his exhortation to Israel not to learn nor imitate the detestable practices of worship that the nations living in the land performed. They were not to engage in child sacrifices, practice divination or sorcery, interpret omens, engage in witchcraft, cast spells, act as a medium or spiritist, or consult the dead. Anyone doing any of these things was to be put to death. These were detestable to Jehovah and because the nations listened to those who practiced such things, Jehovah was driving them from the land.
Jehovah would not allow his people to be guided by such demonic practices. He would send them a prophet chosen from among themselves, their own brother, as Moses was, this one they should listen to. They had already concluded at Horeb that it would be more advantageous for Jehovah to speak to one person rather than to the whole nation and Jehovah had concurred. So the prophet that He would raise up would be an inspired prophet, Jehovah would put His words in his mouth and he would tell Israel everything that He commanded him to. He would be like Moses in this respect and Israel would be obligated to listen to him and his words would come true. If they did not listen to this prophet, Jehovah would call them to account.
A prophet who presumed to speak in Jehovah’s name was not to be listened to or feared. How would Israel recognize a prophet who was speaking presumptuously? The words that he spoke would not come true; his message was not from God. Of course, any prophet who spoke in the name of another god would be put to death
(For more details on this topic, please see the article Godly Inspiration – Can We Identify It?)
Most scholars believe that verses 18 and 19 were fulfilled in Jesus, that he was the ‘prophet like Moses.’ However, contrary to popular belief, when Peter quoted these verses in Acts 3:22, 23, he was actually NOT applying these words to Jesus as the ‘prophet like Moses.’ As you recall, in verses 20 and 21, Peter was discussing ‘times of restoration of all things’ when this prophet was doing a work for Jehovah and the role Jesus would have when this prophecy was to be fulfilled. Therefore, the prophet spoken of in Acts 3:22, 23 actually applies to the Modern Day "Servant" or "Chieftain" of Ezekiel's future Temple of God's making. -- Isaiah 49:1-7; Ezekiel 44:3
Deuteronomy Chapter 19
Moses has already designated three cities of refuge in the territory east of the Jordan. He now tells the people to set up three more cities in the territory that they are about to conquer. The land is to be divided into three equal parts so that these cities are easily accessible from any place in the land. They are to build roads to these cities so that they can be reached without difficulty. The only persons allowed to flee to these cities were those who had killed his neighbor unintentionally, an unavoidable accident had occurred, or in cases where the accident may have been avoidable yet no malice was involved. These cities are used to save the life of the manslayer as the avenger of blood, the “family protector or near kinsman” would pursue him and put him to death if he found him. This person must stand trial to prove his innocence. This would also protect the avenger of blood from shedding innocent blood and further polluting the land.
As Israel increased in population and continued faithful to Jehovah, He would give them the whole land that he had promised to their forefathers, that is, “from the river of Egypt to the great river, the river Euphrates.” (Genesis 15:18) When this occurred, they were to build three more cities of refuge, a total of nine cities. Although Solomon is said to have ruled “over all the kingdoms from the River (Euphrates) to the border of Egypt” nothing is said about adding the other three cities of refuge. (I Kings 4:21)
If a guilty person flees to one of these cities of refuge, then the elders of his town would send and bring him back and turn him over to the avenger of blood. In this way evil would be purged from the land and the nation would not be guilty of shedding innocent blood because of allowing the guilty to go free.
Boundary markers that had been set up to divide the tribal lands when the land was first apportioned were not to be changed ever; they were permanent. Moses warned against moving a boundary stone because that would be equivalent to stealing a person’s property. Moving a boundary stone was part of the curses to be pronounced on Mount Ebal. (Deuteronomy 27:17; Hosea 5:10)
The testimony of one witness would never be used to convict a person of a crime. There must be two or more witnesses to establish a matter. If a person maliciously accuses another person of a crime, then they both must stand in the presence of Jehovah, before the priest and the judges who will make a thorough investigation. If it is proven that the person was lying against his neighbor, then he is to receive the same punishment that he wanted his neighbor to get. He was not to shown any pity. This was to be a deterrent to others that Jehovah would not tolerate this kind of evil in the land where He dwelt. (Matthew 18:16)
The law of retribution (verse 21), according to The Bible Knowledge Commentary of the Old Testament, page 298, “was given to encourage appropriate punishment of a criminal in cases where there might be a tendency to be either too lenient or too strict.”
Deuteronomy Chapter 20
When Israel is about to engage another nation in battle, it should be of no concern to them the size or number of the enemy army or their horses or chariots; they have Jehovah to fight for them. Before they go out to battle, the priest is to say encouraging words to them, strengthening their faith in Jehovah. The officers are to make sure that all who are enrolled in the army are ready and willing to fight. Some men were exempted from fighting such as any who had: 1) just built a new home and had not dedicated it, 2) just planted a new vineyard and had not had chance to enjoy it, or, 3) become engaged but had not married the woman. Anyone found to be fearful or fainthearted would not be accepted in the army, as they would discourage their fellow soldiers. Israel’s army was a volunteer army; it was to be comprised of men who were committed and free from distractions. It was unimportant how many men made up the army because Jehovah was going before them to fight for them. (See Judges 7:1-8)
If they were going to war with a city that was a distance from Canaan, they were to first offer the people the hand of peace. It they accepted the offer and opened the gates to the city, then they could spare their lives but they would be subject to forced labor. If they rejected the offer of peace, then they were to put all the men to the sword but could spare the women, children, livestock and the plunder. We will later discuss the situation with the Gibeonites who tricked Joshua into sparing their lives although they were among the inhabitants of the land who were to be destroyed. (Joshua Chapter 9) All of the nations living in the land were to be devoted to destruction. None of them were to be left alive because they would teach Israel to do all of the detestable things that Jehovah hated. When they lay siege to a city, they were not to cut down the fruit trees to use as siege works, but they could use other trees for this purpose.
Deuteronomy Chapter 21
When someone had been slain and it was not known who killed that person, then the elders and judges shall measure the distance from the body to the nearest town. The elders of this town will take a heifer that has never been under a yoke and lead her to a valley that has never been cultivated and has a flowing stream and there break its neck. The priests will accompany them because they are the ones chosen to decide all cases of dispute and assault. The elders will then wash their hands over the heifer and shall declare: “Our hands did not shed this blood, nor did our eyes see it done. Accept this atonement for your people Israel, whom you have redeemed, O Lord, and do not hold your people guilty of the blood of an innocent man.” The heifer’s life has been taken in place of the life of the unknown guilty person. In this way, bloodguilt will not fall on the people because they have done what Jehovah required.
If a man is desirous of having a woman who was captured during warfare as his wife, then he may bring her into his house and have her shave her head and cut her nails and remove her native clothes and put on new clothes. He must allow her to mourn for her parents for a full month then he may take her as his wife. If he is not happy with her as his wife then he must release her to go wherever she likes. He cannot sell her or treat her as a slave because he has already dishonored her by having relations with her. (See 2 Samuel 13:12)
When a man has two wives and he loves one but not the other and both give him sons, he is not to give the right of firstborn to the son of the wife he loves if he is not in fact the firstborn son. He must give a double portion of his property, the firstborn’s right, to this son by his unloved wife as he is the ‘first sign of his father’s strength,’ the beginning of his procreative power. (Verse 17)
A man who has a stubborn and rebellious son who does not obey nor accepts discipline must be brought before the elders of their city. The parents will say to them that their son is stubborn and rebellious, a drunkard and profligate and does not listen to them. In effect, he was violating the command to “honor your father and your mother which command the Bible says is the first one with a promise, long life.” (See Ephesians 6:2) They will have no mercy on him but all the men of the town will stone him to death. He would not be allowed to live to spread his lawlessness to others.
A man hung on a tree is under a curse from God, so he must not be allowed to hang there overnight. He must be buried before nightfall in order not to desecrate the land.
Deuteronomy Chapter 22
If someone saw an animal that was lost or had strayed, he was not to just leave it there but was to try to find the owner. If that was not possible he was to take the animal to his home until someone came looking for the animal and he would return it. It would certainly be easier to simply overlook the animal because it would take time and effort to try to restore it to its owner. Helping an animal that had fallen would also take time and effort. But these acts of kindness would show that this person practiced love of neighbor, as the law required.
Neither men nor women were to wear clothing made for the other, as this could probably be associated with homosexuality, something detestable to Jehovah. According to The New Bible Commentary: Revised, page 222, “In a society where male and female dress was similar, proper sexual differentiation was an important protection against perversion, immodesty and immorality.”
If someone finds a nest with the mother sitting on her eggs or her young, he may take the eggs or the young but he must not take the mother also; he must let her go. This is a wise and humane provision from God, which, if obeyed, would mean continued blessings for this people. A new house must always have a parapet built around the roof so that no one would fall off the roof and thus bring bloodguilt on the house.
Jehovah’s laws included prohibitions against mixing different types of articles. Two kinds of seed were not to be planted in the vineyard or both the crop and the fruit of the vine will be defiled. This has reference to two distinctly different kinds of seed not to two varieties of the same seed. An ox and a donkey were not to be yoked together for plowing. It would put an unfair burden on one of the animals as they were of unequal size. This was the basis for the statement given at 2 Corinthians 6:2 where Paul spoke of an uneven yoking of a believer with an unbeliever. Wool and linen yarn was not to be woven together into one fabric. These are two distinctly different materials of differing weight and wearability.
When a man marries a woman and later begins to dislike her and he brings a charge of sexual misconduct against her by saying that she was not a virgin when he married her, the parents of the woman should be able to show proof of her virginity. They should bring this proof to the town elders so that it can be shown that the man is deliberately slandering his wife. The man will then be punished possibly by whipping and fined one hundred shekels of silver that he will pay to his wife’s father. Additionally, he can never divorce her. If however, the charges prove to be true and there is no proof of her virginity, she must be brought to her father’s house and the men of her town are to stone her to death. She has committed a disgraceful act while living in her father’s house.
Adultery is punishable by death for both participants. If a man has sexual relations with a woman who is engaged to someone else and this occurs in a town, both will be put to death. She is to die because she did not scream for help, which will be construed to mean that she consented to the act and he because he violated someone’s wife. However, if he had relations with an engaged woman out in the country where there was no one to hear her scream, she is not to be put to death, but he will be. His actions are akin to someone who attacks and murders his neighbor. Rape and murder carry the same consequences. If a man rapes an unbetrothed virgin and it is found out, he must pay her father fifty shekels of silver and he must marry her because he has violated her and can never divorce her.
A man must not marry the wife of his father, probably his stepmother rather than his mother, because that will dishonor his father’s bed. (See 1 Corinthians 5:1)
Deuteronomy Chapter 23
Many people would be barred from assembling with Israel in worship because of certain types of conditions and attitudes. 1) Anyone who is emasculated by crushing or cutting, probably referring to those who became eunuchs in dedication to a foreign god or in service to a foreign ruler, 2) anyone born from a forbidden marriage or of illegitimate birth. The meaning of the Hebrew word, mamzer, according to The Bible Knowledge Commentary of the Old Testament, page 303, "is uncertain and is only used in the OT here and in Zech. 9:6 where it is used figuratively of foreigners," and 3) any Ammonite or Moabite or any of their descendants because they hired Balaam to curse Israel and they did not offer provisions to Israel when they came out of Egypt. They were never to seek a treaty of friendship with them. Some scholars believe that this prohibition may refer to Ammonite and Moabite men and not to women. Israel was not to abhor an Edomite, as they were brothers. They were not to abhor an Egyptian because they lived as aliens in Egypt. They would be barred only to the third generation.
The military camp of Israel was to be kept clean of anything impure. If any man became unclean he was to go outside the camp until evening. Then he would wash himself and be readmitted into the camp. They were to set aside a specific place outside the camp for relieving themselves, where they would dig a hole in the ground and cover it over when they were finished. Jehovah was walking about in their camp and it must be holy or Jehovah would turn away from them.
Israel was not to oppress a runaway slave who had sought refuge among them nor were they to return him to his master. He was to be allowed to settle in whatever town he chose. (1 Samuel 30:13-15)
No Israelite was to become a prostitute, but if he did become one, the wages of his prostitution, whether male or female, could not be offered as payment of a vow to Jehovah as these wages were detestable to Him.
An Israelite was not to charge his fellow Israelite interest on anything that he might charge a foreigner interest on. (Exodus 22:25)
All vows made to Jehovah were to be kept otherwise this would be counted as sin for that person. A person could refrain from making a vow but if he freely chose to do so, then he is under obligation to keep it. (Ecclesiastes 5:4; Psalms 50:14)
When one passes through his neighbor’s grain field or vineyard, he could eat as much as he wanted. But he was not to put anything into a receptacle and take it away with him. (Matthew 12:1)
Deuteronomy Chapter 24
If a man marries and he is displeased with his wife, he can write her a certificate of divorce and send her away from his house. (Matthew 5:31) If she later remarries and her second husband is displeased with her and he either divorces her or he dies, then she is not free to remarry her first husband. She has been defiled and any such reunion would bring sin upon the land.
A newly married man was to be given a year at home with his wife before he would be required to serve in the army or take on any other obligation that would take him away from his home. If he were killed before he fathers a son then he would have no posterity to carry on his name.
Millstones were not to be taken as security for a debt. Millstones were used to grind the grain that was used in preparing meals. This would be the same as taking his livelihood as security.
Kidnapping was a capital offense. If a man is found to have kidnapped a fellow Israelite and treats him as a slave or sells him, he must be put to death. This evil must be purged from Israel.
When an Israelite becomes leprous, he is to follow carefully the instruction of the priests, who have been taught by Moses. If anyone had any doubt of the importance of obeying, he need only remember what Jehovah did to Miriam.
When an Israelite makes a loan to another Israelite and is promised collateral for this loan, the lender is not to go into the house of the borrower to take whatever he wants. He is to wait outside until the borrower brings the collateral to him. If the collateral is a needed garment, the lender is not to keep the garment overnight but is to return it in the evening in case it is needed for covering the individual for the night. The borrower will be grateful and Jehovah will count this as a righteous act on the part of the lender. (Exodus 22:26, 27)
The wages of a hired hand were to be paid at sunset on the day he worked because he is counting on it. If he is poor then he needs his money to feed his family. If he has to cry out to Jehovah because he is not paid then Jehovah will find the employer guilty of sin. (James 5:4)
In the family arrangement, each member was to be held responsible for his own sins. A father should not be punished for the sins of his son or vice versa. There was always the possibility that a father who was unfaithful would also influence his children to follow him in his bad course. (Ezekiel 18:5-18)
Aliens, widows and the fatherless were not to be mistreated or oppressed in the courts especially by the wealthy nor should a widow’s cloak be taken as a pledge. They were to be given justice. Israel was never to forget the oppression that they underwent while in Egypt and that Jehovah redeemed them from. So they were to always show mercy to the less fortunate. An Israelite could also show fellow feeling to the needy by leaving some gleaning in his fields when he harvested his crops. He was not to go back a second time to get anything that he missed whether it is olives, grapes or sheaves of grain. He will leave these for the widows, aliens and the fatherless. When they go into the fields to glean it, they are working just as they would be if they had done the planting. They would not be reduced to begging or becoming slaves. Again Israel is reminded of their slavery in Egypt.
Deuteronomy Chapter 25
Disputes were to be settled by the judges of the courts. If the guilty party is deserving of being flogged, it is to be carried out in the presence of the judges. The sentence must fit the crime and the guilty party is not to be degraded by excessive use of force. Forty lashes were to be the maximum to be inflicted on a person. Later the Jews settled on thirty-nine lashes as the maximum, one less that forty. (2 Corinthians 11:24)
Animals were also to be shown kindness and fairness. When they were being used to tread out the grain, they should not be muzzled but should be allowed to eat as they worked. Paul quoted this verse in 1 Corinthians 9:9 to show that the major emphasis of this verse was not strictly for bulls but had a more important application to those laboring for the kingdom. His point is that those who expend of themselves for the sake of the 'good news' should be compensated for his time and efforts. If he is devoting all of his time and energy in this work, he does not have time for a secular job.
Levirate marriage is again emphasized because of the need to keep the inherited property in the family line. When a man dies and has not produced a son then his brother was to marry the widow and produce a son who would carry the name of the dead husband so that it would not die out. This was the only occasion when a close family marriage was not forbidden or considered as incest. (Leviticus 18:16) If the brother was unwilling to perform brother-in-law marriage then the widow would take him to the elders and tell them that he refused to perform the duty of a brother-in-law. The elders will speak to the man and if he still refuses to marry her, then she will go up to him in their presence and remove one of his sandals, spit in his face, and say, “This is what is done to the man who will not build up his brother’s family line.” His family will carry the stigma of being called ‘The Family of the Unsandaled.’ A similar situation occurred during the time when Israel was ruled by judges. (Ruth 4:1-10)
If a woman attempts to stop a fight between her husband and another man by grabbing the other man by his private parts, she is to have that hand cut off. She has shown herself to be immodest and this act may have affected the capability of this man to produce children. She is to be shown no mercy.
Israel must be totally honest in all of their business dealings. They were not to have two different sets of weights and measures, one accurate and the other less than accurate in their homes. Jehovah would not bless such a household because dishonesty was detestable to Him. (Proverbs 11:1; 16:11; Micah 6:11)
Israel was never to forget what the Amalekites did to them when they came out of Egypt, how they showed no fear of Jehovah when they attacked the weary ones at the rear of their camp. After they were settled in the land, they were to completely eradicate the name of Amalek from under the heaven. (1 Chronicles 4:41-43)
Deuteronomy Chapter 26
When Israel has settled in the land and the land has begun producing food for them, they are to take some of the very first food harvested and put it in a basket and take it to the Tabernacle and give the basket to the priest. He would acknowledge to the priest that he had received the promised inheritance that Jehovah swore to our forefather to give us. The priest will then take the basket and set it in front of the altar of burnt offering. The Israelite would then recite a brief history of their being in Egypt. ‘He would acknowledge that they were mistreated in Egypt and how they cried out to Jehovah who heard their cry and brought them out of Egypt with great terror and with miraculous signs and wonders. Jehovah then brought them to this land that flows with milk and honey and he is now bringing the firstfruits of the soil that Jehovah had given him.’ Each Israelite would have this opportunity to come before God and confess his thankfulness and faith in Him.
Every third year, all tithes were to be given to the Levites, the alien, the fatherless and the widow. In this way all would rejoice in the good things that Jehovah had provided. This act was an integral part of their worship of Jehovah. (See Malachi 3:8-10) The person bringing the tithe would then make confession to Jehovah that he had not held back any of the sacred portions but had given it in its entirety to the Levites, the aliens, the fatherless and the widow. He had not forgotten any of Jehovah’s commands. He had not defiled this gift by eating from it while mourning or in an unclean state nor had he offered any of it to the dead. He would then invoke Jehovah’s blessings upon Israel and upon the land that he had given them.
Moses has now given Israel all of Jehovah’s commands, decrees and laws which he exhorts them to carefully observe with all their hearts and souls. They had declared that Jehovah is their God and that they would walk in his ways. Jehovah Himself has declared that Israel is His people, His treasured possession, the one nation that He will set in praise, fame and honor above all other nations. They will be a people holy to Jehovah as he promised. (Psalms 148:14)
Deuteronomy Chapter 27
Moses and the elders now instruct the people on their first act of worship when they cross the Jordan. They were to take some large stones, coat them with plaster so that they could write all the words of the law on them and set them up on top of Mount Ebal. They were also to build an altar of fieldstones on which they were not to use iron tools and on this altar they were to offer burnt offerings and fellowship offerings, eating and rejoicing before Jehovah.
The tribes were to be divided into two groups, six tribes would stand on Mount Gerizim to pronounce the blessings and six would stand on Mount Ebal to pronounce the curses. The Levites would recite the curses and the people would say ‘amen’ to each curse.
There are twelve curses to be pronounced. They are: Cursed is the man who 1) sets up an idol in secret, 2) dishonors his parents, 3) moves his neighbors boundary marker, 4) leads the blind astray on the road, 5) withholds justice from the alien, the widow, the fatherless, 6) sleeps with his father’s wife dishonoring his father’s bed, 7) has sexual relations with any animal, 8) who sleeps with his sister, 9) who sleeps with his mother-in-law, 10) who kills his neighbor secretly, 11) who accepts a bribe to kill an innocent person, and 12) who does not uphold the words of this law by carrying them out.
The Torah: A Modern Commentary, page 1516, has this to say regarding these curses: “It is likely that these reprehensible actions were chosen because they would generally be committed in secret and remain unpunished by human courts. The people assumed collective responsibility for such acts, of which the first and last concern a person’s relationship with God and the other with the purity of the family and with moral behavior in various respects.”
Deuteronomy Chapter 28
A reminder is again given to the nation of Israel, obedience means blessings, disobedience means curses. The curses always seem to outnumber the blessings. (See Leviticus Chapter 26) Curses are usually the opposite of blessings. Compare the following verses: verse 3 with verse16, verse 4 with verse 18, verse 5 with verse17, verse 6 with 19, verse 7 with verses 25 and 26, verse 8 with verses 27- 29, verse 9 with verses 36 and 37, verse 10 with verses 49-57, verse 11 with verses 30-35, verse 12 with verses 24, 38-42 and 44, and verse 13 with verse 44. As if these were not enough, further curses were in store for this nation if they did not revere and obey their God, Jehovah. These are enumerated in verses 59 through 68. These are the terms of the covenant that Jehovah commanded Moses to make with Israel in Moab in addition to those given at Horeb.
Deuteronomy Chapter 29
Even though Israel had seen all of Jehovah’s miraculous signs and great wonders with their own eyes, yet Jehovah had not given them a mind that understands or eyes that see or ears that hear. Paul quoted these words in Romans 11:8 to show that Israel’s sensibilities were dulled or blunted even down to his day. They lacked true appreciation of Jehovah’s mercies and saving work. Their spiritual eyes and ears were not sharp.
During the forty years of their wandering in the desert, Jehovah had provided for them. Their clothes and sandals did not wear out. They had been fed manna from heaven so that they would know that Jehovah was their provider, their God. He had already given them the land of Og and Sihon. They now ought to put their complete trust in Jehovah.
They were now standing before Jehovah to enter into a covenant with Jehovah that He would be their God and they his people. This covenant will be binding not only on the people standing before Jehovah on this day but also upon future generations. They have seen how people in other nations worship gods of stone, wood, silver and gold something detestable to their God, Jehovah. Israel is to be vigilant against idolatry. Any man or woman standing among them whose heart turns away from Jehovah to the worship of these detestable idols would be a source of bitter poison that would affect others. (See Hebrews 12:15) That person may believe that because Jehovah had declared Israel his people on this day that he would be safe if he persisted in going his own way; that he can introduce idolatry into Israel with impunity. This idolatrous root could grow and spread throughout Israel if not checked. Israel would then experience all of the curses of the law. The whole land would become like Sodom and Gomorrah, Admah and Zeboiim, a worthless land covered with salt and sulfur. The devastation would be so great that the nations would want to know why had Jehovah expressed such fierce anger against this land. The answer would be that the people abandoned their covenant with Jehovah, and worshipped other gods, foreign gods. Jehovah’s anger would be so fierce that He would uproot them from their land and thrust them into another land where they would live as captives do. (See 28:64-68)
Jehovah would never forgive a person who introduces idolatry into Israel. His wrath and fury would be upon him. All of the curses of the law would come upon him and Jehovah would blot out his name from under the heaven.
The things of the future, things not revealed belong to Jehovah, but all revealed things, the things that they needed to know, belong to Israel so that they would know how to be obedient and be able to follow all the words of the law given to them.
Deuteronomy Chapter 30
Moses was well aware that Israel would experience all of curses and blessings that he was propounding to them. He therefore told them that after God had scattered them among the nations and they had repented and turned back to Jehovah in order to obey him wholeheartedly, then Jehovah would restore them to their land. He would circumcise their hearts and the hearts of their descendants so that they would love him with all their hearts and souls. The curses in the law He would then put on their enemies but He would bless them. Jehovah would again delight in them and make them more prosperous and numerous than before if they obey Him fully and keep His commands and decrees that are written in the Book of the Law. (Leviticus 26:22-28)
These words were repeated many times by the prophets of Israel and their application was to a future time, a time beyond the restoration that occurred after they returned from captivity to Babylon. First century Christian writers applied some of this information to themselves but the major fulfillment is still awaiting an ‘Israel of Jehovah’s making.’
Moses now reminds Israel that the commands that he is giving them are not so difficult that they could not understand them. They were not too far away such that they would need someone to ascend into heaven or to cross the sea to get them and explain them to Israel before they could obey them. No, the law was very near to them, in their mouths and in their hearts so that they could obey them. They had heard the words; they were written down; they had no excuse for not obeying.
The choices had been set before Israel by Moses. They could choose life and prosperity by loving Jehovah, walking in his ways and keeping his commands, laws, and decrees. They could choose death and destruction by allowing their hearts to turn away from Jehovah, by being disobedient and turning to other gods to worship them. Heaven and earth would be witnesses against them that they had been given the appropriate information to make the best choice. It was up to them. But Moses urged them to choose to love and obey Jehovah, to listen to Him and hold fast to Him. They and their children would be the beneficiaries of a long and prosperous life.
Deuteronomy Chapter 31
Moses is now to turn over the reins of leadership to Joshua. He tells the people that he is now one hundred and twenty years old and he will not lead them into the land of Canaan. But Jehovah will cross over before them to destroy the nations living there and they will take possession of this land. They are not to be terrified or afraid of these nations but they are to be courageous and strong as Jehovah their God will go with them. He will never leave them or forsake them. He then summons Joshua and in the presence of all Israel Moses tells him to be strong and courageous as he leads the people into the land that Jehovah is giving them. After conquering the land he would be responsible for dividing it and giving each tribe its inheritance. Jehovah will go before him and will never leave him or forsake him.
Moses then presents the written law to the priests and the elders of Israel. He commands them to read this law in the hearing of the people every seventh year, the sabbatical year, as all of the people assembled to celebrate the Festival of Booths. Everyone who lived in the land must be present, including men, women, children and the aliens who live in the land so that they all can listen and learn to fear Jehovah and carefully follow all the words of the law. Children were singled out by Moses because they did not know the law and so must hear it so that they would learn to fear Jehovah as they grew into adults. This did not preclude the responsibility of parents to continue teaching them at home. (6:7, 8)
Jehovah now summons Moses and Joshua to present themselves at the Tabernacle where Jehovah will commission Joshua. Jehovah appeared in a pillar of cloud that stood over the entrance to the Tent. He said to Moses that after his death, the people would prostitute themselves to the gods of the land they were entering. They were going to break his covenant and He would become very angry with them and would hide himself from them. They would experience many disasters and difficulties and would recognize that these were the result of Jehovah leaving them. Moses was to write down a song that Jehovah would give him and he was to teach it to the nation. This song would be a testimony against them that they had been warned about the results of idolatry. Then Jehovah encouraged Joshua to be strong and courageous because he would bring the people into the land that He had promised on oath to give them. Moses wrote the song down and taught Israel to sing it.
After Moses had written all of the words of the law and put them into a book, he gave it to the Levites, who carry the Ark of the Covenant, and he told them to place it beside the ark. It would act as a witness against them because they were a rebellious and stiff-necked people. Moses’ experience with them has been one of constant rebellion and he knows that they will continue to rebel after he dies. He asks all the elders and officials of the people to assemble so the he can speak the words Jehovah gave him in their hearing and call heaven and earth to testify against them that they will become more corrupt and turn from the way he has commanded them. They should expect disaster because they will provoke Jehovah to anger by following foreign gods.
Deuteronomy Chapter 32
Moses now recites the song that Jehovah gave him to the entire assembly. He calls on the heavens and the earth to hear and listen to the words of his mouth, as they will certainly testify against the people (31:28). Jehovah’s name is to be proclaimed, his greatness praised, as He is the rock, His works are perfect, He is a faithful God who does no wrong. The people have acted corruptly towards Him by turning to other gods; they are a warped and crooked generation. They are foolish and unwise because they do not recognize that He is their Father and Creator who made them into a nation and sustained them. They need to give consideration to times past when Jehovah gave them their inheritance in accordance with their number. He had rescued them from a barren and howling wasteland. He had cared for them and guarded them as the apple of His eye just as an eagle cares for his young and spreads his wings to keep them from falling as they learn to fly. Jehovah alone was with them when no foreign god was around. The land produced only the finest of food for them to eat. After they became affluent they abandoned Jehovah and rejected their Savior. Yes, they made Him jealous and angered Him with their detestable idols. They began sacrificing to the demons, to gods who were previously unknown to them, ones that their fathers had not reverenced. They deserted the Rock who fathered them and forgot the one who gave them birth.
Jehovah would now reject them; He would hide His face from them and would allow their punishment to overtake them. He would no longer protect them. He would in fact make them jealous as they had done to Him by choosing another nation to be over them, one that they looked upon as a stupid nation, a nation without understanding. (Isaiah 65:1) Jehovah’s anger will be ignited like a fire that will burn to the realms of death below, that will devour the earth, its harvests and set afire the very foundations of the mountains. The calamities that he would send upon them would be numerous. He would send wasting famine consuming pestilence and deadly plague; the fangs of wild beast, the venom of vipers, their children would die by the sword and terror would reign in their homes. He thought of blotting out the memory of them from mankind but His enemies would likely think that they brought Israel down. They would not acknowledge that Jehovah had done this to His own people.
They are a senseless nation, a people who are not discerning at all. If only they would reason on where they were going to end up. One enemy soldier would rout a thousand Israelites or two would rout ten thousands Israelites. This scenario is possible only if Jehovah had left them and had given them over to the enemy. Israel’s enemies, however, should not gloat. Jehovah has allowed them to act against His people. But He will also act against them because of their wickedness. He will hold them accountable for what they perpetrated upon Israel and He will repay them. Their day of disaster is near.
Jehovah will plead the cause of his people. He will be compassionate towards them when He sees that their strength is gone. He can now ask them where are the gods that they have taken refuge in, who have been drinking their drink offering, eating the fat of their sacrifices. Can they not provide shelter for you; can they now help you? Jehovah is the only God who can put to death or bring to life. He has wounded and only he can heal. When His people have come to this realization then He can take vengeance on his enemies and repay those who hate Him.
The nations and their people can now rejoice because Jehovah will take vengeance on his enemies and atone for his people and their land. This will mean blessing for these nations because they can take advantage of the Abrahamic Covenant that allows them to bless themselves by means of the ‘seed of Abraham.’ This prophetic ‘song’ has much meaning for us today, as Jehovah is about to fulfill all prophecies concerning the restoration of his people Israel.
Moses, after completing the words of this song, urges the people to take to heart all of these words that he has declared to them on this day. They are not idle words, but words that can mean their lives if they are obedient to them and are careful to teach them to their children.
Jehovah tells Moses to go up into Mount Nebo in the Abarim mountain range located in Moab and view the land because he will die and be buried there. He restates that the reason that He had to take this action against both Aaron and Moses is because they broke faith with Him before the nation of Israel at Meribah.
Deuteronomy Chapter 33
Before his death Moses blessed the tribes of Israel as Jacob had done on his deathbed. There are only eleven tribes cited in these blessings, twelve, if Joseph is to be counted as two tribes. Simeon is not mentioned. Scholars believe that the reason for this was that this tribe was later assimilated into the tribe of Judah. Moses begins his blessings by describing how Jehovah, who was their king, came to Sinai and gave the nation His laws through Moses. His glory is described as rising over Israel as the sun dawns over the mountains.
Reuben was to be blessed with continued life though his numbers would be few. Judah would have need of Jehovah’s help in fighting his battles. Levi was favored as the one who made decisions for the people. He had proven himself because of the stand he took against those who worshipped the golden calf not caring whether or not family members were involved. Because he watched over Jehovah’s word, he became the one who would teach Israel God’s law and precepts. He would stand before Jehovah to offer His food on the altar. Moses prayed that Jehovah would bless his skills as a teacher and be pleased with his accomplishments and that He would strike his foes down. The beloved of Jehovah would rest in Benjamin and he would a shield for him. Benjamin’s blessing may be a reference to the fact that the city that Jehovah chose to put his name lay in his territory. The land belonging to Joseph, through his two sons Manasseh and Ephraim, would be very fruitful. The mountains and hills would produce bountifully. On the head of Joseph would rest the favor of Jehovah. He is referred to here as the ‘prince among his brothers’ and like a ‘firstborn bull’ with the horns of the wild ox with which he would gore the nations, indicating great strength. This would seem to indicate that Joseph would take on a role as leader of his people. The tribe of Ephraim did later become the dominant tribe in the 10-tribe kingdom. Zebulun and Issachar are linked together. They were to be blessed in all of their activity whether commercial or domestic. They would take the lead in summoning people to righteous activity and would feast on the abundance of the sea. Zebulun was among the first to benefit from the activities of Jesus. (Matthew 4:13-17) When some from Issachar came to make David king, they were spoken of in 1 Chronicles 12:32 as those “having a knowledge of how to discern the times to know what Israel ought to do.” Gad is depicted as living in his territory as ‘a lion tearing at arm and leg’ indicating that he had a warlike character. 1 Chronicles 12:8 describes this tribe as having “the faces of lions.” He is said to have carried out Jehovah’s will and judgements concerning Israel when the heads of the people assembled. Dan is described as a lion’s cub springing out of Bashan. This reference to Bashan has to do with the area east of the Jordan where lions were plentiful. It can also be noted that the name of the land that Dan settled in, Laish, in poetic terms, means ‘lion.’ Naphtali would abound with the favor of Jehovah and his blessings. His land would extend from the north of Galilee to the area west and south of the lake. His land was spoken of in Isaiah 9:1, 2 as one that ‘saw a great light.’ Asher would be most blessed of the sons and be favored by his brothers and would bathe his feet in oil. Olive trees grew in abundance in Galilee. He would be secure behind gates of iron and bronze and his strength would increase all of his days.
Moses then praises the God of Jeshurun (the upright one) who rides on the heavens to help Israel. He is their refuge and his arms were underneath them to keep them from harm. He will drive out their enemies and Israel will live in safety. Jacob’s descendants will live in a land that is secure and produces abundantly because of adequate rainfall. There is no nation like Israel, a people saved by Jehovah. He is their shield and helper and their defender. Their enemies will cower before them and they will trample down their high places.
Deuteronomy Chapter 34
Moses now goes up into Mount Nebo where Jehovah miraculously shows him the entire land. Looking northward he would see Gilead and Dan, then looking in a northwesterly direction he would see the territory of Naphtali, Ephraim, Manasseh. Then looking westward he would see the territory of Judah as far as the western sea or the Mediterranean. Looking in a southerly direction he would see the Negev and the region of the Valley of Jericho, the City of Palms as far as Zoar. Jehovah told Moses that he had now seen the land that he promised on oath to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob to give to their descendants, but he would not cross over into it. Then Moses died and Jehovah buried him and no one has ever discovered where his grave is located. (Jude 9) Moses was 120 years old when he died and still retained his strength. The Israelites mourned him for thirty days. Joshua, filled with the spirit of wisdom, began leading the nation and they listened to him. No prophet has since risen in Israel that Jehovah used as mightily as he did Moses, performing miraculous signs and wonders before Pharaoh and before Israel.
THE BOOK OF JOSHUA
Joshua Chapter 1
After Moses’ death, Jehovah commanded Joshua to prepare to cross the Jordan River into the Land they were to take over. Jehovah encouraged Joshua by saying to him, “No one will be able to stand up against you all the days of your life. As I was with Moses, so I will be with you; I will never leave you nor forsake you.” (Verse 5) Joshua was to be strong and courageous and to be careful to obey all the law Moses had given them. He was told “Do not let the Book of the Law depart from your mouth; mediate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful.” (Verse 8) Joshua then told the people to prepare to cross the Jordan in three days. He reminded the Reubenites, the Gadites and the ½ tribe of Manasseh of their promise to Moses to help their brothers conquer Canaan before they could return to their inheritance on this side of the Jordan. They agreed that they would do all that was required of them and that they would fully obey Joshua as they had obeyed Moses.
Joshua Chapter 2
Joshua now secretly sent two spies from Shittim to look over the land especially Jericho. He did this in secret possibly because of what had happened forty years earlier when the twelve spies had been sent into the land and had brought back a bad report which had discouraged the people. When they got to Jericho, they went into the house of a prostitute because they believed that they would not be detected. But they were seen and a report was given to the king that some Israelites had come into the city to spy out their land. The king sent to the prostitute whose name was Rahab and told her to bring out the men who had entered her house because they were spies. Rahab however had hidden the men on her roof. She told the king that they had been to her house but she did not know where they were at this time as they left at dusk before the city gates were closed. She urged them to hurry after them that they might catch them.
Rahab was certainly aware that if her house was searched and the two men found that she could be put to death for treason. She was siding with Israel against her own people.
Rahab went up to the spies on the roof and said to them, “I know that the Lord [Jehovah] has given this land to you and that a great fear of you has fallen on us, so that all who live in this country are melting in fear because of you.” (Verse 8) She stated that the people had heard about the drying up of the Red Sea for Israel to cross and what Israel had done to Sihon and Og. As a result of this their hearts melted and their courage had failed. She stated that everyone knew that Jehovah their God was God of heaven and earth. Because of the kindness she had shown the spies, she asked if they would show the same kindness to her and her family so that their lives would be spared. She knew that Jericho would fall to Israel just as the cities of Sihon and Og had. The spies promised her that if she kept silent about their activities, the lives of her family would be spared.
She helped them to escape by hanging a rope from a window, as her house was built on the wall of the city, so that they could climb down. She advised them to go to the hills and wait three days before going on their way so that they would avoid the men sent out to find them. The spies told her that their oath to spare their lives would be valid only if she had the scarlet cord that they gave her tied in the window that they had escaped through. This would enable them to identify her house. She was also to have her entire family assembled in her house; anyone not in her house would be killed. Also their oath to her would be void if anyone in her household told anyone in Jericho what Israel was doing. The spies left and Rahab then tied the cord in her window. (Hebrews 11:31; James 2:25)
Following Rahab’s instructions the spies waited three days before they started back to their camp. Arriving there, they told Joshua everything that had happened to them. They especially emphasized that Jehovah had given the whole land into their hands because ‘all the people were melting in fear because of them.’
Joshua Chapter 3
Israel now left Shittim and went to the Jordan, a ten-mile journey, and camped there before crossing over. The officers gave these orders to the people: “When you see the Ark of the Covenant and the priests carrying it, you are to move out from your positions and follow it. Then you will know which way to go, since you have never been this way before. But keep a distance of about one thousand yards between you and the ark; do not go near it.” This would mean that they were to keep a distance of at least ½ mile from the ark. Israel was continually reminded that they were not allowed to go near the sacred articles unless they die. Israel was now told to consecrate themselves, as they were about to see Jehovah do miraculous things.
Joshua instructed the priest that they were to take the ark and go ahead of the people. Jehovah said to Joshua, “Today I will begin to exalt you in the eyes of all Israel, so that they may know that I am with you as I was with Moses. Tell the priest who carry the Ark of the Covenant: ‘When you reach the edge of the Jordan’s waters, go and stand in the river.’” (Verse 7, 8) Joshua told the people that they were going to see a demonstration that would prove to them that Jehovah was going to keep his promises. As soon as the priests put their feet into the river, the water would stop flowing downstream and be gathered in a heap upstream. The people were to choose twelve men, one from each tribe, who were given instructions as to what they were to do. These instructions are discussed in chapter 4.
The people broke camp and the priests carrying the ark went ahead to the Jordan, which was at flood stage at this time. But as soon as they put their feet into the water, it stopped flowing and dammed up at a place about sixteen to twenty miles upstream called Adam. There was no water flowing to the Salt Sea. The priests were to remain standing in the middle of the Jordan until everyone had crossed over.
Joshua Chapter 4
The twelve men who had already been selected were to go ahead of the priest into the middle of the riverbed and pick up twelve stones, one for each tribe, from the exact spot that the priests were to stand. They were to carry these stones on their shoulders as they crossed to the other side of the river. These stones, taken from the riverbed, would be evidence that the waters of the Jordan had actually stopped flowing and the riverbed was dry.
The priest remained standing in the middle of the Jordan until all Israel crossed over. About forty thousand men from Reuben, Gad, and the half-tribe of Manasseh, armed for fighting, crossed over in front of Israel. Then all the people crossed over. Afterwards, Jehovah told Joshua to command the priests to come up out of the Jordan. As soon as they set their feet on dry land, the waters of the Jordan began to run again at flood stage as it had before. Jehovah exalted Joshua that day in the sight of all Israel and they began to revere him as they had revered Moses
When they came to Gilgal, Joshua took the stones that had been taken from the Jordan’s riverbed and set them up as a memorial to what Jehovah had done that day. This memorial would provoke questions from the descendants of Israel concerning their purpose and meaning. Their parents were to tell them that the waters of the Jordan had been cut off before the Ark of the Covenant of Jehovah and that Israel had crossed over on dry land just as they had done at the Red Sea. It would be a reminder to all peoples of the earth that the hand of Jehovah is powerful and a reminder to Israel to always fear their God, Jehovah.
NOTE: All scriptural quotes were taken from the New International Version Study Bible
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