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Deuteronomy 14-16 Listen
Hey! Watch out with that knife! (Deuteronomy 14:1-2)
1 Ye are the children of the LORD your God: ye shall not cut yourselves, nor make any baldness between your eyes for the dead.
2 For thou art an holy people unto the LORD thy God, and the LORD hath chosen thee to be a peculiar people unto himself, above all the nations that are upon the earth.
This is a restatement of Leviticus 19:27-28 (see notes) concerning cutting oneself. Incidentally, Jezebel's prophets of Baal practiced this strange procedure when they were trying to call fire down to ignite the altar as they competed with Elijah in I Kings 18:28 (see notes). It was a heathen practice that accompanied their mourning. GOD SAID NO! But hundreds of years later, they seem to be engaging in this heathen practice from the references we see in Jeremiah 16:6 (see notes); Jeremiah 41:5 (see notes); Jeremiah 47:5 (see notes). It was first mentioned as part of the law in Leviticus 19:28 (see notes).
Notice the Hebrew status before God. As a nation, they were "holy" (set apart) "people." Moreover, they had been chosen by God to be "a peculiar people" i.e. people who had been "purchased." This is actually a restatement, in essence, of Exodus 19:5-6 (see notes), "Now therefore, if ye will obey my voice indeed, and keep my covenant, then ye shall be a peculiar treasure unto me above all people: for all the earth is mine: And ye shall be unto me a kingdom of priests, and an holy nation. These are the words which thou shalt speak unto the children of Israel."The Hebrews enjoyed this unique position, distinct from every other people group of the world in their relationship with God. Perhaps Peter was drawing terminology from this verses when he applied the same concept to New Testament Christians in I Peter 2:9-10 (see notes), "But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light: Which in time past were not a people, but are now the people of God: which had not obtained mercy, but now have obtained mercy."
No eatin' unclean food! (Deuteronomy 14:3-21)
3 Thou shalt not eat any abominable thing.
4 These are the beasts which ye shall eat: the ox, the sheep, and the goat,
5 The hart, and the roebuck, and the fallow deer, and the wild goat, and the pygarg, and the wild ox, and the chamois.
6 And every beast that parteth the hoof, and cleaveth the cleft into two claws, and cheweth the cud among the beasts, that ye shall eat.
7 Nevertheless these ye shall not eat of them that chew the cud, or of them that divide the cloven hoof; as the camel, and the hare, and the coney: for they chew the cud, but divide not the hoof; therefore they are unclean unto you.
8 And the swine, because it divideth the hoof, yet cheweth not the cud, it is unclean unto you: ye shall not eat of their flesh, nor touch their dead carcase.
9 These ye shall eat of all that are in the waters: all that have fins and scales shall ye eat:
10 And whatsoever hath not fins and scales ye may not eat; it is unclean unto you.
11 Of all clean birds ye shall eat.
12 But these are they of which ye shall not eat: the eagle, and the ossifrage, and the ospray,
13 And the glede, and the kite, and the vulture after his kind,
14 And every raven after his kind,
15 And the owl, and the night hawk, and the cuckow, and the hawk after his kind,
16 The little owl, and the great owl, and the swan,
17 And the pelican, and the gier eagle, and the cormorant,
18 And the stork, and the heron after her kind, and the lapwing, and the bat.
19 And every creeping thing that flieth is unclean unto you: they shall not be eaten.
20 But of all clean fowls ye may eat.
21 Ye shall not eat of any thing that dieth of itself: thou shalt give it unto the stranger that is in thy gates, that he may eat it; or thou mayest sell it unto an alien: for thou art an holy people unto the LORD thy God. Thou shalt not seethe a kid in his mother’s milk.
These verses give a basic outline of food that may or may not be eaten by the Hebrews.
Notice the following note regarding "kosher" foods found in the Jewish Study Bible:
The word "kosher" is never used in the Bible in reference to food. Nor is there in the Torah a comprehensive set of rules, similar to the later rabbinic system of kashrut, which covers permitted and nonpermitted foods, combinations of foods, means of preparation, rules for slaughter, etc. Deuteronomy nevertheless begins to build toward such a system.
Who would even consider eating a kite (verse 13)? Remove the sticks first if you do! Actually, it's a medium-sized member of the hawk family. What if a CLEAN animal dies a natural death? HEBREWS MAY NOT EAT IT! It's interesting, though, that it can be given to a non Hebrew to eat or even sold to a stranger (verse 21). The laws regarding foods were given in Leviticus 11 (see notes) also. You'll notice that, with regard to four-footed animals, the big indicator is found in the hoof and cud chewing. Leviticus 11 (see notes), as well as this passage, do list the entire extent of "Kosher" practice for observant Jews today.
This designation of meat that is "unclean" is not new here. You will recall that Adam and Eve apparently started out as vegetarians (Genesis 1:29-30, see notes). Yet, when Noah was loading the ark with animals, God gave specific ark-loading instructions to Noah regarding "clean" and "unclean" animals in Genesis 7:2 (see notes). It's actually not until after the ark experience that we see the first occurrence of a meat diet per God's instructions in Genesis 9:2-3 (see notes) as part of the Noahic Covenant. So...the differentiation of which animals are okay to eat or not actually goes back to Noah.
Today's observant Jews work from a more extensive rabbinical list of foods that has been embellished through oral tradition over the centuries. For that reason, many Messianic Christians observe "Kosher," but in the context of Leviticus 11 and Deuteronomy 14 rather than rabbinical tradition. This practice is typically differentiated as "Torah Kosher" and not "Rabbinical Kosher."
The reference to cooking a goat in the mother's milk (verse 21) was also seen in Exodus 23:19 (see notes) and again in Exodus 34:26 (see notes). No one knows the background regarding the heathen practice for which this law was designed to prevent. Observant Jews through the centuries have expanded on this law themselves by declaring that it is not lawful to prepare meat with milk products at all. From the strict wording of the two passages, that appears to be an embellishment of the intent.
What about tithing? (Deuteronomy 14:22-29)
22 Thou shalt truly tithe all the increase of thy seed, that the field bringeth forth year by year.
23 And thou shalt eat before the LORD thy God, in the place which he shall choose to place his name there, the tithe of thy corn, of thy wine, and of thine oil, and the firstlings of thy herds and of thy flocks; that thou mayest learn to fear the LORD thy God always.
24 And if the way be too long for thee, so that thou art not able to carry it; or if the place be too far from thee, which the LORD thy God shall choose to set his name there, when the LORD thy God hath blessed thee:
25 Then shalt thou turn it into money, and bind up the money in thine hand, and shalt go unto the place which the LORD thy God shall choose:
26 And thou shalt bestow that money for whatsoever thy soul lusteth after, for oxen, or for sheep, or for wine, or for strong drink, or for whatsoever thy soul desireth: and thou shalt eat there before the LORD thy God, and thou shalt rejoice, thou, and thine household,
27 And the Levite that is within thy gates; thou shalt not forsake him; for he hath no part nor inheritance with thee.
28 At the end of three years thou shalt bring forth all the tithe of thine increase the same year, and shalt lay it up within thy gates:
29 And the Levite, (because he hath no part nor inheritance with thee,) and the stranger, and the fatherless, and the widow, which are within thy gates, shall come, and shall eat and be satisfied; that the LORD thy God may bless thee in all the work of thine hand which thou doest.
Want to see more tithing scripture? Try Genesis 14:17-20 (see notes). Compare to Hebrews 7:4 (see notes); Genesis 28:22 (see notes); Leviticus 27:30-33 (see notes); Numbers 18:21-32 (see notes); Deuteronomy 12:5, 6, 11, 18 (see notes); Nehemiah 10:36-38 (see notes), Nehemiah 13:5,12 (see notes); Deuteronomy 26:12-15 (see notes). You will observe that Numbers 18:21-32 (see notes) clearly establishes that the Levites will be supported by the rest of Israel with their tithes and other offerings. Twelve tribes, 600,000 men, would maintain some 22,000 Levites.
There is a provision regarding this tithe that is not seen in the specifications found in neither Leviticus 27:30-33 (see notes) nor Numbers 18:21-32 (see notes). That provision is seen here in verse 23, "And thou shalt eat before the LORD thy God, in the place which he shall choose to place his name there..." Obviously, it would be impossible to eat 10% of one's three-year yield in the space of a few days. This must be a reference to a meal that accompanies the bringing of the tithe to a designated location. The cycle of three years means that there are two three-year cycles before the sabbatical year (see below).
Interestingly enough, this word "tithe" (meaning 10%) is not used in the New Testament, nor is the concept of a fixed percentage for giving used. However, for Believers, giving that which is proportional to one's income is taught in I Corinthians 16:1-2 (see notes). Furthermore, rather than being mandated by law, giving in the New Testament is to be given freely as an expression of our love toward God as we see in II Corinthians 9:6-8 (see notes). We also see in Galatians 6:6 (see notes) that our giving should go to support those ministries that teach us the Word of God. Like the Levites, the New Testament standard establishes that those who teach the Word of God as their livelihood are appropriately supported by the offerings of those receiving this teaching in I Corinthians 9:14-17 (see notes).
I think it is important to emphasize that giving to the Lord should be a product of victorious Christian living. A Christian's giving should not be done out of feelings of guilt or superstition. Of course New Testament churches need funds to operate, but God leads his Spirit-led people to give, sometimes sacrificially, toward the support of the ministries that feed them. Therefore, the support of the local church ought to be the result of a supernatural, God-directed, Holy Spirit-led, superstition-free, guilt-free act of love on the part of victorious Christians.
The sabbatical year: Release the debt and release the slaves! (Deuteronomy 15:1-18)
1 At the end of every seven years thou shalt make a release.
2 And this is the manner of the release: Every creditor that lendeth ought unto his neighbour shall release it; he shall not exact it of his neighbour, or of his brother; because it is called the LORD’S release.
3 Of a foreigner thou mayest exact it again: but that which is thine with thy brother thine hand shall release;
4 Save when there shall be no poor among you; for the LORD shall greatly bless thee in the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee for an inheritance to possess it:
5 Only if thou carefully hearken unto the voice of the LORD thy God, to observe to do all these commandments which I command thee this day.
6 For the LORD thy God blesseth thee, as he promised thee: and thou shalt lend unto many nations, but thou shalt not borrow; and thou shalt reign over many nations, but they shall not reign over thee.
7 If there be among you a poor man of one of thy brethren within any of thy gates in thy land which the LORD thy God giveth thee, thou shalt not harden thine heart, nor shut thine hand from thy poor brother:
8 But thou shalt open thine hand wide unto him, and shalt surely lend him sufficient for his need, in that which he wanteth.
9 Beware that there be not a thought in thy wicked heart, saying, The seventh year, the year of release, is at hand; and thine eye be evil against thy poor brother, and thou givest him nought; and he cry unto the LORD against thee, and it be sin unto thee.
10 Thou shalt surely give him, and thine heart shall not be grieved when thou givest unto him: because that for this thing the LORD thy God shall bless thee in all thy works, and in all that thou puttest thine hand unto.
11 For the poor shall never cease out of the land: therefore I command thee, saying, Thou shalt open thine hand wide unto thy brother, to thy poor, and to thy needy, in thy land.
12 And if thy brother, an Hebrew man, or an Hebrew woman, be sold unto thee, and serve thee six years; then in the seventh year thou shalt let him go free from thee.
13 And when thou sendest him out free from thee, thou shalt not let him go away empty:
14 Thou shalt furnish him liberally out of thy flock, and out of thy floor, and out of thy winepress: of that wherewith the LORD thy God hath blessed thee thou shalt give unto him.
15 And thou shalt remember that thou wast a bondman in the land of Egypt, and the LORD thy God redeemed thee: therefore I command thee this thing to day.
16 And it shall be, if he say unto thee, I will not go away from thee; because he loveth thee and thine house, because he is well with thee;
17 Then thou shalt take an aul, and thrust it through his ear unto the door, and he shall be thy servant for ever. And also unto thy maidservant thou shalt do likewise.
18 It shall not seem hard unto thee, when thou sendest him away free from thee; for he hath been worth a double hired servant to thee, in serving thee six years: and the LORD thy God shall bless thee in all that thou doest.
In that 7th year, any money you had loaned to a fellow Hebrew was to be forgotten. You can see that this might lead to the temptation not to lend to the needy in that 6th year; that's addressed in verse 9 as a sin. As a matter of fact, loaning money to Hebrews was not a very lucrative business under the Mosaic Law. Leviticus 25:35-37 (see notes) says, "And if thy brother be waxen poor, and fallen in decay with thee; then thou shalt relieve him: yea, though he be a stranger, or a sojourner; that he may live with thee. Take thou no usury of him, or increase: but fear thy God; that thy brother may live with thee. Thou shalt not give him thy money upon usury, nor lend him thy victuals for increase." Deuteronomy 23:20 (see notes) says, "Unto a stranger thou mayest lend upon usury; but unto thy brother thou shalt not lend upon usury: that the LORD thy God may bless thee in all that thou settest thine hand to in the land whither thou goest to possess it." As a matter of fact, in talking about the characteristics of the righteous, we read in Psalm 15:5 (see notes), "He that putteth not out his money to usury, nor taketh reward against the innocent. He that doeth these things shall never be moved."
Here's a note from the Jewish Study Bible regarding this provision of the Law:
Deuteronomy's conception of the covenant between Israel and God entails a similar fresh start in which prior economic obligations are canceled at the initiative of the divine monarch. Now, however, it is not financial obligations to a privileged monarch that are canceled. Instead, the covenant requires the wealthy to forgive the debts of the poor! Moreover, this remission of debts and still unpaid labor contracts is no longer to be a voluntary, one–time act but a covenantal obligation that recurs every seven years. This blueprint for social justice is highly idealistic. By providing specific mechanisms to eliminate poverty and financial inequality every seven years, Deuteronomy seeks to prevent economic injustice from becoming entrenched in society.
And your Hebrew slaves go free in the sabbatical year also - along with money you must give them to start their lives over again. What if the Hebrew slave decides he (she) wants to stay? Ouuuuch! Verse 17 shows the original pierced ears...with an aul! You'll notice that the breaks given in this chapter are for the Hebrews only; foreigners received no such consideration.
One popular misuse of terminology is that of "bondservant" or "bondman." The Hebrew slave who chooses to remain after his six years of servitude does go through the procedure with the aul through the ear as also seen in Exodus 21:6 (see notes), but he is not then referred to as a "bondservant." That term is used to describe a non-Hebrew slave or Hebrew slaves who were enslaved by non-Hebrews. The Hebrew man who chooses to leave servitude after his commitment may leave with what he brought into servitude, but not with the wife and children who may have been awarded to him during the six years by his master. That is when he may choose to stay himself past his specified commitment.
It is interesting that the poor of the Hebrew community got a fresh start every seven years according to this law. As a matter of fact, it was the previous slave owner who was responsible for providing this good start to his former slave (verses 13-14).
We don't know how well the Hebrews complied with this slave release. We are told in Jeremiah 34:14 (see notes), "At the end of seven years let ye go every man his brother an Hebrew, which hath been sold unto thee; and when he hath served thee six years, thou shalt let him go free from thee: but your fathers hearkened not unto me, neither inclined their ear." From this, we do know that compliance was an issue in at least some part of Israel's history. For more insight regarding Israel's keeping of the Sabbatical year over the centuries, see the notes on Leviticus 25:1-7.
Laws concerning firstborn animals (Deuteronomy 15:19-23)
19 All the firstling males that come of thy herd and of thy flock thou shalt sanctify unto the LORD thy God: thou shalt do no work with the firstling of thy bullock, nor shear the firstling of thy sheep.
20 Thou shalt eat it before the LORD thy God year by year in the place which the LORD shall choose, thou and thy household.
21 And if there be any blemish therein, as if it be lame, or blind, or have any ill blemish, thou shalt not sacrifice it unto the LORD thy God.
22 Thou shalt eat it within thy gates: the unclean and the clean person shall eat it alike, as the roebuck, and as the hart.
23 Only thou shalt not eat the blood thereof; thou shalt pour it upon the ground as water.
The firstborn...of anything had a very special place in Israel (Exodus 13, see notes). Immediately out of Egypt, God set apart the firstborn men, but later substituted the whole tribe of Levi in their places (Numbers 3, see notes). In this passage the sacrifice of firstborn animals (without blemish) is once again emphasized. Interestingly enough, the firstborn of the flock was to be eaten "in the place which the LORD shall choose." That emphasis is also made in Deuteronomy 12:18 (see notes).
Keep the feasts (Deuteronomy 16:1-17)
See the table on the feasts (festivals)
1 Observe the month of Abib, and keep the passover unto the LORD thy God: for in the month of Abib the LORD thy God brought thee forth out of Egypt by night.
2 Thou shalt therefore sacrifice the passover unto the LORD thy God, of the flock and the herd, in the place which the LORD shall choose to place his name there.
3 Thou shalt eat no leavened bread with it; seven days shalt thou eat unleavened bread therewith, even the bread of affliction; for thou camest forth out of the land of Egypt in haste: that thou mayest remember the day when thou camest forth out of the land of Egypt all the days of thy life.
4 And there shall be no leavened bread seen with thee in all thy coast seven days; neither shall there any thing of the flesh, which thou sacrificedst the first day at even, remain all night until the morning.
5 Thou mayest not sacrifice the passover within any of thy gates, which the LORD thy God giveth thee:
6 But at the place which the LORD thy God shall choose to place his name in, there thou shalt sacrifice the passover at even, at the going down of the sun, at the season that thou camest forth out of Egypt.
7 And thou shalt roast and eat it in the place which the LORD thy God shall choose: and thou shalt turn in the morning, and go unto thy tents.
8 Six days thou shalt eat unleavened bread: and on the seventh day shall be a solemn assembly to the LORD thy God: thou shalt do no work therein.
9 Seven weeks shalt thou number unto thee: begin to number the seven weeks from such time as thou beginnest to put the sickle to the corn.
10 And thou shalt keep the feast of weeks unto the LORD thy God with a tribute of a freewill offering of thine hand, which thou shalt give unto the LORD thy God, according as the LORD thy God hath blessed thee:
11 And thou shalt rejoice before the LORD thy God, thou, and thy son, and thy daughter, and thy manservant, and thy maidservant, and the Levite that is within thy gates, and the stranger, and the fatherless, and the widow, that are among you, in the place which the LORD thy God hath chosen to place his name there.
12 And thou shalt remember that thou wast a bondman in Egypt: and thou shalt observe and do these statutes.
13 Thou shalt observe the feast of tabernacles seven days, after that thou hast gathered in thy corn and thy wine:
14 And thou shalt rejoice in thy feast, thou, and thy son, and thy daughter, and thy manservant, and thy maidservant, and the Levite, the stranger, and the fatherless, and the widow, that are within thy gates.
15 Seven days shalt thou keep a solemn feast unto the LORD thy God in the place which the LORD shall choose: because the LORD thy God shall bless thee in all thine increase, and in all the works of thine hands, therefore thou shalt surely rejoice.
16 Three times in a year shall all thy males appear before the LORD thy God in the place which he shall choose; in the feast of unleavened bread, and in the feast of weeks, and in the feast of tabernacles: and they shall not appear before the LORD empty:
17 Every man shall give as he is able, according to the blessing of the LORD thy God which he hath given thee.
The month of Abib in verse 1 is the same as the month of Nisan. "Abib" is not really the proper name of the month, but really means "the month of young ears of grain." After the Babylonian captivity they began calling the month "Nisan." This falls in the March/April time frame and is the beginning of the Jewish year; the beginning is based on lunar cycles. That being the case, the Jewish calendar does not track equivalently to our Roman calendars. In other words, Nisan 14 (Passover Day) falls on a different Roman calendar day each year. Under the rules of the observational lunar calendar used in Bible times, Nisan 1 would fall on the day when the moon first appeared after it was determined to be spring. Technically speaking, that would be the spring equinox, but their observation of the signs of spring were not nearly so precise as to determine that, so other signs of nature provided those indications. When appropriate, to sync it back up with spring, a thirteenth month was added to the end of the previous year. Likewise, if one tracks one's birthday by the Jewish calendar each year, the date on our Roman calendar would vary by as much as four weeks or so - not bad...two parties, two cakes, two birthday presents. For more information on the Jewish calendar, click here.
Three of the Jewish festivals are outlined in verses 1-17. These are the festivals when they were to gather centrally each year.
Keep in mind, the Hebrews are on the east side of the Jordan River preparing to go into Canaan. Some changes are in order here. A pilgrimage back to a central location is specified three times each year. It is interesting that originally the Passover Feast was to be celebrated within one's own home. However, here we see that with changing circumstances this Passover Feast was to be done at that central location. It is here that the practice of many Jews of merging the Passover Feast with that of the Feast of Unleavened Bread took place. We see that in Jesus' day, some observed the Passover Feast separately and some did not. See the box to the right of the screen for more details or click here to see the article in full screen.
Give me judges who can't be bribed! (Deuteronomy 16:18-20)
18 Judges and officers shalt thou make thee in all thy gates, which the LORD thy God giveth thee, throughout thy tribes: and they shall judge the people with just judgment.
19 Thou shalt not wrest judgment; thou shalt not respect persons, neither take a gift: for a gift doth blind the eyes of the wise, and pervert the words of the righteous.
20 That which is altogether just shalt thou follow, that thou mayest live, and inherit the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee.
Let's just head this potential problem off right from the beginning. As a friend of mine says, "It's not the money; it's the money!" Or, as verse 19 puts it, "for a gift doth blind the eyes of the wise, and pervert the words of the righteous."
Avoid that Baal-looking practice with the trees (Deuteronomy 16:21-22)
21 Thou shalt not plant thee a grove of any trees near unto the altar of the LORD thy God, which thou shalt make thee.
22 Neither shalt thou set thee up any image; which the LORD thy God hateth.
This was a typical setting for the altars of the heathen to Baal. Don't do anything that even looks like it. The word "grove" in the KJV comes from the proper Hebrew name "Asherah," a Phoenician goddess - the female counterpart to Baal. Asherah first shows up in scripture all the way back in Exodus 34:13 (see notes) and Baal in Numbers 22:41 (see notes).