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Deuteronomy 14-16    Listen Podcast


Hey! Watch out with that knife! (Deuteronomy 14:1-2)

1 “You are the children of the LORD your God; you shall not cut yourselves nor shave the front of your head for the dead.
2 For you are a holy people to the LORD your God, and the LORD has chosen you to be a people for Himself, a special treasure above all the peoples who are on the face of 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 special treasure." This is actually a restatement, in essence, of Exodus 19:5-6 (see notes), "Now therefore, if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, then you shall be a special treasure to Me above all people; for all the earth is Mine. And you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation. These are the words which you shall speak to 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 these verses when he applied the same concept to New Testament Christians in I Peter 2:9-10 (see notes), "But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; who once were not a people but are now the people of God, who had not obtained mercy but now have obtained mercy."

No eatin' unclean food! (Deuteronomy 14:3-21)

3 ¶ “You shall not eat any detestable thing.
4 These are the animals which you may eat: the ox, the sheep, the goat,
5 the deer, the gazelle, the roe deer, the wild goat, the mountain goat, the antelope, and the mountain sheep.
6 And you may eat every animal with cloven hooves, having the hoof split into two parts, and that chews the cud, among the animals.
7 Nevertheless, of those that chew the cud or have cloven hooves, you shall not eat, such as these: the camel, the hare, and the rock hyrax; for they chew the cud but do not have cloven hooves; they are unclean for you.
8 Also the swine is unclean for you, because it has cloven hooves, yet does not chew the cud; you shall not eat their flesh or touch their dead carcasses.
9 ¶ “These you may eat of all that are in the waters: you may eat all that have fins and scales.
10 And whatever does not have fins and scales you shall not eat; it is unclean for you.
11 ¶ “All clean birds you may eat.
12 But these you shall not eat: the eagle, the vulture, the buzzard,
13 the red kite, the falcon, and the kite after their kinds;
14 every raven after its kind;
15 the ostrich, the short-eared owl, the sea gull, and the hawk after their kinds;
16 the little owl, the screech owl, the white owl,
17 the jackdaw, the carrion vulture, the fisher owl,
18 the stork, the heron after its kind, and the hoopoe and the bat.
19 ¶ “Also every creeping thing that flies is unclean for you; they shall not be eaten.
20 ¶ “You may eat all clean birds.
21 ¶ “You shall not eat anything that dies of itself; you may give it to the alien who is within your gates, that he may eat it, or you may sell it to a foreigner; for you are a holy people to the LORD your God. ¶ ‘You shall not boil a young goat in its 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 ¶ “You shall truly tithe all the increase of your grain that the field produces year by year.
23 And you shall eat before the LORD your God, in the place where He chooses to make His name abide, the tithe of your grain and your new wine and your oil, of the firstborn of your herds and your flocks, that you may learn to fear the LORD your God always.
24 But if the journey is too long for you, so that you are not able to carry the tithe, or if the place where the LORD your God chooses to put His name is too far from you, when the LORD your God has blessed you,
25 then you shall exchange it for money, take the money in your hand, and go to the place which the LORD your God chooses.
26 And you shall spend that money for whatever your heart desires: for oxen or sheep, for wine or similar drink, for whatever your heart desires; you shall eat there before the LORD your God, and you shall rejoice, you and your household.
27 You shall not forsake the Levite who is within your gates, for he has no part nor inheritance with you.
28 ¶ “At the end of every third year you shall bring out the tithe of your produce of that year and store it up within your gates.
29 And the Levite, because he has no portion nor inheritance with you, and the stranger and the fatherless and the widow who are within your gates, may come and eat and be satisfied, that the LORD your God may bless you in all the work of your hand which you do.

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 you shall eat before the LORD your God, in the place where He chooses to make His name abide..." 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 you shall grant a release of debts.
2 And this is the form of the release: Every creditor who has lent anything to his neighbor shall release it; he shall not require it of his neighbor or his brother, because it is called the LORD’S release.
3 Of a foreigner you may require it; but you shall give up your claim to what is owed by your brother,
4 except when there may be no poor among you; for the LORD will greatly bless you in the land which the LORD your God is giving you to possess as an inheritance—
5 only if you carefully obey the voice of the LORD your God, to observe with care all these commandments which I command you today.
6 For the LORD your God will bless you just as He promised you; you shall lend to many nations, but you shall not borrow; you shall reign over many nations, but they shall not reign over you.
7 ¶ “If there is among you a poor man of your brethren, within any of the gates in your land which the LORD your God is giving you, you shall not harden your heart nor shut your hand from your poor brother,
8 but you shall open your hand wide to him and willingly lend him sufficient for his need, whatever he needs.
9 Beware lest there be a wicked thought in your heart, saying, “The seventh year, the year of release, is at hand,’ and your eye be evil against your poor brother and you give him nothing, and he cry out to the LORD against you, and it become sin among you.
10 You shall surely give to him, and your heart should not be grieved when you give to him, because for this thing the LORD your God will bless you in all your works and in all to which you put your hand.
11 For the poor will never cease from the land; therefore I command you, saying, “You shall open your hand wide to your brother, to your poor and your needy, in your land.’
12 ¶ “If your brother, a Hebrew man, or a Hebrew woman, is sold to you and serves you six years, then in the seventh year you shall let him go free from you.
13 And when you send him away free from you, you shall not let him go away empty-handed;
14 you shall supply him liberally from your flock, from your threshing floor, and from your winepress. From what the LORD has blessed you with, you shall give to him.
15 You shall remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the LORD your God redeemed you; therefore I command you this thing today.
16 And if it happens that he says to you, “I will not go away from you,’ because he loves you and your house, since he prospers with you,
17 then you shall take an awl and thrust it through his ear to the door, and he shall be your servant forever. Also to your female servant you shall do likewise.
18 It shall not seem hard to you when you send him away free from you; for he has been worth a double hired servant in serving you six years. Then the LORD your God will bless you in all that you do.

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, "If one of your brethren becomes poor, and falls into poverty among you, then you shall help him, like a stranger or a sojourner, that he may live with you. Take no usury or interest from him; but fear your God, that your brother may live with you. You shall not lend him your money for usury, nor lend him your food at a profit." Deuteronomy 23:20 (see notes) says, "To a foreigner you may charge interest, but to your brother you shall not charge interest, that the LORD your God may bless you in all to which you set your hand in the land which you are entering to possess." As a matter of fact, in talking about the characteristics of the righteous, we read in Psalm 15:5 (see notes), "He who does not put out his money at usury, Nor does he take a bribe against the innocent. He who does 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 every man set free his Hebrew brother, who has been sold to him; and when he has served you six years, you shall let him go free from you. But your fathers did not obey Me nor incline 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 firstborn males that come from your herd and your flock you shall sanctify to the LORD your God; you shall do no work with the firstborn of your herd, nor shear the firstborn of your flock.
20 You and your household shall eat it before the LORD your God year by year in the place which the LORD chooses.
21 But if there is a defect in it, if it is lame or blind or has any serious defect, you shall not sacrifice it to the LORD your God.
22 You may eat it within your gates; the unclean and the clean person alike may eat it, as if it were a gazelle or a deer.
23 Only you shall not eat its blood; you shall pour it on the ground like 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 to the LORD your God, for in the month of Abib the LORD your God brought you out of Egypt by night.
2 Therefore you shall sacrifice the Passover to the LORD your God, from the flock and the herd, in the place where the LORD chooses to put His name.
3 You shall eat no leavened bread with it; seven days you shall eat unleavened bread with it, that is, the bread of affliction (for you came out of the land of Egypt in haste), that you may remember the day in which you came out of the land of Egypt all the days of your life.
4 And no leaven shall be seen among you in all your territory for seven days, nor shall any of the meat which you sacrifice the first day at twilight remain overnight until morning.
5 ¶ “You may not sacrifice the Passover within any of your gates which the LORD your God gives you;
6 but at the place where the LORD your God chooses to make His name abide, there you shall sacrifice the Passover at twilight, at the going down of the sun, at the time you came out of Egypt.
7 And you shall roast and eat it in the place which the LORD your God chooses, and in the morning you shall turn and go to your tents.
8 Six days you shall eat unleavened bread, and on the seventh day there shall be a sacred assembly to the LORD your God. You shall do no work on it.
9 ¶ “You shall count seven weeks for yourself; begin to count the seven weeks from the time you begin to put the sickle to the grain.
10 Then you shall keep the Feast of Weeks to the LORD your God with the tribute of a freewill offering from your hand, which you shall give as the LORD your God blesses you.
11 You shall rejoice before the LORD your God, you and your son and your daughter, your male servant and your female servant, the Levite who is within your gates, the stranger and the fatherless and the widow who are among you, at the place where the LORD your God chooses to make His name abide.
12 And you shall remember that you were a slave in Egypt, and you shall be careful to observe these statutes.
13 ¶ “You shall observe the Feast of Tabernacles seven days, when you have gathered from your threshing floor and from your winepress.
14 And you shall rejoice in your feast, you and your son and your daughter, your male servant and your female servant and the Levite, the stranger and the fatherless and the widow, who are within your gates.
15 Seven days you shall keep a sacred feast to the LORD your God in the place which the LORD chooses, because the LORD your God will bless you in all your produce and in all the work of your hands, so that you surely rejoice.
16 ¶ “Three times a year all your males shall appear before the LORD your God in the place which He chooses: at the Feast of Unleavened Bread, at the Feast of Weeks, and at the Feast of Tabernacles; and they shall not appear before the LORD empty-handed.
17 Every man shall give as he is able, according to the blessing of the LORD your God which He has given you.

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 ¶ “You shall appoint judges and officers in all your gates, which the LORD your God gives you, according to your tribes, and they shall judge the people with just judgment.
19 You shall not pervert justice; you shall not show partiality, nor take a bribe, for a bribe blinds the eyes of the wise and twists the words of the righteous.
20 You shall follow what is altogether just, that you may live and inherit the land which the LORD your God is giving you.

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 bribe blinds the eyes of the wise and twists the words of the righteous."

Avoid that Baal-looking practice with the trees (Deuteronomy 16:21-22)

21 ¶ “You shall not plant for yourself any tree, as a wooden image, near the altar which you build for yourself to the LORD your God.
22 You shall not set up a sacred pillar, which the LORD your God hates.

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 and "tree" in the NKJV come 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).