Deuteronomy chapter 17

Kill apostates. Obey the priests or be killed. Restrictions on kings.





VERSE 1. You shall not sacrifice to the LORD your God an ox or a sheep in which is a defect or anything evil; for that is an abomination to the LORD your God.

in which is a defect. They were to give to the LORD God the best of their possessions.

In our day, some people give to God the worst of their possessions.


VERSE 2. If there is found among you, within any of your gates which the LORD your God gives you, a man or woman who does that which is evil in the LORD your God’s sight in transgressing his covenant,


VERSE 3. and has gone and served other gods and worshiped them, or the sun, or the moon, or any of the stars of the sky, which I have not commanded,

served other gods. They did not have religious freedom.

They were prevented from serving other gods, under penalty of death.


VERSE 4. and you are told, and you have heard of it, then you shall inquire diligently. Behold, if it is true, and the thing certain, that such abomination is done in Israel,

you shall inquire diligently. There is to be a careful investigation.


VERSE 5. then you shall bring out that man or that woman who has done this evil thing to your gates, even that same man or woman; and you shall stone them to death with stones.

you shall stone them to death. This is very clear. It is not ambiguous. Yet we imagine few people would want to fulfill it.

In later centuries, Jesus Christ would prevent religious leaders from stoning a woman to death. His followers say mercy is superior to judgment:

James 2:13. For judgment is without mercy to him who has shown no mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment.

However, in later centuries, the Roman Catholic church would revive this practice.

They denied people their religious freedom. They arrested and tortured and killed people … for their doctrinal opinions.


VERSE 6. At the mouth of two witnesses, or three witnesses, he who is to die shall be put to death. At the mouth of one witness he shall not be put to death.

two witnesses, or three. In later biblical history, this will become a bedrock principle. Decisions are made based on the testimony of two (or three) witnesses.


VERSE 7. The hands of the witnesses shall be first on him to put him to death, and afterward the hands of all the people. So you shall remove the evil from among you.




VERSE 8. If there arises a matter too hard for you in judgment, between blood and blood, between plea and plea, and between stroke and stroke, being matters of controversy within your gates, then you shall arise, and go up to the place which the LORD your God chooses.

the place which the LORD your God chooses. Much later, this place will be identified as Jerusalem.


VERSE 9. You shall come to the priests who are Levites and to the judge who shall be in those days. You shall inquire, and they shall give you the verdict.

the priests who are Levites. Were there priests who were not Levites?


VERSE 10. You shall do according to the decisions of the verdict which they shall give you from that place which the LORD chooses. You shall observe to do according to all that they shall teach you.

that place which the LORD chooses. Much later, this place will be identified as Jerusalem.


VERSE 11. According to the decisions of the law which they shall teach you, and according to the judgment which they shall tell you, you shall do. You shall not turn away from the sentence which they announce to you, to the right hand, nor to the left.

you shall do. They were required by Law to obey whatever the priest said.

This policy gives almost limitless power to the priests. In subsequent biblical history, they will abuse their power.


VERSE 12. The man who does presumptuously in not listening to the priest who stands to minister there before the LORD your God, or to the judge, even that man shall die. You shall put away the evil from Israel.

not listening to the priest. Not only were they were required by Law to obey whatever the priest said. It was enforced by the death penalty.

This policy gives even more power to the priests. And they will abuse it.


VERSE 13. All the people shall hear and fear, and do no more presumptuously.




VERSE 14. When you have come to the land which the LORD your God gives you, and possess it and dwell in it, and say, “I will set a king over me, like all the nations that are around me,”

I will set a king over me. After they settle in the Promised Land, they will indeed say this.


VERSE 15. you shall surely set him whom the LORD your God chooses as king over yourselves. You shall set as king over you one from among your brothers. You may not put a foreigner over you, who is not your brother.

him whom the LORD your God chooses. This makes it seem as though the kings will be great leaders.

However, many were inept leaders. And terrible human beings.

The history of the kings has a modern-day parallel in the papacy of the Catholic church.

A Catholic might naively imagine those chosen as pope will be great leaders. However, many were inept leaders. And some were terrible human beings.


VERSE 16. Only he shall not multiply horses to himself, nor cause the people to return to Egypt, to the end that he may multiply horses; because the LORD has said to you, “You shall not go back that way again.”

not multiply horses to himself. Both David and Solomon violated this prohibition.


VERSE 17. He shall not multiply wives to himself, that his heart not turn away. He shall not greatly multiply to himself silver and gold.

He shall not multiply wives. That is, the king shall not have a great number of wives.

Does this mean that it is OK for the king to have “a few” wives? How many are allowed?

Was the king bound by monogamy?

The kings were famous for their many wives. This is attested to in many verses. Here are a few examples:

2 Samuel 20:3. David came to his house at Jerusalem; and the king took the ten women his concubines, whom he had left to keep the house, and put them in custody, and provided them with sustenance, but didn’t go in to them. So they were shut up to the day of their death, living in widowhood.

1 Kings 11:3. [Solomon] had seven hundred wives, princesses, and three hundred concubines; and his wives turned away his heart.

1 Chronicles 14:3. David took more wives in Jerusalem, and David became the father of more sons and daughters.

2 Chronicles 11:21. Rehoboam loved Maacah the granddaughter of Absalom above all his wives and his concubines; for he took eighteen wives and sixty concubines, and became the father of twenty-eight sons and sixty daughters.

not greatly multiply to himself silver and gold. Both David and Solomon violated this prohibition.

2 Chronicles 9:22. So king Solomon exceeded all the kings of the earth in riches and wisdom.

And in their day, so did many of the popes.


VERSE 18. It shall be, when he sits on the throne of his kingdom, that he shall write himself a copy of this law in a book, out of that which is before the Levitical priests.

he shall write himself a copy of this law. Some of the kings were illiterate. They could not have followed this command.

For that reason alone, they should not have been chosen as king.


VERSE 19. It shall be with him, and he shall read from it all the days of his life, that he may learn to fear the LORD his God, to keep all the words of this law and these statutes, to do them;

he shall read from it all the days of his life. The king is required to read the Bible every day of his life.

In our lives, we too would do well to read the Bible every day!

There’s a fire that burns within us believers. It burns with love for Jesus Christ and the Bible. It prompts us to read the Bible each day. Read more »


VERSE 20. that his heart not be lifted up above his brothers, and that he not turn away from the commandment to the right hand, or to the left, to the end that he may prolong his days in his kingdom, he and his children, in the middle of Israel.


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Unless otherwise noted, all Bible quotations on this page are from the World English Bible and the World Messianic Edition. These translations have no copyright restrictions. They are in the Public Domain.


Author: todd

At Explore the Faith, I share insights into the Bible and theological writings. If you like what I write, become my partner by donating. Help me reach the world for the Lord Jesus Christ.