The Israelites to distinguish themselves from other nations. (1-21) Respecting the application of tithes. (22-29)
Verses 1-21 Moses tells the people of Israel how God had given them three distinguishing privileges, which were their honour, and figures of those spiritual blessings in heavenly things, with which God has in Christ blessed us. Here is election; "The Lord hath chosen thee." He did not choose them because they were by their own acts a peculiar people to him above other nations, but he chose them that they might be so by his grace; and thus were believers chosen, ( Ephesians 1:4 ) . Here is adoption; "Ye are the children of the Lord your God;" not because God needed children, but because they were orphans, and needed a father. Every spiritual Israelite is indeed a child of God, a partaker of his nature and favour. Here is sanctification; "Thou art a holy people." God's people are required to be holy, and if they are holy, they are indebted to the grace God which makes them so. Those whom God chooses to be his children, he will form to be a holy people, and zealous of good works. They must be careful to avoid every thing which might disgrace their profession, in the sight of those who watch for their halting. Our heavenly Father forbids nothing but for our welfare. Do thyself no harm; do not ruin thy health, thy reputation, thy domestic comforts, thy peace of mind. Especially do not murder thy soul. Do not be the vile slave of thy appetites and passions. Do not render all around thee miserable, and thyself wretched; but aim at that which is most excellent and useful. The laws which regarded many sorts of flesh as unclean, were to keep them from mingling with their idolatrous neighbours. It is plain in the gospel, that these laws are now done away. But let us ask our own hearts, Are we of the children of the Lord our God? Are we separate from the ungodly world, in being set apart to God's glory, the purchase of Christ's blood? Are we subjects of the work of the Holy Ghost? Lord, teach us from these precepts how pure and holy all thy people ought to live!
Verses 22-29 A second portion from the produce of their land was required. The whole appointment evidently was against the covetousness, distrust, and selfishness of the human heart. It promoted friendliness, liberality, and cheerfulness, and raised a fund for the relief of the poor. They were taught that their worldly portion was most comfortably enjoyed, when shared with their brethren who were in want. If we thus serve God, and do good with what we have, it is promised that the Lord our God will bless us in all the works of our land. The blessing of God is all to our outward prosperity; and without that blessing, the work of our hands will bring nothing to pass. The blessing descends upon the working hand. Expect not that God should bless thee in thy idleness and love of ease. And it descends upon the giving hand. He who thus scatters, certainly increases; and to be free and generous in the support of religion, and any good work, is the surest and safest way of thriving.
Deuteronomy 14:1 Deuteronomy 14:2 . GOD'S PEOPLE MUST NOT DISFIGURE THEMSELVES IN MOURNING.
1. ye shall not cut yourselves . . . for the dead--It was a common practice of idolaters, both on ceremonious occasions of their worship ( 1 Kings 18:28 ), and at funerals (compare Jeremiah 16:6 , 41:5 ), to make ghastly incisions on their faces and other parts of their persons with their finger nails or sharp instruments. The making a large bare space between the eyebrows was another heathen custom in honor of the dead Such indecorous and degrading usages, being extravagant and unnatural expressions of hopeless sorrow ( 1 Thessalonians 4:13 ), were to be carefully avoided by the Israelites, as derogatory to the character, and inconsistent with the position, of those who were the people of God ( Deuteronomy 14:2 ).
Deuteronomy 14:3-21 . WHAT MAY BE EATEN, AND WHAT NOT.
3. Thou shalt not eat any abominable thing--that is, anything forbidden as unclean
Deuteronomy 14:4-8 . OF BEASTS.
fallow deer--The Hebrew word (Jachmur) so rendered, does not represent the fallow deer, which is unknown in Western Asia, but an antelope (Oryx leucoryx), called by the Arabs, jazmar. It is of a white color, black at the extremities, and a bright red on the thighs. It was used at Solomon's table.
wild goat--The word akko is different from that commonly used for a wild goat ( 1 Samuel 24:2 , Psalms 104:18 , Proverbs 5:19 ), and it is supposed to be a goat-deer, having the body of a stag, but the head, horns, and beard of a goat. An animal of this sort is found in the East, and called Lerwee [SHAW, Travels].
pygarg--a species of antelope (Oryx addax) with white buttocks, wreathed horns two feet in length, and standing about three feet seven inches high at the shoulders. It is common in the tracks which the Israelites had frequented [SHAW].
wild ox--supposed to be the Nubian Oryx, which differs from the Oryx leucoryx (formerly mentioned) by its black color; and it is, moreover, of larger stature and more slender frame, with longer and more curved horns. It is called Bekkar-El-Wash by the Arabs.
chamois--rendered by the Septuagint Cameleopard; but, by others who rightly judge it must have been an animal more familiar to the Hebrews, it is thought to be the Kebsch (Ovis tragelaphus), rather larger than a common sheep, covered not with wool, but with reddish hair--a Syrian sheep-goat.
Deuteronomy 14:11-20 . OF BIRDS.
11-20. Of all clean birds ye shall
13. glede--thought to be the same as that rendered vulture (
15. the cuckow--more probably the sea-gull.
16. the swan--rather, the goose [MICHAELIS].
17. gier eagle--The Hebrew word Rachemah is manifestly identical with Rachamah, the name which the Arabs give to the common vulture of Western Asia and Egypt (Neophron percnopterus).
cormorant--rather, the plungeon; a seafowl.
18. the lapwing--the upupa or hoop: a beautiful bird, but of the most unclean habits.
21. Ye shall not eat of any thing that dieth of
thou shalt give it unto the stranger that is in thy gates--not a proselyte, for he, as well as an Israelite, was subject to this law; but a heathen traveller or sojourner.
Thou shalt not seethe a kid in his mother's milk--This is the third place in which the prohibition is repeated [ Exodus 23:19 , 34:26 ]. It was pointed against an annual pagan ceremony
[ Deuteronomy 14:22-29 . LAW OF THE TITHE].
22-27. Thou shalt truly tithe all the increase of thy seed--The dedication of a tenth part of the year's produce in everything was then a religious duty. It was to be brought as an offering to the sanctuary; and, where distance prevented its being taken in kind, it was by this statute convertible into money.
28, 29. At the end of three years . . . the Levite . . . shall come, &c.--The Levites having no inheritance like the other tribes, the Israelites were not to forget them, but honestly to tithe their increase [ Numbers 18:24 ]. Besides the tenth of all the land produce, they had forty-eight cities, with the surrounding grounds [ Numbers 35:7 ], "the best of the land," and a certain proportion of the sacrifices as their allotted perquisites. They had, therefore, if not an affluent, yet a comfortable and independent, fund for their support.