The Agora
Bible Commentary

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Deuteronomy 17

Deu 17:14

Israel will yet have a king, but he will be unlike the kings of all the other nations.

WHEN YOU ENTER THE LAND...: The promise of a king is thus connected with the promises to Abraham: Gen 12:1,7.

Deu 17:15

FROM AMONG YOUR OWN BROTHERS: Christ, a king, priest, and prophet, from among his brethren (Heb 2:14-17; 5:1-5).

WHO IS NOT A BROTHER: Moses fears a return to Egypt, as in v 16. Cp Zealots' hatred of Idumean kings and Roman lords.

These words will echo through the ages of the Old Testament. When the grand old prophet Samuel is rejected by a people he had served so faithfully, it is because they think they MUST have a king "like all the nations"! God Himself assesses the situation: "It is not you they have rejected, but they have rejected ME, that I should reign over them" (1Sa 8:5,7). In rejecting God, the people selected a "stranger" to rule over them -- for Saul proved to be a "foreigner" in his understanding and affections. And even when Saul was displaced by David, the king God chose, the people persisted in rejecting this king as well -- the proud, rich Nabal asked scornfully, "Who is David?" (1Sa 25:10), and later the rebel Sheba cried, "We have no part in David" (2 Sa 20:1).

And finally we come to the Roman "Pavement" in Jerusalem, where the king chosen by God above all others stood in the presence of his subjects, crowned with thorns! "Behold your king" (John 19:14). These were not the words of Pilate only; they were God's words also. But the people cried out with one voice: "We have no king but Caesar!" (John 19:15). Finally and conclusively the nation selected a "foreigner" to be over them, and so it was, and so it has been for nearly 2,000 years.

Deu 17:16

HORSES: Sym warfare (Psa 20:6,7; 33:16-19; Pro 21:31). Christ entered city on an ass, but he will appear in the LD on a great white horse, followed by an army of cavalry (Rev 19:11-16).

MAKE THE PEOPLE RETURN TO EGYPT: A return to bondage. This the Pharisees/lawyers tried to do to their followers.

YOU ARE NOT TO GO BACK...: A new way you have never gone (Jos 3:4). An old way you must never return.

Contrast with Solomon in 1Ki 4:26. The horse was the basic instrument of ancient warfare -- the Biblical equivalent of the tank or airplane or missile. Horses were "vain things" (Psa 33:17) when it came to true safety; they could not be the security of a king whom God chose: "Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the LORD our God" (Psa 20:7).

It is never recorded that Jesus owned or even rode upon a horse. When the time came for his revelation at Jerusalem as a king, he chose instead to enter the holy city in a symbolic gesture of meekness, upon "a colt the foal of an ass" (Mat 21:5; Zec 9:9).

Deu 17:17

NOT... MANY WIVES: Contrast with Solomon in 1Ki 11:3. Jesus, understandably, was not married; his mortal life was to be a short one -- there would be no time for the proper development of an intimate relationship with even one woman, and no time for the rearing of a family. Nor would it have been true love for Jesus to subject a wife to the sorrow of widowhood and then permanent separation from her husband. "An unmarried man is concerned about the Lord's affairs -- how he can please the Lord" (1Co 7:32). Jesus' work was to be all-consuming; the otherwise lawful indulgences of ordinary men were not for him.

NOT ACCUMULATE... SILVER... GOLD: Contrast with Solomon in 1Ki 10:14-23. Probably no man lived up to this standard better than Jesus. And he who had nowhere to lay his head instructed his disciples in the same philosophy: "Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth... But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven... For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also... No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money" (Mat 6:19-21,24).

Deu 17:18

Part of the protocol of royal succession in the ANE was the transfer of documents that legitimized the succession and provided standards by which the new king was to administer the affairs of his regime. This was the practice in Israel and Judah as well, a practice inaugurated by the Deuteronomic law (1Ki 2:3; 2Ki 11:12; 23:3)

HE IS TO WRITE FOR HIMSELF ON A SCROLL A COPY OF THIS LAW: The three negative commandments (Deu 17:16,17) for the king are followed by a last great positive commandment (Deu 17:18-20).

How did Jesus spend those "hidden years", from age 12 to age 30 -- while the young "prince" prepared for his role as "King of the Jews"? While the time of his public ministry was relatively short, the time of his preparation was eighteen years -- five to six times as long. Most likely, in addition to the ordinary tasks of life (daily work, and oversight of his younger siblings), Jesus spent much of his spare time writing out his own copy of the Law, AND the prophets and the psalms... and memorizing them also, and studying them intensely! The man whose name is "The Word of God" could scarcely have done less. Of him David spoke prophetically: "Here I am, I have come -- it is written about me in the scroll. I desire to do your will, O my God; your law is within my heart" (Psa 40:7,8).

There are other references to these commandments for the king which also have to do with Christ. And, surprisingly, they present a picture contradictory -- on the surface -- to that of Deu 17! In Rev 19 Christ appears from heaven to assume his throne: he is riding upon a white horse (Rev 19:11), and followed by the armies of heaven upon a great number of white horses (Rev 19:14). His reason for returning is to claim his bride -- a multitudinous bride (the saints: Rev 19:8). And in Rev 21 is shown the results of his victorious war -- a "city" of unsurpassed wealth (Rev 21:11-21).

The one who in his mortal life refrained from the multiplying of horses, wives, and wealth is seen as finally possessing all three in the greatest abundance. They are the gifts of his Father. The faithful Son who resisted temptation in the wilderness is at last rewarded. He who saw all the kingdoms of the world and their glory in a moment of time (Mat 4:8; Luk 4:5) refused to strive for their attainment by worldly means. Instead he believed and cast himself upon the Father, who had simply said: "Ask of me, and I will make the nations your inheritance, the ends of the earth your possession" (Psa 2:8).

And why should God bestow upon Jesus all the trappings of a king? The answer is found in a comparison of Rev 19:11,13 with Deu 17:18-20: "He was called Faithful and True... and his name is called The Word of God."

This man was the only king to write the law of God perfectly upon his mind and his heart -- to make it the guide of every moment and the basis of constant prayer. Here was the only King to acknowledge always the sovereignty of a greater Monarch. And thus the Creator Monarch will finally acknowledge him, and give him a name above every other name, that at the name of Christ every knee shall bow and every tongue confess (Phi 2:9-11). Those privileges and honors that kings have always fought to obtain for themselves will be Christ's by right. Of all the world's royalty, Christ alone will -- with his spiritual "seed" -- "reign a long time over his kingdom in Israel!"

Deu 17:19

Christ is called "the Word of God" in Rev 19:11,13.

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