We are still in the thick of the specific commands by which Israel will set themselves apart as fully devoted to the LORD their God. Remember that this is all delivered by Moses at the borders of the Promised Land – his final appeal to Israel to keep all that the LORD has commanded.
Yesterday’s reading followed a theme of civil and economic justice, and today’s text bounces through a variety of instructions that hint at the role of the priests in Israelite life. The first of these is a reminder of how the Levites will be provided for, since they will serve as the LORD’s priests and have no inheritance of land.
Following a brief warning about the practices of the people of Canaan, Moses returns to the question of how to discern between false prophets and those whom the LORD has sent. It begins with a promise: “The LORD your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you, from you brothers…”
The LORD warns that a prophet can neither “speak a word in my name that I have not commanded him,” nor speak “in the name of other gods.” Since the first stipulation is hard to gauge, a test is given: “If the [prophet’s] word does not come to pass or come true,” then “that is not a word the LORD has spoken.” It sounds like a violation of the third commandment, and consequently “You do not need to be afraid of him.”
In chapter 19 Moses revisits the six cities of refuge that were designated in Numbers 35. These cities were safe spaces for those who unintentionally and without malice killed someone. The remainder of this chapter focuses on other issues of justice, such as property boundaries and determining the credibility of an accusation. Listen as the priests play a role in the justice system alongside the local judges.
Our reading today ends with the manner of making war against Israel’s enemies. Notice the call to courage; the role of the priest; and the type of soldier who is to fight in Israel’s army. Watch also as a distinction is made between battle against ordinary enemies and those whom “the LORD your God is giving you for an inheritance.” These are to be completely destroyed, devoted to the LORD.
Our verse for this week is Matthew 22:39: And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.
Deuteronomy 18 through 20. Now let’s read it!
And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.