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This small group Deuteronomy 17 Bible study guide contains commentary, discussion questions, cross-references, and application to encourage life change. Visit our library of inductive Bible studies for more in depth inductive studies on this and other books of the Bible you can use in your small group.

Deuteronomy 17 Bible Study Commentary And Questions – Purge Evil From Your Midst

Outline

I. Purging evil (1-7)
II. Legal decisions by judges and priests (8-13)
III. Laws for kings (14-20)

I. Purging evil (1-7)

Discussion Questions

• What would motivate a person to offer a defective animal as a sacrifice to God?
• What does this verse show us about how God views the importance of our motivations?
• How does this principle relate to how we should give to God and others today?
• What is an idol?
• What was the penalty for worshiping false gods?
• What are the reasons God set such a strict punishment?
• What safeguards were in place to protect the innocent from being punished?
• What would be the results for the nation if this law was followed?
• Though we are not under this law now, how can we follow the principle in verse 7 to “purge the evil from your midst?”
• How does this apply to the church and church discipline?

Cross-References

Luke 6:38 – Give, and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For with the measure you use it will be measured back to you.

Deuteronomy 30:17-18 – But if your heart turns away, and you will not hear, but are drawn away to worship other gods and serve them, I declare to you today, that you shall surely perish. You shall not live long in the land that you are going over the Jordan to enter and possess.

Matthew 16:26 – For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul?

Verse by Verse Commentary

1. You shall not offer a sheep or ox with a defect – It would be tempting for people to offer the worthless animals from their flocks as sacrifices. By doing so, they could follow the “rule” that God required, but it would not cost them anything.

We sometimes do the same thing today. It is likely that you have received these types of “gifts” from someone. Gifts are expected at some events. Some people find some item from their home that perhaps they were gifted or that they don’t want anymore and wrap it up to give to the next person.

I have seen people giving out “special gifts,” which were, in reality, extraneous items that they had no use for and were getting rid of. Those types of gifts do not show consideration, honor, or love.

Malachi rebuked the people for such an attitude.

Malachi 1:8-9 – When you offer blind animals in sacrifice, is that not evil? And when you offer those that are lame or sick, is that not evil? Present that to your governor; will he accept you or show you favor? says the Lord of hosts. And now entreat the favor of God, that he may be gracious to us. With such a gift from your hand, will he show favor to any of you? says the Lord of hosts.

You would not give hand-me-downs to a governor. But people did this in their sacrifices to God. God wants us to honor Him. When people demand honor, they are stealing credit from God, who deserves it. When God demands honor, He is only asking for what is rightfully His. If you write and sell a book, it is fair that you receive credit for that book. God is the creator. He designed us. We belong to Him. Sacrifices were a way to show honor for God. They were to choose the best of what they had, not the worst.

A sacrifice should cost the giver something. That is why it is called a sacrifice. David said that he would not give a sacrifice that cost him nothing.

1 Chronicles 21:24 – But King David said to Ornan, “No, but I will buy them for the full price. I will not take for the Lord what is yours, nor offer burnt offerings that cost me nothing.”

Application – We should give of our best to God. However, we don’t see God so how can we do this? Jesus said that when we show kindness to the poor, we are showing kindness to Him.

Matthew 25:40 – And the King will answer them, Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’

We should give of our best to others. Instead of giving our leftovers, we can put thought, time, and energy into our gift-giving.

Reflect – When there is a clothing drive, should we pick out the clothes we don’t wear anymore and donate them?

2. Due process – Verses 2-7 cover the due process that should be given to accused idol worshippers. These safeguards were there to make sure that no innocent person would ever be railroaded. This was like our Sixth Amendment, which gi rigveshts to criminal defendants.

Three protections were granted to the accused.

A. A diligent inquiry – Punishment should not be hurriedly or rashly carried out. A thorough investigation would help uncover any facts that could shed more light on the case and perhaps exonerate a wrongly accused individual.

Of note, Jezebel railroaded Naboth in order to steal his vineyard for her husband, Abal. All of the safeguards in this chapter were ignored (1 Kings 21).

B. Two or three witnesses – No one should ever be punished on the basis of one witness. A single witness might have a personal vendetta. Though it is not impossible, it is far less likely to get two or three people to scheme successfully to pervert justice. One person could also more easily make a mistake, perhaps mishearing, than two or three.

The religious leaders who wanted to execute Jesus found it very difficult to get two or three witnesses to agree to any false charge.

Presumably, the judge hearing the case should separate the witnesses and question them individually so that they could not be unduly influenced by the others.

A similar principle is seen in the New Testament, where two to three witnesses are necessary before a charge is heard against a church elder (1 Timothy 5:19).

Application – Such a policy is also useful in everyday life. For example, perhaps a student slanders another. Do not blindly accept that word as fact. Gather more evidence from other witnesses.

C. The hand of the witnesses shall be first against him – This rule would have served as a strong deterrent against false accusations. Some people would be very willing to make false accusations against others and rely on a third party to execute punishment. Man’s God-given conscience would be working overdrive against a person who had to cast the stone himself. It is somehow easier to lie when the liar does not need to face any personal cost for it.

3. Death penalty for idol worship – There was a very strong punishment for idol worshippers. They were to be executed by stoning. God is just and the “wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23).

While this law was just, it was not only given because of God’s justice. The primary reason for this law was God’s mercy and compassion. His discipline comes with the goal of restoring the sinner, purifying His people, and warning against sin so that others do not take it lightly.

Having a strong law like this on the books served as a deterrent to sin. Going to check out an idol’s temple would be seen in an entirely different light if the potential cost for doing so was to be stoned. Strict laws with strict penalties deter people from breaking them.

Worshiping idols resulted in personal, family, and national destruction. The law against it protected people from that destruction.

The soul is more valuable than the body. The Lord was zealous to guard the souls of His people. If idol worship was allowed or only slapped on the wrist, many more would be tempted to go down that road. Enforcing the law and stoning someone would also serve as a stark warning to others to stay away from idols.

We should note that this law was for Israel. As God’s chosen people, He held them to a high standard. This law was not for Gentiles and it is not to be enforced today since the church is not under the law but under grace (Romans 6:14).

4. Purge the evil from your midst – While we are not under this law today, there is still an important principle here that we can apply in the church and our homes today.

That principle is to “purge the evil from your midst.” God gave this law to Israel to keep them pure as the recipients of His covenant. As they were a chosen people and a holy nation, so we are to be today.

1 Peter 2:9 – But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.

Believers should be alert to any evil which can influence us from within. One application is that we should keep the church pure.

1 Corinthians 5:6-7 – Your boasting is not good. Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump? Cleanse out the old leaven that you may be a new lump, as you really are unleavened. For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed.

Allowing unchecked sin in the church creates an environment where sin is encouraged. For example, if church-going couples live together before marriage and church leadership is silent, others will take that as tacit approval or acceptance and potentially do the same. The same is true for any sin.

Church discipline needs to be enforced upon blatant and willful public sin in order to both restore the sinner and warn others about the consequences of sin.

Application – One practical application is to find and commit yourself to a church where Biblical church discipline is practiced. This helps ensure a purer congregation.

Another area to purge evil is the home.

Reflect – What evil influences are there in your own home that you need to deal with?

The most important place to start purging evil is from within ourselves. It is always easier to point the finger at others. The battle starts in our own minds. We should not be complacent or lax toward our own sin.

This prayer of David is a very good example for us to follow.

Psalms 139:23-24 – Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting!

Let us regularly pray this prayer and confess and deal with whatever the Holy Spirit brings to mind.

II. Legal decisions by judges and priests (8-13)

Discussion Questions

• What observations do you have about the justice system that was set up?
• Why was it important to have a central authority for receiving appeals?
• What character quality of God’s do these verses highlight?
• What were the people obligated to do in response to the judge’s decision?
• Why are authority structures in societies so important?
• What will happen to a society without clear authority structures?

Cross-References

Romans 13:1 – Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God.

Hebrews 13:17 – Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you.

1 Peter 2:13-14 – Be subject for the Lord’