On-Line Bible Lessons

Deuteronomy - Chapter 19, Lesson 1


Pastor Ovid Need

In this chapter, and the following two chapters, Moses places the emphasis upon life for the purpose of awakening in the minds of people a holy reverence for human life (Keil). He leads off this chapter with the institution of the cities of refuge. The original law is given in Num. 35:9-34. This passage here in Deut. is the reminder to carry out what had already been established.

As usual, the law is given, then a practical application which shows how the law works. There were already cities established on the East side of Jordan, 4:41, and now he gives them three more. The land is to be divided into thirds with a city in each third. This would make refuge within easy distance for everyone.

1. What are the illustrations which he uses, vv. 4-5?

a. From the earliest times the church has been recognized as the refuge from oppression. This has been so recognized in the past that even oppressive kings have had to honor refuge for up to a mile outside boundaries from a church. Following this thought through a little, let's observe something about these cities. What kind of person was barred from these cities, vv. 11- 13?

b. How long did the party have to stay in this city, Num. 35:25-28?

Any question as to the guilt or innocence of the party was to be thoroughly searched out. These cities were to be "guarded" that they did not become protection for criminals who deserved death or for those who had killed out of anger or hatred. Keil says here, "If such murderers should flee to the free city, the elders (magistrates) of his own town were to fetch him out, and deliver him up to the avenger of blood, that he might die."

c. Who was the revenger of blood (see margin in Num. 35:19)? _________________________

Bible justice knows no prison system. The one deserving death was put to death. Where res­titution was required, it was made. Servitude was voluntary. If the person could not be self-sufficient on his own, he could place himself under the authority of another. This is why there were no laws requiring the runaway servant to be returned to his master unless he was serving out a debt. God's society was based upon individual freedom. Sin is what requires power and con­trol over people.

As we mentioned, at one time the church offered protection from the oppressor. The congregation would check the matter out and either deliver the guilty or protect the innocent. Today this old established practice is being abused as the "church" is used for refuge for those who desire to be free from proper authority or so they can violate what they don't agree with, with immunity. The church should still make diligent inquiry into a matter, then put every resource into protecting the innocent according to God's law-word.

d. One more point here. Notice v. 13 is a prohibition from pitying the guilty. This verse follows v. 9, and the command to obey God. Why did the Lord put these two principles together (see 13:6-10)?

Lk. 14:26-35 fits this very well. As we have noted earlier, our personal relationships with friend, family or loved ones cannot interfere with our obedience to God's Word. It costs to be a follower of Christ and we need to consider that cost. This doesn't mean, don't follow Christ be­cause, when we do, it will cost us family and friends. What this does mean is we might as well ex­pect to lose friends and loved ones. Here in Deut. 19:9 and 13 we have Moses laying it on the line. Do we love God (v. 9) more or do we love man (v. 13) more? When we allow personal relation­ships to prevent our obedience to God, then we love man more than we do God.

2. What does Moses forbid here in v. 14; Prov. 22:28? ________________________________

This is strange. Here is a chapter dealing with the importance of human life and it seems like he goes off in "left field" and pulls something out of thin air which has nothing to do with the sanctity of life. Or does it?

By placing this here did Moses mean this involved the death penalty as did murder or the evil of 15 on, Deut. 27:17?

Property (inheritance) represents life to a Biblical society. Every man was self-employed other than the one who voluntarily placed himself into servitude. To steal the man's property by means of v. 14 was to threaten his life which was dependent on his property.

a. What did the violation of this result in, Prov. 23:10-11; Hos. 5:10?

Now we come to the false witness again. We have already spent some time on this, so we'll only pick up a few things here that we missed before. Notice how he closes this portion, v. 21. This is again the same principle as we have already seen in v. 13.

3. Here Moses presents two aspects of the witness. First, what was required for a matter to be established, v. 15? ___________________________________________________________________

But, this presents a problem. Maybe it is not always possible to abide by v. 15. Now what? Is the matter to be dropped or ignored, the guilty to go unpunished, growing more arrogant in his sin? What will we do with passages like Lev. 5:1, where it says, "if a soul sin and hear--." This indicates that there is only ONE who knows of the guilt of the other person. It says here in Lev. 5:1 that if this ONE "does not utter it, then he shall bear his iniquity." This tells us that the one who knows and keeps it quiet is also guilty before God. We also have Ps. 50:18 where a per­son saw a thief and "did not utter it," and the Lord was very upset about this. How can these be put together with Deut. 19:15? It is not always possible to bring forward what is required in v. 15, so Moses continues on to give us the answer. This brings us to the second aspect of the wit­ness.

a. Deut. 19:16 deals with "a witness" as does Lev. 5:1. The witness takes the matter to the proper authority. Then what is the authority to do, v. 18?

b. After the authority does v. 18 and finds out that the witness was only trying to get the in­nocent in trouble, what is to be done to the false witness, v. 19?

c. Now, rather than the guilty becoming more arrogant in his sin, what will this do for him and for others who are tempted to do the same type of thing, vv. 19-20?

Moses closes this passage with the reminder that personal relationships cannot be allowed to interfere with our obedience to God's Word. Pleasing our Lord must be number one in our lives, even over emotional and personal involvements. It is worth noting how many times he gives this warning in the law.

I can well remember as a high school student a piece of equipment was missing from the science lab. I did not know anything at all about it but a classmate told me who took it. The principal had made the announcement that if anyone knew what happened to it please tell him and the information would be held in the strictest of confidence. Of course, no one would go to him, but I knew I had to. I spoke to him in the privacy of his office; he made the inquiry, and, sure enough, the boy had stolen and sold the piece of equipment. They recovered it and the boy "fled in shame" from the area. He went out west, got a job on a ranch and was killed when a water truck turned over on him. He was very popular and the Jr. class dedicated the yearbook to him that year. The problem, though, was that the principal, after recovering the equipment, stuck his head in the door of the bus as we were getting ready to leave after school one evening and said, "Thank you, Ovid, we got that piece of science equipment back."

Of course, the results were immediate. I was blamed for the death of this very popular boy and no one spoke to me for the rest of my Jr. and Sr. year in high school. Like anyone else would do, I "cursed" the day I did what was right (it was in the first semester of my Jr. year) many times over. But today I can look back on it and thank God for what He taught me in that situation.

There are more lessons than we can count in this. Probably the most important, experiences such as these prepare us to stand alone for right even if every other person in the country com­promises on God's Word. Another thing, because no one (except one other boy) would talk or as­sociate with me in any way, I missed many of the troubles that high school students get into be­cause of "peer pressure." I sure didn't have any "peer pressure" in those two years. Just the op­posite, total "peer" rejection.

d. As we refuse to allow personal emotions and relationships to make our decisions for us, maybe at the time the results will more than we can bear, but the results of pleasing God cannot even be compared to these minor inconveniences. Can we teach our kids this? We can't if we haven't learned it. What does Rom. 8:18 say about this? ______________________________________

Of course, this can have a negative side which must be guarded against, and this is the ten­dency to become cold, hard and indifferent to the needs of others around us.

In closing, look at 19:21B. Here is a restatement of Ex. 21:23-37; Lev. 24:20; and our Lord makes reference to it in the NT, Matt. 5:38-48. Moses here is calling for restitution -- equal value returned by the one who lawlessly took it, and many times, with interest. Christ DID NOT do away with this principle because He complimented Zacchaeus for obeying this principle. He did not do away with Deut. 19:21 or Ex. 21:23-27. (For further study on the proper application of this principle of restitution see, The Biblicalexaminer.org -- "Consistency," available upon request)