1 These are the statutes and judgments [chukkim and mishpatim], which ye shall observe to do [be shomer] in the land [ha'aretz], which Yahweh Elohim of thy fathers [Avoteicha] giveth thee to possess it, all the days [kol hayamim] that ye live upon the earth [ha'adamah].
Religion is not limited to abstract principles or doctrines which may excite the mind without making demands upon the person; it is to be expressed in positive principles that are to find expression in the affairs of everyday life. In short, true religion is a way of life, not merely an academic exercise.
A land which the Lord thy God careth for: the eyes of the Lord thy God are always upon it, from the beginning of the year even unto the end of the year - 11; 12.
They were permitted to ocupy it on the terms of a tenancy at will, that is, so long as they kept the conditions imposed by its Possessor, Yahweh. *
2 Ye shall utterly destroy all the places, wherein the nations [Goyim] which ye shall possess served their gods [elohim], upon the high mountains, and upon the hills, and under every green tree:
As the Land was holy unto Yahweh all pagan idolatry was to be eliminated.
Then ye shall drive out all the inhabitants of the land from before you, and destroy all their pictures, and destroy all their molten images, and quite pluck down all their high places: And ye shall dispossess the inhabitants of the land, and dwell therein: for I have given you the land to possess it Numb 33: 52,53.
The high places of the Land were selected for the buildings of pagan shrines, probably with the belief that it brought the worshippers nearer to the objects of their devotion.
In this they are followed by many religious systems today. Note, for example,how Roman Catholicism prefers elevated sites for the building of their churches.
Moreover, trees were revered as objects of worship...In ancient times, among pagans, the Oak was sacred to Jupiter; the Laurel to Apollo; the Ivy to Bachus; the Olive to Minerva; the Myrtle to Venus, and so forth.
Subsequent generations of Israel crossed over to idolatry
"Ye shall be ashamed of the oaks which ye have desired, and ye shall be confounded for the gardens that ye have chosen" - Isa. 1: 29.
The "trees" and "gardens" were associated with pagan worship.*
*The Christadelphian Expositor
The nations worshipped their gods in the high places in the expectation they were closer to their gods - nearer the heavens. Their hope was their gods would come down and satisfy their carnal desires. Israel was to rejoice before Yahweh in the place of his choosing only v14.
Though instructed not to follow the ways of the nations this is precisely what their descendants did. Yahweh compares this to adultery. He constituted Israel as a wife to himself whom he would protect and prosper if faithful, but Israel was as a lewd woman defiling herself by partaking in the sins of the surrounding nations (Jer 3: 6, 20).
And Judah did evil in the sight of Yahweh, and they provoked him to jealousy with their sins which they had committed, above all that their fathers had done. For they also built them high places, and images, and groves, on every high hill, and under every green tree.
(1 Kin 14: 22,23).
3 And ye shall overthrow their altars [mizbechot], and break their pillars [matzeivot], and burn their groves [Asherim] with fire [eish]; and ye shall hew down the graven images of their gods, and destroy the names of them out of that place.
The patriarchs named pillars in commemoration of their encounters with Yahweh (Gen 12: 6-7; 28: 16-22). This was a faithful act of reverence and humility in honour of the One True Deity.
The matzeivot of the nations were stone pillars - sometimes with supersitious engravings - considered by the heathen to be inhabited or to represent the gods of their supersitions. But Yahweh is a jealous El...
I am Yahweh: that is my name: and my glory will I not give to another, neither my praise to graven images (Isa 42: 8).
The names of false gods were to be utterly eradicated. Only the name of Yahweh was to be worshipped by his holy people.
4 Ye shall not do so unto Yahweh your Elohim.
Thou shalt not bow down to their gods, nor serve them, nor do after their works: but thou shalt utterly overthrow them, and quite break down their images. And ye shall serve Yahweh your Elohim, and he shall bless thy bread, and thy water; and I will take sickness away from the midst of thee. (Ex 23: 24,25)
In Eureka Bro Thomas quotes Du Pin concerning the Donatists. The Donatist 'heretics' as they were called by their Catholic oppressors, denounced the blasphemies of the Christian churches. As Israel was commanded to overthrow the profane altars, so did the Donatists wreak havoc on the idolatrous inventions of the bishops.
They burned or scraped the altars which the latter made use of, as being polluted by impure sacrifices, and broke their (communion) cups. They looked upon the vows made in their communion as of no value; in a word, they would not communicate with them. They maintained that the ecclesia ought to be made up of just and holy men, or, at least, of those who were such in appearance; and that, although wicked men might lurk in the ecclesia, yet it should not harbor those who were known to be such."
...Behold, too, how energetic their testimony against the barren formality or sacramentalism which reigned on every side. They repudiated it as abhorrent to spiritual purity. Did a courtly bishop consecrate an altar for the exposition thereon of the bread and wine? If that piece of ecclesiastical furniture came into their possession, they regarded the thing as polluted by impure sacrifices, and either burned it as church trumpery, or, if deemed convenient as a table, they scraped it clear of all imaginary sacramental unction ere they recognized it as fit for the use of those "who worship Deity in spirit and in truth."
5 But unto the place which Yahweh your Elohim shall choose out of all your tribes to put his name there, even unto his habitation shall ye seek, and thither thou shalt come:
6 And thither ye shall bring your burnt offerings, and your sacrifices, and your tithes, and heave offerings of your hand, and your vows, and your freewill offerings, and the firstlings of your herds and of your flocks:
7 And there ye shall eat before Yahweh your Elohim, and ye shall rejoice in all that ye put your hand unto, ye and your households, wherein Yahweh thy Elohim hath blessed thee.
8 Ye shall not do after all the things that we do here this day, every man whatsoever is right in his own eyes.
9 For ye are not as yet come to the rest and to the inheritance, which Yahweh your Elohim giveth you.
10 But when ye go over Jordan, and dwell in the land which Yahweh your Elohim giveth you to inherit, and when he giveth you rest from all your enemies round about, so that ye dwell in safety;
11 Then there shall be a place which Yahweh your Elohim shall choose to cause his name to dwell there; thither shall ye bring all that I command you; your burnt offerings, and your sacrifices, your tithes, and the heave offering of your hand, and all your choice vows which ye vow unto Yahweh:
12 And ye shall rejoice before Yahweh your Elohim, ye, and your sons, and your daughters, and your menservants, and your maidservants, and the Levite that is within your gates; forasmuch as he hath no part nor inheritance with you.
13 Take heed to thyself that thou offer not thy burnt offerings in every place that thou seest:
Altars were not to be set up except in the place of Yahweh's chosen dwelling place.
14 But in the place which Yahweh shall choose in one of thy tribes, there thou shalt offer thy burnt offerings, and there thou shalt do all that I command thee.
15 Notwithstanding thou mayest kill and eat flesh in all thy gates, whatsoever thy soul lusteth after, according to the blessing of Yahweh thy Elohim which he hath given thee: the unclean and the clean may eat thereof, as of the roebuck, and as of the hart.
16 Only ye shall not eat the blood; ye shall pour it upon the earth as water.
17 Thou mayest not eat within thy gates the tithe of thy corn, or of thy wine, or of thy oil, or the firstlings of thy herds or of thy flock, nor any of thy vows which thou vowest, nor thy freewill offerings, or heave offering of thine hand:
18 But thou must eat them before Yahweh thy Elohim in the place which Yahweh thy Elohim shall choose, thou, and thy son, and thy daughter, and thy manservant, and thy maidservant, and the Levite that is within thy gates: and thou shalt rejoice before Yahweh thy Elohim in all that thou puttest thine hands unto.
19 Take heed to thyself that thou forsake not the Levite as long as thou livest upon the earth.
20 When Yahweh thy Elohim shall enlarge thy border, as he hath promised thee, and thou shalt say, I will eat flesh, because thy soul longeth to eat flesh; thou mayest eat flesh, whatsoever thy soul lusteth after.
21 If the place which Yahweh thy Elohim hath chosen to put his name there be too far from thee, then thou shalt kill of thy herd and of thy flock, which Yahweh hath given thee, as I have commanded thee, and thou shalt eat in thy gates whatsoever thy soul lusteth after.
22 Even as the roebuck and the hart is eaten, so thou shalt eat them: the unclean and the clean shall eat of them alike.
23 Only be sure that thou eat not the blood: for the blood is the life; and thou mayest not eat the life with the flesh.
24 Thou shalt not eat it; thou shalt pour it upon the earth as water.
25 Thou shalt not eat it; that it may go well with thee, and with thy children after thee, when thou shalt do that which is right in the sight of Yahweh.
26 Only thy holy things which thou hast, and thy vows, thou shalt take, and go unto the place which Yahweh shall choose:
27 And thou shalt offer thy burnt offerings, the flesh and the blood, upon the altar of Yahweh thy Elohim: and the blood of thy sacrifices shall be poured out upon the altar of Yahweh thy Elohim, and thou shalt eat the flesh.
Blood poured out on the Altar
The pouring out of animal blood upon the ground after slaughter (e.g., Lev. 17 : 13; Deut. 12 : 23-25) certainly had a didactic value, but it had no atoning value. When the blood was brought into relation with the Altar, however, matters were altogether different. Such an act was of truly momentous significance.
It was an admission that communion with the Altar was impossible for the sinful offerer except on the basis of prior ritual confession that his sinfulness disqualified him from all right of access to God most holy, whose presence the Altar symbolized.
The slaying by his own hands of his offering essential to the procurement of its blood was a ritual assent by the offerer that sin deserved death; an avowal that he, being a sinner, was justly under sentence of death; a recognition that he could expect God to forgive him his sin not by waiving His sentence upon it, but only on the basis of the vindication of that sentence. As the ritual of the Red Heifer so decisively proved, only death could avail to remove death (Num. 19).
It was by its insistence upon the immutability of God's sentence against sin that the Law completed the parallel between itself and the transactions in Eden. Adam and Eve, knowing that they were naked, sewed fig-leaves together, and made themselves aprons. Their action was indeed symptomatic of an earnest desire on their part that their sin should be hid; but it equally betrayed a failure by them to realize that God could not go back on His word while still remaining true to Himself.
Death was the punishment threatened for sin; death was therefore the inexorable penalty for their offence, and an essential element in any process by which their sin might actually be hid from God's pure sight. This God Himself made plain to them by substituting for their ineffectual self-made clothing coats of skins of His own providing.
His action in providing them was proof that He for His part willed not that any sinner should perish, but it made equally plain that He could not forgive sin until His intolerance of it had first, expressed itself to the uttermost. This it did ritually through the slaughter of the animals for the procurement of their skins. Thus, in a simple but telling way, the nakedness of Adam and Eve was covered and a righteousness which they in no way merited was thereby imputed to them, but without any dereliction of God's law, or compromise of His holiness or sovereignty.
The Law reiterated that same great lesson and availed itself of every means of bringing home to the Israelite that expiation was his first and greatest need. By a comprehensive and carefully graduated scale of ritual ordinances (in which the notions of uncleanness and of cleansing complemented one another) he was educated in the fundamental facts governing his relationship to God and made to see that no forgiveness of his sin was possible apart from a perfect sacrifice in which God's demand (i.e., sinlessness) and sin's demand (i.e., death) were simultaneously met.
That is (to express the same truth in literal, not metaphorical, terms), the Law taught that God's insistence on holiness had ritually to be confessed as righteous by the sinner who outraged it; first in a positive way by the use of an unblemished offering to typify the perfect sinlessness which God required; secondly in a negative way by confessing, in the pouring out of the animal's blood Upon the Altar, that death was the just desert of anv who failed to manifest that sinlessness.
Such ritual confession was implicit in every sacrifice whose blood came into relation with the Altar, for Sin Offering (Lev. 4: 20), Trespass. Offering (Lev. 5: 18), Peace Offering (Lev, 17: I-II), Burnt Offering (Lev. r : 4), all alike - despite their differences in purpose and meaning -had this in common that they each declared expiation for sin to be the first and fundamental need of him who made the offering.
The Law, for its own special reasons (which will become obvious later) declared such confession to be efficacious as a means of atonement, and once again gave Israel an ideal at which to aim while making every necessary provision for the stern reality of their failure to attain it.
Law and Grace Ch 7
28 Observe and hear all these words which I command thee, that it may go well with thee, and with thy children after thee for ever, when thou doest that which is good and right in the sight of Yahweh thy Elohim.
29 When Yahweh thy Elohim shall cut off the nations from before thee, whither thou goest to possess them, and thou succeedest them, and dwellest in their land;
30 Take heed to thyself that thou be not snared by following them, after that they be destroyed from before thee; and that thou enquire not after their gods, saying, How did these nations serve their gods? even so will I do likewise.
Yahweh detested the ways of the Canaanites. If Israel fell into Canaanitish ways, in spite of their great privileges as a nation being given a just and holy law, and the protection, security and blessing promised by the great creator of all that exists, then they would be driven from the land as unworthy tenants.
31 Thou shalt not do so unto Yahweh thy Elohim: for every abomination to Yahweh, which he hateth, have they done unto their gods; for even their sons and their daughters they have burnt in the fire to their gods.
Yahweh was unequivocal in his condemnation of this practice of sacrificing children in fire to the heathen gods. Any Israelite guilty was to be put to death by stoning.
And Yahweh spake unto Moses, saying, Again, thou shalt say to the children of Israel, Whosoever he be of the children of Israel, or of the strangers that sojourn in Israel, that giveth any of his seed unto Molech; he shall surely be put to death: the people of the land shall stone him with stones. And I will set my face against that man, and will cut him off from among his people; because he hath given of his seed unto Molech, to defile my sanctuary, and to profane my holy name
(Lev 20: 1-3)
Later in Israel's history Ahab King of Israel committed this heinous sin (2 Kings 21:6). As did King Ahaz (2 Chron 28: 3)
In due course retribution came. The Assyrian army became the sword of Yahweh's judgement when they invaded the land and took the tribes into captivity...
And they caused their sons and their daughters to pass through the fire, and used divination and enchantments, and sold themselves to do evil in the sight of Yahweh, to provoke him to anger. Therefore Yahweh was very angry with Israel, and removed them out of his sight: there was none left but the tribe of Judah only.
(2 Kin 17: 17,18)
32 What thing soever I command you, observe to do it: thou shalt not add thereto, nor diminish from it.