Deuteronomy Chapter 21

In this portion of the sermons given by Moses, to the Israelites, he was teaching some of the specific commandments from what we call the law of Moses. There were hundreds of rules to the law of Moses, and He needed to review them before leaving the people to settle the land without him there. In the last couple of chapters, he already explained the difference between murder and manslaughter, how each should be punished differently, the law of witnesses, treatment for false witnesses, and some laws for the Israelite army. He continued in this chapter, with more regarding laws having to do with murder.

1 If one be found slain in the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee to possess it, lying in the field, and it be not known who hath slain him:
2 Then thy elders and thy judges shall come forth, and they shall measure unto the cities which are round about him that is slain:
3 And it shall be, that the city which is next unto the slain man, even the elders of that city shall take an heifer, which hath not been wrought with, and which hath not drawn in the yoke;
4 And the elders of that city shall bring down the heifer unto a rough valley, which is neither eared nor sown, and shall strike off the heifer’s neck there in the valley:
5 And the priests the sons of Levi shall come near; for them the Lord thy God hath chosen to minister unto him, and to bless in the name of the Lord; and by their word shall every controversy and every stroke be tried:
6 And all the elders of that city, that are next unto the slain man, shall wash their hands over the heifer that is beheaded in the valley:
7 And they shall answer and say, Our hands have not shed this blood, neither have our eyes seen it.
8 Be merciful, O Lord, unto thy people Israel, whom thou hast redeemed, and lay not innocent blood unto thy people of Israel’s charge. And the blood shall be forgiven them.
9 So shalt thou put away the guilt of innocent blood from among you, when thou shalt do that which is right in the sight of the Lord.

In the case of a murder where there are no witnesses to say who had killed the person, the judges and elders were to determine which city was closest in proximity, to the death. An unused or unworked heifer (young female calf) from that nearest city, was to be taken to a rough valley without fields, and break it’s neck. The Levite priests were to solve the controversy, and make an atonement for the people, by having the elders near the heifer, wash their hands over it as a witness that they had not committed the murder or witnessed it. The elders were also to ask that Israel not be held accountable for the murder. When they did this, the elders would make the necessary amends for the murder, and having done their part, the Lord would forgive Israel of it. This was important, because it had already been established in the law, that those who knew of a murderer and did not hold that person accountable, would be held accountable by the Lord.

10 When thou goest forth to war against thine enemies, and the Lord thy God hath delivered them into thine hands, and thou hast taken them captive,
11 And seest among the captives a beautiful woman, and hast a desire unto her, that thou wouldest have her to thy wife;
12 Then thou shalt bring her home to thine house; and she shall shave her head, and pare her nails;
13 And she shall put the raiment of her captivity from off her, and shall remain in thine house, and bewail her father and her mother a full month: and after that thou shalt go in unto her, and be her husband, and she shall be thy wife.
14 And it shall be, if thou have no delight in her, then thou shalt let her go whither she will; but thou shalt not sell her at all for money, thou shalt not make merchandise of her, because thou hast humbled her.

Men who wanted to marry a woman taken captive from an enemy nation, were to have her go through a month-long ritual first. After he took her to his home, she was to shave her head, cut her nails and change her clothes. Then, after waiting a month while she mourned for the separation from her family, he could marry her. If he decided then, that this was not what he wanted, he could not sell or treat her badly, but was to let her go free.

15 If a man have two wives, one beloved, and another hated, and they have born him children, both the beloved and the hated; and if the firstborn son be hers that was hated:
16 Then it shall be, when he maketh his sons to inherit that which he hath, that he may not make the son of the beloved firstborn before the son of the hated, which is indeed the firstborn:
17 But he shall acknowledge the son of the hated for the firstborn, by giving him a double portion of all that he hath: for he is the beginning of his strength; the right of the firstborn is his.

The laws regarding the inheritance of the firstborn, were to remain in place, even if that child was not from the beloved wife of a man. This meant that no matter what, the literal first-born son of a man, was to receive a double-portion of the inheritance. Children were not to be treated unfairly, just because the were from an unloved or less liked wife.

18 If a man have a stubborn and rebellious son, which will not obey the voice of his father, or the voice of his mother, and that, when they have chastened him, will not hearken unto them:
19 Then shall his father and his mother lay hold on him, and bring him out unto the elders of his city, and unto the gate of his place;
20 And they shall say unto the elders of his city, This our son is stubborn and rebellious, he will not obey our voice; he is a glutton, and a drunkard.
21 And all the men of his city shall stone him with stones, that he die: so shalt thou put evil away from among you; and all Israel shall hear, and fear.

A stubborn or rebellious child was to be taken to the elders of the city for disobedience to the parents. The charge of disobedience from a child, was to be punished by being put to death by stoning. We live in a time, when this would not be an acceptable way to deal with a child, but as I get older, I can see the great importance of obedience to parents. I believe that one of the signs of the times, meaning one of the things that shows us we are drawing nearer to the second coming of Christ, is that children will stop listening to their elders and turn to their own wisdom. I cannot remember where I learned this, so I have no scripture reference for it. It does make sense as to a great falling away of the youth of the last generation. As I watch my friends and family, who have children just entering adulthood, I am seeing the fulfillment of this. It is heartbreaking to see them begin to ignore the rules and counsel of their parents while still in their youth. It is as if, many of the youth these days, think that having agency means that they do not owe respect and reverence to anyone, especially not to their parents and grandparents. This is part of the breaking down of the family, which does not end when one becomes an adult, but is designed to continue forever. When children turn from their parents, they become easier prey for the adversary. Since, they are the leaders of the future here in mortality, their falling away from obedience, and therefore, righteousness, will lead to apostasy of great numbers of the children of God.

22 And if a man have committed a sin worthy of death, and he be to be put to death, and thou hang him on a tree:
23 His body shall not remain all night upon the tree, but thou shalt in any wise bury him that day; (for he that is hanged is accursed of God;) that thy land be not defiled, which the Lord thy God giveth thee for an inheritance.

When a guilty person was punished by hanging on a tree, they were to remove his body that same day so that the land would not be defiled. This is an interesting thing to learn. In my study of the ancient lands in that area, I have learned that it was a common thing for the guilty to be left hanging for a long time, so that others would know and fear the consequences for their wrong choices. In the footnote to verse 23, it reads, “According to Rabbinical commentaries, to leave a body hanging was a degradation of the human body and therefore an affront to God, in whose image man’s body was made.” The Israelites were not to do anything that would defile the holiness of the land of promise and they were not to disrespect the body of the dead in this way. This standard was applied, when the Savior was crucified. His body was not to be left on the tree, or on the cross, and so the soldiers checked to see if He was dead. Those that were hung on a tree, were considered cursed by God. In Galatians 3:13 it reads, “Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us: for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree:” The curse must have been a part of the law of Moses, which was then fulfilled by the sacrifice of the Savior. Just another thing that was there to continually draw the Israelites to Christ. I am glad that I can live in a day to be able to look back and see how much of the scriptures testify of Christ and witness of Him. I hope that I am able to find those things in my life, that are meant to draw my attention and desires to the Lord as well.

Deuteronomy Chapter 20

The Israelites knew that they had a future of fighting other nations. The Lord had promised them that he would be on their side, as long as they righteously followed His commandments. Even after they would be established in the land of Canaan, I am sure they expected that other nations would try to come against them. In this chapter, the Lord set up some laws for the army of Israel.

1 When thou goest out to battle against thine enemies, and seest horses, and chariots, and a people more than thou, be not afraid of them: for the Lord thy God is with thee, which brought thee up out of the land of Egypt.
2 And it shall be, when ye are come nigh unto the battle, that the priest shall approach and speak unto the people,
3 And shall say unto them, Hear, O Israel, ye approach this day unto battle against your enemies: let not your hearts faint, fear not, and do not tremble, neither be ye terrified because of them;
4 For the Lord your God is he that goeth with you, to fight for you against your enemies, to save you.

They were told again, that they were not to fear armies that were bigger or more armed then they were. This was because the Lord would be with them. Others may have had much strength, but the Lord was stronger. The Lord wanted the Israelites to have courage. Their priest (the high priest, I am guessing, or a priest given this duty), was to rally the spirits of their soldiers in preparation for battles, with this promise that the Lord was on their side and would fight and preserve them. The Lord has promised protection to those who are faithful to His commandments. If we truly believe, that He is the same yesterday, today and forever, than we should be able to trust in this part of the nature of our Father in Heaven. We fight battles each day, against temptation, the natural man within us, and against the ways of the world. In Doctrine and Covenants 84:88, the Lord gave a message to the prophet, Joseph Smith, and other elders of the church. In this verse we read, “And whoso receiveth you, there I will be also, for I will go before your face. I will be on your right hand and on your left, and my Spirit shall be in your hearts, and mine angels round about you, to bear you up.” If we live righteously, following the words of our church leaders, and serve and depend upon God, our Father in Heaven will fight our battles for us as well. We need to do our part, and then He will be there to give us the strength that we need in order to succeed. His work and glory is for our success in this life.

5 And the officers shall speak unto the people, saying, What man is there that hath built a new house, and hath not dedicated it? let him go and return to his house, lest he die in the battle, and another man dedicate it.
6 And what man is he that hath planted a vineyard, and hath not yet eaten of it? let him also go and return unto his house, lest he die in the battle, and another man eat of it.
7 And what man is there that hath betrothed a wife, and hath not taken her? let him go and return unto his house, lest he die in the battle, and another man take her.
8 And the officers shall speak further unto the people, and they shall say, What man is there that is fearful and fainthearted? let him go and return unto his house, lest his brethren’s heart faint as well as his heart.
9 And it shall be, when the officers have made an end of speaking unto the people, that they shall make captains of the armies to lead the people.

In selecting the soldiers, they were to relieve any who had not dedicated the home he had built, had not eaten of his crops, or was betrothed and not married yet, and they were allowed to return to their homes. Any men who were too afraid to fight, were to leave so that they would not cause others to loose faith. Then, the officers of the army, could appoint captains to lead the remaining men. I think this law shows the love of God for those who are trying to live good lives and do what was right. The Lord did not want men to lose out on seeing benefits of their hard work in their fields, or the amazing blessings of marriage. In fact, for the entire first year of marriage, a man was to remain with his new wife and not go out to fight. This shows us some of the things of greater importance to the Lord and to our personal progression in this life. I am reminded, that we can learn time and time again through the old testament, that the Lord does not need numbers to win a battle. He can succeed with only a handful of faithful, courageous men. As with the story of David and Goliath, he can succeed with just one man, if that man has courage and faith in the Lord.

10 When thou comest nigh unto a city to fight against it, then proclaim peace unto it.
11 And it shall be, if it make thee answer of peace, and open unto thee, then it shall be, that all the people that is found therein shall be tributaries unto thee, and they shall serve thee.
12 And if it will make no peace with thee, but will make war against thee, then thou shalt besiege it:
13 And when the Lord thy God hath delivered it into thine hands, thou shalt smite every male thereof with the edge of the sword:
14 But the women, and the little ones, and the cattle, and all that is in the city, even all the spoil thereof, shalt thou take unto thyself; and thou shalt eat the spoil of thine enemies, which the Lord thy God hath given thee.
15 Thus shalt thou do unto all the cities which are very far off from thee, which are not of the cities of these nations.
16 But of the cities of these people, which the Lord thy God doth give thee for an inheritance, thou shalt save alive nothing that breatheth:
17 But thou shalt utterly destroy them; namely, the Hittites, and the Amorites, the Canaanites, and the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites; as the Lord thy God hath commanded thee:
18 That they teach you not to do after all their abominations, which they have done unto their gods; so should ye sin against the Lord your God.

If they planned for war against a city, which was not in the land of inheritance, they were to approach that city in peace. If the other city was willing to remain peaceful towards the Israelites, and did not want to fight, they were to have them do a service of paying tribute to Israel. If that city wanted to fight, the Israelite army was to besiege, and take control of it by the power of the Lord. Once they took that city, they were to kill every man and then take everything else as spoil from their victory. They were to enjoy these as blessings from the Lord. I am glad that even in preparing for war against others, the Lord wanted them to try to be peacemakers first. This leaves the choice of fighting to the other side. In this case, I think the Israelites would not become a blood-thirsty nation, or one who was seeking purely to get gain from other people. They would only fight those who had a real desire to fight against them.

The cities within the land of promise, were to be destroyed completely, including the cities of the Hittites, Amorites, Canaanites, Perizzites, Hivites and the Jebusites. This they needed to do because it was a commandment which would help them avoid the temptations of those people and therefore avoid falling away from the Lord. In this case, it was better to preserve and protect the souls of the Israelite nation, than to allow anything wicked to remain, living or not.

19 When thou shalt besiege a city a long time, in making war against it to take it, thou shalt not destroy the trees thereof by forcing an axe against them: for thou mayest eat of them, and thou shalt not cut them down (for the tree of the field is man’s life) to employ them in the siege:
20 Only the trees which thou knowest that they be not trees for meat, thou shalt destroy and cut them down; and thou shalt build bulwarks against the city that maketh war with thee, until it be subdued.

When they took the city, they were to leave any fruit trees, but they could use any other trees to gain control of the city.

The Lord commands His people in all things. Having and following military commandments and counsel, would have helped the Israelites to remain a mighty nation, because the Lord would have continued to help them. I believe that throughout the remainder of the old testament, we can see what results from the choice whether or not to following these commandments. The blessings of following commandments, can only be expected when we do what the Lord asks of us. We can learn this principle in Doctrine and Covenants 130:

20 There is a law, irrevocably decreed in heaven before the foundations of this world, upon which all blessings are predicated—
21 And when we obtain any blessing from God, it is by obedience to that law upon which it is predicated.

Likewise, we read the following in Doctrine and Covenants 82:10, which reads, “I, the Lord, am bound when ye do what I say; but when ye do not what I say, ye have no promise.” I am grateful for this promise from the Lord. I know it applies to all his commandments and the blessings that would come from following them. I hold fast to the hope that this gives me, and that hope gives me the courage to strive to follow the commandments each day.

Commentary on the Vision of Nephi

I recently received a comment on one of the first posts I wrote back in 2008, for 1 Nephi, Chapter 14. The following request was made:

Some things that I can’t understand that may be you could help me. When the angel asked Nephi if he remembers the covenants of the Father unto the House of Israel. And Nephi said, Yea. … the [angel] showed to Nephi the 2 churches. I just wondered why he showed this after asking Nephi. And in verse 17, I get a little hint here but still can’t gather all the thoughts.

I decided to make it a matter of further study, especially since I wrote my post so long ago. This response is a bit lengthy, but it helped me and I hope it can help others seeking to have a greater understanding.

**********

In all things in the gospel, especially as the spirit reveals truth to us, lessons are learned line upon line. I believe that the spirit is building upon the foundation of Nephi’s knowledge here. What is the foundation? For this, we need to look back to the beginning of the vision of Lehi. It is important to see the whole picture, to understand these smaller sections. Somewhere between 600 and 592 BC, Lehi has a vision of the tree of life (see 1 Nephi 8). It seems that in the perspective of Lehi, the importance of this dream is his family (descendants) receiving the glorious fruit of the tree. In the vision, the great and spacious building is introduced. We learn from what he teaches, that those within the building would mock and scorn those trying to do what was right. Throughout all time, the world has been against those who would choose to follow the Lord.

In 1 Nephi 10, Lehi teaches his family that the Jews would eventually return to Jerusalem after it would be destroyed. He taught them of when the Savior would come to earth, as the prophets had long foretold. He told them of how the Jews would dwindle in unbelief and kill the Messiah. Lehi tells them that at this time, the Savior would reveal himself to the gentiles. (I think it’s important to remember that Lehi and his family lived in a time when the Jews understood the gospel to be set apart for the Jews alone. The revelation for it to anyone outside of the covenant, would not come until Peter received it after the Savior had been resurrected. We read about that in Acts 10.) Then, Lehi preaches to them of how the Jews and gentiles compared to the olive tree and its branches. This is part of those things that the Lord promised in the covenants with their fathers, that the house of Israel would be divided. Lehi taught them of the gospel being received by the gentiles and of them bringing the natural branches, or the house of Israel, back into their place through coming to know the true Messiah. (chapter 10 vv. 2-14)

I am sure that the sons of Lehi had heard much of this before, through the teachings of youth. I believe he taught them with greater details, because of the vision he himself had received. Nephi desired to know the truth of this foundation his father had set in his teachings. In his pondering, he was carried away into his own vision (see 1 Nephi 11). In his vision, the spirit of the Lord first shows him the tree of life, which his father had seen. Then Nephi sees a vision of the coming forth of the Savior to the world. He speaks with an angel of what these things mean. Nephi witnessed the ministry of the Savior, and his apostles, to the Jews. Then he witnessed the sacrifice of the Savior by the Jews, and how the Jews would then fight against the apostles of the Savior. Those that fought against them, were in the great and spacious building of the world. In this part of the vision, Nephi has it confirmed to him, that the Jews would fall into apostasy and be of the world instead of being of the Lord.

In chapter 12, Nephi is shown more than what we learn from Lehi’s vision. He learns that his family would dwell in the promised land, as one of the broken off branches of the olive tree, and after many generations of fighting with the seed of his brothers, and great destruction for their wickedness, the Savior would appear to the part of his family that remained. Then after faithful generations, the two sides of their family would again fight each other, because of the temptations of the world. He saw again the great and spacious building of the world and its wickedness. Then he saw his seed destroyed in their wickedness and the seed of his brothers fall away into greater wickedness.

In chapter 13, the angel teaches Nephi of the many gentile nations. In verse 3 we read, “And he said unto me: These are the nations and kingdoms of the Gentiles.” He witnessed the formation of the great and abominable church among the gentile nations. This is part of the world’s great apostasy and it is led by the devil himself. Nephi is taught that worldly things are the desire of that church, which would strive to destroy the righteous saints of the church of God. This great church is presented to Nephi, much like the great and spacious building of the world. Nephi was then shown that the descendants of his brothers, were separated from the gentile nations, and that a gentile man would be inspired to journey to them across the waters. The gentiles would scatter and destroy many of their descendants. Then, the gentiles would prosper and separate themselves from other gentile nations, through war. After the war, a book of a jew would be brought forth among them, which we know to be the Bible, which contains the covenants of the house of Israel. Nephi learns that the book would start pure, but would be changed by the great and abominable church. After being changed, it would cause some confusion and stumbling. The angel shows Nephi, that the Lord would cause the seed of Lehi to also keep records of the gospel and the truth, and that these records would be brought forth to the gentiles at that time. The gentiles would then, teach the descendants of his brothers, of the record of their fathers. The records together would convince many of the truth and eventually, the Lord would be made manifest to all the nations and all the people of the world.

This is what the angel has shown Nephi leading up to this chapter, 1 Nephi 14. The angel teaches Nephi that those who would accept the gospel contained in the records, and therefore accept and hearken to the Lord, would be joined into the house of Israel. This is the gathering of Israel in these latter-days. The angel reminds Nephi that he has learned that those who repent, gentile or jew, would not perish. Those who would harden their hearts, would have destruction. This is the great and marvelous work that would be had among all the world. This is when in verse 8, he asks Nephi, “Rememberest thou the covenants of the Father unto the house of Israel?” In all this teaching, the angel has been reminding Nephi of the covenants of the Father to the Israelites.

The covenant of the Father unto the house of Israel, is the Abrahamic covenant. The Bible Dictionary can teach us of this covenant better than I can explain it. It reads:

Abraham first received the gospel by baptism (which is the covenant of salvation). Then he had conferred upon him the higher priesthood, and he entered into celestial marriage (which is the covenant of exaltation), gaining assurance thereby that he would have eternal increase. Finally he received a promise that all of these blessings would be offered to all of his mortal posterity (D&C 132:29–50; Abr. 2:6–11). Included in the divine promises to Abraham were the assurances that (1) Christ would come through his lineage, and that (2) Abraham’s posterity would receive certain lands as an eternal inheritance (Gen. 17; 22:15–18; Gal. 3; Abr. 2). These promises taken together are called the “Abrahamic covenant.” It was renewed with Isaac (Gen. 26:1–4, 24) and again with Jacob (Gen. 28; 35:9–13; 48:3–4).

The portions of the covenant that pertain to personal salvation and eternal increase are renewed with each individual who receives the ordinance of celestial marriage (see D&C 132:29–33). Those of non-Israelite lineage, commonly known as Gentiles, are adopted into the house of Israel and become heirs of the covenant and the seed of Abraham through the ordinances of the gospel (Gal. 3:26–29).

Being an heir to the Abrahamic covenant does not make one a “chosen person” per se but does signify that such are chosen to responsibly carry the gospel to all the peoples of the earth. Abraham’s seed have carried out the missionary activity in all the nations since Abraham’s day. (Matt. 3:9; Abr. 2:9–11.)

To fulfill the covenant God made with Abraham—having particular reference to the fact that the literal seed of his body would be entitled to all of the blessings of the gospel (Abr. 2:10–11)—a number of specific and particular things must take place in the last days. The gospel must be restored, the priesthood must be conferred again upon man, the keys of the sealing power must be given again to mortals, Israel must be gathered, and the Holy Ghost must be poured out upon the Gentiles. All this has already taken place or is in process of fulfillment.

Then, with a reminder of the covenant, the angel shows Nephi that the world would eventually be divided into two parts or churches. The first is the church of the Lamb of God, which consists of those who are the people of God, the latter-day house of Israel. The second is everyone else, who would belong to the great and abominable church of the world, and who would be led by Satan. The two churches would fight. Those of the world, would fight against the people of God. At that time, when God and his people would fight against Satan and his followers, the covenant would begin to be fulfilled (see verse 17). This would lead up to the time of the second coming, which was written about in the book of Revelation, by the apostle John, and Nephi was told not to write any more of what he saw in the vision.

So, with all of this in mind, I think that the question the angel posed to Nephi, was more of a reminder to him that in this entire vision, he was being shown the fulfillment of the covenants made to the house of Israel. I do not think that what directly followed the question, was the complete answer. I think it’s much like posing a question at the closing of a lesson, when we may be reminded of the entire purpose for the words spoken. Nephi needed to be shown all that would lead up to the restoration of the gospel, which would lead to the descendants of his father being able to make sacred covenants again some day. Nephi was blessed with a knowledge that in latter-days, the house of Israel would be gathered again, so that the promised blessings of the covenant could be received by all those who were willing to be a part of the church of the Lamb. The fulfillment of the promises would come as the Lord’s church stood against the great and abominable church of the world. I hope that this helps in your understanding, as it has in my own. I think to understand it even more fully, it is important to also look to the book of Revelation, to see what Nephi was shown after what he has written for us. I have not yet approached the book of Revelation in my own deeper study, but I am really looking forward to it and the understanding I know it will bring.

Deuteronomy Chapter 19

In chapter 17 of Deuteronomy, Moses reminded the Israelites of the importance of having righteous leaders. Specifically, he taught them the importance of judges who would do their duty without prejudice and according to the laws of God. It was important that they remembered to carry out judgements of God’s established laws, in a manner that was pleasing to God. Only then, would they continue to be led by the spirit of the Lord. Moses continues the teachings of the Lord, with regard to how they were to handle some of those individuals judged as guilty by the law.

1 When the Lord thy God hath cut off the nations, whose land the Lord thy God giveth thee, and thou succeedest them, and dwellest in their cities, and in their houses;
2 Thou shalt separate three cities for thee in the midst of thy land, which the Lord thy God giveth thee to possess it.
3 Thou shalt prepare thee a way, and divide the coasts of thy land, which the Lord thy God giveth thee to inherit, into three parts, that every slayer may flee thither.

After becoming established in a land free of other nations, they were to create three cities of refuge within the land. These three cities were to be established with roads and borders. They were for those who had committed manslaughter.

4 And this is the case of the slayer, which shall flee thither, that he may live: Whoso killeth his neighbour ignorantly, whom he hated not in time past;
5 As when a man goeth into the wood with his neighbour to hew wood, and his hand fetcheth a stroke with the axe to cut down the tree, and the head slippeth from the helve, and lighteth upon his neighbour, that he die; he shall flee unto one of those cities, and live:
6 Lest the avenger of the blood pursue the slayer, while his heart is hot, and overtake him, because the way is long, and slay him; whereas he was not worthy of death, inasmuch as he hated him not in time past.
7 Wherefore I command thee, saying, Thou shalt separate three cities for thee.
8 And if the Lord thy God enlarge thy coast, as he hath sworn unto thy fathers, and give thee all the land which he promised to give unto thy fathers;
9 If thou shalt keep all these commandments to do them, which I command thee this day, to love the Lord thy God, and to walk ever in his ways; then shalt thou add three cities more for thee, beside these three:
10 That innocent blood be not shed in thy land, which the Lord thy God giveth thee for an inheritance, and so blood be upon thee.

Those who had a place in the cities of refuge, were they who had ignorantly or accidentally killed another, without any premeditation or the intention to murder another. An example of manslaughter is given, where two men are chopping down a tree, and the axe slips from one man’s hand and kills the other accidentally. Those convicted of manslaughter could go to a city of refuge and live without fear of the death being avenged by an angry family member or friend. This because manslaughter was not a crime worthy of death according to God. If the Lord blessed them with more land, they were to add more cities of refuge. God did not want innocent blood shed in the land of promise, which would make them unworthy of the land.

11 But if any man hate his neighbour, and lie in wait for him, and rise up against him, and smite him mortally that he die, and fleeth into one of these cities:
12 Then the elders of his city shall send and fetch him thence, and deliver him into the hand of the avenger of blood, that he may die.
13 Thine eye shall not pity him, but thou shalt put away the guilt of innocent blood from Israel, that it may go well with thee.

If a person murdered in cold-blood and then escaped to the city of refuge, the leaders were to take him out of that city. All murderers were to be put to death and not shown pity when they were found guilty. If they did not follow through with this, the people would be held accountable for their choice.

14 Thou shalt not remove thy neighbour’s landmark, which they of old time have set in thine inheritance, which thou shalt inherit in the land that the Lord thy God giveth thee to possess it.

The people were not to remove the landmarks left in the land from old times. I believe that the word landmarks is the marks of boundary on the land. The Israelites were not to decide for themselves how they should change the boundaries of their inheritances, but were to leave them as they were first divided in the land.

15 One witness shall not rise up against a man for any iniquity, or for any sin, in any sin that he sinneth: at the mouth of two witnesses, or at the mouth of three witnesses, shall the matter be established.

If only one witness spoke against another person, they could not be judged for that thing. All cases were to be judged bases on the words of two or three witnesses. The Lord has been consistent in the law of witnesses throughout time. In the time of the restoration of the church, the Lord said, “and in the mouth of two or three witnesses shall every word be established”. (Doctrine and Covenants 6:28) Witnesses are so important to our being able to know truth from those things that are false. Most important, is the witness we can receive from the spirit of the Lord, which is undeniable by our own spirit, and if we listen, He will teach us what is true.

16 If a false witness rise up against any man to testify against him that which is wrong;
17 Then both the men, between whom the controversy is, shall stand before the Lord, before the priests and the judges, which shall be in those days;
18 And the judges shall make diligent inquisition: and, behold, if the witness be a false witness, and hath testified falsely against his brother;
19 Then shall ye do unto him, as he had thought to have done unto his brother: so shalt thou put the evil away from among you.
20 And those which remain shall hear, and fear, and shall henceforth commit no more any such evil among you.
21 And thine eye shall not pity; but life shall go for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot.

False witnesses were to be judged along with those they testified against. The judges and elders of Israel, were to look hard at the details of the case and decide if the witness was being truthful. If the witness was found to be lying, then he would be judged guilty in the matter and receive the punishment that he had hoped for the one was innocent. As a result, those who were seeking that another be falsely accused and receive punishment, would receive that punishment equally. In doing so, the leaders of Israel would show to the rest of the people, that anyone who bore false witness against another would be held accountable.

The act of intentionally murdering another person, is never right. God established the law against murder, long before the Isrealites existed. Cain was cursed and cast away from the presence of the Lord, when he committed the first murder (Genesis 4:8, 11, 14; see also Moses 5:32, 36, 39). The law is specifically stated in Genesis 9:6, when we read the law as given to Noah’s generation, “Whoso sheddeth man’s blood, by man shall his blood be shed: for in the image of God made he man.” Then it was established with the Israelites, when Moses first brought them the ten commandments. In Exodus 20:13 we read, “Thou shalt not kill.” Any man who was guilty of murder was rightfully to be put to death, by the standards of the Lord. The Lord has re-established His law in our day as well. In Doctrine and Covenants 42, we read the following:

18 And now, behold, I speak unto the church. Thou shalt not kill; and he that kills shall not have forgiveness in this world, nor in the world to come.
19 And again, I say, thou shalt not kill; but he that killeth shall die.

Any person who murders another of God’s children, will be held accountable by God for their sin. Whether or not they are not punished in this life for their crime, they will be judged appropriately at the judgement seat of the Lord and all will be made right by God.

Just as all kings and their rulings, and judges and their judgments, were to be just and righteous, all the punishments for those guilty, were to be just and righteous. When men are punished for accidents, or innocent men are convicted of crimes, there is little hope in the law for those who are trying to live good lives. This kind of government leads to chaos, rebellion, and falling away from those things that are good and true. It was so important for the Israelites to remember these things, so that they could remain faithful to the Lord. It is important for these things today as well. When good laws are established to maintain freedoms and allow people the ability to righteously follow their beliefs, it gives men the ability to openly follow after the Lord. When governments choose to altar these good things, for their own purposes, one things leads to another and apostasy is sure to follow. Those who are striving to live a life of righteousness, need to do all that they are able to ensure that those who are leading them are protecting the freedoms and the good laws of the land.

Deuteronomy Chapter 18

Moses continues his sermons to the Israelites as they prepared to enter the promised land. In the last chapter he shared teachings on the need for righteous leaders in their judges, priests and kings. We can learn from it, that the people have a greater chance at continuing in righteousness, when their leaders follow the laws of God and are just and true. Moses continues by teaching more about the priests of Israel.

1 The priests the Levites, and all the tribe of Levi, shall have no part nor inheritance with Israel: they shall eat the offerings of the Lord made by fire, and his inheritance.
2 Therefore shall they have no inheritance among their brethren: the Lord is their inheritance, as he hath said unto them.
3 And this shall be the priest’s due from the people, from them that offer a sacrifice, whether it be ox or sheep; and they shall give unto the priest the shoulder, and the two cheeks, and the maw.
4 The firstfruit also of thy corn, of thy wine, and of thine oil, and the first of the fleece of thy sheep, shalt thou give him.
5 For the Lord thy God hath chosen him out of all thy tribes, to stand to minister in the name of the Lord, him and his sons for ever.

The Levites had a sacred calling, to be responsible for the tabernacle and sacrifices for the Lord. Because of their calling, they were not treated as the remaining tribes were, as far as inheritances were concerned. All that they had, was to be provided by the offerings of the remainder of the Israelites. In this way, those who were called to be the most holy in their duties, were also called to rely on the blessings of the Lord for all that they had. There is a lesson in this, and for me, that is that we draw nearer to the Lord, when we rely on Him in every part of our lives. We are not called to go without, but if we can recognize that we owe thanks to the Lord in all things, we will also be blessed to draw closer to Him. Moreover, the blessings we receive in return, will be the best portion of all that the Savior has to offer us, just as the Levites received the best portion of all that the Israelites had.

Also, the priests were then dependent upon a people who recognized the Lord in their lives. If the people began to go astray, and follow after other gods, the priests (and their families) would no longer be provided for by the sacrifices and offerings others would have given. It was important for the priests to have faith in the promises of the Lord, no matter how the people were, but it was also important that the people remained faithful in the commandments to give offerings. As disciples of Christ today, it is our duty to give all that we are able to provide for those who do not have their own “inheritance”. We give tithes and offerings in order to build up the kingdom of God on the earth, to live as Christ lived, and to help uplift other around us. When we give, we are recognizing that the hand of the Lord is in our lives and we can give of what he has provided to us.

6 And if a Levite come from any of thy gates out of all Israel, where he sojourned, and come with all the desire of his mind unto the place which the Lord shall choose;
7 Then he shall minister in the name of the Lord his God, as all his brethren the Levites do, which stand there before the Lord.
8 They shall have like portions to eat, beside that which cometh of the sale of his patrimony.

Any man of Levite heritage, who desired to go to the tabernacle and serve in the name of the Lord, was to do so. He could come from any of the cities provided for the Levites, and was to be treated as any of the Levites in the service of the Lord.

9 When thou art come into the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee, thou shalt not learn to do after the abominations of those nations.
10 There shall not be found among you any one that maketh his son or his daughter to pass through the fire, or that useth divination, or an observer of times, or an enchanter, or a witch,
11 Or a charmer, or a consulter with familiar spirits, or a wizard, or a necromancer.
12 For all that do these things are an abomination unto the Lord: and because of these abominations the Lord thy God doth drive them out from before thee.
13 Thou shalt be perfect with the Lord thy God.
14 For these nations, which thou shalt possess, hearkened unto observers of times, and unto diviners: but as for thee, the Lord thy God hath not suffered thee so to do.

Moses goes on to teach the people that they were not to learn the ways of abomination, which other nations learned and practiced at that time. These things included the sacrificing of their children to false gods, divination, enchantments or sorcery, witchcraft, charms, spiritualism, wizardry, or necromancy. These things have existed through out the ages, and are a tool of the adversary to lead people after him, by giving them powers of wickedness. Because these were abominations to the Lord, he would cause the nations who practiced them, to be driven out before the Israelites were settled in the land. The Israelites were set apart to be a holy people to the Lord, and were not to practice these any of these things. There are still things such as this practiced today. There are some who live by superstitions and rely heavily on horoscopes and such. There are even some who do participate in the practices of what we would call today, dark magic. Satan uses these tools as he has through the ages, and brings many into bondage with them. Disciples of Christ should avoid these things as part of their lifestyles, and should find answers, comfort and peace through Jesus Christ instead.

The Israelites were given instruction, to be perfect with the Lord. This part of the law of the Lord is repeated by the Savior, during the sermon on the mount, when He said, “Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.” We grow in life, ‘line upon line and precept upon precept’. This applies to the perfection that is required of us as well. Eternal perfection will not be accomplished in this life, by any mortal man. It cannot. We cannot actually reach eternal perfection, until the atonement has been accomplished for us individually. We can however, keep the commandments that we have been given, to perfection. As we learn to be a little better each day, we become the kind of perfect that the Lord has asked us to be in this life. We do this, by relying on the Lord and having faith in Him. In 1 Nephi 3:7, we read, “And it came to pass that I, Nephi, said unto my father: I will go and do the things which the Lord hath commanded, for I know that the Lord giveth no commandments unto the children of men, save he shall prepare a way for them that they may accomplish the thing which he commandeth them.” We can accomplish all things with His help. We can be perfect in what is asked of us here in mortality, and eventually, we will be made complete through Christ. In that eternal perfection, gained only by the atonement of Christ, we will be able to live forever in the presence of our Father in Heaven.

15 The Lord thy God will raise up unto thee a Prophet from the midst of thee, of thy brethren, like unto me; unto him ye shall hearken;
16 According to all that thou desiredst of the Lord thy God in Horeb in the day of the assembly, saying, Let me not hear again the voice of the Lord my God, neither let me see this great fire any more, that I die not.
17 And the Lord said unto me, They have well spoken that which they have spoken.
18 I will raise them up a Prophet from among their brethren, like unto thee, and will put my words in his mouth; and he shall speak unto them all that I shall command him.
19 And it shall come to pass, that whosoever will not hearken unto my words which he shall speak in my name, I will require it of him.
20 But the prophet, which shall presume to speak a word in my name, which I have not commanded him to speak, or that shall speak in the name of other gods, even that prophet shall die.
21 And if thou say in thine heart, How shall we know the word which the Lord hath not spoken?
22 When a prophet speaketh in the name of the Lord, if the thing follow not, nor come to pass, that is the thing which the Lord hath not spoken, but the prophet hath spoken it presumptuously: thou shalt not be afraid of him.

Jesus-Portrait

A prophet would be raised from among the Israelites, who would be like Moses. This prophet, was the Lord, Jesus Christ. In 3 Nephi 20:23, the Savior confirmed these words to the Nephites. He said, “Behold, I am he of whom Moses spake, saying: A prophet shall the Lord your God raise up unto you of your brethren, like unto me; him shall ye hear in all things whatsoever he shall say unto you. And it shall come to pass that every soul who will not hear that prophet shall be cut off from among the people.” The Israelites were taught to hearken to Christ. Christ would be the mouthpiece for God on the earth, so that the people would know the will of God for them. This was the role, which Moses had taken for the people, because they had feared that hearing the voice of the Lord directly would have brought death upon them. Anyone, who was not willing to hearken to the words of the Christ, would be held accountable for it. Likewise, we are taught to follow the words of Christ, which he taught while in his mortal ministry. If we learn of His teachings, and choose not to follow after them, we will also be held accountable for it.

Any false prophet, who claimed to speak the word of God, as directed by God, would die. One cannot lie to God, or claim to do his will without his authority, and continue in leading people astray. They could know that a man was a false prophet, if the things he claimed in the name of the Lord, did not come to pass. They were not to fear or reverence any false prophets among them. False prophets have existed since the days of Adam. People desire to follow after those who claim to be called and directed by the Lord. We can know if they are true prophets, by the works of their hands. God will not allow men to continue to lead others astray in the name of the Lord. One of the greatest blessings given to men, is the light of Christ, which we all have within us. If we trust and believe in God, the light of Christ will help us to discern or to recognize a false prophet from a man truly called of God.

I am so grateful for the restored gospel on earth today. I feel so blessed to live in a time, when the Lord calls righteous men to lead and direct us. I am grateful for the Lord’s prophet, Thomas S. Monson, and for the apostles and other leaders which He has called to assist the prophet in helping us to do what is right. They have helped to shape my life into what it is today. I know that we should listen to the words of the prophets and hearken to them, as if from the mouth of the Lord. I know that peace and happiness in life, come from following the prophet. I strive daily to follow their teachings because it feels right in my heart and mind. I have felt peace and happiness in my life as a result of this and I would not want to live any other way. I hope that others will recognize that the Lord loves us enough to guide us today, just as he did in the days of Moses.

Deuteronomy Chapter 17

The Israelites were preparing to enter the promised land, where they would be able to settle and find some normalcy to their lives. They had been wandering for over 40 years, and continually had the possibly to being told to pick up and leave where ever they were to move on to the next place the Lord wanted them to be. That is a life of uncertainty and relying a lot on faith in the Lord, or faith in their leader, Moses. It had not been an easy life for them, even though they were being led by the Lord and blessed daily by Him. Moses needed to give them the teachings of the Lord, that would give them the best chance for remaining true and faithful. His teachings continued with the following:

1 Thou shalt not sacrifice unto the Lord thy God any bullock, or sheep, wherein is blemish, or any evilfavouredness: for that is an abomination unto the Lord thy God.

All their sacrifices to the Lord, were to be according to the standards He had established. This meant that they were not to sacrifice any animal that was not considered worthy for that purpose. All of their sacrifices were to be free of any blemish or defect.

2 If there be found among you, within any of thy gates which the Lord thy God giveth thee, man or woman, that hath wrought wickedness in the sight of the Lord thy God, in transgressing his covenant,
3 And hath gone and served other gods, and worshipped them, either the sun, or moon, or any of the host of heaven, which I have not commanded;
4 And it be told thee, and thou hast heard of it, and inquired diligently, and, behold, it be true, and the thing certain, that such abomination is wrought in Israel:
5 Then shalt thou bring forth that man or that woman, which have committed that wicked thing, unto thy gates, even that man or that woman, and shalt stone them with stones, till they die.
6 At the mouth of two witnesses, or three witnesses, shall he that is worthy of death be put to death; but at the mouth of one witness he shall not be put to death.
7 The hands of the witnesses shall be first upon him to put him to death, and afterward the hands of all the people. So thou shalt put the evil away from among you.

If it was discovered that any person was worshipping false gods, they were to verify if it was true and certain. That person was to be put to death by stoning. This would require two to three witnesses of the sin. No one was to be put to death with only one witness against them. The witnesses were to be the first to cast a stone, followed by all others there. As I read this, I am reminded that this was just as much a commandment not to worship false idols, as a commandment to destroy any people who would lead them astray into idolatry. It was their duty to God, to make sure that they kept their land free from those who would have them follow after other gods. We have a duty today, to do all that we can to separate ourselves and our families from those people and things that would do this as well. We need to be aware of the influences that come into our lives, that would pull us away from putting the Lord first in our lives, and do what we are able to do, to get them out of our lives.

8 If there arise a matter too hard for thee in judgment, between blood and blood, between plea and plea, and between stroke and stroke, being matters of controversy within thy gates: then shalt thou arise, and get thee up into the place which the Lord thy God shall choose;
9 And thou shalt come unto the priests the Levites, and unto the judge that shall be in those days, and inquire; and they shall shew thee the sentence of judgment:
10 And thou shalt do according to the sentence, which they of that place which the Lord shall choose shall shew thee; and thou shalt observe to do according to all that they inform thee:
11 According to the sentence of the law which they shall teach thee, and according to the judgment which they shall tell thee, thou shalt do: thou shalt not decline from the sentence which they shall shew thee, to the right hand, nor to the left.
12 And the man that will do presumptuously, and will not hearken unto the priest that standeth to minister there before the Lord thy God, or unto the judge, even that man shall die: and thou shalt put away the evil from Israel.
13 And all the people shall hear, and fear, and do no more presumptuously.

Any greater issue, or harder case of judgement, were to go to the holy place where they could be heard by the priests and judges. The cases would be heard and judgment was then to be made by the priests and judges. Whatever sentence was determined by them, was to be followed and observed with exactness, by the people involved. Anyone who would not follow the sentencing of the case, would be put to death. This gave the priests and judges a lot of power among the people, and would only work well, if they were righteous men who knew and followed the laws of the Lord. There are priests and judges in Christ’s church today. We have men, who are called to be judges over the people in gospel matters, namely bishops, branch presidents, and other priesthood leaders. The same counsel from the Lord would apply today. If there is a matter, which needs to be solved that is more difficult than a family could deal with on their own, they may take it to their local priesthood leader. These men have the authority from the Lord, to decide what should be done. When they follow the inspiration from God, we should listen, hearken and respect the counsel and direction given. If we desire to draw nearer to the Lord, we should not assume that we know better and can solve it according to our own ways. I am so grateful that the Lord has established a line of the priesthood, to take care of these types of things. I believe in the power and authority given to my own bishop, as a man called by the Lord and set apart by others who have the authority to do so. The Lord is guiding our leaders today, and we will be blessed if we choose to follow their counsel and not our own wisdom, or the wisdom of the world.

14 When thou art come unto the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee, and shalt possess it, and shalt dwell therein, and shalt say, I will set a king over me, like as all the nations that are about me;
15 Thou shalt in any wise set him king over thee, whom the Lord thy God shall choose: one from among thy brethren shalt thou set king over thee: thou mayest not set a stranger over thee, which is not thy brother.
16 But he shall not multiply horses to himself, nor cause the people to return to Egypt, to the end that he should multiply horses: forasmuch as the Lord hath said unto you, Ye shall henceforth return no more that way.
17 Neither shall he multiply wives to himself, that his heart turn not away: neither shall he greatly multiply to himself silver and gold.
18 And it shall be, when he sitteth upon the throne of his kingdom, that he shall write him a copy of this law in a book out of that which is before the priests the Levites:
19 And it shall be with him, and he shall read therein all the days of his life: that he may learn to fear the Lord his God, to keep all the words of this law and these statutes, to do them:
20 That his heart be not lifted up above his brethren, and that he turn not aside from the commandment, to the right hand, or to the left: to the end that he may prolong his days in his kingdom, he, and his children, in the midst of Israel.

It was standard in those days, for nations to have kings to rule over them. For Israel, they would have prophets and kings to rule and guide them. They were to choose kings in wisdom, which meant to follow the word of the Lord, who would choose worthy men to rule. They were not to have a king from any other nation. The king was not to gain horses for himself by making them return to Egypt, where their horses could be multiplied. The king was also not to gain wives or treasure for himself, which was very common for the kings of that time. I think this was a way of saying that the kings were not to let the power given to them, cause them to focus on their own wealth and prestige, which leads to greed, selfishness, and falling away from the ways of the Lord. All the kings were to have a copy of the law of Moses, which was to be kept with him, so that he could read it every day of his life. They were to study the law and live them daily so that he would remain a righteous and worthy leader for the people of God.

I am so glad to live in a land that is not ruled by a king today. The likelihood of a truly righteous man of God, being made a king over the people, seems far-fetched. A righteous leader is more likely to lead a righteous people. If a crowned king is a man after the desires of his heart instead of being interested in following God first, his people are likely to follow in the same ways. This is part of the reason, why it is so important for us to do our part in choosing good leaders today. When our leaders care more about power and prestige, then they do about serving others, following after those things that are good and right, and doing those things that are best for the people, they will lead the majority of the people astray. This is what brings physical and spiritual destruction to good people, in the mightiest of nations. I have a hope that more people will desire the freedoms and blessings that come from good people leading a nation, than otherwise. I have a prayer in my heart that this will be true for my life, so that my family and other loved ones will have the desire to live lives devoted to the Lord and not follow after the ways of the world.

Deuteronomy Chapter 16

Moses was commanded to teach the people of Israel, all the things that God had commanded when they were encamped in the wilderness of Sinai. That had been at a time, when those who had lived in Egypt, were still alive. At this point in Deuteronomy, however, all of those adults were gone from among them (with the exception of Joshua and Caleb), and Moses was teaching these things to the new generations of the children of Israel. One of the things established in the law of Moses, was the observance of feasts. I’m not sure if they had been able to participate in these feasts fully as they wandered in the wilderness, but they were to be observed as they settled in the promised land. This chapter begins:

1 Observe the month of Abib, and keep the passover unto the Lord thy God: for in the month of Abib the Lord thy God brought thee forth out of Egypt by night.
2 Thou shalt therefore sacrifice the passover unto the Lord thy God, of the flock and the herd, in the place which the Lord shall choose to place his name there.
3 Thou shalt eat no leavened bread with it; seven days shalt thou eat unleavened bread therewith, even the bread of affliction; for thou camest forth out of the land of Egypt in haste: that thou mayest remember the day when thou camest forth out of the land of Egypt all the days of thy life.
4 And there shall be no leavened bread seen with thee in all thy coast seven days; neither shall there any thing of the flesh, which thou sacrificedst the first day at even, remain all night until the morning.
5 Thou mayest not sacrifice the passover within any of thy gates, which the Lord thy God giveth thee:
6 But at the place which the Lord thy God shall choose to place his name in, there thou shalt sacrifice the passover at even, at the going down of the sun, at the season that thou camest forth out of Egypt.
7 And thou shalt roast and eat it in the place which the Lord thy God shall choose: and thou shalt turn in the morning, and go unto thy tents.
8 Six days thou shalt eat unleavened bread: and on the seventh day shall be a solemn assembly to the Lord thy God: thou shalt do no work therein.

The Lord had established the Passover, and the Israelites were to keep it in remembrance every year at the time when the Lord had delivered them from Egypt. Passover was to be observed by sacrifice in the holy place named by the Lord. For seven days they were not to eat leavened bread. After the Passover Feast, they were to return to their own tents. The seventh day of unleavened bread, following Passover, they were to gather for a solemn assembly and leave all their work alone for that day. I believe this was the time of the Feast of Unleavened Bread.

I was thinking today about the part of the Passover feast, which required that nothing of the sacrifice from that first night, be left until the morning. My thoughts went to the sacrifice of the Savior, and how after his death, when the women returned to the tomb with the burial preparations, His body was gone. Furthermore, it makes me think of how all of the sacrificial meat was to be partaken of that first night of the passover, fulfilling its purposes to the Israelites. Likewise, when the Savior was sacrificed for mankind, he gave all of himself, wholly and perfectly, so that we could all partake of the Atonement. Nothing of himself was used for any other purpose, than to save mankind, that being the work and glory of His Father.

9 Seven weeks shalt thou number unto thee: begin to number the seven weeks from such time as thou beginnest to put the sickle to the corn.
10 And thou shalt keep the feast of weeks unto the Lord thy God with a tribute of a freewill offering of thine hand, which thou shalt give unto the Lord thy God, according as the Lord thy God hath blessed thee:
11 And thou shalt rejoice before the Lord thy God, thou, and thy son, and thy daughter, and thy manservant, and thy maidservant, and the Levite that is within thy gates, and the stranger, and the fatherless, and the widow, that are among you, in the place which the Lord thy God hath chosen to place his name there.
12 And thou shalt remember that thou wast a bondman in Egypt: and thou shalt observe and do these statutes.

Seven weeks after they began to reap from their fields, they were to observe the Feast of Weeks. It was about given a freewill offering to the Lord. I think they did this, in order to be reminded that all that they were blessed with, came from the Lord.

13 Thou shalt observe the feast of tabernacles seven days, after that thou hast gathered in thy corn and thy wine:
14 And thou shalt rejoice in thy feast, thou, and thy son, and thy daughter, and thy manservant, and thy maidservant, and the Levite, the stranger, and the fatherless, and the widow, that are within thy gates.
15 Seven days shalt thou keep a solemn feast unto the Lord thy God in the place which the Lord shall choose: because the Lord thy God shall bless thee in all thine increase, and in all the works of thine hands, therefore thou shalt surely rejoice.

After the harvest was completed, the Israelites were to observe the Feast of Tabernacles. This was to be a time of rejoicing over the many blessings of the Lord.

16 Three times in a year shall all thy males appear before the Lord thy God in the place which he shall choose; in the feast of unleavened bread, and in the feast of weeks, and in the feast of tabernacles: and they shall not appear before the Lord empty:
17 Every man shall give as he is able, according to the blessing of the Lord thy God which he hath given thee.

All the men of Israel, were to go to the holy place of the Lord at least three times a year, during the feasts of unleavened bread, weeks and tabernacles. Each time, they were to bring an offering to the Lord, according to what they had been blessed with by the Lord.

18 Judges and officers shalt thou make thee in all thy gates, which the Lord thy God giveth thee, throughout thy tribes: and they shall judge the people with just judgment.
19 Thou shalt not wrest judgment; thou shalt not respect persons, neither take a gift: for a gift doth blind the eyes of the wise, and pervert the words of the righteous.
20 That which is altogether just shalt thou follow, that thou mayest live, and inherit the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee.

In each city or land of Israel, they were to establish judges and officers, or elders, to justly judge and govern the people. They were not to show any kind of favoritism for individuals, or take any kind of bribes for their work. The Lord teaches us here, that bribery or the giving of gifts for work done, leads to spiritual blindness, and a perverting of those things that are righteous. If they were to continue to keep the land of inheritance, their judges had to be just to all and true to the word of God.

21 Thou shalt not plant thee a grove of any trees near unto the altar of the Lord thy God, which thou shalt make thee.
22 Neither shalt thou set thee up any image; which the Lord thy God hateth.

Again, they are reminded to refrain from worshiping in the manner of other nations. One of the things that was commonly done, was that “groves” were built up near altars to false gods. These were typically places where fertility gods were worshipped and unholy practices were carried out, in the name of their false gods. If they altogether avoided the creating of these places, they would be better protected from the temptation to follow after these other gods and pervert those things which were holy and sacred.

As I study these words, I am often reminded of the importance of keeping a remembrance of God. The Israelites were warned frequently of ways that would lead them after false gods and traditions of their day. They were also reminded often of just how important it was to stay close to the Lord. One of the ways that they were taught to stay close to the Lord, was to remember that their many blessings came from Him. He had delivered them from bondage, He had led them to the promised land, and He would continue to bless the righteous with great blessings as they lived there. We have been given warnings of things that lead us away from the Lord, mostly things in the form of worldly temptations that cause the spirit to withdraw from our lives. If we can strive to follow the commandments and keep a remembrance of the Lord often, we will be greatly blessed. When we are grateful for the hand of the Lord in our personal lives and the lives of our families, we draw nearer to God. I know that peace and happiness is found in a life of devotion and gratitude to the Lord.

Deuteronomy Chapter 15

In this chapter, Moses continues to remind the children of Israel of the laws of the Lord, in preparation for their entering the promised land. It begins:

1 At the end of every seven years thou shalt make a release.
2 And this is the manner of the release: Every creditor that lendeth ought unto his neighbour shall release it; he shall not exact it of his neighbour, or of his brother; because it is called the Lord’s release.
3 Of a foreigner thou mayest exact it again: but that which is thine with thy brother thine hand shall release;
4 Save when there shall be no poor among you; for the Lord shall greatly bless thee in the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee for an inheritance to possess it:
5 Only if thou carefully hearken unto the voice of the Lord thy God, to observe to do all these commandments which I command thee this day.
6 For the Lord thy God blesseth thee, as he promised thee: and thou shalt lend unto many nations, but thou shalt not borrow; and thou shalt reign over many nations, but they shall not reign over thee.

The Israelites were to remember a sabbatical year, every seven years. At that time, they were to release one another of their debts, or cancel them, in the name of the Lord. The purpose of this, was so that there would be no poor among them because of the surplus of blessings from the Lord. They would be greatly blessed as a result of being obedient to the Lord’s commandments. Their blessings would be so great, that they would be able to help other nations and not become dependent on others to help them or rule over them. What an amazing blessing it would have been, to be a self-sufficient nation, free of debts. This was during a time, when nations were being ruled by others nations, who had helped them out of their own financial difficulties or helped them to win battles. The Lord was promising them that he give them all the strength they needed to be free and happy.

7 If there be among you a poor man of one of thy brethren within any of thy gates in thy land which the Lord thy God giveth thee, thou shalt not harden thine heart, nor shut thine hand from thy poor brother:
8 But thou shalt open thine hand wide unto him, and shalt surely lend him sufficient for his need, in that which he wanteth.
9 Beware that there be not a thought in thy wicked heart, saying, The seventh year, the year of release, is at hand; and thine eye be evil against thy poor brother, and thou givest him nought; and he cry unto the Lord against thee, and it be sin unto thee.
10 Thou shalt surely give him, and thine heart shall not be grieved when thou givest unto him: because that for this thing the Lord thy God shall bless thee in all thy works, and in all that thou puttest thine hand unto.
11 For the poor shall never cease out of the land: therefore I command thee, saying, Thou shalt open thine hand wide unto thy brother, to thy poor, and to thy needy, in thy land.

They were commanded to provide for the poor among them, giving all that was sufficient for their needs. They were warned against withholding from the poor during the seventh year sabbatical, which was a sin. The Israelites needed to give in the right spirit, knowing that they gave to the poor because the Lord had blessed them greatly and would continue to bless them for giving. We are not free from the duty of giving to the poor among us. When we have enough to provide for our needs, we should have a willing and generous heart and give to others who are less fortunate than we are.

12 And if thy brother, an Hebrew man, or an Hebrew woman, be sold unto thee, and serve thee six years; then in the seventh year thou shalt let him go free from thee.
13 And when thou sendest him out free from thee, thou shalt not let him go away empty:
14 Thou shalt furnish him liberally out of thy flock, and out of thy floor, and out of thy winepress: of that wherewith the Lord thy God hath blessed thee thou shalt give unto him.
15 And thou shalt remember that thou wast a bondman in the land of Egypt, and the Lord thy God redeemed thee: therefore I command thee this thing to day.
16 And it shall be, if he say unto thee, I will not go away from thee; because he loveth thee and thine house, because he is well with thee;
17 Then thou shalt take an awl, and thrust it through his ear unto the door, and he shall be thy servant for ever. And also unto thy maidservant thou shalt do likewise.
18 It shall not seem hard unto thee, when thou sendest him away free from thee; for he hath been worth a double hired servant to thee, in serving thee six years: and the Lord thy God shall bless thee in all that thou doest.

During the seventh year of sabbatical, any Hebrew servants were to be set free, being six years after they had been sold to them. He was not to go empty-handed, but with blessings of flocks, food and drink, and such. This was to help them remember that they had once been slaves in Egypt and were set free by the Lord and not sent away empty-handed. If the servant did not want to leave, they were to make a permanent agreement between the master and servant. When any servant was freed from his service, it was not to be seen as a difficulty to the master. If they did these things, the Lord would continue to bless them.

19 All the firstling males that come of thy herd and of thy flock thou shalt sanctify unto the Lord thy God: thou shalt do no work with the firstling of thy bullock, nor shear the firstling of thy sheep.
20 Thou shalt eat it before the Lord thy God year by year in the place which the Lord shall choose, thou and thy household.
21 And if there be any blemish therein, as if it be lame, or blind, or have any ill blemish, thou shalt not sacrifice it unto the Lord thy God.
22 Thou shalt eat it within thy gates: the unclean and the clean person shall eat it alike, as the roebuck, and as the hart.
23 Only thou shalt not eat the blood thereof; thou shalt pour it upon the ground as water.

All firstling males of their herds and flocks were the Lord’s. The Israelites were not to treat them as they did the rest of the flocks, by driving them or shearing them. Instead, they were to remember to dedicate the firstling males to the Lord in their yearly offerings. If the firstling had any blemishes, they were not to use it as a sacrifice for the Lord, but were to eat it in their own homes. They were still to refrain from eating blood, which was a commandment they had already received from the Lord.

These commandments were a reminder to the Israelites, of the Lord. As they were preparing to become settled in their lives, they needed to remember that they were once a needy people, in bondage and servitude to the Egyptian nation. They had no freedoms at that time, and were made to support the lifestyles of others continually. They had suffered greatly at the hand of the Pharaoh of Moses’ day. In their greatest need, the Lord had shown his mercy and delivered them, blessing them beyond anything I think they could have imagined. They had all that they did at this time, because of the hand of the Lord in their lives. In addition, this reminder of the commandment to dedicate all the first born to the Lord, should have been something that would cause them to regularly look forward to the day when the Lord would come, perfectly and without blemish, and save the people from their transgressions.

It is important for us to remember both of these things as well. Without the Lord, we would be nothing. He blesses us greatly, in ways we cannot even being to understand. When we turn to Him, he guides us out of our own bondage and gives generously so that our physical and spiritual needs may be met. When we remember to give our own sacrifices and offerings to the Lord, we should do it with a grateful heart. We need to remember that He has come, in His perfection and free of blemish, and given all for us. We will be saved from our own transgressions, if we will remember to keep his commandments and strive to live worthy of His sacrifice for us.

Deuteronomy Chapter 14

Moses continues his final sermons to the Israelites, with a repeat of the law established when they were around Mount Sinai. There were many customs and rituals in their lives then, and a lot of things were not according to the design of the Lord for His people. This chapter begins with a review of the forbidden customs of mourning.

1 Ye are the children of the Lord your God: ye shall not cut yourselves, nor make any baldness between your eyes for the dead.
2 For thou art an holy people unto the Lord thy God, and the Lord hath chosen thee to be a peculiar people unto himself, above all the nations that are upon the earth.

The Israelites, as the chosen people and children of God, had the promises of salvation for the righteous, promises which are eternal and do not end with mortal death. People of God should not make a show of mourning when loved ones die, by hurting themselves or removing part of their hair. I think that there should be hope found in death, along with the normal feelings of loss we experience. Death has never been a good reason for a person to purposely hurt the God-given gift of their body. Death is just a part of our eternal lives and should be seen as the opportunity to progress further. Those who are left behind by a loved one who dies, should allow themselves to naturally go through the mourning process without drawing this kind of unnecessary attention to their own personal suffering or sorrow.

3 Thou shalt not eat any abominable thing.
4 These are the beasts which ye shall eat: the ox, the sheep, and the goat,
5 The hart, and the roebuck, and the fallow deer, and the wild goat, and the pygarg, and the wild ox, and the chamois.
6 And every beast that parteth the hoof, and cleaveth the cleft into two claws, and cheweth the cud among the beasts, that ye shall eat.
7 Nevertheless these ye shall not eat of them that chew the cud, or of them that divide the cloven hoof; as the camel, and the hare, and the coney: for they chew the cud, but divide not the hoof; therefore they are unclean unto you.
8 And the swine, because it divideth the hoof, yet cheweth not the cud, it is unclean unto you: ye shall not eat of their flesh, nor touch their dead carcase.

The Israelites were still to refrain from eating those meats which the Lord considered to be unclean or abominable, which had also been established before their wanderings in the wilderness. This commandment was the ancient version of word of wisdom, which is found in modern revelation today (see Doctrine and Covenants section 89). It was a law of health, I believe meant to keep their bodies healthy and their minds clear and able to be influenced by the spirit. It continues:

9 These ye shall eat of all that are in the waters: all that have fins and scales shall ye eat:
10 And whatsoever hath not fins and scales ye may not eat; it is unclean unto you.

They were not to eat anything that was not a fish with fins and scales.

11 Of all clean birds ye shall eat.
12 But these are they of which ye shall not eat: the eagle, and the ossifrage, and the ospray,
13 And the glede, and the kite, and the vulture after his kind,
14 And every raven after his kind,
15 And the owl, and the night hawk, and the cuckow, and the hawk after his kind,
16 The little owl, and the great owl, and the swan,
17 And the pelican, and the gier eagle, and the cormorant,
18 And the stork, and the heron after her kind, and the lapwing, and the bat.
19 And every creeping thing that flieth is unclean unto you: they shall not be eaten.
20 But of all clean fowls ye may eat.

Specific birds and other animals that could fly, like insects, were listed as unclean and not to be eaten.

21 Ye shall not eat of any thing that dieth of itself: thou shalt give it unto the stranger that is in thy gates, that he may eat it; or thou mayest sell it unto an alien: for thou art an holy people unto the Lord thy God. Thou shalt not seethe a kid in his mother’s milk.
22 Thou shalt truly tithe all the increase of thy seed, that the field bringeth forth year by year.
23 And thou shalt eat before the Lord thy God, in the place which he shall choose to place his name there, the tithe of thy corn, of thy wine, and of thine oil, and the firstlings of thy herds and of thy flocks; that thou mayest learn to fear the Lord thy God always.
24 And if the way be too long for thee, so that thou art not able to carry it; or if the place be too far from thee, which the Lord thy God shall choose to set his name there, when the Lord thy God hath blessed thee:
25 Then shalt thou turn it into money, and bind up the money in thine hand, and shalt go unto the place which the Lord thy God shall choose:
26 And thou shalt bestow that money for whatsoever thy soul lusteth after, for oxen, or for sheep, or for wine, or for strong drink, or for whatsoever thy soul desireth: and thou shalt eat there before the Lord thy God, and thou shalt rejoice, thou, and thine household,
27 And the Levite that is within thy gates; thou shalt not forsake him; for he hath no part nor inheritance with thee.

Those things that were already dead, even among their own herds, was not to be eaten by those who had made covenants with the Lord. Verse 21 reads that they were told that they could give or sell them to others, but according to the Joseph Smith translation of this verse, it should read that they were not to give it to the stranger and not to sell it to the alien. This would seem to make more sense to me, because they have already been told that they were to treat the stranger (“clean” or “unclean”, part of the covenant people or not – see Deuteronomy 12:15) as part of their people, when abiding in their home. To offer something to another, which they considered abominable in the eyes of the Lord, seems wrong to me.

In addition to the laws of what they could and could not eat, they were given the laws of tithing. They were to give tithing on all the increase of their crops or seed. All their tithing was to be taken to the holy place of the Lord, the tabernacle or eventually the temple. When they did this, it was to help them remember all that the Lord provided for them. If they could take it as the food, wine, oil or animals, they were to do so, but if they could not take it that far, they were to take the money from those things to the holy place, and buy what they could to make the offerings to the Lord. In all these things they were reminded again that they were not to forget the Levites, who lived off of the tithes that the people brought to the temple.

28 At the end of three years thou shalt bring forth all the tithe of thine increase the same year, and shalt lay it up within thy gates:
29 And the Levite, (because he hath no part nor inheritance with thee,) and the stranger, and the fatherless, and the widow, which are within thy gates, shall come, and shall eat and be satisfied; that the Lord thy God may bless thee in all the work of thine hand which thou doest.

Every third year, their tithing was to be given to the levites and the poor among them. If they remembered these things, the Lord promised to bless them with the work they did in the future.

Tithes and offerings are still a part of our discipleship. We follow the Lord, when we give a willing heart in service, and also when we give of our own substance to the poor and needy. We are to learn how to put others needs before our appetites and desires, just as the Lord has done for us. I know that we are blessed greatly when we give of the things that the Lord has given us. If nothing else were to come from the act of paying tithes and offerings, I am still blessed to be reminded that all that I have is a gift from God and I should be willing to share it.

Deuteronomy Chapter 13

The children of Israel had been a people living among a very idolatrous nation, Egypt. They had been delivered by the Lord, but continually showed a weakness for following after other gods. They were about to enter a land where the nations worshiped false gods as part of everyday living. Moses had taught the people the importance of worshiping the Lord, and doing all that they could to remove the temptations of idolatry. His teachings continued with the following:

1 If there arise among you a prophet, or a dreamer of dreams, and giveth thee a sign or a wonder,
2 And the sign or the wonder come to pass, whereof he spake unto thee, saying, Let us go after other gods, which thou hast not known, and let us serve them;
3 Thou shalt not hearken unto the words of that prophet, or that dreamer of dreams: for the Lord your God proveth you, to know whether ye love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul.
4 Ye shall walk after the Lord your God, and fear him, and keep his commandments, and obey his voice, and ye shall serve him, and cleave unto him.
5 And that prophet, or that dreamer of dreams, shall be put to death; because he hath spoken to turn you away from the Lord your God, which brought you out of the land of Egypt, and redeemed you out of the house of bondage, to thrust thee out of the way which the Lord thy God commanded thee to walk in. So shalt thou put the evil away from the midst of thee.

The Israelites were warned that there may come a time, when a prophet or dreamer would promise a sign or wonder. If the things they promised came true, and that person called upon them to seek after other gods to serve, they were not to follow after them. They had been shown time and time again, that the only true and living God was the Lord, and that anything else was false and wickedness. The Lord would test them to see if they truly loved God, by expecting them to follow Him, obey His word and keep His commandments. The Israelites were commanded to put any false prophet or dreamer to death for trying to lead them away from the Lord with false doctrine. In this way, they would remove the temptation from the people.

6 If thy brother, the son of thy mother, or thy son, or thy daughter, or the wife of thy bosom, or thy friend, which is as thine own soul, entice thee secretly, saying, Let us go and serve other gods, which thou hast not known, thou, nor thy fathers;
7 Namely, of the gods of the people which are round about you, nigh unto thee, or far off from thee, from the one end of the earth even unto the other end of the earth;
8 Thou shalt not consent unto him, nor hearken unto him; neither shall thine eye pity him, neither shalt thou spare, neither shalt thou conceal him:
9 But thou shalt surely kill him; thine hand shall be first upon him to put him to death, and afterwards the hand of all the people.
10 And thou shalt stone him with stones, that he die; because he hath sought to thrust thee away from the Lord thy God, which brought thee out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage.
11 And all Israel shall hear, and fear, and shall do no more any such wickedness as this is among you.

Likewise, if any member of their families or friends, tried to draw them away to idolatry, by any means, they were not to follow after them. They were instead, to be put to death, just as the false prophets and dreamers, and shown no pity or mercy in their wickedness. Their were commanded to stone them for trying to lead them after false gods and away from the Lord.

12 If thou shalt hear say in one of thy cities, which the Lord thy God hath given thee to dwell there, saying,
13 Certain men, the children of Belial, are gone out from among you, and have withdrawn the inhabitants of their city, saying, Let us go and serve other gods, which ye have not known;
14 Then shalt thou inquire, and make search, and ask diligently; and, behold, if it be truth, and the thing certain, that such abomination is wrought among you;
15 Thou shalt surely smite the inhabitants of that city with the edge of the sword, destroying it utterly, and all that is therein, and the cattle thereof, with the edge of the sword.
16 And thou shalt gather all the spoil of it into the midst of the street thereof, and shalt burn with fire the city, and all the spoil thereof every whit, for the Lord thy God: and it shall be an heap for ever; it shall not be built again.
17 And there shall cleave nought of the cursed thing to thine hand: that the Lord may turn from the fierceness of his anger, and shew thee mercy, and have compassion upon thee, and multiply thee, as he hath sworn unto thy fathers;
18 When thou shalt hearken to the voice of the Lord thy God, to keep all his commandments which I command thee this day, to do that which is right in the eyes of the Lord thy God.

If a city among the Israelites, was heard to have gone astray into the sin of idolatry, they were to investigate the possibility. They are called here the children of Belial, which according to the bible dictionary is another way of saying wicked men, who were worthless. If they found that the city had indeed become an idolatrous city, they were to destroy the people of the city and everything in it. Anything left was to be burned, and the city was not to be built again. If they were to continue to receive the promised blessings of the Lord, they could not keep anything from the wicked place. They would be blessed for obedience to this and all the commandments of the Lord.

Part of obedience to the Lord, was having the courage to destroy those who were leading others into idolatry, even when it was loved ones. This is a perspective of these commandments, which I have only recently been considering. Following after the Lord and not being idolatrous, was only part of the commandment. I am sure that for some this would not have been a hard thing to do, and that they would have felt safe in knowing they would only follow the Lord. However, the love we have for family is strong, and I can imagine the great and heavy burden it would have been to learn that someone you loved was worthy of death at your hand. I know that there may have been many who were guilty of not following through with destroying those who had chosen a life of idolatry and were therefore also guilty of disobedience to the commandments of the Lord. This may have been the more difficult test that the Lord allowed the Israelites to experience, in order to show their complete devotion to the Lord.

In Matthew 10:28 we read, “And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.” Those family members of people who had turned to wicked idolatry, would have only been able to give a physical death to those who had chosen wickedness. It was the mercy of the Lord, that this punishment be given, because the temptations of Satan bring the greater spiritual death, which separate both body and spirit from returning to our God. If the individuals had been allowed to continue in their wickedness, they would have worst to come after this life. I think that this is the point of view the righteous would have needed to remember in order to show obedience to this commandment.

When I wonder about this commandment for the Israelites, I think as well about what is expected of me now, especially as a parent. It is my duty, to teach my children what is right and wrong. It is also my duty, to give loving correction, when they go astray. This is not an easy thing sometimes. I am sure it will become more difficult as they get older as well. Their are many people today, who value the friendship of their children more than consider the duty they have to the Lord. The better thing for parents to do, is to be a parent first, and call children to repentance when necessary, rather then allow them to follow after the other gods of our day. I am glad that this does not require the same consequence of capital punishment today, meaning death, but I also realize that there is a gravity to my choices that may help shape the eternal destiny of those I love. There will be great sorrow for those who are lost to wickedness. Moreover, I will be held accountable for their sins, if I do not do my part as a parent and teach and guide as I know is right.


About My Scripture Study Buddy

I am a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. I love the scriptures, but I am not a scriptorian. I've been told that I'm too "deep" for some, but if you are willing, I'd love to have others join me in my quest for a greater understanding of the gospel. Please feel free to leave me comments and hopefully we can help each other to learn.

Testimony

I made an album with my dad in 2011. Check it out!

Testimony

NEW!!! Digital Downloads (mp3) available directly from the site.

Current Study

Currently I am studying the The Old Testament. I will be studying from the LDS - King James Version of the Bible (see link below). I am studying along with the book, Scripture Study for Latter-day Saint Families: The Old Testament by Dennis H. Leavitt and Richard O. Christensen.

Learn More:

I'm a Mormon

The Book of Mormon

You can order a free copy of the Book of Mormon here:

Book of Mormon Request

Archives

My Latest Tweets

Follow me on Facebook:

Popular Posts

My Wonderful Husband and Artist


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 156 other followers

%d bloggers like this: