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.

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