christine's bible study

The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God stands forever. Isa 40:8

deuteronomy 16:18-18:22, fifth commandment chiastic structure

Read Deuteronomy 16:18-18:22 at Bible Gateway.

Previously: deuteronomy 18:9-22, authority of the prophet

(Please review the teaching tools of scripture, especially the Hebrew paragraph divisions and chiastic structures. The paragraphs marked by an “s” at their close are weak paragraphs, which indicate a change of facet but not a change of theme or topic. The paragraphs marked by a “p” at their close are strong paragraphs, which indicate the completion of a theme or topic. The paragraph divisions reveal the chiastic structures: narratives which zero in on the main point of the narrative at its center, like a bull’s eye at the center of a target. The main point is revealed, because the narrative elements before the main point (or central axis) are repeated after the central axis, in reverse order, while the central axis itself is not repeated.)

The fifth commandment is explained in Deu 16:18-18:22, and this is my summary of it. It turns out this entire section forms a single chiastic structure:

Deu 16:18-18:22 sx3+p+sx6
1a) Deu 16:18, Judges’ (local) authority delegated by YHVH;
1b) Deu 16:19-20 {s}, Justice;
1c) Deu 16:21-22 {s}, Idolatrous pillars;
central axis) Deu 17:1 {s}, Prohibition against blemished sacrifices;
2c) Deu 17:2-3, Idolaters;
2b) Deu 17:4-7 {p}, Justice for the idolater;
2a) Deu 17:8-18:22 {sx6}, Priests’, kings’, Levites’, prophets’ (national) authority delegated by YHVH.

It is an unusual central axis, a single verse in a paragraph all by itself, in the middle of a discourse on proper exercise of authority.

“You shall not sacrifice to the Lord your God a bull or sheep which has any blemish or defect, for that is an abomination to the Lord your God.” Deu 17:1

This entire section might be restated as a series of that which is an abomination to the Lord God, for the word “abomination” occurs over and over again. Repetition is a teaching tool of Torah.

Deu 16:18-20 {s} Injustice is an abomination to YHVH
Deu 16:21-22 {s} Idolatrous groves and pillars are abominations to YHVH
Deu 17:1 {s} Blemished sacrifices are an abomination to YHVH
Deu 17:2-7 {p} Idolatry is an abomination to YHVH
Deu 17:8-13 {s} The man not heeding the priest standing before YHVH is so wicked as to deserve death
Deu 17:14-20 {s} The king shall not let his heart be lifted up or turned away from YHVH
Deu 18:1-8 {sx3} Do not withhold what is due the priests and Levites from them
Deu 18:9-14 Pursuing the occult is an abomination to YHVH
Deu 18:15-22 {s} The false prophet is so wicked as to deserve death

Why this emphasis on what is abominable in the section on the proper honor and exercise of God’s authority?

For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to evil. Do you want to be unafraid of the authority? Do what is good, and you will have praise from the same. For he is God’s minister to you for good. But if you do evil, be afraid; for he does not bear the sword in vain; for he is God’s minister, an avenger to execute wrath on him who practices evil. Rom 13:3-4

We learn that this is why delegated authorities exist in the first place. They are God’s ministers who uphold good works and punish evil works. All delegated authorities have this responsibility and boundary; and I believe this is why that which is evil or abominable to the Lord God is a recurring theme in this section explaining honoring God’s authority.

Back to the central axis, which is, the excellence of the unblemished sacrifice. It is a prophecy of Messiah — He is the unblemished Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. He is, in fact, our Judge, King, High Priest, and Prophet. All the authority of God finds its home in Him. But at the very heart of the Ruler, is the Lamb who laid down His own sinless and spotless life, because His love for us is great …!

Mercy and truth have met together; Righteousness and peace have kissed. Psa 85:10



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