Chapter 18

DEUTERONOMY CHAPTER 18

Provisions for the Levites

        • The Levitical priests, the entire tribe of Levi, do not have an inheritance of land like the rest of Israel- the Lord is their inheritance just as He promised them. The Levites will eat from the offerings made to the Lord. The following portions of the ox, sheep, or goats sacrificed are the priest’s share: the shoulder, jaws, and stomach. You are also to give the priests the firstfruits of your grain, new wine, oil, and the first wool sheared from your flocks.

        • HCSB writes, “The lack of inheritance for the Levites might be thought inconsistent with the provision of granting them 48 cities throughout the land (Numbers 35:1-8). The inheritance in view here, however, is that of territory. The Levites were not allocated a contiguous block of land, as were the other tribes. Their towns included only a limited agricultural perimeter (Numbers 35:3-5), so they were almost totally dependent on the gifts of the people.”

          • NLT Illustrated Study Bible makes the following notes:

          • The term Levitical priests described the entire tribe of Levi. Technically, however, only Aaron’s descendants were priests. The non-priestly Levites were their assistants (see Deuteronomy 12:12).”

          • In the dietary fare of ancient Israel, the shoulder, the cheeks, and the stomach of oxen and sheep were the choice cuts. God’s priestly servants were to be honored by receiving the very best (see Leviticus 7:28-34).”

        • The Levites were chosen by the Lord your God to minister in His name forever. If a Levite decides to move from the town in which he is living and go live in the place the Lord has designated for His name to dwell, he may serve the Lord your God there like his fellow Levites who are ministering there in the Lord’s presence. He may eat his share of the sacrifices made there in addition to whatever he has received from the sale of his possessions.

          • The last verse regarding a Levite who relocates and has sold his possessions is noted in the HCSB as an obscure passage. Therefore, it is rendered a little differently depending on the translation you have. The NLT Illustrated Study Bible writes, “Although Levites were in full-time ministry at the Tabernacle and (later) the Temple, they could still hold material assets of their own (see Numbers 35:1-8). The Levites were to be supported by regular offerings designated for that purpose without having to forfeit any of their own assets.”

Occult Practices

        • When you go into the land that the Lord your God is giving to you, do not adopt the detestable customs of the nations living there. None of you are to sacrifice your children in the fire. Also, no one is to practice divination, fortune telling, interpret omens, sorcery, cast spells, consult mediums or familiar spirits, or communicate with the dead. Everyone who engages in these activities is detestable to the Lord, and these are the reasons He is driving out the nations currently inhabiting the land. However, you are to be blameless before the Lord your God. You are not allowed to do these things.

        • NLT Illustrated Study Bible gives additional details about some of the practices mentioned here:

          • Some Canaanite religions included child sacrifice to appease their gods…”

          • Throughout the ancient Near East, diviners were considered experts at reading and interpreting omens. Divination was commonly done through extispicy, the examination of livers, kidneys, and other intestinal organs of various animals.”

          • Divining cups were often used to interpret omens. Drops of oil would be placed in containers of water, and the spread of oil communicated some message to the expert. A parallel would be reading tea leaves.”

          • The practice of witchcraft included performing unusual acts or signs (Exodus 7:11) to mislead people (Malachi 3:5).”

          • Mediums and psychics were especially adept at conjuring up and communicating with the spirits of the dead (see 1 Samuel 28:3-25).”

        • I have been shocked at how many self-professed Christians engage in the consultation of mediums or psychics and see no problem at all with what they are doing. Many times the temptation comes when a Christian has lost a loved one and feels an overwhelming desire to somehow communicate with them. We can certainly be sympathetic to this desire born from grief, but as Christians we are bound to speak the truth in love. You may find it even more shocking that some mediums and/or psychics themselves claim to be Christians. While there are certainly some topics in Scripture that may be considered “gray areas” this is definitely not one of them. As the HCSB notes, when an individual engages in these practices for any reason they are “not entrust(ing) their lives, present or future, to God but rather seek(ing) to rule their affairs by forbidden means.” An extensive treatment of this topic can be accessed in my blog post, Should Christians Consult Mediums?

True and False Prophets

        • The Lord your God will raise up a prophet like me from among your fellow Israelites and you must listen to him. This is what you asked the Lord your God when we were assembled together at Mount Sinai (Horeb). You said, “Don’t let us hear the voice of the Lord our God anymore or see His fire anymore so that we won’t die!” Then the Lord said, “What they have said is correct. I will raise up a prophet like you for them from among the Israelites. I will put My words in his mouth and he will tell them everything I command him. Anyone who does not listen to My words which he speaks in My name, I will hold accountable.

        • The NLT Illustrated Study Bible writes, “A prophet like me would be beyond the ordinary because Moses was without peer among the prophets (see Deuteronomy 34:10-11). This prophet would be from among your fellow Israelites (literally from among your brothers), and Israel was required to listen to him. The prophets of OT Israel would partially fulfill the function of God’s spokesman to whom Israel must listen. Later, Judaism looked for this prophet as a major messianic figure (see John 1:21; 6:14; 7:40); the NT identifies Jesus as this prophet (Acts 3:18-26).”

        • As an interesting side note on verse 18, the HCSB notes, “Some Muslims believe this verse refers to the coming of Muhammad. But in Acts 7:37 Stephen unequivocally identifies Jesus as the fulfillment of this prophecy.”

        • The Lord continues, “However, if a prophet dares to speak a message in My name that I have not commanded him to speak, or who speaks in the name of other gods- that prophet must die.”

        • You may wonder how you will be able to determine if a prophet is giving a message that the Lord has not commanded him to give. If a prophet speaks in the Lord’s name and it doesn’t come true or isn’t fulfilled, then the prophet has spoken presumptuously with a message that is not from the Lord. Don’t be afraid of this prophet.

          • Any prophet whose prediction fails must be branded as false, even if he claims to speak for God. The mere claim is insufficient if it goes unfulfilled.” (NLT Illustrated Study Bible)

        • Throughout history and even in modern times, God’s people have failed to make application of this wise instruction to the detriment of many. Multiple examples can be supplied of individuals who claimed to possess divinely inspired knowledge regarding the “end times” and specific dates or windows of time when Jesus will return. While the death penalty obviously does not apply, we’d do well to ignore the words (all of the words of these false prophets including any type of alleged Scriptural interpretation, etc- not just the prophetic words) of a proven false prophet. There are no “second chances” when it comes to prophecy.

        • Commonly, these individuals also come proclaiming additional divinely inspired “truths” regarding “correct” interpretation of Scripture. Notable examples: Jehovah’s Witnesses founder Charles Taze Russell, William Miller (the Millerite movement of the mid-1800’s), Seventh Day Adventist Ellen G. White, and Worldwide Church of God founder Herbert W. Armstrong. Unfortunately, even though all the claims made by the former individuals failed to come to pass thus unequivocally identifying them as false prophets, many well-meaning individuals continue to cling to their doctrinal “truths” as somehow still authoritative. Tragically, the all too common legacy of failure to entirely disregard a false prophet is a wake of individuals whose faith has been destroyed, broken friendships, and estranged families. In worse case scenarios, some false teachings about promises for divine healing have even resulted in unnecessary/avoidable deaths. The stakes are truly high. Therefore, these individuals should be called out for what they are with zero tolerance.

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