This chapter outlines a criminal justice system with a sort of Supreme Court of judges or priests. The penalty for apostasy is – you guessed it – stoning. Then we get rules for kings. The king shouldn’t keep too many horses, or take too many wives, and must spend every day reading the law books as long as he lives. Sound like a good deal?
Moses offers up this bit of wisdom: “never sacrifice your son or daughter as a burnt offering” (v 10 NLT) – I’m sure my kids will be glad I read that! Then he condemns fortune-telling, sorcery, witchcraft, mediums or psychics. So….what do you call getting water from a rock? Or parting the Red Sea? Seems to me the definition of magic depends on who’s performing it.
Moving right along, we learn that the way to tell a true prophet from a false one is by whether his predictions prove true or not (v 21-22). But wait! Didn’t we just read in chapter 13:1-3 that prophets can be false even if they predict correctly? And who is the prophet described in verses 18-19? Interesting….
We begin the section of laws relating to social regulation. It doesn’t start off too badly, just stuff about murder vs manslaughter and the cities of refuge. Verse 15 states that no one can be convicted of a crime on the testimony of only one witness. While the fairness of this could be debated, its original intent probably wasn’t malicious. But apparently, Jehovah’s Witnesses use this verse (along with others) to justify their refusal to report or investigate incidents of child molestation unless two or three JWs have witnessed the event. If witnesses do not come forward (and they are discouraged from doing so since it would embarrass the organization), then the victim is told to be quiet about it — or risk being disfellowshipped.
This deals with the spoils of war. More rah rah, God is on our side stuff. But verses 5-8 give me pause. Maybe we could learn something from them, a different attitude about who is sent to war. We send young kids who haven’t yet had a chance to experience life. Here, young men who are just starting out in farming, home-buying, and marriage are given a chance to be spared battle. Cowards are also sent home, before they put fear into their comrades.