This is a commentary on Deuteronomy exploring the reason for giving the Hebrews the Law of Moses.
(v. 12-13) Moses gathers the tribes of Israel as they existed in a state of anarchy (i.e. patriarchal tribes). In order to help Moses, the wisest men of greatest character are appointed as common judges among the various tribes. No state has been established, rather a system of casuistic law as existed when the law merchant and the common law were developed in modern times. A natural order prevailed (i.e. anarchy).
(v. 14-15) The Lord leads the tribes through the wilderness for 38 years keeping them away from all the gentile nations and away from war. The warmongers (i.e. statists) die off. The Israelites are prepared to enter the promised land as the most wicked among them have been cleansed away.
(v. 6) The Israelites utterly destroy various nations of the heathens while letting others alone. No fear of conspiracy exists as the statists have died off in the wilderness.
(v. 41-42) Moses sets apart three sanctuary cities for those who have committed negligent homicide. No mention of refuge for killings of passion or of premeditation.
(v. 6-22) Moses reviews the Ten Commandments.
(v. 24) Moses instructs Israelites that keeping the commandments will prosper them in the land, meaning that the Lord will protect them from their enemies and that the land will be fruitful.
Israelites destroy the heathen nations in Canaan. War corrupts the Israelites. Moses calls the Israelites unto repentance and promises mercy. Moses informs Israelites that their repentance will spare them the plagues of Egypt.
(v. 17) Moses warns Israelites from boasting and relying too much in the arm of the flesh. He reminds the Israelites that their prosperity and victory in war are the result of the Lord’s protection and not their own strength.
(v. 5-6) Moses reminds the Israelites that the Lord drove the heathen nations from Canaan because of their wickedness, not because of the Israelites’ righteousness. The Israelites are the lesser of two evils and are reminded that were it not for the oath the Lord had made with their forefathers, he would have destroyed them as well. The Israelites are reminded of their wickedness in the day Moses received the commandments from the Lord. The Israelites are informed that the Lord punishes the wicked through the wicked. We see that had the Israelites been a righteous people, it is unlikely the Lord would have sent them forth to punish the wicked. 38 years in the desert avoiding war was an attempt to prepare the Israelites to receive the Law of the Gospel once the hosts had been cleansed of their men of war.
(v. 2 See JST) Moses reminds the Israelites that he had received the New and Everlasting Covenant with the Ten Commandments, but because of their idolatry, the Law of the Gospel was rescinded. A Law of Carnal Commandments were given with the Ten Commandments instead. It is because of the Carnal Commandments that the Israelites now have legalistic interpretations of the Ten Commandments. (Thou Shall Not Kill, as given initially with the Law of the Gospel, might be interpreted as “killing in general, especially murder.” Under the Law of Moses, it was just “murder.” There were no legalistic interpretation until after the Law of the Gospel was rescinded and replaced with the Law of Carnal Commandments. The Law of Carnal Commandments was done away in the Atonement of Christ.)
(v. 18-19) Moses calls the Israelites to repent once again so that the land may be fruitful to them and that future generations may be blessed through observance of the Lords commands.
(v. 20-28) Israelites are commanded to put all superstition and idolatrous practices from among them and are forbidden from eating blood.
(v. 1-10) Israelites are commanded to love and cleave only unto the Lord. They are commanded to put from them false prophets who would lead them after the false and idolatrous gods of the heathen.
Tithe offerings, prohibition from consumption of unclean animals and caring for widows, the poor and orphans set forth.
(v. 1-11) The Law of Jubilee set forth such that there be no poor among the Israelites.
The Passover is given and to be observed after a 7 day preparatory period. (v. 19-20) Judges may accept no gift in order to influence partiality. (The biblical definition of “bribe” is when a gift is given to a judge who then give a partial judgment. A bribe is political chicanery on the part of legislators and judges. Today, it is considered a bribe for an offender to make voluntary restitution and extortion for a victim to voluntarily accept the restitution. This is the type of corruption that perverts justice.)
(v. 14-20) Lord foretells of perversion of judgments and desire for a King among Israelites. The Lord then sets forth restrictions to be observed by the King in that future day when the Israelites demand one (1 Sam 8:4-22). The King not to amass himself wealth or women, but to be modest and proportionate in all things.
The Levites not to receive an inheritance but to attend upon the Lord in the temple. As priesthood holders, they are to refrain from violence, but dedicate themselves to pious worship. (v. 18-19) The Lord reveals his coming and ministry. The Lord warns Israel that, while living the Law of the Gospel is not required of them at the present time, it will be required of them to live the Law of the Gospel at the time of Christ’s coming. There will be no exception made for them after the Atonement to continue in the ways of the Law of Moses. They are not to act presumptuously by erecting a State, but to observe the Law of Moses strictly until Christ’s coming.
The Carnal Commandments are reviewed by which the judges are to resolve disputes, pass judgment and execute sentences. The Carnal Commandments are to be done away in Christ (BD: Law of Moses). Some of these are still observed in the Latter-Days, not because the Lord requires it, but because the Saints are subject unto the Laws of the Land. Therefore, in order to live the Law of the Gospel in its fullness, the Saints must provide exception in human law for their doing so (i.e., Victim’s Rights).
Laws for selection of soldiers and for making war under the Law of Moses. Of particular interest are the limitations placed on the Israelite war establishment. Certain exemptions are made for persons who choose not to fight. Anyone who has recently built a house, planted a vineyard, gotten married or who is scared to go to battle. Non-combatants are to be spared. (v. 19) Fruit bearing trees are to be preserved so that prosperity in the land might continue. Although not pacifist, the Law of Moses was a great advancement for a warlike people. (v. 10) They are to lift the Standard of Peace. War is a last resort. This is in stark contrast to the Latter-Days in which the Saints are commanded to renounce war because they are forbidden to shed blood. Since military service is voluntary and since exception in human law exists for Conscientious Objection, there is no excuse for endowed Saints to engage in war. The Children of Israel are not to pay tribute but the conquered do. Jesus taught his disciples that they would know if they were free by whether they had to pay taxes.
(v. 6-7) The washing of hands indicates one did not shed the blood of an innocent victim. This procedure was incorrectly used by Pilate who shed Christ’s blood on behalf of the Pharisees even after determining his innocence. Exo. 23:1-2 states that any participation in the persecution of an innocent makes one equally guilty as an accessory. The washing of hands (today this would be a failure to press charges) does not absolve one from guilt for participating in the persecution of a falsely accused person (today this would be providing evidence or testimony that results in the punishment of one falsely accused). (v. 18-21) Rebellious children put to be stoned by parents. Adulterers, mostly women since men were permitted to have more than one wife under Levirate marriage, to be stoned.
Neither men nor women to cross-dress. Israelites to look after each others property. False accusers to be stoned. Women who are raped not guilty of sin. Men who fornicate with virgins must marry them.
Those who have survived a stoning or who have castrated themselves are estranged. Others also to be estranged such as homosexuals, sodomites and prostitutes. No peace to be made with any of these disreputables. Any vow made in the name of the Lord, whether by the priesthood or not, is to be kept. This is in stark contrast to the Lord’s teaching that only the covenants he prescribes may be entered into. Property contracts with others is permissible, but not promise contracts. Under the Law of Moses, any vow a person made was required of him. This is why the Anti-Lehi-Nephites could make a covenant completely different from the one Moroni made and still be worthy before the Lord. In fact, they were “highly favored” (Alma 27:30) by the Lord because of the distinctly different covenant into which they entered. In Christ’s day, the Israelites were taught not to enter into any Promise Contracts (i.e., covenants) that the Apostles did not offer and which were not performed by the Holy Priesthood. (v. 19-20) Usury was forbidden in property contracts with fellow Israelites, but not with the gentiles. Usury, like taxes, was a sign of slavery. Slavery was permissible under the Law of Moses.
The laws governing divorce set forth. Those who steal are stoned. The poor who default on debts are forgiven. Employers are to be honest in all their dealings. War produces lots of widows and ophans requiring care. (Levirate marriage was practiced to care for widows. Polygamy was practiced for the same reason but also to increase Church membership. Levirate marriage and polygamy were largely the out growth of war in Israel and other nations where such practices existed.)
The Israelites warned not to pervert the law. The carnal or temporal punishments associated with each crime demonstrates the severity of the sin. These punishments were rescinded by Christ’s Atonement in order to facilitate a repentance of the sin. The severity of the sin is not reduced and a failure to take advantage of the mercies of Christ will bring damnation to the eternal progression of impenitent souls. The Israelites are given the Law of Tithing. They are promised to be a free people inasmuch as they keep the covenant which they make with the Lord. They will be a light unto the gentile nations with their relative civility. The Lord promises them that if they become as the heathen nations they will be punished and taken into captivity by the heathen nations. The Lord warns the Israelites that captivity will try the patience of even the most sincere, true and tender Israelite (Deut. 28:54-57). The Lord warns the Israelites that he will not allow them to be as the gentiles but will make them slaves of the gentiles. The Lord punishes the wicked at the hands of the wicked.
The Lord promises the Israelites that should they keep their covenant, perverting not the carnal commandments in order to establish a state among themselves, then they will not be as salt which has lost its savor. They will not lose the respect of the gentiles for their religio-statist hypocrisy. Their lands will be blessed and produce much fruit for their agrarian society. They will not be plagued by war, drought or other scourges that plague the gentile nations who have statist societies that misuse human and landed resources through expropriation, self-aggrandizement and war.
(v. 11) The Lord tailors the covenant of Moses to what the least among the Israelites can bear in strict observance. The Lord does not want to undermine the faith of the weak by requiring more than they can handle. More limitations upon their immoralities, both violent and sexual, will be required at a future date when the Lord appears among them in the flesh, teaches his gospel and makes atonement for sinners as their advocate before Heavenly Father.
The Lord instructs Moses to prepare to be translated. The Lord foretells that as soon as Moses leaves the Israelites, they will pervert the law and begin to work towards the erection of a state. Moses makes known the evil designs and conspiracies already working among the Israelites. The Lord warns the Israelites that their desires to be like the gentiles will bring them ruin and suffering. The Lord foretells the scattering of Israel as a result of their idolatry.
Moses blesses all the tribes as they proceed to enter into the Promised Land. Moses informs the Israelites that they will be victorious in possessing the land which the Lord has promised them.
Moses gets a glimpse of the Promised Land and is translated. Joshua takes over as prophet. The Lord does not reveal himself again unto Israel until his mortal ministry.
The Lord had given the Hebrews the New and Everlasting covenant. He had led them through the wilderness for 38 years, avoiding war and the gentile nations, in order to weed out the most wicked among the Hebrews such that those remaining might receive the Law of the Gospel. Such was not to be the case because the Hebrews were not sufficiently humbled by their exodus, nor did they remember all which the Lord had done to deliver them a free people from Egypt. The Law of the Gospel was rescinded and a Law of Carnal Commandments was implemented instead. The Lord warns Israel that the Law of Moses cannot save them, nor is the destruction of the wicked at their hands the result of Hebrew righteousness. Instead, the Lord informs the Israelites that the Law of Moses is given by covenant, which if they obey in the spirit it is given, as a foreshadowing of things to come, with its liberating character, the Hebrews will readily accept the Law of the Gospel when given by the Christ at a future date. The Lord warns the Israelites that conspiracies already exist among them to pervert and change the character of the covenant and the Law of Moses, to promote gentile institutions and practices, as well as to appoint a King over themselves. The Lord warns that the end result of this perversion, idolatry and destruction of the law’s liberating character will bring a scattering of the Hebrews at the hands of their enemies as well as a destruction of the land and their property from which they hope to sustain their mortal lives.