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27th February

Deuteronomy 15-16, Psalm 58

Bible in a Year
6 minutes
In this article
27th February

Deuteronomy 15-16, Psalm 58

Bible in a Year
6 minutes


So far in Deuteronomy, we’ve read through the beginning of Moses’ sermons to the new generation of Israelites. We noted how the perspective shifts, so now it seems like the narrator is looking back at this time in Israel’s history from their future and from the other side of the river.

We read as Moses recapped how the Israelites got here from Egypt, reminding the people where they've come from and what God has done.

He then moved on to his sermons, challenging the Israelites to avoid idolatry and to follow the Lord's command. He reminded the people that they are a chosen people. Not because of their might or righteousness but because of his faithfulness and goodness.

His sermons ended with a call to obedience. He reminded them of when they were obedient God blessed all that they did, but when they were disobedient they were riddled with diseases and failed at all they did.

And so Moses moved on to recap and restating the laws, starting with Israel’s worship. The Israelites were not to make images of anything that they then worship, not were they to look at other spiritual beings and worship them. They are to worship him alone.

Yesterday, we looked at how the Israelites were to deal with those who tried to lead them to worship others, maintaining ritual purity by watching what they eat, and then the practice of the tithe.

Deuteronomy 15-16

Continuing on from the tithe, Moses goes on to address the rules for supporting the poor.

Firstly, every seven years all debts should be wiped out, so no one is in debt for more than seven years.

Secondly, if someone is in need you shouldn't refuse to lend to them or support them, even if the seventh year when debts are cancelled is soon.

Thirdly, every seven years all those forced into being someone else's servant due to poverty are set free. These rules, found in Deuteronomy 15, can also be found in Exodus 21-23.

We see here that God has a heart for the poor. In the society that God wants for us, he wants to reduce poverty to a minimum through the care and support of others.

When we get to the New Testament, particularly the gospel of Luke, this theme is picked up in a major way. Caring for others and supporting others so they can get out of poverty is important and is on God's heart.

Once again, we see these things engrained all the way back in the Old Testament. Social justice and taking care of the poor aren’t new ideas. They’re not even new to the New Testament. They are baked in to God’s heart from the beginning.

Next are some instructions on firstborn animals. We saw similar instructions back in Exodus 13:12-15 and Numbers 18:15-18.

Here in Deuteronomy, there are a couple of new additions. First, is that firstborn animals should be offered “at the place that the Lord will choose”, and those who bring the offering can then eat of it (Deuteronomy 15:20).

Then we get instructions on key feasts throughout the year. We see similar instructions in Exodus 23 and Leviticus 23.

The twist here in Deuteronomy is the author picks out the 3 feasts (the Passover, feast of Weeks, and feast of Booths) where the people are required to go to the place that the Lord will choose to celebrate together.

Finally, we get instructions for setting up judges and upholding justice. Just as protecting the poor is on God's heart, so is protecting the innocent.

The key thing is that there are judges who are going to judge fairly, not punishing people who are innocent but definitely punishing those who are guilty.

It’s worth highlighting that both these instructions, and the instructions on dealing with the poor, are within this block on worship.

Good and proper worship flows out of justice. Out of right living amongst God’s people. This is an idea that many of the prophets will pick up later.

That while the people have continued in all the rituals and offerings, they’ve oppressed one another and not lived justly. Because of this, God has no interest in their worship.

Psalm 58

This psalm is attributed to King David and falls into the category of wisdom psalm. It brings the contrast between the righteous and the wicked.

A) Psalm 58:1 - Leaders/gods do not judge righteous

B) Psalm 58:2 - The wicked have violent hands

C) Psalm 58:3-5 - The wicked are like snakes

D) Psalm 58:6 - Break their teeth O God

C) Psalm 58:7-9 - Let the wicked be like snails

B) Psalm 58:10 - The righteous have feet cleansed by blood

A) Psalm 58:11 - God will judge

The opening verse contains a word that is incredibly hard to translate, ‘elem’. The main reason being we’re not entirely sure what it means.

If you look across translations you’ll see a wide range of interpretations. Some say ‘you gods’. This is because these translators believe ‘elem’ to be from the Hebrew word ‘elohim’ meaning gods.

If this is the case, then the psalmist is talking to the national guardian angels we’ve looked at in Genesis 11 and Deuteronomy 4. They have been put in place to guard the nations and instead have let wickedness run rampant.

Other translations have ‘you rulers’. These translators believe that ‘elem’ comes from the verb ‘’ol’ which means to be strong.

Others still have ‘you silent ones’. For these translators, ‘elem’ comes from ‘ilem’ to be mute.

In both these cases, the psalmist would be talking to human leaders who have been silent and allowed injustice to run rampant.

Either way, the core beats of the psalm are the same. The psalmist is calling out the leaders (either human or divine) for not leading and judging well.

Instead, their hearts are wicked and have promoted violence. Under their leadership, the wicked have spread. They lie, they poison, and they charm to get their way.

The psalmist specifically talks about them having the venom of a serpent, but at the mention of lie and charm we’re to thinking of the serpent of Genesis 3 and how his wickedness led to death and destruction.

The psalmist then calls to God to break the power of the wicked. Their teeth. It is with their mouths they spread lies, with their mouths they bite and harm, and with their mouths they consume others.

The psalmist continues, asking that God continue to waste them away. Make the wicked blunt, unable to do harm. Dissolve them like a snail.

Make them as impotent and harmless as a stillborn. Sweep them away and be rid of them.

At this, the righteous will once again be strengthened and liberated. The contamination of the wicked will be washed off them.

And finally, God will fill the gap. Where previously leaders (human or divine) allowed injustice to run rampant, God will step in and lead the people in justice.

In this, we see the importance of justice to God. That injustice and wickedness falls at the feet of the leaders who do not lead better or stop it.

Anything you think I've missed? Maybe you've got a question that still needs answering. Send me a message over on my Instagram (@brynjoslin). I'd love to talk it through with you some more.

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