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Call for justice, guidelines for kings, wars and prophets: Deuteronomy 16:18–20:19

God’s call to the Israelites to be holy was absolute. It focused not just on worshipping God, but also on justice:

16:20 Let true justice prevail, so you may live and occupy the land that the Lord your God is giving you.

In these few chapters alone, justice included:

  • judges were to behave honestly and without bias in the courts
  • two or three witnesses were required for an accusation even making it to court
  • death by stoning could be initiated only by the witnesses to the sin/crime (and only if guilty, of course)
  • no false accusations – the (false) accuser would get the punishment the accused would have got if found guilty
  • serious criminal cases (such as murder) were to go to a higher court (the Temple, once it was built) to be judged by the Levites
  • cities of refuge were to be available for anyone who accidentally killed someone else (manslaughter), but murderers (deliberate killings) would be refused refuge
  • in times of war, men who were really afraid, just married or who had just planted a vineyard would be excused (who wants a coward beside him in battle, or someone who really doesn’t want to be there?)
  • before attacking a city, the inhabitants were to be given the opportunity to surrender (this didn’t include the nearby cities in Canaan).

As for the command to worship God only, it included: no Asherah poles; no sacred pillars; no child sacrifice; no worship of the sun, moon or stars; no fortune-telling, sorcery, interpreting omens, witchcraft, casting spells; no practicing as mediums or psychics; no communicating with the spirits of the dead.

The rules for kings also focused on right living before God; Solomon would have done well to obey them.

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