Deuteronomy 18 Bible Commentary

John Wesley’s Explanatory Notes

(Read all of Deuteronomy 18)

Verse 1

[1] The priests the Levites, and all the tribe of Levi, shall have no part nor inheritance with Israel: they shall eat the offerings of the LORD made by fire, and his inheritance.

His inheritance — The Lord's portion or inheritance, which God had reserved to himself, as tithes and first fruits, and other oblations distinct from those which were made by fire.

Verse 3

[3] And this shall be the priest's due from the people, from them that offer a sacrifice, whether it be ox or sheep; and they shall give unto the priest the shoulder, and the two cheeks, and the maw.

The maw — The Hebrew word here rendered maw or stomach, may have another signification, and some render it the breast, others take it for the part, which lies under the breast.

Verse 6

[6] And if a Levite come from any of thy gates out of all Israel, where he sojourned, and come with all the desire of his mind unto the place which the LORD shall choose;

With all the desire of his mind — With full purpose to fix his abode, and to spend his whole time and strength in the service of God. It seems, the several priests were to come from their cities to the temple by turns, before David's time; and it is certain they did so after it. But if any of them were not contented with this attendance upon God in his tabernacle, or temple, and desired more entirely and constantly to devote himself to God's service there, he was permitted so to do, because this was an eminent act of piety joined with self - denial, to part with those great conveniences which he enjoyed in the city of his possession.

Verse 8

[8] They shall have like portions to eat, beside that which cometh of the sale of his patrimony.

Like portions — With their brethren who were in actual ministration: as they share with them in the work, so shall they in the encouragements.

Beside that which cometh — The reason of this law was, because he that waited on the altar, ought to live by the altar: and because it was fit he should keep his money, wherewith he might redeem what he sold, if afterwards he saw occasion for it. Mr. Henry adds a remarkable note here: especially considering he wrote threescore years ago. "A hearty, pious zeal to serve God and his church, tho' it may a little encroach upon a settled order, and there may be somewhat in it that looks irregular, yet ought to be gratified, and not discouraged. He that loves dearly to be employed in the service of the sanctuary: in God's name let him minster. He shall be as welcome to God as the Levites, whose course it was to minister, and should be so to them."

Verse 10

[10] There shall not be found among you any one that maketh his son or his daughter to pass through the fire, or that useth divination, or an observer of times, or an enchanter, or a witch,

Useth divination — Foretelleth things secret or to come, by unlawful arts and practices.

An observer of times — Superstitiously pronouncing some days lucky, and others unlucky. Or, an observer of the clouds or heavens, one that divineth by the motions of the clouds, by the stars, or by the flying or chattering of birds, all which Heathens used to observe.

An inchanter — Or, a conjecturer, that discovers hidden things by a superstitious use of words or ceremonies, by observation of water or smoke or any contingencies.

A witch — One that is in covenant with the devil.

Verse 11

[11] Or a charmer, or a consulter with familiar spirits, or a wizard, or a necromancer.

A charmer — One that charmeth serpents or other cattle. Or, a fortune-teller, that foretelleth the events of men's lives by the conjunctions of the stars.

Spirits — Whom they call upon by certain words or rites.

A wizard — Heb. a knowing man, who by any forbidden way's undertakes the revelation of secret things.

A necromancer — One that calleth up and enquireth of the dead.

Verse 13

[13] Thou shalt be perfect with the LORD thy God.

Perfect — Sincerely and wholly his, seeking him and cleaving to him and to his word alone, and therefore abhorring all commerce and conversations with devils.

Verse 14

[14] For these nations, which thou shalt possess, hearkened unto observers of times, and unto diviners: but as for thee, the LORD thy God hath not suffered thee so to do.

Hath not suffered thee so to do — Hath not suffered thee to follow these superstitious and diabolical practices, as he hath suffered other nations to do, but hath instructed thee better by his word and spirit, and will more fully instruct thee by a great prophet.

Verse 15

[15] The LORD thy God will raise up unto thee a Prophet from the midst of thee, of thy brethren, like unto me; unto him ye shall hearken;

Will raise up — Will produce and send into the world in due time.

A prophet like unto me — Christ was truly, and in all commendable parts like him, in being both a prophet and a king and a priest and mediator, in the excellency of his ministry and work, in the glory of his miracles, in his familiar and intimate converse with God.

Verse 19

[19] And it shall come to pass, that whosoever will not hearken unto my words which he shall speak in my name, I will require it of him.

I will require it — I will punish him severely for it. The sad effect of this threatning the Jews have felt for above sixteen hundred years together.

Verse 22

[22] When a prophet speaketh in the name of the LORD, if the thing follow not, nor come to pass, that is the thing which the LORD hath not spoken, but the prophet hath spoken it presumptuously: thou shalt not be afraid of him.

If the thing — Which he gives as a sign of the truth of his prophecy. The falsehood of his prediction shews him to be a false prophet.

Presumptuously — Impudently ascribing his own vain and lying fancies to the God of truth.