Deuteronomy Chapter 18 Levites, Witchcraft, Promise of Messiah, False Prophets

Jul 30th, 2009 | By | Category: Deuteronomy, Verse by Verse --Studies led by Br. Frank Shallieu (Click on Book name)

Deuteronomy Chapter 18 Levites, Witchcraft, Promise of Messiah, False Prophets

Deut. 18:1 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.

The Levites were chosen to replace the firstborn of the children of Israel. The transfer was made when the Levites took a stand for the Lord at the time of the golden calf incident. Not only were they rewarded by replacing the firstborn, but also they became a more definitive type by having no inheritance in the land. Of course, spiritually speaking, they represent the called of this age, the Little Flock and the Great Company.

Q: Was the tribe of Levi excluded from the punishment of the nation of Israel for disobedience in listening to the unfavorable report of the ten spies and not entering the Promised Land?

A: Eleazar, Ithamar, and Phinehas were spared, but they are not included in the picture from an antitypical standpoint.

Comment: None of the 12 spies were Levites. The tribes who were represented in the false report were more responsible. Therefore, the Levites seem to have been excluded.

Reply: We do not know which Levites were excluded. Since the Levites had to kill fellow members of their own families, many of them could not have entered the land. The account is silent on that point, but we would not be surprised if many of the Levites were infected with the virus that prevailed during the wilderness journey. We can name only a couple of individuals, but they are not really considered in the account, the emphasis being on Joshua and Caleb. Of course later on, some of the Levites certainly entered the Promised Land.

Deut. 18:2 Therefore shall they have no inheritance among their brethren: the LORD is their inheritance, as he hath said unto them.

The Levites had no inheritance in the land. In the antitype, those who are spirit-begotten in the Gospel Age give up their inheritance in the land (restitution) for the spiritual hope.

Deut. 18:3 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.

Q: Joshua 13:14 reads, “Only unto the tribe of Levi he gave none inheritance; the sacrifices of the LORD God of Israel made by fire are their inheritance, as he said unto them.” Therefore, were the sacrifices of verse 3 all burnt offerings?

A: The sacrifices could have been sin offerings too, for they were also burnt. With burnt offerings, the emphasis was on their being wholly consumed except for the hide and entrails. Notice the wording of verse 1: “They shall eat the offerings of the LORD made by fire.”

However, certain offerings “made by fire” could not be eaten, for example, the daily offerings. When the people came as individuals to the Tabernacle to offer sacrifices, those offerings could be eaten.

When the people offered an ox or a sheep, they were to give the priest “the shoulder, and the two cheeks, and the maw.” These parts of the animal became the possession of the priest who offered the sacrifice. Since the priesthood rotated, the priest varied with regard to the people’s offerings and was not necessarily the high priest. However, on a holy day or with a particularly important mandatory sacrifice, the high priest had to do the offerings. The individual priest who dealt with the Israelite who brought an ox or a sheep received the shoulder, the two cheeks, and the maw as a reward. In that way, as the burden of these numerous sacrifices was shared, the animal parts were a means of providing a portion of the priests’ livelihood. The Levites were dependent upon the offerings of the people for their sustenance, especially in the winter months.

On special ceremonial holy days and for the daily sacrifice, the right shoulder had to be given to the priest, but with the people’s offerings, either shoulder could be given. In antitype, the shoulder represents the support and power that the person gives to the “priest.” Zephaniah 3:9 reads, “For then will I turn to the people a pure language, that they may all call upon the name of the LORD, to serve him with one consent [shoulder in the Hebrew].” Thus the “shoulder” signifies “consent” or support, whether figurative, spiritual, or physical.

The “two cheeks,” which pictured the health of the person bringing the offering, probably referred to the cheeks of the head rather than to the hindquarters of an animal. The “maw” included the (first) stomach, or rumen, but additionally pertained inferentially to the mouth, tongue, throat, and esophagus tube that conducts food to the first stomach. Although the emphasis was on the stomach, anything of value as a food or otherwise that was in the passageway to the stomach was included. For example, the first stomach had value as a household container for liquids. The rumen was useful and convenient for carrying fluids such as wine because it was not porous and awkward like a clay jar. The word “maw” seems to be related to the sound that comes from the ox and the sheep. Air from the passage tube produces the sound.

Q: Is the antitype of verse 3 more of a Kingdom Age picture, representing what the people will give to the particular member of the 144,000 who is helping them?

A: That is correct. The people will give figurative sacrifices. They will serve the Lord with one consent, one shoulder, in that they will be in harmony with the Kingdom arrangement.

Obedience will be mandatory.

As Christians, we extrapolate useful principles for the Gospel Age, but the primary application is to the Kingdom Age. We generally  focuse on Leviticus 8, 9, and 16 because they have a particular meaning to the consecrated of the present age, but generally speaking, chapters 1-7 are Kingdom pictures.

Q: To put the Israelites’ sacrifices in a nutshell, do they represent the people in the Kingdom giving their support (the “shoulder”), their health and energy (the “two cheeks”), and their praise, respect, etc. (the “maw,” which includes the stomach, mouth, and teeth)?

A: Yes.

Comment: Hosea 14:1,2 is a similar concept: “O Israel, return unto the LORD thy God; for thou hast fallen by thine iniquity. Take with you words, and turn to the LORD: say unto him, Take away all iniquity, and receive us graciously: so will we render the calves of our lips.”

Reply: That text is a good tie-in because the cheeks culminate in the lips. Praise and obedience come out of the lips. Israel will genuinely return unto Jehovah and utter that prayer. When that happens, He will answer them as a nation.

Deut. 18:4 The firstfruit also of thy corn, of thy wine, and of thine oil, and the first of the fleece of thy sheep, shalt thou give him.

The “firstfruit” of everything—animals, fruits of the trees, goods, and praise—belonged to the Lord. Oil came from the olive tree. The spiritual lesson of verse 4 is that the Christian thinks about God or offers prayer the first thing in the morning.

Comment: The point is to give the best of what we have to God.

The manna from heaven, which God supplied for the Israelites while they were in the wilderness, was very unusual. In addition to being like a vitamin pill, it was a concentrated food and a medicine. The manna wonderfully sustained the people, but they got tired of the taste. Their wanting a variety of taste served as a test. They were not satisfied with what God supplied as a necessity for their survival.

Deut. 18:5 For the LORD thy God hath chosen him out of all thy tribes, to stand to minister in the name of the LORD, him and his sons for ever.

Out of all the tribes, God chose the Levites to minister unto Him as priests and underpriests,. From the antitypical standpoint, the priests’ being rewarded with the shoulder, the two cheeks, and the maw means that in the Kingdom Age, the priesthood of God, spiritual Zion, will get satisfaction out of dealing with the people, helping to cure them of their sin habits and diseases, and providing for their needs. God will give the Little Flock the ability to help, and they will have the satisfaction of seeing the results of their labor. In the present life, we like to do things well and help others, but sometimes we end up doing harm to individuals or children either by heaping too many goodies on them or by not supplying the proper necessities. Because we are imperfect, we have problems in judgment and other areas. In the Kingdom Age, the Little Flock will have a free hand for dealing with those under their jurisdiction. What joy they will have being in the position to really help and benefit others! They will be perfect kings and priests over their subjects.

With the Israelites in the type, pleasure was given to the priests, the underpriests, and their families, and that pleasure extended down through all of the Levites in the final analysis, as pictured by the sacrifices of verses 3 and 4. In contradistinction, the sacrifices that were wholly consumed on the altar were given to God, rendering praise, honor, and thanksgiving to Him, the Creator. In antitype, the sacrifices of verses 3 and 4 will be given to honor Jesus and his underpriests in the Kingdom Age. After the Kingdom Age, everyone will honor God.

Deut. 18:6 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;

Deut. 18:7 Then he shall minister in the name of the LORD his God, as all his brethren the Levites do, which stand there before the LORD.

Comment: Any Levite who came from one of the Levitical cities to the Tabernacle or Temple with a real heart desire to serve God was to be given a place.

Reply: Yes. Normally speaking, a Levite served God in his home territory, but if he wanted to serve more closely at Shiloh or in Jerusalem, that was to be arranged. The lesson is that God is pleased to accept those who are more zealous and desire close fellowship with Him. How could one have close fellowship unless he went to headquarters? Samuel is a good example. Hannah, his mother, who had the Lord’s spirit, dedicated him to Temple service as a child. A spiritual antitype would be Christians who want to serve the Lord full-time, and they go where they can do that. For instance, elders might go to a specific location with the hope of being in the pilgrim service, or brethren might want to do colporteur work from some headquarters. That little extra zeal is very pleasing in God’s sight. For those who are so enthusiastic in serving the truth in whatever capacity, an arrangement is made to provide for their hunger and desire. For those who dedicate themselves wholly to the Lord, providence will open up service according to the talent(s) possessed.

Deut. 18:8 They shall have like portions to eat, beside that which cometh of the sale of his patrimony.

The Roman Catholic Church has misappropriated this verse. When the pope is elected, or chosen, he assigns goodies to the cardinals and makes them patriarchs over various dioceses, which are considered “patrimonies.” The goodies are usually doled out to individuals in proportion to the support and influence they gave the pope in his election.

Comment: The NIV states, “He [the Levite who left a Levitical city to serve in the Temple] is to share equally in their benefits, even though he has received money from the sale of family possessions.”

Comment: The Levites assisted the priests, who received money, animals, and food from the people. The portions given to the priests were to be equally shared with the Levites.

Deut. 18:9 When thou art come into the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee, thou shalt not learn to do after the abominations of those nations.

Comment: Historically, Israel had a lot of exposure to the surrounding heathen nations and oftentimes picked up their practices and intermarried with them.

The clause “thou shalt not learn to do after the abominations of those nations” stands out. There is a limit in trying to exercise supposedly goodwill toward others in allowing them to express their opinions. We must be careful because wrong doctrines are seductive. It is not sufficient to tolerate them and allow them to exist by giving a deaf ear. The danger in being too liberal is that lo and behold, before we know it, they can become a part of our daily living. The compromising attitude is very dangerous.

Deut. 18:10 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,

Comment: Sons and daughters were passed through the fire in connection with worship of the fire god Molech. “And thou shalt not let any of thy seed pass through the fire to Molech,

neither shalt thou profane the name of thy God: I am the LORD” (Lev. 18:21).

An example of “divination” was to look for signs in the entrails of animals. Nebuchadnezzar employed this method in deciding to go to Jerusalem. Another method of divination was to throw sticks up in the air and let them fall to the ground; the shape they took was interpreted by an “expert.” There were various methods of looking for signs and wonders in something that was visible. The interpreter did not manipulate the signs but examined what he “found.” Stated another way, since the interpreter did not produce the sign, it purportedly came from a superior invisible power.

Comment: A recent example is the auction of a cheese sandwich for thousands of dollars because it contained a supposed likeness of the Virgin Mary.

Reply: Another example is to look at cumulus clouds and claim to see different types of faces. Tea leaves are sometimes used to prognosticate future events as they pertain to either an individual or a group of people.

An “observer of times” is an astrologer. The date of one’s birthday is considered significant because it is under a particular sign of the zodiac that purportedly determines one’s destiny.

Some people make decisions to buy or sell stock according to the date and the sign. For followers of astrology, time and the stars greatly influence business and personal decisions. Such individuals wait for the “propitious moment” of the most favorable astrological sign.

Q: How do we explain that Joseph had a divining cup and Daniel was “master of the magicians” (Gen. 44:1-5; Dan. 4:9)?

A: For one thing, Joseph had the cup years before the giving of the Law, which prohibited such practices. Also, in Joseph’s case, the crystal ball, or silver cup, symbolized the Scriptures, God’s Word, where one is to look for truth. (The principle is similar with the Roman Catholic Church, which in its earliest beginning was somewhat pure, being a golden cup that was used of the Lord to dispense divine truths.) The difference is that Joseph’s cup was a type, whereas today crystal balls are used to learn about mundane situations for personal benefit.

Comment: Daniel 1:17-20 reads, “As for these four children, God gave them knowledge and skill in all learning and wisdom: and Daniel had understanding in all visions and dreams. Now at the end of the days that the king had said he should bring them in, then the prince of the eunuchs brought them in before Nebuchadnezzar. And the king communed with them; and among them all was found none like Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah: therefore stood they before the king. And in all matters of wisdom and understanding, that the king inquired of them, he found them ten times better than all the magicians and astrologers that were in all his realm.” One of Satan’s methods is to take something that God permitted in a favorable sense under unusual circumstances and then copy, pervert, and use it in an inordinate extreme.

Reply: To use another illustration, Egyptian gods are pictured by various forms of being—a hippopotamus, a bird, or whatever. These symbols are sometimes used in the Bible to picture characteristics or doctrines, but Satan used them to represent gods. Animals in the Temple at Jerusalem pictured principles and characteristics, not personalities. Satan took the bull, whose blood was properly used by the Israelites as a sacrifice for sin, and emphasized its sexual organs instead. Thus the Adversary takes things that were used of the Lord and utilizes them more prolifically for ulterior purposes.

Incidentally, a “soothsayer” was one to whom people went for comfort. This practice still happens under occult influences, and the soothsayer, man or woman, gives favorable prognostications. It is something like getting a Chinese cookie with a fortune, which is always favorable in one form or another. Since the owners of Chinese restaurants want customers to come back for another meal, they do not give bad news. Thus soothsayers are known for giving favorable, soothing signs.

The basic thought of an “enchanter” is one who practices a form of hypnosis whereby a person is brought under a spell. Of course hypnotism is still used today.

A “witch” is usually female. Saul consulted the witch of Endor, desiring to know something about the future. The supposed appearance of Samuel, the false similitude, was produced by occult power. Generally speaking, some type of confirmation supports the advice the witch gives. Whether the advice is good or bad, a vision usually accompanies it—a cloud or an ethereal presence. The witch momentarily becomes like a medium in producing a similitude of some kind along with the prognosis the person pays for. With “witch” being a broader term, it can also include gypsies, for instance, who use tarot cards and read palms.

Deut. 18:11 Or a charmer, or a consulter with familiar spirits, or a wizard, or a necromancer.

A “charmer” casts spells on people or animals. For instance, there are snake charmers.

Soothing music or some form of sound is usually utilized (instead of a moving object as with a hypnotist) to produce a mood in which the subject becomes very pliable. By the words or  message given, one is led of the demon who is usually behind the whole situation.

A “consulter with familiar spirits” is a medium who works with fallen angels. The demons use supernatural power to imitate the voice of someone, such as a relative, who has deceased.

People pay mediums to find out if a particular dead person still exists. Mediums produce either the likeness or the voice of the deceased. Thus the term “familiar spirits” refers to individuals who are supposedly produced at the request of a former friend or relative. The witch of Endor produced such a similitude of Samuel.

A “wizard” is usually the male counterpart of a witch. He possesses supernatural powers and usually practices some form of magic. Most magicians are not wizards, but some possess supernatural powers that greatly enhance their ability to deceive. In seeing the gift of the Holy Spirit come when the apostles laid their hands on individuals, a man named Simon wanted to increase his own abilities and even offered to buy that power (Acts 8:18-20). A magician normally uses sleight of hand, whereas a wizard has supernatural power. Magicians deceive by the quickness or dexterity of their movements, perhaps waving one hand to attract attention while the other hand performs the trick. Wizards do not need such tricks, for they accomplish their goals in supernatural ways that are more convincing and dangerous.

The word “necromancer” is a combination of the two words “romancer” and “necro,” the latter meaning “black” or “dark.” Such individuals deal in black art or black magic, which involves death and/or giving instructions or lessons about the dead. A necromancer does not usually produce the deceased person in a simulated visual sense like the consulter with familiar spirits, but he talks about what is happening in the netherworld. This form of the occult was practiced quite a lot in Egypt. Stories were told about what the dead were doing. The hearers did not see anything, but the necromancers were so skilled and convincing in their storytelling about conditions beyond the state of life that some of their points seemed very reasonable.

Swedenborgianism, based on the teachings of Emanuel Swedenborg, is a more recent example of this practice. This man personally communicated with the fallen angels and then told stories about what they had said to him. Many of the things he knew were true, but they pertained to supernatural knowledge. People who are enthralled with Swedenborgianism are usually given to science, math, and other technical subjects.

Q: Does a necromancer also promote hatred and injury toward others?

A: Yes, a necromancer can pronounce a curse on a coin, a piece of clothing, or some other object, which is wrapped attractively and sent to someone he wants to curse. When the recipient opens the package and puts the object in a room, for example, those who enter that room are under an occult situation. The object has great power for evil and can even include a death sentence.

Comment: Through the power of the Holy Spirit, the Apostle Paul used this technique for good purposes, such as healing, by blessing a napkin and sending it to someone. Satan subsequently copied this practice and has used it for evil purposes.

Comment: A necromancer could have put the curse on King Tut’s tomb in Egypt so that whoever opened the tomb would contract an illness of a serious nature.

Reply: Yes, the curse that was written on the outside of the tomb had an evil power. Whoever broke the seal of the tomb was affected. The discoverer of the tomb, an Englishman, got a mysterious disease and died suddenly. Moreover, newspaper reports stated that the Egyptians who were involved with him in opening the tomb mysteriously died.

Q: Is necromancy a form of voodoo?

A: Yes. Voodoo is the pronouncing of a curse of one form or another.

Comment: God could have simply told the Israelites to avoid all forms of the occult, but He went into specific details to give them every opportunity to understand the prohibition, yet they disobeyed.

Q: Because of this listing, there were no loopholes. What are the applications today? The brethren are warned by the Pastor’s writings and the Vow to avoid all forms of spiritism.

A: Just as we have the Ten Commandments from God, so these dangerous occult practices are the “do nots,” for they can wean a person away from righteousness and truth.

Comment: One application is to be on guard against Satan’s use of “all power and signs and lying wonders” and “all deceivableness of unrighteousness” (2 Thess. 2:9,10).

Reply: Yes. Some brethren in the Harvest period have had experiences with the occult. For example, the Ouija board has been a deception in certain cases.

Comment: The Apostle Paul said, “We are not ignorant of his [Satan’s] devices” (2 Cor. 2:11).

However, some of his tactics are more subtle today, for example, children’s games and wicca, which is considered white witchcraft. These are tied to the worship of earthly things such as trees and rocks.

Comment: Yoga, at least the forms that pertain to communicating with one’s inner self, can be a deception, and biofeedback, which seems to be a type of self-hypnosis, can be dangerous.

Deut. 18:12 For all that do these things are an abomination unto the LORD: and because of these abominations the LORD thy God doth drive them out from before thee.

Deut. 18:13 Thou shalt be perfect with the LORD thy God.

The word “perfect,” in this context, means to be honest and upright. Being “imperfect,” then, is a form of hypocrisy. To be “blameless” is our ideal (see Rotherham).

Deut. 18:14 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.

Deut. 18:15 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;

Jehovah would raise up “a Prophet from the midst of thee [Israel] like unto” Moses. This Prophet would be a Jew.

Comment: This Prophet would be a mediator as well, for that was Moses’ role with the Law Covenant. The Apostle Peter quoted verse 15 in Acts 3:22 to show the application to Jesus.

Reply: Yes, the prediction was that there would be a likeness between the role of the coming Messiah, of whom the Israelites were all aware, and the role Moses occupied in dealing with the nation, although the Messiah would be on a higher plane. Without giving any details, Moses was implying that he would be unsuccessful, that he would fail in his role. He was assuring the nation that the next mediator, the Messiah, would be successful, that the people would hearken to him. The Israelites did not hearken unto Moses, for everything he commanded them not to do, they did.

In the 1940s, Bro. Sontag of Boston gave a talk on Deuteronomy 18:15, using an illustration of how Moses was “like unto” Christ. Using this key thought, we drew up a list of about 30 ways Moses was like Christ. At the First Advent, the right-hearted Jew should have realized by studying Moses’ life that Jesus was the one prophesied to come as Messiah.

Deut. 18:16 According to all that thou desiredst of the LORD thy God in Horeb in the day of the assembly, saying, Let me not hear again the voice of the LORD my God, neither let me see this great fire any more, that I die not.

Comment: The Israelites’ connecting the voice of Jehovah with “this great fire” reminds us of Hebrews 12:29, “For our God is a consuming fire.” Just as we need Jesus as our Advocate under the Grace Covenant, so the people will need a Mediator in the Kingdom under the New Covenant, and the Israelites needed Moses as a mediator under the old Law Covenant.

Deut. 18:17 And the LORD said unto me, They have well spoken that which they have spoken.

In reply to what the people said at Mount Horeb, “Let me not hear again the voice of the LORD my God, neither let me see this great fire any more, that I die not,” Jehovah said to Moses, “They have well spoken that which they have spoken.” God’s voice must have been awesome for the people to make that statement. The voice of Jehovah was like a giant waterfall, extremely powerful and loud, so that it penetrated their eardrums. The fire was equally awesome in its brilliance, being the result of an earthquake. The people were awed by both sight and sound.

Deut. 18:18 I will raise them up a Prophet from among their brethren, like unto thee, and will put my words in his mouth; and he shall speak unto them all that I shall command him.

Verse 18 is more or less a repeat of verse 15. The Prophet, the Messiah to come, would speak unto Israel “all that I [God] shall command him.” The repetition indicates the importance of this prophecy.

Comment: Jesus fulfilled verse 18 by saying repeatedly, “I can do nothing of myself. I speak the words that the Father has given me” (compare John 8:28; 12:49,50).

Reply: Yes, he usually either looked up to heaven when he prayed or uttered similar words.

Comment: Verse 18 certainly refutes the Trinity. God would put His words in the mouth of Jesus, the Prophet like unto Moses.

Deut. 18:19 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.

“And it shall come to pass, that whosoever will not hearken unto my [God’s] words which he [that Prophet, Jesus] shall speak in my name, I will require it of him.”

Comment: Even though verse 19 does not spell out the penalty definitively, the correlating Scripture, Acts 3:23, reads, “And it shall come to pass, that every soul, which will not hear that prophet [in the Kingdom Age], shall be [utterly] destroyed from among the people.” Thus Moses’ statement “I will require it of him” referred to the life of the individual, namely, a destiny of Second Death.

Comment: The Heavenly Father said He would speak to Moses “mouth to mouth” (Num. 12:8).

Reply: Since no man can see God and live, He appeared right in front of Moses in similitude, using some kind of representative image (Exod. 33:20; John 1:18). No other prophet, no matter who he was—Daniel, Noah, or whoever—had that particular experience except Jesus Christ at the First Advent. That was one of the unique ways the ministry of Moses differed from the ministries of the other prophets. Another example was his role as the mediator of a covenant.

The other prophets spoke with a “thus saith the LORD,” and were perhaps given visions or dreams, but they did not have these unique experiences of Moses.

Deut. 18:20 But the prophet, which shall presume to speak a word in my name, which I have not commanded him to speak, or that shall speak in the name of other gods, even that prophet shall die.

Comment: The Book of Jeremiah tells about Hananiah, a false prophet who presumed to speak in the name of Jehovah. Hananiah prophesied that the yoke would be broken off King Nebuchadnezzar and peace would come to Israel within two years.

“Then Hananiah the prophet took the yoke from off the prophet Jeremiah’s neck, and brake it.

“And Hananiah spake in the presence of all the people, saying, Thus saith the LORD; Even so will I break the yoke of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon from the neck of all nations within the space of two full years….

“Then said the prophet Jeremiah unto Hananiah the prophet, Hear now, Hananiah; The LORD hath not sent thee; but thou makest this people to trust in a lie. “Therefore thus saith the LORD; Behold, I will cast thee from off the face of the earth: this year thou shalt die, because thou hast taught rebellion against the LORD. “So Hananiah the prophet died the same year in the seventh month.” (Jer. 28:10,11,15-17)

Reply: Jeremiah took iron yokes, instead of wooden yokes, and sent them by emissaries to Ammon, Moab, Edom, etc., warning about the coming judgment, which would make desolate these nations just like Israel (Jer. 28:12-14).

Comment: Jeremiah 14:14,15 states the principle: “Then the LORD said unto me, The prophets prophesy lies in my name: I sent them not, neither have I commanded them, neither spake unto them: they prophesy unto you a false vision and divination, and a thing of nought, and the deceit of their heart. Therefore thus saith the LORD concerning the prophets that prophesy in my name, and I sent them not, yet they say, Sword and famine shall not be in this land; By sword and famine shall those prophets be consumed.”

Comment: Jesus said, “Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven” (Matt. 5:19).

Teaching principles contrary to the Word of God brings culpability.

Reply: The Apostle James stated, “My brethren, be not many masters [teachers, elders], knowing that we shall receive the greater condemnation” (James 3:1). The office of elder brings more responsibility. The Apostle Paul wrote to Timothy, “This is a true saying, If a man desire the office of a bishop [elder], he desireth a good work” (1 Tim. 3:1). If, by God’s providence, a brother matures and develops sufficiently, then desiring the office of an elder is a laudable desire. However, to step out presumptuously and make dogmatic statements that are not a “thus saith the LORD” incurs tremendous responsibility. For example, both Jeremiah and the false prophet were saying, “Thus saith the LORD,” yet their messages were contradictory.

Deut. 18:21 And if thou say in thine heart, How shall we know the word which the LORD hath not spoken?

“How shall we know the word which the LORD hath not spoken?” is a reasonable question.

People are prone to believe anyone who affirms with strength of voice that he received a message from God. Verse 22 deserves considerable attention with regard to answering this question. Incidentally, some in nominal circles are testifying that they have had interviews with God or Jesus, and they relate the supposed conversation.

Deut. 18:22 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.

In our judgment, this verse has been improperly translated by almost all scholars except the very Orthodox Jew. A couple of Orthodox Jews have spoken on this verse and, in our opinion, have given the proper interpretation. We think Protestant and Catholic scholarship has been misleading.

As the verse reads, it could be said, “Charles Russell predicted that in 1914, the Church would be complete and glorified, and the Times of the Gentiles would end. Since these events did not happen, he has spoken presumptuously.” Others such as Miller and Luther also predicted dates that did not come to pass. With regard to myself, I never stated dates positively but put question marks, even though some of them are not seen now. The point is that almost all honest Bible students who are hungering and thirsting to know about the future have, to some extent, thought certain events were evidences of the coming of Christ, and they spoke quite strongly, feeling that the Lord’s Word taught these things. Even holy angels and holy prophets such as Daniel inquired diligently, but there were statements and expectations that did not occur. As rendered here, verse 22 would be condemnatory, so it needs sober examination.

After much hard thinking on this subject, we came to a determination and application of what we felt verse 22 was saying. Lo and behold, we found that the Orthodox Jew gave the proper thought, as we had concluded. Not only is the verb “follow” in the wrong tense, but Moses was speaking about a different situation than is implied by the King James translation. Verse 22 is based upon the practices of sorcerers, necromancers, charmers, etc., who are asked to cast a spell or pronounce a curse on somebody. If in a particular instance, a sorcerer or one who is given to that type of profession or work is involved, then we know that what is spoken will not happen. The antitype of this picture is Papacy, which has used this type of authority to excommunicate or put a curse on individuals. Not only did papal excommunication bar one from employment, but many family members usually forsook the excommunicated person because of fear.

In other words, if someone pronounced a curse on us, but we knew we were a person of God—that we had made a consecration to do His will—the thing pronounced would not happen. Therefore, we changed the words “if the thing follow not” to “if [we know] the thing will not follow.” If a false prophet or teacher predicts something of an injurious nature to one of God’s children, and we know he is false, the injurious proclamation will not happen. No harm will come upon the Lord’s little one.

On the one hand, the verbs in Hebrew are flexible, so we have to get the gist of the context in order to understand the proper tense. On the other hand, the Greek language is more specific because it has the aorist tense, although it can be understood. The English language, which has a vocabulary of at least 40,000 words, is far more specific with tenses than Spanish, French, Greek, and Hebrew. While the Greek is quite specific, the English is more definitive. The point is that if verse 22 were rendered as incorrectly stated in English, it would kill the study of prophecy because of the consequences of misinterpretation. Teachers would avoid the subject of prophecy and the need to be awake.

The correct thought is, “When a prophet speaketh in the name of the LORD of a thing that will not 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.” In other words, if we know that the thing will not come to pass, the prophet has spoken presumptuously. The admonition is addressed to God’s people with regard to listening to others who take the role of speaking presumptuously. A wrong attitude is for the one speaking to not merely prophesy but to prophesy with strong affirmation. It is proper to suggest an interpretation—a modifying factor has to be involved—but not to be bold and dogmatic.

In the case here in verse 22, we know the matter will not come to pass, for it is false. Therefore, when true Christians were excommunicated and condemned by the Catholic priesthood, they knew that they had a relationship with Jesus and that they were wrongly excommunicated, even though others did not know of their bona fide relationship and were frightened to have dealings with them. The Roman Catholic Church used excommunication as a very effective weapon for more than a thousand years.

So in this case, the false prophet is predicting a wrong thing to come that is misleading God’s people. Even the Tanach states, “If the prophet will speak in the Name of Hashem [Jehovah], and that thing will not occur and not come about—that is the word that Hashem has not spoken; with willfulness has the prophet spoken it, you should not fear him.”

Q: In verse 21, the question is asked, “How do we know an individual is a false prophet?” Therefore, how can verse 22, the answer, be that we already know he is a false prophet?

A: We know one is a false prophet if he speaks presumptuously. It is his attitude. He speaks with power, instilling fear in his audience. For example, when a person asks a sorcerer to pronounce a curse on someone else, that curse is effectual in many instances but not on the consecrated. Sorcerers, necromancers, etc., make some remarkable predictions because the fallen angels use these human agents or mediums.

Comment: Voodoo is strong in certain cultures, and there are many documented accounts of a hex being put on someone and death occurring within a very short time period.

Reply: Yes, sorcerers, necromancers, etc., are effectual. When as the Lord’s people, we see that they are trying to injure us, we should first ask, “Am I doing wrong? Have I committed the unpardonable sin? Do I merit the type of curse they are pronouncing?” If we know in our heart that in spite of all our failings, we love God with all our heart, mind, soul, and strength and are trying to please Him, we should not fear the curse, for it will not come to pass. The Lord’s people should search their heart to see whether they merit a particular experience.

Comment: On a television program, some were trying to scientifically ascertain why voodoo seems to work in so many cultures. The conclusion was that the results were psychosomatic. They could not come to grips with the fact that there is a real mystical aspect and that it actually works. Their point was that people are so fearful of a hex that it becomes like a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Reply: Yes, The Roman Catholic Church used excommunication as a punishment, and there were degrees of excommunication and even monetary penalties of different values. The threat of utter isolation was used as a means of power in controlling people’s lives.

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