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Deuteronomy 12:1-14

Context
The Central Sanctuary

12:1 These are the statutes and ordinances you must be careful to obey as long as you live in the land the Lord, the God of your ancestors, 1  has given you to possess. 2  12:2 You must by all means destroy 3  all the places where the nations you are about to dispossess worship their gods – on the high mountains and hills and under every leafy tree. 4  12:3 You must tear down their altars, shatter their sacred pillars, 5  burn up their sacred Asherah poles, 6  and cut down the images of their gods; you must eliminate their very memory from that place. 12:4 You must not worship the Lord your God the way they worship. 12:5 But you must seek only the place he 7  chooses from all your tribes to establish his name as his place of residence, 8  and you must go there. 12:6 And there you must take your burnt offerings, your sacrifices, your tithes, the personal offerings you have prepared, 9  your votive offerings, your freewill offerings, and the firstborn of your herds and flocks. 12:7 Both you and your families 10  must feast there before the Lord your God and rejoice in all the output of your labor with which he 11  has blessed you. 12:8 You must not do like we are doing here today, with everyone 12  doing what seems best to him, 12:9 for you have not yet come to the final stop 13  and inheritance the Lord your God is giving you. 12:10 When you do go across the Jordan River 14  and settle in the land he 15  is granting you as an inheritance and you find relief from all the enemies who surround you, you will live in safety. 16  12:11 Then you must come to the place the Lord your God chooses for his name to reside, bringing 17  everything I am commanding you – your burnt offerings, sacrifices, tithes, the personal offerings you have prepared, 18  and all your choice votive offerings which you devote to him. 19  12:12 You shall rejoice in the presence of the Lord your God, along with your sons, daughters, male and female servants, and the Levites in your villages 20  (since they have no allotment or inheritance with you). 21  12:13 Make sure you do not offer burnt offerings in any place you wish, 12:14 for you may do so 22  only in the place the Lord chooses in one of your tribal areas – there you may do everything I am commanding you. 23 

1 tn Heb “fathers.”

2 tn Heb “you must be careful to obey in the land the Lord, the God of your fathers, has given you to possess all the days which you live in the land.” This adverbial statement modifies “to obey,” not “to possess,” so the order in the translation has been rearranged to make this clear.

3 tn Heb “destroying you must destroy”; KJV “Ye shall utterly (surely ASV) destroy”; NRSV “must demolish completely.” The Hebrew infinitive absolute precedes the verb for emphasis, which is reflected in the translation by the words “by all means.”

4 sn Every leafy tree. This expression refers to evergreens which, because they keep their foliage throughout the year, provided apt symbolism for nature cults such as those practiced in Canaan. The deity particularly in view is Asherah, wife of the great god El, who was considered the goddess of fertility and whose worship frequently took place at shrines near or among clusters (groves) of such trees (see also Deut 7:5). See J. Hadley, NIDOTTE 1:569-70; J. DeMoor, TDOT 1:438-44.

5 sn Sacred pillars. These are the stelae (stone pillars; the Hebrew term is מַצֵּבֹת, matsevot) associated with Baal worship, perhaps to mark a spot hallowed by an alleged visitation of the gods. See also Deut 7:5.

6 sn Sacred Asherah poles. The Hebrew term (plural) is אֲשֵׁרִים (’asherim). See note on the word “(leafy) tree” in v. 2, and also Deut 7:5.

7 tn Heb “the Lord your God.” The pronoun has been used in the translation for stylistic reasons to avoid redundancy.

8 tc Some scholars, on the basis of v. 11, emend the MT reading שִׁכְנוֹ (shikhno, “his residence”) to the infinitive construct לְשָׁכֵן (lÿshakhen, “to make [his name] to dwell”), perhaps with the 3rd person masculine singular sf לְשַׁכְּנוֹ (lÿshakÿno, “to cause it to dwell”). Though the presupposed nounשֵׁכֶן (shekhen) is nowhere else attested, the parallel here with שַׁמָּה (shammah, “there”) favors retaining the MT as it stands.

9 tn Heb “heave offerings of your hand.”

10 tn Heb “and your houses,” referring to entire households. The pronouns “you” and “your” are plural in the Hebrew text.

11 tn Heb “the Lord your God.” See note on “he” in 12:5.

12 tn Heb “a man.”

13 tn Heb “rest.”

14 tn The word “River” is not in the Hebrew text, but has been supplied in the translation for clarity.

15 tn Heb “the Lord your God.” See note on “he” in 12:5.

16 tn In the Hebrew text vv. 10-11 are one long, complex sentence. For stylistic reasons the translation divides this into two sentences.

17 tn Heb “and it will be (to) the place where the Lord your God chooses to cause his name to dwell you will bring.”

18 tn Heb “heave offerings of your hand.”

19 tn Heb “the Lord.” See note on “he” in 12:5.

20 tn Heb “within your gates” (so KJV, NASB); NAB “who belongs to your community.”

21 sn They have no allotment or inheritance with you. See note on the word “inheritance” in Deut 10:9.

22 tn Heb “offer burnt offerings.” The expression “do so” has been used in the translation for stylistic reasons to avoid redundancy.

23 sn This injunction to worship in a single and central sanctuary – one limited and appropriate to the thrice-annual festival celebrations (see Exod 23:14-17; 34:22-24; Lev 23:4-36; Deut 16:16-17) – marks a departure from previous times when worship was carried out at local shrines (cf. Gen 8:20; 12:7; 13:18; 22:9; 26:25; 35:1, 3, 7; Exod 17:15). Apart from the corporate worship of the whole theocratic community, however, worship at local altars would still be permitted as in the past (Deut 16:21; Judg 6:24-27; 13:19-20; 1 Sam 7:17; 10:5, 13; 2 Sam 24:18-25; 1 Kgs 18:30).



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