February 24, 2017

DEVARIM 16: Feasts and Righteous Judge

(Deuteronomy)



BIBLICAL FEASTS
This chapter begins talking about the feasts of the Lord. Some people call these “Jewish feasts” given that throughout history it has been the Jews who have kept them, but in reality, they are the Feasts of Jehovah, because He was the one who appointed them.
(Leviticus 23:2) Speak to the people of Israel and say to them, these are the appointed feasts of the LORD that you shall proclaim as holy convocations; they are my appointed feasts.

Not only has the Lord appointed these feasts, but He also designated specific times for them…
(Lev. 23:4) These are the appointed feasts of the LORD, the holy convocations, which you shall proclaim at the time appointed for them.

Now let’s see what those feasts are, and which are their designated times…

THREE CONVOCATIONS
There are seven Feasts of Jehovah, but there are really three times of convocation (the first three are joined by a single convocation, as well as the last three)…
(Deut. 16:16-17) Three times a year all your males shall appear before the LORD your God at the place that he will choose: at the Feast of Unleavened Bread, at the Feast of Weeks, and at the Feast of Booths. They shall not appear before the LORD empty-handed. (17) Every man shall give as he is able, according to the blessing of the LORD your God that he has given you.

The three times of convocation and pilgrimage to Jerusalem (“the place where God chose”) were:
  1. Unleavened Bread (14-21 of Nisan)
  2. Weeks (in the month of Sivan, the 50th day of the counting of the Omer)
  3. Tabernacles (15-21 of Tishrei)

1st CONVOCATION: Unleavened Bread (14-21 of Nisan)
That week, three feasts are celebrated: Passover (Heb. Pesach, 14 of Nisan), Unleavened Bread (Heb. Chag HaMatzot, 15-21 of Nisan), and Firstfruits (Heb. Bikkurim, the Sunday of that week).The offering that is presented at that time is the first fruit of the barley.

a. PASSOVER
(Deut. 16:1) Observe the month of Abib and keep the Passover to the LORD your God, for in the month of Abib the LORD your God brought you out of Egypt by night.

The month of Abib is also known as Nisan, but here it receives the name of “Abib” because of its connection with spring, since the word means: ear sprout. This is the first month of the year of the Biblical Calendar (which was established in Exodus 12:2), and this beginning of the spring season is marked by the sprout of the crops, the first of which is the barley.

In that first month (Abib / Nisan) the first feast of the Lord is celebrated: Passover…
(Deut. 16:2) And you shall offer the Passover sacrifice to the LORD your God, from the flock or the herd, at the place that the LORD will choose, to make his name dwell there.

As we’ve previously mentioned, Jerusalem is “the place that Jehovah chose to place His Name there”. That was the only place where the Passover sacrifice could be offered.
(Deut. 16:5-7) You may not offer the Passover sacrifice within any of your towns that the LORD your God is giving you, (6) but at the place that the LORD your God will choose, to make his name dwell in it, there you shall offer the Passover sacrifice, in the evening at sunset, at the time you came out of Egypt. (7) And you shall cook it and eat it at the place that the LORD your God will choose. And in the morning you shall turn and go to your tents.

If they celebrated the Passover in any other place, then they could not eat lamb, since it could only be sacrificed in the Temple in Jerusalem.

b. UNLEAVENED BREAD
The Passover is followed by the second Feast: Unleavened Bread…
(Deut. 16:3-4) You shall eat no leavened bread with it (Passover). Seven days you shall eat it with unleavened bread, the bread of affliction—for you came out of the land of Egypt in haste—that all the days of your life you may remember the day when you came out of the land of Egypt. (4) No leaven shall be seen with you in all your territory for seven days, nor shall any of the flesh that you sacrifice on the evening of the first day remain all night until morning.

(Deut. 16:8) For six days you shall eat unleavened bread, and on the seventh day there shall be a solemn assembly to the LORD your God. You shall do no work on it.

c. FIRSTFRUITS
The third feast is connected to the offering of the first fruits of the barley harvest. The chosen day for this feast is the Sunday of the week of Passover (Lev. 23:10-11). Starting on that moment, the “Counting of the Omer” began…
(Deut. 16:9) You shall count seven weeks. Begin to count the seven weeks from the time the sickle is first put to the standing grain.

The counting of these seven weeks is the connection with the next feast (Lev. 23:15-16)…


2nd CONVOCATION: Weeks
On the 50th day of the Counting of the Omer, which is on the beginning of the month of Sivan, the fourth feast is celebrated: Weeks (Heb. Shavuot), which is also known as “Pentecost”. In this occasion, the first fruit of the wheat harvest is offered.
(Deut. 16:10-11) Then you shall keep the Feast of Weeks to the LORD your God with the tribute of a freewill offering from your hand, which you shall give as the LORD your God blesses you. (11) And you shall rejoice before the LORD your God, you and your son and your daughter, your male servant and your female servant, the Levite who is within your towns, the sojourner, the fatherless, and the widow who are among you, at the place that the LORD your God will choose, to make his name dwell there.


3rd CONVOCATION: Tabernacles
In the month of Tishrei (the seventh month in the Biblical Calendar), the last three feasts are celebrated: Trumpets (Heb. Rosh Hashanah, 1 Tishrei), Day of Atonement (Heb. Yom Kippur, 10 Tishrei), and Tabernacles (also known as “Booths”) (Heb. Sukkot, 15-21 Tishrei).

Here in chapter 16, only the last one is mentioned because in that week the Israelites would make a pilgrimage into Jerusalem…
(Deut. 16:13-15) You shall keep the Feast of Booths seven days, when you have gathered in the produce from your threshing floor and your winepress. (14) You shall rejoice in your feast, you and your son and your daughter, your male servant and your female servant, the Levite, the sojourner, the fatherless, and the widow who are within your towns. (15) For seven days you shall keep the feast to the LORD your God at the place that the LORD will choose, because the LORD your God will bless you in all your produce and in all the work of your hands, so that you will be altogether joyful.


MESSIANIC FULLFILMENT
God summoned us to these feasts not just so that we would celebrate some historical Israeli event, but also because they are designed to give us revelation on God’s Redemption Plan through the Messiah. On one hand, there is the “shadow” of the feast (the history), but on the other hand there is also the “body or the substance” (the prophetic), which is the revelation of the Messiah and the steps that He will take when he will redeem all humanity (Col. 2:16-17).

The following graph makes a parallel comparison between the historical aspect and the messianic revelation of each feast:

Feast
Shadow
Historical
Body or Substance
Messianic fulfillment
Passover
Sacrifice of the lamb in Egypt
Jesus, the Lamb of God, dies on the cross
Unleavened Bread
Going out of Egypt
Jesus is buried
Firstfruits
Crossing the Red Sea
Jesus rose again
Weeks (Pentecost)
Revelation of God in Mount Sinai and the giving of the Torah
The Holy Spirit descends over the disciples
Trumpets

Announcing the Second Coming of the Messiah
Day of Atonement
Forgiveness for the sin of the Golden Calf
All iniquity and judgments are erased
Tabernacles
Presence of God in the Tabernacle
Millennial Kingdom  of the Messiah



RIGHTEOUS JUDGE
The second main subject of Devarim 16 has to do with the Israeli judges.
(Deut. 16:18) You shall appoint judges and officers in all your towns that the LORD your God is giving you, according to your tribes, and they shall judge the people with righteous judgment.

Judges (Heb. Shoftim) are indispensible for a society, since they know the law and help to settle conflicts among the citizens.

The position that is translated as “officer”, in Hebrew is Shoter, which literally means: scribe. The scribes were the ones in charge of writing the copies of the Torah, and therefore they knew the law very well. Shoter can also be translated as: superintendent or magistrate.

Both judges and scribes served the people by judging cases and solving conflicts. The Bible instructs them to “judge with righteous judgment”. What does this imply? The Torah explains it next…
(Deut. 16:19) You shall not pervert justice. You shall not show partiality, and you shall not accept a bribe, for a bribe blinds the eyes of the wise and subverts the cause of the righteous.

In theory, the judge must follow the law to a tee, and pass judgment according to what is right. Although this is ideal, in human reality, justice can be corrupted either through bribe, trick, or prejudice. To prevent this, the Torah determines that the judge must be impartial. This principle had already been mentioned in the first chapter of Devarim…
(Deut. 1:16-17) And I charged your judges at that time, ‘Hear the cases between your brothers, and judge righteously between a man and his brother or the alien who is with him. (17) You shall not be partial in judgment. You shall hear the small and the great alike. You shall not be intimidated by anyone, for the judgment is God’s. And the case that is too hard for you, you shall bring to me, and I will hear it.’

Those who were the most vulnerable to the unjust judgments were the neediest and those who had no power…
(Deut. 24:17) You shall not pervert the justice due to the sojourner or to the fatherless, or take a widow’s garment in pledge

The judge has to pass judgment according to God’s order, and not by following his heart or his emotions.
(Deut. 16:20) Justice, and only justice, you shall follow, that you may live and inherit the land that the LORD your God is giving you.

In the desert, only Moses was serving as a judge, but the demand was too much for him. Following his father-in-law’s suggestion, they appointed more judges from among the leaders of the people, who helped to settle conflicts among the people. And the hard cases were left for Moses to deal with (Exodus 18:13-23).

THE DIFFICULT CASES
Further ahead we will see that, after Moses died, the most difficult cases were left to the priests (Deut. 17:9). In chapter 17, certain aspects of the judgments are mentioned so we will go over them in this lesson, since we are already on the topic…

The Priests of Jerusalem served as judges, helping to settle the differences that had not been solved in the legal courts.
(Deut. 17:8-9) If any case arises requiring decision between one kind of homicide and another, one kind of legal right and another, or one kind of assault and another, any case within your towns that is too difficult for you, then you shall arise and go up to the place that the LORD your God will choose. (9) And you shall come to the Levitical priests and to the judge who is in office in those days, and you shall consult them, and they shall declare to you the decision.

This court of priests in Jerusalem was considered the Supreme Court. The resolution that came out of that court was final, and the population had to submit to its decree.
(Deut. 17:10-11) Then you shall do according to what they declare to you from that place that the LORD will choose. And you shall be careful to do according to all that they direct you. (11) According to the instructions that they give you, and according to the decision which they pronounce to you, you shall do. You shall not turn aside from the verdict that they declare to you, either to the right hand or to the left.

If someone rebelled against the resolution of that priestly court, it would be considered insubordination and he would have to face the maximum sentence.
(Deut. 17:12-13) The man who acts presumptuously by not obeying the priest who stands to minister there before the LORD your God, or the judge, that man shall die. So you shall purge the evil from Israel. (13) And all the people shall hear and fear and not act presumptuously again.

[We will study the last verses of this chapter in the next lesson, since they are more connected with the subjects of the next chapter…]


More lessons on Deuteronomy: DEVARIM (Deut.)

February 10, 2017

DEVARIM 15: Debts and the Firstborn Animal

(Deuteronomy)

In chapter 15 of Deuteronomy (Heb. Devarim) we see two main themes:
a. The forgiveness of debts in the seventh year (Heb. Shmita)
b. The consecration of the firstborn of the livestock

SHMITA: Rest for the Land
The word of God instructs that every seven years in Israel, there is to be rest for the Land; this in Hebrew is known as “Shmita”. The first time the Shmita commandment appears in the Bible is in Leviticus (chapter 25). We will read it because there it mentions some aspects that it does not mention in Devarim 15.

(Leviticus 25:1-5) The LORD spoke to Moses on Mount Sinai, saying, (2) “Speak to the people of Israel and say to them, When you come into the land that I give you, the land shall keep a Sabbath to the LORD. (3) For six years you shall sow your field, and for six years you shall prune your vineyard and gather in its fruits, (4) but in the seventh year there shall be a Sabbath of solemn rest for the land, a Sabbath to the LORD. You shall not sow your field or prune your vineyard. (5) You shall not reap what grows of itself in your harvest, or gather the grapes of your undressed vine. It shall be a year of solemn rest for the land.

If the Israelites could not cultivate the land, what would they live off of for that entire year? It explains it next…
(Leviticus 25:6-7) The Sabbath of the land shall provide food for you, for yourself and for your male and female slaves and for your hired worker and the sojourner who lives with you, (7) and for your cattle and for the wild animals that are in your land: all its yield shall be for food.

On that seventh year, the Israelites could not work their fields, but they could eat of the fruit that was still left on the trees and on the fields (only to eat, but not to sell). The surplus of the fruits of the field would then fall on the ground, and that would help to fertilize and revitalize the lands.

SHMITA: Forgiveness of debts
Besides this cleansing of the Earth, God also planned for this seventh year a cleansing of the economy…
(Deut. 15:1-2) At the end of every seven years you shall grant a release. (2) And this is the manner of the release: every creditor shall release what he has lent to his neighbor. He shall not exact it of his neighbor, his brother, because the LORD’s release has been proclaimed.

Shmita literally means: remission. The definition of “remission” is: the forgiveness of a penalty or punishment that deprives a person from his liberty. In the biblical concept, it refers to the forgiveness of a debt that has deprived the debtor from economical freedom.

In that seventh year, all the debts were dropped down to zero. All the debts were forgiven in Israel; no one owed anything – with the exception of the foreigner.
(Deut. 15:3-5) Of a foreigner you may exact it, but whatever of yours is with your brother your hand shall release. (4) But there will be no poor among you; for the LORD will bless you in the land that the LORD your God is giving you for an inheritance to possess— (5) if only you will strictly obey the voice of the LORD your God, being careful to do all this commandment that I command you today.

If anyone had not been able to pay for a debt it was because he really was in a state of much need. This forgiveness of debt was a way of social aid for the most needy, as well as a way to clean up the national economy.

In biblical times, when someone asked for something on a loan, it was because on top of not having any money in cash, the person also had sold everything he had. Asking for something borrowed was the last option before offering himself as a slave. When someone took on a debt, it was under the agreement that if he could not pay it back, he would be committed to pay back his debt with labor, either by becoming a servant of the creditor or by sending out his children as slaves until the debt was covered. That is how someone could become a slave in Israel.

Today, loans are very common, and people not only take it out of necessity but also to satisfy desires and pleasures (like extra-financing for traveling and for entertainment). Although today being in debt may be popular, from the biblical perspective, it is considered undesirable.
(Proverbs 22:7) The rich rules over the poor, and the borrower is the slave of the lender.

In biblical culture, being in debt was basically out of need and not for pleasures.
The ideal thing is to be in the position of the lender, which is considered a blessing.
(Deut. 15:6) For the LORD your God will bless you, as he promised you, and you shall lend to many nations, but you shall not borrow, and you shall rule over many nations, but they shall not rule over you.

Instead of asking for loans and giving securities (Prov. 22:26-27; Prov. 6:1-5), what the Bible teaches us to do is to save (Prov. 6:6-8). In God’s Kingdom, the debt should not be the norm but the exception; and if someone is willing to give, it is because there is a great need. The commandment of forgiving the debt every seven years helps to alleviate the economical struggles of the neediest, as well as cleaning up the economy on a national scale.

DO NOT SHUT YOUR HAND
The law of the remittance of debts could lead some people to not want to give out loans, since every seven years these debts must be forgiven. That is why the Bible says the following:
(Deut. 15:7-11) If among you, one of your brothers should become poor, in any of your towns within your land that the LORD your God is giving you, you shall not harden your heart or shut your hand against your poor brother, (8) but you shall open your hand to him and lend him sufficient for his need, whatever it may be. (9) Take care lest there be an unworthy thought in your heart and you say, ‘The seventh year, the year of release is near,’ and your eye look grudgingly on your poor brother, and you give him nothing, and he cry to the LORD against you, and you be guilty of sin. (10) You shall give to him freely, and your heart shall not be grudging when you give to him, because for this the LORD your God will bless you in all your work and in all that you undertake. (11) For there will never cease to be poor in the land. Therefore I command you, ‘You shall open wide your hand to your brother, to the needy and to the poor, in your land.’

Jesus said it in the Sermon of the Mount:
(Matthew 5:42) Give to the one who begs from you, and do not refuse the one who would borrow from you.

The need could come to any person in any moment, and it is not always due to bad finance management. If we see a brother in need, we must lend him a hand to help him get up again. At the same time, he who receives the favor, must be thankful and repay those who helped him as soon as he can.

If these principles were applied in our families and in our communities, our national economies would be much healthier.

In some societies, instead of helping the poor, they take advantage of them. But God makes it very clear that He will defend their cause.
(Proverbs 14:31) Whoever oppresses a poor man insults his Maker, but he who is generous to the needy honors him.

(Proverbs 22:22-23) Do not rob the poor, because he is poor, or crush the afflicted at the gate, (23) for the LORD will plead their cause and rob of life those who rob them.

FREEDOM FROM SLAVERY
Along with forgiving the debts on the seventh year, those who fell into slavery or servitude because of debts were also given freedom. In Israel, slavery was not as encouraged as it was in other nations. If someone fell into slavery it was because they sold themselves due to their own needs. This used to happen when an Israelite asked for a loan, and part of the payment of the debt was paid with work as a slave, either done by himself or by his children.

But God established that in Israel these “slaves because of debt” would be freed every seven years.
(Deut. 15:12) If your brother, a Hebrew man or a Hebrew woman, is sold to you, he shall serve you six years, and in the seventh year you shall let him go free from you.

When the indebted brother was let go, help was also provided to him…
(Deut. 15:13-14) And when you let him go free from you, you shall not let him go empty-handed. (14) You shall furnish him liberally out of your flock, out of your threshing floor, and out of your winepress. As the LORD your God has blessed you, you shall give to him.

This help to the freed debtor was so that he and his family could lift their heads up. If they had reached the point of slavery because of debt it was because they were left with absolutely nothing. Help would be provided so that they could move forward in that new stage.

This freedom from debt might sound unjust for the lender, but there are several details that brought comfort:
(Deut. 15:18) It shall not seem hard to you when you let him go free from you, for at half the cost of a hired worker he has served you six years. So the LORD your God will bless you in all that you do.

1.    The payment to a slave was less than that of a sojourner
2.    The Lord will bless those who obey this law

         And also the following:
3.    We have all been benefited by God’s remission; therefore, if God asks us to do this, we must do it as a way to show gratitude to Him.

(Deut. 15:15) You shall remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the LORD your God redeemed you; therefore I command you this today.

SLAVERY BY WILL
The moment the slaves by debt were let free, it could happen that someone would rather stay living as a slave instead of having the risk that came along with freedom. If someone chose that option, he had to do it under the agreement that this was a permanent decision and not a temporary one.
(Deut. 15:16-17) But if he says to you, ‘I will not go out from you,’ because he loves you and your household, since he is well-off with you, (17) then you shall take an awl, and put it through his ear into the door, and he shall be your slave forever. And to your female slave you shall do the same.

PARABLE ON THE FORGIVENESS OF DEBTS
The Biblical concept of “forgiveness of debts” is linked to the principle of “forgiving the faults”. God himself has given us the example of remission when he forgave us our sins. This same principle is the one we must learn to apply to our neighbor. To illustrate this, Jesus narrated a parable that teaches us about the divine perspective of the forgiveness of debts…
(Matthew 18:23-35) Therefore the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his servants. (24) When he began to settle, one was brought to him who owed him ten thousand talents. (25) And since he could not pay, his master ordered him to be sold, with his wife and children and all that he had, and payment to be made. (26) So the servant fell on his knees, imploring him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you everything.’ (27) And out of pity for him, the master of that servant released him and forgave him the debt. (28) But when that same servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii, and seizing him, he began to choke him, saying, ‘Pay what you owe.’ (29) So his fellow servant fell down and pleaded with him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you.’ (30) He refused and went and put him in prison until he should pay the debt. (31) When his fellow servants saw what had taken place, they were greatly distressed, and they went and reported to their master all that had taken place. (32) Then his master summoned him and said to him, ‘You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. (33) And should not you have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you?’ (34) And in anger his master delivered him to the jailers, until he should pay all his debt. (35) So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart.

CONSECRATING THE FIRSTBORN

The last part of chapter 15 talks about what must be done with every firstborn of the livestock…
(Deut. 15:19) All the firstborn males that are born of your herd and flock you shall dedicate to the LORD your God. You shall do no work with the firstborn of your herd, nor shear the firstborn of your flock.

The way to consecrate the firstborn was to offer it in the temple, and then to eat it…
(Deut. 15:20) You shall eat it, you and your household, before the LORD your God year by year at the place that the LORD will choose.

As we’ve mentioned before, “the place where God chose” is Jerusalem. That is where the firstborn calf and lamb had to be taken to. This offering of the firstborn is linked to the principle of placing God before everything.

What would happen if that firstborn calf or lamb had any defects – since nothing with a fault could be offered in the Temple (Lev. 22:20; Deut. 17:1; Mal. 1:8)? In that case, the following had to be done:
(Deut. 15:21-22) But if it has any blemish, if it is lame or blind or has any serious blemish whatever, you shall not sacrifice it to the LORD your God. (22) You shall eat it within your towns. The unclean and the clean alike may eat it, as though it were a gazelle or a deer.

The firstborn with any defects would also be eaten, but it should not be taken to the Temple. That one would be eaten locally. Here it mentions again that the meat may be eaten – but without blood…
(Deut. 15:23) Only you shall not eat its blood; you shall pour it out on the ground like water.


More lessons on Deuteronomy: DEVARIM (Deut.)

January 27, 2017

DEVARIM 14: Diet and Tithe

(Deuteronomy 14)

Chapter 14 of Devarim deals with two big themes:
a. nutritional diet
b. tithing

But before it gets into those two themes, the chapter begins with the following instruction:
(Deut. 14:1) You are the sons of the LORD your God. You shall not cut yourselves or make any baldness on your foreheads for the dead.

FOR THE DEAD
In Biblical times, people used to lance their skin as a sign of mourning, when a loved one died. The definition of “lance” is to make a cut or an incision in the flesh as a way of healing; and in this case, it refers to an emotional healing because of the death of someone close to the person. When the skin is cut, blood comes out, which was believed to function as food for the dead. Likewise, people used to pull their hair out or to shave their heads as a sign of mourning. Although this was traditional among gentile nations, the Lord instructed His People not to do the same, because…
(Deut. 14:2) For you are a people holy to the LORD your God, and the LORD has chosen you to be a people for his treasured possession, out of all the peoples who are on the face of the earth.

Instead of these pagan customs, the Israelites used to express their mourning in three ways:
1. Tearing their clothes (Gen. 37:34)
2. Dressing in sackcloth, which was a thick fabric made out of goat hair which itched when it was in contact with the skin (Joel 1:13, 2 Samuel 3:31)
3. Putting ashes or dust on their heads (Joshua 7:6)

FORBIDDEN MEAT
Something that was also very common (and still is) among gentile nations is eating all types of animal meats, but it is not the same for the People of God. In Torah, the Lord teaches that eating some animals is considered an “abomination” (Heb. Toveva). It is not that the animals themselves are abominable, because God created them, but what is abominable is eating them because they were not created for that.

In Devarim chapter 14 we are taught which animals we are allowed to eat and which we are not:
(Deut. 14:3-5) You shall not eat any abomination. (4) These are the animals you may eat: the ox, the sheep, the goat, (5) the deer, the gazelle, the roebuck, the wild goat, the ibex, the antelope, and the mountain sheep.


Then, the Bible teaches us how to recognize these allowed animals:
Chews the cud + split hoof
(Deut. 14:6) Every animal that parts the hoof and has the hoof cloven in two and chews the cud, among the animals, you may eat.

The animals that just chew the cud or that just have a split hoof are the ones that are forbidden:
(Deut. 14:7-8) Yet of those that chew the cud or have the hoof cloven you shall not eat these: the camel, the hare, and the rock badger, because they chew the cud but do not part the hoof, are unclean for you. (8) And the pig, because it parts the hoof but does not chew the cud, is unclean for you. Their flesh you shall not eat, and their carcasses you shall not touch.

Although not mentioned directly, it is understood that any other land animal that does not chew the cud or have split hoofs are also not allowed. Among those would be reptiles, which are directly mentioned in Leviticus…
(Leviticus 11:43-44) You shall not make yourselves detestable with any swarming thing that swarms, and you shall not defile yourselves with them, and become unclean through them. (44) For I am the LORD your God. Consecrate yourselves therefore, and be holy, for I am holy. You shall not defile yourselves with any swarming thing that crawls on the ground.

When it comes to fish, the ones that are allowed are those who have: fins + scales
(Deut. 14:9) Of all that are in the waters you may eat these: whatever has fins and scales you may eat.

With that understanding, it is clear that it is forbidden to eat all the aquatic animals that don’t have any fins or scales:
(Deut. 14:10) And whatever does not have fins and scales you shall not eat; it is unclean for you.

About birds, the following is instructed:
(Deut. 14:11) You may eat all clean birds.

Among the clean birds are: the chicken, the doves, the quail, the duck.

Next it makes a list of the forbidden birds, most of which are birds of prey.
(Deut. 14:12-18) But these are the ones that you shall not eat: the eagle, the bearded vulture, the black vulture, (13) the kite, the falcon of any kind; (14) every raven of any kind; (15) the ostrich, the nighthawk, the sea gull, the hawk of any kind; (16) the little owl and the short-eared owl, the barn owl (17) and the tawny owl, the carrion vulture and the cormorant, (18)  the stork, the heron of any kind; the hoopoe and the bat.

It also gives instructions about insects:
(Deut. 14:19) And all winged insects are unclean for you; they shall not be eaten.

Among the ones that are allowed are the grasshopper and the locust.

Even among the animals that we are allowed to eat, the Bible points out that they should not be eaten if they were found dead on the road or in the field.
(Deut. 14:21) You shall not eat anything that has died naturally. You may give it to the sojourner who is within your towns, that he may eat it, or you may sell it to a foreigner. For you are a people holy to the LORD your God…

Besides the hygienic aspects, this instruction is probably related with the visits to the Temple, since the Israelites could not enter if they had recently been in contact with corpses. But the prohibition does not apply to the foreigners because they were not allowed to go into the Temple.

The last instruction about what is forbidden to eat is found in the end of verse 21: “You shall not boil a young goat in its mother’s milk”. Traditionally, the rabbis interpreted this mandate as the forbiddance of mixing meat and dairy products. However, there is another, more direct explanation, which is linked to a pagan tradition: in ancient times, the Canaanites used to boil a goat in the milk of its mother, which they would then eat and the milk would be poured on the fields as a fertility ritual. This is the clearest explanation of this mandate.

Although we cannot fully understand the reasons for all of these food prohibitions, without a doubt there is a divine reason. What the Bible makes clear is that it has to do with sanctity
(Leviticus 20:25-26) You shall therefore separate the clean beast from the unclean, and the unclean bird from the clean. You shall not make yourselves detestable by beast or by bird or by anything with which the ground crawls, which I have set apart for you to hold unclean. (26) You shall be holy to me, for I the LORD am holy and have separated you from the peoples, that you should be mine.

Note: Some believe that God “changed” his Law in the time of the apostles, based on the vision that Peter had in Acts 10. But if we read the whole text it is made clear that the vision had the purpose of teaching Peter that God had opened a door to the gentiles. The believing gentiles (like Cornelius) should not be considered “impure”.
(Acts 10:28-29) And he said to them, “You yourselves know how unlawful it is for a Jew to associate with or to visit anyone of another nation, but God has shown me that I should not call any person common or unclean. (29) So when I was sent for, I came without objection. I ask then why you sent for me.”
(Acts 10:34-35) So Peter opened his mouth and said: “Truly I understand that God shows no partiality, (35) but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him.


TITHING
The second main theme in this chapter is about tithing:
(Deut. 14:22, NASB) You shall surely tithe all the produce from what you sow, which comes out of the field every year.

“Surely” means: without fail; that you have to do it.
In Hebrew the verb “tithe” is written two times, which implies that it is something firm and determinant.

By definition, the “Tithe” is the tenth part of something. In this chapter it refers to the tenth part of the harvest of the field, since that was the main source of production for the Israelites in Biblical times.

In the Bible, there is mention of two main tithings:
1. FIRST TITHE (Heb. Maaser Rishon)
Out of all the agricultural or livestock production, the Israelites had to set apart ten percent (tithe= 10%) to dedicate it to God.
(Leviticus 27:30) Every tithe of the land, whether of the seed of the land or of the fruit of the trees, is the LORD’s; it is holy to the LORD.

The tithe was presented in the form of a product. If it happened that the one offering the tithe wanted to keep the product and pay for it in coins, he could do it, but he had to pay for a redeeming fee.
(Leviticus 27:31-32) If a man wishes to redeem some of his tithe, he shall add a fifth to it. (32) And every tithe of herds and flocks, every tenth animal of all that pass under the herdsman’s staff, shall be holy to the LORD.

The Israelites had to give the tithe to the Levites…
(Numbers 18:21) To the Levites I have given every tithe in Israel for an inheritance, in return for their service that they do, their service in the tent of meeting
(Numbers 18:24) For the tithe of the people of Israel, which they present as a contribution to the LORD, I have given to the Levites for an inheritance. Therefore I have said of them that they shall have no inheritance among the people of Israel.

The Israelites used to present the tithe during a feast, when they would go up to Jerusalem to celebrate.
(Deut. 16:16-17) Three times a year all your males shall appear before the LORD your God at the place that he will choose: at the Feast of Unleavened Bread, at the Feast of Weeks, and at the Feast of Booths. They shall not appear before the LORD empty-handed. (17) Every man shall give as he is able, according to the blessing of the LORD your God that he has given you.

Traditionally, the Israelites would bring the First Tithe to Jerusalem during the Feast of Weeks (after the harvest of barley and wheat, Deut. 16:10), and bring the Second Tithe in the context of the Feast of Tabernacles (in the time of the harvest of the last fruits).

2. SECOND TITHE (Heb. Maaser Sheni)
This tithe is peculiar in that it was not presented to the Levites, but it was set apart for certain family and social purposes, which are defined in this chapter (Devarim 14).

a. 2nd Tithe “Maaser Sheni”: to celebrate the feast in Jerusalem with all the family
b. 2nd Tithe “Maaser Ani”: for the Levites, foreigners, widows and orphans to celebrate locally

This tithe would be assigned according to the year in question, following a seven year cycle. In Israel the agricultural production would be divided in periods of seven years. The seventh year was for the land to rest (Heb. Shmita), therefore there were no tithes. But in the other six years, the Second Tithe would be managed in the following way:


Year
Tithe
To Celebrate:
1
Maaser Sheni
In Jerusalem
2
Maaser Sheni
In Jerusalem
3
Maaser Ani
Locally, sharing with others
4
Maaser Sheni
In Jerusalem
5
Maaser Sheni
In Jerusalem
6
Maaser Ani
Locally, sharing with others
7
Shmita
Year of rest for the land

Now that we know how this second tithe was assigned each time, let’s read what it says about each one…

a. MAASER SHENI (to celebrate in Jerusalem)
The main purpose of this tithe was to set money apart to celebrate with the family in Jerusalem.
(Deut. 14:23) And before the LORD your God, in the place that he will choose, to make his name dwell there, you shall eat the tithe of your grain, of your wine, and of your oil, and the firstborn of your herd and flock, that you may learn to fear the LORD your God always.

As we’ve already seen, Jerusalem is “the place that God chose to make his name dwell there”. That is where they needed to take this “Second Tithe”. Once in Jerusalem, they would use the fruits and the animals to make a banquet and enjoy it along with the family, before God.
(Deut. 12:5-7) But you shall seek the place that the LORD your God will choose out of all your tribes to put his name and make his habitation there. There you shall go, (6) and there you shall bring your burnt offerings and your sacrifices, your tithes and the contribution that you present, your vow offerings, your freewill offerings, and the firstborn of your herd and of your flock. (7) And there you shall eat before the LORD your God, and you shall rejoice, you and your households, in all that you undertake, in which the LORD your God has blessed you.

For those who lived far away from Jerusalem, if it was hard for them to transport the tithe of the harvest and of the livestock, the Torah contemplates another option:
(Deut. 14:24-26) And if the way is too long for you, so that you are not able to carry the tithe, when the LORD your God blesses you, because the place is too far from you, which the LORD your God chooses, to set his name there, (25) then you shall turn it into money and bind up the money in your hand and go to the place that the LORD your God chooses (26) and spend the money for whatever you desire—oxen or sheep or wine or strong drink, whatever your appetite craves. And you shall eat there before the LORD your God and rejoice, you and your household.

Traditionally, the celebration with the second tithe was done in the context of the Feast of Tabernacles (Heb. Sukkoth). And this was not only done in the past, but it will also be done in the future; Zechariah prophesied that in the Millennium the nations will have the obligation of going to Jerusalem to worship the Lord (Zech. 14:16-17).

Besides celebrating with the second tithe along with the family, they also had to invite the Levites, since they were dedicated to God and therefore didn’t have any agricultural goods to celebrate with.
(Deut. 14:27) And you shall not neglect the Levite who is within your towns, for he has no portion or inheritance with you.

b. MAASERANI (to share in the local community)
Every three years, this second tithe had to be set apart to share it locally with certain special people:
(Deut. 14:28-29) At the end of every three years you shall bring out all the tithe of your produce in the same year and lay it up within your towns. (29) And the Levite, because he has no portion or inheritance with you, and the sojourner, the fatherless, and the widow, who are within your towns, shall come and eat and be filled, that the LORD your God may bless you in all the work of your hands that you do.

Every three years, the tithe was set apart for those who generally would not work the land, and therefore didn’t not enjoy of its fruit. Among them were the Levites, the widows, the orphans and the foreigners (these last ones were because they couldn’t own land).
(Deut. 26:12) When you have finished paying all the tithe of your produce in the third year, which is the year of tithing, giving it to the Levite, the sojourner, the fatherless, and the widow, so that they may eat within your towns and be filled

This second tithe was not meant for the celebration in Jerusalem, but to help the Levites, foreigners, widows and orphans to celebrate every three years, in their own communities.



More lessons on Deuteronomy: DEVARIM (Deut.)