SynopsisIn this passage, Moses outlines rules for situations where the judges—discussed in Deuteronomy 16:18–20—are not able to decide cases, because they’re too difficult.
In this situation the case is to be brought to the Levites, who are ministering at the Tabernacle/Temple. They will provide a verdict for the case. When this happens, Moses warns the Israelites that they are to be very careful to follow the judgments of the Levites—as, indeed they are to be careful to follow the verdicts of “regular” judges—and be careful not to “turn aside from what they tell you, to the right or to the left” (verse 11).
Anyone who “shows contempt” for a judge or a priest is to be put to death:
The man who shows contempt for the judge or for the priest who stands ministering there to the LORD your God must be put to death. You must purge the evil from Israel. All the people will hear and be afraid, and will not be contemptuous again. (verses 12–13)
ThoughtsI don’t really have much to say about this passage; seems pretty straightforward.
Regardless of how we might feel about the death penalty, it certainly appears in the Old Testament laws—very often in respect to laws that have to do with blasphemy against the LORD, directly or indirectly. Treating the LORD with the proper respect is probably the most important thing the Israelites were commanded to do. (Actually… not “probably,” definitely. The most important commandment is to love the LORD with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength. See, for example, Mark 12:28–34.)