Civil and Social Legislation

Discovery for Teachers

Civil and Social Legislation



Deuteronomy 16:1 through 26:19

“And the Lord hath avouched thee this day to be his peculiar people, as he hath promised thee, and that thou shouldest keep all his commandments.” (Deuteronomy 26:18)


It had been forty years since God had given the first covenant to Moses at Mount Sinai. In this portion of Deuteronomy, Moses reiterated the Covenant between God and Israel to a new generation of Israelites. He explained the Passover, the Feast of Weeks, and the Feast of Tabernacles. He then commanded the appointment of officers and judges, and explained the procedure of judgment.

Moses went on to give rules for future kings of Israel, outlined the offerings for the priest, and emphasized the importance of shunning wicked pagan ways. Next came the prophecy of a prophet to come who would speak the words of God, and then a warning was given about false prophets.

In chapter 19, Moses established cities of refuge for those who had shed a man’s blood, and he gave more rules regarding courts of law. Chapter 20 deals with rules for the military. Chapter 21 deals with unsolved murders and laws concerning captive wives and laws about rebellious sons. Chapters 22-25 explain miscellaneous laws including sexual conduct and marriage. Chapter 26 explains offerings of first fruits and tithes.

It was important that the Israelites completely knew and understood the law because not only did adherence to the law assure respect and harmony among the people, but also God’s blessing or judgment depended on the people’s obedience to the law. It dealt with life or death matters, physically as well as spiritually.


  1. Deuteronomy 24:7 indicates that man’s value has no monetary price. What principle concerning the treatment of others can you infer from this law?

    God puts a premium on human beings. Each person deserves respect, kindness, and humane treatment. You might want to discuss proper and improper ways to treat others: children, the homeless, elderly, physically disabled, etc.
  2. God designated a stiff penalty for false witnesses. (Deuteronomy 19:16-19) What do you think He feels about those who speak words damaging to someone else’s reputation?

    God hates the spreading of discord, and He will not overlook malicious gossip among His people. Ask your group to name things that should be considered before speaking of another. These may include: Is it kind? Is it true? Is it helpful? Is it necessary? What might be the potential outcome?
  3. God was against cruel and inhumane punishment. Deuteronomy 25:2-3 limits the number of lashes a condemned person could receive. What was the number? What principle is indicated for parents or persons in authority?

    The condemned were to receive no more than 40 stripes. Today those in authority should remember forgiveness and mercy and that the punishment should fit the crime. Proactive discipline is always better than reacting after the fact. Our purpose should be to improve behavior.
  4. What principle regarding another person’s property is developed in Deuteronomy 22:1-4? What should we do if we cause damage?

    God wants us to respect the property of others and treat it with care. If we damage someone’s property we should be quick to restore or replace the item.
  5. Honesty is a universal and ageless law. Guidelines are given to us in Deuteronomy 25:13-14. How can we apply this principle today?

    We must be honest in all our dealings. Bring out that whether it is in our business dealings, interaction with the IRS, or a matter as simple as being undercharged at the grocery store, we will always be blessed if we are careful in these matters.

    Honesty can also be a testimony to onlookers and may provide an open door for a witness for Christ. Some in your class may be willing to share examples from their knowledge or personal experience of when honesty provided an opportunity along this line.
  6. Deuteronomy 23:21-23 addresses the subject of vows. What two principles are brought out in these verses? What might be a better alternative than making a vow?

    The principles are:

    1) A vow that has been made must be paid, and
    2) It is not a sin to refrain from making a vow.

    A better alternative in most cases is consecration. This is also a promise to God, but it leaves the choice of payment in God’s hands. We tell God we are willing to go or do if He should ask us. Whatever He asks us we will do — but the choice is His.
  7. What godly principle does Deuteronomy 24:19-21 reinforce?

    God wants us to have compassion on the poor. During harvest the reapers were to leave some of the crop behind for the poor people. The poor were expected to work for what they ate by gleaning what was left behind. We should be quick to see a legitimate need and show compassion as well.

    You could have your class generate a list of ways this could be done. Some options: Support your church’s benevolent outreaches, give unneeded items to organizations that help the poor or homeless, volunteer time at this type of organization, ask your pastor if there are needs he is aware of that you could help out with.
  8. Deuteronomy 17:1 says that the people were not to offer unto God a blemished sacrifice. In Deuteronomy 26, God asked for an offering of the firstfruits of the crops. What does this tell of God’s expectations from His people?

    God wants our best. Whether it is our time, our energy, or our love, He wants to be first in our lives. He wants to be the center, the hub. Other things can then fit around Him. The class may want to give examples.
  9. God concluded the final chapter in this week’s text by commissioning the people to be holy and to keep His commandments. He called them to be a peculiar people. Describe what God meant by “peculiar.” How should we fit that profile today?

    In this usage, the word “peculiar” did not mean odd, but rather God’s very own, special, set-apart people. He considered His followers a treasure. We can be God’s special treasures as we serve Him and keep ourselves separate from the sins of the world. Discussion can involve ways to do this.


The precepts and direction given in these chapters are not only important from a historical perspective, but also contain valuable and essential advice for us today. Essentially, if we want to be one of God’s people, we too, have to follow all His commandments.