Explanatory Notes on the Whole Bible, by John Wesley, [1754-65], at sacred-texts.com
deu 17:1Bullock or sheep - Either greater or smaller sacrifices, all being comprehended under the two most eminent kinds.
deu 17:2ln transressing his covenant - That is, in idolatry, as it is explained Deu 17:3, which is called a transgression of God's covenant made with Israel, both because it is a breach of their faith given to God and of that law which they covenanted to keep; and because it is a dissolution of that matrimonial covenant with God, a renouncing of God and his worship, and a chusing other Gods.
deu 17:3The host of heaven - Those glorious creatures, which are to be admired as the wonderful works of God, but not to be set up in God's stead. By condemning the most specious of all idolaters, he intimates, how absurd a thing it is to worship stocks and stones, the works of men's hands. I have not commanded - That is, I have forbidden. Such negative expressions are emphatical.
deu 17:6Witnesses - Namely, credible and competent witnesses. The Jews rejected the testimonies of children, women, servants, familiar friends or enemies, persons of dissolute lives or evil fame.
deu 17:7First upon him - God thus ordered it, for the caution of witnesses, that, if they had thro' malice or wrath accused him falsely, they might now be afraid to imbrue their hands in innocent blood; and for the security and satisfaction of the people in the execution of this punishment.
deu 17:8For thee - He speaks to the inferior magistrates, who were erected in several cities. If thou hast not skill to determine, between blood and blood - That is, in capital causes. Between plea and plea - In civil causes, about words or estates. Between stroke and stroke - In criminal causes, concerning blows, or wounds inflicted by one man upon another. Matters of controversy - That is, such things being doubtful, and the magistrates divided in their opinions about it. Chuse - Namely to set up his tabernacle, or temple there; because there was the abode, both of their sanhedrim, which was constituted of priests and civil magistrates, and of the high - priests, who were to consult God by Urim, in matters which could not be decided otherwise.
deu 17:9Unto the priests - That is, unto the great council, which consisted chiefly of the priests and Levites, as being the best expositors of the laws of God, by which all those controversies were to be decided. And the high - priest was commonly one of that number, understood here under the priests, whereof be was the chief. The judge - Probably the high - priest, to whom it belonged to determine, some at least, of those controversies, and to expound the law of God. And he may be distinctly named, tho' he be one of the priests, because of his eminency, and to shew that amongst the priests, he especially was to be consulted in such cases. The sentence of judgment - Heb. The word, or matter of judgement, that is, the true state of the cause, and what judgment or sentence ought to be given in it.
deu 17:10Thou - Thou shalt pass sentence: he speaks to the inferior magistrates; who were to give sentence, and came hither to be advised about it.
deu 17:11Thou shalt do - In particular suits between man and man, altho' the judge be hereby confined to his rule in giving the sentence, yet it seems but fit and reasonable that people should be bound simply to acquiesce in the sentence of their last and highest judge, or else there would have been no end of strife.
deu 17:12Do presumptuously - That will proudly and obstinately oppose the sentence given against him. The evil - The evil thing, that scandal, that pernicious example.
deu 17:13When thou shalt - He only foresees and foretells what they would do, but doth not approve of it. Yea when they did this thing for this very reason, he declares his utter dislike of it, Sa1 8:7.
deu 17:15Thy God shall chuse - Approve of, or appoint. So it was in Saul and David. God reserved to himself the nomination both of the family, and of the person. Thy brethren - Of the same nation and religion; because such a person was most likely to maintain true religion, and to rule with righteousness, gentleness, and kindness to his subjects; and that he might be a fit type of Christ their supreme king, who was to be one of their brethren.
deu 17:16He shall not multiply horses - Tho' he might have horses for his own use, yet he was not to have many horses for his officers and guard, much less for war, lest he should trust in them. The multiplying horses is also forbidden, lest it should raise too great a correspondence with Egypt which furnished Canaan with them. The Lord hath said - The Lord hath now said to me, and I by his command declare it to you. Ye shall no more return that way - Into Egypt, lest ye be again infected with her idolatries.
deu 17:17Turn away - From God and his law.
deu 17:18He shall write - With his own hand, as the Jews say. Out of that - Out of the original, which was carefully kept by the priests in the sanctuary, that it might be a perfect copy, and that it might have the greater influence upon him, coming to him as from the hand and presence of God.
deu 17:19All the days of his life - 'Tis not enough to have Bibles, but we must use them, yea, use them daily. Our souls must have constant meals of that manna, which if well digested, will afford them true nourishment and strength.
deu 17:20If his heart be not lifted up - He intimates, that the scriptures diligently read, are a powerful means to keep him humble, because they shew him in that, tho' a king, he is subject to an higher monarch, to whom he must give an account of all his administrations, and receive from him his sentence agreeable to their quality, which is sufficient to abate the pride of the haughtiest person in the world.