November 9, 2015: Daily Bible Reading with Commentary for Deuteronomy 13-15
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Context: Chapter 13 concerns false prophets and how to deal with them. False prophets may predict events that actually happen! But no matter how many events they predict, if they do not acknowledge the Lord as God, and try to lead the people away from the Lord, they are false prophets. The Lord instructs that these individuals are to be removed from society. It may sound harsh, but the Lord was looking out for the best interests of His people. One false prophet can inspire another person to walk away from the Lord, and that person inspires another and so on. It spreads like a disease. Chapter 14 again examines the dietary laws given by the Lord, specifying what animals the Israelites are permitted to eat. The Israelites are also given instructions on tithing. The seventh year was already an important year for the Israelites. It was the year they were not to work the land. It was also the year that they were to set their slaves free and forgive debts. Interestingly, they were not simply to set their slaves free, but also provide them with the means to start their lives over.
World History: The dietary restrictions given by the Lord were not arbitrary, rather they were given in order to help protect the Israelites from diseases. In the Middle Ages, specifically the 1300s, the Black Death (bubonic plague) decimated the population. Although the truth is unclear, history says that compared to the rest of the population, Jews were less affected by this disease. When looking at the strict dietary and cleanliness habits the Jews followed it is understandable how they could have been less affected by the disease, especially compared to the habits of the rest of Europe!