May 8, 2022 – Deuteronomy 19 – 21

Lesson Date: May 8, 2022

Focal Scripture Passage: Deuteronomy 19:2-6, 10-21; 21:15-21

AIM: To lead students to describe the legal guidelines God gave the Israelites and to discuss how those guidelines apply to our society, and then to pray for those who make and enforce our laws.


Before class: Read the notes on Deuteronomy 19 – 21 found in the Sunday School Teacher Book.  Collect some news stories about criminals who “got off” on technicalities and others who received very light sentences for serious crimes.  Look for any stories that tell about injustice, such as school or workplace shootings, in which innocent people were hurt or killed.  Make a list of our local, state, and national elected officials and law enforcement agencies.  Make enough copies to give to everyone at the end of class.


INTRODUCTION (Create Learning Readiness): Tell the class about some of the news stories you have collected, in which criminals received light or no punishment for their crimes.  Ask: “How does it make you feel when you hear such things?” (upset that justice was not carried out).

Stress the fact that injustice is common in our world.  Innocent persons often suffer at the hands of criminals, and criminals often escape serious punishment.  Public figures and very wealthy people often get off with light punishment.  True guilt or innocence doesn’t seem to matter as much as having a prominent and highly paid lawyer!

Tell the students it has been said that swift and certain punishment is the best deterrent to crime.  Ask: “Do we see swift and certain punishment in our legal system today?” (not usually).  Sadly, our legal system is often slow and sometimes fails to punish the truly guilty.

Ask: “If God were to create a justice system, what would it be like?”  Tell the class today’s lesson from Deuteronomy 19 and 21 will answer that question.  As we study those chapters, we will learn about God’s guidelines for Israel, and discuss how those guidelines apply to us today.  The title of today’s lesson is Justice.  Write the word “Justice” as a heading across the top of the white board or chalkboard and then number from 1 to 6 below that heading.



  1. Review.
    • Remind the class that the book of Deuteronomy consists of sermons Moses preached to the Israelites shortly before they entered the Promised Land.
    • Ask: “What was last week’s lesson about?” (things that are abominations to God, and His promise to send a Savior).
    • Ask if anyone got rid of any abominable things this week.
  2. No Innocent Person Should Suffer.
    • Ask a volunteer to read Deuteronomy 19:2-6.
    • Ask: “How many cities were to be set apart?” (three).
    • Ask: “Where were they to be located?” (they were to be evenly spaced throughout Israel so any Israelite could quickly reach one).
    • Ask: “Who was supposed to flee to those cities?” (an Israelite who accidentally killed another person).
    • Explain the following:
      • In ancient times it was common if someone was killed for the nearest relative (the avenger of blood) to personally pursue and execute the killer.
      • These cities of refuge were set apart to provide protection for anyone who accidentally killed someone else.
    • Ask a volunteer to read Deuteronomy 19:10.
    • Ask: “What kind of blood did God not want to be shed?” (innocent blood).
    • Beside the number 1 on the board write, “No Innocent Person Should Suffer.”
    • Ask: “Do innocent persons suffer today?” (yes; occasionally an innocent person is wrongly convicted of a crime, but more often innocent people suffer harm and abuse at the hands of guilty criminals).
    • Summarize: God’s justice system clearly decreed that no innocent person should suffer.
  3. Murderers Deserve Death.
    • Read Deuteronomy 19:11-13.
    • Ask: “What were the Israelites to do with murderers, those who plan and carry out the death of another person?” (turn them over to the avenger of blood so they would be executed).
    • Beside the number 2 on the board write, “Murderers Deserve Death.”
    • Ask: “Do modern people still believe that?” (some do, but many do not).
    • Tell the class that years ago Great Britain promised to hand over Osama bin Laden to the U.S. if they caught him, but only on the condition that we would not execute him; the same thing has happened with other murderers apprehended by other countries.
    • Ask: “Do most murderers in America today face death for their crime?” (no).
    • Summarize: God’s justice system clearly decreed that murderers deserved death.
  4. Just Behavior.
    • Ask a volunteer to read Deuteronomy 19:14-15.
    • Explain the following:
      • A “landmark” was a property line marker.
      • Moving a property line marker amounted to stealing someone else’s property.
      • For that reason, God forbid the Israelites from removing a neighbor’s landmark.
      • God required two or three witnesses, in order to convict someone of a crime.
      • This prevented an innocent person from being “framed” based on the false testimony of just one person.
    • Tell the students that just behavior, such as preserving property rights and rendering just verdicts based upon facts are important to God.
    • Beside the number 3 on the board write, “Just Behavior.”
    • Ask: “Are these standards of justice still observed today?” (often they are, but sometimes governments use laws of eminent domain to seize private property).
    • Summarize: God’s justice system clearly decreed that the Israelites practice just behavior.
  5. No False Testimony.
    • Read Deuteronomy 19:16-18.
    • Ask: “What problem of justice is named in these verses?” (a witness giving false testimony).
    • Ask: “When it was determined that the witness had given false testimony, what was to be done to him?” (he was to receive the same punishment he sought to inflict upon the innocent person).
    • Tell the class this is serious punishment for false testimony!
    • Beside the number 4 on the board write, “No False Testimony.”
    • Ask: “How would such a standard affect our justice system today?” (people would be scared to present false testimony).
    • Summarize: God’s justice system clearly decreed that those who give false testimony were to be severely punished.
  6. Inheritance Rules.
    • Tell the class that we are skipping over chapter 20, which contains laws relating to warfare, including those who were exempt from going to war.
    • Read Deuteronomy 21:15-17.
    • Explain the following:
      • Polygamy was common in ancient times, but it was never ordained or approved by God.
      • It was a fact of life back then, as it still is in some places today.
      • Ancient inheritance rules required that the firstborn son receive twice as much as any of the other sons.
      • These verses prohibited favoritism: a father choosing to give the firstborn inheritance to the oldest child of his favorite wife.
      • God wanted the firstborn son treated justly, regardless of the feeling of the father toward that son’s mother.
    • Beside the number 5 on the board write, “Inheritance Rules.”
    • Ask: “Are inheritance rules ever violated today?” (yes, wills are often contested, and estates are often tied up in senseless litigation).
    • Summarize: God’s justice system clearly decreed that inheritance rules were to be obeyed.
  7. Children are to be Obedient.
    • Ask a volunteer to read Deuteronomy 21:18-21.
    • Ask: “What were parents to do with a stubbornly disobedient son?” (take him to the city elders and tell them he was rebellious and wicked).
    • Ask: “What was to happen to the disobedient son?” (he was to be stoned to death).
    • Ask: “Why do you think God would demand such serious punishment?” (if a child does not learn respect for authority in the home, he will have no respect for authority in any other realm of life).
    • Tell the class that disobedience at home leads to disorder and discord in society; in fact, most crime can be traced back to fatherlessness.
    • Beside the number 6 on the board write, “Children Are To Be Obedient.”
    • Tell the students that God wanted the Israelites to put evil away from them and learn the serious consequences of disobedience.
    • Ask: “Is disobedience in children a problem today?” (yes).
    • Explain that God views obedience to parents as a very serious matter (Eph. 6:1-3; Col. 3:20), but New Testament Christians have never been told to execute their children.
    • Summarize: God’s justice system clearly decreed that children were to be obedient to their parents.


PERSONAL APPLICATION: Using the list on the board, review the six things the students have discovered about Israel’s justice system.  After each point, ask if that legal guideline still applies in our modern society.  Ask if our modern world would be different if we followed the same guidelines; and if so, how it would be different.

Remind the class that God gave these laws to Israel, which was to be a theocracy governed by God’s laws.  Ask: “In our modern world, who is responsible for making laws?” (our elected lawmakers).  Ask: “Who is responsible for enforcing our laws?” (elected officials and law enforcement personnel).

Read 1 Timothy 2:1-2.  Tell the students the Bible makes it clear we have an obligation to pray for those who make and enforce our laws.

Give everyone a list of elected officials and law enforcement agencies.  Explain that since elected officials play such an important role in the establishment of our laws, it is vitally important that Christian citizens exercise their right to vote.  Every citizen should vote, but it is especially important for Christian people to try to elect those who will uphold godly standards.

Tell the students we should also pray for our law enforcement personnel, agencies, and judges.  We should pray that innocent people will be protected and guilty people will be punished, knowing that one day the Lord Jesus Christ will impose a perfect justice system under His rule.  Voice a closing prayer for our elected officials and law enforcement personnel.


CONCLUSION: Ask everyone to memorize 1 Timothy 2:1-2.  Ask them to pray daily for our elected lawmakers and our law enforcement personnel.  Tell them to look for examples of injustice in the legal system as they watch or read the news this week, and to pray for those involved.  Tell them to thank God that one day He will institute perfect justice.

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