Deuteronomy 13 COMMENTARY (Pulpit)

Deuteronomy 13
Pulpit Commentary
If there arise among you a prophet, or a dreamer of dreams, and giveth thee a sign or a wonder,
Verse 1. - A prophet (nabhi, נבָיִא); one who speaks from God, an interpreter to men of what God reveals or suggests to him (cf. for the meaning of the word, Exodus 7:1 with Exodus 4:16; also Jeremiah 15:19). Dreamer of dreams. Not by visions or immediate suggestion only, but also by means of dreams, did God communicate with men (cf. Numbers 12:6). The case supposed here, then, is that of one pretending to have had revelations from God through those media by which God was pleased to convey his will to men (cf. Hem., 'Iliad,' h 62 - 'Ἀλλ ἄγε δή τινα μάντιν ἐρείομεν....
η} καὶ ὀνειροπόλον καὶ γάρ τ᾿ ὄναρ ἔκ Διός ἐστιν Sign or a wonder. A sign was some event foretold by the prophet, and the occurrence of which was a token that something else which he announced would happen or should be done (cf. 1 Samuel 2:34; 1 Samuel 10:7-9; 2 Kings 19:29; Isaiah 7:11-14; Isaiah 38:7; Mark 13:4, etc.). A wonder was a miracle, the performance of which gave proof of a Divine commission (cf. Deuteronomy 4:24). These signs, it is assumed, should come to pass; nevertheless, the people were not to listen to the man who gave them to go after other gods. The mere fact that he sought to persuade them to forsake the worship of Jehovah was sufficient to prove him an impostor; for how could one who sought to seduce the people from God be sent by God? The sign which was given to authenticate such a message could only be one of those "lying signs and wonders after the working of Satan," by which his emissaries try to deceive and mislead; and was permitted by God only that their fidelity to him might be tested and proved. They had already received God's message; they had his word; and no teaching which contravened that, however apparently authenticated, could be from him, or was to he accepted by them (cf. Jeremiah 29:8; Galatians 1:8, 9; 1 John 3:1, etc.). Come what might, they were to walk after Jehovah their God, and keep his commandments, and obey his voice, and serve him; and cleave unto him. The false prophet, as a public enemy and a suborner of treason against the King of Israel, was to be put to death; and so the evil would be put away from among them.
And the sign or the wonder come to pass, whereof he spake unto thee, saying, Let us go after other gods, which thou hast not known, and let us serve them;
Thou shalt not hearken unto the words of that prophet, or that dreamer of dreams: for the LORD your God proveth you, to know whether ye love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul.
Ye shall walk after the LORD your God, and fear him, and keep his commandments, and obey his voice, and ye shall serve him, and cleave unto him.
And that prophet, or that dreamer of dreams, shall be put to death; because he hath spoken to turn you away from the LORD your God, which brought you out of the land of Egypt, and redeemed you out of the house of bondage, to thrust thee out of the way which the LORD thy God commanded thee to walk in. So shalt thou put the evil away from the midst of thee.
If thy brother, the son of thy mother, or thy son, or thy daughter, or the wife of thy bosom, or thy friend, which is as thine own soul, entice thee secretly, saying, Let us go and serve other gods, which thou hast not known, thou, nor thy fathers;
Verses 6-11. - A second case supposed is that of temptation to apostasy proceeding from some near relative or intimate friend. Not only was this to be resisted, but no consideration of affection or bend of friendship was to be allowed to interfere with the stern sentence which doomed the tempter to death; on the contrary, the person tempted was to be the first to lay hands on the tempter and put him to death. This was to be done by stoning, and the person he had tried to seduce was to cast the first stone. Verse 6. - Thy brother, the son of thy mother; thy full brother, allied to thee by the closest fraternal tie. The wife of thy Bosom; the object of thy tenderest affection, Whom it is thine to protect and cherish (cf. Deuteronomy 28:54, 56; Micah 7:5). Thy friend, which is as thine own soul; i.e. whom thou lovest as thyself. The word translated "friend" (רֵעַ, for רֵעֶהֹ) is from a verb which signifies to delight in, and conveys primarily the idea not merely of a companion, but of a friend in whom one delights; and the definition of true friendship is the loving another as one's self (Aristot., 'Eth. Nic.,' 9:5). As commonly used, however, the word designates any one with whom one has any dealing or intercourse; and so our Lord expounds it (Luke 10:29, etc.). Secretly. If the temptation was in private, and so known only to thyself.
Namely, of the gods of the people which are round about you, nigh unto thee, or far off from thee, from the one end of the earth even unto the other end of the earth;
Thou shalt not consent unto him, nor hearken unto him; neither shall thine eye pity him, neither shalt thou spare, neither shalt thou conceal him:
Verse 8. - Pity, spare, conceal. The accumulation of terms serves to make the injunction more solemn and impressive.
But thou shalt surely kill him; thine hand shall be first upon him to put him to death, and afterwards the hand of all the people.
And thou shalt stone him with stones, that he die; because he hath sought to thrust thee away from the LORD thy God, which brought thee out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage.
And all Israel shall hear, and fear, and shall do no more any such wickedness as this is among you.
Verse 11. - The penalty publicly inflicted, and therefore generally known, would have a deterrent effect on the community, so as to prevent the recurrence of such evil.
If thou shalt hear say in one of thy cities, which the LORD thy God hath given thee to dwell there, saying,
Verses 12-18. - A third ease supposed is that of the inhabitants of a city being seduced by wicked men into idolatry. In this case inquiry was to be made as to the fact; and if it was found to be so, the inhabitants of that city were to be put to the sword, all their property was to be burnt, and the city itself reduced to a heap; so should the anger of the Lord be averted from Israel, and he would do them good. Verse 12. - Hear in one of thy cities. The Hebrew phrase, "to hear in" (שָׁמַע בְּ). has sometimes the meaning of to overhear, as in Genesis 27:5; 1 Samuel 17:28; Job 15:8; sometimes it means simply to hear, as in 2 Samuel 19:36 [35]; in Job 26:14, it has the force of to hear of or concerning, though some think this questionable. This latter is apparently the meaning here: If thou hear concerning any of thy cities, etc. Baying. This introduces what is heard.
Certain men, the children of Belial, are gone out from among you, and have withdrawn the inhabitants of their city, saying, Let us go and serve other gods, which ye have not known;
Verse 13. - Men, the children of Belial; the sons of worthlessness, utterly worthless persons. Beli ya'al (a compound of בְלִי, not, and עָל, to ascend, to have worth, to profit) means primarily that which is low, hence worthlessness, naughtiness, wickedness. In Deuteronomy 15:9, Belial is rendered in the Authorized Version as an adjective, "wicked," and also in Nehemiah 1:11. In Psalm 18:4, it is rendered by "ungodly men." Most commonly it is treated as a proper name. But in all places the proper meaning of the word might be retained. The Hebrews described an object, of which any quality was predominantly characteristic, as the son of that quality. Are gone out from among you; have gone forth from the midst of you, i.e. have risen up among yourselves. Withdraw. The verb here is the same as that rendered by "thrust," in vers. 5 and 10. It conveys the idea of drawing away with some degree of force, not mere easy seduction, but impulsion by strong persuasion.
Then shalt thou inquire, and make search, and ask diligently; and, behold, if it be truth, and the thing certain, that such abomination is wrought among you;
Verses 14, 15. - After due inquiry, if it was found that such a thing had really been done in any of their cities, the extreme penalty was to be inflicted on the city and all its inhabitants - all were to be destroyed. Smite... with the edge of the sword; literally, with the mouth of the sword, as biting and devouring like a ravenous beast - a phrase for utter destruction.
Thou shalt surely smite the inhabitants of that city with the edge of the sword, destroying it utterly, and all that is therein, and the cattle thereof, with the edge of the sword.
And thou shalt gather all the spoil of it into the midst of the street thereof, and shalt burn with fire the city, and all the spoil thereof every whit, for the LORD thy God: and it shall be an heap for ever; it shall not be built again.
Verse 16. - All the spoil thereof every whir, for the Lord thy God; rather, all the spoil [booty] thereof as a whole offering unto Jehovah thy God; it was to be wholly devoted to God, and as such to be consumed by fire. "It was a destruction, and not properly an offering. Hence the author selects neither עֹולָה nor חַטָּאת, but כָּליִל, whole, whole offering (Deuteronomy 33. '10; Leviticus 6:15 [22]), which word, in the law concerning offering, is no technical designation of any particular kind of offering. The rendering omnino is untenable" (Knobel). The city was to be made a ruin, never to be rebuilt; and thus was to be treated the same as a heathen, idolatrous city might be (cf. Numbers 21:3).

And there shall cleave nought of the cursed thing to thine hand: that the LORD may turn from the fierceness of his anger, and shew thee mercy, and have compassion upon thee, and multiply thee, as he hath sworn unto thy fathers;
When thou shalt hearken to the voice of the LORD thy God, to keep all his commandments which I command thee this day, to do that which is right in the eyes of the LORD thy God.
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