Deuteronomy 13

 

 

   IDOLATERS AND ENTICERS TO IDOLATRY TO BE PUT TO DEATH.

                                                     (vs. 1-18)

 

 

                                                   Three Cases                       

 

First Case (vs. 1-5) - The case supposed here is that of one professing to have

supernatural intelligence, who should, by giving a sign or a wonder, endeavor to draw

away the people to idolatry. Such a one was to be put to death.

 

1 “If there arise among you a prophet, or a dreamer of dreams, and giveth thee

a sign or a wonder,  2 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;  3 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.  4 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.  5 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.”  A prophet (nabhi, ayib;n); one who speaks from God, an

interpreter to men of what God reveals or suggests to him (for the meaning of the word,

compare Exodus 4:16 with 7:1; 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 (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.  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 (compare I Samuel 2:34; 10:7-9; II Kings 19:29; Isaiah 7:11-14; 38:7;

Mark 13:4). (The Gospel of John is full of  examples of Jesus Christ being a shmei~on

saemeion a sign- that He was truly THE SON OF GOD!   A wonder was a miracle,

the performance of which gave proof of a Divine commission. 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” (II Thessalonians 2:9),

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

(compare Jeremiah 29:8; Galatians 1:8-9; I John 3:1). 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 (v.4).  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.

 

 

Second Case (vs. 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.

 

6 “If thy brother, the son of thy mother,” - thy full brother, allied to thee by the

closest fraternal tie -“or thy son, or thy daughter, or the wife of thy bosom,” - 

the object of thy tenderest affection, whom it is thine to protect and cherish (compare

ch.28:54, 56; Micah 7:5) -“or thy friend, which is as thine own soul,” -  i.e. whom

thou lovest as thyself. The word translated “friend” (["re, for ho[,re) 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. As commonly used, however, the word designates any one with

whom one has any dealing or relationship; and so our Lord expounds it (Luke 10:29-36)

entice thee  secretly,” -  if the temptation was in private, and so known only

 to thyself - “saying, Let us go and serve other gods, which thou hast not known,

thou, nor thy fathers;  7 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;”

 

8 “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:”  Pity, spare,

conceal - The accumulation of terms serves to make the injunction more solemn and

impressive.  9 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. 10 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.”

 

11 “And all Israel shall hear, and fear, and shall do no more any such

wickedness as this is among you.” 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.  (The modern secularist, described in the

above verses as “seeking to turn their fellow man from God” often are

the main advocates of there being no relationship between capital punishment

and a deterrence on crime BUT THIS FLIES IN THE FACE OF WHAT GOD

HAS COMMANDED.  GOD SAYS IT WILL DETER CRIME!  In the 21st

Century, we are paying the price and the JUDGMENT OF GOD IS NOT FAR

BEHIND! – CY – 2012)

 

 

Third Case (vs. 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.

 

12 “If thou shalt hear say in one of thy cities,” -  The Hebrew phrase, “to hear in”

(B][m"v;). has sometimes the meaning of to overhear, as in Genesis 27:5; I Samuel

17:28; Job15:8; sometimes it means simply to hear, as in II Samuel 19:35; 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 - “which the LORD thy God hath given thee to dwell there,

saying, - This introduces what is heard.

 

13 “Certain men, the children of Belial,” -  the sons of worthlessness, utterly

worthless persons. Beli yaal (a compound of ylib], not, and l[;, to ascend, to

have worth, to profit) means primarily that which is low, hence worthlessness,

 naughtiness, wickedness. In ch. 15:9, Belial is rendered in the Authorized Version

as an adjective, “wicked.”  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 –

and have withdrawn” -  The verb here is the same as that rendered by “thrust,”

 in vs. 5 and 10. It conveys the idea of drawing away with some degree of force,

not mere easy seduction, but impulsion by strong persuasion -“the inhabitants

of their city, saying, Let us go and serve other gods, which ye have not known;”

The spiritual condition of a city or state should be of interest to the whole community.

Immediate action should be taken to reduce evil in the community. No longer, indeed,

with carnal weapons. We have no warrant to proceed by fire and sword. A better way

is open to us of reducing evil than by judicial slaughter. The wickedness of a city is

doubtless a token of God’s wrath resting upon it. If it repent not, His

judgments will fall upon it with all the old severity. But it does not lie with

us to give effect to these judgments; God keeps them in His own hand. Our

work, meanwhile, is the happier one of seeking the reduction of evil by

spiritual means — by reasoning, by persuasion, by preaching of the truth,

by substituting good influences for bad ones. These weapons are adequate

to the work for which they are given, and ought to be plied to the utmost. Places differ

in spiritual character. There are those of which it may be said — as of Pergamos,

where Satan’s seat is” (Revelation 2:13) — that in them evil has a kind of

stronghold.  Against these, by preference, the assaults of God’s servants should be

directed. The apostles chose for their attacks the leading centers of pagan influence.

 

14 “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;  15 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.”  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.

 

16 “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:” -  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 hl;w[Onor taF;j", but lyilK;,

whole, whole offering (ch.33:10; Leviticus 6:15, 22), which word, in the law

concerning offering, is no technical designation of any particular kind of

offering. 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 (compare

Numbers 21:3) - “and it shall be an heap for ever; it shall not be built again.”

 

17 “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;  18 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.”

 

 

      Temptations to Depart from God to be Resisted at All Costs (vs. 1-18)

 

In the preceding chapter we had directions with regard to the worship of the true God.

Here Israel is told what to do in case of temptation arising to worship false gods.

The chapter in its entirety deals with this one topic. From it we might open up two main

themes:

 

o       the treatment of error;

o       the test of truth.

 

For the test of truth, we reserve till we come to ch.18:21.  The treatment of error

we deal with now. In doing this we must remember that Moses is not only the

expounder of religious duty, but also of a judicial polity. He is not only the prophet,

but the legislator. Israel’s constitution as a nation was that of a Theocratic Church-State.

It is supposed, in this chapter, that temptations to depart from God may come:

 

v     from a professed prophet or wonder-worker, or

v     they may arise from the nearest relative or besom friend, or

v     they may come from a town or city.

 

In either ease, the infection is to be “stamped out” at once. Any enticement

to idolatry, come whence it may, is not to be tolerated for a moment. The

wonder-worker is to be put to death; the friend is to be slain; the city is to

be destroyed. All this may seem harsh. Perhaps it is not so harsh as it

seems. There may be occasions when severity is the greatest kindness, and

when tolerance would be the greatest unkindness. In the early Christian

Church, the sudden death of Ananias and Sapphira seemed severe (Acts 5:1-11).

But the instantaneous cutting out of the canker of hypocrisy was, as it were, the

surgical operation which only would save the Church. So here. There are three

principles which were at stake in such cases as those here supposed:

 

Ø      The supremacy of Jehovah was the key-stone of their national

constitution. Consequently, the attempt to draw Israel away after

other gods was treason to the State, and must be dealt with

accordingly.

 

Ø      The aim of Jehovah in choosing Israel was to separate to Himself a

people for His Name. Hence if they did not forcibly repress

idolatrous worship, the very reason of their separate existence as

a people would cease.

 

Ø      Since the very continuance of Israel depended on the continuance of

their raison detre, for them not to stamp out idolatry would be to

blot out themselves.

 

 

                                                The Church’s Duty

 

Israel’s place in the world is now filled by the Church of God.  The Church is set for

the maintenance and defense in the world of the great truths of our most holy faith,

and she is “earnestly to contend for the faith once (for all) delivered to the saints”

(Jude 1:3).   This Church is to be a self-governing body, having within itself all the

powers and authorities for self-regulation and discipline. The Epistles to the seven

Churches in Revelation 2-3 show this abundantly.  The Church is to be very jealous in

guarding the glorious gospel of the blessed God. Amid all changes of public

sentiment and opinion on minor points, she is to hold fast the cardinal truth, that no

advance of public thought can warrant her in surrendering the one vital truth on which

her existence depends, without which she would have had no existence, nor

could show any reason why she should continue to exist.  This one truth, which

she is to conserve intact age after age, is analogous to the one which Israel was

so sacredly to guard. Israel was to keep watch over the truthJEHOVAH,

HE IS THE LORD!   The Church has now to guard the doctrine that

JESUS CHRIST IS THE ONLY BEGOTTEN SON OF THE LIVING GOD!

(see I John 4:1-4). The Church might as well cease to be as let that truth go. It is

the doctrine which is according to godliness” (I Timothy 6:3).  She is to guard the

doctrine which tends to godliness, and to maintain the godliness which is to

 illustrate the doctrine.  The church has within herself means and powers for the

defense of the faith, and for visiting with monition, censure, suspension, or

excommunication, those who deny it or disgrace it (I Corinthians 5.; Matthew 18:17-20;

Titus 3:10-11).  Her weapons are not carnal. She has no power to use the sword

(Matthew 26:52; II Corinthians 10:3-8).  Nor has the Church any power towards

those that are not within her pale (I Corinthians. 5:12-13), i.e. she has no power of

judging. She has to be a witness for God to the outlying world, and that she may be

this she is to keep herself pure.

 

 

                                                The Duty of Individuals

 

“Ye shall walk after the Lord” embodies New Testament teaching as well as Old.

on the basis of the chapter before us, the following outline of thought may well be filled

up.

 

  • Absolute loyalty to Christ should be the governing principle of life. The

Jehovah of the Old Testament is the Christ of the New. He is the Mediator

of the new covenant. He is a Legislator of more glory than Moses  (Hebrews 3.).

He appeals to us by righteousness, love, hope, fear.

 

  • Temptations to desert Christ’s standard may pour in upon us from

various quarters. The chapter suggests three:

 

o       A prophet. There may arise some new claimant for man’s homage, or

some philosopher who thinks to disprove the claims of Jesus by

showing his own wondrous intellectual stature.

 

o       The family. Seductions either to the false in faith or the corrupt in

practice may come from those near and dear to us.

 

o       The city. A strong current of public sentiment, (for starters, let’s

say polling to get the opinions of people and then to consider

this what is right – CY – 2012) adverse to “THE TRUTH

AS IT IS IN JESUS may set in, and may threaten to carry us

away.

 

  • These temptations are to be withstood at all costs. No “sign,” no

wonder,” is ever to be allowed to dazzle us for a moment. Christ’s claims

are so convincing to the conscience and heart, they are sustained by

such overwhelming evidence, that nothing in any age can set them aside.

The sovereignty of Christ is the fundamental law of our life. He will allow no

rival whatsoever. Even if men should work miracles to lead us away from

Christ., we are to follow Christ, and let miracles go for naught. Even

Under the Mosaic Law, miracles were not a sufficient test of truth. The

Doctrine they were intended to confirm must be put alongside therewith, and

if this doctrine contravened the supreme canon of moral life, “Loyalty to

God,” it was to be set aside. So now, no physical wonder can ever justify

us in ignoring supreme moral law. The Lordship of Jesus is our highest moral

law. He is to us the embodiment of righteousness, truth, and love; yea,

HE IS OUR INCARNATE GOD!

 

  • Though we may not visit our enticers with pains and penalties, (We live

Under a different dispensation – God will judge in the GREAT

JUDGMENT! -  CY – 2012) - yet, even now, the most sacred claims

and relationships of our earthly life are to be renounced if they come into

collision with our loyalty to Jesus (see Luke 14:26-33). Even though the

temptations should come from all quarters at once, our loyalty to our Savior

is to remain unmoved. We may not halt, nor waver, nor seek a feigned

neutrality (Matthew 12:30). It will be a very far more serious thing for us

if we let ourselves be seduced from loyalty to God as revealed in Christ,

than it would have been for Israel if they proved fickle under the legislation

of Moses (Hebrews 2:1-4; 10:28-31; 12:29). How earnestly should we pray

that we may be kept faithful to our dear Lord in heaven! How lovingly should

we warn others, lest they swerve from their fealty to him (II Peter 3:17-18;

Jude 1:17-25; Revelation 2:10-11; Matthew 24:11-13)!

 

 

ADDITIONAL NOTES (vs. 1-18)

 

No respecter of persons is God. The sin of all sins is idolatry, and such overt rebels

against the supreme God shall be summarily punished, whether they be Amorites,

Hebrews or modern day Europeans or Americans.  In this dispensation which

we know as the Church Age, as a rule, complete retribution is  reserved

for the future state; the full effect of evil ways is not seen in this life. (Men are

deceived by thinking “Because sentence against an evil work is not

executed speedily, therefore the heart of the sons of men is fully set

in them to do evil”  (Ecclesiastes 8:11).  Paul said “Some men’s sins are

open beforehand, going before to judgment; and some men they follow

after.  Likewise also the good works of some are manifest beforehand;

and they that are otherwise cannot be hid.”  - I Timothy 5:24-25 – CY – 2012).

Yet there are sins so flagrant — so mischievous in their present influence, that

God employs His agents, personal or impersonal, to execute His verdicts promptly

and manifestly. It is not that infinite justice is not content to wait; it is that God is so

solicitous for the good of the human race, that He puts forth His hand to arrest the

moral pestilence. In this chapter we learn:

 

  • THAT UNDER THE OLD DISPENSATION, GOD HAD APPOINTED

ISRAEL TO BE HIS EXECUTIONER OF ALL IDOLATERS, The only

reasonable ground on which the Hebrews could vindicate their possession of

Canaan was, that the foul idolatries of the Canaanites had made them a

pest and a curse upon the earth.  If now the conquerors should yield to the

habits and vices of the conquered, reason and right would require that

they likewise should be displaced. (Historically, this happened with Israel,

and why?  “Moreover all the chief of the priests, and the people,

transgressed very much after all the abominations of the heathen; and

 polluted the house of the LORD which He had hallowed in Jerusalem.

And the LORD God of their fathers sent to them by His messengers,

rising up betimes, and sending; because He had compassion on His

people, and on His dwelling place:  But they mocked the messengers

of God, and despised His words, and misused His prophets, until the

wrath of the LORD arose against His people, till there was no remedy.

Therefore He brought upon them the king of the Chaldees, who slew

their young men with the sword in the house of their sanctuary, and

had no compassion upon young man or maiden, old man, or him that

stooped for age: He gave them all into his hand.   And all the vessels

 of the house of God, great and small, and the treasures of the house

of the LORD, and the treasures of the king, and of his princes; all

these he brought to Babylon.  And they burnt the house of God, and

brake down the wall of Jerusalem, and burnt all the palaces thereof

with fire, and destroyed all the goodly vessels thereof.  And them that

had escaped from the sword carried he away to Babylon; where they

were servants to him and his sons until the reign of the kingdom of

Persia:  To fulfil the word of the LORD by the mouth of Jeremiah,

until the land had enjoyed her sabbaths: for as long as she lay desolate

she kept sabbath, to fulfil threescore and ten years. – II Chronicles

36:14-21 – CY – 2012)  The Nemesis of extermination had fallen upon the

dwellers in Canaan, not because they were Canaanites, but because

they were idolaters. Abraham had been called out of Charran, and received

the promise of Canaan, that he might be a living and loyal witness for God.

And the special mission of Abraham’s posterity was to stamp out idolatry,

and to lift high the banner of Jehovah. To do this effectually, no

connivance with the cursed thing must be tolerated. If the luminous agent

employed to shed light makes alliance with the element of darkness, its

mission is terminated: it is good for nothing. Hence, in order that the Hebrews

might keep alive the lamp of heavenly truth, they must burn pure oil.

The evil growth must be nipped in the bud. The dread disease must be

checked at its very first symptom. If they are to continue “the sacramental

host of God’s elect,” no secret foe must be concealed in the camp.

The decree had gone forth, “Idolatry shall cease!” and Israel had been

commissioned to execute that decree.

 

  • THAT ISRAEL’S LOYALTY TO GOD REQUIRED THE

SUBORDINATION OF ALL OTHER TIES AND CLAIMS.

The ligaments of blood relationship are strong — dear as very life. The ties

of friendship and of conjugal love are tender and sacred. Yet God has a

prior claim.  His will forestalls every other obligation. The love which is

due to Him overleaps every boundary — absorbs every other affection.

“With all the heart, and soul, and mind, and strength,” that love to

Him, must be. And this superior and incomparable obligation of love will

sometimes necessitate most painful self-denial — the amputation of a

right hand, the sacrifice of aright eye (Matthew 5:29-30).  The demand made

upon the Jews, to slay a wife or child, if addicted to idolatry, was a demand

replete with awful severity; yet no one can question its righteousness. And if so

be the will of God is clearly understood, natural inclination must yield to

dutiful  obedience.   Jesus said, “He that loveth father or mother more

than me is not worthy of me:  and he that loveth son or daughter

more than me, is not worthy of me”  (Matthew 10:37).

 

  • THAT THE DESIGN OF PUNISHMENT IS THE MORAL GOOD

OF SURVIVORS. (vs. 5,11,17.) (To promote the General Welfare,

if you please – CY – 2012)  The effect anticipated was this, “All

Israel shall hear, and fear, and do no more any such wickedness.”

On God’s side the result would be that He would “turn and show them

mercy, and multiply” their numbers. Very clearly was it announced that this

JUDICIAL ACTION WAS THE ACTION OF GOD — that righteous

and obedient Hebrews were the officers of Jehovah. In view of the magnificent

results upon the whole nation, yea, upon the world, this grave disaster might be

patiently endured. (Basically, what they were doing was only symbolical of

what God would do with sinners at the Judgment – that action assures that

in heaven THERE WILL BE NO REPEAT OF SIN AND DEATH –

CY – 2012)  To spare the lives of these rebels, and yet to retain the favor

of Jehovah, WAS A SHEER IMPOSSIBILITY! . A severe choice was

demanded. The remedy was painful, but the effect anticipated was precious.

The blessing and approval of God, and the moral elevation of the nation, were

the practical fruits. In these benign results, the survivors would have great

occasion for grateful joy. The destruction of sinners is a beacon-light, to

which we all should take WARNING!

 

 

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