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Bible Commentaries
Deuteronomy 13

Garner-Howes Baptist CommentaryGarner-Howes

Verses 1-5


Verses 1-5:

Any attempt to turn Israel away from worshipping and following after Jehovah God was considered a capital crime, and the perpetrator was to be put to death.

"Prophet," nabi, one who speaks from God, to tell men what God reveals to him. The term does not always denote a true prophet from God.

"Dreamer of dreams." God at times communicated with men in dreams, see Numbers 12:6.

The text describes the case of a prophet who claims to reveal the will of God, and confirms this claim by some unusual or miraculous event.

"Sign," oth, an event which the prophet foretold that confirmed something else he had announced would come to pass, see Exodus 4:8.

"Wonder," mopheth, "miracle," .proof of Divine authority, see Exodus 4:21; Exodus 7:3; Deuteronomy 4:34.

Ordinarily the fulfillment of signs predicted and wonders performed would suffice as proof of Divine commission. But there is one other test, which if failed would discredit the prophet even though the thing he predicted came to pass as he said. The sign and miracle must lead the people to obey and worship and serve Jehovah God. If not, it was false, and the perpetrator was guilty of a capital crime. He was to be put to death.

Not all supernatural events are from God. Satan has miracle-working power, see Exodus 7:11; Exodus 22; Exodus 8:7; Exodus 8:18; 2Co 13-15; Revelation 13:1-3; Revelation 13:11-13. God gives the test to which all spirits should be subjected, 1 John 4:1-3. Any who fails to pass that test is not from God, but from Satan.

God permits His children to be tested that they may determine for themselves the extent of their commitment to Him.

Verses 6-11

Verses 6-11:

This text describes an instance in which a near relative or an intimate friend seeks to entice one away from following and worshipping Jehovah Elohim. Such enticement was to be firmly resisted. No consideration was to be given of any affection or bond of friendship involved. Nothing was to be allowed to interfere with the administration of the law. To the contrary, the one who was tempted must be the first to lay his hands upon the tempter in pronouncing the death sentence. Then, when the sentence of death by stoning was carried out, he must cast the first stone.

This provision of the law emphasizes the terrible nature of idolatry, and the importance of remaining true to Jehovah God. It reminds of Jesus’ words, which apply to Christians today, Luke 14:25-27; Matthew 10:34-39.

Verses 12-18

Verses 12-18:

The text considers the case of the inhabitants of a city being led into idolatry.

"Children of Belial," or "sons of worthlessness," from beli yaal, a compound word meaning to have no worth. The term "Belial" is generally treated as a proper name. It is translated in the KJV as an adjective, "wicked," in Deuteronomy 15:9, and in Nehemiah 1:11.

"Withdrawn," nadach, "to drive or force away," translated "thrust" in verse 5. The term implies a drawing away by force, or strong persuasion.

When a report of such apostasy was heard, there was to be a careful inquiry and search, to determine if it were true.

"Inquire," darash, "make inquisition, require (proof)."

"Make search," chaqar, "search out, an investigation."

"Ask diligently," shaal, with the idea of asking in counsel, consulting.

No action was to be taken merely on the basis of a rumor, or an unsubstantiated report. The language denotes a full judicial inquiry. Action could be taken only after the facts were fully substantiated.

The length of time required for such a judicial inquiry would also allow ample time for repentance on the part of the guilty, and the forsaking of the sin of idolatry.

When it was determined that the inhabitants of a city were indeed guilty of following wicked men into idolatry, the rest of the nation was to declare war on the guilty town, and utterly destroy it. Every living thing in the city was doomed to death, the implication being that any person remaining in the city was in agreement with the idolatrous practices, and thus was guilty. All the "spoils" of the city, the personal effects of the citizens were to be piled in the plaza or the open area where the city court was held, and burned. The city itself was to be burned with fire, and reduced to a mound of rubble. It was never to be rebuilt, but to remain as a perpetual monument to God’s judgment upon idolatry. All the livestock of the city were to be slaughtered and destroyed. No part or parcel of anything in the city could be taken as the spoils of war.

Only as the people were Willing to execute this judicial sentence upon idolatry could they be assured that God would not destroy the entire nation for this sin.

The text of this chapter teaches that the drastic measures to be taken against idolatry were not mere acts of personal pique or resentment or anger. These measures were deliberate acts of judicial procedures, in which God’s people identified with His justice, to execute judgment upon rebellion.

Judgment upon the sin of idolatry was for the good of God’s people. Sin brings death, Romans 6:23; James 1:15. Sin must be forsaken, in a spirit of genuine repentance. Only as the sinner confesses, repents, and forsakes sin can he obtain mercy.

Bibliographical Information
Garner, Albert & Howes, J.C. "Commentary on Deuteronomy 13". Garner-Howes Baptist Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/ghb/deuteronomy-13.html. 1985.
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