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Bible Commentaries
Deuteronomy 13

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - UnabridgedCommentary Critical Unabridged

Verse 1

If there arise among you a prophet, or a dreamer of dreams, and giveth thee a sign or a wonder,

If there arise among you a prophet. The special counsels which follow arose out of the general precept contained in the last three verses of the preceding chapter; and the purport of them is, that every attempt to seduce others from the course of duty which the divine standard of faith and worship prescribes must not only be strenuously resisted, but the seducer punished by the law of the land. This is exemplified in three cases of enticement to idolatry. "A prophet" [ naabiy' (H5030)] (Genesis 20:7; Exodus 7:1; Exodus 15:20; Num. 40:2-9; Jdg. 4:41; Judges 6:8; 1 Samuel 2:29) - i:e., some notable person laying claim to the character and authority of the prophetic office (Numbers 12:6; 1 Samuel 10:6), performing feats of dexterity or power in support of his pretensions, or even predicting events which occurred as he foretold; as, for instance, an eclipse, which a knowledge of natural science might enable him to anticipate (or, as Caiaphas, John 18:14). It is evident the sign or wonder supposed was not a true and genuine miracle, but some counterfeit appearance of supernatural power, which either human artifice or diabolical agency might suffice to produce. Should the aim of such an one be to seduce the people from the worship of the true God, he is an impostor, and must be put to death. This injunction to Israel was directed against the prophets of the Canaanite nations that might be left among them, or against Israelite prophets who might be desirous of seducing their countrymen to the service of strange gods in Syria, (see the note at Deuteronomy 18:13, etc.) And the course which the injunction prescribed was a very plain one-to judge of them by their fruits. The most demonstrative evidence that any prophet or dreamer of dreams should appear to produce was worthless, if the object for which it was exhibited was to entice the people into idolatry, and to turn them from the God who brought them out of Egypt.

The conduct pursued was an unmistakeable proof that the sign or wonder was not from God. No prodigy, however wonderful, no human authority, however great, should be allowed to shake their belief in the divine character, or in the truth of a religion so solemnly taught and so awfully attested (cf. Galatians 1:8). The modern Jews appeal to this passage as justifying their rejection of Jesus Christ. But He possessed all the characteristics of a true prophet, and He was so far from alienating the people from God and His worship, that the grand object of His ministry was to lead to purer, more spiritual and perfect, observance of the law.

Verses 2-5

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;

No JFB commentary on these verses.

Verse 6

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;

If thy brother. This term being applied very loosely in all Eastern countries (Genesis 20:13), other expressions are added to intimate that no degree of kindred, however intimate, should be allowed to screen an enticer to idolatry-which was a breach of the national covenant-to conceal his crime or protect his person. Piety and duty must overcome affection or compassion, and an accusation must be lodged before a magistrate.

Verses 7-8

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;

No JFB commentary on these verses.

Verse 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.

Thou shalt ... kill him - not hastily, or in a private manner, but after trial and conviction; and his relative, as informer, was to cast the first stone (see the notes at Deuteronomy 17:7; Acts 7:58). It is manifest that what was done in secret could not be legally proved by a single informer; and hence, Jewish writers say that spies were set in some private part of the house to hear the conversation and watch the conduct of a person suspected of idolatrous tendencies.

The reason why idolatry was punished with death was this, that the Hebrew government was a theocracy; and the unity of the Godhead being a fundamental law of the state, idolatry was treason; which in every kingdom is regarded as the highest crime, and visited with capital punishment. It was therefore placed (as in Deuteronomy 13:11) under the ban of absolute, unqualified prohibition.

Verses 10-11

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.

No JFB commentary on these verses.

Verses 12-18

If thou shalt hear say in one of thy cities, which the LORD thy God hath given thee to dwell there, saying,

Certain men, the children of Belial, [ bªneey (H1121) Bªliya`al (H1100)]. "Belial," always moral worthlessness: "sons of Belial," they are wicked men-lawless, designing demagogues (Judges 19:22; 1 Samuel 1:16; 1 Samuel 25:25), who abused their influence to withdraw the inhabitants of the city to idol-worship. [The Septuagint has: andres paranomoi, perverse men, transgressors of the law.]

Verse 14. Then shalt thou inquire - i:e., the magistrate, to whom it officially belonged to make the necessary investigation; and in the event of the report proving true, the most summary proceedings were to be commenced against the apostate inhabitants, who had placed themselves beyond the pale of protection. The law in this chapter has been represented as stern and sanguinary; but it was in accordance with the national constitution of Israel. God being their King, idolatry was treason; and a city turned to idols put itself into a state, and incurred the punishment, of rebellion.

Verse 16. It shall not be built again - its ruins shall be a permanent monument of the divine justice, and a beacon for the warning and terror of posterity (cf. Jeremiah 44:3).

Verse 17. There shall cleave nought of the cursed thing - no spoil shall be taken from a city thus solemnly devoted to destruction. Every living creature must be put to the sword, everything belonging to it reduced to ashes, that nothing but its infamy may remain.

Bibliographical Information
Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Deuteronomy 13". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/jfu/deuteronomy-13.html. 1871-8.
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