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Bible Commentaries
Deuteronomy 13

Benson's Commentary of the Old and New TestamentsBenson's Commentary


A.M. 2553. B.C. 1451.

Laws concerning the punishment of false prophets, Deuteronomy 13:1-5 . Enticers to idolatry to be stoned, Deuteronomy 13:6-11 . Idolatrous cities to be entirely destroyed, Deuteronomy 13:12-18 .

Verse 1

Deuteronomy 13:1. Moses, foreseeing how liable the Israelites, in after ages, would be to be deluded by false prophets, who, under pretence of divine revelations, or communications of divine power, while indeed they were assisted by no other than wicked and infernal spirits, might foretel some future events, or work some wondrous and unaccountable things as demonstrations of their false doctrine, and thereby persuade others to join in their idolatrous worship, here proceeds to show how such false pretenders to divine inspiration might be known, and lays down a law, according to which they were to be dealt with. If there arise among you One of your own nation, for such might both be seduced, and afterward become seducers of others; a prophet That is, a false prophet, one who falsely pretends to have received a divine message. Or a dreamer of dreams One that pretends some god has revealed himself to him in visions or dreams. And giveth thee a sign Foretels some future and wonderful events as a sure sign thereof; as the prophets of Jehovah were wont to do, 1 Samuel 10:2-7; 1 Kings 13:3. It must be observed that sign and wonder here signify the same thing, and comprehend all miracles whatsoever, whether the foretelling of something that is out of the reach of human knowledge, or the performing some work that exceeds human power.

Verses 2-3

Deuteronomy 13:2-3. And the sign or wonder come to pass God permitting Satan or his agents to do what is above the ordinary course of nature for thy trial. Saying, Let us go after other gods That is, who, upon the sign’s coming to pass which he gave thee to confirm his doctrine, would persuade thee to go after other gods. Thou shalt not hearken unto that prophet Shalt not receive his doctrine; but, though the event confirm the prediction, thou shalt look upon him as a liar, and teacher of false doctrine. For the Lord your God proveth you That is, trieth your faith, love, and obedience, and examineth your sincerity by your constancy in his service, in opposition to all temptations to desert it. To know Or make known publicly and openly, namely, that both you and others may know and see it, in order that the justice of his dispensations toward you, whether in judgment or mercy, may be evident and glorious. The reasonableness of what Moses here enjoins is manifest. For the existence and infinite perfections of the one living and true God, the truth and goodness of his religion, and the authority of his laws being already so fully demonstrated by evidences of all kinds, evidences continued, and beyond all exception; and, on the contrary, the gods of the heathen being so evidently either nonentities or false pretenders to divinity, and their worship so full of absurdity, folly, and the worst kinds of wickedness, it was not to be thought that a mere miracle, or a number of miracles or wonders, for the performance of which, if really performed, they could not account, or the fulfilling of a prediction, by any opposer of the true God, was a sufficient reason why they should abandon God’s worship, call in question the truth of his religion, or go after any other god. Moses properly teaches them that the true divinity of miracles and wonders ought to be judged of by the doctrines, designs, and purposes, for the abetting and confirming whereof they were wrought; that every pretender to miracles, who would seduce men to false and irrational principles of religion, was to be looked upon as an impostor, and notwithstanding all he could do or say, they were steadily to adhere to the service of Him who had given them so many proofs that he, and he alone, was the true God, and to his religion and worship, which had been so amply confirmed; concluding that God, by permitting such impostors, intended only to try their faith and sincerity. Compare 1 Corinthians 12:3; 1 John 4:1-6. We may infer from hence, that the attempts of the Roman Catholics to prove their peculiar doctrines by miracles are vain; for they ought first to show them to be agreeable to reason and religion, before they attempt to prove them by miracles. For so long as they appear contrary to reason and Scripture, and repugnant to common sense, it will never be in the power of miracles, how numerous and stupendous soever, to establish the truth of them. Far less of their pretended miracles, which are nothing else but mere tricks and impostures.

Verse 5

Deuteronomy 13:5. Because he hath spoken Taught, or persuaded you. To turn you away from the Lord To induce you to forsake God and his worship. This shows that the most certain character of a true prophet is to be taken from his doctrine, rather than from his miracles. To thrust thee out of the way This phrase denotes the great force and power of seducers to corrupt men’s minds. So shalt thou put the evil away Thou shalt remove the guilt, by removing the guilty.

Verse 6

Deuteronomy 13:6. The son of thy mother This is added, to restrain the signification of the word brother, which is often used generally for one near akin, and to express the nearness of the relation, the mother’s side being usually the ground of the most fervent affection. Thy daughter Thy piety must overcome both thy affection and thy compassion to the weaker sex. The father and mother are here omitted, because they are sufficiently contained in the former examples.

Verse 8

Deuteronomy 13:8. Neither shall thine eye pity him The reason of the thing shows that two circumstances are implied: one is, that the seducer should be convicted by two sufficient witnesses before he should be put to death; the other, that the offender obstinately persisted in the defence of idolatry in spite of admonition; for who can doubt but a father, for instance, might save the life of his son, in case he brought him to timely repentance? Neither shalt thou conceal him That is, smother his fault, hide or protect his person; but shalt accuse him to the magistrate, and demand justice upon him.

Verses 9-11

Deuteronomy 13:9-11. Thou shalt surely kill him Not privately, a permission to do which, under pretence of the party’s being guilty of the crime in question, would have opened the door to innumerable murders; but by procuring his death through the sentence of the magistrate. Thy hand shall be first upon him As the witness of his crime; for he was to be stoned to death, and the accuser was to throw the first stone, together with the witnesses, Deuteronomy 17:7. This law, at first sight, may appear too great a trial to humanity; but it is indeed no more than requiring a compliance with that plain principle of religion and morality, to sacrifice all private considerations to the glory of God and good of mankind. All Israel shall hear and fear The law, though severe, yet was just and necessary, and calculated to preserve the body of the people from the contagion of idolatry.

Verse 13

Deuteronomy 13:13. Certain men, children of Belial So the most profligate and worthless are called in Scripture. The expression properly signifies persons without yoke, lawless, and rebellious, that will suffer no restraint, that neither fear God nor reverence man. Are gone out from you Have separated themselves from you in point of religion, and carry themselves stubbornly and presumptuously herein.

Verse 14

Deuteronomy 13:14. Then thou shalt inquire This is meant of the magistrate, to whose office this properly belonged, and of whom he continues to speak in the same manner, thou, Deu 13:15 and Deuteronomy 13:16. The Jewish writers say, the defection of a city was to be tried by the great sanhedrim. If it appeared that they were thrust away to idolatry, they were to send two learned men to admonish them. If they repented, all was well; if not, all Israel was to go up and execute this sentence. Though we do not find this law put in execution, in all the history of the Jewish Church, yet, for neglecting the execution of it on inferior cities, God himself, by the army of the Chaldeans, executed it on Jerusalem, the head city, which was utterly destroyed, and lay in ruins for seventy years.

Verse 15

Deuteronomy 13:15. The inhabitants Namely, all that were guilty, not the innocent part, such as disowned this apostacy, who doubtless by choice, at least upon warning, would come out of so wicked a place. Utterly The very same punishment which was inflicted upon the cities of the cursed Canaanites, to whom, having made themselves equal in sin, it was but just God should equal them in punishment.

Verses 16-17

Deuteronomy 13:16-17. For the Lord For the satisfaction of God’s justice, the maintenance of his honour and authority, and the pacification of his offended majesty. It shall not be built It shall be an eternal monument of God’s justice and terror to after ages. Multiply thee So thou shalt have no loss of thy numbers by cutting off so many people.

Bibliographical Information
Benson, Joseph. "Commentary on Deuteronomy 13". Benson's Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/rbc/deuteronomy-13.html. 1857.
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