Enticers to idolatry to be put to death. (1-5) Relations who entice to idolatry not to be spared. (6-11) Idolatrous cities not to be spared. (12-18)
Verses 1-5 Moses had cautioned against the peril that might arise from the Canaanites. Here he cautions against the rise of idolatry among themselves. It is needful for us to be well acquainted with the truths and precepts of the Bible; for we may expect to be proved by temptations of evil under the appearance of good, of error in the guise of truth; nor can any thing rightly oppose such temptations, but the plain, express testimony of God's word to the contrary. And it would be a proof of sincere affection for God, that, notwithstanding specious pretences, they should not be wrought upon the forsake God, and follow other gods to serve them.
Verses 6-11 It is the policy of Satan to try to lead us to evil by those whom we love, whom we least suspect of any ill design, and whom we are desirous to please, and apt to conform to. The enticement here is supposed to come from a brother or child, who are near by nature; from a wife or friend, who are near by choice, and are to us as our souls. But it is our duty to prefer God and religion, before the nearest and dearest friends we have in the world. We must not, to please our friends, break God's law. Thou shalt not consent to him, nor go with him, not for company, or curiosity, not to gain his affections. It is a general rule, If sinners entice thee, consent thou not, Pr. 1:10 . And we must not hinder the course of God's justice.
Verses 12-18 Here is the case of a city revolting from the God of Israel, and serving other gods. The crime is supposed to be committed by one of the cities of Israel. Even when they were ordered to preserve their religion by force, yet they were not allowed to bring others to it by fire and sword. Spiritual judgments under the Christian dispensation are more terrible than the execution of criminals; we have not less cause than the Israelites had, to fear the Divine wrath. Let us then fear the spiritual idolatry of covetousness, and the love of worldly pleasure; and be careful not to countenance them in our families, by our example or by the education of our children. May the Lord write his law and truth in our hearts, there set up his throne, and shed abroad his love!
Deuteronomy 13:1-5 . ENTICERS TO IDOLATRY TO BE PUT TO DEATH.
1. If there arise among you a prophet--The special counsels which follow arose out of the general precept contained in Deuteronomy 12:32 ; and the purport of them is, that every attempt to seduce others from the course of duty which that 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--that is, 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 ). Should the aim of such a one be to seduce the people from the worship of the true God, he is an impostor and must be put to death. No prodigy, however wonderful, no human authority, however great, should be allowed to shake their belief in the divine character and truth of a religion so solemnly taught and so awfully attested (compare 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 a purer, more spiritual and perfect observance of the law.
Deuteronomy 13:6-18 . WITHOUT REGARD TO NEARNESS OF RELATION.
6. If thy brother . . . entice thee secretly--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, 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.
9. thou shalt surely 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 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.
12-18. Certain men, the children of Belial--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.
14. Then shalt thou inquire--that is, the magistrate, to whom it officially belonged to make the necessary investigation. In the event of the report proving true, the most summary proceedings were to be commenced against the apostate inhabitants. 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.
16. it shall be an heap for ever; 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.
17. there shall cleave naught of the cursed thing to thine hand--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.