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.