Deuteronomy 13:1
If there arise among you a prophet, or a dreamer of dreams, and giveth thee a sign or a wonder,
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(1) If there arise.—Three cases of instigation to idolatry are considered in this chapter:—

1. The false prophet (Deuteronomy 13:1-5).

2. A private individual (Deuteronomy 13:6-11).

3. A city (Deuteronomy 13:12-18).

In every case the penalty is the same—death without mercy.

Is this law the production of a later age? It may be said to have been more often broken than observed.

But there are instances in the history of Israel which seem to require some such law as this in all its three sections. The case of the false prophet justifies the action of Elijah, who took the prophets of Baal from Carmel when proved to be impostors, and “brought them down to the brook Kishon, and slew them there.”

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.

13:1-5 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.A prophet, or a dreamer of dreams - Compare Numbers 12:6. The "prophet" received his revelations by vision or direct oral communication Numbers 24:16; 2 Samuel 7:4; 2 Corinthians 12:2; "the dreamer of dreams" through the medium of a dream 1 Kings 3:5; Matthew 2:13. CHAPTER 13

De 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 De 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 (Nu 12:6; 1Sa 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, Joh 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 Ga 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.Enticers to idolatry, being permitted by God to try Israel, were to be stoned to death., Deu 13:1-5, though near of kin, Deu 13:6-11. A city found guilty of idolatry to be burnt and utterly destroyed, Deu 13:12-16. They were not to take any of its cursed things, but to obey God’s command, that his mercy might be upon them, Deu 13:17,18.

Among you, i.e. one of your nation, for such might be both seduced and afterwards seducers.

A dreamer of dreams; one that pretends himself to be one to whom God hath revealed himself, either by visions or dreams. See Numbers 12:6.

Giveth thee a sign or a wonder, i.e. shall foretell some strange and wonderful thing to come, as appears from Deu 13:2, as the true prophets used to do, as 1Sa 10.

If there arise among you a prophet,.... A false prophet, a lying prophet, as the Targum of Jonathan; one that pretends to be a true prophet, and to be sent of God, and to come from him with a message from him, a new revelation or doctrine, or in his name, to foretell things to come; the former is chiefly meant. Such prophets did arise in Israel before the time of Christ, and have since arose under the Christian name; see 2 Peter 2:1,

or a dreamer of dreams; the same with the prophet, only to be distinguished by the different manner of their having the mind and will of God revealed to them, pretended to; either by vision or by dream, which were the two usual ways in which the Lord spake to the true prophets, Numbers 12:6 so that the prophet is one who pretended he had a vision from the Lord, and the dreamer one that had a dream from him, or something revealed to him in a dream; and dreams are sometimes used for false doctrines, vain, deceitful, and illusory; see Jeremiah 23:25. The Targum of Jonathan calls him"a dreamer of a dream of pride:''such persons are generally prompted by the pride of their own hearts to take such a method to make themselves famous and respected among men; and usually bring such doctrines with them which are agreeable to the pride and vanity of human nature:

and giving thee a sign or a wonder; for the confirmation of his mission and doctrine; such as Moses wrought before the children of Israel and before Pharaoh. Signs are expressions or representations of things to come to pass; wonders, such as either do, or seem to exceed the common course of nature, or be contrary to it.

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

(a) Who says that he has things revealed to him in dreams.

1–5 (2–6 in Heb.). Against the Prophet of Other Gods

1. If there arise in the midst of thee] So Deuteronomy 19:15-16 also Sg. Cp. the synonymous if there be found in the midst of thee Deuteronomy 17:2, Deuteronomy 18:10, Deuteronomy 21:1, Deuteronomy 22:22, Deuteronomy 24:7. Steuern takes this as characteristic of the Pl. document, but like the other it occurs with the Sg. address; and we have seen that Deuteronomy 17:2 may originally have belonged to the same section as Deuteronomy 13:1. No conclusion, therefore, can be drawn.

a prophet, or a dreamer of dreams] In early Israel regarded as identical; cp. the frequency in E of dreams as revelations, e.g. Genesis 20:3 to Abimelech, Deuteronomy 28:10 ff., Deuteronomy 31:11 to Jacob, and the oracle quoted in E, Numbers 12:6 : if there be a prophet among you … I will speak to him through dreams. In later times the dream was discarded by the prophets as a professional delusion, Jeremiah 23:25; Jeremiah 23:27 and sharply distinguished from the true word of God: the prophet that hath a dream, let him tell a dream; and he that hath my word, let him speak my word faithfully. What is the straw to the wheat? (id. Jer 23:28); that prophesy lying dreams (Jeremiah 23:32); cp. Deuteronomy 27:9, Deuteronomy 29:8 f., prophets, soothsayers, sorcerers, diviners, your dreams that ye dream, they prophesy lies in my name, I have not sent them; Zechariah 10:2. These dreams of the false prophets appear to have been optimistic and unethical in contrast to the true prophet’s word that convinced of sin and predicted disaster. D also uses dreamer of a false prophet, and opposes to his dreams the commandments of Jehovah (Deuteronomy 13:4).

and he give thee a sign or a wonder] or portent (see on Deuteronomy 4:34), not necessarily what we narrowly call miracle (Israel making no distinction between natural and supernatural). Nor here are they wonders wrought on the spot such as Moses received as his credentials, Exodus 4:2-9, J, and Aaron wrought before Pharaoh, Deuteronomy 7:9, P, nor like the Plagues brought upon Egypt; but (as is clear from the next verse) predictions of something that shall happen in the future like the signs foretold by Samuel to Saul (1 Samuel 10:1-9).

Deuteronomy 13:2. come to pass] Hebrew come in, arrive (1 Samuel 10:7; 1 Samuel 10:9). Such a fulfilment of the sign is not to be any credential of the prophet’s teaching, if he say—

Let us go after other gods] Deuteronomy 6:14 (q.v.), Deuteronomy 11:28, Deuteronomy 28:14, all Pl.; Deuteronomy 8:19, Sg.; with or without the addition and serve, i.e. worship, them as here. Cp. Jeremiah 25:6 (deuteron.?).

which thou hast not known] Deuteronomy 13:6; Deuteronomy 13:13, Deuteronomy 11:28, Deuteronomy 28:64, cp. Deuteronomy 8:3.

Deuteronomy 13:3. This refusal to recognise miracle as necessarily a proof of the truth of a prophet’s doctrine is very striking. It is not in harmony with the earlier belief in Israel, expressed in JE and so characteristic of the Semitic genius (cp. the unwillingness of the heathen Arabs to receive a kâhin’s or prophet’s judgement on an ethical question except on the performance of some wonder, Wellhausen, Reste des Arab. Heidentums; and the readiness with which modern Arabs and Syrians accept the Biblical miracles) that it governed both the official and the popular mind in Jewry to the very end: the Jews require a sign, 1 Corinthians 1:22; cp. John 6:30 and our Lord’s words Matthew 12:38 f.; Mark 8:11 f.; Luke 11:29 f. But it is in harmony with the teaching of the prophets, who, except in the case of Isaiah, condescending to the superstitious Ahaz (Deuteronomy 7:10), commend their truth to Israel solely upon its spiritual strength, or if they add proofs, find these in natural phenomena (the success or failure of harvests, plagues and the like) or in the events of history. But see further on Deuteronomy 18:21 f.

proveth you] putteth to the proof or test. See on Deuteronomy 4:34 : cp. Deuteronomy 8:2; Deuteronomy 8:16.

to know] See on Deuteronomy 7:9, Deuteronomy 8:2.

whether ye love] Stronger!—whether it be that ye love.

Deuteronomy 13:4. An accumulation of the frequent deuteron. phrases (walk after = walk in his ways with fear or obey: Deuteronomy 10:12, Deuteronomy 11:22, Deuteronomy 19:9, Deuteronomy 26:17, Deuteronomy 30:16; keep commandments: Deuteronomy 4:2 + 12 times in Deut. both in Sg. and Pl., either alone or with love, keep and fear; obey his voice: Deuteronomy 27:10, Deuteronomy 30:2; Deuteronomy 30:8; Deuteronomy 30:20; worship and cleave: see on Deuteronomy 10:20, which adds swear by his name, Deuteronomy 11:22, Deuteronomy 30:20). But they are arranged with an emphasis lost in the Eng. transl. Read: After Jehovah your God shall ye go, and Him shall ye fear, and His commandments shall ye keep, and His voice shall ye obey, and Him shall ye worship and to Him shall ye cleave. It is a difficult question whether Deuteronomy 13:4 breaking in with the Pl. address is editorial; the accumulated phrases point to that, and Deuteronomy 13:5 connects with 3, yet the emphatic order is original and is continued into Deuteronomy 13:5.

Deuteronomy 13:5. And that prophet, etc.] Again emphatic, the usual Hebrew syntax being changed: but as for that prophet, etc. he

shall be put to death] The formal sentence, so Deuteronomy 17:6; Deuteronomy 24:16 (cp. Deuteronomy 21:22) and in E, Exodus 21:12; Exodus 21:15; Exodus 21:17; Exodus 22:19. The manner of death is not enjoined as in the next two laws.

because he hath spoken rebellion against, etc.] Turning aside, perversion or apostasy; also Verse 1. - A prophet (nabhi, נבָיִא); one who speaks from God, an interpreter to men of what God reveals or suggests to him (cf. for the meaning of the word, Exodus 7:1 with Exodus 4:16; also Jeremiah 15:19). Dreamer of dreams. Not by visions or immediate suggestion only, but also by means of dreams, did God communicate with men (cf. Numbers 12:6). The case supposed here, then, is that of one pretending to have had revelations from God through those media by which God was pleased to convey his will to men (cf. Hem., 'Iliad,' h 62 - 'Ἀλλ ἄγε δή τινα μάντιν ἐρείομεν....
η} καὶ ὀνειροπόλον καὶ γάρ τ᾿ ὄναρ ἔκ Διός ἐστιν Sign or a wonder. A sign was some event foretold by the prophet, and the occurrence of which was a token that something else which he announced would happen or should be done (cf. 1 Samuel 2:34; 1 Samuel 10:7-9; 2 Kings 19:29; Isaiah 7:11-14; Isaiah 38:7; Mark 13:4, etc.). A wonder was a miracle, the performance of which gave proof of a Divine commission (cf. Deuteronomy 4:24). These signs, it is assumed, should come to pass; nevertheless, the people were not to listen to the man who gave them to go after other gods. The mere fact that he sought to persuade them to forsake the worship of Jehovah was sufficient to prove him an impostor; for how could one who sought to seduce the people from God be sent by God? The sign which was given to authenticate such a message could only be one of those "lying signs and wonders after the working of Satan," by which his emissaries try to deceive and mislead; and was permitted by God only that their fidelity to him might be tested and proved. They had already received God's message; they had his word; and no teaching which contravened that, however apparently authenticated, could be from him, or was to he accepted by them (cf. Jeremiah 29:8; Galatians 1:8, 9; 1 John 3:1, etc.). Come what might, they were to walk after Jehovah their God, and keep his commandments, and obey his voice, and serve him; and cleave unto him. The false prophet, as a public enemy and a suborner of treason against the King of Israel, was to be put to death; and so the evil would be put away from among them. Deuteronomy 13:1The first case. If a prophet, or one who had dreams, should rise up to summon to the worship of other gods, with signs and wonders which came to pass, the Israelites were not to hearken to his words, but to put him to death. The introduction of חלום חלם, "a dreamer of dreams," along with the prophet, answers the two media of divine revelation, the vision and the dream, by which, according to Numbers 12:6, God made known His will. With regard to the signs and wonders (mopheth, see at Exodus 4:21) with which such a prophet might seek to accredit his higher mission, it is taken for granted that they come to pass (בּוא); yet for all that, the Israelites were to give no heed to such a prophet, to walk after other gods. It follows from this, that the person had not been sent by God, but as a false prophet, and that the signs and wonders which he gave were not wonders effected by God, but σημεῖα καὶ τέρατα ψεύδους ("lying sings and wonders," 2 Thessalonians 2:9); i.e., not merely seeming miracles, but miracles wrought in the power of the wicked one, Satan, the possibility and reality of which even Christ attests (Matthew 24:24). - The word לאמר, saying, is dependent upon the principal verb of the sentence: "if a prophet rise up...saying, We will go after other gods."
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