Deuteronomy 13:14
Then shall you inquire, and make search, and ask diligently; and, behold, if it be truth, and the thing certain, that such abomination is worked among you;
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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, Deuteronomy 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.13:12-18 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!In Deuteronomy 15:9 and in Nahum 1:11 the word "Belial" is rendered in our translation by the adjective "wicked." The word means "worthlessness."

(from Barnes' Notes)

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. Then shalt thou inquire: this is meant of the magistrate, to whose office this properly belongs, and of whom he continues to speak in the same manner, thou, Deu 13:15,16. Then shalt thou inquire, make search, and ask diligently,.... That is, of the witnesses, as the Targum of Jonathan; and this is a case that is only taken into consideration and judged of by the great sanhedrim, or that of seventy one, at Jerusalem (o); and the method they took was this, when it fell under their cognizance: the great sanhedrim send and inquire and search till they know clearly that the whole city, or the greater part of it, are thrust away, and are turned to idolatry; after that they send two disciples of the wise men to admonish them and bring them back; if they return and repent, it is well, but if they continue in their folly, the sanhedrim order all Israel to go up against them to war, and they besiege them, and set themselves in battle array against them, until the city be broken up; and when it is broken up, immediately they set up many courts of judicature, and they judge them; and against whomsoever two witnesses come that he served idols, after they have admonished him they separate him; if all the worshippers be the fewest, they stone them, and the rest of the city are delivered; if they are found the greater number, they bring them to the great sanhedrim, and finish their judgment there, and they slay all those that have served with the sword:

and, behold, if it be truth, and the thing certain; that such wicked men have risen and have prevailed upon the inhabitants of the city where they live, to leave the worship of the true God, and go into idolatry, when there is full proof of this, and it is past all question that

such abomination is wrought among you; as idolatry is, which is an abomination to God, and ought to be so to all mankind, and especially to a people that profess his name.

(o) Maimon. Obede Cochabim, c. 4. sect. 3. 6.

Then shalt {h} thou enquire, and make search, and ask diligently; and, behold, if it be truth, and the thing certain, that such abomination is wrought among you;

(h) Which are appointed to see faults punished.

Verses 14, 15. - After due inquiry, if it was found that such a thing had really been done in any of their cities, the extreme penalty was to be inflicted on the city and all its inhabitants - all were to be destroyed. Smite... with the edge of the sword; literally, with the mouth of the sword, as biting and devouring like a ravenous beast - a phrase for utter destruction. The second case was when the temptation to idolatry proceeded from the nearest blood-relations and friends. The clause, "son of thy mother," is not intended to describe the brother as a step-brother, but simply to bring out the closeness of the fraternal relation; like the description of the wife as the wife of thy bosom, who lies in thy bosom, rests upon thy breast (as in Deuteronomy 28:54; Micah 7:5), and of the friend as "thy friend which is as thine own soul," i.e., whom thou lovest as much as thy life (cf. 1 Samuel 18:1, 1 Samuel 18:3). בּסּתר belongs to יסית: if the temptation occurred in secret, and therefore the fact might be hidden from others. The power of love and relationship, which flesh and blood find it hard to resist, is placed here in contrast with the supposed higher or divine authority of the seducers. As the persuasion was already very seductive, from the fact that it proceeded from the nearest blood-relations and most intimate friends, and was offered in secret, it might become still more so from the fact that it recommended the worship of a deity that had nothing in common with the forbidden idols of Canaan, and the worship of which, therefore, might appear of less consequence, or commend itself by the charm of peculiarity and novelty. To prevent this deceptive influence of sin, it is expressly added in Deuteronomy 13:8 (7), "of the gods nigh unto thee or far off from thee, from the one end of the earth even unto the other end of the earth," i.e., whatever gods there might be upon the whole circuit of the earth.
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