Deuteronomy 18:22
When a prophet speaketh in the name of the LORD, if the thing follow not, nor come to pass, that is the thing which the LORD hath not spoken, but the prophet hath spoken it presumptuously: thou shalt not be afraid of him.
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(22) If the thing follow not, nor come to pass.—This is one form of our Lord’s test for all prophets, “By their fruits (i.e., the ‘results,’ of their teaching, not its first impressions) ye shall know them.”

Deuteronomy 18:22. If the thing follow not — Which he gives as a sign of the truth of his prophecy. That is the thing which the Lord hath not spoken — The falsehood of his prediction shows him to be a false prophet. He hath spoken it presumptuously — Impudently ascribing his own vain and lying fancies to the God of truth. For though the mere fulfilling of a sign, or working of a bare miracle, was not to be considered as sufficient of itself to establish a false and wicked doctrine, as is stated Deuteronomy 13:1-3; yet, on the other hand, a man that pretended to work a miracle, or predict a future event, in confirmation of a message said to be received from Jehovah, or from some other god, and who failed in the performance of the miracle, or the thing foretold not coming to pass, evidently proved himself to be an impostor. Thou shalt not be afraid of him — That is, of his predictions or threatenings, so as to be deterred thereby from doing thy duty in bringing him to deserved punishment.

18:15-22 It is here promised concerning Christ, that there should come a Prophet, great above all the prophets; by whom God would make known himself and his will to the children of men, more fully and clearly than he had ever done before. He is the Light of the world, Joh 8:12. He is the World by whom God speaks to us, Joh 1:1; Heb 1:2. In his birth he should be one of their nation. In his resurrection he should be raised up at Jerusalem, and from thence his doctrine should go forth to all the world. Thus God, having raised up his Son Christ Jesus, sent him to bless us. He should be like unto Moses, only above him. This prophet is come, even JESUS; and is He that should come, and we are to look for no other. The view of God which he gives, will not terrify or overwhelm, but encourages us. He speaks with fatherly affection and Divine authority united. Whoever refuses to listen to Jesus Christ, shall find it is at his peril; the same that is the Prophet is to be his Judge, Joh 12:48. Woe then to those who refuse to hearken to His voice, to accept His salvation, or yield obedience to His sway! But happy they who trust in Him, and obey Him. He will lead them in the paths of safety and peace, until He brings them to the land of perfect light, purity, and happiness. Here is a caution against false prophets. It highly concerns us to have a right touchstone wherewith to try the word we hear, that we may know what that word is which the Lord has not spoken. Whatever is against the plain sense of the written word, or which gives countenance or encouragement to sin, we may be sure is not that which the Lord has spoken.And if thou say in thine heart, How ... - The passage evidently assumes such an occasion for consulting the prophet as was usual among the pagan, e. g., an impending battle or other such crisis (compare 1 Kings 22:11), in which his veracity would soon be put to the test. Failure of a prediction is set forth as a sure note of its being "presumptuous." But from Deuteronomy 13:2 ff we see that the fulfillment of a prediction would not decisively accredit him who uttered it: for the prophet or dreamer of dreams who endeavoured on the strength of miracles to seduce to idolatry was to be rejected and punished. Nothing therefore contrary to the revealed truth of God was to be accepted under any circumstances. 19. whosoever will not hearken unto my words which he shall speak in my name, I will require it of him—The direful consequences of unbelief in Christ, and disregard of His mission, the Jewish people have been experiencing during eighteen hundred years. If the thing follow not; which he gives as a sign of the truth of his prophecy. He means the prediction of some strange and wonderful event, as appears by comparing this with Deu 13:1,2.

The Lord hath not spoken: the falsehood of his prediction shows him to be a false prophet, though the truth and accomplishment of his prediction had not proved him to be a true prophet, as is evident from Deu 13:2,3.

Presumptuously; impudently ascribing his own vain and lying fancies to the God of truth.

Thou shalt not be afraid of him, i.e. of his predictions or threatenings, so as to be scared from doing thy duty in bringing him to deserved punishment.

When a prophet speaketh in the name of the Lord,.... Says he comes from God, is sent by him, and has a commission from him to say so:

if the thing follow not, nor come to pass; as the prophecy of Hananiah, Jeremiah 28:3 that is the thing which the Lord hath not spoken; or otherwise it would have come to pass, unless when a condition is either expressed or implied, as the repentance or disobedience of a people; see Jeremiah 18:7.

but the prophet hath spoken it presumptuously; in a bold and daring manner, with great impiety and impudence, out of his own head and heart, being a mere device and imagination of his own, which, not having the fear of God, he delivered as coming from the Lord:

thou shall not be afraid of him; not only to reprove him for his wickedness, but also to punish him for it; showing no regard to the high character he assumes, nor to the great pretensions he makes to sanctity, knowledge, and familiarity with God.

When a prophet speaketh in the name of the LORD, if the thing follow not, nor come to pass, that is the thing which the LORD hath not spoken, but the prophet hath spoken it presumptuously: thou shalt not be afraid of him.
22. The falseness of such a prophet is exposed by the non-fulfilment of his predictions. Jeremiah states the converse: if any prophet prophesy peace (which in the seventh century the false prophets usually did) and his word come to pass, then shall the prophet be known that the Lord hath truly sent him (Jeremiah 28:9).

It is true that ‘this test is explicitly rejected for the prophets of other gods (Deuteronomy 13:1-5); nor is the higher Hebrew prophecy nearly so much predictive as interpretative’ (Wheeler Robinson in loco). Yet we must remember that though the main burden of the prophets consisted of truths of morality and religion (the unity and righteousness of God and the ethical character of His demands) they were also concerned with the vindication of these in the actual experience of the people. To them truth was never merely abstract, they looked for its fulfilment by God in history. Prof. A. B. Davidson once said to the present writer: ‘The prophets were terribly one-idea’d men. Yet their one idea was the greatest of all, that God was going to do something.’ So Amos 3:4-8. The two most spiritual of the prophets staked their credit as the bearers of God’s word on certain historical issues. Isaiah was sure of the inviolableness of Jerusalem and the survival of a remnant of the people (on this see Rev. of Theol. & Phil. iii. 7 by the present writer in answer to Guthe’s Jesaia in Religionsgeschichtlicke Volksbücher); and Jeremiah was content to wait on events for the decision whether he or Hananiah had the word of the LORD (Jeremiah 28 esp. 11b, see Duhm’s fine remarks on this chapter in the Kurzer Hand-Commentar). Again after reporting the word of the LORD, that his uncle should come to him asking him to buy his field, he adds when the uncle came and did so, then knew I that this was the word of the LORD (Deuteronomy 32:6 ff.). Of course, behind all this was the faith that God had a future for Israel in the land, though the Babylonians had overrun it and Jerusalem must fall to them. If then Jeremiah himself so much depended for the proof of his message upon the issue of events, we cannot be surprised that D proposes to the popular mind the same test of a prophet’s word.—Though beyond our immediate subject we may note that the word of the Lord by the true prophet was not always fulfilled. This is explained in Jeremiah 18 and Jonah 4 as due to a change in the moral situation. Such, however, is not a full explanation. Sometimes, as in the case of the non-fulfilment of Jeremiah’s own early predictions about the Scythians, and his slow arrival (only after the battle of Carchemish) at the conviction that Babylon was to be the executioner of God’s judgements on Israel, the change in the prophet’s word was due to altered political circumstances.

Deuteronomy 18:22The false prophet was to be discovered by the fact, that the word proclaimed by him did not follow or come to pass, i.e., that his prophecy was not fulfilled. Of him they were not to be afraid. By this injunction the occurrence of what had been predicted is made the criterion of true prophecy, and not signs and wonders, which false prophets could also perform (cf. Deuteronomy 13:2.).
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