Keil and Delitzsch OT Commentary
If there arise among you a prophet, or a dreamer of dreams, and giveth thee a sign or a wonder,The 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."
And the sign or the wonder come to pass, whereof he spake unto thee, saying, Let us go after other gods, which thou hast not known, and let us serve them;
Thou shalt not hearken unto the words of that prophet, or that dreamer of dreams: for the LORD your God proveth you, to know whether ye love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul.
Ye shall walk after the LORD your God, and fear him, and keep his commandments, and obey his voice, and ye shall serve him, and cleave unto him.God permitted false prophets to rise up with such wonders, to try the Israelites, whether they loved Him, the Lord their God, with all their heart. (נסּה as in Genesis 22:1.) אהבים הישׁכם, whether ye are loving, i.e., faithfully maintain your love to the Lord. It is evident from this, "that however great the importance attached to signs and wonders, they were not to be regarded among the Israelites, either as the highest test, or as absolutely decisive, but that there was a certainty in Israel, which was so much the more certain and firm than any proof from miracles could be, that it might be most decidedly opposed to it" (Baumgarten). This certainty, however, was not "the knowledge of Jehovah," as B. supposes; but as Luther correctly observes, "the word of God, which had already been received, and confirmed by its own signs," and which the Israelites were to preserve and hold fast, without adding or subtracting anything. "In opposition to such a word, no prophets were to be received, although they rained signs and wonders; not even an angel from heaven, as Paul says in Galatians 1:8." The command to hearken to the prophets whom the Lord would send at a future time (Deuteronomy 18:18.), is not at variance with this: for even their announcements were to be judged according to the standard of the fixed word of God that had been already given; and so far as they proclaimed anything new, the fact that what they announced did not occur was to be the criterion that they had not spoken in the name of the Lord, but in that of other gods (Deuteronomy 18:21-22), so that even there the signs and wonders of the prophets are not made the criteria of their divine mission.
And that prophet, or that dreamer of dreams, shall be put to death; because he hath spoken to turn you away from the LORD your God, which brought you out of the land of Egypt, and redeemed you out of the house of bondage, to thrust thee out of the way which the LORD thy God commanded thee to walk in. So shalt thou put the evil away from the midst of thee.Israel was to adhere firmly to the Lord its God (cf. Deuteronomy 4:4), and to put to death the prophet who preached apostasy from Jehovah, the Redeemer of Israel out of the slave-house of Egypt. להדּיחך, "to force thee from the way in which Jehovah hath commanded thee to walk." The execution of seducers to idolatry is enjoined upon the people, i.e., the whole community, not upon single individuals, but upon the authorities who had to maintain and administer justice. "So shalt thou put the evil away from the midst of thee." הרע is neuter, as we may see from Deuteronomy 17:7, as comp. with Deuteronomy 13:2. The formula, "so shalt thou put the evil away from the midst of thee," which occurs again in Deuteronomy 17:7, Deuteronomy 17:12; Deuteronomy 19:19; Deuteronomy 21:21; Deuteronomy 22:21-22, Deuteronomy 22:24, and Deuteronomy 24:7 (cf. Deuteronomy 19:13, and Deuteronomy 21:9), belongs to the hortatory character of Deuteronomy, in accordance with which a reason is given for all the commandments, and the observance of them is urged upon the congregation as a holy affair of the heart, which could not be expected in the objective legislation of the earlier books.
If thy brother, the son of thy mother, or thy son, or thy daughter, or the wife of thy bosom, or thy friend, which is as thine own soul, entice thee secretly, saying, Let us go and serve other gods, which thou hast not known, thou, nor thy fathers;
Namely, of the gods of the people which are round about you, nigh unto thee, or far off from thee, from the one end of the earth even unto the other end of the earth;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.
Thou shalt not consent unto him, nor hearken unto him; neither shall thine eye pity him, neither shalt thou spare, neither shalt thou conceal him:
But thou shalt surely kill him; thine hand shall be first upon him to put him to death, and afterwards the hand of all the people.To such persuasion Israel was not to yield, nor were they to spare the tempters. The accumulation of synonyms (pity, spare, conceal) serves to make the passage more emphatic. כּסּה, to cover, i.e., to keep secret, conceal. They were to put him to death without pity, viz., to stone him (cf. Leviticus 20:2). That the execution even in this case was to be carried out by the regular authorities, is evident from the words, "thy hand shall be first against him to put him to death, and the hand of all the people afterwards," which presuppose the judicial procedure prescribed in Deuteronomy 17:7, that the witnesses were to cast the first stones at the person condemned.
And thou shalt stone him with stones, that he die; because he hath sought to thrust thee away from the LORD thy God, which brought thee out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage.
And all Israel shall hear, and fear, and shall do no more any such wickedness as this is among you.
If thou shalt hear say in one of thy cities, which the LORD thy God hath given thee to dwell there, saying,This was to be done, and all Israel was to hear it and fear, that no such wickedness should be performed any more in the congregation. The fear of punishment, which is given here as the ultimate end of the punishment itself, is not to be regarded as the principle lying at the foundation of the law, but simply, as Calvin expresses it, as "the utility and fruit of severity," one reason for carrying out the law, which is not to be confounded with the so-called deterrent theory, i.e., the attempt to deter from crime by the mode of punishing (see my Archologie, ii. p. 262).
Certain men, the children of Belial, are gone out from among you, and have withdrawn the inhabitants of their city, saying, Let us go and serve other gods, which ye have not known;The third case is that of a town that had been led away to idolatry. "If thou shalt hear in one of thy cities." בּאחת, not de una, of one, which שׁמע with בּ never can mean, and does not mean even in Job 26:14. The thought is not that they would hear in one city about another, as though one city had the oversight over another; but there is an inversion in the sentence, "if thou hear, that in one of thy cities...worthless men have risen up, and led the inhabitants astray to serve strange gods." לאמר introduces the substance of what is heard, which follows in Deuteronomy 13:14. יצא merely signifies to rise up, to go forth. מקּרבּך, out of the midst of the people.
Then shalt thou inquire, and make search, and ask diligently; and, behold, if it be truth, and the thing certain, that such abomination is wrought among you;
Thou shalt surely smite the inhabitants of that city with the edge of the sword, destroying it utterly, and all that is therein, and the cattle thereof, with the edge of the sword.Upon this report the people as a whole, of course through their rulers, were to examine closely into the affair (היטב, an adverb, as in Deuteronomy 9:21), whether the word was established as truth, i.e., the thing was founded in truth (cf. Deuteronomy 17:4; Deuteronomy 22:20); and if it really were so, they were to smite the inhabitants of that town with the edge of the sword (cf. Genesis 34:26), putting the town and all that was in it under the ban. "All that is in it" relates to men, cattle, and the material property of the town, and not to men alone (Schultz). The clause from "destroying" to "therein" is a more minute definition of the punishment introduced as a parenthesis; for "the cattle thereof," which follows, is also governed by "thou shalt smite." The ban was to be executed in all its severity as upon an idolatrous city: man and beast were to be put to death without reserves; and its booty, i.e., whatever was to be found in it as booty-all material goods, therefore - were to be heaped together in the market, and burned along with the city itself. ליהוה כּליל (Eng. Ver. "every whit, for the Lord thy God") signifies "as a whole offering for the Lord" (see Leviticus 6:15-16), i.e., it was to be sanctified to Him entirely by being destroyed. The town was to continue an eternal hill (or heap of ruins), never to be built up again.
And thou shalt gather all the spoil of it into the midst of the street thereof, and shalt burn with fire the city, and all the spoil thereof every whit, for the LORD thy God: and it shall be an heap for ever; it shall not be built again.
And there shall cleave nought of the cursed thing to thine hand: that the LORD may turn from the fierceness of his anger, and shew thee mercy, and have compassion upon thee, and multiply thee, as he hath sworn unto thy fathers;To enforce this command still more strongly, it is expressly stated, that of all that was burned, nothing whatever was to cleave or remain hanging to the hand of Israel, that the Lord might turn from His wrath and have compassion upon the nation, i.e., not punish the sin of one town upon the nation as a whole, but have mercy upon it and multiply it, - make up the diminution consequent upon the destruction of the inhabitants of that town, and so fulfil the promise given to the fathers of the multiplication of their seed.
When thou shalt hearken to the voice of the LORD thy God, to keep all his commandments which I command thee this day, to do that which is right in the eyes of the LORD thy God.Jehovah would do this if Israel hearkened to His voice, to do what was right in His eyes. In what way the appropriation of property laid under the ban brought the wrath of God upon the whole congregation, is shown by the example of Achan (Joshua 7).