Deuteronomy 17:2, 3
If there be found among you, within any of your gates which the LORD your God gives you, man or woman…
The crime here ordained to be punished by death was sabaeism, or the worship of the heavenly bodies. Though this was in some respects the noblest, as it seems to have been the most ancient, form of idolatry - the purest in its ritual, the most elevating in its influence, the least associated with vice, it was not to be tolerated in Israel. Its apparent sublimity made it only the more seductive and dangerous. It was a departure, though at first a very subtle and scarcely recognizable one, from pure monotheism - the beginning of a course of declension which speedily led in Egypt, Phoenicia, Babylonia, India, and most other nations to the grossest abominations. That the seductive influence of sun and star worship was powerfully felt by the ancients appears from Job 31:26, 27. In Egypt, according to M. de Rouge (quoted by Renouf, 'Hibbert Lecture'), "the pure monotheistic religion passed through the phase of sabseism; the sun, instead of being considered as the symbol of life, was taken as the manifestation of God himself." Max Muller tells us ('Hibbert Lecture,' p. 13) that the "oldest prayer in the world" (?) is one in the Rig-Veda, addressed to the sun. The term for God, which is common to the Indo-Germanic races (deva, daeva, theos, deus, etc.), proves that the conception of the Divine among them was formed from that of light, and that the objects of their religious worship were the effects and appearances of light. All ancient mythologies turn, as their principal subject, on the sunrise and sunset, the battle between light and darkness, etc. We learn:
1. It is the beginnings of evil which need most jealously to be guarded against.
2. Evil is not the less, but the more to be feared, that its first forms are usually pleasing and seductive.
3. It does not excuse evil that in its earlier forms it is still able to associate itself with worthy and noble ideas.
4. The workings of evil, however deceptive its first appearances, invariably end by revealing its true iniquity and hideousness. How astonishing the descent from the first enticing of the heart to worship sun or moon, and so to deny the God that is above, to the abominations and cruelties of Baal and Moloch worship! Yet the later excesses were present in germ from the beginning, and the descent was as natural and logical as history shows it to have been inevitable. - J.O.
Parallel VersesKJV: If there be found among you, within any of thy gates which the LORD thy God giveth thee, man or woman, that hath wrought wickedness in the sight of the LORD thy God, in transgressing his covenant,
WEB: If there be found in the midst of you, within any of your gates which Yahweh your God gives you, man or woman, who does that which is evil in the sight of Yahweh your God, in transgressing his covenant,