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Bible Commentaries

Expository Notes of Dr. Thomas Constable

Deuteronomy 13



Verses 6-11

The relative or friend13:6-11

It was not just religious leaders who suffered for this crime. The authorities were to execute any Israelite who sought to lead others into idolatry. Moses set forth the deterrent value of capital punishment as a reason for its practice ( Deuteronomy 13:11; cf. Deuteronomy 17:13). In modern times advocates of the abolition of capital punishment have argued that this practice does not deter crime, but the scriptural testimony is that it does.

Verses 12-18

The town13:12-18

The closest example of a whole town apostatizing that occurred in Israel that Scripture records appears in Judges 20 : the case of Gibeah, a city in Benjamin (cf. Sodom). The circumstances were not exactly the same, but the other Israelites did discipline this town because of its gross sinfulness. In such cases the whole city was to be destroyed and not rebuilt.

"This doom, which goes contrary to the common practice of rebuilding towns on the ruins of the site, as the stratigraphic remains of tells in the Middle East plainly show, indicates how serious the Lord considered any defection from him." [Note: Kalland, p98.]

Achan ( Joshua 7) was an Israelite who violated God"s command to take nothing "under the ban" ( Deuteronomy 13:17). Ai was not an Israelite town when Achan committed his sin, but God"s dealings with Achan show how important the observance of this law was.

"Of all potential crimes in ancient Israel, the one described in this chapter was the most dangerous in terms of its broader ramifications: to attempt deliberately to undermine allegiance to God was the worst form of subversive activity, in that it eroded the constitutional basis of the potential nation, Israel. In its implications, the crime would be equivalent to treason or espionage in time of war." [Note: Craigie, The Book . . ., p222.]

Agitation that promoted sedition received careful attention and strict penalties in other ancient Near Eastern political treaties as well as in the Deuteronomic Code. [Note: Moshe Weinfeld, Deuteronomy and the Deuteronomic School, pp91-100.]

God"s people need to be aware of the serious danger of idolatry and deal with it in their midst. The Israelites were to execute those among them who engaged in spiritually seditious activities. Christians are to separate from false teachers except for purposes of evangelism and instruction (cf. 2 Timothy 3:13-17; 2 Peter 2:1-3; 2 Peter 3:17-18; 2 John 1:9-11; Jude 1:17-25).


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Bibliography Information
Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on Deuteronomy 13:4". "Expository Notes of Dr. Thomas Constable". 2012.

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