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Bible Commentaries

Lange's Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal, and Homiletical

Deuteronomy 12

 

 

Verses 1-31

Supplementary Exposition of the Third to the Tenth Command

Deuteronomy 12-26

The Third Command. ( Deuteronomy 12-14)

Deuteronomy 12:1-31

1These are the statutes and judgments which ye shall observe [keep] to do in the land which the Lord God of thy fathers giveth thee to possess it, all the days that ye live upon the earth 2 Ye shall utterly destroy all the places, wherein the nations [Gentiles] which ye shall possess [expel from the possession][FN1] served their gods, upon the high mountains, and upon the hills, and under every green tree: 3And ye shall overthrow [tear down, raze] their altars, and break their pillars, and burn their groves [their pillars of wood] with fire; and ye shall hew down the graven images of their gods, and destroy the names of them out of that place 4 Ye shall not do so unto the Lord your God 5 But unto the place which the Lord your God shall choose out of all your tribes to put his name there,[FN2] even unto his habitation shall ye seek, [keep, inquire] and thither thou shalt come: 6And thither ye shall bring your burnt-offerings, [whole offerings] and your sacrifices, and your tithes, and heave-offerings of your hand, and your vows, and your free-will offerings, and the firstlings of your herds, and of your flocks: 7And there ye shall eat before the Lord your God, and ye shall rejoice in all that ye put your hands unto, ye and your households, wherein the Lord thy God hath blessed thee 8 Ye shall not do after all [according to all what, i.e., just as] the things that we do [are doing] here this day, every man whatsoever is right in his own eyes 9 For ye are not as yet 10 come to the rest and to the inheritance which the Lord your God giveth you. But [Still] when ye go over Jordan, and dwell in the land which the Lord your God giveth you to inherit, and when he giveth you rest from all your enemies round about, so that [and] ye dwell in safety: 11Then there shall be [And it come to pass,] a place which the Lord your God shall choose to cause his name to dwell there; thither shall ye bring all that I command you; your burnt-offerings, and your sacrifices, your tithes, and the heave-offering of your hand, and all your choice vows[FN3] which ye vow unto the Lord: 12And ye shall rejoice before the Lord your God, ye, and your sons, and your daughters, and your men-servants, and your maid-servants, and the Levite that is within your gates; forasmuch as he hath no [for not to him belongs] part nor inheritance with you 13 Take heed to thyself that thou offer not thy burnt-offerings in every place that thou seest: 14But in the place which the Lord shall choose in one of thy tribes, there thou shalt offer thy burnt-offerings, and there 15 thou shalt do all that I command thee. Notwithstanding, thou mayest kill and eat flesh in all thy gates, whatsoever thy soul lusteth after [Only in all thy soul desireth thou, etc.] according to the blessing of the Lord thy God which he hath given thee:[FN4] the unclean and the clean may eat thereof, as of [om. of] the roe-buck [antelope] and as of the hart 16 Only ye shall not eat the blood; ye shall pour it upon the earth-as water 17 Thou mayest not eat within thy gates the tithe of thy corn, or of thy wine, or of thy oil, or the firstlings of thy herds or of thy flock, nor any of thy vows which thou vowest, nor thy free-will-offerings, or heave-offering of thine hand: 18But thou must eat them before [the face of] the Lord thy God in the place which the Lord thy God shall choose, thou, and thy Song of Solomon, and thy daughter, and thy Prayer of Manasseh -servant, and thy maid-servant, and the Levite that is within thy gates: and thou shalt rejoice before the Lord thy God in all that thou puttest thine hands unto 19 Take heed to thyself that thou forsake not the Levite as long as thou livest [all thy days] upon the earth 20 When the Lord thy God shall enlarge thy border, as he hath promised thee, and thou shalt say, I will eat flesh, because thy soul longeth to eat flesh, thou mayest eat flesh, whatsoever thy soul lusteth[FN5] after [in all the desire of thy soul]. 21If the place which the Lord thy God hath chosen to put his name there be too far from thee, then thou shalt kill of thy herd and of thy flock, which the Lord hath given thee, as I have commanded thee, and thou shalt eat in thy gates whatsoever thy soul lusteth after 22 Even as the roe-buck and the hart is eaten, so thou shalt eat them: the unclean and the clean shall eat of them alike [in like manner]. 23Only be sure [strong, firm] that thou eat not the blood: for the blood is the life [soul]: and thou mayest not eat the life [soul] with the flesh 24 Thou shalt not eat it; thou shalt pour it upon the earth as water 25 Thou shalt not eat it; that it may go well with thee, and with thy children after thee, when thou shalt do that which is [om. that which is] right in the sight of the Lord 26 Only thy holy things which thou hast, and thy vows, thou shalt take, and go unto the place which the Lord shall choose: 27And thou shalt offer [prepare, make] thy burnt-offerings, the flesh and the blood, upon the altar of the Lord thy God: and the blood of thy sacrifices shall be poured out upon the altar of the Lord thy God, and thou shalt eat the flesh 28 Observe and hear all these words which I command thee, that it may go well with thee, and with thy children after thee for ever, when thou doest that which is good and right in the sight of the Lord thy God 29 When the Lord thy God shall cut off the nations from before thee, whither thou goest to possess them, and thou succeedest [dost possess] them, and dwellest in their land; 30Take heed to thyself that thou be not snared by following them [cleavest not after them] after that they be destroyed from before thee; and that thou inquire [seek, search] not after their gods, saying, How did these nations serve [accustomed to serve] their gods? even so will I do likewise 31 Thou shalt not do so unto the Lord thy God; for every abomination to [of] the Lord which he hateth have they done unto their gods; for even their sons and their daughters they have burnt in the fire to their gods.

EXEGETICAL AND CRITICAL

1. Deuteronomy 12:1-14. The connection with the foregoing ( Deuteronomy 11:32) as Deuteronomy 6:1. Deuteronomy 12:1 serves as a title to introduce what follows. Comp. Deuteronomy 4:5; Deuteronomy 4:10; Deuteronomy 5:29. We feel that we have reached a new topic, hence the absence of the וְ, as Deuteronomy 6:4. Deuteronomy 12:2 refers back substantially to what was said upon the first command, with this difference, that the places of the false worship of God are here prominent, and thus the connection with the second command is made apparent. Utterly destroy, i.e., destroy utterly and entirely as places of the cultus (Knobel), mountains, especially high mountains, but also hills in which they believed themselves nearer the heavenly powers, as upon the natural altars of the earth. Green trees are at the same time leafy, as this lies in the radical signification of the word רָעַן, and is rejected erroneously by Schultz. They represent the oaks with their dense shade, ( Ezekiel 6:13; Ezekiel 20:28). It is not truly the vivid fulness of color, but the mysterious rustling of the foliage which comes into view here, as in the high places it is the all-overpowering elements of air and light. Upon Deuteronomy 12:3 comp. Deuteronomy 7:5; Deuteronomy 7:25. The destruction of theirnames, i.e., that the places of the cultus should no longer be named after the idols previously honored in them, shows already, since it brings out the connection of the places with the idol images, and thus connects it with the second command, that Moses now passes over to the third command, that chap 12 treats of the name of Jehovah, before which all other names of the deities mast retire ( Acts 4:12). Comp. Deuteronomy 7:24. Hence Deuteronomy 12:4 ( Deuteronomy 12:31) introductory: Since you cannot rest in the places and names of a false cultus, you should not especially take examples from them of the true worship of God. For as Jehovah is the one only in opposition to these many, so also the place of His only name should be freed from all subjective arbitrariness (Intro, § 4, 123). Deuteronomy 12:5. Which Jehovah shall choose. The manner and method how all will-worship reveals itself in opposition to this choice of Jehovah, is fixed by that choice, whether it is effected in some extraordinary way, or by the mere arrangement of circumstances. It is enough that he will select and define the place, and indeed one place, as the addition, out of all your tribes, shows, (the unity of all in the Lord) and thus certainly with reference to Leviticus 17:3 sq, namely, to the oneness of the tabernacle. But at the same time the mention of the name of Jehovah in the destination of the place in question, touches upon the more general and indefinite passage, Exodus 20:24, which however for the usual arrangement of things must be more closely limited by לָשׂוּם and לְשִׁכְנוֹ. Upon the name comp. Deuteronomy 5:11. The heathen deity abides in nature, Jehovah, on the contrary, is Spirit, manifest in word and deed, which personal revelation embraces and constitutes His name, by which He calls Himself among His people, which He makes for and in His people. To put there, i.e., to take, order, to settle it there; for that which is customary (the discourse indeed is of the usual cultus), without any allusion to extraordinary cases ( Exodus 20), but also without excluding them. To his habitation—שָׁכַן to settle, dwell. The infinitive separated by the accent from the foregoing, although it may define it more closely ( Exodus 25:8; Exodus 29:44 sq.) and in Deuteronomy 12:11, לְשַׁבֵּן stands for לָשׂוּם. But just precisely on account of this latter (and לְשַׁבֵּן is to permit to dwell), the connection with תִּדְרְשׁוּ pointed out by the accents is to be preferred. לְ resumes in an abbreviated form the אֶל at the beginning. Understanding the infinitive thus substantively of the place, which represents the dwelling of Jehovah or of His name, with a clear reference to the Shechinah since the erection of the tabernacle, over which the pillar of cloud tarried or dwelt, when Israel rested in the march, it is neither Jerusalem nor the temple which is the dwelling in view, (Knobel) but the infinitive rather leaves the locality undetermined, provided only that some one permanent position is kept in view. [The fixing of one place is not, as Schroeder intimates, entirely new. It is implied in Exodus 20:24, and was actually observed during the wanderings in the desert, Leviticus 17:1 sq. It is precisely in accordance with the object in Deuteronomy, which regards the future of Israel, and especially when scattered through the land of promise, that this revelation should be insisted upon with so much definiteness and stringency. The command does not conflict with the worship of God in those places in which the worshippers had express divine authority. As e.g., the offerings of Gideon, Manoah, David.—Wordsworth well asks: “If Deuteronomy is not the work of Moses, how is it possible that it could have been received when all the kings of Israel, and often those of Judah, were living in violation of this command? If it had been a forgery, they would surely have exposed it.”—A. G.]. דָּרַשׁ ( Deuteronomy 11:12), the idea of something urgent lies in the root, perhaps with reference to the difficulties (out of all the tribes) when the people dwelt scattered in Canaan: to seek, to search after, to turn one’s self thither, to keep, abide there, as directed for the ordinary cultus, public and individual, hence shall ye seek, and thou shalt come, ye and thou. Deuteronomy 12:6. Brings up the altar instituted with the tabernacle ( Exodus 29:44; Exodus 20:24). [As to the difficulties in bringing the offerings from the distance, they are partly met by the provision in Numbers 14:24-25, and partly by the mere statement of the fact that the distance at the greatest was less than a hundred miles; so that what was required was nothing impossible. Moreover, we must bear in mind here the whole spirit of the law. God always required mercy and not sacrifice. Obviously the sick, and those detained by any special providences, would be regarded as fulfilling the law, if they brought their offerings at other than the stated times. They could not present it at any but the chosen place, but they might reserve it until they could bring it there. The time is not fixed, except at the three great feasts. And even then there must have been exceptions provided for, in the spirit if not in the letter, of the law.—A. G.] Bring, generally, under the presumption that whatever concerns the time, procedure, etc., was already known from the law and customs (comp. chap, 16). The offerings as a whole are embraced in the number seven. Beginning with the burnt-offering and “sacrifices” as the principal ( Leviticus 17:8; Exodus 10:25; Numbers 15:3). Comp. Leviticus 1:3 sq. זבח, especially praise and thank-offerings, Leviticus 3:7; Leviticus 3:12; Numbers 15:4 sq. (perfect concession and joy of salvation, שלמים זבח). Upon the tithe comp. Introd. § 4, I:19. [“These supposed discrepancies” (Wordsworth) are evidences of the unity of plan of the Pentateuch. The author takes for granted here that his hearers were familiar with what had been said by him in the earlier parts of his work, and what had become a usage among them (as the sacred feast, Deuteronomy 12:17-18), and does not repeat it, but proceeds at once to speak of the tithes he had in view. Distingue tempora et concordabis Scripturas is a sound maxim.”—A. G.] Heave what the hand takes up as a free gift to Jehovah from the fruits of the ground, besides the tithes and the first-born. Vows and free-will [gifts] offerings, Leviticus 7:16. Upon the first-born comp. Exodus 13; Numbers 18 (and upon Deuteronomy 15:19). Deuteronomy 12:7. Thus sacred and joyful meals ( Exodus 18:12). All that you put your hand unto.—Concrete (comp. Isaiah 11:14) for every thing which they could put their hand to, which was proper and due to them. The gains, acquisitions (Knobel, Keil) made through the hand cannot well be alluded to here, since it is precisely with reference to these that the blessing of God is spoken of. Since Moses includes himself, Deuteronomy 12:8, he cannot refer here to unlawful courses, but intends those procedures namely, in opposition to the oneness of the sanctuary, perhaps still more particularly what concerns the meals, as Deuteronomy 12:9 expressly excuses these on the ground that the wanderers had not yet come to their rest. Upon Deuteronomy 12:10 comp. Exodus 34:23-24. Upon Deuteronomy 12:11 comp. Deuteronomy 12:5-6. הַמָּקוֹם—placed first here for the emphasis. וכל מבחר—a comprehensive term, as they must then be selected or chosen. On the other hand, Deuteronomy 12:12 more in detail than Deuteronomy 12:7 ( Exodus 20:10; Deuteronomy 5:14; comp. Deuteronomy 10:9. See Introd. § 4, I:21). The wives as evidently included are not mentioned (Knobel). Deuteronomy 12:13-14. A final inculcation of the oneness of the sanctuary, with regard to the burnt-offering, as instar omnium.

2. [Bib. Com.: This caution is based upon the notion generally entertained in the ancient heathen world that each country had its own tutelary deities, whom it would be perilous to neglect, 1 Kings 20:23; 2 Kings 17:26. Hence even in conquered districts the worship of the local deities was wont to be scrupulously maintained. But Israel was to shun such superstitions.—A. G.]

DOCTRINAL AND ETHICAL

1. The one place, of the one sanctuary, of the one Jehovah, is the theme of the chapter. The one Jehovah, protests against the gods of Canaan, His one sanctuary, is opposed to the numerous heathen sanctuaries. This negation shows the connection with the first two commands—in particular with the second command. It follows from this negation that Jehovah, who in this second command has spoken as a Spirit, who in His word, especially in the ten words, has taught His people, now when the discourse ( Deuteronomy 12:5) comes positively to treat of the place of His name, it makes the destination of the place dependent upon His choice, i.e., upon His command as revealed in word or deed. This is the side which the one place of the sanctuary has towards God; the objective side, at the same time, of the now to be explained third command. But this also has its subjective side, as we have repeatedly heard that Israel should swear by the name of Jehovah; this is the confession to Jehovah in every way. And thus the oneness of the place of the sanctuary wins its significance for the nationality of Israel; it characteristically comprises the same in this confession to Jehovah. One religiously, it remains politically one. Out of all your tribes Jehovah has chosen His place, thus also for all; and by so much the more fruitfully, since the piety of the individual (comp. the Psalm) could be efficient at the one place of the sanctuary, improving and quickening for the whole people. (On the extraordinary sacrificial places, comp. Introd. § 4.)

2. Joy before Jehovah, which is so repeatedly uttered, should be the animating disposition of meals at the sanctuary. The inculcated unity of the place of the sanctuary was thus right humanly commended. Thus there enters into the collective ceremonial requirements a disposition—indeed an evangelical feature—which eclipses the face of the legal. That is truly, genuinely deuteronomic; but it is something else as truly. Leviticus 23:40 speaks of the joy before the Lord at the feast of tabernacles—thus whenever one thinks of the wilderness as past. Is not that truly the stand-point of Deuteronomy in its constant look into Canaan and its sure rest? The eating at the place of the sanctuary becomes at the same time the eating before Jehovah—therefore in the best sense; but at the same time the exalted joy appears as a common joy, thus in reference to our neighbor. The two tables of the law appear behind it. Still remarks Baumgarten: “The union of the godly and worldly, the spiritual and natural, which the popular life even elsewhere in heathen antiquity and the Christian middle ages, manifoldly seeks and in some measure finds, since the places of the cultus are at the same time centres of trade and commerce; religious times are also days of popular joy and pleasure; this union is never so original and pure as in Israel, because in it Jehovah the holy God has placed and managed all natural and worldly things from the beginning; and although the actual result even here appears defective and clouded, still it presents itself as the pure, clear glass of this present and much sought unity.”

3. The discourse speaks again and again of rest. So Joshua 21:44; Joshua 22:4 ( Deuteronomy 18:1). So 2 Samuel 7:1; 2 Samuel 7:10-11. So 1 Chronicles 22:9; 1 Kings 5:4; 1 Kings 5:18. This ever appears in connection with the tabernacle, or the ark of the covenant, or the temple. God’s rest is the rest of the people. What is still further said in Hebrews 4is drawn from the very depth of the idea. Comp. further Genesis 49:10 and 1 Peter 1:4.

4. Men and maid servants ( Deuteronomy 12:7) were included in the family life of the Israelites, and recognized and received in the most general human pleasures, the eating and the joy, and consecrated through the connection with Jehovah and the sanctuary. The religious thought is all penetrating salt in Israel. That the Levite was included, as it promoted the sanctification of the family life, especially the eating and the joy, so it corresponds with the deuteronomic reference to Canaan, in which Levi had no part nor inheritance.

HOMILETICAL AND PRACTICAL

The threefold unity: one God, one sanctuary, the one place of the same, in its importance for the moral, ecclesiastical, political unity of Israel. What the religion of the fathers has to do with the national life (England, America). Deuteronomy 12:1 sq. Luther: “He commands all. The people could not proceed in the worship after their own mind or will, however holy and good they were,—all that is ruled by the word. If man cannot live without the word, as to the body, the outward form, how much less in the work of God and in the Spirit. God wills, then, our conscience should be certain that our service is well-pleasing to Him.”—Lange: “Our welfare and our duty must ever stand together.”

Deuteronomy 12:2. Cramer: “When God comes, the devil must depart.”

Deuteronomy 12:4. Starke: “This also is idolatry, to serve and honor God otherwise than He has commanded.”

Deuteronomy 12:5. Berl. Bib.: “Christ, is in all the congregations gathered in His name, and this is the place which God has chosen, and whither we may bring our prayers and thank-offerings, Matthew 18:19.”—Starke: “Be diligent to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace, Ephesians 4:3.” Deuteronomy 12:7. Richter: “If God would not have any joyless, gloomy, complaining, sad believer under the Old Testament, how much less under the gracious light of the New Test.! Philippians 3:1; Philippians 4:4.” “Joy before, in, the Lord, the harmonizing principle of the divine life. It unites the inward oppositions and glorifies all that is external. The food is sanctified, family life becomes festal, and all is illuminated with the divine blessing.

Deuteronomy 12:8. Liberty has its limitations as to time and circumstances—especially by the law of God.” Berl. Bib.: “The soul, in the eternal law, judges as God judges; for it sees through the eye of God. That is the highest freedom.” Deuteronomy 12:9-10. Lange: “We look for the perfect rest, first in the life beyond.” Deuteronomy 12:12. Friedlib: “So God takes care for poor servants also. As the house in the church, so the servants of the church belong to the household.”

Deuteronomy 12:13. Starke: “Woe to those who say, lo, here is Christ, or lo, there, Matthew 24:26; Philippians 3:2.” Deuteronomy 12:14. Berl. Bib.: This passage represents Christ, to whom His people should adhere, as the one whom the Father has chosen, and in whom the name of His majesty and glory dwells.

Deuteronomy 12:16-23. The significance and hence the prohibition of blood. As to the first table: God is alone the Author of all life; as to the second table: a sacred awe, reverence for life should be preserved with regard to every man; as to both commands, it was thus a means of atonement, and pointing to the sacrifice of Christ, who requires the participation of His blood, John 6:53 sq.

Deuteronomy 12:19. Starke: Teachers in church and school should have continual support, 1 Corinthians 9:13-14; 1 Timothy 5:18.

Deuteronomy 12:21 sq. To these men widely removed the permission of enjoyment is also enlarged, but by so much the more should they keep to the word of God, that the use may not become misuse, and that the pain may not succeed the pleasure.

Deuteronomy 12:29 sq.: There is a false conservatism in the Church as in the State (exemplified in the Romish missions and the Church of England).

Footnotes:

FN#1 - Deuteronomy 12:2. Which ye are driving them out, and so possessing. It is not to inherit, as the margin.—A. G.].

FN#2 - Deuteronomy 12:5. The Vulg. connects this clause with what follows, to put His name and dwell there, and so essentially the Sept. Our version accords with the accents, and is better.—A. G.].

FN#3 - Deuteronomy 12:11. Margin, lit, all the choice of your vows.—A. G.].

FN#4 - Deuteronomy 12:15. Our version transposes the clauses in this verse needlessly, although without materially affecting the sense.—A. G].

FN#5 - Deuteronomy 12:20. Our word lusteth has acquired a technical and bad sense, and is too strong here and in Deuteronomy 12:15 above, and 21 below.—A. G.].


Verse 32

Deuteronomy 12:32 to Deuteronomy 13:18

Deuteronomy 12:32 What thing soever [The whole word] I command you, observe to do it: thou shalt not add thereto, nor diminish from it.

Deuteronomy 13:1. If there arise [stand up] among you a prophet, or a dreamer of dreams, and giveth thee a sign or a wonder, 2And the sign or [and] the wonder come to pass, whereof he spake unto thee, saying, Let us go after other gods [follow other gods] which thou hast not known, and let us serve them: 3Thou shalt not hearken unto the words of that [this] 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 4 Ye shall walk [go] 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 5 And that prophet, or that dreamer of dreams, shall be put to death; because he hath spoken to turn you away [spoken, revolt against] from the Lord your God, which brought you out of the land of Egypt, and redeemed you out of the house of bondage [servants] to thrust thee [seduce] out of the way which the Lord thy God commanded thee to walk in. So shalt thou [And thou shalt] put the evil away from the midst of thee 6 If thy brother, the son of thy mother, or thy Song of Solomon, 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, 7which thou hast not known, thou, nor thy fathers: Namely [om. 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; 8Thou shalt not consent [yield] unto him, nor hearken unto him; neither shall thine eye pity him, neither shalt thou spare, neither shalt thou conceal him: 9But thou shalt surely [by all means, utterly] kill him; thine hand shall be first upon him to put him to death, and afterwards the hand of all the people 10 And thou shalt stone him with stones that he die; because he has sought to thrust thee away [to seduce thee]1 from the Lord thy God, which brought thee out of the land of Egypt from the house of bondage [bondmen], 11And all Israel shall hear, and fear, and shall do no more any such wickedness as this is [such evil word] among you 12 If thou shalt hear say in one of thy cities, which the Lord thy God hath given thee to dwell there, saying, 13Certain men, the children of Belial,2 are gone out from among you, and have withdrawn the inhabitants of their city, saying, Let us go and serve other gods, which 14 ye have not known; Then [And] shalt thou inquire, and make search, and ask diligently [well]; and behold, if it be truth, and the thing certain [truth is it, certain the word] that such abomination is wrought among you; 15Thou shalt surely smite [sternly, without mercy] the inhabitants of that city with the edge of the sword, destroying it utterly [laying it under a bann] and all that is therein, and the cattle thereof, with the edge of the sword 16 And thou shalt gather all the spoil [made in it] of it into the midst of the street [gate, plaza]3 thereof, and shalt burn with fire the city, and all the spoil thereof every whit,4 for the Lord thy God: and it shall be an heap [heap of ruins] forever; it shall not be built again 17 And there shall cleave nought of the cursed thing [banned thing] to thine hand: that the Lord may turn from the fierceness of his anger, and shew [give] thee mercy, and have compassion upon thee, and multiply thee, as he hath sworn unto thy fathers; 18When thou shalt hearken to the voice of the Lord thy God, to keep all his commandments [commandment] which I command thee this day, to do that which is right in the eyes of the Lord thy God.

EXEGETICAL AND CRITICAL

1. Deuteronomy 13:1-5. The closing verse of the last chapter serves as an introduction to what follows. Comp4:1, 2. In the exposition of the third command hitherto, the confession to Jehovah was determined with respect to the one place in opposition to the wide dispersion of Israel in Canaan. Now the same confession is confirmed against every seducing influence, 1) however it may come, and2) from whatever source, and3) whatever extent or progress it may have won. [“Tempters to false worship are not to be spared even though ( Deuteronomy 13:1-5) their teaching be confirmed by miracles; or ( Deuteronomy 13:6-12) they be nearly allied by kindred or friendship; or ( Deuteronomy 13:13-18) be supported in their apostacy by a whole city.” Bib. Com.—A. G.].

The first case, Deuteronomy 13:1-5. Among you, out of Israel itself, while hitherto the attacks came from without. For נָבִיא see Doct. and Eth1. The phrase dreamer of dreams does not precisely describe the character of the false prophet, for Numbers 12:6 the dream form is expressly assigned to the prophet of Jehovah; the prophet here may be explained by the vision there. Moses also, chap18, designates himself as a prophet. The discourse, in the very manner of the pentateuch, is indefinite and comprehensive of the whole prophetic function or being. Givethi.e., announces or makes known to thee, דִּבֶּר אֵלֶיךָ Deuteronomy 13:3, ( 1 Kings 13:3) sign or wonder, (4:34) are to be distinguished as σημεῖον and τέρας, signum and prodigium, the former more objective and the latter subjective effect [the subjective effect of wonder or astonishment being transferred to that which produces it.—A. G.] equally whether מופת is from יָפַּה (יָפַע) to shine, something striking, brilliant, or from אָפַת, to turn (the kindred Arabic word being to turn away) that which is strangely turned, or more naturally that which excites aversion, amazement, ( Psalm 71:7), unless we should think of פֶתַע (from פָתַה,פָתַח,פתַע) instantly, what is sudden, unexpected. (“Used specially of a thing or person who draws astonished attention to himself as typifying and presaging the future. HengstenbergChristol., 2Ed, Vol. III, I, p281). Deuteronomy 13:2. And (ו) even both, thus the most extraordinary appearance which could legitimate a discourse, לֵאמֹר does not depend upon the principal verb ( Deuteronomy 13:1), but upon אשר־דבר, as soon as he gave the sign he spake. Comp6:14; 11:28; 5:9. Deuteronomy 13:3. For the Lord your God proveth (is proving) you. The participle here, as8:5, designates the constant method of Jehovah with His people. Comp4:34; 8:2. Ye are loving. Since the love must be enduring, the proving also must be lasting or constant, 6:5. Deuteronomy 13:4. Comp4:3; 8:6; 10:20; 4:4. Deuteronomy 13:5. At first, as continually in the first law-giving, simply the death sentence, then in a deuteronomic way the reasons, and the practical hortatory application. The death-sentence (יומת) suggests the usual procedure in the courts (17:4–7; 21:20). For the reasons. Comp7:4, 8; 4:19; 9:12, 16. The application refers the act of executing the death sentence, probably by stoning ( Deuteronomy 13:11) to the character of Israel as a holy people of Jehovah (7:6) which they must confess in every case, but which in this case must be especially sanctified out of the opposition to the name of Jehovah.

2. Deuteronomy 13:6-11. The second case proceeds from the peculiarly enticing aspect which the addition of brother, wife, friend, ( Deuteronomy 13:6) makes clear. In the first case it was that which is above nature, now it is nature truly, flesh and blood with which they should not parley; not to one born of the same mother, then to thine own flesh and blood, nor further, to those bound in the ties of love, nor lastly, to those bound by the still higher tie of friendship ( 2 Samuel 1:26; 1 Samuel 18:1; 1 Samuel 18:3). For the rest similar to Deuteronomy 13:2. Deuteronomy 13:7. Only the God of Israel, no other. Deuteronomy 13:8. Thou shalt not once listen to him. In other points, comp7:16. Since the enticement was in secret, so the proving extends to the concealing ( Matthew 10:37). Deuteronomy 13:9. Comp17:7, (2:15). Deuteronomy 13:10. Comp. Deuteronomy 13:6; Deuteronomy 4:19. This energetic, real counter-confession to Jehovah, against one’s own flesh and blood, (the neighbor, the confidant, should become accuser, witness, and even the first avenger), Israel should thoroughly fulfil, and indeed with sacred awe before the holy majesty of the one God (comp. Deuteronomy 13:5) that the case might never occur again. The purpose of the given death penalty as such is not to terrify. But the prescribed stoning with many stones made it possible that others than those at first related, that the rest of the people even, might share in the confession to the holy name of Jehovah, and perhaps make ready the eternal heap, Deuteronomy 13:16. Comp. Joshua 7:25-26.

3. Deuteronomy 13:12-18. In the third case it is the extent of the sin which is the peculiar object of thought. Deuteronomy 13:12. בְּ not among, nor of, but, that in one, sq, there are gone out, sq, Deuteronomy 13:13. The case is clearly stated at the outset, in the construction, but becomes more prominent through the obligation to the giver Jehovah, placed over against it. לאמר introduces the report, what had occurred. [The clause which the Lord thy God giveth thee serves to aggravate the sin, and at the same time to remind the innocent city of the obligation to watch over that which had involved itself in apostacy. The city was the Lord’s. They held it as stewards. It was entrusted to them. Hence they were to watch over it with the greatest jealousy, and hence the erring city was misusing and perverting the Lord’s property.—A. G.]. Deuteronomy 13:13. כְּנֵי־בְלִיַּעַל, who are conceived, born of יעל perf. from על above, or imperf. from עלה (עלע) to ascend, and thus with בלי that which amounts to nothing—worthlessness, both religious and moral, as if we should say, vain, profitless people, as their gods are nonentities, ( 2 Corinthians 6:15). Out from among you. Israel viewed as a whole, hence the obligation against the criminal part. Deuteronomy 13:1; Deuteronomy 13:5; Deuteronomy 13:11, which comp. But the comprehensive punishment, corresponding to the extent of the sin, should follow only Deuteronomy 13:14 upon the most thorough investigation. Comp9:21. Deuteronomy 13:15. לְפִי־ so that they fall to the sword. Destroying, sq, “banned are they,” sq. Comp. chap7. Deuteronomy 13:16. The street designates the broad, open place in the gates; the place of concourse, of the courts. כָּלִיל the whole, what was entirely offered, borders upon עלה and יעל as a whole offering for Jehovah. Deuteronomy 13:17. Comp7:25 sq. Holiness, as it makes its demand through righteousness, must receive satisfaction, and therewith mercy can follow. The enlargement should counterbalance the loss occasioned by the punishment.

DOCTRINAL AND ETHICAL

1. Delitzsch, upon Genesis 20:7, explains נָבִיא by “one addressed by God, or speaking for Him, i.e., a receiver or interpreter of divine Revelation, and thus as equivalent to προφήτης.” Both ideas lie in the primitive word which is common to all dialects. The primordial of the idea is not the utterance as such, or indeed the “statement in clear word” (C. Meier); נביא is not the name of a ready, fluent worker, peculiarly speaker, (Ewald) or an interpreter (Gesenius); but as נבא, related to נבע, to boil, bubble up, thus as ῥέω, transferred to human speech, points out the flowing announcement, hence presupposes an extraordinary endowment and inspiration—a concealed fountain breaking forth in humanity—so the form נביא asserts its usual passive significance (Hengst.) as frequently in words in which suffering, reception, and activity are connected (μαίνομαι, μάντις), not precisely equal to inspiratus but nearly so (Hupfeld) i.e., “one who receives the secret communications or suggestions.” Therefore not so much as the confidant of God; for the prophet not merely preserves these communications, but has to communicate them, which indeed was the case with the patriarchs ( Psalm 105:10-11), not to speak of the prophetic sayings of Isaac and Jacob, otherwise we should know nothing of their visions and dreams. המה,נהם = נאם to hum, murmur, of secret trusted communication, as: to whisper, has notwithstanding Hupfeld’s repeated assertion, no etymological connection with נבא. Even Exodus 7:1 can only be viewed as a decisive passage sage for the idea of the prophet, when the two there designedly separated sides: the suggesting God and the uttering prophet are taken together (comp. upon18:18. A prophet therefore is one who utters, communicates, that which is hidden, flowing forth from secret sources, either higher (divine) or lower, (demonic). The contents make the distinction between the true and false prophet, as to the form, even signs and wonders, do not fail the latter.

2. As to the biblical idea of a wonder or miracle, it is to be observed that signs precede wonders even in the New Testament connection: σημεῖα καὶ τέρατα, the latter never occurring alone. In the sign it is the objective import of the thing upon which it depends, in the wonder it is the subjective perception. Thus remarks Havernick, “it appears here from the standpoint of Revelation, it is not the wonder in and by itself, but that which is significant in it, the higher to which it points, which is the peculiar essential kernel and characteristic of the true miracle. Above all in the biblical miracle there is an exalted sacred conformity to, or connection with the great educating purpose of God.” The fact announced in this chap, that signs and wonders may be used in the service of falsehood, is not less important for the biblical idea of the miracle ( Matthew 24:24; 2 Thessalonians 2:9; Revelation 13:13) since thus with the signs and wonders we must take the doctrine, and in connection with this the life, and conduct of the wonder-worker. Comp. Matthew 7:15 sq.; 22sq. “It is clear that however great the importance attributed to signs and wonders, they were never regarded as of supreme moment, were never in themselves decisive, but that there was in Israel a certainty which was so much more sure and firm than any demonstration of the wonder, that it could be placed in the most decided opposition to it. This certainty was the knowledge of God; for when they were warned against the service of idols, the opposition between Jehovah and the gods was for the most part thus stated; that Israel had known Jehovah as his God, but had not known the gods of the heathen, and could not therefore trust itself to them, etc.” (Baumgarten).

[The point here is not as to the nature and force of the true miracle, but whether these signs and wonders are to be regarded as true miracles. The Scriptures use these terms in a very wide sense, and there is ground for the usage in the very nature of the case. It could not well be otherwise. If we hold, with some, that the prophet here is a true prophet, and the wonder a real miracle; that God for the purpose of proving and testing His people, permitted this use of His power, we involve ourselves in inextricable difficulties. It will be hard to reconcile this view with the character of God, as true and good, or to justify such a misleading test to His people. We shall be driven to degrade the miracle as a proper evidence of a divine commission, or withdraw it altogether from the field of the evidences. We may meet the case here by the supposition that Moses is putting a hypothetical but impossible case, as Paul in Galatians 1:6. But the whole statement as to the sin, and the manner in which it should be dealt with, implies that it was not only a supposable case, but one which would actually occur. Such prophets would arise, and such wonders be wrought.

The only satisfactory solution is that those wonders were not real miracles. They were supernatural events, i.e., events not traceable to any human agency, or to any natural power or process, but not due to the immediate agency of God, or to any other permissible use of His power in any other sense than that in which He permits whatever is. They were not tricks or impostures. They were real wonders so far as the physical events are concerned. They were true occurrences in the external world, wonders to men, lying above and beyond their power, but due to Satanic or demonic agency. Such agency is recognized in the Scriptures everywhere. It would be likely to manifest itself, for precisely the ends in view by these prophets or dreamers. They had the semblance of true miracles, and herein lay the test. It was only the semblance, and they should have distinguished the real from the apparent. The physical wonder, however striking or awe-inspiring, or unexpected it may have been, was not the miracle. The material wonder coincides with some express announcement, some express claim upon the part of him who works it. The nature of the wonder itself, the truth or announcement connected with it, and the character of the agent, all go to make the miracle. Our Lord Himself appeals to the design with which His miracles were wrought. No wonder or sign therefore could justify them in listening for a moment to one who would turn them from the love and service of Jehovah. God would never coöperate to alienate His own people. See the able article on miracles in Smith’s Bib. Dict., Am. Ed. Trench on Miracles, Introduction. Mozley, Lecture on Miracles, London, 1865, and the authors referred to in Smith’s Bib. Dict.—A.. G.].

3. When the peculiar doctrine and practice of the Romish Church, in whose system not only Calvin, but even Melancthon, were entangled, is based as to the punishment of heretics, schismatics, and sects upon our chapter, it is due to a confusion of ideas; of the theocracy with the Byzantine or mediæval State Church, and involves a mistake as to the nature both of the State and the Church. In the Israelitish theocracy, apostacy from Jehovah, and the institution of a heathen confession and service, was intelligibly treason, rebellion, a civil offence, which must meet with civil punishment. The State, even the Christian state, has the sphere of law and justice for its province, rules in the relations of men to men; can thus only be appealed to in regard to faith, the relation to God, when danger or injury from that side, as to its legal relations, threatens it. And the Church will generally have to decline the means of violence as repugnant to the very nature of religion, as especially considering the religious development, it cannot work with the Old Testament against the New Testament injuries, the more refined and cultivated forms of evil. Against Augustine’s compelle intrare ( Luke 14:23), Luke himself, 9:54 sq, should be heard. But the sword of the Spirit which the Church bears, the word of God, it uses not merely through philosophic demonstration, but the Spirit is the Spirit of testimony, of strength, and of discipline, ( 1 Corinthians 5:13). Comp. Lange, Christian Dogmatics, III, § 52, and for the history, Herzog’s Realencycl., V, p459 sq.

4. The end of the punishment, as it is more expressly declared in the three clauses ( Deuteronomy 13:5; Deuteronomy 13:11; Deuteronomy 13:17), is the putting away of the sin from the midst of Israel by an actual manifestation of the violated law, hence as opposed to the sinful confession which had come into Israel, to make an energetic counter-confession to Jehovah, not-withstanding signs and wonders, bands of blood, and of choice, and even prudence on account of the greatness of the evil. Thus the jus talionis. Deuteronomy 13:5 declares the negative element of the punishment by Which the sin was restrained in its course, and limited to the doer. Its positive destination, through which the transgression was atoned, and the guilt of the transgressor expiated, appear in Deuteronomy 13:11, since the divine righteousness, in its fearful majesty, enters threateningly over against the whole people. The negative and positive elements are both embraced or pre-supposed, Deuteronomy 13:17-18, so that the reconciliation of God to Israel, and of Israel to God, can now have room. “The subordinate or derived ends of punishment,” says Nitzsch, “can only be sought and attained, as they are made good through the consciousness of eternal righteousness.”

5. [The Jews applied, Deuteronomy 13:2-5, to Christ as though He would have allured them, from their allegiance to God and the law, utterly and blindly perverting His whole teaching; which our Saviour took pains to present, as in its whole nature and tendency completing and not destroying the law. Wordsworth closes his long and elaborate note here with the remark “that the conduct of the Jews here shows the vast importance of a correct interpretation of the Holy Scriptures. They had the Scripture, but failed to understand it, and incurred its fearful denunciations by condemning Him to whom they bare witness.” A. G.]

HOMILETICAL AND PRACTICAL

Deuteronomy 12:32 sq. Luther: We should depend entirely upon the word, and do all which it enjoins heartily; for if the word is lost, God is lost. But it is better that one should lose friend, brother, saints and nobles, and all, than God. Calvin: “There is a certainty in the heavenly doctrine which does not permit our faith to waver or to be overthrown, Ephesians 4:14.” Cramer: “There must be heresies among you, that the upright may appear, 1 Corinthians 11:19.” Berl. Bib.: One such prophet is our reason. Deuteronomy 13:2. Tub. Bib.: Truth is more than all wonders, and no wonder avails against the truth. Deuteronomy 13:3. Luther: “Dost thou see here that the right is given to every one to judge the doctrine? Matthew 7:18. The silent power of love.” Calvin: “God searches the heart, not to learn what was unknown to Him, but to reveal what was concealed. Thus the true saints are separated from the hypocrites.” Schultz: “He knows from the beginning; but there must be some fitting experience through which His conduct may stand justified before men, angels and Himself even, Job 1:8.” Berl. Bib.: “It is noticeable, that there is no example in the Old Testament in which Israel as such has so treated one of the many false prophets, but many examples in which they wrested the law against true prophets, and against Christ Himself. Matthew 21:33 sq.; 23:34 sq.; Acts 7:52; John 19:7.” Deuteronomy 13:7. Richter: “The evil one tempts at all times, but most easily through those we love; Adam through Eve, Christ through Peter, Matthew 16:23.” Deuteronomy 13:16. Richter: “Since Israel never carried out this sentence upon godless places, God has done it Himself, especially through the Chaldeans.” Schultz: “If the Church neglects the extermination, the Lord will complete it through the spirit of judgment and the spirit of destruction even, Isaiah 4:4.—Faith in temptation, however dazzling the temptation is to it, follows the Lord; however alluring, the Lord is all to it and more; however violent, it is satisfied with the grace whose strength is mighty in the weak.”

Footnotes:

FN#1 - Deuteronomy 13:10. Here as above the הַדִּיחֲךָ does not precisely correspond with our word thrust, which carries with it the idea of external force. Better when followed by מִן, to draw from.—A. G.].

FN#2 - Deuteronomy 13:13. Margin, naughty men: lit. sons of worthlessness.—A. G.].

FN#3 - Deuteronomy 13:16. Street, the broad, open market-place, at the gate; Gesenius.—A. G.].

FN#4 - Deuteronomy 13:16. Schroeder adopts the rendering of our version, making כָּלִיל an adverb. See however Exeget. notes. Others, Keil, Knobel, Bib. Com, render it as in33:10, a whole offering.—A. G.].

 


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Bibliography Information
Lange, Johann Peter. "Commentary on Deuteronomy 12:4". "Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal, and Homiletical". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/lcc/deuteronomy-12.html. 1857-84.

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