Deuteronomy Chapter 13

The children of Israel had been a people living among a very idolatrous nation, Egypt. They had been delivered by the Lord, but continually showed a weakness for following after other gods. They were about to enter a land where the nations worshiped false gods as part of everyday living. Moses had taught the people the importance of worshiping the Lord, and doing all that they could to remove the temptations of idolatry. His teachings continued with the following:

1 If there arise among you a prophet, or a dreamer of dreams, and giveth thee a sign or a wonder,
2 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;
3 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.
4 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.
5 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.

The Israelites were warned that there may come a time, when a prophet or dreamer would promise a sign or wonder. If the things they promised came true, and that person called upon them to seek after other gods to serve, they were not to follow after them. They had been shown time and time again, that the only true and living God was the Lord, and that anything else was false and wickedness. The Lord would test them to see if they truly loved God, by expecting them to follow Him, obey His word and keep His commandments. The Israelites were commanded to put any false prophet or dreamer to death for trying to lead them away from the Lord with false doctrine. In this way, they would remove the temptation from the people.

6 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;
7 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;
8 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:
9 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.
10 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.
11 And all Israel shall hear, and fear, and shall do no more any such wickedness as this is among you.

Likewise, if any member of their families or friends, tried to draw them away to idolatry, by any means, they were not to follow after them. They were instead, to be put to death, just as the false prophets and dreamers, and shown no pity or mercy in their wickedness. Their were commanded to stone them for trying to lead them after false gods and away from the Lord.

12 If thou shalt hear say in one of thy cities, which the Lord thy God hath given thee to dwell there, saying,
13 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;
14 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;
15 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.
16 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.
17 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;
18 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.

If a city among the Israelites, was heard to have gone astray into the sin of idolatry, they were to investigate the possibility. They are called here the children of Belial, which according to the bible dictionary is another way of saying wicked men, who were worthless. If they found that the city had indeed become an idolatrous city, they were to destroy the people of the city and everything in it. Anything left was to be burned, and the city was not to be built again. If they were to continue to receive the promised blessings of the Lord, they could not keep anything from the wicked place. They would be blessed for obedience to this and all the commandments of the Lord.

Part of obedience to the Lord, was having the courage to destroy those who were leading others into idolatry, even when it was loved ones. This is a perspective of these commandments, which I have only recently been considering. Following after the Lord and not being idolatrous, was only part of the commandment. I am sure that for some this would not have been a hard thing to do, and that they would have felt safe in knowing they would only follow the Lord. However, the love we have for family is strong, and I can imagine the great and heavy burden it would have been to learn that someone you loved was worthy of death at your hand. I know that there may have been many who were guilty of not following through with destroying those who had chosen a life of idolatry and were therefore also guilty of disobedience to the commandments of the Lord. This may have been the more difficult test that the Lord allowed the Israelites to experience, in order to show their complete devotion to the Lord.

In Matthew 10:28 we read, “And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.” Those family members of people who had turned to wicked idolatry, would have only been able to give a physical death to those who had chosen wickedness. It was the mercy of the Lord, that this punishment be given, because the temptations of Satan bring the greater spiritual death, which separate both body and spirit from returning to our God. If the individuals had been allowed to continue in their wickedness, they would have worst to come after this life. I think that this is the point of view the righteous would have needed to remember in order to show obedience to this commandment.

When I wonder about this commandment for the Israelites, I think as well about what is expected of me now, especially as a parent. It is my duty, to teach my children what is right and wrong. It is also my duty, to give loving correction, when they go astray. This is not an easy thing sometimes. I am sure it will become more difficult as they get older as well. Their are many people today, who value the friendship of their children more than consider the duty they have to the Lord. The better thing for parents to do, is to be a parent first, and call children to repentance when necessary, rather then allow them to follow after the other gods of our day. I am glad that this does not require the same consequence of capital punishment today, meaning death, but I also realize that there is a gravity to my choices that may help shape the eternal destiny of those I love. There will be great sorrow for those who are lost to wickedness. Moreover, I will be held accountable for their sins, if I do not do my part as a parent and teach and guide as I know is right.

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