New European Commentary

 

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Deeper Commentary

 

Deu 13:1 If there should arise in the midst of you a prophet or a dreamer of dreams, and he gives you a sign or a wonder-
"If" could as well be translated "when". Paul seems to allude here: "Of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things" (Acts 20:30).



Deu 13:2 and the sign or the wonder comes to pass of which he spoke to you saying, Let us go after other gods (which you have not previously known) and let us serve them,
Deu 13:3 you must not listen to the words of that prophet or to that dreamer of dreams, for Yahweh your God proves you-
The reasoning here is helpful with respect to the claims made by some to perform supernatural feats. Even if it seems they might have done so, that isn’t a good enough reason to believe them; our loyalty to the one true God must not be swayed by apparently impressive deeds or predictions by those who don’t believe in Him. 

To know whether you love Yahweh your God with all your heart and with all your soul-
Yahweh was to be loved with all the heart, soul and mind (Dt. 6:5). This is understood by Joshua as meaning that those who loved Yahweh would not "mix with" and intermarry with the nations and accept their gods (Josh. 23:11,12,16). "Love" for God was not therefore a feeling; Joshua said that they must "take good heed therefore to yourselves, that you love Yahweh" (Josh. 23:11). This is the love of conscious direction of the mind, the love which is a choice rather than an emotion.    

Time and again, Moses speaks of the state of their heart. He warns them against allowing a bad state of heart to develop, he speaks often of how apostasy starts in the heart. Moses makes a total of 49 references to the heart / mind of Israel in Deuteronomy, compared to only 13 in the whole of Exodus, Leviticus and Numbers. This indicates the paramount importance which our Lord attaches to the state of our mind. This was perhaps his greatest wish as He faced death; that we should develop a spiritual mind and thereby manifest the Father and come to salvation. Moses likewise saw the state of our mind as the key to spiritual success. But do we share this perspective? Do we guard our minds against the media and influence of a mind-corrupting world? It's been observed that the phrase "The God of [somebody]", or similar, occurs 614 times in the Old Testament, of which 306 are in Deuteronomy. Our very personal relationship with God was therefore something else which Moses came to grasp in his spiritual maturity. Statistical analysis of the word "love" in the Pentateuch likewise reveals that "love" was a great theme of Moses at the end of his life (Moses uses it 16 times in Deuteronomy, and only four times in Exodus, Leviticus and Numbers).


Deu 13:4 You must walk after Yahweh your God and fear Him and keep His commandments and obey His voice, and you must serve Him and cleave to Him-
The idea of 'cleaving' to God is a big theme of Moses in Deuteronomy (Dt. 4:4; 10:20; 11:22; 13:4,17; 28:21,60; 30:20); the only other time Moses uses the word in his writings is in Gen. 2:24, concerning a man cleaving to his wife. Moses seems to have been suggesting to Israel that their covenant relationship with God meant they were marrying God. This was a real paradigm breaker. We may be used to such things. But against the theological background of the time, not to say the generally low level of spirituality among Israel, this was a shocking idea. It reflected the heights to which Moses had risen. 

The Lord’s common Upper Room theme of ‘abiding’ in Him uses the same word as Moses used in the LXX when exhorting his people to ‘cleave unto’ God (Dt. 10:20; 11:22). This abiding involved loving God and keeping His commandments- all ideas which occur together in Dt. 13:4; 30:20.

“If you love me you will keep my commandments” (Jn. 14:15,21,23; 15:10) reflects a major identical theme in Dt. 5:10; 7:9; 11:1,22; 13:3,4; 19:9; 30:16. Moses at the end of his life, when he spoke Deuteronomy, was very much the image of the future Lord Jesus.


Deu 13:5 That prophet or that dreamer of dreams must be put to death, because he has spoken rebellion against Yahweh your God, Who brought you out of the land of Egypt and redeemed you out of the house of bondage, to draw you aside out of the way which Yahweh your God commanded you to walk in. So you must put away the evil from the midst of you-
Moses' frequent references to the way in which the Exodus had separated Israel from Egypt show the colossal difference there is between us and this world as a result of our Red Sea baptism into Christ (13:5; 15:15; 16:12; 1 Cor. 10:1,2); as our Lord in His time of dying was so strongly aware of the way in which He was redeeming us from this present evil world (Gal. 1:4). 


Deu 13:6 If your brother, the son of your mother, or your son or your daughter, or the wife of your bosom or your friend, who is as your own soul, entices you secretly, saying, Let us go and serve other gods, which you have not known, you nor your fathers-
Moses  speaks as if he assumed that surely Israel would love their neighbour as themselves: "Thy brother...or thy friend, which is as thine own soul" almost unconsciously reveals the depth of Moses' positive faith in their obedience, even though on the other hand he clearly understood their future apostacy. So often family loyalties deflect a person from their loyalty to the one true God. The same has always been the case. Our spiritual family should ultimately be more meaningful to us than our natural family; that at least is the ideal, although all families have their dysfunctions, including our spiritual family.


Despite omitting some of the Law's commands in his speech, there are other commands which Moses really emphasises and repeats within his speech; e.g. the need to destroy idols and false teachers, and to provide cities of refuge to cater for the sins they would commit without intending to (Dt. 7:5; 12:3, 23-25; 13:6-14 = 17:2-7). This surely reflects our Lord's attitude to us; it is his desire that we recognise our sinfulness, our likelihood of failure, our need to separate from things which will lead us away from Him. And yet the Christian community is increasingly blind to this. Moses' frequent references to the way in which the Exodus had separated Israel from Egypt show the same spirit (Dt. 13:5; 15:15; 16:12); as our Lord in his time of dying was so strongly aware of the way in which he was redeeming us from this present evil world.  


Deu 13:7 of the gods of the peoples who are around you, near to you or far off from you, from the one end of the land to the other end of the land,
Deu 13:8 you must not consent to him nor listen to him. Neither shall your eye pity him, neither shall you spare, neither shall you conceal him,
Deu 13:9 but you must surely kill him. Your hand shall be first on him to put him to death, and afterwards the hand of all the people.
Deu 13:10 You must stone him to death with stones because he has sought to draw you away from Yahweh your God who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage.
Deu 13:11 All Israel shall hear, and fear, and shall not do any more such wickedness as this is in the midst of you.
Deu 13:12 If you hear concerning one of your cities which Yahweh your God gives you to dwell there saying-
Like Paul in his time of dying, Moses in Deuteronomy saw the importance of obedience, the harder side of God; yet he also saw in real depth the surpassing love of God, and the grace that was to come, beyond Law. This appreciation reflected Moses' mature grasp of the Name / characteristics of God. He uses the name "Yahweh" in Deuteronomy over 530 times, often with some possessive adjective, e.g. "Yahweh thy God" [AV- i.e. you singular], or "Yahweh our God". He saw the personal relationship between a man and his God. Jacob reached a like realization at his peak.


Deu 13:13 Certain bad men have gone out from the midst of you and have drawn away the inhabitants of their city, saying Let us go and serve other gods, which you have not known,
Deu 13:14 then you shall inquire and make search and ask diligently. Behold, if it is true and certain that such abomination is done in the midst of you-
Allegations of misbehaviour or wrong teaching within the family of God must be taken seriously and not pushed under the carpet. But they aren’t to be acted upon without a very careful investigation, during which the love which believes and hopes all things is paramount. This passage cannot be used as a reason to divide from those who have a slightly different Biblical interpretation of something than we do, whilst believing in and worshipping the same Lord. The situation envisaged is if someone were seeking to draw Yahweh’s people away to a totally different god (:13).

 

Deu 13:15 you must surely strike the inhabitants of that city with the edge of the sword, destroying it utterly and all that is therein and its livestock, with the edge of the sword-
Striking a city with the edge of the sword and completely destroying all life within it was what Israel did to the cities of Canaan (Josh. 10:32 etc.). But the phrase is that of Dt. 13:15, about what should be done to an apostate Israelite city who turned to idolatry. This explains why the account of Joshua's campaigns list cities like Libnah and Lachish, against which the Assyrians "encamped" and fought against them (2 Chron. 32:1; Is. 37:8 = Josh. 10:31). Israel were judging the Canaanite cities for their idolatry; the fact they committed the same meant that they were more than hypocritical. They had done that which they had judged. And they thereby become a warning for us.


Deu 13:16 You shall gather all its spoil into the midst of its street and shall burn with fire the city and all its spoil, everything, to Yahweh your God, and it shall be a heap forever. It shall not be built again.
Deu 13:17 Nothing of the devoted thing must cling to your hand, that Yahweh may turn from the fierceness of His anger and show you mercy and have compassion on you and multiply you, as He has sworn to your fathers-
 
The idea of the Angels' work for us being proportional to and  dependent on our obedience is hard to fully accept, yet it is fundamental to our understanding of God's way of working in every enterprise we are involved in. The principle is outlined in Dt. 13:17, which said that the spoil of  a captured city that was devoted to the Lord was not to be kept, as it was by Achan. This was so that "the Lord may. . . shew thee mercy, and have compassion upon thee". "The Lord" refers to the Angel, seeing that the attributes of mercy and compassion recall those of the Angel who declared them as part of His Name in Ex. 33 and 34. Dt. 13:17 continues: "... as He hath shown unto thy fathers…to multiply thee". These promises were made by Angels. Verse 18 lends further  support ". . do that which is right in the eyes (Angels) of the Lord thy God".
13:17- see on 7:12.


Deu 13:18 when you listen to the voice of Yahweh your God, to keep all His commandments which I command you this day, to do that which is right in the eyes of Yahweh your God.