Deuteronomy 13


‘If a prophet, or one who foretells by dreams, appears among you and announces to you a sign or wonder, and if the sign or wonder spoken of takes place, and the prophet says, “Let us follow other gods” (gods you have not known) “and let us worship them,” you must not listen to the words of that prophet or dreamer. The LORD your God is testing you to find out whether you love him with all your heart and with all your soul. It is the LORD your God you must follow, and him you must revere. Keep his commands and obey him; serve him and hold fast to him. That prophet or dreamer must be put to death for inciting rebellion against the LORD your God, who brought you out of Egypt and redeemed you from the land of slavery. That prophet or dreamer tried to turn you from the way the LORD your God commanded you to follow. You must purge the evil from among you.’ Deuteronomy 13:1-5

Worshipping Other Gods

In the previous chapter, Moses commanded Israel to completely destroy all the idols in Canaan, Deuteronomy 12:2-3, and they were commanded not to add or take away anything from God’s commands, Deuteronomy 4:2 / Deuteronomy 12:32.

In this chapter, Moses moves on to speak about those false prophets who represented those false gods. This is the first of three cases of apostasy that are mentioned in this chapter.

This first case would be a false prophet who would give what would appear to be a sign or make a prediction that would appear to be a fulfilled prophecy, Matthew 24:24 / 2 Thessalonians 2:9.

We must remember that dreams can be from God, Numbers 12:6 / Genesis 37:5-11, or they can be false prophesies, Jeremiah 23:25-26.

If a prophet made a prediction and that prediction come to pass, Deuteronomy 18:22, the people may be curious and would often listen to what they said.

Moses said they shouldn’t listen to these false prophets when they said something which contradicted God’s law, as this was a sign that the dreams of the prophet had originated in their own minds and not from God, 1 Kings 22:6-8 / 1 Kings 22:20-23 / Isaiah 8:19-20 / Jeremiah 6:13 / Jeremiah 28:1-17.

Notice that this is one way Israel would be tested by God, Deuteronomy 8:2-4 / Deuteronomy 8:15-16. It appears that the Lord allowed hardships and false teaching to happen, to see if Israel truly loved Him with all their heart and soul, or not, Deuteronomy 8:12 / Deuteronomy 8:20-21 / Deuteronomy 11:1 / Deuteronomy 11:13 / Deuteronomy 11:22.

This also means that Israel can’t claim to love God if they don’t keep His commands, John 14:15.

God knows how dangerous these false prophets were and so He commands if they are proven to be false, they must be put to death, Acts 20:29-30.

In fact, He commands Israel to ‘purge the evil from among you’, we see this happening with Elijah who slaughtered the false prophets of Baal, 1 Kings 18:40.

‘If your very own brother, or your son or daughter, or the wife you love, or your closest friend secretly entices you, saying, “Let us go and worship other gods” (gods that neither you nor your ancestors have known, gods of the peoples around you, whether near or far, from one end of the land to the other), do not yield to them or listen to them. Show them no pity. Do not spare them or shield them. You must certainly put them to death. Your hand must be the first in putting them to death, and then the hands of all the people. Stone them to death, because they tried to turn you away from the LORD your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. Then all Israel will hear and be afraid, and no one among you will do such an evil thing again.’ Deuteronomy 13:6-11

Here Moses speaks about a very difficult situation, where a false prophet turns out to be part of your family. This second temptation refers to one close in the family or a dear friend, Matthew 10:37 / 1 Timothy 2:14.

Moses tells Israel, rather than tolerating, accepting, or even following these family members’ false teaching, the people of God weren’t to yield to them, listen to them, have no pit on them, not to spare them or shield them.

They were to kill them, they must personally kill them with their own hands, and everyone should lay their hands on the heads of the false teacher to kill him.

Over and over again Moses has reminded Israel, that they shouldn’t follow or fall for false religion, Deuteronomy 6:14 / Deuteronomy 7:1-5 / Deuteronomy 12:2-3 / Deuteronomy 20:15-18. This same principle is also taught throughout the New Testament, Matthew 7:21-23 / Matthew 10:34-39 / Luke 14:25-35.

The reason for them being stoned to death was also to create fear in the hearts of Israel and to prevent these evil things from happening again.

‘If you hear it said about one of the towns the LORD your God is giving you to live in that troublemakers have arisen among you and have led the people of their town astray, saying, “Let us go and worship other gods” (gods you have not known), then you must inquire, probe and investigate it thoroughly. And if it is true and it has been proved that this detestable thing has been done among you, you must certainly put to the sword all who live in that town. You must destroy it completely, both its people and its livestock. You are to gather all the plunder of the town into the middle of the public square and completely burn the town and all its plunder as a whole burnt offering to the LORD your God. That town is to remain a ruin forever, never to be rebuilt, and none of the condemned things are to be found in your hands. Then the LORD will turn from his fierce anger, will show you mercy, and will have compassion on you. He will increase your numbers, as he promised on oath to your ancestors—because you obey the LORD your God by keeping all his commands that I am giving you today and doing what is right in his eyes.’ Deuteronomy 13:12-18

Here Moses deals with the third temptation that Israel may face, that is, a group of false prophets who may lead whole towns astray, they are described as troublemakers. Note that some translations call them ‘children of Belial’, which means, worthlessness, Deuteronomy 15:9 / Nahum 1:11.

If a group of false prophets were to seduce an entire city to follow their wicked ways, then God’s people who heard of the event, were to inquire more about the story, search the information, and ask diligently about the matter to many sources.

If the story is found to be true, that is, an entire group of people from a town has been drawn away by these teachers, then God’s people were to take further action, they were completely destroying the inhabitants of the town along with their cattle.

After the town of false teachers and worshippers is destroyed, the Israelites were to gather all the spoils of that town into the middle of the street and burn it with fire, Deuteronomy 7:25-26.

God then commands that such a place should never be rebuilt, Joshua 6 / Joshua 7 / Judges 20:38 / Judges 20:48.

God’s people were to have disgust and hatred over the things the false teacher taught, Romans 12:9. Moses ends by speaking about the powerful judgment that would come upon those who forsake the word of God, 2 Thessalonians 2:3-4.

It would be just to say that God’s people must be in fear of forsaking the word of God or distorting it in any way that would lead to immoral behaviour on the part of God’s people.

Go To Deuteronomy 14


"Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved."