Deuteronomy 13 Bible Commentary

John Wesley’s Explanatory Notes

(Read all of Deuteronomy 13)

Verse 1

[1] If there arise among you a prophet, or a dreamer of dreams, and giveth thee a sign or a wonder,

A dreamer of dreams — One that pretends God hath revealed himself to him by visions or dreams.

Giveth a sign or wonder — That is, shall foretell some strange and wonderful thing.

Verse 3

[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.

Thou shalt not hearken to that prophet — Not receive his doctrine, though the sign come to pass. For although when such a sign or wonder foretold did not follow or come to pass, it was a sign of a false prophet, yet when it did come to pass, it was no sufficient sign of a true one, especially, in such a case. There are many things, which may be wrought by evil spirits, God so permitting it for wise and just reasons, not only for the trial of the good, but also for the punishment of ungodly men.

Proveth you — That is, trieth your faith and love and obedience.

To know — Namely, judicially, or in a publick manner, so as both you and others may know and see it, that so the justice of his judgments upon you may be more evident and glorious.

Verse 5

[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.

To thrust — This phrase notes the great force and power of seducers to corrupt men's minds.

So shalt thou put the evil away — Thou shalt remove the guilt, by removing the guilty.

Verse 6

[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;

The son of thy mother — This is added, to restrain the signification of the word brother, which is often used generally for one near a-kin, and to express the nearness of the relation, the mother's, side being usually the ground of the most fervent affection.

Thy daughter — Thy piety must overcome both thy affection, and thy compassion to the weaker sex. The father and mother are here omitted, because they are sufficiently contained in the former examples.

Verse 8

[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:

Conceal him — That is, smother his fault, hide or protect his person, but shalt accuse him to the magistrate, and demand justice upon him.

Verse 9

[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.

Thou shalt kill him — Not privately, which pretence would have opened the door to innumerable murders, but by procuring his death by the sentence of the magistrate. Thou shalt cast the first stone at him, as the witness was to do.

Verse 13

[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;

Children of Belial — It signifies properly persons without yoke, vile and wretched miscreants, lawless and rebellious, that will suffer no restraint, that neither fear God, nor reverence man.

From among you — That is, from your church and religion. It notes a separation from them, not in place (as appears by their partnership with their fellow citizens both in the sin and punishment) but in heart, doctrine and worship.

Verse 14

[14] Then shalt thou enquire, and make search, and ask diligently; and, behold, if it be truth, and the thing certain, that such abomination is wrought among you;

Enquire — This is, meant of the magistrate, to whose office this properly belongs, and of whom he continues to speak in the same manner, thou, Deuteronomy 13:15,16. The Jewish writers say, the defection of a city is to be tried by the great sanhedrim. If it appear, that they are thrust away to idolatry, they send two learned men, to admonish them. If they repent, all is well: is not, all Israel must go up and execute this sentence. Tho' we do not find this law put in execution, in all the history of the Jewish church, yet for neglecting the execution of it on inferior cities, God himself by the army of the Chaldeans, executed it on Jerusalem, the head city, which was utterly destroyed, and lay in ruins for seventy years.

Verse 15

[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.

The inhabitants — Namely, all that are guilty, not the innocent part, such as disowned this apostacy, who doubtless by choice, at least upon warning, would come out of so wicked a place.

Utterly — The very same punishment which was, inflicted upon the cities of the cursed Canaanites, to whom having made themselves equal in sin, it is but just God should equal them in punishment.

Verse 16

[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.

For the Lord — For the satisfaction of God's justice, the maintainance of his honour and authority, and the pacification of his offended majesty.

It shall not be built — It shall be an eternal monument of God's justice, and terror to after ages.

Verse 17

[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;

Multiply thee — So thou shalt have no loss of thy numbers by cutting off so many people.