Of false prophets and their lying signs, 1-6. Of those who endeavour to entice and seduce people to idolatry, 7-8. The punishment of such, 9-11. Of cities perverted from the pure worship of God, 12-14. How that city is to be treated, 15. All the spoil of it to be destroyed, 16. Promises to them who obey these directions, 17,18.
Notes on Chapter 13
If there arise among you a prophet
Any pretending to have a Divine influence, so as to be able perfectly to direct others in the way of salvation; or a dreamer of dreams-one who pretends that some deity has spoken to him in the night-season; and giveth thee a sign, oth, what appears to be a miraculous proof of his mission; or a wonder, mopheth, some type or representation of what he wishes to bring you over to: as some have pretended to have received a consecrated image from heaven; hence the origin of the Palladium, Numa's Shields, and many of the deities among the Hindoos. But here the word seems to mean some portentous sign, such as an eclipse, which he who knew when it would take place might predict to the people who knew nothing of the matter, and thereby accredit his pretensions.
The Lord your God proveth you
God permits such impostors to arise to try the faith of his followers, and to put their religious experience to the test; for he who experimentally knows God cannot be drawn away after idols. He who has no experimental knowledge of God, may believe any thing. Experience of the truths contained in the word of God can alone preserve any man from Deism, or a false religion. They who have not this are a prey to the pretended prophet, and to the dreamer of dreams.
If thy brother-or thy son
The teacher of idolatry was to be put to death; and so strict was this order that a man must neither spare nor conceal his brother, son, daughter, wife, nor friend, because this was the highest offence that could be committed against God, and the most destructive to society; hence the severest laws were enacted against it.
Children of Belial
from bal, not, and yaal, profit;-Sept. ανδρεςπαρανομοι, lawless men;-persons good for nothing to themselves or others, and capable of nothing but mischief.
Thou shalt surely smite the inhabitants
If one city were permitted to practise idolatry, the evil would soon spread, therefore the contagion must be destroyed in its birth.
And there shall cleave naught of the cursed thing
As God did not permit them to take the spoils of these idolatrous cities, they could be under no temptation to make war upon them. It could only be done through a merely religious motive, in obedience to the command of God, as they could have no profit by the subversion of such places. How few religious wars would there ever have been in the world had they been regulated by this principle: "Thou shalt neither extend thy territory, nor take any spoils!"