Commentary Critical and Explanatory
on the Whole Bible
1. If there arise among you a prophet--The special counsels which
follow arose out of the general precept contained in
and the purport of them is, that every attempt to seduce others from
the course of duty which that divine standard of faith and worship
prescribes must not only be strenuously resisted, but the seducer
punished by the law of the land. This is exemplified in three cases of
enticement to idolatry.
a prophet--that is, some notable person laying claim to the character
and authority of the prophetic office
performing feats of dexterity or power in support of his pretensions,
or even predicting events which occurred as he foretold; as, for
instance, an eclipse which a knowledge of natural science might enable
him to anticipate (or, as Caiaphas,
Should the aim of such a one be to seduce the people from the worship
of the true God, he is an impostor and must be put to death. No
prodigy, however wonderful, no human authority, however great, should
be allowed to shake their belief in the divine character and truth of a
religion so solemnly taught and so awfully attested (compare
The modern Jews appeal to this passage as justifying their rejection of
Jesus Christ. But He possessed all the characteristics of a true
prophet, and He was so far from alienating the people from God and His
worship that the grand object of His ministry was to lead to a purer,
more spiritual and perfect observance of the law.
6. If thy brother . . . entice thee secretly--This term being applied
very loosely in all Eastern countries
other expressions are added to intimate that no degree of kindred,
however intimate, should be allowed to screen an enticer to idolatry,
to conceal his crime, or protect his person. Piety and duty must
overcome affection or compassion, and an accusation must be lodged
before a magistrate.
9. thou shalt surely kill him--not hastily, or in a private manner, but
after trial and conviction; and his relative, as informer, was to cast
the first stone
It is manifest that what was done in secret could not be legally proved
by a single informer; and hence Jewish writers say that spies were set
in some private part of the house, to hear the conversation and watch
the conduct of a person suspected of idolatrous tendencies.
12-18. Certain men, the children of Belial--lawless, designing
1Sa 1:16; 25:25),
who abused their influence to withdraw the inhabitants of the city to
14. Then shalt thou inquire--that is, the magistrate, to whom it
officially belonged to make the necessary investigation. In the event
of the report proving true, the most summary proceedings were to be
commenced against the apostate inhabitants. The law in this chapter has
been represented as stern and sanguinary, but it was in accordance with
the national constitution of Israel. God being their King, idolatry was
treason, and a city turned to idols put itself into a state, and
incurred the punishment, of rebellion.
16. it shall be an heap for ever; it shall not be built again--Its
ruins shall be a permanent monument of the divine justice, and a beacon
for the warning and terror of posterity.
17. there shall cleave naught of the cursed thing to thine hand--No
spoil shall be taken from a city thus solemnly devoted to destruction.
Every living creature must be put to the sword--everything belonging to
it reduced to ashes--that nothing but its infamy may remain.