1 Suppose a prophet or one who foretells by dreams#tn Heb “or a dreamer of dreams” (so KJV, ASV, NASB). The difference between a prophet (נָבִיא, navi’) and one who foretells by dreams (חֹלֵם אוֹ, ’o kholem) was not so much one of office – for both received revelation by dreams (cf. Num 12:6) – as it was of function or emphasis. The prophet was more a proclaimer and interpreter of revelation whereas the one who foretold by dreams was a receiver of revelation. In later times the role of the one who foretold by dreams was abused and thus denigrated as compared to that of the prophet (cf. Jer 23:28). should appear among you and show you a sign or wonder,#tn The expression אוֹת אוֹ מוֹפֵת (’ot ’o mofet) became a formulaic way of speaking of ways of authenticating prophetic messages or other works of God (cf. Deut 28:46; Isa 20:3). The NT equivalent is the Greek term σημεῖον (shmeion), a sign performed (used frequently in the Gospel of John, cf. 2:11, 18; 20:30-31). They could, however, be counterfeited or (as here) permitted to false prophets by the Lord as a means of testing his people. 2 and the sign or wonder should come to pass concerning what he said to you, namely, “Let us follow other gods” – gods whom you have not previously known – “and let us serve them.” 3 You must not listen to the words of that prophet or dreamer,#tn Heb “or dreamer of dreams.” See note on this expression in v. 1. for the Lord your God will be testing you to see if you love him#tn Heb “the Lord your God.” The pronoun has been used in the translation for stylistic reasons to avoid redundancy. with all your mind and being.#tn Heb “all your heart and soul” (so NRSV, CEV, NLT); or “heart and being” (NCV “your whole being”). See note on the word “being” in Deut 6:5. 4 You must follow the Lord your God and revere only him; and you must observe his commandments, obey him, serve him, and remain loyal to him. 5 As for that prophet or dreamer,#tn Heb “or dreamer of dreams.” See note on this expression in v. 1. he must be executed because he encouraged rebellion against the Lord your God who brought you from the land of Egypt, redeeming you from that place of slavery, and because he has tried to entice you from the way the Lord your God has commanded you to go. In this way you must purge out evil from within.#tn Heb “your midst” (so NAB, NRSV). The severity of the judgment here (i.e., capital punishment) is because of the severity of the sin, namely, high treason against the Great King. Idolatry is a violation of the first two commandments (Deut 5:6-10) as well as the spirit and intent of the Shema (Deut 6:4-5).
False Prophets in the Family
6 Suppose your own full brother,#tn Heb “your brother, the son of your mother.” In a polygamous society it was not rare to have half brothers and sisters by way of a common father and different mothers. your son, your daughter, your beloved wife, or your closest friend should seduce you secretly and encourage you to go and serve other gods#tn In the Hebrew text these words are in the form of a brief quotation: “entice you secretly saying, ‘Let us go and serve other gods.’” that neither you nor your ancestors#tn Heb “fathers” (also in v. 17). have previously known,#tn Heb “which you have not known, you or your fathers.” (cf. KJV, ASV; on “fathers” cf. v. 18). 7 the gods of the surrounding people (whether near you or far from you, from one end of the earth#tn Or “land” (so NIV, NCV); the same Hebrew word can be translated “land” or “earth.” to the other). 8 You must not give in to him or even listen to him; do not feel sympathy for him or spare him or cover up for him. 9 Instead, you must kill him without fail!#tn The Hebrew text uses the infinitive absolute for emphasis, which the translation indicates with the words “without fail” (cf. NIV “you must certainly put him to death”). Your own hand must be the first to strike him,#tn Heb “to put him to death,” but this is misleading in English for such an action would leave nothing for the others to do. and then the hands of the whole community. 10 You must stone him to death#sn Execution by means of pelting the offender with stones afforded a mechanism whereby the whole community could share in it. In a very real sense it could be done not only in the name of the community and on its behalf but by its members (cf. Lev 24:14; Num 15:35; Deut 21:21; Josh 7:25). because he tried to entice you away from the Lord your God, who delivered you from the land of Egypt, that place of slavery. 11 Thus all Israel will hear and be afraid; no longer will they continue to do evil like this among you.#sn Some see in this statement an argument for the deterrent effect of capital punishment (Deut 17:13; 19:20; 21:21).
Punishment of Community Idolatry
12 Suppose you should hear in one of your cities, which the Lord your God is giving you as a place to live, that 13 some evil people#tn Heb “men, sons of Belial.” The Hebrew term בְּלִיַּעַל (bÿliyya’al) has the idea of worthlessness, without morals or scruples (HALOT 133-34 s.v.). Cf. NAB, NRSV “scoundrels”; TEV, CEV “worthless people”; NLT “worthless rabble.” have departed from among you to entice the inhabitants of their cities,#tc The LXX and Tg read “your” for the MT’s “their.” saying, “Let’s go and serve other gods” (whom you have not known before).#tn The translation understands the relative clause as a statement by Moses, not as part of the quotation from the evildoers. See also v. 2. 14 You must investigate thoroughly and inquire carefully. If it is indeed true that such a disgraceful thing is being done among you,#tc Theodotian adds “in Israel,” perhaps to broaden the matter beyond the local village. 15 you must by all means#tn The Hebrew text uses the infinitive absolute for emphasis, indicated in the translation by the words “by all means.” Cf. KJV, NASB “surely”; NIV “certainly.” slaughter the inhabitants of that city with the sword; annihilate#tn Or “put under divine judgment. The Hebrew word (חֵרֶם, kherem) refers to placing persons or things under God’s judgment, usually to the extent of their complete destruction.Though primarily applied against the heathen, this severe judgment could also fall upon unrepentant Israelites (cf. the story of Achan in Josh 7). See also the note on the phrase “divine judgment” in Deut 2:34. with the sword everyone in it, as well as the livestock. 16 You must gather all of its plunder into the middle of the plaza#tn Heb “street.” and burn the city and all its plunder as a whole burnt offering to the Lord your God. It will be an abandoned ruin#tn Heb “mound”; NAB “a heap of ruins.” The Hebrew word תֵּל (tel) refers to this day to a ruin represented especially by a built-up mound of dirt or debris (cf. Tel Aviv, “mound of grain”). forever – it must never be rebuilt again. 17 You must not take for yourself anything that has been placed under judgment.#tn Or “anything that has been put under the divine curse”; Heb “anything of the ban” (cf. NASB). See note on the phrase “divine judgment” in Deut 2:34. Then the Lord will relent from his intense anger, show you compassion, have mercy on you, and multiply you as he promised your ancestors. 18 Thus you must obey the Lord your God, keeping all his commandments that I am giving#tn Heb “commanding” (so NASB, NRSV). you today and doing what is right#tc The LXX and Smr add “and good” to bring the phrase in line with a familiar cliché (cf. Deut 6:18; Josh 9:25; 2 Kgs 10:3; 2 Chr 14:1; etc.). This is an unnecessary and improper attempt to force a text into a preconceived mold. before him.#tn Heb “in the eyes of the Lord your God.” See note on the word “him” in v. 3.