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The New Oxford Annotated Bible New Revised Standard Study Bible that provides essential scholarship and guidance for Bible readers.

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Commentary on Deuteronomy

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13.1–18 : Unconditional loyalty to God.

Various hypothetical situations involving conflict of covenant loyalty to God, treated analogously to ancient Near Eastern suzerainty treaties, which stipulated absolute loyalty.

1–5 :

A prophet or diviner invites listeners to commit idolatry. While Deuteronomy presents Moses as the founder of Israelite prophecy, establishing both its standard ( 18.15–22 ) and its pinnacle ( 34.10–12 ), Deuteronomy nonetheless regulates prophecy, requiring the execution of the prophet who contravenes Deuteronomy's Torah (vv. 1–5; 18.19–22 ) and subordinating prophecy to covenantal law. No longer is the power to perform signs the test of a prophet's legitimacy (contrast v. 2 with 34.11–12; Ex 4.1–9,21; 1 Kings 18.20–40 ). The true prophet proclaims Torah ( 18.18 ).

1 :

The religious stature of prophets makes it difficult to resist their incitement to commit apostasy. Dreams, the two sources of religious authority correspond to the nearly contemporary Neo‐Assyrian Vassal Treaty of Esarhaddon (672 BCE), which requires loyalty even in the face of conspiracy from “your brothers, your sons, your daughters, or from the mouth of a prophet, an ecstatic, or an inquirer of oracles” (§ 10). Omens or portents were used by legitimate prophets to authenticate their proclamations ( 34.11; Ex 4.1–9,21; 7.9; Judg 6.17 ).

5 :

Treason, as betrayal of the divine suzerain. Purge the evil from your midst, a formula emphasizing the obligation to eliminate particularly offensive religious transgressions ( 17.7,12; 19.19; 21.21 ; etc.).

6–11 :

Conflict between family love, marriage, or friendship and covenantal fidelity (cf. Lk 14.26 ).

6 :

Secretly, i.e., there are no witnesses. Father's son, this addition of the half‐brother (see text note a) provides a poor reading. The Heb deliberately selects the most intimate of human relations in this verse; thus the full brother (mother's son).

9 :

But you shall surely kill them, i.e., summary execution. The absence of witnesses and a trial conflicts with Deuteronomy's own requirements elsewhere ( 17.4,6; 19.15 ), but arises from the grave threat to the covenant (Ex 32.25–27; Num 25.6–9 ).

10 :

Stone, the penalty carried out by the community for violations of its fundamental values or sources of authority: apostasy or treason (see 17.2–7; Lev 20.2; Josh 7.10–26; 1 Kings 21.8–14 ), blasphemy (Lev 24.13–23 ), defying parental authority ( 21.18–21; 22.20–21 ), and betraying marriage ( 22.23–24 ). Each is prohibited by the Decalogue ( 5.6,11,16,18 ).

13 :

Scoundrels, lit. “sons of worthlessness,” or “children of Belial” (KJV).

15–17 :

The infidelity of the Israelite town requires that its entire population be placed under the same ban as that used for the Canaanites ( 7.1–6,25–26; 12.29–30; 20.16–18 ).

16 :

Normally new occupants would rebuild cities after destruction right on top of the ruin (Heb “tel”).

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