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Deuteronomy 12:32--13:5

Context
Idolatry and False Prophets

12:32 (13:1) 1  You 2  must be careful to do everything I am commanding you. Do not add to it or subtract from it! 3  13:1 Suppose a prophet or one who foretells by dreams 4  should appear among you and show you a sign or wonder, 5  13:2 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.” 13:3 You must not listen to the words of that prophet or dreamer, 6  for the Lord your God will be testing you to see if you love him 7  with all your mind and being. 8  13:4 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. 13:5 As for that prophet or dreamer, 9  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. 10 

1 sn Beginning with 12:32, the verse numbers through 13:18 in the English Bible differ from the verse numbers in the Hebrew text (BHS), with 12:32 ET = 13:1 HT, 13:1 ET = 13:2 HT, 13:2 ET = 13:3 HT, etc., through 13:18 ET = 13:19 HT. With 14:1 the verse numbers in the ET and HT are again the same.

2 tn This verse highlights a phenomenon found throughout Deuteronomy, but most especially in chap. 12, namely, the alternation of grammatical singular and plural forms of the pronoun (known as Numeruswechsel in German scholarship). Critical scholarship in general resolves the “problem” by suggesting varying literary traditions – one favorable to the singular pronoun and the other to the plural – which appear in the (obviously rough) redacted text at hand. Even the ancient versions were troubled by the lack of harmony of grammatical number and in this verse, for example, offered a number of alternate readings. The MT reads “Everything I am commanding you (plural) you (plural) must be careful to do; you (singular) must not add to it nor should you (singular) subtract form it.” Smr, LXX, Syriac, and Vulgate suggest singular for the first two pronouns but a few Smr mss propose plural for the last two. What both ancient and modern scholars tend to overlook, however, is the covenantal theological tone of the Book of Deuteronomy, one that views Israel as a collective body (singular) made up of many individuals (plural). See M. Weinfeld, Deuteronomy 1–11 (AB), 15-16; J. A. Thompson, Deuteronomy (TOTC), 21-23.

3 sn Do not add to it or subtract from it. This prohibition makes at least two profound theological points: (1) This work by Moses is of divine origination (i.e., it is inspired) and therefore can tolerate no human alteration; and (2) the work is complete as it stands (i.e., it is canonical).

4 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).

5 tn The expression אוֹת אוֹ מוֹפֵת (’oto 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.

6 tn Heb “or dreamer of dreams.” See note on this expression in v. 1.

7 tn Heb “the Lord your God.” The pronoun has been used in the translation for stylistic reasons to avoid redundancy.

8 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.

9 tn Heb “or dreamer of dreams.” See note on this expression in v. 1.

10 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).



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