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Deuteronomy 4:15-31

Context
The Nature of Israel’s God

4:15 Be very careful, 1  then, because you saw no form at the time the Lord spoke to you at Horeb from the middle of the fire. 4:16 I say this 2  so you will not corrupt yourselves by making an image in the form of any kind of figure. This includes the likeness of a human male or female, 4:17 any kind of land animal, any bird that flies in the sky, 4:18 anything that crawls 3  on the ground, or any fish in the deep waters of the earth. 4  4:19 When you look up 5  to the sky 6  and see the sun, moon, and stars – the whole heavenly creation 7  – you must not be seduced to worship and serve them, 8  for the Lord your God has assigned 9  them to all the people 10  of the world. 11  4:20 You, however, the Lord has selected and brought from Egypt, that iron-smelting furnace, 12  to be his special people 13  as you are today. 4:21 But the Lord became angry with me because of you and vowed that I would never cross the Jordan nor enter the good land that he 14  is about to give you. 15  4:22 So I must die here in this land; I will not cross the Jordan. But you are going over and will possess that 16  good land. 4:23 Be on guard so that you do not forget the covenant of the Lord your God that he has made with you, and that you do not make an image of any kind, just as he 17  has forbidden 18  you. 4:24 For the Lord your God is a consuming fire; he is a jealous God. 19 

Threat and Blessing following Covenant Disobedience

4:25 After you have produced children and grandchildren and have been in the land a long time, 20  if you become corrupt and make an image of any kind 21  and do other evil things before the Lord your God that enrage him, 22  4:26 I invoke heaven and earth as witnesses against you 23  today that you will surely and swiftly be removed 24  from the very land you are about to cross the Jordan to possess. You will not last long there because you will surely be 25  annihilated. 4:27 Then the Lord will scatter you among the peoples and there will be very few of you 26  among the nations where the Lord will drive you. 4:28 There you will worship gods made by human hands – wood and stone that can neither see, hear, eat, nor smell. 4:29 But if you seek the Lord your God from there, you will find him, if, indeed, you seek him with all your heart and soul. 27  4:30 In your distress when all these things happen to you in the latter days, 28  if you return to the Lord your God and obey him 29  4:31 (for he 30  is a merciful God), he will not let you down 31  or destroy you, for he cannot 32  forget the covenant with your ancestors that he confirmed by oath to them.

Deuteronomy 5:7-10

Context
5:7 You must not have any other gods 33  besides me. 34  5:8 You must not make for yourself an image 35  of anything in heaven above, on earth below, or in the waters beneath. 36  5:9 You must not worship or serve them, for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God. I punish 37  the sons, grandsons, and great-grandsons for the sin of the fathers who reject 38  me, 39  5:10 but I show covenant faithfulness 40  to the thousands 41  who choose 42  me and keep my commandments.

Deuteronomy 13:1-18

Context
13:1 Suppose a prophet or one who foretells by dreams 43  should appear among you and show you a sign or wonder, 44  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, 45  for the Lord your God will be testing you to see if you love him 46  with all your mind and being. 47  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, 48  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. 49 

False Prophets in the Family

13:6 Suppose your own full brother, 50  your son, your daughter, your beloved wife, or your closest friend should seduce you secretly and encourage you to go and serve other gods 51  that neither you nor your ancestors 52  have previously known, 53  13:7 the gods of the surrounding people (whether near you or far from you, from one end of the earth 54  to the other). 13:8 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. 13:9 Instead, you must kill him without fail! 55  Your own hand must be the first to strike him, 56  and then the hands of the whole community. 13:10 You must stone him to death 57  because he tried to entice you away from the Lord your God, who delivered you from the land of Egypt, that place of slavery. 13:11 Thus all Israel will hear and be afraid; no longer will they continue to do evil like this among you. 58 

Punishment of Community Idolatry

13:12 Suppose you should hear in one of your cities, which the Lord your God is giving you as a place to live, that 13:13 some evil people 59  have departed from among you to entice the inhabitants of their cities, 60  saying, “Let’s go and serve other gods” (whom you have not known before). 61  13:14 You must investigate thoroughly and inquire carefully. If it is indeed true that such a disgraceful thing is being done among you, 62  13:15 you must by all means 63  slaughter the inhabitants of that city with the sword; annihilate 64  with the sword everyone in it, as well as the livestock. 13:16 You must gather all of its plunder into the middle of the plaza 65  and burn the city and all its plunder as a whole burnt offering to the Lord your God. It will be an abandoned ruin 66  forever – it must never be rebuilt again. 13:17 You must not take for yourself anything that has been placed under judgment. 67  Then the Lord will relent from his intense anger, show you compassion, have mercy on you, and multiply you as he promised your ancestors. 13:18 Thus you must obey the Lord your God, keeping all his commandments that I am giving 68  you today and doing what is right 69  before him. 70 

Deuteronomy 16:21--17:7

Context
Examples of Legal Cases

16:21 You must not plant any kind of tree as a sacred Asherah pole 71  near the altar of the Lord your God which you build for yourself. 16:22 You must not erect a sacred pillar, 72  a thing the Lord your God detests. 17:1 You must not sacrifice to him 73  a bull or sheep that has a blemish or any other defect, because that is considered offensive 74  to the Lord your God. 17:2 Suppose a man or woman is discovered among you – in one of your villages 75  that the Lord your God is giving you – who sins before the Lord your God 76  and breaks his covenant 17:3 by serving other gods and worshiping them – the sun, 77  moon, or any other heavenly bodies which I have not permitted you to worship. 78  17:4 When it is reported to you and you hear about it, you must investigate carefully. If it is indeed true that such a disgraceful thing 79  is being done in Israel, 17:5 you must bring to your city gates 80  that man or woman who has done this wicked thing – that very man or woman – and you must stone that person to death. 81  17:6 At the testimony of two or three witnesses they must be executed. They cannot be put to death on the testimony of only one witness. 17:7 The witnesses 82  must be first to begin the execution, and then all the people 83  are to join in afterward. In this way you will purge evil from among you.

1 tn Heb “give great care to your souls.”

2 tn The words “I say this” are supplied in the translation for stylistic reasons. In the Hebrew text v. 16 is subordinated to “Be careful” in v. 15, but this makes for an unduly long sentence in English.

3 tn Heb “creeping thing.”

4 tn Heb “under the earth.”

5 tn Heb “lest you lift up your eyes.” In the Hebrew text vv. 16-19 are subordinated to “Be careful” in v. 15, but this makes for an unduly long sentence in English.

6 tn Or “heavens.” The Hebrew term שָׁמַיִם (shamayim) may be translated “heaven(s)” or “sky” depending on the context.

7 tn Heb “all the host of heaven.”

8 tn In the Hebrew text the verbal sequence in v. 19 is “lest you look up…and see…and be seduced…and worship them…and serve them.” However, the first two actions are not prohibited in and of themselves. The prohibition pertains to the final three actions. The first two verbs describe actions that are logically subordinate to the following actions and can be treated as temporal or circumstantial: “lest, looking up…and seeing…, you are seduced.” See Joüon 2:635 §168.h.

9 tn Or “allotted.”

10 tn Or “nations.”

11 tn Heb “under all the heaven.”

sn The OT views the heavenly host as God’s council, which surrounds his royal throne ready to do his bidding (see 1 Kgs 22:19). God has given this group, sometimes called the “sons of God” (cf. Job 1:6; 38:7; Ps 89:6), jurisdiction over the nations. See Deut 32:8 (LXX). Some also see this assembly as the addressee in Ps 82. While God delegated his council to rule over the nations, he established a theocratic government over Israel and ruled directly over his chosen people via the Mosaic covenant. See v. 20, as well as Deut 32:9.

12 tn A כּוּר (kur) was not a source of heat but a crucible (“iron-smelting furnace”) in which precious metals were melted down and their impurities burned away (see I. Cornelius, NIDOTTE 2:618-19); cf. NAB “that iron foundry, Egypt.” The term is a metaphor for intense heat. Here it refers to the oppression and suffering Israel endured in Egypt. Since a crucible was used to burn away impurities, it is possible that the metaphor views Egypt as a place of refinement to bring Israel to a place of submission to divine sovereignty.

13 tn Heb “to be his people of inheritance.” The Lord compares his people to valued property inherited from one’s ancestors and passed on to one’s descendants.

14 tn Heb “the Lord your God.” See note on “he” in 4:3.

15 tn The Hebrew text includes “(as) an inheritance,” or “(as) a possession.”

16 tn Heb “this.” The translation uses “that” to avoid confusion; earlier in the verse Moses refers to Transjordan as “this land.”

17 tn Heb “the Lord your God.” See note on “he” in 4:3.

18 tn Heb “commanded.”

19 tn The juxtaposition of the Hebrew terms אֵשׁ (’esh, “fire”) and קַנָּא (qanna’, “jealous”) is interesting in light of Deut 6:15 where the Lord is seen as a jealous God whose anger bursts into a destructive fire. For God to be “jealous” means that his holiness and uniqueness cannot tolerate pretended or imaginary rivals. It is not petty envy but response to an act of insubordination that must be severely judged (see H. Peels, NIDOTTE 3:937-40).

20 tn Heb “have grown old in the land,” i.e., been there for a long time.

21 tn Heb “a form of anything.” Cf. NAB, NASB, NRSV, TEV “an idol.”

22 tn The infinitive construct is understood here as indicating the result, not the intention, of their actions.

23 sn I invoke heaven and earth as witnesses against you. This stock formula introduces what is known form-critically as a רִיב (riv) or controversy pattern. It is commonly used in the ancient Near Eastern world in legal contexts and in the OT as a forensic or judicial device to draw attention to Israel’s violation of the Lord’s covenant with them (see Deut 30:19; Isa 1:2; 3:13; Jer 2:9). Since court proceedings required the testimony of witnesses, the Lord here summons heaven and earth (that is, all creation) to testify to his faithfulness, Israel’s disobedience, and the threat of judgment.

24 tn Or “be destroyed”; KJV “utterly perish”; NLT “will quickly disappear”; CEV “you won’t have long to live.”

25 tn Or “be completely” (so NCV, TEV). It is not certain here if the infinitive absolute indicates the certainty of the following action (cf. NIV) or its degree.

26 tn Heb “you will be left men (i.e., few) of number.”

27 tn Or “mind and being.” See Deut 6:5.

28 sn The phrase is not used here in a technical sense for the eschaton, but rather refers to a future time when Israel will be punished for its sin and experience exile. See Deut 31:29.

29 tn Heb “hear his voice.” The expression is an idiom meaning “obey,” occurring in Deut 8:20; 9:23; 13:18; 21:18, 20; 26:14, 17; 27:10; 28:1-2, 15, 45, 62; 30:2, 8, 10, 20.

30 tn Heb “the Lord your God.” See note on “he” in 4:3.

31 tn Heb “he will not drop you,” i.e., “will not abandon you” (cf. NAB, NIV, NRSV, NLT).

32 tn Or “will not.” The translation understands the imperfect verbal form to have an added nuance of capability here.

33 tn Heb “there must not be for you other gods.” The expression “for you” indicates possession.

34 tn Heb “upon my face,” or “before me” (עַל־פָּנָיַ, ’al-panaya). Some understand this in a locative sense: “in my sight.” The translation assumes that the phrase indicates exclusion. The idea is that of placing any other god before the Lord in the sense of taking his place. Contrary to the view of some, this does not leave the door open for a henotheistic system where the Lord is the primary god among others. In its literary context the statement must be taken in a monotheistic sense. See, e.g., 4:39; 6:13-15.

35 tn Heb “an image, any likeness.”

36 tn Heb “under the earth” (so ASV, NASB, NRSV); NCV “below the land.”

37 tn In the Hebrew text the form is a participle, which is subordinated to what precedes. For the sake of English style, the translation divides this lengthy verse into two sentences.

38 tn Heb “who hate” (so NAB, NIV, NLT). Just as “to love” (אָהַב, ’ahav) means in a covenant context “to choose, obey,” so “to hate” (שָׂנֵא, sane’) means “to reject, disobey” (cf. the note on the word “loved” in Deut 4:37; see also 5:10).

39 tn Heb “visiting the sin of fathers upon sons and upon a third (generation) and upon a fourth (generation) of those who hate me.” God sometimes punishes children for the sins of a father (cf. Num 16:27, 32; Josh 7:24-25; 2 Sam 21:1-9). On the principle of corporate solidarity and responsibility in OT thought see J. Kaminsky, Corporate Responsibility in the Hebrew Bible (JSOTSup). In the idiom of the text, the father is the first generation and the “sons” the second generation, making grandsons the third and great-grandsons the fourth. The reference to a third and fourth generation is a way of emphasizing that the sinner’s punishment would last throughout his lifetime. In this culture, where men married and fathered children at a relatively young age, it would not be unusual for one to see his great-grandsons. In an Aramaic tomb inscription from Nerab dating to the seventh century b.c., Agbar observes that he was surrounded by “children of the fourth generation” as he lay on his death bed (see ANET 661). The language of the text differs from Exod 34:7, the sons are the first generation, the grandsons (literally, “sons of the sons”) the second, great-grandsons the third, and great-great-grandsons the fourth. One could argue that formulation in Deut 5:9 (see also Exod 20:50) is elliptical/abbreviated or that it suffers from textual corruption (the repetition of the words “sons” would invite accidental omission).

40 tn This theologically rich term (חֶסֶד, khesed) describes God’s loyalty to those who keep covenant with him. Sometimes it is used synonymously with בְּרִית (bÿrit, “covenant”; Deut 7:9), and sometimes interchangeably with it (Deut 7:12). See H.-J. Zobel, TDOT 5:44-64.

41 tc By a slight emendation (לַאֲלּוּפִים [laallufim] for לַאֲלָפִים [laalafim]) “clans” could be read in place of the MT reading “thousands.” However, no ms or versional evidence exists to support this emendation.

tn Another option is to understand this as referring to “thousands (of generations) of those who love me” (cf. NAB, NIV, NRSV, NLT). See Deut 7:9.

42 tn Heb “love.” See note on the word “reject” in v. 9.

43 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).

44 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.

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

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

47 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.

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

49 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).

50 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.

51 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.’”

52 tn Heb “fathers” (also in v. 17).

53 tn Heb “which you have not known, you or your fathers.” (cf. KJV, ASV; on “fathers” cf. v. 18).

54 tn Or “land” (so NIV, NCV); the same Hebrew word can be translated “land” or “earth.”

55 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”).

56 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.

57 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).

58 sn Some see in this statement an argument for the deterrent effect of capital punishment (Deut 17:13; 19:20; 21:21).

59 tn Heb “men, sons of Belial.” The Hebrew term בְּלִיַּעַל (bÿliyyaal) 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.”

60 tc The LXX and Tg read “your” for the MT’s “their.”

61 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.

62 tc Theodotian adds “in Israel,” perhaps to broaden the matter beyond the local village.

63 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.”

64 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.

65 tn Heb “street.”

66 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”).

67 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.

68 tn Heb “commanding” (so NASB, NRSV).

69 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.

70 tn Heb “in the eyes of the Lord your God.” See note on the word “him” in v. 3.

71 tn Heb “an Asherah, any tree.”

sn Sacred Asherah pole. This refers to a tree (or wooden pole) dedicated to the worship of Asherah, wife/sister of El and goddess of fertility. See also Deut 7:5.

72 sn Sacred pillar. This refers to the stelae (stone pillars; the Hebrew term is מַצֵּבֹת, matsevot) associated with Baal worship, perhaps to mark a spot hallowed by an alleged visitation of the gods. See also Deut 7:5.

73 tn Heb “to the Lord your God.” See note on “he” in 16:1.

74 tn The Hebrew word תּוֹעֵבָה (toevah, “an abomination”; cf. NAB) describes persons, things, or practices offensive to ritual or moral order. See M. Grisanti, NIDOTTE 4:314-18; see also the note on the word “abhorrent” in Deut 7:25.

75 tn Heb “gates.”

76 tn Heb “does the evil in the eyes of the Lord your God.”

77 tc The MT reads “and to the sun,” thus including the sun, the moon, and other heavenly spheres among the gods. However, Theodotion and Lucian read “or to the sun,” suggesting perhaps that the sun and the other heavenly bodies are not in the category of actual deities.

78 tn Heb “which I have not commanded you.” The words “to worship” are supplied in the translation for clarification.

79 tn Heb “an abomination” (תּוֹעֵבָה); see note on the word “offensive” in v. 1.

80 tn Heb “gates.”

81 tn Heb “stone them with stones so that they die” (KJV similar); NCV “throw stones at that person until he dies.”

82 tn Heb “the hand of the witnesses.” This means the two or three witnesses are to throw the first stones (cf. NCV, TEV, CEV, NLT).

83 tn Heb “the hand of all the people.”



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