Deuteronomy 13:1-2 Moses instructs Israel how to be alert to false teaching that would be brought to them. God made provision for His people to be instructed through prophets that He would send to them. These prophets would authoritatively instruct His people concerning His Word. The prophets would both foretell things to come as well as forthtell or instruct God’s people. Ever since the fall of man there have been false prophets. Some of these false prophets would try to establish their credibility through supernatural signs. Although supernatural revelations gave credibility, the core qualification of a true prophet was His faithfulness to the Lord. If his teaching led away from the God of Israel the prophet and his dreams and visions were to be rejected. While miracles validate legitimate prophets (Dt. 18:15-18; Heb. 2:1-4), it was to be ignored if they called for following other gods and doctrines (Mormonism, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Judaism that does not receive Messiah).
Deuteronomy 13:3-5 The responses required when such behavior occurs is given here. First, they must not listen to the words of a discredited prophet. They were to discern through his words how the Lord was testing them to reveal their love for him. God’s testing comes at times to strengthen our faith and trust. Loving God and His revealed Word and clinging to Him is essential for survival in the dark world we live and walk in. We have an enemy who disguises himself as an angel of light (2 Cor. 11:13-14). Secondly Israel’s protection came from removing identified false prophets who attempt to lead Israel astray. Such prophets were to be put to death after a thorough investigation was conducted. False prophets posed a present and future danger to Israel. We need to always keep in mind that Israel was a theocracy, a holy nation in the world. The church are a holy people not of this world and so operate under the new covenant given to Israel that is not like the one given at Sinai.
Deuteronomy 13:6-11 Torah like the New Covenant calls us to love the Lord above family. While it may be hard to be involved in the execution of a false prophet it is far more difficult to confront family members. But God called for such action even if it was a family member was responsible. No compassion or pity was to be tolerated. The person who was urged to forsake the Lord was to be the first in putting the guilty party to death. Like our legal system, to convict a person the testimony of two or three witnesses must be given (Deut. 19:15). The punishment was death by stoning with community as witness so that it would act as a deterrence to others so inclined.
Deuteronomy 13:12-15 A third area of theological confrontation was if word was received that a teaching was heard and accepted in another city in the land. God called the righteous to determine if the report was true. If true, the issue was to be dealt with decisively. All who live in the offending town were to be put to the sword. Both people and livestock were to be destroyed. The judgment on the community came for one of two reasons. Either they had believed and followed the false teaching or failed to report the sin among them. The livestock were included in destruction, in the possibility that there might be false accusations from those who would want to appropriate the animals for themselves.
Deuteronomy 13:16-18 To prevent the spread of false teaching, the judgment of the town would become a lesson for the nation. None of its goods would accrue to anyone. Moses called for all the plunder of the community to be burned as a burnt offering to the Lord. The property became Herem (devoted to the Lord). This was the call given regarding Jericho in Josh 6:17 where all to sanctified to the Lord. Achan and his family were condemned for his disobedience. Only by turning the town into a ruin forever would the Lord turn from his fierce anger caused by their abandonment of him. Only then God would show mercy and have compassion on the survivors and return His blessings on the Land.. In the case of Jericho there was a consequence for the one who attempt to rebuild the city. “Joshua made them take an oath at that time, saying, “Cursed before the LORD is the man who rises up and builds this city Jericho; with the loss of his firstborn he shall lay its foundation, and with the loss of his youngest son he shall set up its gates.” 1 Kings 16:34 “In his days Hiel the Bethelite built Jericho; he laid its foundations with the loss of Abiram his firstborn, and set up its gates with the loss of his youngest son Segub, according to the word of the LORD, which He spoke by Joshua the son of Nun. While Jericho was an example of God’s judgment on the Canaanites there was a similar judgment in the town of Gibeah a city of Benjamites. The sad incident is described in Judges 19. While it was not the sin of false prophecy it was an incident similar to what occurred in Sodom in Gen. 19. Today God calls His children to discipline fellow believers within the Body of Believers (1 Cor. 5) with an eye to restoring the sinful brother which in this example cited by Paul the discipline worked as it should (2 Cor. 2:1-11).