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13 Moses: 1-2 Suppose someone who claims to be a prophet, or to have inspired dreams, stands up and tells all of you that some unusual, significant sign or wonder is going to happen, and also says, “I’m here to let you know about some other gods you should be worshiping.” What if the thing that person has predicted actually happens? Don’t listen to what that prophet or dreamer says! The Eternal your God is testing you to see whether you really do love Him completely, with your whole heart and soul. Remain loyal to Him! Fear Him and obey His commands. Listen to His voice. Worship Him alone. Be fervently devoted to Him. But as for that prophet or dreamer, put him to death! He’s tried to turn you away from the Eternal your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt and liberated you from slavery. He’s tried to entice you off the path God commanded you to follow. Expel the evil from your community.

6-7 What if someone close to you whispers secretly, “Let’s go worship other gods”? It doesn’t matter if it’s your brother or half-brother, your own son or daughter, your beloved wife or closest friend. Whether they’re gods of the people who live around you or gods of people who live far away—the gods of anyone on the face of the earth! You’ve never worshiped any of these gods before, and neither did your ancestors, because you’re in a covenant relationship with the Eternal. 8-10 So don’t listen to this person. Don’t agree to go worship other gods with him or her. Anyone who entices you like this must be executed! Don’t feel sorry for him, or have mercy on him, or try to hide what he’s done. Stone him to death because he tried to entice you away from the Eternal, your True God who brought you out of the land of Egypt and rescued you from slavery. As the witness to what he said, and as the person he tried to corrupt, you must throw the first deadly stone, and then everyone else will join in. 11 All the rest of the Israelites will hear about this and be afraid, and none of them will dare to do such an evil thing again in your land.

Stoning has been chosen as the method of execution in these cases for several likely reasons: (1) The person who advocates worshiping other gods is like a contagious disease in the midst of Israel. Stoning, killing from a distance, expresses a horror of even touching such a person, for fear of being infected; (2) Stoning is also a community method of execution. Each and every person in the community has to express one’s own loyalty to the Lord and rejection of other gods by participating in this elimination of false worship; (3) Anyone who accuses a person falsely would incur bloodguilt when throwing the first stone of the execution. This would have been a deterrent against false testimony.

Moses: 12 You may hear a report in one of the cities the Eternal your God is giving you to live in: 13 “Some wicked people have abandoned our faith, and they’ve convinced everyone else in their own city to worship other gods we’ve never had anything to do with!” 14 If you ever hear a report like this, conduct a careful, thorough investigation. If you establish conclusively that the report is true, that such a horrible thing has been done within your nation, 15 then bring your swords and execute everyone who lives in that city! Destroy it completely with everything in it—even the livestock. 16 Pile all the city’s goods in the middle of the public square, and then burn down the whole city and everything in it. This will be a burnt offering showing your complete loyalty to the Eternal your God. That city must never be rebuilt; let it remain a ruin forever. 17 Don’t take any of the goods for yourself because they have been banned; destroy everything. Then the Eternal will stop being so furiously angry. He’ll show you mercy and compassion; and you’ll have many descendants, just as He promised your ancestors, 18 if you’ll listen to the voice of the Eternal, your True God, obey all the commands I’m giving you today, and do what He decides is right.

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