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©Brett Dolezal

Chapter 13:12-18 (ESV)

Posted on February 26, 2024  - By Chris LaBelle  

Chapter 13:12-18 (ESV) - “If you hear in one of your cities, which the LORD your God is giving you to dwell there, that certain worthless fellows have gone out among you and have drawn away the inhabitants of their city, saying, ‘Let us go and serve other gods,’ which you have not known, then you shall inquire and make search and ask diligently. And behold, if it be true and certain that such an abomination has been done among you, you shall surely put the inhabitants of that city to the sword, devoting it to destruction, all who are in it and its cattle, with the edge of the sword. You shall gather all its spoil into the midst of its open square and burn the city and all its spoil with fire, as a whole burnt offering to the LORD your God. It shall be a heap forever. It shall not be built again. None of the devoted things shall stick to your hand, that the LORD may turn from the fierceness of his anger and show you mercy and have compassion on you and multiply you, as he swore to your fathers, if you obey the voice of the LORD your God, keeping all his commandments that I am commanding you today, and doing what is right in the sight of the LORD your God.

Question to consider: How did Saul of Tarsus use this command against Christians?

The final commandment from Moses on purging idolatry from Israel was to pursue idolaters who went about preaching their idolatry to other towns. If those towns harbored such a person, Moses declared that the town should be completely destroyed.

It was this law which Saul of Tarsus used to justify going from town to town and gathering up Christians before encountering the LORD on the road to Damascus. Saul would have argued that the Christians were telling people to serve other gods because they lifted up Jesus as the Son of God.

Of course, once Saul became Christ’s apostle to the Gentiles, there were those who went after him from town to town. The most obvious example was when the group of Jews from Antioch and Iconium followed Paul and Barnabas to Lystra and convinced the people to drag Paul outside of the city and stone him. The previous day the people of Lystra tried to make sacrifices to Paul and Barnabas thinking they were Hermes and Zeus (see my study on Acts 14:8-18 to find out why), but Paul and Barnabas assured them they were just men.

In light of this assurance along with the group of Jews with swords and torches ready to demolish the city for harboring them, it stands to reason that the people chose to drag Paul outside of the city and stone him. (see my study on Acts 14:19-28 for details).

We have a hard time with instructions about destroying an entire city because it chose to protect someone from being stoned to death, but in today’s passage, Moses was talking about towns which would have been within Israel. The people in that town should have no problem giving up someone who promoted idolatry unless they were in agreement with him.

The intent was to keep Israel free from the worship of false gods so that they could remain in the land. Unfortunately, even the kings of Israel like Solomon and Ahab allowed idolatrous worship into the land by taking on pagan wives, and Israel ultimately ended up being carted off by the Babylonians and Assyrians. When you think about it, a few people enduring the consequences of their disobedience would have been much better than all the people who ended up being slaughtered in the siege.


Dear heavenly Father, help us to boldly proclaim the gospel and promote a culture that seeks to do Your will. As people become a law unto themselves and reject Your commands, we are seeing the deconstruction of society. May Your church stand firm in the faith during these difficult times. Amen.