Traps and Snares

Deuteronomy 13:2-19

Moses now describes a number of circumstances in which he warns the people not to be led astray. First, he warns the people not to fall prey to a deceitful prophet. Even if the signs a prophet sets come true, if he preaches against following God’s word, he is not to be believed. Instead, he must be put to death. The next warning is against a close family member who tries to entice one to serve idols. He or she, too, must be put to death by stoning; even though it might be hard to kill a loved one, the targeted relative must throw the first stone. Finally, Moses warns of the entire city that has turned away from God to serve idols. If an investigation proves the matter to be true, the inhabitants must be killed by the sword and the city itself destroyed.


In the course of his warnings, Moses tells the people that instead of betraying God, they should cleave to him. Since it is impossible to cleave to a non-corporeal being, the Israel Bible relates, the Sages instead understood the verse to mean we must emulate His ways. Just as God is compassionate, so must we be. We learn to bury the dead (Deuteronomy 33:6) and visit the sick (Genesis 18:1) from His example.


Virtual Classroom Discussion

Why do you think the relative whose relation tries to tempt him into idolatry must be the first to participate in his family member’s execution?

Comments ( 9 )

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  • 1. To prevent people lightly lying in order to get advantages themselves.
    2. To show responsability in matters of life and death also to prevent seducing others.
    3. To function as an example for the whole family.

  • Maybe that's why the enticed family member is the one who is to cast the first stone … to remind the rest of the family of the purity of G-d's justice. Just a thought.

    • Better to lose one family member who is the yeast, instead of letting the evil spread. The one who stands first for this acts proves that he and his house will stand with the Lord and YHWH is no respect or of persons. This gives all the idea that YHWH is in charge.

    • Bette

      Very succinct answer with which I agree. If the family unit is strong and intact then division can be the fruit of laxness…we must remember that G-d is love, mercy, justice and because He is there must be the discipline of abiding by His Word. His Word is infinite and ours is finite.

  • I think it is to deter other would-be offenders from wooing their relative away from the worship of Yahweh — the harsher the punishment, the more deterrence for such disobedience.

    • Deuteronomy 13:11 backs my argument above.

  • Diana Brown

    If you are serving the Lord your God with all your heart and strength and you are at peace with that…then a relative disturbs that peace with you and the Lord, the relative who came to you as Balaam should be accused and punished by you. The Lord is jealous for your heart and He will not bless anyone, whether friend or family, that comes to kill, steal and destroy your relationship with Him.

    • Diana this has always been a difficult scripture for me. Your comment has made it clear,. Thank you.

  • Jayne

    Perhaps because the relative whose relation tries to tempt him into idolatry is the only one who has the authority to accuse him and because he would not wish to incur the wrath of God in fall witness.

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