As unpleasant as the thought may have been, God wanted Israel to be on guard against false messengers among His people, as well as those who might want to serve idols. What did the Lord say?

The possibility of false prophets arising among the Israelites – Regardless of what else a person said or did, if he encouraged the Israelites to go and serve other gods, the Lord’s message was: “You shall not listen to the words of that prophet or dreamer of dreams” (13:2,3). Such false prophets would be a test of the Israelites – a test to see whether they would love the Lord with all of their heart and soul (13:3).

Prescribed punishment for false prophets – They were to be put to death (13:5). Such men spoke to turn Israel away from God (13:5), which was a serious matter. What good would be accomplished by taking the life of a false prophet? Hear God’s answer: “So you shall put away the evil from your midst” (13:5). So, the Lord considered it to be “evil” to present a false message which could draw Israel away from Him.

What were the Israelites to do if a family member or close friend entreated them to go serve other gods? Jehovah said not to listen to such distracters, not to pity them, and not attempt to hide them, that is, cover up their blasphemous exhortation (13:6-8). Instead, such people were to be put to death (13:9). Again, what good would such action do? God’s explanation was: “So all Israel shall hear and fear, and not again do such wickedness as this among you” (13:11). Such discipline would send a message to the whole nation: such conduct is wicked in God’s sight and will not be who the people are.

A third scenario – What if someone tried to stir up the inhabitants of a city to go after other gods? (9:12–16): In such a case, God’s instruction was, “Then you shall inquire, search out, and ask diligently. And if it is indeed true and certain that such an abomination was committed among you, you shall surely strike the inhabitants of that city with the edge of the sword, utterly destroying it . . .” (13:14,15). No action was to be taken against someone based on a rumor. The Israelites were to inquire, search diligently, and confirm someone’s guilt before carrying out punishment against them. That principle still holds true in how we deal with one another in the church.

It was right in God’s sight to punish the evildoers in the nation of Israel (13:18), and God would bless His people for carrying out His commands, even if it meant standing up against those whom they loved dearly. The truth is the truth, regardless of who might be involved. Showing partiality was unacceptable.

— Roger D. Campbell