Saturday, August 4, 2012

False Prophets (Deuteronomy 13:1-5; 18:20-22; Zechariah 13:3)

The following quotes are taken from 

"Kill False Prophets - "If a man still prophesies, his parents, father and mother, shall say to him, 'You shall not live, because you have spoken a lie in the name of the Lord.'  When he prophesies, his parents, father and mother, shall thrust him through."  (Zechariah 13:3 NAB)

"Suppose there are prophets among you, or those who have dreams about the future, and they promise you signs or miracles,  and the predicted signs or miracles take place.  If the prophets then say, 'Come, let us worship the gods of foreign nations,' do not listen to them.  The LORD your God is testing you to see if you love him with all your heart and soul.  Serve only the LORD your God and fear him alone.  Obey his commands, listen to his voice, and cling to him.  The false prophets or dreamers who try to lead you astray must be put to death, for they encourage rebellion against the LORD your God, who brought you out of slavery in the land of Egypt.  Since they try to keep you from following the LORD your God, you must execute them to remove the evil from among you."  (Deuteronomy 13:1-5 NLT)

"'But any prophet who claims to give a message from another god or who falsely claims to speak for me must die.'  You may wonder, 'How will we know whether the prophecy is from the LORD or not?'  If the prophet predicts something in the LORD's name and it does not happen, the LORD did not give the message.  That prophet has spoken on his own and need not be feared."  (Deuteronomy 18:20-22 NLT)
           The question asked here is: Why was capital punishment prescribed for false prophets?  The severity of the punishment was because of the severity of the crime.  To encourage idolatry (Deuteronomy 13:1-5) or to tell lies in God's name (Zechariah 13:3) was to show utter contempt for God, and was in essence to commit treason. 
            As stated before, idolatry is a very serious sin that God does not take lightly.  He is the Lord and Creator of the universe, and desires that people only worship him.  He warned the Israelites against idol worship on numerous occasions (see Exodus 20:3-6, 23; 23:13, 23-24; 34:17; Leviticus 19:4; 26:1; Deuteronomy 4:15-28; 5:7; 6:14-15; 8:19; 12:31; 17:2-7; 27:15; 29:17-18).  In the instance described in Deuteronomy 13, someone who claimed to be a prophet would try to lead the people astray to worship idols or foreign deities.  This was open rebellion against God.  This is why God commanded that the person be executed; otherwise the entire nation would be persuaded to rebel against God and show contempt for the one who freed them from perpetual slavery in Egypt.
            A true prophet was a person who was sent to directly communicate God's message to the people.  False prophets often took advantage of people that they lied to in order to gain advancement and/or wealth for themselves.  It is a very dangerous thing to presume to speak for God, or to tell lies in God's name (Jeremiah chapter 28).  To do so is not only haughty, but breaks God's commandments against idolatry and lying (Exodus 20:3-6, 16; Proverbs 6:16-19).  It also could lead to others straying away from God and rebelling against him.  This is why false prophets were ordered to be executed.
            Again, it is important to note that capital punishment commands such as these were given specifically to the nation of Israel during the time period and culture of the Ancient Near East.  All of Scripture, both Old and New Testament, condemns idolatry and false prophecy; however, the capital punishments prescribed do not apply in our time period and culture (Romans 6:14; Galatians 3:24-26).