Burn a city that has turned to idol worship

The Literal Commandment

Then you shall gather all its booty into the middle of its open square and burn the city and all its booty with fire as a whole burnt offering to the LORD your God; and it shall be a ruin forever. It shall never be rebuilt. (Deuteronomy 13:16)

 

The literal commandment is that we should burn a city that has turned to idol worship and all its "booty" (things of value).

 

Messiah Says

Messiah implicitly affirmed this commandment when He spoke about the Law:

"Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish but to fulfill. For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass from the Law until all is accomplished. Whoever then annuls one of the least of these commandments, and teaches others to do the same, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever keeps and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 5:17-19)

 

Pictures of Messiah

Messiah declares "I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me." (John 14:6)

When we are commanded not to make an idol it is because such a pursuit is fruitless and only turns us away from the G-d who is the Truth.

Idols are nothing. Scripture describes idols in this way:

Thus says the LORD, "Do not learn the way of the nations, And do not be terrified by the signs of the heavens Although the nations are terrified by them; For the customs of the peoples are delusion; Because it is wood cut from the forest, The work of the hands of a craftsman with a cutting tool. They decorate it with silver and with gold; They fasten it with nails and with hammers So that it will not totter. Like a scarecrow in a cucumber field are they, And they cannot speak; They must be carried, Because they cannot walk! Do not fear them, For they can do no harm, Nor can they do any good." (Jeremiah 10:2-5)

 

If anyone would turn to idolatry then they are denying the truth of G-d's Word and Who He declares Himself to be.

These commandments prohibiting idolatry picture Messiah by pointing to idols and telling us He is not like them.

 

How Messiah Fulfilled

We have no record in Scripture of Messiah fulfilling this commandment in the first century.

We do, however, find this:

The rest of mankind, who were not killed by these plagues, did not repent of the works of their hands, so as not to worship demons, and the idols of gold and of silver and of brass and of stone and of wood, which can neither see nor hear nor walk; and they did not repent of their murders nor of their sorceries nor of their immorality nor of their thefts. (Revelation 9:20-21)

 

and then later we see this:

But for the cowardly and unbelieving and abominable and murderers and immoral persons and sorcerers and idolaters and all liars, their part will be in the lake that burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death." (Revelation 21:8)

 

We also read in the conclusion of the parable of the wheat and the tares:

So just as the tares are gathered up and burned with fire, so shall it be at the end of the age. (Matthew 13:40)

 

It appears that, although Messiah did not come to judge the world in the first century (John 3:17), He will come again and judge both the great and the small before His throne (Revelation 20:12).

 

Traditional Observance

There is a tradition that two or more Torah scholars should go and warn a city that appears to be falling into idolatry. Much like Jonah was sent to Nineveh, these scholars would speak publicly and with the leaders of the city to remind them of this commandment and related commandments to kill the inhabitants of a city that had fallen into idolatry.

Although writings of the prophets of Israel are replete with stories of idolatry, we are unaware of any Israelite city that was actually burned as a consequence of idolatry as required by this commandment.

The Talmud requires that a majority of the cities inhabitants must have fallen into idolatry and are unwilling to repent before the judgment required by this commandment is performed.

 

Other Notes

Absent a functioning and authoritative Sanhedrin in the land of Israel, we are not able to fulfill this commandment today.

 

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Commandment Details

  • Mishneh Torah # 33
  • Mishneh Torah Book # 1
  • Mishneh Torah Book Knowledge
  • Mishneh Torah Category 4- Idolatry and Gentile Customs
  • Reference Deuteronomy 13:17
  • Scripture Book Deuteronomy
  • Chapter 13
  • Verse 17
  • English Nothing from that which is put under the ban shall cling to your hand, in order that the LORD may turn from His burning anger and show mercy to you, and have compassion on you and make you increase, just as He has sworn to your fathers,
  • Hebrew יח וְלֹא-יִדְבַּק בְּיָדְךָ מְאוּמָה, מִן-הַחֵרֶם--לְמַעַן יָשׁוּב יְהוָה מֵחֲרוֹן אַפּוֹ, וְנָתַן-לְךָ רַחֲמִים וְרִחַמְךָ וְהִרְבֶּךָ, כַּאֲשֶׁר נִשְׁבַּע, לַאֲבֹתֶיךָ.
  • Greek (13:18) οὐ προσκολληθήσεται ἐν τῇ χειρί σου οὐδὲν ἀπὸ τοῦ ἀναθέματος, ἵνα ἀποστραφῇ κύριος ἀπὸ θυμοῦ τῆς ὀργῆς αὐτοῦ καὶ δώσει σοι ἔλεος καὶ ἐλεήσει σε καὶ πληθυνεῖ σε, ὃν τρόπον ὤμοσεν κύριος τοῖς πατράσιν σου,
  • Parashah 47- Re'eh
  • Positive/Negative Positive
  • Sefer Hachinuch # 464
  • Sef. Hach. Command The precept of burning a city gone astray into idolatry
  • Category Idolatry
  • We can fullfill today Yes

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