Deuteronomy 13:15: 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.

Some scholars interpret this to mean they only killed the guilty parties, but it doesn't read that way to me.

A city (or town, as some versions indicate) could be a very large place, large enough that there could be many people who were completely unaware of idolatry practices within the city, many who would have abhorred them, who might have even been co-operative in an investigation to find idolaters.

Why does it read as though these people are put to death also?

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    Did not Lot ask that Sodom and Gomorrah be spared if there were to be found 10 good men. There were not even 10 men of good repute to be found
    – Ken Graham
    Nov 29 '18 at 14:18
  • @KenGraham That was Abraham, and yes, but that doesn't explain why the law is that any city containing any number of idolaters would be destroyed by the hands of man.
    – Piomicron
    Nov 29 '18 at 16:58
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    If the cattle weren't spared, well, you can assume that no humans were either. Nov 29 '18 at 17:12
  • @DerÜbermensch That doesn't follow. Cattle were property. Humans were citizens.
    – Piomicron
    Nov 29 '18 at 19:05
  • Exactly. Being animals, they were innocent and could have been used for breeding more cattle for food, leather, etc. Why destroy them? Nov 29 '18 at 19:20

Were the innocent spared in Deuteronomy 13:15?

Yes, according to Matthew Poole's Commentary:

The inhabitants of that city, to wit, all that are guilty, not the innocent part, such as disowned this apostacy, who doubtless by choice and interest, at least upon warning, would come out of so wicked and cursed a place.

Particularly the little children who didn't know demons from the true God.

Why does it read as though these people are put to death also?

To demonstrate the fierce anger of the Lord:

17 Then the Lord will turn from his fierce anger

If you don't want to get killed, leave the city as quickly as possible and don't bother your belongings.

16 You are to gather all the plunder of the town into the middle of the public square and completely burn the town and all its plunder as a whole burnt offering to the Lord your God. That town is to remain a ruin forever, never to be rebuilt


Were the innocent spared is a very complex question that will require a complex answer.

What do we know about the immediate context of this passage?

12 “If you hear in one of your cities, which the Lord your God is giving you to live in, anyone saying that 13 some worthless men have gone out from among you and have seduced the inhabitants of their city, saying, ‘Let us go and serve other gods’ (whom you have not known), 14 then you shall investigate and search out and inquire thoroughly. If it is true and the matter established that this abomination has been done among you, 15 you shall surely strike the inhabitants of that city with the edge of the sword, utterly destroying it and all that is in it and its cattle with the edge of the sword

First, a thorough inquiry was done to validate the claim. The specific claim is that the inhabitants were seduced to serve other gods. The logical conclusion would appear to be that if the inhabitants were not seduced then the city would be spared. It could be the case that during the inquiry the people not guilty could have been removed from the judgement however that's not stated or indicated from the text.

Here's where it gets complex: Let's imagine for a moment that there were innocent people who were not seduced to serve other gods maybe along with women and children. What happens to these people who die? To answer this question it helps to understand the rest of the Bible and to ask: When a person dies, whether they are 2 or 82 for whatever reason is God committing murder?

If we study our Bible well we can conclude the following:

  1. When a person dies on earth they are simply changing locations
  2. If there is any unjust suffering in this life, God more than makes up for it in eternity. Romans 8:18
  3. God is faithful to keep His promises
  4. God created life on earth and it's good, however life with Him will be much better (no more pain, suffering, death, and sin.)
  • Your justification boils down to 'the good go to heaven'. True, this means that the eternal souls of the saved are not at risk, but that's not what I'm asking. What purpose does it serve to kill people for living in the same city as idolaters? Why is it that people are able to get away with any minor crimes whatsoever without being put to death, but those who live in a city where wickedness takes place are put to death?
    – Piomicron
    Nov 29 '18 at 17:04
  • This is why this is a complex question. I don't believe that the good go to heaven. God credits those righteous who place their faith in Him so to that extent they would be "innocent". Since we do not know how the inquiry works we don't know if the innocent are warned, rescued, or caught up in the judgement. Assuming that if the are innocent "righteous through faith" are caught up in the judgment then we know that God is faithful to see to it that they are compensated. God is holy beyond what we understand and He takes the first commandment seriously.
    – Lionsden
    Nov 29 '18 at 21:22
  • The people who are made good by God go to heaven. So what? Are you saying they (they being those innocent of this particular crime) were killed or weren’t killed? If they were, what purpose could this possibly serve? If God does not delight in punishing the guilty, how much less does he delight in punishing the innocent? And if they weren’t, why does the text read as though everyone died?
    – Piomicron
    Nov 29 '18 at 23:38
  • Given that there's an inquiry means that God's goal is to make sure innocent people are not being caught up in this specific judgement. The text does not elaborate beyond that point. If we assume that there are innocent being caught in this judgement as well we are not given the reason why or a purpose. Therefore we go by what we do know about the character and ability of God to reward the faithful after their loss of life on earth. My uncle was on a mission trip and his car was hit by a drunk driver and he died. There's so much we are not able figure out so we rest in the ability of God.
    – Lionsden
    Nov 30 '18 at 14:05
  • But wouldn't an inquiry actively weed out the believer and non-believer? I'm sure there would be confessions. Oct 11 '19 at 7:13

God did not and won't tolarate worship of Demons among his people:-

NWT Psalm 106:34-38 "They did not annihilate the peoples, As Jehovah had commanded them. 35 But they mingled with the nations And adopted their ways. 36 They kept serving their idols, And these became a snare to them. 37 They would sacrifice their sons And their daughters to demons. 38 They kept spilling innocent blood, The blood of their own sons and daughters Whom they sacrificed to the idols of Caʹnaan; And the land was polluted with bloodshed.

To keep his worship and people clean from child sacrefice and ritual immorality and homage to Satans angels, the Demons, he said that the Israelites must exterminate ALL false worshipers out of the land regardless of who they were so he could give The Promised Land to the desendants of Abraham as being clean from Devil worship, as we know it today:-

NWT Deuteronomy 13:12-18

“In case you hear it said in one of your cities that Jehovah your God is giving you to occupy, 13 ‘Good-for-nothing men have gone out among you to turn away the inhabitants of their city, saying: “Let us go and serve other gods,” gods that you have not known,’ 14 you should look into the matter, making a thorough investigation and inquiry; and if it is confirmed to be true that this detestable thing has been done among you, 15 you should without fail strike down the inhabitants of that city with the sword. Devote it and everything that is in it, including its livestock, to destruction by the sword. 16 You should then collect all its spoil into the middle of its public square and burn the city with fire, and its spoil will serve as a whole offering to Jehovah your God. It will become a permanent heap of ruins. It should never be rebuilt. 17 Your hand should take nothing that was set apart for destruction, so that Jehovah may turn away from his burning anger and show you mercy and compassion and multiply you, just as he has sworn to your forefathers. 18 For you should obey Jehovah your God by keeping all his commandments that I am commanding you today, thus doing what is right in the eyes of Jehovah your God.

His command was:-

NWT The First Commandment Exodus 20:1-6 "Then God spoke all these words:

2 “I am Jehovah your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. 3 You must not have any other gods besides me.

4 “YOU MUST NOT make for yourself a carved image or a form like anything that is in the heavens above or on the earth below or in the waters under the earth. 5 You must not bow down to them nor be enticed to serve them, for I, Jehovah your God, am a God who requires exclusive devotion, bringing punishment for the error of fathers upon sons, upon the third generation and upon the fourth generation of THOSE WHO HATE ME, 6 but showing loyal love to the thousandth generation of those who love me and keep my commandments.

God was not going to tolarate hatred of him in The Promised Land (the land of Abraham) were He was going to be worshiped.

  • Exterminating false worshippers is one thing. But exterminating everyone who lives in the same city as false worshippers is something else.
    – Piomicron
    Nov 29 '18 at 16:58
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    @Piomicrom That depends if we have God's view of matter or a human view of matters. NWT Isaiah 55:8, 9  “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, And your ways are not my ways,” declares Jehovah. 9 “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, So my ways are higher than your ways And my thoughts than your thoughts.
    – user26950
    Nov 29 '18 at 22:06
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    “Fathers shall not be put to death because of their children, nor shall children be put to death because of their fathers.” (Deuteronomy 24:16)
    – Piomicron
    Nov 30 '18 at 8:52
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    Okay? But why then would sons of the idolaters, along with many others be put to death for the crimes of a few?
    – Piomicron
    Nov 30 '18 at 9:15
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    @Piomicron Community responsability! Example Noah's Day; only him aand his family came out of the Flood; every other human being young and old died & the 10th plauge in Egypt!
    – user26950
    Nov 30 '18 at 12:54

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