Calvin's Commentaries, Vol. 4: Harmony of the Law, Part II, tr. by John King, [1847-50], at sacred-texts.com
6. If thy brother, the son of thy mother, or thy son, or thy daughter, or the wife of thy bosom, or thy friend, which is as thine own soul, entice thee secretly, saying, Let us go and serve other gods, which thou hast not known, thou, nor thy fathers;
6. Si incitaverit te frater tuus, filius matris tuae, aut filia tua, aut filia tua, aut uxor complexus tui, aut amicus tuus qui sit sicut anima tua, clam dicendo, Eamus et colamus deos alienos quos non noveris neque tu, neque patres tui:
7. Namely, of the gods of the people which are round about you, nigh unto thee, or far off from thee, from the one end of the earth even unto the other end of the earth;
7. E diis populorum qui sunt in circuitu vestro, sive propinqui sint, sive remoti a te, ab extremo regionis usque ad extremum ejus:
8. Thou shalt not consent unto him, nor hearken unto him; neither shall thine eye pity him, neither shalt thou spare, neither shalt thou conceal him:
8. Non acquiesces ei, neque obedies ei, nec parcet ei oculus tuus, neque misereberis, neque occultabis eum:
9. But thou shalt surely kill him; thine hand shall be first upon him to put him to death, and afterwards the hand of all the people.
9. Sed occidendo occides eum: manus tua erit in eum prima ad ipsum interficiendum, deinde manus universi populi.
10. And thou shalt stone him with stones, that he die; because he hath sought to thrust thee away from the LORD thy God, which brought thee out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage.
10. Et lapidabis eum lapidibus et morietur: quia quaesivit te abstrahere a Jehova Deo tuo, qui eduxit te e terra AEgypti, e domo servorum
11. And all Israel shall hear, and fear, and shall do no more any such wickedness as this is among you.
11. Ut totus Israel audiant et timeant, nec addant facere quicquam simile huic rei pravae in medio tui
6 If thy brother, the son of thy mother. The punishment which he had commanded to be inflicted on false teachers, is now extended to each one of the people. For although it is a lighter offense in a private individual to draw others with him into error, both because his ignorance is excusable, and the profession of a teacher does not increase his responsibility, yet a falling away from religion, from whencesoever it arises, is intolerable to God. Only, those two points, to which we have already adverted, are to be kept in remembrance, viz., that this judgment can have no place except where religion is duly constituted; and, also, that all are not to be put to death indifferently, who may have erred in some particular, but that this severity is only to be exercised against apostates, who pluck up religion by the roots, so that the worship of God is adulterated, or pure doctrine abolished. Nor indeed does God enjoin that the slipperiness of the tongue is to be capitally punished, if it shall have inconsiderately let fall something amiss, but rather 57 the wicked design of altering the true religion, as the words clearly express the matter. It is worth while remarking with what particularity God enforces upon us the duty of fostering and upholding religion: for, because general laws are usually eluded by various exceptions, He expressly says that neither brother, nor son, nor wife, nor intimate friend is to be spared. 58 The eye is said to pity, because the very look is of great power in awakening the affections on both sides; therefore it is not without reason that God requires 59 such courage as may be moved to pity neither by tears, nor blandishments, nor the sadness of the spectacle. The phrases, too, are emphatic, “thy brother, who proceeded from the same womb;” “the wife who sleeps in thy bosom or embrace;” “the friend whom you love as yourself;” in order that pure zeal, when it sees God’s sacred name profaned, may not give way to any human affection. Christ says that no one is worthy to be acknowledged as His disciple, but he who shall neglect his father, and mother, and children, when necessary. So now God declares that all our tenderest affections, which are implanted in us by nature, and in which all the best persons sometimes indulge, are sinful, if they hinder us from vindicating His glory.
It is pious and praiseworthy to love our wives and children as our own bowels; nor is there any reason which forbids us from regarding our brother and our friend with similar love; only let God be preferred to all, for it is too preposterous to betray His glory for the sake of man. For to plead the love due to our wives, or anything of the same kind, what is this but to set our affections against God and His precepts? Wherefore the desire to mitigate that severity to which He would harden us, betrays an effeminacy which He will not endure. Now, there are two most just grounds for the heaviness of the punishment; first, because we are almost all of us slack when we ought to be very zealous in avenging the insults which God may receive; and, secondly, because more severe remedies are applied to perilous diseases, so it is right that so noxious, and altogether deadly pestilence as this should be met with extraordinary means. And to this refers the expression “secretly.” For although it might seem cruel to betray such as have not publicly transgressed, yet, inasmuch as sectaries fly from the light, and creep in by clandestine and deceitful arts, it is necessary to prevent them from fraudulently infecting individual houses with their poison, as always is the case with them. Therefore God would have their insidious endeavors checked betimes, lest the contagion should spread.
7 Namely, of the gods of the people. The sum of the matter is to this effect, that we should so acquiesce in the known truth, as that our ears may be closed to all the falsehoods by which it is opposed. Men’s neighborhood to each other commonly produces, by their intercommunication, a conformity of habits. Thus errors pass from one to the other; 60 and since we are generally prone to evil, the worse pervert the better. Since, then, the people of Israel were everywhere surrounded by idolaters, they might have easily been enticed to imitate them, unless measures were taken to prevent it. But the expression “round about” is used, because a pretext for yielding might have been taken from the fact, that the Israelites differed in religion not from a single nation only, but from all who surrounded them on every side. For to whatever quarter they looked, examples presented themselves to their eyes, whereby they were attracted to a new and strange form of religion. He afterwards amplifies this, by adding, even if those nations “be far off from thee;” for the Israelites were not divided from their neighbors only, but severed also from the whole human race. But this was no slight temptation, that they found no companions in the whole world, nor any nation, which agreed with them. Besides, distance itself sometimes causes us to have respect for those who are unknown to us; since the curiosity of men is volatile, and traverses in its levity sea and land, in order to procure for itself pestiferous monsters for the sake of their novelty. Meanwhile, God exalts the faith which is founded on His Word, in comparison with the manners, institutions, rites, and customs of all nations; for none has made any true proficiency in religion unless he abominates whatever is opposed to it.
9 But thou shalt surely kill him. He would not that every one should privately execute vengeance without a public trial; but he referred to the ordinary custom, that the witnesses should throw the first stone at condemned criminals, as we shall see elsewhere. For it was an admirable provision, that God would have those who had denounced the crime, to be the executors of its punishment, in order that they should be more cautious and moderate in giving their testimony. The reason, which is added at the end, “because he hath sought to thrust thee away from the Lord thy God, who brought thee out,” etc., again exaggerates the crime on the score of its ingratitude; which was detestable in proportion to the inestimable blessing of their deliverance. It was an act of gross wickedness to rebel against God after they had known Him; but it was still more gross to undervalue their Deliverer. Finally, the advantage and fruit of this severity is subjoined; for, whilst punishment was inflicted on one man’s crime, all others were inspired with terror; and thus the death of one is a wholesome discipline for all, in the way of example.
“Une malice deliberee, et conceue de longue main;” deliberate malice, and aforethought. — Fr.
Addition in Fr, “Quand ils tomberont en ceste malheurete de vouloir attirer quelqu’un en idolatrie;” when they shall fall into this iniquity of wishing to tempt any one to idolatry.
Addition in Fr., “En celuy qui se voudra monstrer bon zelateur de la religion;” in him, who would shew himself to be duly zealous in religion.
“Trottent ca et la, ct ont la vogue.” — Fr.