Deut. 13 has in view solicitation and seduction to idolatry (Deut. 13:2, 6, 13). It does not have in mind personal unbelief or even personal rejection of faith in God. Unbelief in Israel was not punishable by death. For one to refuse to be circumcised (an expression of unbelief, cf. Lev. 26:41; Deut. 30:6; Jer. 9:25-26; Exo. 44:7) meant that he was "cut off" from the religious community (Gen. 17:14), excluded from worship in Israel (Exo. 12:48; Exo. 44:7, 9), not capitally punished. Deut. 13 is a law against treason: (1) the god of a society is that society's source of law. Eve was tempted to be as "God" by "knowing" (determining, legislating) good and evil (Gen. 3:5). (2) The context of Deut. 13 speaks of following the gods of other nations (Deut. 12:29-30), which means that (3) the law in Deut. 13 indicates that such apostasy ultimately leads to treasonous rebellion against the lawful authority of the nation: Deut. 13:12-13. Thus the Deut. 13 law was a right of a nation to wage defensive warfare. This idolatry was not quietistic unbelief, but rather involved the worshiper in a number of "abominable" capital crimes: Deut. 12:30-31, as became evident in the days of Israel's apostasy (2 Ki. 16:3; 17:7-19; 21:6; 23:10) when it followed the idols of other nations (2 Ki. 17:29). The Canaanites were not thrust out of the land for unbelief, but wholesale moral and criminal perversion: Lev. 18:3, 24f.; 20:23; Deut. 9:5; 18:9-12. The false prophet of Deut. 13:5 was not a foolish mouther of error, but one who agitated the masses to rebellion. Thus the law criminalized such actions as treason, conspiracy, seditious revolt, espionage, cultural subversion, and public mayhem.
- Kenneth L. Gentry, Jr., Covenantal Theonomy 239-41.